With the economy weakening, gas prices soaring, home values sinking, earth warming, rivers rising and levies bursting, I had been feeling a bit down and powerless. When I get this way, I think about my mother’s admonition for staying healthy, “when in doubt, party!”

I regularly do community health consultation in Red Wing, Minnesota. A couple of weeks ago, I took some extra time to go fishing. In the middle of an isolated lake, paddling a canoe, I came upon a family of loons. These are gorgeous black-and-white, water birds, with penetrating red eyes, and a long, low-pitched plaintive call that sounds like a wailing prayer. It’s what I imagine Aretha Franklin would sound like singing a Gregorian chant.

The loons were a mated pair, and swimming between them was a dark gray fluffy chick. The chick sometimes took a break and climbed on its mother’s back to rest; sometimes both adults disappeared into the waters, and the chick swam around unconcerned. The parents always resurfaced and soon they’d start that prayerful wailing, and I was moved to wail with them. In the majestic splendor of a Northwood’s lake, three loons were wailing, and somehow all my despairing preoccupations seemed to float away with the sounds and the scene.

When I returned, my wife and I went to a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert. CSN have been singing their incomparable harmonies together for 40 years; they are the world’s longest running super group. Talk about an exercise in nostalgia, we were surrounded by thousands of aging hippies singing together down memory lane. Standing together, we sang about the madness of war, the wonders in my house of love, and how to teach our children well. In the midst of all that is coming down around us, that night in the Dodge Theater you could feel the love.

Partying may not change the external events, but it will help you take back control of the only power we really have: choosing to party surrounded by whom and what you love. Remembering my mother this way makes me smile; this is the 4th anniversary of her death . . . I feel you Ma, in concert halls and wooded lakes, singing with the loons.