I met Daniel when he was fourteen years old and newly locked up in the juvenile detention center where I lead weekly writing workshops. This was Daniel’s first bout with the law. Like a lot of the boys I teach, he came in with a mix of fear and swagger.

Most time at the detention center is regimented: the boys are up at dawn, made to sweep out their cells and to shower, then served meals and sent to classes or other programs. When I asked him how he was handling the boredom of his unscheduled time, Daniel said he kept busy the way all the other guys did: doing push-ups, napping, counting the tiles on his floor (141), leafing through trashy magazines. When I suggested other ways — more reading, perhaps — he blew off the suggestion. “Nah. Just keeping my head down. Doing my time.” It was a sentiment I heard often. When I “forced” him to pick a book to read, he chose one with a lot of pictures: Norton Juster’s children’s book The Phantom Tollbooth.

Most of the kids cycled in and out after a few months, but Daniel’s stay dragged on for four years as he awaited trial. Then something changed in him. Daniel decided that, no matter what happened, he wanted to better himself. He began studying in earnest, even requesting extra work, and graduated from the facility’s high school. He decided to keep a list of everything he read while incarcerated. His goal was to have read one hundred books by the time of the trial.

Things worked out for Daniel. He took a plea bargain and was released under strict parole conditions. He enrolled in community college and got a job.

A few months later I got an e-mail from him with the list of everything he’d read while in the detention center. It was diverse: John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Tookie Williams, J.K. Rowling, Dale Carnegie. The last one on it was a memoir by self-educated writer Louis L’Amour. Daniel had surpassed his goal: it was book number 127.

Jill Wolfson
Santa Cruz, California

People had warned me about the boredom I’d experience once I quit drinking. They were right: there were so many hours in the day now that I was sober. Sleep would have been a respite, but without a stomach full of booze I often lay in bed, staring into the darkness. The coffee I drank throughout the day only enhanced my depression and anxiety. I worked at a downtown bar where I had recently been a regular, and I usually rode the bus to work. But, in an effort to fill my time, I decided to walk there each day instead.

I planned out a route that avoided all the major watering holes, save the inescapable pub at the end of my street. A trip that normally took a little more than an hour ended up taking about three. Walking gave me time to reflect on my life, but I still had hours to fill, so I joined a gym. It had been many years since I’d exercised regularly, and I had to ease into my old routines. After a few weeks it became less painful, and then slightly enjoyable. My social calendar was empty, so I went to movies alone, walked to the gym, cleaned my apartment, and read. People would comment on my appearance and ask my secret. I kept my sobriety to myself and just told them I was keeping busy. Eating up the hours before they ate me.

Austin, Texas

I volunteered to visit with L., an elderly woman who lived in a nursing home. She had brain damage from a botched operation on her sinuses, no family, no friends, and no income other than Social Security. But she was feisty and funny, and it took me only a week to become enamored of her.

I’d often arrive to find L. agitated. “I’m falling behind!” she’d cry. “I’m not getting anything done! It’s all piling up!”

I’d say something like “But there’s nothing to do in this place. Every day is the same. And I’m quoting you.”

She’d agree, we’d laugh, and then she would go back to lamenting how everything was piling up. She kept notes on what she wore, what she ate that day, and which aide she was currently feuding with.

Eventually she began to have frequent falls and was confined to a bed that sounded an alarm if she got up. Though her world had shrunk to the dimensions of her bed and whatever she could reach from it, her preoccupation with being busy continued.

More than three years ago L. went into respiratory failure. She was heavily sedated and placed on life support. Every twelve hours or so she’d emerge briefly from her medicated haze and cry out that she was overwhelmed with undone tasks. After a week the hospital ethics committee withdrew L.’s life support. She seemed to worry about being busy to her last breath.

When I panic in the face of my unconquerable to-do list, I think of L., who taught me that I can always feel overwhelmed, no matter my circumstances. And maybe all this busyness is just a way to distract myself from the inevitable.

Kara Jacobs
Windsor, California

All the other dads in our rural area worked forty hours a week, but my back-to-the-land father didn’t want to be a “wage slave.” He took sporadic odd jobs while pursuing his many interests: writing, piano tuning, blacksmithing, soldering.

Our family was often broke and low on food. In desperation my mother once scrounged for daylily bulbs to cook for us. There was no guarantee that my brother and I would have new school clothes in the fall, or that my parents could afford our school pictures, or that I’d get braces for my buck teeth. (Eventually I did, after my father charmed an orthodontist into bartering with him. They became lifelong friends.)

