Goldman & Goldford on Rubio, Cruz and ISIS

Dear Friends,

Given yesterday’s intense circumstances, you’ll receive two messages from me today: this and my final blog from the Walk to Paris for Climate Action, including the events that unfolded on the streets of Paris yesterday and my first-ever taste of pepper spray. Yum.

I hope you’ll tune-in to today’s Fallon Forum, either live at 11:00 a.m. or later via podcast. Dr. Charles Goldman again hosts the show, and writes:

“We’ll have Dr. Dennis Goldford, Professor of Political Science at Drake University and a sought-after political commentator, with us on the Fallon Forum to discuss whether the seeming rise of candidates Cruz and Rubio represents a ‘breakout moment’ in the Republican Presidential primary. We will also look at how the war on ISIS is likely to influence the 2016 Presidential election and its eventual winner.

“In the second half of Monday’s Forum, despite the almost universal blathering from Presidential candidates of both parties about the US leading a coalition into Syria and elsewhere, the American electorate had best get used to the idea that any solution to the ISIS problem is going to involve both Russia and Iran. We’ll take a look at the arc of America’s relationship with Iran, from the 1980’s trans-shipping of American weapons to Iran through Israel (yes, Israel) under the Reagan administration, through the first Persian Gulf War it engendered, right up to our present problems with ISIS.”

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Walk to Paris: Day 15

Thursday, November 26, 2015 – Issy-les-Moulineaux to Paris

I am shocked at how many people smoke in Paris. I see no active campaigns against smoking, although there is a campaign encouraging people not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground. The billboard announces that Parisians toss 350 tons of cigarette butts a year. I wonder how many municipal workers are thus ensured full employment? And I wonder about the global carbon footprint of cigarette consumption?

Day 15 pic 2 IMG_1340It is Thanksgiving, and the day is cool but sunny. I have an easy 5-mile trek to central Paris, crossing the Seine River where my end point today is L’Arc de Triomphe. My final day’s walk will be from there to the UN Climate Summit’s conference site in the northeast suburb of Le Bourget.

Day 15 pic 1 20151126_105902 - Version 2I see on the streets of Paris all the preparations relevant to the summit, and it strikes me that this event is as important to Paris as the Olympics would be to any major city in the world. But unlike the Olympics, we should hardly expect 24/7 coverage on U.S. television, and perhaps very little coverage at all.

Day 15 pic 4 20151126_142446 - Version 2I’m excited to see a windmill being erected in the middle of the Champs-Elysées. Behind that, two large solar arrays are being constructed. Paris seems on board for climate action.

Day 15 pic 3 20151126_142439-1But can it be fully on board if the voices of the average person are silenced? On Sunday, I will finish the last six miles of this 200+ mile walk, despite the French government’s decision to ban protests, marches and other “outdoor activities.”

In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks, caution and vigilance are essential. I get that. I support that. But squashing public participation is wrong and unjustified.

It’s really a question of priorities. The French government allows Christmas events to continue. The crowded markets I saw yesterday along the Champs-Elysées weren’t canceled. Sporting events will go on. The actual Summit continues as planned.

What I hear some people in Paris saying is that this is an intentional effort to silence the grassroots and the voices of those most affected by climate change. And since President Obama has not raised any objections with French President Hollande, I can only assume that the Obama administration supports the French government in this silencing of the public’s voice in the climate debate.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday, with the march that anticipated hundreds of thousands of people being cancelled. I hear more and more rumblings that something will happen, that people will not be silent, even though many of the established grassroots organizations that were behind the march have meekly complied with the government’s request. I am not sure I’ll be able to walk to the summit, to conclude my journey as planned. We’ll see. I’ll give it my best.

Day 15 pic 5 20151126_210240My Thanksgiving dinner tonight is with five strangers. We are crammed together in a packed little restaurant, a place described to me as a “couscous restaurant.” I have vegetables, couscous, and some wonderful conversation with four Parisians and an Algerian. As I have come to expect, they all understand the urgency of climate change. But the Algerian man feels rather hopeless. I tell him I am cautiously optimistic that what comes out of the climate summit will give us all a much-needed dose of hope.

That remains to be seen. For today, I am thankful that we have made it to Paris, that I have met so many wonderful people along the way, and for this delicious variation on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

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Walk to Paris: Day 14

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – Saint-sur-l’École to Issy-les-Moulineaux

It takes me over 30 minutes to travel the road along the vast expanse that is the Palace of Versailles and its grounds. I have no interest in stopping, feeling offended by the ostentatious display of wealth and power, knowing at what cost it came in terms of human and environmental degradation.

