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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Deep

What if you didn't just think that you didn't belong in the world you were in...

...you had proof.

Long, long ago i wrote a young adult fantasy. i'm in the process of rewriting it. Here's the link if you're interested.... really, really, really bored... and possibly are the recent recipient of a full, frontal lobotomy:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gospel of Tron

In the beginning was the User, and the User was a bumbling fool.

The Ballyhoo and i went to see Tron: Legacy the other night. While it's a visual feast, the story is devoid of calorie. It's a jelly donut where someone forgot the jelly. i was struck mostly by the obvious biblical metaphors. Small wonder, eh? Happ who studied archetypes in literature this year tells me that that's all it was. Disney just used the Bible as an archetype, a primitive model for their story. You can't read too much into it. Hmmm. Methinks me son misapprehends the power of story to shape idea and thought. Especially since i have been telling him the opposite of this since he was old enough to sit still while i spoke and it only took one teacher with a different story in one class to change his mind.

God Himself knows the power of narrative. That's why the Bible exists. It's the story we need to know if we are to know Him.
"105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path." Psalm 119
Words are lamps. They light up the soul of the speaker or the writer. They illuminate what's going on inside. That's why a lie has such power. It clouds the viewer's eye's with false light, false images. It misrepresents the soul of the liar... until the lie is laid bare. It's why the Bible is attacked so viciously, so often. Atheists want more than anything to prove it false. To expose the lie they see it as. The lie their faith is based upon. If it's not a lie then they are much to be pitied.

The Satan is known as the father of lies. He knows that the best lies have nearly eighty percent truth to them. He can quote scripture. Just take something true and suck the jelly out of it. Most folk won't dive in deep enough to notice anyway. Disney is not the devil but they seem to be about his work willfully or not. That's what they're stories show and Tron is perhaps one of their most obvious. Let's review shall we, (spoiler alert: i am not paying any attention to whether i give away the story, plot or twists of the movie so if you really don't want to know anything about it, don't watch the original Tron from the eighties.)

  • Kevin Flynn is God. He has the white clothes, the beard, the inscrutable mystic ideology and the power to create. He creates an entire universe within a computer and populates it with programs.
  • Programs are angels. We have Flynn's archangel, Tron and a new one he creates in his own image (literally) named Clu.
  • Clu is Lucifer. The best and brightest and obviously the most beautiful of all the programs. Flynn creates him to aid him in creating the Perfect System. The one that will bring light to all the universe, both in and outside the computer.
  • Obviously there has to be a fall. God and his angels can't just go on to create harmony and beauty. And here's where Disney really starts sucking the Jelly out and injecting silicone.
  • ISO's arrive. ISO's are people. Innocent yet wonderfully wise as Flynn describes them. ISO stands for Isometric algorithms. Which, as near as i can figure is what mathematicians use to discover things about stuff they don't understand by finding identical parallels between the mystery and already known areas of study. i say, "arrive" because that's how Flynn describes it. He didn't create them, the conditions were accidentally right for them to spontaneously form. Translation: there is a God but we evolved without his actual design.
  • Flynn is enthralled with the ISO's. He forgets about his original ideas and henceforth, CLU. CLU becomes jealous and overthrows Flynn. Translation: Lucifer is God's fault cause he's absent minded and callous. Lucifer has a legitimate beef with God.
  • Kevin Flynn's son Sam shows up on the grid. Sam is Jesus. But he has no idea why he's here or what he's supposed to do. He want's to rescue, not people, but God, Flynn.
  • As a matter of fact, rescuing people/ISO's is gonna be a bit tough, cuz there's only one left, Quorra. Far from the outcast, downtrodden, poor and needy that Jesus came to, Sam is going to end up rescuing a pretty hot, pretty capable, pretty worthy critter who will help rescue Sam as well. Translation: God needs us as much as we need Him.
  • Cutting to the chase, literally, in the end, God has to sacrifice himself in order to kill Lucifer and allow Jesus and his chosen person to escape. Translation: Good and Evil are two sides of the same coin, God cannot exist without the devil and no matter what happens, we normal folk are probably better off without their interference anyhow.
So, i guess what i'm trying to say is, don't let pretty lights, pretty people, cool bikes and driving techno beats distract you from what the world is preaching every day. In that sense, Tron is a great movie with a great message.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Much and Little about Far, Much and Little

Words, more importantly, the definitions thereof, are vitally important to one's knees and back. Allow me to elucidate. Let's set the wayback machine for just last Saturday morning...