The financial pressure mounted, and Dad’s temper often frayed. He resented the burden of supporting kids he hadn’t wanted in the first place. My siblings and I resented being destitute and made to do chores nobody else had to do, like trimming grass around rocks with hand clippers because we didn’t own a weed whacker.

One problem we never had, though, was our dad pressuring us to be more ambitious. “There’s plenty to do here at home,” he’d say, discouraging us from participating in school activities when we were young and from seeking paying work when we were older. Once, as I went through a summer of unsuccessful job hunting, I spent some of my time assisting my dad with various projects. “I’m glad you didn’t get those jobs,” he told me. I was glad, too.

Though I still feel bitter about the hardship he put the rest of us through, working with him that summer turned out to be one of my favorite memories. In the final decades of his life, we both looked forward to spending holidays together.

I ended up inheriting Dad’s free-spirited work ethic. I freelance and sometimes have trouble keeping up with the bills. Although I’ve never had to resort to cooking daylily bulbs, my spouse and I are often broke. At least I don’t have the responsibility of children.

I realize now that, despite my often-critical attitude toward the way Dad lived his life, it worked out for him. And it might work out for me, too.

Name Withheld

Growing up an African American girl in Oakland, California, I minded my own business and put my energy into school so I could get into a good college and make it out of the “ghetto.” Then, four years ago, my mom and my grandmom decided we were moving to Sacramento. I thought this was the worst decision ever. I would start ninth grade at a high school where I didn’t know anybody.

But I got through those four years and made some friends along the way. As a senior, I worked at the Sacramento 6 Drive-In and was promoted to assistant manager — at the age of eighteen! Being in a position where I had to tell people what to do was stressful. I began to ask myself why I had taken on this much responsibility at my age. Then I remembered I was an Oakland girl who wanted to make a better life for herself.

That summer I worked hard, sweated a lot, and developed my leadership, problem-solving, and communication skills. It helped that I had some great employees, including one in particular who stood out. I’d admired him from afar in school when I was a freshman and he was a senior. Now I was his boss, and every time I looked at him, I got lost in those big brown eyes of his. Assistant managers weren’t supposed to have relationships with staff, but I didn’t let that stop me. We started dating in July 2017.

He has been keeping me busy ever since.

Charlaysja Williams
Rancho Cordova, California

Over and over you ask the same questions: Where are you hurting? Did you take anything at home? Are you nauseous? Short of breath? Yes, it’s very busy. We’ll get you to a room as fast as we can. Please, don’t yell at me.

You try to slow your speech. Try not to rush people, even though the line is out the door. Exude empathy, and ignore the man in the wheelchair who demands that you sit on his lap. Calm toddlers who are terrified at the idea of a stranger squeezing their arm with a blood-pressure cuff. Use humor when possible.

Remember that for many of the people in the lobby this is the worst day they’ve had in a long time, maybe ever.

By the end of twelve hours you are exhausted but still on high alert for the serious emergencies. Smile. Know that you made a difference for a few of the people you spoke to today.

Rowan Jordan
Seattle, Washington

My mom was always busy, her attention on at least three things at once. She hardly ever sat down, and that’s how she liked it. The last time I saw her alive, on our annual family ski trip, I was mad at her for not sitting still. Why couldn’t she just have a cup of coffee and relax? Instead she typed up notes, answered calls from patients, tried to appease picky grandkids, and helped my sister pack supplies for a day of skiing. My mom and I had no time alone, and I was impatient with her.

When I’d been a teenager, my favorite times with my mom were road trips. I had her captive in the car. I listened to her stories about the past, learned of her longings for the future, and sang along with her to country music.

I was still angry when the ski trip ended, and my mom knew it. She had tears in her eyes at the perfunctory good-bye hug. A month passed before I grew tired of my grudge, and I called her on a Sunday morning. She lit up, as she always did when she heard my voice. We talked about how busy we were and planned a family beach vacation at the end of the summer. We exchanged sincere I love yous. At the beach, I imagined, we’d take early-morning walks with cups of coffee, our feet sinking in the wet sand. We’d have the time together I so craved.

Two days later my dad called to say a fast-moving delivery truck had struck her at a rainy intersection. She was in the ICU. They were waiting to see if she would wake up.

She didn’t.

