Some photos of Elena and I

Opinions Are Like Stinky Things, We All Have Them. (SO WHAT!?)

Been a long time since I’ve written anything to you here. Whew, a lot has been happening. You’re a vivacious toddler now, courageous and eager to explore What a blast watching you learn and grow. Nothing is more exciting than seeing you move around and experience your surroundings with such enthusiasm. You’ve become quite affectionate lately and are quick to share hugs and kisses with Mama and Dada. Thanks for the love!

In all your growth, I can see your ego taking shape too.  More often than not you seem entirely sure of what you want these days, but not quite able to ask for it. Words fail you. Pointing gets the job done sometimes, but other times your mother and I can’t quite figure it out. You lose your cool and throw a fit. Sorry for all that, I’m trying to understand, but you sure do have a short temper. Chill out already!

Anyway, as your ego develops and you encounter more in the world, opinions will come about too. Likes and dislikes regarding every avenue of this wild and crazy life will form in your mind. Like many, I imagine you will struggle with the belief that your preferences are somehow more important or more highly refined than others’. Of course it’ll be a long time before you can understand, but it’s really a bunch of hogwash!


Really, I’m being serious. Let me try to explain. With over seven billion people in the world, most who think their ideas and desires are somehow better than those of others, our preferences themselves can become a great source of conflict and suffering. All of us have opinions, most rather meaningless, such as what genre of music, flavor of lollipop, or style of dress we prefer. Yes, none of that matters much, but it goes further. People hold tightly to seemingly meaningless opinions and vastly important ones too, including the presumed validity of their political views, religious beliefs, and even presupposed ideas of others’ worth. It all gets messy quickly, especially when we raise our ideals above those of another. We much too easily attempt to set ourselves apart from others in terms of race, nationality, political ideology, social group, and on and on. Not to say ideas or even opinions themselves are entirely worthless, but the problem arises when we attach too rigidly and close ourselves off to contrary evidence.

You see, Elena, there’s always more information that we’re probably lacking. Our perspectives are limited and we’ll never quite grasp the entire picture. At the very least, we must retain respect for others and their ways of thinking. Keep dialogue open and make an honest attempt to communicate with and understand one another. There will surely come a time when even your and my views are at odds. I’m sure it won’t be too many years before I think your taste in music is crap. That’s okay as long as we don’t expect each other to have the same taste. Let’s try to be patient with one another. {Patience, heh…that’s another story.}

One of the best pieces I’ve ever read about this comes from “Verses of the Faith Mind” (Hsing Hsing Ming), an old poem written by Zen Master Seng-ts’an in China many, many years ago. Here’s a chunk that really strikes a chord:

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

And from there it goes on, but that’s the beginning and the gist. I hope you wish to see the truth and may you not get caught up in your own opinions. Even though you’ll feel at times like your ideas are all that matter, know there is a larger way. You are connected to the larger way and can be a bigger person. There is no need to get stuck on yourself.

I love you.

eye poem

Elena, dark room with sunlightToo easy a target, almost,
to  tap out a poem centering
on your childlike innocence
or boundless curiosity,
but that incredible spark
of exquisite beauty bursting
moment by everlasting moment
from the depths of those
unyieldingly blue eyes,
that’s where I pause.

Eyes so round, so blue,
one can’t help but suspect
the entire universe rests
in the core of your gaze
and its overwhelming gravity
pulls each and every one of us in—
in to you with love.

Never trust a Petitto’s sense of direction, especially in a parking garage!

This is a story you’ll likely hear in person and probably from several people over the years, but it’s too good to not write down here. I have a poor sense of direction while driving a car, but it’s not my fault. Surely it has something to do with a motor vehicle’s ability to travel great distances at high rates of speed and change direction quickly, but the Petitto internal compass can’t keep up. On foot, even in the wilderness, I do all right. Put me in a car and I get twisted around in a hurry. This problem goes back at least two generations before me.

One year your Great Grandma and Grandpa Petitto brought your Uncle Carl and I to Ottawa, Canada for a day-trip. We wandered around the city and had a nice time. Actually I don’t remember many details, I was pretty young, probably 7 or 8 years old.  What I do remember in perfect detail was our time in the parking garage near the parliament buildings where we parked.

Trying to exit the parking garage was a huge ordeal. Grandpa’s first attempt resulted in us paying our parking fee and somehow looping back into the garage. The attendant at the booth was quite surprised to see us again and fortunately there was no fee for merely circling through the garage a second time, the only cost was a blow to Grandpa’s pride.