Rascal and i hit the trail that morning at around seven or eight. i didn't have Crocodile Dundee with me to tell me exactly and i didn't care enough to find out. At about nine-thirty Rascal asks, "are we almost there?"

"Almost where? Where do you think we're going?"

"Anywhere, I thought we were camping." i had to stop. He immediately sat down, something he was prone to do whenever i stopped walking. He thought we were camping. Here we were, on a mountain in a state forest with snow falling all around and backpacks the size of armoires. What was it he thought we were doing now?

"What is it you think we're doing now???"

"Hiking."

"That's camping!" i explained carefully with elaborate hand gestures for emphasis.

"I didn't think there was going to be this much walking." i wasn't doing anything at that moment so i had nothing to stop doing out of incredulity. i might have blinked. i doubt Rascal noticed. After talking for another couple of minutes with many more elaborate hand gestures for emphasis we arrived at the source of the problem.

Words. Specifically, the word "camping." Y'see, when i bite into the word "camping" i get the sensation of being on a mountain top, wind in my.. ON my scalp and the world at my feet. My dream is to get as far from civilization as possible, see as much as possible while bringing as little as possible. This may not have always been my feeling, it may have been heavily influenced by people: stealing my gear, blaring their radios, glaring their lights; a love of the wilderness and the movie "Last of the Mohicans." Where e'er it comes, it is burrowed deep within my heart now and is constantly pushing it into motion. Whether by canoe, motorbike, foot, horse or hamster team, that is my objective: Far, Much and Little. The mode of transportation of the Little is a means to an end. The making of camp: a vile necessity since i can't hike in the dark and tend to fall asleep if i walk, ride or row all day. Far, Much and Little, an objective i thought my youngest frick shared when on our last trip, where we made camp in the truck, it wasn't until we were taking a day hike down the gorge that he said to me, "Now it feels like a camping trip."

Assumption versus communication. The assumption was that Rascal and i shared a meaning. Communication, with elaborate hand gestures for emphasis whenever possible, revealed that what Rascal meant was... going into the woods some-where, making a semi-permanent campsite, striking out from said campsite with the goal of going to see some-thing and then returning to that same aforesaid campsite in the same afternoon, if not by lunch.

There's an African proverb that goes, "If you need to travel fast, go alone. If you need to travel far, go with friends." The American version would be something like, "If you need to travel fast, go by car. If you need to travel far, you're on your own."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Plan?? There ain't no plan!

Yeah, camping trips rarely go according to plan... and that's all part of the plan. For you see, without opening yourself up to the potential for the nuisance, the crisis or the trial, you will never experience the spectacular, the amazing or the wonder. Or as Dori put it Finding Nemo, "If you never let anything happen to him, nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