Lauren Black
Denver, Colorado

In addition to being an adult-education director at an Episcopal cathedral, I wrote articles for the church’s weekly bulletin, organized seminars and study retreats, and hosted faculty and students from the local university (where my husband was the dean) at our large home. I also did laundry and fixed meals for our four high-school- and college-age daughters and their friends. And my husband and I were involved in the antiwar movement and attended many meetings and demonstrations.

When I felt overwhelmed, I’d hide in a restroom and calculate the time each event would take, then write out everything in my planner. Sometimes this, and deep breathing, would calm me.

After I described this strategy to my therapist, she challenged me instead to leave whatever I was doing, go outside, and find a tree to sit under. Once seated, I was to do nothing for fifteen minutes.

My first attempt was on the courthouse lawn in the middle of downtown. I spread my scarf on the ground to protect my suit and stockings, folded my hands in my lap, and noted the time. Not four minutes had elapsed before I was so agitated I had to stand up and move. I laughed out loud at my inability to just sit still.

Betsy Bell
Seattle, Washington

The van was cold, and my makeshift bed on the floor was hard. I was awakened by a rocking motion and the familiar sounds of heavy breathing, muffled laughter, and moaning — which meant my mom and stepdad were “busy” in the dark. I whispered that I had to pee. My mom either didn’t hear me or ignored me.

“Mom, I need to pee!” I said, louder this time.

My stepdad growled for me to use the restaurant bathroom. He reached out an arm, slid open the door, and shouted, “Out!”

Snow whirled around the parking lot. I had boots on, but I’d forgotten my coat. I banged on the van door and yelled that I needed it. A moment passed. The door opened, and my coat flew out and landed on the ground. As I pulled it on, the van began to rock again.

I trudged across the parking lot to the restaurant, eager to get inside though embarrassed to be in my pajamas. Staying in the parking lot overnight wasn’t illegal, but even at the age of six I knew it wasn’t normal. Nor was a kid showing up alone at a restaurant at the crack of dawn in her pajamas, but the need to pee outweighed my embarrassment. Besides, I didn’t want to go back to the van while they were doing that. I hated that.

The door to the restaurant was locked. The operating hours were 6 AM to 11 PM. I decided to huddle outside and wait. It wasn’t long before a woman with keys came along. Her name tag read, DORIS.

“Hey there, sweetie. Are you OK?”

I asked if I could use the bathroom.

She looked at me sideways and unlocked the door, then pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. “I’ll be right here when you’re finished.”

I peed and washed my hands, letting the warm water soothe my cold fingers. When I came out, Doris had a cup of hot chocolate waiting for me in a booth. I sat down and wrapped my hands around the mug.

Doris asked where my parents were and if I had run away.

I hadn’t, I said. (If I had, I would have worn more than my pajamas. In fact, I had prepared a whole list of things I would bring.) I told her my parents were outside in the van.

She looked at me questioningly.

I wondered what it would be like to have Doris as my mom. Where would we live? Who would be my dad? Would we have hot chocolate every day?

“Listen, honey,” Doris said, “you can stay here as long as you like. I have some work to do, but I’ll be right behind the counter.” She squeezed my hand, and her touch almost made me cry. For some reason her being so nice made me feel more alone. I sipped my hot chocolate and imagined my papa was in the booth with me. I knew he was in heaven, but I felt better when I pretended he wasn’t.

Another woman arrived for work and asked Doris, “What’s with the kid?” Doris glanced over at me and started quietly telling her how she’d found me. The other woman looked at me with a sad face. I waited until they were both distracted, then exited the restaurant. I knew it was rude not to say goodbye, but I couldn’t stand to see them look at me that way.

The van was still. I slid open the door.

“Where have you been?” my mom shouted.

“I was in the restaurant.”

“You were gone a long time.”

First they couldn’t wait to get rid of me; then I was gone too long. I crawled into my bed on the floor. It was cold and hard, but here, at least, no one would look at me with pity.

Vancouver, British Columbia

“You gotta stay busy, or you’ll blow your brains out!”

We all laughed at Joe’s morbid statement. It was the weekend of our five-year high-school reunion, and we were poking fun at the difficulties of postcollege life: failed relationships, miserable jobs, loneliness, and a general lack of direction. I had just been through a gut-wrenching breakup, then had moved across the country to pursue a graduate degree in a city where I knew no one. I often went days without even leaving my apartment. But finding humor in our struggles made them a little more bearable.

