The views u can use

It always seems to me that it’s about a month, between the time when I start noticing that most of the leaves have started turning bright colors to the time when the trees start shedding their foliage. The leaves are starting to drop, now, and in a week or so I expect the trees to be bare.

Only a week back, I would walk right past this place, with no visibility of what was beyond the trees. Now the view is picturesque:


McCarthy Creek, fall 2017

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

12 thoughts on “The views u can use”

  1. Colorado is my home.

    I have not been there for colors in 2 decades.

    I am aware western colors don’t compare to New England colors, but Colorado is home. And you cant beat that.

    I miss the views.

    Hey… I found this video on line and it caused me to think of you. Especially the dude near the end who went out west to the mountains to commit suicide, but then decided to live in the woods instead. (I don’t mean that the suicide part reminds me of you… not at all, but the way the host talks about scenery and then becoming part of it…) He goes out to find this guy in the mountains and spends a day hiking with him.

    Not all the adventures in this video make me think of you, but a few of them do.

    Like I said before, I might have entirely the wrong impression, but this link makes a connection there in my mind.

    Check it out here:


    1. Hey Agent X,

      I’ve been finishing up in Alaska and traveling down to California. So time has been short as has been a good WiFi connection. But I finally had a chance to watch American Nomands from start to finish. I definitely can relate to the people in the video. From my experience he does a pretty good job capturing some of what it’s like. Not that I’m an expert or anything. I’ve got the wanderlust but also a writer’s sensitivity to distractions, i.e., being unsettled and out of routine tends to be pretty bad for my writing, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t posted anything here in a week or so.

      This BBC production was interesting as well because it gave us a non-American perspective on American Nomads. (For example, his Johnny Depp quote: America has a huge appetite but no taste.) It was intriguing to hear about American Nomads from someone who is not an American but relates to the pull of the wanderer and the vagabond.

      What area of Colorado is home for you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool.

        I wondered if you might dig it.

        I certainly enjoy adventure and exploring, but I have a strong sense of HOME. A place to belong. A place to be from. A place to claim that claims me too.

        My hometown in Cortez, the last Anglo community going SW out of Colo. The place where the high desert meets the mountains.

        Cortez is a junky little town in the swath of sage brush down in the Montezuma Valley. From there you can see mountains in 3 states (Colo, Utah, AZ – and just outside of town, if you drive SW just far enough to see past the mesa, Ship Rock NM comes into view too.

        When I was young, I used to ride my motorcycle down to the four corners monument and watch the sunset over the Lukachukai’s of NE AZ and dream of going to Phoenix or LA. I finally did it. I moved to Phx for a few years before going back to Texas. But I missed HOME when I did it, and I always have.

        On mountain misty mornings in Cortez, sometimes the clouds settle down in the valley below the Sleeping Ute and it looks like the old Indian is sleeping on a bed of clouds. I miss that. Photos of the Sleeping Ute Mtn just don’t capture the effect – I don’t know why not, but they really never do. And I will confess, the optic is not perfect anyway, but seeing it in person is waaaaaaay more dramatic than looking at a photo, and it is sad that I have never seen any that even attempt to capture the bed of clouds effect.

        The Sleeping Ute is not really a world-class mountain, actually. But it is HOME to me. The closest to home I ever had. My Grandpa moved up there in the fifties (taking my dad of course as a child). Dad grew up and left it only to return there when I was in high school. Then I grew up and left it too, seemingly never to return.

        Durango is the more notable city, it is about 45 miles to the East. A lovely town for sure, and always a treat to visit, even when I was a kid. But Durango is actually not really in the mountains either. It is down in the bottom of the canyon. Not to take anything away from it’s beauty for one moment, but being down in the canyon, it does not really have sunrise and sunset. And that is something you need to either be up in the peaks for, or out in broader country for. And that is the one “edge” Cortez has over the otherwise superior Durango beauty and loveliness.