F'rinstance:
  • Finding a quiet little private campground out of the way.
  • Waking up in the morning with muddy raccoon footprints all over my sleeping bag.
  • Seeing stars again. No really, you forget how many there are until you get away from the lights of the world.
  • Shooting stars.
  • A full moon so bright you mistake it for a manmade spotlight.
  • An entire church group throwing aside their dignity and jumping in the river. Frolicking like they got no sense.
  • A horseback ride where Wayward and i "accidentally" became separated from the group for a while and then got to gallop for a bit when we got caught.
  • Morning on the water with no one around and mist devils, little swirling fog tornados rising off the river all around our canoe.
  • The ride of the midnight snorter! Deer, apparently taken aback by men sleeping in their path to the river, running right through our camp in the middle of the night and then stopping and stomping on the other side while trying to figure out what the heck was that?! Not one night, but two in a row.
  • Listening to my sons laughing and tearing the heck out of the inside of the tent while i cook.
  • Starting a bison stampede with the thunder of the motorcycles and then outrunning it.
  • Finding Moose Drool. And enjoying it.
  • Finding an underground river. While still above ground.
  • Waking up to six inches of snow.
  • The mountains, the rivers, the sunsets, sunrises, the forests, deserts, lakes, skies, the secret glades and scenic valleys, furry critters, feathered critters, bugs, noises, music and silences that you will only find away from the things of men.
  • The highs and lows and mysteries and stories, the light and the darkness in the souls of companions, Ballisticat and Wayward and the Ballyhoo. Being there for each other when the trail becomes the trial. Griping at each other when the trail becomes the trial. Sharing the awe when surprised by the serendipitous. Staring into campfires at the end of a day, partly from wonder, partly from exhaustion. Wondering how people lived like this all the time? Wondering if we could? Wondering if our wives would let us. (That's not a typo. You don't need a question mark at the end of a question you know the answer to.)
  • Learning new meanings to old words like, "friend" and "home" and "dinner."
When i escape, when i go through the gate of the Great Northern Wall that we have built between us and the wilderness, i am physically representing my desire to cross the wall between us and God. To cast off my luxuries, my comforts, my security and put myself at His mercy. That requires risk. God is BIG! He's unpredictable. But He's also secret and intimate. That can be scary and that can be glorious. And that's the point. i want to go back to Eden. i know i can't. Not yet. But i sure do appreciate the glimpses.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wanna go camping?

The packs straps were burrowing into our shoulders as if looking for a place to hide, we were lathered like race horses wearing thermies and a parka and Rascal says to me, "I left my trail mix and meatsticks in the car." What i heard was, "Father, despite your very clear and specific instructions to me and despite your putting it in the same bag as the clothes i was to put on just prior to embarking on our three day journey, the very same clothes i am now wearing, i seem to have left a third of my provisions for this journey, by an almost deliberate act of ignorance with my cast-off laundry in the car." This was the first thirty minutes of our latest camping trip.

It was not an auspicious start.

Which made it just like every other camping trip i've ever took. Let's take a quick tour...
  • There was the first trip i took on my own, the Wayward Son and i managed to lock ourselves out of my bronco at a rest area on the turnpike, a subject i've written ad nauseum. When we finally arrived at the State Park there were no campsites available.
  • There was the one and only trip i took that Mynnie came on, the one where it rained the entire weekend.
  • One where i was a chaperone to the church youth, where i led my charges into the waterfalls to do some rock climbing and one fell twenty four feet to break his arm and glasses. And then it rained the rest of the weekend, so hard it flooded all the tents. Fortunately i don't use them.
  • There was the time the Wayward Son and i had all of our gear stolen out of our campsite.
  • There was my brilliant idea for Ballisticat and i to put a canoe into the West Branch Susquehanna and then row UP stream.
  • My other bright idea to take a four year old back packing. Yes, i carried him the last few miles of the last day. i talked Ballisticat into going on that trip too. Funny, he hasn't been able to go camping with me since.
  • My one and only motorcycle trip, again with the Wayward Son, involved finding no campsites at the park (maybe that's his thing) and so we camped in a carwash in the streaming rain. At least we weren't able to lock ourselves out of the bikes though it did take me a while to figure out why mine would inexplicably die while i was riding it. (The rather loose kickstand had a kill switch attached to it. Bungee cords, don't leave home without them.)
  • The Ballyhoo gang and i started our second trip together (Rascal was now eight) with a car accident.
  • On our last trip together and our first trip without Happ the Pretty, Rascal and i chose the wrong side of the gorge to camp on and ended up sleeping in the truck in a tourist trap.
No, nothing goes according to plan when we willfully go homeless. Which is precisely according to plan...

