Food for thought from "Population: 485" by Michael Perry:
[subtitle: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time]

I crave equanimity. I have more than I did as a young man, and am beginning to suspect - rather hopefully - it is a product of age. Equanimity is the only thing that will save you from this world, and it doesn't come easy. Or cheap. And you can't fake it for long.

The average [volunteer] New Auburn firefighter took home around $400 last year . . . in our situation, I prefer low pay. Weeds people out. Keeps your motivations pure.

. . . out here, rescue is less about throwing ropes or stanching blood or running into burning buildings than it is about assuming a role in a quirky narrative that weaves itself through generations. The community is the constant. . . . helps us recognize that time - our time - is transient. Whenever we finish up a call, the officer in charge fills out a run report. The report includes a roster. Proof in ink that we were present at the making of history, no matter how small the event. A little detail within the brief parentheses that is our existence.

Someone calls you white trash, you go with it . . . you understand it is only a matter of distinctions: yuppies with their shiny trash, church ladies with their hand-stitched trash, solid citizens with their secret trash.

What you are given is a series of opportunities to prove your ingenuity and gumption. Rescue work is like jazz. Improvisation based on fundamentals.

Under the supposition that someone is trappped in the bedroom, fighting your way into what turns out to be an empty house is no more or less heroic than fighting your way into one harboring a victim. The difference is one of result, not intent. But until courage meets circumstance, there are no heroes.

Still, I am as susceptible to ego as the next self-absorbed noodler, and honesty compels me to cop to the fact that there have been times . . . when I posit myself as the most accomplished writer this village has ever produced. My ego was in need of a little tuning . . . found at a yard sale. . . 1875 best-seller by the founder of my village, a book that enjoyed "a considerable reputation." Life has delightful ways of keeping us humble.

Disinterest is a form of tolerance.

In my experience, art [writing] is not to be awaited; it is to be chased down, cornered, and beaten into submission with a stick.

The things that bring you joy tell you a lot about who you are.

Death [is] a stillness within the chaos.

The ride to the morgue is a quiet one. I ride in back with the boy. I think of the father, probably still angry about his car, and the girlfriend, checking herself in the mirror, making herself special. It is eerie to know someone is dead while their loved ones are oblivious.

But I'm glad I talked to Snook. Glad he recited that litany of places that no longer exist in this place. There was a lot there to remind me about the constancy of change. How much it means to carry those things with us. And how to know when it is time to let go. As it is with buildings, it is with ourselves.

The swamp is all percolation and decay. It is the perfect place to make yourself small in the face of the earth.

Sometime nature is a comfort. Sometimes it presses down on you like cold steel.

We spend this life looking for a center, a place where we can suspend without a wobble.

Still, my secret weapon has always been being too dumb to quit. . .

. . . all the things we find when we dig, they fascinate us because they have become imbued with a stillness in time. In one form or another, they have achieved stillness by abandoning themselves to the earth . . . . . . I find myself more and more content to immerse myself in this place. It is occurring to me that to truly live in a place, you must give your life to that place. It is a dynamic commitment, but it is also a manifestation of stillness.

We share it with frogs and geese and water buffalo, the desire to pair off. We [humans] crave a companion, a witness to our living.

The day arrives when you realize you have more past than future . . .