Untethered Dog

An Online Notebook by Tom Swift


Notice the snowflakes falling slowly from the sky. Like puffs of cotton, these flakes float and fall, each one an invitation to witness this moment. You are in this body and you are walking with your little buddy for such a short, short time. Soon he will mark another year, a week later you will mark another year. That you will only get so many years — each — together — is why this life is a gift. It’s OK that you struggled this morning to find your way into your body and back to your nature. Yet with distance from the angst these steps walk you into the miracle and you see the folly of before. Footsteps and snowflakes. This life is yours.


Every moment is an opportunity. Even moments like this one, when you feel sad, rejected. You can move toward your nature in this moment or you can go of and go astray. You can focus on what you can control — you can turn within, you can take care of yourself — or you can grasp at externals. You can look for someone or something to help you escape. The latter won’t work. You know.

World Wide Web

There are aspects of life that do not suit your nature but with which you must negotiate in any case. In such circumstances, do not succumb to your frustration; do not seek answers just to end your dis-ease. So what if the task would be no great shakes to someone else! That an endeavor challenges you more than others, perhaps most others, maybe even nearly all living persons, is a gift rather than a burden. For having swum in such waters, even if the act exacts great toil, you will find you have gained more, learned more, grown more than another could.

Eye on the Target

Are you distracted in any way by what happens to you from outside? Then give yourself some free time to learn something new and worthwhile, and stop wandering about aimlessly. But after that, you must also guard against going astray in a second way; for equally foolish are those who have become weary of life as a result of their activities and have no aim to which they can direct every impulse and, indeed, every impression. -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.7

Purpose. It’s all about purpose. What distracts you from your purpose? How can you lesson or eliminate such distractions? How quickly can you bounce back from those distractions of which you have indulged? How much of your time is a testament to your purpose? If someone — let’s say you — were to hover over your home and peer through your roof so as to observe your actions, what would be noticed? Would it be a man frittering about? Or a a man engaged in what he’s here to do?

COVID Winter

Now is the time to learn anew who you are. To write and reflect. To ask yourself good questions. The sort of questions you would ask a good friend. All contentment is available when you forego externals. To grasp is a form of fighting yourself. You will, you must, admit defeat. Your happiness is up to no one else. Last night you shoveled wet snow that arrived early — snow heavy enough to bend branches. What strength and calm comes from self knowledge. To let go of that which keeps you from your true nature is to become immediately lighter. Just as the trees immediately lifted their limbs skyward as you swiped snow from their branches.


Recall when you were a boy at The Lake. At various points around the shore, including at the edge of your backyard, near the wooden bridge, stood the water wheelies. Writing is your version of those white donuts roped to the red sticks that stood always for anyone who may need to be saved. You never have to succumb to the Sargasso Sea of confusion so long as you remember to reach for the life preserver found right at the tips of your fingers.

Leaves — So Many Leaves

You are subpar at tending to the yard-work. Yet it feels good to do it anyway.

First Steps

The first thing you do when you wake is important. The instinct is to move slowly into (or back to) the day. Instead, write right off. Go directly to the gym first thing. Walk. Prepare. Do not be anxious yet do act with purpose. What you do first sets a tone for all that follows.

To Start Again

Remember how long you have been deferring these things, and how many times you have been granted further grace by the gods, and yet you have failed to make use of it. But it is now high time that you realized what kind of universe this is of which you form a part, and from what governor of that universe you exist as an emanation; and that your time here is strictly limited, and, unless you make use of it to clear the fog from your mind, the moment will be gone, as you are gone, and never be yours again. -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.4

How is more important than What.

Yet What is not incidental to How.

You can be tranquil in a storm. You can thrive during disease. Epictetus was a slave and he managed as such that nearly two thousand years later his lessons helped James Stockdale endure another form of involuntary bondage, when the U.S. Admiral found himself a prisoner of war.

Life unfolds as it will. So little is in your control. What you do have a choice about is how you will respond.

Yet in the moments in which What is up to you, during times in which you are more or less free to decide your activity, whether during an hour or an afternoon, those choices seem not ancillary. The What influences the How.

Some activities rev you up, others bring you down. Some foster learning, inspire, open you to love in all its forms. Others lessen your mood, reduce your energy, and leave you less hopeful.

You still have the choice, of course, on how to regard the moment — on how to respond to the stimulus. But humans being human means you have only so much strength here. Especially when attention-grabbing algorithms are involved.

Single minutes when you open your Twitter feed can easily turn into 45 minutes — an hour — you will never get back.

Be a miser with your time. Do not give away your limited hours.

Do not choose Whats that add to the fog in your mind.


There are times during the day, such as when the sun is high in the sky, when you are liable to slip into sloth. There is little means to avoid this. Do not despair. Yet there is strength in playing the hand you’re dealt rather than folding your cards. Choose wisely. If you do not have the energy for important work, lower your expectations, and then see if you can still do something useful. Read. Write to yourself. Breathe. Be there. Let go of craving. Fill up with that which fuels you during common hours.