        So… my wanderlust has its limits. But the nomad video… well, I know that itch too. A little. And I am certain my home is both somewhere and nowhere at the same time. In fact, if you take a map of the lower 48 and stick a pin in Cortez, you will plainly see, this is the most remote country on that lower 48 map. My home town is an 8 hour drive from both Phx and Denver (our own state capitol) . It’s not 8 to Salt Lake City, but close to that, I think. This leave ABQ as the closest city of any real size at 4 hours drive. But ABQ is not a great metropolis actually. Bigger than Lubbock, alright, but rather Podunk contrasted to Phx, Denver, LA, Dallas and so forth. Anyway, you cant find country that far out from major places anywhere else on the 48 map.

        Reminds me that when I was young, I was in our country hospital there in Cortez once and met a man from Egnar, CO a small town about 40 NW of Cortez (almost straight North)… Egnar is too small to be both Po and Dunk. I mean, seriously small and backward. It makes Cortez look and feel like city life.

        Anyway the old man told me a story. He said that way back at the turn of the century, the cowboys used to drive their herds up in that prairie area to graze for the summer. The world was long, lonely and all that. A cowboy went away and didn’t return home until Fall.

        So the old cowboys wanted to open a post office so they could write home and vice versa. The state office told them they would have to establish a legit town there in order to get a post office. This meant the cowboys would have to name the place (just one of many issues, I am sure). And since they were out on the lonely range, they decided to call the town Range. Range, Colorado was their pick. But the state office refused them saying there was already a Rangely, and that, they argued, would be confusing. (They sure weren’t Texans). So, the old cowboys sat down and thought about it a while and came of with Egnar – which is Range backwards.

        Then the old codger told me, “And we’ve been backwards ever since!”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Stories, like yours, of remote areas probably do the most to inspire my desire to travel. I love wilderness and empty spaces. It’s what I always say is the most compelling thing to me about Alaska, because even in a a town or city, you know that there are just hundreds and hundreds of miles of wilderness that surround you. Bears and moose are in Anchorage. (Just last week, when I was in Anchorage, I saw a woman sitting at a bus stop, reading, oblivious to the fact that a moose was standing in the trees not more than 10 yards directly behind her.) In other words, I love places where you can feel that civilization is the exception and wilderness is the norm.

    So you are from Cortez….Is that where you currently call home?


    1. I like the stuff you point out there.

      I went to Seattle to get my aging father a few years ago and passed thru Ouray, Co on the way back. Spent the night in a motel right downtown, but downtown is small and the whole town is up in the high country. We walked to a sandwich shop from our room to get dinner that night and passed a herd of deer in the city park not 5 yards off mainstreet.

      That reminds me that a few years ago, I went on a little camping tour of Northern New Mexico with a buddy late in the season for camping. It was hunting season, actually, and we spent the night in Cimarron. As we made our way through that little village, I was stunned to find two or three herds of deer spread out all over main street. Some were even up on the porches of various houses. When we got down to the baseball field, there was a herd of elk there.

      Yes. I call Cortez home. I have deeper roots there than anywhere. But I did not grow up there entirely. I lived somewhat of a nomadic life all over the American west. Mostly SW. Texas is east to me, but I have lived here for 20 years now.

      Its nice here. Lubbock isn’t too hot, but other parts of Texas have nice things to offer. But really I feel at home in SW Colo. or Northern NM. And to me… HOME is everything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What is it about home that makes it everything? I assume that you relate to the dude in the American Vagabonds documentary, the British dude, the narrator, the guy who talked about getting restless and longing for the road, which reminds me of the opening from Moby Dick, “Call me Ishmael….” (see below).

        What is it about HOME for you that is able to overcome the call of the wild?

        “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

        Liked by 1 person

    2. HOME.

      A big and rich word for me.

      I give lots of thought to it all the time. I don’t have a simple answer to your question. I doubt it will resonate, but I will say a couple things about HOME that are central for me.

      Psalm 127… Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it….

      The passage obvious refers to the Temple in Jerusalem. And there are so many political/religious elements packed up in that, but this is a blog comment so…

      for my purposes in responding here (giving so many hostages to fortune that it hurts thinking about it), even the Temple in Jerusalem refers to something else – which for our purpose is HOME.