Monday, November 22, 2010

For Kevin



Some idle thoughts while idling on the great Eastern Not-so-free-way of 95....
  • 95 is urban blight made into a road. Too many people on top of each other means, less progress with more violence.
  • Okay, one more time for the cheap seats... MERGING IS MUCH, MUCH EASIER AND SAFER FOR EVERYONE IF YOU ARE TRAVELING THE SAME SPEED AS THE TRAFFIC YOU ARE MERGING WITH!!!!! NOT TEN MILES AN HOUR SLOWER, THE SAAAAAAAAME SPEED!
  • You know that commercial where they ask, "What if cars behaved more like schools of fish or flocks of flying birds?" and it shows all these cars moving in total harmony to merge at high speed into just one or two lanes of traffic? Yeah, they need to perfect that technology and stop worrying about whether or not people can parallel park. (See bullet point two.)
  • Cruise control people! You have a forty thousand dollar Toyota! I know you have it!
  • Sudnah's drive slower as a people than yankees. It's not a criticism, it's just an observation. Up here in the colder climes, if someone is doing less than five miles over the speed limit, we look for the Person with Disability tag, otherwise we assume there's just something wrong with their car.
  • i understand why you would put one rest area in between the north and southbound lanes, i just question the wisdom of having people merge with the fastest traffic. (See bullet point two.)
  • This one's for the Washingmore area. If you are contemplating widening a four lane highway because of your traffic woes... you have a larger infrastructure problem that you are totally ignoring. It's a band-aid for a sucking chest wound, Mr. Cityplanner. That's way too many humans in way too many cars all trying to go to the same place! There has to be a better way!
  • That said, the answer, Tokyo, is not to have guys who's job is to physically stuff more people into the train than it will hold so the doors will shut.
  • The path to bigotry and elitism is a steep hill smothered with lard. We have toll booths. Someone invents EZ pass. Fine. They no longer have to come to a complete stop. Those of us with conspiracy issues can continue paying the toll with paper and chips of metal that no longer represent a bar of gold in some deposit somewhere so the government that's taking our picture anyway can't track us as we drive our families to grandma's. Then they create special lanes for the EZ pass. Fine. Makes sense. Why should Tamika the Tolltaker have to stop painting her nails to watch an EZ passer pass her? Then come the express lanes for EZ pass. "Come to the darkside," they murmur as they rip through the toll booths at highway speeds. "We have cookies." Then someone lets you use their EZ pass on 95 and you spend a half an hour in Maryland traveling four miles in stop and go because they only have two lanes of express EZ pass and four of regular toll booths but fourteen million cars trying to use them and you start thinking, "This is stoopid. All those idiots who don't have EZ pass should get only one lane a mile from here so the rest of us can drive!" Then it hits you, "Eep! i have become one of ....THEM!"
  • When the real #{}<<'n issue is, WE ALREADY PAY TAXES! WHY DO WE HAVE TOLL BOOTHS AT ALL??
  • i've never used the caps lock button this much.
  • i heard of a population study done on rats once where the rats became increasingly violent and manic as the population increased beyond the environment's ability to sustain. i saw this study in action in that traffic jam yesterday. (see bullet point two)
  • This one is not technically a 95 issue except that 95 touches Jersey so maybe that's the transmission point for this stupidity. Traffic circles are not a viable solution to anything. They are the problem. They are a virus that must be stamped out with extreme prejudice.
  • Finally, driving 95 has reinforced my desire to someday retire to a boat. That and the list of cool restaurants that have docks that i'm compiling. i need one somewhere in between the Rideau Chain, Ontario and Annapolis, Maryland though. That's a long way to sail between Guinness and fish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No one made me do this.

i've gotten lazy...er. And i'm not happy about it. Apparently, without someone, physical or metaphorical, standing behind me with a bullwhip, i don't have a lot of motivation to do much of anything. Strangely, the things i want to do are so self-serving that my conscience kicks in and doesn't allow me to do them either and so i sort of hover, trembling in a dead space between what i ought and what i nought without enough umption to bump me bum either direction. It's why i hate Saturdays. Quite often on a Saturday there is no one telling me clearly what i need to do. There's plenty to do. Too much usually and so an ordering has to take place. A structure of priority has to be assembled. But that is something to do and there's no one making me do it.

