Simple Rules…

Greetings after another long pause between blog posts!

I hope you remain well — fellow blogger or visitor from beyond the world of WordPress — and I am very grateful that you are reading this blog post.

I have continued reading (and commenting on) other blog posts during the past many months, but I didn’t have anything I felt compelled to blog about.

When I logged into my account yesterday, however, and looked at my stats, I was delighted to find that people have continued visiting my blog and listening to music even when I am not actively blogging.

Thank you!!!

Photo of Åland Islands by Lau Svensson — licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

It is truly inspiring to learn that — in the first three weeks of May — folks have visited from the USA, the UK, South Africa, Canada, Poland, Australia, Norway, Germany, India, Italy, China, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the Åland Islands (which I just learned are part of Finland at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea).

I’ll say/write it again.

Thank you!!!

Molly, me and Carole after a porch gig in Maine

Today’s blog post features a song called “Simple Rules” written by my friend Molly Ruggles.

Molly is a songwriter, pianist, arranger and singer who recently retired from her day job at MIT.

She created this lovely vocal arrangement for her and me and our friend Carole to sing — and we recorded it during a brief lull in the Covid pandemic last December.

Molly, Carole and I — as well as the recording engineer Peter Kontrimas at whose studio we were fortunate to book a session — were well-vaccinated AND wore masks except for when we were in our separate recording booths (connected via headphones with each other and with Peter).

We then fixed/mixed/tweaked/mastered it via Zoom with another great recording engineer, Doug Hammer — whose name will be familiar to many of my blog readers because he is also an astounding pianist with whom I have recorded many, many songs.

Molly’s song has inspired me to think about other “simple rules” that we human beings would do well to honor.

For example, this morning I read details on a BBC website about how many of the staff members at 10 Downing Street chose to ignore the official guidelines for appropriate behavior during a pandemic. One staffer explains that they felt that they were in a bubble (of privilege? of denial?) and thus ignored what the official guidelines were.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

One of my favorite “simple rules” is the rule/fact that we animals breathe out what plants need to stay alive (CO2) — and plants breathe out what WE need to stay alive (O2).

Photo of red panda eating bamboo by Pexels from Pixabay

I often feel as though we have done a very poor job educating each other about this profoundly simple rule.

Healthy oceans (full of plants ranging from single-celled phytoplankton to forests of kelp) and healthy forests (such as the Amazon jungle) and healthy agricultural fields and healthy gardens are not optional.

They are vital to every breath we are blessed to breathe — and which we hope to continue to breathe — here on planet earth!

Another simple rule/guideline which bears repeating again and again and again is the profound power of apology.

We all make mistakes.

In fact, making mistakes is an important way that we learn things — about how stoves can be too hot to touch, about how we need to look both ways before we cross a street, and about how lemon extract tastes more burningly bitter than delightfully sour (a shocking revelation which I learned at an early age when experimenting in the kitchen with my sister and one of her friends).

Photo by kalhh from Pixabay 

Apologies exist to repair human relationships when one person makes a mistake and hurts another person. Or another species. Or another community. Or an entire ecosystem.

In fact, I feel that much of the stress which we experience these days — directly in our own lives and indirectly from politicians, business leaders, and other authority figures — is due to past injuries for which no one has ever sincerely, authentically, and heartfully apologized.

Apologizing is not easy — but it is very worthwhile to do.

And if we are able to make amends for our mistake — taking action to make up for what has happened in the past — that is an even more profound act of healing.

Another deep breath in.

And another deep breath out.

I will end with one final simple rule: short blog posts are easier to read than long ones!

I am aware that I have written way-too-many, way-too-long blog posts in the past.

So I will cut this short and end with my customary thank yous… along with a lovely underwater photo of kelp (breathing in C02 and breathing out 02…)

If you’d like to listen to “Simple Rules” on YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc, you can click here for links to various digital music platforms.

Photo by Benjamin Davies from Pixabay 

Thank YOU for reading and listening to this blog post.

Thank you to Molly Ruggles and Carole Bundy for their friendship and for our shared love of music.

Thank you to Peter Kontrimas and to Doug Hammer — for their patient engineering expertise.

And thank you to the photographers at Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons for their lovely images.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find more songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).

You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on SpotifyPandoraApple Music and other digital music platforms.

Carole, me and Molly performing in upstate New York

I earn only a fraction of a cent any time someone plays one of my recordings on a digital music service — but they all add up…

And if you are inspired to create a “Will McMillan featuring Doug Hammer” channel, that is even more helpful.

Lastly, if you live in the Boston area, Carole, Molly and I will be performing as part of Arlington Porchfest on Saturday, June 18th (rain date: Sunday, June 19th) here in East Arlington, MA.

We would love to see you if you decide to drop by for a song (or more!)


53 thoughts on “Simple Rules…

    • Thanks for your warm welcome back, Brad. As you well know, singing with others has been one of the main ways I have kept myself from falling into a despairing pit of sadness/depression. Let’s all keep singing in the days/weeks/months/years ahead!!! ps: How is/was your visit with your family?