For humanity to survive and thrive in the New Climate Era, this type of wealth concentration must become a historical relic. Once the world is headed on the right path, when it has abandoned fossil fuels and is going full steam ahead with renewables, the next critical issue of the day will be income inequality.

Today, I trade forest pathways for suburban sidewalks. The rain continues, but there are plenty of places to stop, warm-up, attempt a conversation.

Day 14 pic 1 20151125_130309For the past few days I have been unable to fully use my walking stick. The rough pavement of the French countryside has blown through three stick tips, and I have yet to find a shop that sells them.

In Viroflay, I come to a very small shop. The owner, Jean-Michel, is out front, using a long, hooked stick to lift his wares off the awning, as the rain seems imminent. It is an odd shop, such as I remember on the streets of the town near my grandmother’s farm in Ireland. Jean-Michel sells toys for kids and also various things one might need around the house. Amazingly, he has exactly what I’m looking for!

We talk a bit. Like everyone in France, he knows how important is the upcoming climate summit. During my time there, I am his only customer, and I wonder how he makes a living. I am very grateful for the stick tips, and Jean-Michel obliges a photo in front of his shop.

The planet is in our hands.

The planet is in our hands.

We will not be able to say to our children that we didn't know.

We will not be able to say to our children that we didn’t know.

Toward the end of the 17-mile day, as rush hour is filling the sidewalk with commuters scurrying to get to the train system, the rain comes hard and fast. I am in no hurry, so I duck under an awning. During my 5-minute stay there, a couple presumably from the Mideast stops in to share the dryness with me.  He is very conversational, very engaging. We make small talk until his wife quickly whisks him away in the rain, making a dart for the subway entrance.

A woman in her forties stops by “my” awning (yes, I’ve now laid claim to it), smiles, says something I don’t understand, and is off again in less than 10 seconds. Maybe she only thought she was bothered by the rain.

My third visitor is a woman who is also in no rush. She is trying to locate a street. She asks me for directions, and I tell her that even though I don’t know the area, I am powerfully equipped with a map on my phone. I am able to point her in the right direction, and now feel as if my claim to the awning is not merely a matter of privilege, but earned.

Day 14 pic 4 20151125_233430As I wrap up the day’s walk, I see more and more billboards announcing the climate summit, urging strong action. They reinforce the reality I’ve come to understand: climate change is not a controversy in France. People are on board, unified, and want something done.

The day’s walk ends as the clouds are beginning to break. A full moon peeps through the clouds, in short order revealing its full glory over the ancient, beautiful, and still functional architecture of Paris.

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Walk to Paris: Day 13

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 – Thoiry to Saint-sur-l’École

Today’s forecast is for cool and rainy conditions. We enjoy some different types of pathways today, including cobblestones and stairways.

Day 13 pic 1 20151124_121530We pass a sprawling chateau. These past two weeks, I find myself less and less interested in the works of human hands, especially those that exist only due to the oppression of previous generations.

This particular chateau is the first I’ve seen with a moat – dry now, but at one point presumably filled with water, and perhaps some manner of terrifying creature.

Extending from the moat to the chateau’s entrance is a long, wide hedge carved at various points with exotic African animals. I think of the modern American chateau equivalents – owned by ridiculously wealthy people like Kelcy Warren, whose huge mansion sports a large game preserve. Whereas this chateau owner undoubtedly gained his wealth through the cheap labor of medieval serfs, Warren’s wealth is through the exploitation of oil. The “serfs” he tramples on to build his extravagance are Iowa farmers, whose land he wants to build a pipeline across, and all the front-line communities impacted by climate change.

Day 13 pic 2 20151124_122027I am in a meditative walking mode this morning, and also groggy because we have not yet had breakfast or tea. Shortly after the chateau, I spot an inviting cafe, one that offers big, comfortable chairs. I enjoy my cup of tea in unusual luxury, by my standards. The only thing missing is an exotic African animal sitting in the seat next to me.

At noon, the temperature still sits at 34. The rain vacillates between moderate and misty. These are, in theory, the least pleasant conditions to walk in. But if I keep moving, it’s not so bad, and with occasional nooks and crannies to visit in the towns we passed through, today’s walk qualifies as pleasant.

I talk with a handful of people along the way. My French language skills are usually adequate for casual conversation, but not much good beyond that. It is difficult for me to dig in to questions about the summit, climate change, the refugee crisis, the terrorist attacks. One thing my limited French has gathered for sure is that I’ve not meet a single French person who doesn’t understand the urgency of the climate crisis.