Even my writing has suffered. i once wrote a complete book. It wasn't a good book and i'm in the process of rewriting it but i actually got something down from start to finish. You know why. Cuz a couple of little kids started reading it and wanted me to finish. So there's your bullwhip. A gentle hand behind it but a whip just the same. Now? Heck, my last blog post wasn't even up to my standards. Granted, my chief concern was getting it written down before the smoke smell was out of my nostrils but that's barely fit for my notes and now i feel that there is a burnt out hole in the center of my blog as well as the back of the yard. Something published needs to be entertaining for the reader. There's an unspoken contract between me and thee that says, your time here will not be wasted. And i have to apologize. It has been lately. So before i go and waste more of it. Let me end here with the apology and the promise, that hopefully, there will be a return to the days of yore when reading a blog by a scruffy scribe contains a laugh and a truth and well spent minute or two. Or at least a laugh. Possibly just a chuckle. Heck, i'll be happy if you smile.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

Minutes. Maybe even singular. That’s the timescale we’re talking about here. Possibly no more than sixty seconds from the time my little “controlled” burnpile jumped its ring of rocks and caught the surrounding leaves to the time I walked around the side of the house to get some more tarpaper. In that minute the fire ate itself a six-foot diameter circle. While shocked at the blackened ring of immolation, the fires themselves that formed the ring didn’t look very daunting. So at first I tried to just stomp them out. My feet, disproportionately large for a man only five six and steady fodder for mockery my whole life, only served to spread the impending disaster. The pillowy piles exploded and my podiatric paddles poofed with each panicked punt as if plunged into puffy pyrotechnic poodle pelts. Next I bolted for the rake. My thought was that if I could rake the flaming piles back within General Sherman’s Circle they could finish off the fuel they had and save Savannah. At first it seemed to work. Then to my horror as I was knee deep in a burning pile of brush and leaves that some fool had left at the border of their property, I turned to notice that the line of fire I thought I had defeated had jumped the line and was now windborne from my raking.
“It’s getting away from me, Dad!” I pointed out, most likely, unnecessarily to God. All around me the woods were burning. Small pines were starting to catch. The first neighbor’s house in the path was only twenty feet away from the rapidly growing, rapacious demon I had given birth to. I needed water but the house I was working at hadn’t had water since the pipes froze sometime last winter. I ran for the nearest neighbor that I knew was home, slipping and falling as I went. There were no introductions.
“Do you have a hose I can use?”
“Why sure, lemme…”
“My fire got out of hand!”
“Oh! It’s right around back!”
As it turns out, they had two hoses, already linked. I was hoping it was going to be long enough as i stumbled back to the rising flames, slipped and fell again. “Should I call the fire department?” She called to my running back.
“Probably a good idea.” I answered, not really wanting to need them but knowing the genie was out of the bottle and chaos theory had left Jurassic Park and taken field trip to the Poconos. Now I’ve worked on houses all over, most of them nearing the million-dollar mark. I’ve borrowed lots of hoses. One thing I’ve seen a lot of is poor water pressure. Here, in a little prefab in the hills, which gets its water from a little pumping station down the road, the pressure was phenomenal. Go fig. From then on it was just fire versus water. Time felt very fast but before I had half the circle drowned, a young man appeared with a rake and began pulling back everything the hose wouldn’t reach. I took the moment to grab a hose my house did have and got very wet adding it to the chain with the water going. Another lad with a rake showed up. He raked half-heartedly for a minute as if disappointed that he wouldn’t get to throw on his turnout gear and chop something with an axe and then called off the Dalmatians. Then he was gone too. The first lad borrowed the hose, something he’d probably been wanting to do since he arrived. While he was using his extensive training to carefully aim the garden hose at some remaining hot spots, I surveyed the scene.
From edge to edge the swath of black was now fifty-one feet. That’s no exaggeration, I measured. My throat was acrid and dry and my pants were soaked. My boots were black and my face and hands felt singed. I felt like a fool crossbred with a moron and slathered with some idiot.
I have been using November to remember to be thankful. Each day giving thanks for some blessing of God’s small or big. Tonight, I’m thankful for long hoses, good water pressure, an accurate self image and for mercy on a fool. I think I’ve got a new perspective on the Gospel.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Who indeed?



The frost-tinged wind has blown the treetops bare.
The leafy remnant are more crumbly browns than shades of fire.
Witching goblin, ghostly ghoul retreat to their respective lair.
Cattail valleys echo with the wandering wa-wa choir.

