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D.J. Tice's commentary on simply traveling through the world, remaining in motion, struck a familiar chord with me ("The infinite elsewhere," Opinion Exchange, Nov. 25). It seemed like he was describing an earlier period in my life. Today's world seems so much more structured, almost laser-focused, with less time left to simply "pass on through." In those long-ago summers, my two brothers and I would escape the city to visit our cousins and grandparents on their southern Minnesota farm, allowing for hours of liberation from adults. We never imagined there could be so much open land spread out before us, with nary a building or street to spoil the view! We walked the tracks, putting a penny on the rails and returning later to discover a precious crushed "medallion" had been minted by a passing train. What a trophy! Then we would move our arms up and down a couple times, and sure enough, the big rig driver on the adjacent highway rewarded us with a few exhilarating blasts from his air horn. For a few hours here and there during those hot and hazy days of June and July, we seemingly did nothing, but at the same time absorbed everything around us that was natural and unfiltered. I later hitchhiked around Europe, and later, up and down University Avenue to get to the University of Minnesota. My roommates and I simply stuck our thumbs out when our cars didn't start or were in the shop. We were part of the landscape back then.

It's probably a romanticized view, this passing through a place, choosing to appreciate the good that is there in a strange locale, but not staying long enough to get bogged down with its drawbacks. There is a Lewis and Clark in many of us, seeking what is around the corner, soaking it in, and continuing "the pleasure of passing through." Just the thought of that "infinite elsewhere" prompts me to pour over my road atlas one more time. Thanks for such a wonderfully thought-provoking piece, Mr. Tice.

Bruce L. Lindquist, St. Louis Park


"The infinite elsewhere" by D.J. Tice is the most beautiful, poetic essay I have read in the Star Tribune. Perhaps this poignant reflection about the wonder and privilege of simply "passing through" the world surfaced as he contemplated his pending retirement from a long and successful career. If you've been through it, as I have, you know that retirement demands a new course to meaning and identity. Surely Tice has pointed the way: Look to the infinite elsewhere.

Andrew P. Kramer, Marine on St. Croix


Everyone needs an Ida

Just wanted to comment on how much I enjoyed Dick Schwartz's commentary on Nov. 23 about his beloved Grandma Ida, "A boy's (blessed) life." She sounded like a wonderful lady. I found the article to be poignant, funny and just plain wonderful.

For me, it served to conjure up memories of our family's Aunt Ida. Our Ida never married and instead spent a lifetime in service to her God and being kind to others. I remember when she would come stay with us for several days whenever some of my younger brothers were born. At the time, it was normal for women like my mother, Marjorie, to remain hospitalized for multiple days after childbirth. I don't believe there was any parental leave at that time for my dad, Chuck, as he would continue on with his normal work schedule. It must have been a real challenge for our Aunt Ida to suddenly step in and shepherd four unruly children. At the time I didn't really appreciate what she was doing for us. I just wanted our mom back. It was only later that I became thankful that our Ida was a part of our lives.

Everyone should feel blessed to have an Ida in their lives.

John Chapman, Victoria, Minn.


The bedrock of our society

I was pleasantly surprised to see the full-page commentary "Why I'm a liberal (in the classical sense)," by Cass R. Sunstein in the Nov. 24 edition of the Star Tribune. This was a well-reasoned, commonsense approach to the concept of liberalism, one that offered stark, readily understandable distinctions between liberalism and illiberalism. In these emotionally charged times of sociopolitical upheaval in America, it would do everyone well to read this article and thereby gain a more measured insight into the actualities of liberalism as a meaningful aspect of public life. I've always been glad to be a liberal, and Sunstein's commentary was helpful in terms of bringing additional clarity to my conscious decision to embrace liberalism. I wish more people understood what liberalism truly is, for I am convinced that we would all be better off if that were the case. My thanks to Sunstein for an excellent overview of what it means to be a liberal.

Randy Sims, Apple Valley


Sunstein offers an incisive analysis of liberalism in "Why I'm a liberal (in the classical sense)." He identifies many characteristics of liberalism and provides historical and contemporary examples of liberalism in practice. Like Sunstein, I self-identify as a liberal. And like him I believe that negatively categorizing ideas, actions or people as "liberal" is often misplaced and sometimes dangerous. Unfortunately, our current condition is characterized by intolerance and polarization. This makes demonizing the other with misapplied labels so tempting.

The most important aspect of Sunstein's essay is not the clarification of the meaning of liberalism. It is the articulation of principles in practice. Read carefully his description of the application and impact of the principles of liberalism. And then align those dispositions with the core principles embedded in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is a nice fit.

Labels too often limit our understanding of the past, awareness of the present and vision for the future. We must ask what type of person we want to be and what type of society we want to maintain. Sunstein's essay provides a road map.

Phil George, Lakeville


It's only waste if you say it is

I hope last weekend you were able to digest your turkey and rake your leaves, the two tasks the Star Tribune Editorial Board encouraged us to do with its editorial "On raking the leaves when they fall" (Nov. 24). As a grateful south Minneapolis homeowner, I appreciate the reminders about options for leaves and the schedule of our city services. The option I practice is raking leaves — including those blown into my yard from my neighbors' trees — into a large contained compost pile as well as mulch around our fruit trees, raspberry canes, vegetable beds, flower beds and landscape bushes.

While I am still seeking to learn how the city uses bagged leaves, I would like to suggest that instead of "waste," we consider the fall leaves as "gifts." As you describe, through abscission we receive leaves from maple and oak and their kin to nourish the soil and protect plants and insects, who in turn nourish us with fruit and vegetables and beauty. Each fall I am grateful for the yard-gifts, not the yard-waste. Maybe thinking of leaves as gifts, we can consider our bags to the city as gifts too, for their good practice!

Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Minneapolis