Day 13 pic 3 20151124_150239Most of today’s route leads through forest. The path is muddy, but that is a small price to pay for the pleasure of being under trees, away from traffic. The trails run mostly straight, and there are frequent large piles of timber. I am pleased not to see any clear-cut sections, and sense that I am walking through a forest that is well managed.

I step straight out of the trees into suburban Paris! It is a sharp, slightly jarring transition. But I am ready to be done. Steve has gone on to our hotel, which I have trouble finding as my phone does not work well in the rain. I add an additional hour and a couple kilometers to my day, but no complaints.

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Walk to Paris: Day 12

Monday, November 23, 2015 – Houdan to Thoiry

We wake up to our coldest day yet. I am still recovering from yesterday’s bout of gastrointestinal joy. But my gut signals that we are clearly on the mend, and I am thankful.

. . . on a mud and grass pathway.

. . . on a mud and grass pathway.

Our first sign for Paris . . .

Our first sign for Paris . . .

Once out of town, our path is along grassy roads that run by the tracks. The trains run every 15 minutes or so. They are fast and quiet, efficient and popular. I wonder what it will take for America to embrace train travel.

The night’s freezing temperatures have left behind a fairy-like veneer of frost. It glistens on the grass and crops, then melts in the mounting sun. The puddles along our path are garnished with a thin film of fragile ice. It’s all a bit magical, and with the sun warm and the wind still, I have no complaints.

Frost on the crops

Frost on the crops

But it is cold, and this is only the second time I’ve worn all four layers, plus my gloves and scarf. I am comfortable, and the residual weakness from yesterday seems like a small price to pay for the honor of walking through such beauty.

There’s so much to be thankful for, it’s a pity we don’t make Thanksgiving a monthly holiday to remind us.

Rose hips and pine cones

Rose hips and pine cones

It’s odd to be away from home for one of my favorite feast days. I feel a need to celebrate Thanksgiving with other Americans in Paris. So, I reach out to my friend from Des Moines, Wilson Tarbox, who offers a clever idea:

“I don’t know how you feel about Indian food for Thanksgiving dinner, but there is a great Indian place right next to my apartment building. Also, I think it would be funny on a linguistic level for a couple of Americans who had just come on a long journey to eat with the ‘Indians’ for Thanksgiving.”

Funny guy, Wilson. And great idea. I accept, even as my mind comes back to the difference between early European settlers in America and, say, 11 million Syrian refugees.

With every prayer of thanks comes a prayer of hope. Mine is that even as we Americans give gratitude for the incerdible bounty of our land, we realize our obligation to share that bounty with those who are less fortunate, whether they are our immediate neighbors or from halfway across the globe.

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Walk to Paris: Day 11

Sunday, November 22, 2015 – La Chaussée-d’Ivry to Houdan

In the middle of the night between fitful bouts of slumber, my stomach announced its profound discontent through frequent angry, garbled, gurgling noises. I fall back asleep, dreaming that I’m in “Alien,” about to give birth to hell.

I’m relieved to recover consciousness. But as I roll out of bed, the French equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge hits me hard and hits me twice. Exhausted, I take full advantage of the hotel’s 11:00 check out time. I tell Steve I’ll manage. He sets-out on his own, only to be visited with the same affliction later in the day.

We’re pretty sure it’s the water. The food has been predictably sensational. And last night’s culinary experience came with an additional treat: a baby grand piano!

She was the first thing I saw when I walked into Il Mulino Ristorante. My eyes lit up, a huge smile spread across my face, and I immediately asked the owners if I could play.

Walk to Paris Day 11 Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 8.15.33 PM - Version 2They were not only accommodating but insistent. Unlike some restaurateurs, they cared for their instrument – a beautiful, white Kawai, precisely in tune, with all her notes working perfectly.

Perhaps it’s hard to describe to a non-musician, but for me, playing piano is a need. And this was the first piano I’d laid eyes or fingers on since leaving Des Moines on November 5th. I was in heaven.

I improvised. I played Chopin nocturnes, and was reminded that it doesn’t take long to become rusty. Nonetheless, the clientele were visibly appreciative. The most precious moment came when a four-year-old girl walked over and sat next to me while I played. Here’s the video the restaurant owner shot, or click here to watch on YouTube. The girl later asked me to play We Wish You a Merry Christmas. That has now become my new favorite Christmas carol.