  1. Great to hear from you, Will! I enjoyed listening to Molly’s composition “Simple Rules.” Lots of sound advice for better living with others. Of late, I’ve been taking lots of deep breaths in and out after reading Deep Adaptation edited by Bendell & Read. It’s a dark reality. Worse yet, we continue to ignore the catastrophe unfolding and behave as though everything will work itself out.

    • Wow. You took on reading Deep Adaptation by yourself!!! Brave soul!!! I needed the comfort of a book group to process it (via Zoom sessions once a month which involved a lot of crying and stunned silences…) Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I truly have no idea what will inspire us to make the huge changes in our consumption habits that are required to slow planet earth’s accelerating climate catastrophe. Even my friends with whom I read DA have continued to fly to Florida for a week in the sun, continued to drive their cars daily, continued to do pretty much what they/we have been doing here in the USA for our entire lives (ie: over-consume fossil fuels simply because we can). These habits and patterns and rituals and entitlements appear to be nearly impossible to break of our own volition. I am guessing that it will require significant breakdowns (collapse and/or sabotage of our power grid, loss of clean water, inability to buy food, etc.) to get most of us to make any significant changes in how we live our lives. We shall see…

      • It’s quite a book. I thank you for the recommendation. Ever since reading Dahr Jamail’s book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (USA 2019), I knew that we had already crossed another tipping point. The melting will go on. I joined Jamail in grieving for the harm we’ve caused to our shared planetary home. Change must begin with me, so I’m doing what I can to reduce my carbon footprint and reconnect with Mother Nature. I’ve been reflecting on ways I can implement Bendell’s 4Rs for “shifts in being” in my own life. Given the growing divisiveness in the USA and worldwide, as well as our current face-off between Russia and Ukraine/NATO and China waiting in the sidelines, I am not optimistic that we will be able to keep our global carbon emissions within the safety limit.

      • Now I will track down Dahr Jamail’s book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption and see if I can bear to read it! Somehow it helps to know that there are other human beings who are caring/daring to grapple with our denial and avoidance of this terrifying topic/phenomenon/unfolding process here on planet earth…

  2. Thank you for sharing the lovely song and photos Will.
    The Downing Street saga over here at number 10 drags on and is even referred to as partygate.
    Take care 🙂

    • You are most welcome, Margaret! Leadership is a fascinating, multi-faceted phenomenon. And one way to contaminate/undermine the experience of leading and/or being led is for one set of rules to apply to some pigs but not to others…

  3. Welcome back, Will a lovely newsy post with some sobering messages…Like you I think people will need to experience drastic happenings to themselves and their lifestyles to stop them carrying on as normal…:)

    • Thank you for your warm welcome back. I am happy to be re-connected with so many lovely human beings via their comments. And yes, I have read about more than one organic farmer, for example, who switched from conventional to organic practices only after s/he (or some member of their family) had been diagnosed with a serious illness/disease which turns out to have been linked to their previous pesticide/herbicide use… Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

  4. Hi Will, Note from a Fan: lovely song and really enjoyable and listenable (is that even a word?) trio: totally charming and happy singing. Thanks for the invite to Porch Fest. Please disclose the location and time (I’ve got the date) – I want to show up for your performance. Always a fan, love your sweet and happy music making. Fondly, Jeanne Cronin

    Jeanne Cronin


    • So LOVELY to read your comment, Jeanne! I’ll email you the address where we will be making music during Porchfest. I was thinking about you and Conrad quietly recently (and quite fondly…)

  5. Hello Will, it is always lovely to read your posts and dip into your world. I love Molly’s song and how you all weave together lovingly as you sing. ❤ Thoughtful words from you, as always. I am reading Deep Adaptation by myself and talking to Tim about it. I agree with the lovely souls here, that mostly folk will need to be directly affected before they see the need to change their habits. We can make a difference with the changes we make as individuals. Love to you, always. ❤ xXx

    • I am so impressed by the folks who have dared to start reading DA by themselves. As i wrote in an earlier comment, I needed to have a community of friends (reading and discussing it on a regular basis) to share the weight/burden of feelings (sadness, grief, terror, dread, guilt, fury, etc.) it evoked. Let us keep breathing in and out and doing what we can! I accept your love with an open heart and a big smile on my face — and beam some back across the north Atlantic to you!!!

  6. Ah Will, it’s so wonderful to read this post. When you stop to think about it, the rules that are at the centre of all the anger and protests over the last few months really are quite simple. I will never understand why anyone feels their personal right to freedom overrides someone else’s right to be safe and live in peace. Thanks for sharing this message.

    • You are very welcome, Michelle. Thank YOU for your warm and enthusiastic comment. Maybe the bonds of respect and curiosity and support which WordPress helps to forge between bloggers will prove to be a very helpful, heartful, and valuable resource in the months and years ahead… And I continue to savor — and take inspiration from — your posts!