In the months following the reunion, we checked in on each other often. “Stay busy!” we would text, both as a joke and as a reminder to take care of ourselves. Whenever I felt particularly down, I would hear Joe’s voice in my head: “Stay busy.” It became my mantra, a reminder to get out of the apartment, even when that felt impossible. I would send my friends pictures of myself going out to eat alone, or to a bar or coffee shop or comedy club, always with the caption: “Staying busy!” They did the same. It felt like a confirmation that they were doing OK, too.

Christa Eduafo
Los Angeles, California

In military-ruled Haiti, where democracy activists were being tortured and killed, a handful of us managed an overworked refugee office, trying to offer potential victims asylum in the U.S. Applying for asylum is a complex legal process involving a lot of paperwork. I insisted on an organized approach: one form after another, one interview after another. It seemed to work.

A long line of anxious people waited, their impatience palpable. One day a secretary hesitantly interrupted me: a man named Frantz Damas wanted to see me.

“What for?” I barked.

“He just says it is very urgent.”

I gestured at the queue. “All these people have urgent business. They are at risk.”

The secretary withdrew.

Three hours later we were still working without a letup. None of us even had time for lunch. The secretary came with a cup of coffee.

As I thanked her, she murmured that Damas was still waiting. The secretary’s voice conveyed genuine urgency.

I told her that a lot of people would suffer if I held up the line, and I asked her to tell Damas I would see him as soon as I was able.

I meant to do just that, but first I had to cope with the flood of asylum seekers in front of me.

I worked another two hours. When I got up to use the restroom, I remembered Damas and asked the secretary to get him for me. She went to the overcrowded waiting room, then came back and said he had left.

Perhaps he meant to come back the next day. I told the secretary to please find a slot for him on my morning schedule.

The next morning there was another long line, another unrelenting wave of forms and interviews and decisions. During a free moment I asked the secretary if Damas had reappeared.

“Not yet,” she said.

“Let me know if he does.”

Two hours after the office closed, I was still clearing the backlog when an assistant brought in the evening paper.

The front page said Frantz Damas had been shot the night before and his body dumped in the trash.

Manish Nandy
Reston, Virginia

“Code Blue, 224 West,” blares a voice over the hospital’s loudspeaker. I work twelve-hour shifts as a nurse in an understaffed intensive-care unit. The announcement means someone in room 224 West has gone into cardiac arrest, which means I have to drop everything and assist with the resuscitation efforts. So much for having an efficient, get-everything-done shift.

Tonight there is no way for me to keep up. With every intercranial-pressure monitor I need to calibrate, or chest tube I need to defoam, or urinary catheter I need to insert, I fall behind schedule and scold myself for all the tasks I’m not getting to.

Even on my days off, it’s hard to wind down. I try to sleep but instead ruminate on my failed marriage, or obsess about bills and child support, or worry about being a bad father.

I race to the patient’s room pushing a cart loaded with a defibrillator, intubation gear, and emergency drugs. When I get there, the hospital chaplain is ushering away two women and a little girl, who is whimpering. I want to stop and offer my condolences, but I don’t have time, and anyway that’s not my job.

One of my colleagues positions the blue Ambu bag over the patient’s mouth and nose and squeezes in air until the doctor arrives to intubate. Someone else inserts an IV needle in a flaccid arm and injects heart-stimulating drugs. A third nurse applies EKG pads.

I position myself over the patient’s chest. He’s a skinny old man: a husband, a father, a grandfather. But I can’t think about that right now. We cut his hospital gown away, and I see his ribs protruding from his torso.

As I’ve been taught, I press down hard and release just below his sternum while quietly humming “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Its tempo is right for performing CPR, and the irony of the title doesn’t elude me.

The patient’s skin is bluish. I hear a rib crack with my third compression, but I keep going. We paddle him once, then again. The heart monitor shows no activity. “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive, ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive . . .” What about my other patients? I have meds to give, feeding tubes to flush, dressings to change, nursing notes to write. I’m pounding on a dying man’s chest, and here I am obsessing over all the things I need to do before I can go home to a bed where I won’t sleep. I don’t have time to be present. In my fear of leaving something undone, I’ve come undone myself.

Andy Roman
Greenacres, Florida

When I was let go from my job after more than a decade of work, I panicked. How was I going to live without that income? What would I do?