In a world where many are hungry, where water is scarce, where millions are homeless, is it a first-world problem to “need” music? Perhaps. Music certainly is not in the same category of “need” as food, water and shelter. But there’s a whole secondary list of needs that we often take for granted: meaningful work, creativity, human contact, loving, being loved. For a fully-human life, I would include these among the needs all people should be able to share and experience.

One of many small, historic villages along the route.

One of many small, historic villages along the route.

The juxtaposition of last night’s joyful musical soirée and this morning’s dance with dysentery reminds me that all things pass. Both good and bad, all things pass. Acceptance of that reality is a precondition for being truly happy in the moment. As I walk, I am thankful to Buddha for reminding me of that.

It’s check-out time, and the moment has come when I can no longer avoid walking. It is difficult because I am weak. But I am fortunate that today is a short day, and one full of sunshine and cool yet comfortable temperatures.

I endure only a couple miles of busy highway. The rest of the day’s walk is on beautiful back roads through rolling farmland and villages so charming I expect to see each of them someday on a scenic calendar.

Cover crops are on most fields in Normandy 20151122_125221

Cover crops are on most fields in Normandy.

Cover crops are on most fields in Normandy.

As with nearly every day, I pass many farm fields. Nearly all of them are protected with a cover crop. Impressive. That’s something we could do a lot more of in Iowa.

With dysentery behind me, my mind is full of last night’s musical experience and today’s farms and gardens. Even as a young person, what I wanted to do more than anything was to play music, grow crops and raise animals. It’s hard to be away from those things for any extended period of time.

Last year’s Great March for Climate Action was the first time in thirty years I had not planted a garden. That was tough. Real tough. And when I returned from the March, I discovered that most of my piano repertoire had fallen into disrepair. I am still working to recover it.

But in the hierarchy of needs – somewhere between food, water, shelter and all the other secondary needs I mentioned – there is another need. It is the compelling urgency to be of service, to help and protect others – even those we can’t meet face-to-face in our present place in time and space.

It is this compelling urgency that drives me to leave behind the things I love most. With the climate crisis, so much hangs in the balance. Perhaps the sacrifices I make – and the sacrifices that so many others are making in this growing, grassroots movement – will light the fire that inspires the world’s leaders who gather next week at the Summit to move beyond apathy and denial and forward to decisive action.

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Walk to Paris: Day 10

Saturday, November 21, 2015 – La Forêt-du-Parc to La Chaussée-d’Ivry

Dear Friends,

I’ll call-in to my program from France this morning at 11:00 with an update on the situation here. I’d love to have you tune-in at 1260 AM or online. There’ll be a podcast available later, too.

And how about them Hawkeyes going 11 and 0? Well, stay tuned on the Fallon Forum for the epitome of gutsy, as Dr. Charles Goldman lays out his argument for the abolition of football.

Not much urban sprawl in Normandy, with crops growing right up to houses.

Not much urban sprawl in Normandy, with crops growing right up to houses.

Meanwhile, here in Normandy, it was a cool but pleasant 13-mile day on sleepy country roads. Like most days, our path took us through a half dozen quaint, compact villages.

The Normandy countryside is a pastoral slice of paradise. When Steve and I are able to avoid the busier highways, we encounter few cars and fewer people. It is hard to believe that the population density of France is nearly five times that of Iowa.

This is partly because the land-use pattern in France is far more accommodating to human beings than the urban sprawl that has devastated both farm ground and town centers back home. On this account, Iowa can learn much from France.

And we will have to, because by the end of this century, Iowa’s population is likely to explode.

So much local food in France, including direct marketing of beef.

So much local food in France, including direct marketing of beef.

Yes, no one is talking about Iowa’s looming population explosion. But we ought to be. If we don’t plan for it, it could be a disaster. If we prepare intelligently, it could be one of the best things ever to happen to small towns across the state.

As coastal areas of the U.S. are submerged by rising sea levels, and as the West becomes increasingly arid, millions of refugees from within our own country will be forced to relocate. We are likely to experience a migration such as none the North American continent has ever witnessed.

And it won’t just be from within our borders. Climate disruptions across the globe already are causing vast migrations. Take Syria. The political upheaval in Syria is connected to the climate-change induced drought. Doubt me? Search the Internet for “Connection between Syrian civil war and climate change,” for a slew of reputable scientific analyses.

If we are compassionate and wise, we will get to work right away on a plan to accept and manage the inevitable torrent of climate refugees.

Or, we could behave like Governor Branstad. The Governor’s knee-jerk reaction to potential Syrian immigration is shameful, heartless and irrational.