      In all my street ministry with the homeless, I can firmly say that four walls and a roof, though vital, do not make a house a HOME. Neither does TV and air conditioning and indoor plumbing.

      The most vital and central part of any home, even more central than a hearth, than a dinner table or a marriage bed, is whether or not YHWH resides there (and us with him). Again, there is a lot of political, historical, theological baggage left on the curb in my response, but I will say this… Ezekiel envisions the Glory of the Lord getting up and leaving the Temple. He has a future vision of his return as well, but that vision was left unrealized even after the “return from Exile”.

      In 63 BC (I think), the Roman General Pompey comes to Jerusalem and takes over the city which craters without any real resistance. And the way Romans of that time set about “winning the hearts and minds” of their newly conquered subjects was that Pompey would enter their temples and present terms to their gods.

      The Jews had to wonder if YHWH was really in there when Pompey went in to present terms of surrender to which this god would submit. The Jews knew from historical precedent that if a Jew, let alone a pagan, entered the Holy Place with God in there, then the pagan would be struck dead instantly. But that didn’t happen.

      Hey… more later, gotta run now…


      1. Okay… I am back, I think…


        Pompey goes into the Holy Place to lay down his terms and every Jew watching that day has got to be thinking: This arrogant pagan is going to get it now! But of course, they also have to hope against hope that YHWH really did return to live in there… so maybe they were in fact holding their breath.

        Anyway, a number of things happened next that go in different directions but all have origin in that historical moment.

        First, Pompey walks about alive. To the chagrin of all the Jews, he returns alive. But he is puzzled too. So.. secondly he announces: There aint no god in there to confront!

        What can I say, he wasn’t the first to think the Jews were weird.

        But by virtue of saying there aint no god in there, the Jews all knew that meant there aint no God in there either. So, all this double meaning stuff comes out of it.

        This is all background to the fact that they rebuild the temple for all they are worth, and Herod the Great in particular rebuilds it far bigger and more grand than even Solomon ever dreamed. The project took more than 70 years to complete (Herod would not live to see it finished) and it rivaled even the great temples of Rome.

        But… none of that really mattered – NOT REALLY – if God did not live in it (or as the Psalmist says it – IF God does not build it.)

        All of this complex stuff relates back to Genesis on the one hand and forward to Ephesians on the other. God created the world and planted a garden in it. He placed the first man (and woman) there in the garden. It was HOME. God dwelled there with them. And of course all of that is rich and poetic and really depicts a God living in their hearts (until they sinned). The picture in Ephesians of one of God rebuilding his house, our HOME, using sons instead of stones. He dwells in us – US together… there is no single stone in which he dwells, but all of them built up together.

        Now… all of that is BIBLE worldview – a worldview modern Christians find foreign and undesirable actually. But it is the mystery that gravitates me.

        I see that when God created the world, he made a HOME for us to live in where everything was good and complete. After sin evicted God from our hearts, God evicted the sinners from the HOME. His whole story is about getting that worked out so that we can go back to living at HOME with him – the theological picture Ephesians paints.

        I see all this relating to fixing all that is wrong in the world today – including the things wrong with me. I happen to be wired for it in these terms. I am aware that not everyone is wired for it like I am. But I still think it is for everyone else despite that.

        Going outside the Bible, but into a great metaphorical analogy, if you ever read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles – especially at the end of The Last Battle, the children find themselves at the edge of heaven (a metaphor for the Age to Come). They came to the edge of heaven by entering a hut in a dark meadow during a great battle with evil creatures, but once inside the hut, as they look around they find they are not actually inside a hut at all, but in a beautiful mountain meadow.

        Someone remarks that the inside of this hut is bigger than that outside of it! How can that be? They turn and look behind them and find the door to the hut standing there in the middle of the sunny meadow. Someone looks through the cracks in the door and sees the dark meadow and all the evil enemy creatures outside it celebrating their apparent victory. But here inside the hut is another world! A world that needs exploring.