Again we attempted to exit. Again Grandpa made a wrong turn and ended up back in the bowels of the garage. A big part of the problem was the broken English the attendant used in trying to speak with Grandpa. Canada, being a bilingual country, has many citizens who use French as their primary language. The guy in the parking garage was definitely most comfortable speaking French as his English left much to be desired. Grandpa only spoke English and Italian, so there was a definite communication breakdown.

When we pulled up to the exit booth a third time, the attendant threw his hands up in the air, and in French probably said “Oh no, not you again!” Or perhaps he said something much more colorful, we’ll never know. He jumped out of his booth and began leading us on foot. At one point he cut a corner short and went between two cars so as to not have to walk all the way around in leading us toward the exit. Grandpa tried to follow him through the few feet of space that separated the cars! We didn’t crash into the cars, but I remember jerking forward and back in my seat as Grandpa tapped the accelerator and slammed the break a couple times while trying to figure out how to drive between the cars. The attendant threw his hands up in the air again and with very pronounced arm motions gestured us to drive AROUND the cars! Needless to say there was a lot of yelling and swearing in our car. Grandma was freaking out, Carl and I didn’t know what was going on, and the Frenchman must have thought we were completely insane.

Eventually the attendant had us back on track and we were out of the garage, no thanks to your Great Grandfather’s poor sense of direction. Hopefully you don’t inherit this problem and end up directionally-challenged like the rest of the Petitto clan. You might get lucky and inherit the reliable Chapman navigational skill. However you turn out, don’t hesitate to ask for directions and learn basic phraseology for the languages spoken in countries you plan to visit.

Keep a sense of wonder!

Undoubtedly life’s hardships will get you down from time to time, but do your best to keep a sense of wonder. No matter the trivial ups and downs, the snares of daily life, beyond the difficulty is an awesome, incredible world. Life, this huge and amazing life we all share, is truly wonderful!

Look around, look beyond the routines that sometimes drag us down and see all there is to see! Take in the stars on a clear night. Watch the sun as it rises and sets and floods the sky with astonishing crimson hues. Climb a mountain and look around in all directions. Notice the clouds as they move through the sky in endless variation. Watch the trees sway in the wind. Hear the birds sing their songs while the whole world awakens each morning. Look deeply into the eyes of loved ones and feel their souls looking back. Read a good poem and let the poet’s heart touch yours. Listen to a great song and let it move you— DANCE! Inhale deeply through your nose and smell fresh-baked bread. Stand on the coast with your toes in the surf letting the waves crash at your feet.

Even in the mundane, in the ordinary activities that fill our lives we can find great beauty if we give our full attention. Wash the dishes and notice the colors in the soap bubbles. Feel the water’s warmth as the grease is wiped away, making the bowls and plates squeaky clean. Appreciate doing what there is to do and then take satisfaction from a job well done. Embrace your life in all its wonder!

These days I’ve been filled with awe watching you. I watch you play with toys or find countless new objects to investigate. You’re so curious and learning quickly! I’m amazed how items I rarely notice anymore, like a plastic bowl, totally capture you. Such boundless curiosity! Such a big, new world for you to explore! I’m grateful to be able to experience the world anew with you.

When running in the woods, appreciate each step!

When running in the woods, even at full speed, appreciate each step. Don’t be in a hurry when charging ahead at full tilt. Whirring by trees, flying over rocks and roots, feel the fluidity in your stride. Welcome the quickened heartbeat, heaving breath, sweat and burning muscles. Embrace hard effort and be rewarded with incredible momentum. Go on courageously, never losing sight of what’s underfoot and all that surrounds you. You can not be anywhere apart from where you are in each moment of the journey. Every footfall along the way is vital!

Be kind!

Beginnings can be difficult and awkward, so I’ll start with something simple and timeless. Being kind to others is important. I have a feeling this won’t be difficult for you, seeing how sweet you are now as a baby. Smiling comes easy and your joy seems boundless.

In the future, however, people will be cruel to you for no apparent reason. Be prepared and stay on guard against those that may try to harm, but start with kindness and patience whenever possible. Know that everyone you meet is more than the attitude they present, even if it’s a facade of ill-temper. So much can happen in a lifetime to sour a person and bring bitterness, but it doesn’t have to end there. Something as small as your smile or words of concern could puncture a tiny hole in the shell of another’s resentment.

Understand that we all live in relation to everyone else. Even the most miserable is, or once was, someone’s daughter / son / sister / brother / mother / father / granddaughter, etc. As those relationships fade over time, the most lonely can still welcome an embrace from a friend. Respect others and share your warmth! You too may be in need of kindness and care from a stranger one day.