    • Great to hear from you — and to see from your regular posts that your creative spark has not been quenched by the pandemic! I am doing well right now, although for the past two years I have been quietly riding the ups and downs of what turns out to be a very obscure medical diagnosis/condition (which involved a kidney biopsy and two bone marrow biopsies, and the installation of a port in my chest right as Covid was also sentering our lives. After an initial six months of treatment (using chemotherapy + immunotherapy + steroid) which didn’t help much, I took a break from treatment for six months, found a different team of doctors (at Dana Farber here in Boston) and then started a second six-month round of treatment with a new immunotherapy drug. This seems to have worked very well, and I am currently in the midst of another six-month break from treatment. I didn’t want to write about any of this while it was happening (who needs to add more drama to other people’s lives when Covid, our political challenges, climate catastrophes, etc. are already affecting so many of us!) and only shared the news with close family members and a few friends. However, having met with one of my doctors this morning — who said that my latest blood work continues to look good — I guess I am emboldened to share this news with you and anyone else who might take the time to read my lengthy reply to your lovely, welcoming comment. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. And onward!

      • Thank you for your best wishes! After I wrote my response last night I thought to myself “That might have been TMI…” But other folks devote their entire blog to their ongoing health challenges; so I guess one small comment about mine is OK.

    • Thank you for reading, listening AND commenting, Audrey. I will make sure Molly reads your lovely feedback about her song. Hurrah for kelp and eelgrass! I was thinking about CO2 this morning when I biked past an un-mown patch of grasses next to a roadway. I wonder how much more CO2 would be absorbed if all the well-trimmed lawns on planet earth were allowed to grow tall and wild…

  7. This was a delightful post, Will. I enjoyed listening to your beautiful song, while i read your post and simple rules. Very well done. We humans still have a lot to learn. Your blend on the music was really great!

    • Yes. We humans are very much a work-in-progress when it comes to living respectfully and sustainably and interconnectedly with other humans — and with other species! — here on planet earth. Thank you for reading and listening and leaving a comment!

    • You are very welcome!!! We have seven more fun songs (some originals and some covers) recorded and mixed. Now we are working on a simple CD design. We’ll also probably release the original songs to places like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Thank YOU for listening!!!

  8. I’m honored Will shared ‘Simple Rules’ on this website! It is a great feeling to learn how people are enjoying the song and relating to it. And I love what you write about the song, Will.

    • Thanks for writing the song, Molly, AND for arranging it so that Carole and I could share the vocals with you. Thank you, too, for letting me include it in a blog post. I am delighted that you have been able to read the comments with positive feedback from various members of the WordPress community!

  9. Hi Will! I always get excited when you write a post. As always, your thoughts and words are both important and heartwarming. Hear hear to apologies. Standing up and taking responsibility means being able to sincerely say I’m sorry. Best to you! And, I love the photos.

    • Yes, genuinely apologizing can be an excruciating experience. I was just listening to a THIS AMERICAN LIFE radio segment about folks who (astoundingly) chose to harass, intimidate, and threaten the families of people whose children were killed in Newtown shooting many years ago!! One of these people — who went so far as to help make a movie to explain how the entire horrific experience had been “staged” — eventually came to his senses and reached out to one of the grieving parents (ironically in part to get help/advice about how to deal with his fellow harassers who were now harassing HIM after he left their crazy parallel universe…) The interviewer asked this man if he had ever apologized to any of the Newtown parents for all of the HORRIBLE ways he had helped to terrorize and persecute them. He said, “No” and something to the effect that he didn’t think any of them would want to hear from him. Then he very slowly, haltingly, emotionally, embarrassedly, vulnerably told the interviewer that he WAS extremely sorry for what he had done. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. It can be VERY DIFFICULT to apologize! I am also thinking about the latest horror in Texas, where the “official” story from the police and town authorities (about how they did — or didn’t — respond to help the children and teachers trapped in the school) is unravelling day by day to reveal what appears to be a heart-breakingly botched response to the actions of an 18-year-old who legally bought guns and ammunition as soon as he turned 18 and then went on a killing rampage. Another huge deep breath in. And deep breath out. I wonder if we will ever hear an authentic apology — much less see any authentic amends — from anyone in a position of authority there…

      • Wow, so much here. The guy never apologized to those Sandy Hook parents. He apologized to the reporter, but not those parents. I am floored. On a side note, I still have a nightmare about Sandy Hook. Of course, I’m a preschool teacher.

        The reports today indicated that the police team waited. My first reaction was, if those police officers were women, they wouldn’t have hesitated about rushing in, because that’s what moms do for their kids. I’m sure there was much more involved.

        Will, I also feel a responsibility to make sure social and emotional development is #1 for my preschoolers.

        Kids buying guns at 18? No way without a backgrounds records check, including school records. In my lifetime I would like to hear an apology that a backgrounds records check was not administered for the Texas and Sandy Hook shooter.

  10. Lovely song and beautiful thoughts! We’re in agreement on these topics. I’ve found myself scratching my head more than once over the past few years, wondering why things like treating animals humanely, keeping guns off the streets, etc. are things we argue about. They seem so logical to me. Thanks for making me think this morning!

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