        Eventually, as the book draws to a close, the children begin exploring the mountains adjacent to the sunny meadow. They take off running at top speed up into the foothills. Eventually someone notices that they don’t grow tired at all. And then one of the other children notes that you cannot feel fear here either! And so they take up a slogan saying Farther up and Farther in! And they keep running until they find a grand mysterious castle in the mountain mist of the peaks. and when they enter the castle gate, they find that the inside of it is bigger than the outside! And the last thing they say is a repeat of their new slogan as they take off running to explore the new digs… Farther up and Farther in!

        I think I have given too many hostages to fortune here, but I want to touch a lot of bases as I try to answer your question.

        I come from a broken home. I married and that home broke. I became an aimless drifter, but I was losing hope drifting. I want to belong. I want to be placed, not displaced.

        In the hut, those who are welcomed into that HOME can cast mountains into seas, stop the sun in the sky, make mountains bow down, valleys stand up at attention, and crooked places straighten out. They can walk on water, and if killed, they don’t stay dead. I believe in this stuff. It is the heart of my faith. I want to explore that. I want to belong there. I think that is what HOME is all about.

        and no… four walls and a roof may prove vital, but they do not make a house into THAT.


  3. In reading through your thoughts here, I started wondering what your definition of “home” would be, stripped of all theological terms and Bible verses. As in, I was wondering if there was something universal or inherent within us that the verses and theology were merely giving voice to, in their own biblical and theological way. An example would be that we can talk about God as a loving Father, but for people with an abusive father, the patriarchal theological terms are a bit counter productive. Further still, even if you had a loving father, it goes to a whole ‘nother level when you hold a new born daughter or son in your arms. (Or so I’m told. I’ve never actually had a child.)

    But as I was wondering that, you said this: “Now… all of that is BIBLE worldview – a worldview modern Christians find foreign and undesirable actually. But it is the mystery that gravitates me.”

    It’s the mystery that resonates with me as well. But then you went on:

    “I see that when God created the world, he made a HOME for us to live in where everything was good and complete. After sin evicted God from our hearts, God evicted the sinners from the HOME. His whole story is about getting that worked out so that we can go back to living at HOME with him – the theological picture Ephesians paints.”

    So sin is the problem, and I think most of us could more or less find common ground here. Defined generally, sin is the fucked-up-ed-ness of the world, the ways we hurt each other, the way we cling to our desires, the way we speak or act carelessly and cause harm, our failure to show compassion, etc.

    But if we go down this road, then can we just say that HOME is anyplace where sin is not?

    As someone who places mystery at the theological center of his faith, I sort of feel like any story that involves God “evicting the sinners,” is quite extremely theologically problematic. For starters, God is everywhere. That’s half of the mystery of the paradox of God being both transcendent (ineffable and beyond comprehension and beyond being, even) and immanent (“in him and to him and through him are all things,” etc.).

    I mean, do you think that it’s cool to just say that HOME is anywhere that sin is not? To say that the energy of the Spirit of God is fully engaged when we act in non-sinful ways, i.e. in love? (1 Cor 13, etc.) Since love is the essence of the law and the central teaching of Jesus?


  4. Sorry to take so long. I saw your comment on my blog and thought this is as good a time to come back as any. So it prompts me back.


    I think defining it is hard to do. To make a statement that captures it fully and succinctly is just beyond me, I think. Perhaps you could help with that.

    I feel certain that HOME is where the heart is, but I don’t think that makes a good definition. Pithy – even true. But doesn’t clearly say anything to me that is useful.

    That said, I think God wants to live in my heart – but not just mine alone. Rather in a community of hearts.

    I think in terms of ideal HOME – a place… a place that provides shelter, boundaries, and that kind of thing, but also has symbolic/spiritual and utilitarian features (or furniture) but with these things all in some warm symbiosis and not neatly discreet from each other. (I mean the spiritual and utilitarian.) Cultural artifacts that encapsulate symbol, spirit and usefulness all together. And inhabited by loved ones.

    So, my ideal HOME (which stands to be enhanced, and I think can hold space for other views than mine to some degree, but I would insist that there be a strong continuity between them.

