Most of us, I think, prefer a good solid answer. We like definiteness. The person who says with confidence “I’ll be there at 3:15” gets our approval. Over time we learn to not entirely trust either the confidence of the speaker or our own reliance on it. Experience will have revealed that for some individuals 3:15 means no later than whereas for others it means hang around for an hour after 3:15 or don’t bother about it until at least 4:00. You know, too, there are those who say 3:15 but without the addition of month and year the time of 3:15 might just as well be eleventy ninety.

We all know people who forget simple appointments. They say with sincerity “Oh, I forgot,” but seem never get to the next step where they reckon they ought to write things down to lessen their forgetfulness. Being a forgetter is easier than being a rememberer. Remember that. Remember, too, that among the forgetters are those who say “forgot” when their actual meaning should be they were distracted. Distraction lies all around us. I once knew someone who’d be distracted by the sound of a cricket. It didn’t matter if they were outdoors and it was Minnesota February where no cricket ever made stood a chance of making a single crick. But nope, some levels of distraction thrive on long odds. A distraction isn’t much good unless it’s unlikely or improbable and therefore requiring that much more time and effort should go into its pursuit.

The foibles of others are among the best targets. Remember that. It’s a nice thing to stand above the fray and look down. As a writer I like to hope (I think) what I put down has some meaning. The words might look OK but are they no more than a pile of soap flakes that will scatter to ruin with a sneeze or scatter to nothing in a breeze? Solid meaning is what we’d like, but reality is usually a lot less tidy. Does that suggest why belief is not only popular but seemingly necessary to so many? Don’t make the mistake as I have in past of limiting belief to meaning religious. The areas where people believe are broader and deeply rooted as religion. Political conviction is a form of faith with its own dogma and set of absolutes. Family and or friends can be another defining faith that helps us make sense of life. Who and what we love or defend is functionally a kind of faith or belief in the future. How is it possible to have faith in the past? Remember that. The life we know is a series of flickers forward one second to the next until we flicker no more and become memory. That too remember.

At one time in keeping with my own inclinations and things that were along the North Shore I put high regard on being self-reliant and independent. Part of me knew that independence means being in a state of dependence on self. In my case that’s a quite limited resource to depend on. My little house was not much bigger than Thoreau’s cabin and surely the North Shore was not Walden Pond, but the aim of self-reliance had enough charm to keep me from reckoning that my self-reliant heating with wood used gas and oil I wasn’t able to make for myself. And of course the chain saw wasn’t my manufacture either, but in those days wasn’t of Chinese origin, not when German and Swedish saws were foreign rarities. Self-reliance as I lived it was an obvious but to me appealing myth as I puttered daily down 61 in my Land Rover. There were local fishermen to supply fish, but aside from a few eggs and chickens nearly everything else came from outside. It’s darn hard to be self-sufficient when you’re the only one in the game. On a state wide basis a person could take a stab at regional self-reliance, that is until boots from Red Wing came from somewhere else, not that Red Wing ever had much in the way of rubber plantation or chemical factory for heel and sole production. When we had (don’t anymore) local bakers the makings that went into the bread or cinnamon rolls wasn’t from a nearby cardamom or cinnamon crop. And to the best of my knowledge none of the places that once produced wooden fish boxes from aspen made the switch to plastic bags for bread.

My personal Waterloo (is that culturally loaded) was over dentistry. As a child when the drill was run by cords whirring on arms overhead and the chair had an accompanying mini toilet bowl to spit in I had painfully bad experiences with cavity repair. We weren’t totally primitive, of course. We had Novocain but it was administered by a needle the size of a skewer that was pounded into your mouth until your eyes bugged so the dentist would know he’d hit your central nervous. At least that’s what it felt like. Things did improve, but even the rarest of the self-reliant was in major trouble with any form of dentistry or the most minor of surgeries. I had a good enough assortment of drills and drill bits, but how I’d line up on the right spot on a tooth and then go at it without taking the top of my skull off was more problem and challenge that I wanted to face. I blame (or credit) dentistry for being the turnaround cause in my life. I liked being independent but found interdependent worked out on average as good or better.

I was reminded of this part of the past when someone recently asked my view on what to do about a dental matter. I told them “It depends. Depends on whether you want the problem to continue. If so keep asking me because I’m no help. But if you want the problem over with I’d try a dentist.” Wasn’t that a good answer? It depends always works unless you’re wearing them.