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Grasshopper Soup: Another day in our own little world

Bob Sweigert
Grasshopper Soup

The California sun puts everything in focus. The white forest floor shines back. Each pine needle is singled out by the distant star. Clusters of them burst forth with green rays, probing the skies for life even when still. The intricate bark on Jeffrey Pines, Sugar Pines, Ponderosa Pines and Incense Cedar spells out an ancient message, like the crisp and clear words of learned men. Fir trees hold out their hands in humble patience for the morning sun as it slowly passes over the patient forest.

There is so much we can learn about life just by looking. Of course, you may not notice any of this if you closed the Pastime, or the Bridgetender last night.

Coyote trails are strung through the woods and along the creeks and rivers like fine jewelry. A great stillness takes shape in the air between the ground and trees, the lake and sky, between shade and light. Every earthly form comes to life in the imperial sun and the unveiling of blue.

The snow begins to peel away from leafless alders, tree wells and logs, slowly removing its firm grasp on Tahoe waters and the somewhat revived Truckee River.

The snow slips away with each warm, passing day. Our voices call out repeatedly, “We need more snow. We need more snow,” only to be fooled again by another mirage. It is a beautiful vision. All we can do to quench our thirst is follow where it leads.

Tahoe life seems so far removed from the cares and troubles of cities, ghettos, wars, hunger and despair. Waiting for more snow is a piece of cake with sweet frosting on top compared to waiting for the next rocket to hit.

In our remote paradise it is hard to be outraged that the otherwise dignified looking Bernie Madoff made off with $50 billion of other people’s money, violated his parole and remains free on bond. If you or I pulled such a scam, we would find ourselves behind bars in a heart beat. And he’s smiling in every video and press clip shown of him. Special treatment of the criminally rich and socially established is a thief’s honor. I’m surprised the government isn’t bailing him out too.

Bernie Madoff is a modern day Jesse James. Americans love a good outlaw, especially when he tries to give such a generous amount of his loot to his family, proving he really does have a good heart after all. Never mind all the people whose lives he ruined, or who committed suicide because of him. His aspirations were noble. Right. Like a ski or snowboard thief.

As beautiful as Tahoe is, not everyone can find happiness here. At the edge of the lake, on one of the areas most famous and serene properties, lives a lonely, angry man. How anyone can live on the lake and be so miserable is a mystery to all but him. His face is a constant scowl. Smile, wave and say hello to him and his contemptuous stare hardens in to granite. He is a wealthy man, but his wealth does not seem to bring him any joy. Perhaps some great personal tragedy haunts him from his youth. The same was true for many of us, but we rose above it. Perhaps some terrible loss turned his once soft heart into unbearable pain. The same was true for many of us, but we rose above it.

His only hope is in the beauty buried deep inside his heart. The lapping of the waves at his doorstep lulls him to sleep; the embrace of pines holds him as he eats alone; the song of wind in harmony with lake and woods charms his chosen silence but will not bring him happiness. Wealth and possessions will not bring him joy. The California sun has no pity on this quarrelsome man.

Perhaps today he will find the beauty inside himself and, like our sun, shine.


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