It was a few days before the beginning of Lent when I spotted the tree, a valley oak standing at the trailhead. I was on retreat at the Bishop's Ranch, a bucolic spot deep in California wine country and I had intended to take a brisk solo hike in the woods. But the old valley oak, its deadness, stopped me in my tracks.
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Most of us are not even aware of that voice that lives inside us, viciously so. Unfortunately, I have been in a long-term abusive relationship with my Inner Critter for years. My Inner Critter poses as an Ivy League tweed-clad professor, and I tend to assign immediate power to anyone boasting to have a "smart" bespectacled academic Joycean opinion, especially about writing.