Eleven million Syrians aren’t leaving their homes because they like a long walk through a foreign land. They aren’t coming to Europe to steal people’s jobs or to commit acts of terror. They are victims of war and hunger. Few willingly leave the place they call home. But sometimes, circumstances are such that one has no choice.

Can’t we get that? Can’t we empathize? Can’t we learn to respond from a place of love, not fear?

I have been sustained in this walk through the encouragement I receive from so many people back home, including one who wrote:

“It is important that you keep walking until you either get there or are stopped.  Our fears of terrorism are so much greater than our fears of climate change, which will kill many more people, destroy more livelihoods – and engender more terrorism.”

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Walk to Paris: Day 9

Friday, November 20, 2015 – Portes to La Forêt-du-Parc

View across the yard at one of our overnight accommodations.

View across the yard at one of our overnight accommodations.

“Though she feels as if she’s in a play, she is anyway.” – from The Beatles “Penny Lane”

I have that feeling today, working my way through a pre-ordained script, walking through the part I’ve rehearsed in my head over and over. I know the beginning, and have some sense of how it ends.

The performance has its improvisational elements, even beyond the tragic terrorist attacks that no one could have predicted. The seasonally warm, sunny weather that has blessed much of our walk was not part of the original script.

A real doorbell, complete with frog.

A real doorbell, complete with frog.

But today, we’re back on the script with temperatures in the low 40s and a near constant rain.

I did not expect to have maple syrup and pancakes on this trip!

I did not expect to have maple syrup and pancakes on this trip!

We scurry through the day’s walk to land at a spacious B & B heated with a wood stove. It’s just what our wet clothes and soggy shoes need!  We can count on dry clothes tomorrow – a very good thing as temperatures are predicted to fall into the thirties.

Des Moines tea!

Des Moines tea!

I think a lot about the connections between terrorism, immigration and climate change. Understanding these links is so important, and I want to talk about it in this blog. But I need more time to process, to discuss the links with French people I meet, and to review some of the thoughtful material friends have sent me.

So, let’s switch to a lighter topic. . . football! Challenging the sanctity of football is as taboo as criticizing motherhood and apple pie. But the guest host of Monday’s Fallon Forum, Dr. Charles Goldman, is girded for battle and prepared to take on America’s golden calf.

Charles writes:

This Monday, we will take an extended look at that uniquely American sport, football. The sport has never been more popular, even as the professional version of it becomes almost unwatchable, with its laughably inept officiating, the interminable replays, and its Roman Colosseum-like atmosphere as an unending succession of injured players are carried off the field.

“But there are cracks in the façade—the CTE settlement with the former players, all sorts of off-field problems for prominent players, the faux displays of patriotism paid for with taxpayer money, Tom Brady’s ‘middle finger’ tour in the wake of Deflategate.

“For its part, college football has abandoned any pretense of it being about fostering education, either of the athletes or of their respective student bodies.

“And for how much longer are American parents going to allow their children to play high school football, from which about 100 participants die annually, where the question of long-term brain damage has led several well-known former NFL’ers and Lebron James to state their opposition to their children playing the game?

“We’ll discuss these and other topics with Jake Holmes, who played football at UNI, and Dr. Stephen Goldman, a medically-trained psychiatrist familiar with the issue of post-concussive brain injury.”

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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Walk to Paris: Day 8

Thursday, November 19, 2015 – Beaumont le Roger to Portes

I am pensive today. I tell myself I should be thinking about terrorism and the approaching climate summit. But my mind is absorbed with personal matters.

Perhaps I am sensing the loss I feel around me, but today personal reflection takes center stage over the cares of the world.

Day 8 Ed walking 12243225_10153741457667500_1094293013686959573_nSo, today I walk alone. Steve’s fine with that, cause he’s in a bit of a mood himself. I think about some of the successes I’ve had in life, some of the failures.

I have not lost someone dearly close to me in a violent manner, nor could I pretend what that would be like. What does echo is this. Nowhere have I failed more stunningly than in love. Two failed marriages, one through my own stupidity and incompetence; the other through, well, unfortunate circumstances, let’s say. And earlier this year, I parted ways with the woman I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with.

I walk alone. The road is thin, moist, quiet, framed by sugar beets, wheat fields, forests. There are frequent gunshots, and I cringe to think of a deer hit, stunned, bloodied, dying.