I spent the first few days catching up on the things that hadn’t gotten done because I’d been too busy: cleaning the bathroom and windows and floors; filing papers; responding to letters. But then everything was done. I could sit for hours in the back garden — which was much more pleasant now that it had been weeded and cared for — reading or listening to the birds. This morning I saw my first dahlia open, the petals unfolding. An ice-cream truck passed nearby, its nursery-rhyme tune like a music box.

I’m becoming attached to moments like this, but I know I can’t put off getting another job forever. In order to afford to live here, I have to go back to being too busy to enjoy it.

Jennifer Zeni
El Cerrito, California

I was pregnant with my first, finishing two master’s degrees, taking exams, tutoring, teaching classes, and working as an office assistant. I fell asleep once while waiting for my checkup at the obstetrician’s office. I was happy that year; I felt important. My busyness came to a halt when I graduated, moved, and found myself in the role of a stay-at-home mom. There were no more professors with red pens waiting to read my writing — just a drooling baby with a full diaper.

I finally got a job as an adjunct, and life was busy again, but not in a good way. My second was born two years after the first, and I was preparing for lectures, grading papers, nursing, diapering babies, and struggling to find time to sleep. My husband often traveled for work, so I frequently had to parent by myself. After five years of that, I had reached my limit. No one noticed one less liberal-arts adjunct on the roster.

Since then, I’ve worked the types of jobs that you don’t take home with you: no more stacks of essays to grade until midnight. And my parenting has grown more relaxed. I don’t enroll my kids in more than one activity at a time. My friends’ kids have karate, violin, piano, soccer, and basketball, plus extracurricular reading. They also get top scores at school. Mine have TV and video games. My older child was on the verge of failing math in sixth grade when we signed him up for tutoring. He passed with a B, and we were happy.

On Saturday mornings my kids have tutoring and guitar lessons, but after that we loll around in our pajamas. I read while the kids watch videos on YouTube. We stay in bed as much as possible, scrounging leftover pizza from the fridge. Sometimes I ask the kids if they want to sign up for baseball or karate, and they look at me like I’m crazy.

I feel guilty about all this laziness and often wonder if I’m doing it wrong. Here in Silicon Valley, everyone wants their kids to be the best. I feel their collective anxiety enveloping our neighborhood like the year-round fog. Is there something wrong with aiming to be average?

Jennifer Machin
San Francisco, California

My Grandma Ev lived in a small town, and when we came for a visit, things always needed to be done at her house. If we couldn’t busy ourselves, we were given tasks.

One summer day my cousin Tom and I, barely teenagers, were sitting in her living room when Grandma came in and announced she needed some canned beans. We were to walk to the store to get them. Tom said he was in the middle of a book, but Grandma saw that he was only on page 2, and she wasn’t having any of it.

So off we went. After multiple diversions we returned several hours later with the four cans of beans. Grandma took the grocery bag and neatly stacked the cans next to a dozen more just like them.

Senility had crept in, but still she kept busy. We had to warn her to make sure the stove was turned off and not to put metal in the microwave. As a young adult I visited often and later brought my newborn to see her. She offered to help diaper the baby on a countertop, and, being an overprotective new parent, I snapped, “No!” It startled us both, and I regret it to this day.

In the last years of Grandma’s life, Grandpa slept in a recliner outside her room in case she wandered. During the day she was still tidying their modest house and whistling “Yellow Bird,” a tune she remembered even after so much else had been lost. One evening she went to the back door, which now had four locks. She unlocked the lowest and then, climbing on a kitchen chair to extend her reach, proceeded to unlock the remaining three. She got down from the chair, put it back where it belonged, and went out to sweep the dust off the stoop and breathe in the fresh air. Then she stepped back inside and used the chair again to refasten every lock, still whistling.

Michele Thorne
Wilmette, Illinois

Even in retirement my father served on six corporate boards, patented inventions, wrote books and magazine columns, and consulted with fellow entrepreneurs. He missed his oldest grandchild’s high-school graduation due to a board meeting. He dropped dead of a stress-related ailment before the other three could graduate.

For me, being busy was a way to attain parental approval.

My husband and I bought a 1910 bungalow and spent the next couple of decades fixing it up. To avoid doing chores, I would procrastinate all weekend until I’d finally complete the chores on Sunday. The children wanted me to play with them, but there was no time. After all, my volunteer work in their classrooms, the PTA, and their Girl Scout troop was all for their benefit.

For me, being busy was a way to put off doing what I didn’t want to do.

