John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise LIII: That May or May Not Be a Brag

(Photo by Michael Bourgault on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, thinking about prayer and the Palouse.


I drove a friend, who was in town for a few days, to the Spokane airport this afternoon, for his flight back to Denver. I mentioned on the way up that the evening light on the drive back home may make for some decent picture taking of the Palouse.

Driving back from the airport, I broke out my prayer beads and was going to pray for some people I know. That may or may not be a brag, but prayer is something I enjoy and helps set my emotions right with people I’m struggling with in my day-to-day life. (I love social media; none of my good deeds go unrecognized, because I’m always letting everyone know what they are.)

Anyway, the beads quickly found their way to the car dash as the drive home was too lovely not to gawk at. I started writing a poem about it as I was driving, but then discovered I was using Walt Whitman’s voice and not my own. So, I just let my mind do what it wanted to do, and I enjoyed the rolling prairie—its greens, golds, and browns, hay and wheat and fallow.

The Palouse is a unique landscape with its undulating hills and valleys. It is also some of the richest farmland in the world. It’s last little tick on the world’s clock, a hundred years or so, has seen the area converted almost entirely to farm production. There is less than one percent of native Palouse intact. That less than one percent number is also how much old growth forest is left in America.


The Palouse is a unique landscape with its undulating hills and valleys. It is also some of the richest farmland in the world.


The drive home provided views of thriving farm homes and farm operations and also glimpses of the agricultural past in the form of old silos, run down barns, houses, trucks, and farm machinery.

I used to be a big judge of man’s ambition and its toll on the environment. I often wonder what the view would be like if it was all original grasses, flowers, and original wetlands. I would lie awake wondering if things would ever be restored to how nature brushed it into existence in the first place.

However, all things are temporary, including me, save love. Nature may one day restore the Palouse and the old growth—or change directions. History has shown that earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, and even asteroids can change the earth’s topography in a heartbeat.

I can be overly earnest in my spirituality, my prayers, and meditations. The irony is none of these things, although helpful, restored me to my joy the way wandering through Texas wildflowers did back when I was deeply depressed and homeless. Me fretting and worrying about the fate of the earth isn’t going to help anything. But me finding great joy in an evening drive and some picture taking just might.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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