    Here is what I mean to make room for: I am aware that white, middle-class American is my culture and that other cultures will think of HOME quite differently from me. Some cultures are nomadic – and this presents real challenges to my thinking, alright, but I think we have the capacity to arrive at creative solutions if we really want them. So, I know I will need to be flexible at some points that might prove painful, but I have to start with my own thoughts, and they are very white, middle-class. However, they are also biblical to the best of my knowledge. And actually, I think that counts as more authoritative than my own whims.

    This brings me to the point you want me to describe/define home with no biblical terms. To be honest, I don’t see why I would want to. It seems to me that pretty much dictates it be a vain endeavor. I tend to think biblically about nearly everything. The bits in life there that becomes too hard, I move into exceptions – but always looking for where my biblical worldview needs to expand. When I cannot do that, or if there are other limiting factors that make it seem meaningful to do, then I go to other places – such as C.S. Lewis or Marietta Jeager. Of course, the theology is seething beneath the surface in those examples. But still, that is where I live.

    Of course this is not always the case. But it is my strong tendency.

    Probably the biggest exception is my affinity for Fight Club. (I have a thing for Pink Floyd and Metallica too). These artists have expanded my Christian imagination to a degree. Ironic though that is, and it shows that God can use anything, I think. But I note these artists though powerful, also have severe limitations too. They are good at peeling back the lies we tend to want to believe and live by, but they are not really that good at pointing to a worthwhile alternative.

    But then being an Orthodox Christian, the exclusivity of ultimate authority is with God, and Pink Floyd, Metallica, and Palahniuck don’t point me there.

    Okay.. back to the chase, I think

    My ideal HOME has a sheltered space in a well established locale which is inhabited by a family (husband/wife and their offspring and possibly extended kin) where some of the central furniture involves a kitchen (or hearth), a dining table, and a marriage bed. And where the family (doesn’t have to strictly and exclusively be blood kin) are all devoted to YHWH and each other. I see the HOME having firm, yet appropriately flexible boundaries (leaving “appropriate” to be defined further another time) with doors and windows which can be permeated with guests and routines that express love and devotion to God and one another and to the larger community and world beyond.

    I think for a blog comment, that will have to suffice. I hope it is a meaningful response, though surely I could say it better on the one hand, and I aim to be flexible enough to enhance it with fresh mature insights.

    What do you think?


  5. Agent X:

    This brings me to the point you want me to describe/define home with no biblical terms. To be honest, I don’t see why I would want to. It seems to me that pretty much dictates it be a vain endeavor. I tend to think biblically about nearly everything. The bits in life there that becomes too hard, I move into exceptions – but always looking for where my biblical worldview needs to expand. When I cannot do that, or if there are other limiting factors that make it seem meaningful to do, then I go to other places – such as C.S. Lewis or Marietta Jeager. Of course, the theology is seething beneath the surface in those examples. But still, that is where I live.

    I come from an evangelical background, where the fundamentals of that particular version of Christianity are 1) a born again experience 2) the centrality of atonement theology and 3) the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. On that last point, about the Bible, it’s basically that the Bible is the authority, the central Book of Truth. Like the Koran is to Islam, so the Bible is to evangelicals.

    I went to an evangelical seminary that held to this particular view of the Bible but through my seminary studies I came to the conclusion that this view of the Bible was not only intellectually and spiritually problematic, but that it was, in fact, unbiblical.

    To me, the Bible clearly points beyond itself, directing us to “the Word of God,” which is not limited to a book. The word of God is wider and deeper than any propositional doctrines can capture, it’s also greater than language itself (the theological term is “ineffable”), permeating all things. Hence, for me, when I hear people talk about being “biblical” it tends to make me cringe. It feels to me like they are missing the point of the Bible. The Bible is not an end in itself.

    There’s a classic Buddhist metaphor that I could bend a little here to suit my purposes: the Bible is like fingers pointing to the moon; it’s not the moon itself, it’s just meant to point us to something beyond itself.