The rain falls sad and warm today, and I sing Leonard Cohen:

I loved you in the morning, 
Our kisses deep and warm. 
Your hair upon the pillow, 
Like a sleepy golden storm . . . 
But now it’s come to distances, 
And both of us must try. 
Your eyes are soft with sorrow, 
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye. 

Day 8 Lanterns 12274358_10153741457927500_492962044561514811_nI meet a group of walkers on the road, and a charming, elderly couple invite me in for lunch: sausage, lentils, beets, lettuce. The vegetables are from their garden, which is adorned in abundance with Japanese lanterns.

The man gives me a stalk with six lanterns hanging from it and says it’s “L’amour en Cage,” or “Love in a Cage.”

“Love in a Cage!” What a sad, beautiful, mysterious name! The man opens the “cage” to reveal the bright red “love” seed within.

As I set out on the road, I think how lucky this man and woman are to have each other, to share their “love in a cage” together for so many years. I carry the sprig of bright orange lanterns with me the rest of the day’s walk.

Day 8 Geese 11251853_10153741459012500_4255300231937188616_nA story Steve told me comes to mind. Apparently, geese mate for life. A friend of Steve’s who hunts geese said he’d seen the mate of a dead or dying goose return to circle its partner over and over, mourning its loss, without any concern for its own life.

How noble, admirable, heroic. That kind of devotion, commitment, steadfastness, is something I’d risk my life for.

I’ve craved a life partner for many years. As I walk alone, I think that perhaps I’ve worked too hard at trying to find her.  Maybe it’s time to embrace a more zen-like approach. Don’t look for her. Let her come to me. And if it turns out she doesn’t come, doesn’t exist, resign myself to that reality and continue with grace and dignity to do the work that’s laid before me.

As I walk alone, I notice that the top two lanterns of L’amour en Cage are broken. “Perhaps these symbolize my two failed marriages,” I muse. I stop to look more closely at the other four cages. As I do, the wind blows the bottom lantern into the palm of my hand, where it remains lodged. I smile. “Perhaps that love seed is the one I’m waiting for,” I say.  “Perhaps she will come on her own, when the time is right and the winds are favorable.”

Day 8 Rose 12241402_10153741459217500_7227091679733666902_nI can’t say whether what happened next was confirmation or merely the ramblings of an overly-tired mind. Growing through a fence along the side of the road was a beautiful rose. The blossom had somehow pushed its way through, displaying itself in resplendent glory. The fence – its cage – only served to more clearly accentuate and articulate the rose’s beauty and independence.

Yes, perhaps there was hope – both for me in my personal struggles in the realm of love, and for the world in its struggles for peace and justice.

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Walk to Paris: Day 7

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 – Bernay to Beaumont le Roger

Today’s walk was uneventful. By “uneventful,” I mean pleasant. Temperature in the upper 50’s, partly sunny skies, calm roads. A perfect day for a 10-mile walk.

The eventful part of the day came later, with news that the French government would not allow two big public marches that were planned during the U.N. Climate Summit (COP21).

My first reaction was great surprise and even greater disappointment. Since the attacks, the French people I’ve spoken with were, of course, saddened and shocked by the killings. But they were also universally defiant.

day 5 pic 7 20151116_183050 - Version 2That defiance was best captured by a sign at the march and vigil in Lisieux. It read “Je suis en terrasse,” or literally,  “I am on the terrace.”

In other words, “I’m not going to live in fear. I’m not going to hide. I’ll continue to enjoy my coffee, my food and my friends on the terrace, in the café or at whatever public place I choose.”

I deeply admire that attitude. I am also grateful that the nations participating in COP21 have made it clear that they will attend, that they will not be scared off by terrorist attacks.

So what gives when it comes to the public component of COP21? I understand the risks, that terrorists might see a march of hundreds of thousands of people as a perfect opportunity for another attack. But couldn’t terrorists do just as much damage at a conference site where thousands of people – including world leaders and dignitaries – are gathered?

Maybe French authorities know things the rest of us don’t. Perhaps they have reconnaissance on plans by terrorists to stage attacks during one of the marches. But in the ongoing tension between liberty and security, it concerns me when the former is sacrificed for the latter – in this case, in a really big way.

On a related note . . . Could the terrorists have decided to stage the attacks in Paris specifically because of COP21? Much terrorist activity is funded by oil money, and a significant climate change agreement could kill that cash cow. If there is credence to this theory, it could help strengthen the resolve of COP21 participants to do something big, meaningful and lasting.

Terrorists have been successful at uniting most of the world against them. Perhaps they’ll inadvertently succeed at helping unite the world to get serious on climate action.

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