Patrick Cumby Posts

You have my full support to exercise your right of free speech, as well as your right to own guns. But about that bumper sticker…

Dear dude with the AK-47 bumper stickers on your truck window,

First, let me me clear, this post isn’t about gun control. This post is about your bumper stickers. Its purpose is to let you know what normal American citizens think of your sticker, and by association, of you.

Here’s what we think when we see your assault rifle bumper stickers. We see a guy driving your truck (you) who might just go into a school and shoot our kids. You might be the guy who will walk into an army base and kill our soldiers. Or go to a movie theater and murder our friends. Or shoot a congresswoman in the head.

Are we overreacting? Maybe. You probably aren’t that guy. But that guy is real, and he’s out there in a truck just like yours–we see him on the news all too often. But even if you’re not that guy, you apparently approve of him and his horrific actions. You obviously want us to think that you’re in league with him. Why else would you advertise the fact that you delight in the world’s most popular murder machines? With this in mind, you shouldn’t feel misunderstood when the majority of your fellow Americans look at your bumper sticker and think you’re a potentially violent sociopath.

Read More Dear Dude with the AK-47 Bumper Sticker


Should an invasive species be wiped out to save an ecosystem?  In this flash-fiction story a politician must make a very difficult decision.

“What you are contemplating is genocide. It goes against every law, every ethic, the very moral fiber of civilized society,” said the commissioner. He paced angrily, his arms clasped behind his back. “Our goal is to foster life, not destroy it. I cannot and will not consider this action.”

The young xeno-ecologist took a deep breath. She was on thin ice, and she knew it. “I understand your position, sir,” she argued tentatively. “But keep in mind that the soft-shelled parasites are destroying themselves along with the rest of the ecosystem. If we remove this single species from the environment now, we will restore the balance of life on the planet and save countless other species from extinction.”

“You of all people should know that you cannot remove a species from a biosphere without jeopardizing the entire ecological system,” roared the commissioner. “What about the food cycle, the chain of biological interdependencies?”

How dare the commissioner, a mere politician, lecture her about ecological balance? “Sir, your argument is correct in almost all cases. This situation, however, is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. Our xeno-biologists have run hundreds of computer simulations. All of them, every single one, show the imminent collapse of the biosphere. Even worse, in nearly 10 percent of the simulations, the damage to the environment is so complete that all life on the planet’s surface is destroyed. The computers also report that little or no real damage will result from the removal of the damaging parasites.”

Read More Saviors of the Earth


Here’s a flash-fiction story inspired by an evening I spent at Canyon de Chelley, surely one of the most magical places on the North American continent.

The old man stood at the rim of a canyon in Navajo country, his toes just three inches from the raw edge. Sunset had come and gone, and now the thousand-foot-drop at his feet could only be perceived as a black emptiness as huge and compelling as eternity itself. It was visceral, existential; instead of a canyon, he felt as if he was leaning over the farthest end of the earth, staring down into cosmic infinity. Death was three inches away, but he’d never felt more alive.

Read More The Owl and the Canyon


I met Jens a week after walking across the Pyrenees from France. It was September, and we were in the heart of Basque country, following the ancient pilgrimage trail to the city of Santiago de Compostela which lay over four hundred miles to the west. I’d noticed Jens earlier in the day, an old man tottering along the path, sweating despite the relative cool, his tall figure supported by a pair of trekking poles upon which he leaned precariously. As I’d hurried past him I’d nodded and given him the traditional pilgrim’s greeting: “Buen Camino!”

He’d been too occupied by the strenuous act of walking to return the greeting, but he had returned my nod. His age made him an exception on the Camino. Most of the other hikers were middle-aged or younger. Though he bore himself with youthful pride, his gait gave him away. It was the shuffle-sway-shuffle of an octogenarian. Jens was far older than his fellow pilgrims, but despite his age, he was still a large man with broad shoulders and a strong back. He carried a small blue pack, but he wore no hat, and his face and scalp were dangerously red.

Read More For Jens: A Stone upon Craggy

Explorations Optimal Living

A 90-minute drive south from Portland brings you to one of the most unique hiking trails in America. The Trail of Ten Falls is an easy, 8.7-mile loop hike in the Silver Falls State Park. The name of the trail doesn’t do it justice. Yes, there are ten waterfalls along the trail. The thing is, though, several of them are terrifically magnificent, dropping vertically 200 feet or more. The trail even passes behind a few of the largest falls, giving you the unique perspective of standing inside one of nature’s most awe-inspiring engines.

My wife and I hiked the trail and captured our experience on a short video. Check it out for the highlights of the trail, and if you are ever in Oregon, make the time to visit this state park. You won’t be disappointed.

Read More Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Explorations Uncategorized

I hear the same mantras over and over from my most successful and happy friends, as well as the famous artists and business people I admire most: Live in the moment. Be mindful. Live like there’s no tomorrow.  It leaves me wondering… do they know something I don’t?  What the heck do those words even mean, really?

So, as a project for the new year, I’m going to do a little philosophical experiment. And because I’m a writer, I’m going to write about it. If you don’t like philosophy, or you don’t care for experiments, stop reading now and go check out the latest cool article over at

Okay, you’re still reading so let’s just dive in. I’m neither a philosopher nor a scientist, but in an effort to make my philosophical experiment be all scientific-like, I’ve developed a hypothesis. Here it is:

Screw the future. It’s irrelevant to happiness and it hinders success.

Read More The “Screw the Future” Experiment

Optimal Living

Designers say the eye is guided by the simplest elements of an image. Maybe that’s why we humans find whitespace so compelling; it provides context for the pattern-recognition tendencies of our brains. But truly, it is the unexpected disruption of simplicity that  elevates a beautiful scene into one that is sublime.

Read More A World Full of Sparrows

Essay Speculations

Writing is influenced by so many things, from your mood to the meal you just ate to the temperature of the room and the comfort of your chair. Writers all dream of finding the perfect spot to do our writing, quiet and undisturbed but surrounded by beauty and inspiration, but we all have to settle for what we have, an old armchair in the bedroom or the kitchen table or the hotel bed at a Hampton Inn.

Some writing spots, however, are better than others, and some, occasionally, are spot-on perfect. Once I found a place so perfect, so sublime, that I had to bottle it up and save it for a rainy day. Even now I regularly retrieve the bottle and pour it out whenever, like today, my chair is uncomfortable and the room is cold and the sky outside is grim.

Read More Bottling the Perfect Writing Spot

Explorations Optimal Living Writing

Images and impressions on a Moroccan train from Casablanca to Rabat teach me not to point out the mote in another’s eye while ignoring the log in my own.

In the Casablanca Train Station

There’s something about the collision of old and new, of tradition and progress, that makes the bizarre wreckage of Casablanca utterly irresistible. A gleaming new train station with flat-screen monitors, none of which work because nobody knows how to operate them. Luxurious first-class coaches where the air conditioner has probably never been switched on. State-of-the-art train platforms covered with blowing trash, apparently because nobody thinks it’s a problem. Internet-connected ticket machines that will instantly debit my bank in America, next to a bathroom with a filthy squat toilet attended by a smiling old lady in a burka.

Read More The Train to Rabat


Make sure your kids read good stories, because the books they read as teens will shape them for the rest of their lives.

A friend recently sent me a Facebook challenge to name my top ten favorite novels, not expecting that her simple request would preoccupy my life for a week. At first I tried ignoring the request, but I am a list-maker, a ranker of things, so the challenge eventually proved irresistible. I started a list, but it quickly grew to twenty, then thirty titles, with more popping into my head as fast as I could jot them down.

Read More The most important novels (are the ones you read as a kid).