    As an evangelical preacher once put it: the written word was meant to point us to the living word. That always spoke to me, and speaks to me still.

    Although I’m no longer a Christian, I think that the message and life of Jesus holds great potential for healing our world, for salvation and liberation and reconciliation. In its current form, however, the Gospel is too convoluted to be of much good. It’s packed too full with dogma and the manic need to be “biblical!” There are too many additives and preservatives, to use a food analogy. So, when I debate theology with Christians these days I usually push them to unpack their lofty theological ideas and phrase them in a way that’s actually relevant and relatable.

    I usually get responses similar to yours: “This brings me to the point you want me to describe/define home with no biblical terms. To be honest, I don’t see why I would want to.” You talk about being non-biblical in terms of being “a vain endeavor,” but why should that be? Is it “vain” to describe the word of God (or the life and teachings of Jesus) strictly in terms of their power to transform, to heal, to liberate?

    The word of God is, I believe, greater than the Bible or the Christian religion. I think it’s far more universal than that. Deeper and wider than we can imagine.


    1. It sounds like you are more enlightened than me. I have a pretty good idea that my thoughts on HOME are not very influential on you – the appeal very limited if at all.

      I am not offended or anything like that, but I am a Bible guy, and I am that way purposefully. It appears that you once were where I am, or someplace like it, and found it inhospitable, undesirable, damaging… something like that, and then you found a way out of it that you think is better.

      If that is anywhere near accurate, then I strongly doubt I will persuade you with my way of thinking. You “been there; done that” already.

      So what’s the point of going on?

      I must say, I like you.. what I know of you in the exchanges we have shared. I follow your blog, been doing it for a while. Not that closely at first, but then after contact a few times, I gave you a lot more attention. You did not say your were Christian, but I sensed there was some sensitivity to the faith somehow… cant recall just now. And besides, I like lots of stuff that is not Christian… and you seem really cool to me. Very worldly. Adventurous. Admirable.

      I don’t have a full blown envy, but it seems this blog of yours takes me places for views I don’t get to see from my own travels and not on many blogs. I have a picture in my mind of a movie or TV series based on your adventures. I envision a cross between Indiana Jones, Dr. Kimble, and maybe even 007… and so forth.

      As you surely can tell, I am a HOMEbody. I like short adventures, but I really like coming HOME. I think street people should be AT HOME. And I think it is a cultural crime that HOME is out of reach for anybody.

      Of course I think it is a mistake to be anti-HOME. And I know some people are. I don’t wish to be a wet blanket on anyone’s adventure, but I think the compass is a bit off if a person doesn’t even desire it. But then this culture is so full of homeless, broken home, home wrecker and marketing home, that it’s no wonder we are all over the map.

      I say all of that because I have no desire to end all conversation with you. I still like you and your blog – as far as I know you. And I have no dread of you whatsoever. I have no burning need to convert you back to the faith (though I would not want to suggest that I don’t care either). But I have no anxious neeeeeed to change you.

      But, given the nature of the present conversation at this point, I wonder what you hope to achieve with it now.

      You don’t hold to a biblical worldview.

      John 5:39-40… I get it.

      I get that Scripture points to Jesus, but that does not make Scripture God. For that matter, you never heard ME say that the Bible is inerrant. I studied enough textual criticism to think that statement is laughable. But I still hold it in high regard, and I think it is the lens through which greater mysteries are seen. A lens that other lenses are not sufficient for. So on and so forth.

      Actually, I am Catholic. So, talk to me about dogma now! Ha!

      Technically, I am not Evangelical (can I say technically?). Nor am I fundamentalist. But I am very evangelical-like for a Catholic. I will grant that. But I am very catholic for an Evangelical too. I prefer to think of myself as conservative, but this is already beginning to be a mess of labels.

      Point being… what’s the point in our conversation?

      I will say this though… I am developing my thoughts on HOME more and more all the time. If you want to help me straighten them out, I welcome that. Your agreement with me is not required. But if I can crystalize and articulate these thoughts better, and if you want to help with that, I am game.

      But that would seem to take this conversation into other places, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

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