I started a business while my husband struggled in his career. I worked evenings and weekends and was the sole financial provider for the family. My husband became depressed, drank too much, and let his personal hygiene go. I worked, parented, exercised, and continued to volunteer.

For me, being busy was a way to avoid thoughts and emotions I didn’t want to face.

When our youngest went away to college, I left my husband, sold my business and the family home, and bought a new town house. I lived alone, worked reasonable hours, and had a housekeeper come in to clean every other week. I found myself in an unfamiliar situation: I was bored. I’d thought I would enjoy all the time to myself, but I felt anxious and depressed. I started dating a lot, attending networking events, and planning get-togethers with my girlfriends.

For me, being busy is a way to pretend I’m not alone.

Atlanta, Georgia

When Dave, my beloved ex-husband and coparent, was diagnosed with cancer, the prognosis was encouraging: a 97 percent survival rate, “the best cancer you could have,” according to the oncologist. Dave, his wife, and I told our nine-year-old daughter and her seven-year-old stepbrother the news. Dave joked about going bald and how funny he would look without eyebrows.

The oncologist was wrong. In fact, Dave had a rare variation with terrible survival odds. We discovered this slowly, as his treatments failed month after month. We found a specialist a thousand miles away, and Dave and his wife moved there for six months. Andrew, his stepson, stayed with my daughter and me. The kids were terrified and confused.

I worked full-time, and the days were unrelenting. Getting the children breakfast in the morning meant feeding them on the way to school. Getting the trash to the curb once a week felt monumental. The house was a disaster.

At night I would tuck the kids into bed, lie down next to them, and rub their backs. The first time I did this, Andrew went utterly still and silent. Maybe no one had rubbed his back before. His mom and dad were far away, his dad was sick, and he was sleeping on his stepsister’s floor. Behind him, in the dim light, I cried.

I cried a lot in those days: At the doctor’s office after I was asked a perfunctory “How are you?” After a cop pulled me over for speeding. A few times in the car when the kids were with me.

I eventually saw a therapist. Just giving her the summary of my days wore me out. I was ready to break. I needed help.

“So,” she said, “you’re extremely busy. You have all of these obligations and worries constantly humming in your mind.”

I nodded.

“What is it you’re trying to drown out by creating this constant hum? What is it you don’t want to feel? Until you understand what you’re avoiding, you’ll just keep creating this hum.”

I had hoped for some empathy, or maybe some guidance. Instead I was told my worry over Dave’s cancer, the parenting of a second child, the full-time job — it was all just my way of avoiding what was really bothering me. Sure. Got it.

Our time ended, and I went to my car and cried. Then I left to pick up the kids.

Lee Tucker
Tucson, Arizona

I was living with my grandparents for the summer while my mom was busy with college. Every morning — even on Saturdays and Sundays — my grandma woke me up at 5:30 AM. Her flower shop opened at 7:00 AM sharp, and we had to get there early to finish the last-minute arrangements. I hated those early mornings and the way my grandma French-braided my hair and the spicy breakfast she served. So I was thrilled when, one Saturday, my dad was scheduled to pick me up for a day of fun. Maybe we would go to the zoo or snorkeling. We would definitely have a picnic.

My grandma gave me money to buy two shaved-ice cones: one for me and one for my dad. I bought the cones, then waited for him outside the flower shop. I waited so long the ice melted in my hands. He didn’t show up. My dad was too busy even to call and say he wasn’t coming.

Grandma put the OUT FOR DELIVERY sign on the door, and we spent the rest of the day together. I don’t remember what we did — definitely not snorkeling — but I do remember that she had nothing but time for me.

Los Angeles, California

Typically the mornings here are sunny, clear, and warm, and by mid-afternoon the winds bring moisture evaporated from the Great Plains. The low mountains lift the passing air currents a few thousand feet, where the air cools, condenses into clouds, and returns to earth in precipitation.

One of the positives of sitting here in a prison cell is that I get to appreciate the weather without concern for how it might interfere with my endeavors. I’m not trying to raise a garden, pour concrete, erect a building, or plow a field. I don’t have to drive anywhere, fix a hole in the roof, or miss soccer practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s balmy and bright or a hurricane is blowing. My flight plan won’t be delayed, my appointments won’t be canceled, and the kids won’t track mud into the house. I could write a litany of things I wish were different, and I certainly look forward to my release, but in the meantime I will appreciate each rain as it falls.

Dave Gariano
Beaver, West Virginia