Gunshot signals hunter's boon and hind's resignation
In the evening there is woodsmoke on the crackling, whistling wind.
Cricket and frog relinquish the night to Owl's inquiring conversation
Who, they ask, who, yet believe that Winter is the end?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking for the Ghost smoocherer

i think i'm becoming a ghost.

It's a strange revelation for me since i wasn't aware that i was tethered to the world of the living at all until those tethers started getting severed. It started with my church closing it's doors. Snip. A group of people i had been worshiping with, been accountable to, laughed with, cried with, prayed for, been prayed for by for years was gone one cold day in February. The ground felt soft and shifting. But there was ground.

Then Happ, me eldest son, got his driver's license in June. Slice. Suddenly there's one less face at the dinner table. No more challenging discussions about life, ethics, God, growing up, acne. Elwood Station became noticeably more silent... at least on nights when his friends didn't coagulate at our place.

In July the adze finally fell. Though i wasn't sure it was permanent at first; it soon became clear that my boss was streamlining. Jettisoning the jetsom. For years i've looked at the same unshaven faces day in and day out. Spent more hours with a partner that i wasn't married to than the one i had. Now, i spend my days alone, talking to myself or the radio and trying to convince myself to stay at work. But the reasons are becoming ephemeral. They're ideas now, ideas with no flesh and no warmth to them. Just cold reasons.

Even Mynnie, the lovely bride i did marry has been less and less available. She's constantly about the needs of others. Work, volunteering and taking care of her recovering father, a man who nearly took the more traditional route to ghosthood, keep hacking out more of her time, and rightfully so. It might even be a good thing, right?

Now i'll have more time to write, non? Writers instinctually crave alone time anyway. In point of fact, i need it in order to write. People being around are a distraction; they interrupt the flow of my own thoughts. More and more those distractions were disappearing. This was a good thing, right?

It was insidious and patient. Like blood seeping unseen beneath a bandage. Like bleeding out. i was losing all of the close human bonds i had and as i did, i started to lose the ability to relate to those i had left. My world was in my own skull and everyone who tried to engage me was interrupting. i was starting to see people as nuisances more and more. Becoming less tolerant and more eager to be separate. To be alone with my thoughts but those thoughts were becoming restless. They were no longer interested in writing. They were lost, unfocused, missing something unnamed. They began to seek solace of their own in increasingly dark places dragging me along for the ride. (Yes, i know, they are my thoughts and therefore me, but it's easier for me if i think of them as someone else, so roll with it for now. It could be demons, right?)

What is it? What's missing? What have i lost? As usual, i turned to God: in prayer, in sermons (podcast of course, i haven't found a new church yet after nearly eight months), in more prayer. The darkness brought guilt and a need for forgiveness but not pious, self-justification. Pagan penance, buying God's favor wouldn't bring peace or purpose to the demons. Religion, phaugh. No. God reminded me, first in words and then in the touchable, pulse filled arms of my wife, that grace and mercy and forgiveness are not rites and fancy words, but they are all warm, wet kisses in a real relationship.

In the cold, blue light of the moonlit trees, with little sound but the cracking of branches by unseen feet and no companions but my own thoughts, it's easy to believe in ghosts.

When one loses or discards all ties to the living and lives only to please one self, it's easy to become one.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Wilderness waved

Of late, I have been working in the Poconos. Everything about the Poconos is a misnomer. They are called mountains, THE Mountains, by most Philthadelphians and New Joykers. But they are at best, foothills. The only reason they probably sidestepped that label was the lack of any genuine articles over their shoulders for people to skip over them to goggle at. It doesn't end with geography though. Every clump of cabins, shacks and hovels are called Estates. Every hotel with a putt-putt and waterslide is a Resort. Actually the Resorts might be the only names around here that possess a kernel of truth. If one accepts the alternate meaning of the action of turning to and adopting a strategy or course of action, especially a disagreeable or unpleasant one, so as to resolve a difficult situation, that is. The whole place just has the look of a run-down movie set for a white trash zombie flick that may or may not have ever gotten made.

Sure the work has been lonely, nasty and unrewarding; spending long days in a dank, dark crawlspace in dirt, filth and rotting fiberglass that are probably agitating my chest cold. Sure, I’m trying to fix up a pre-fab house that appears to have been assembled by the three stooges, maintained by someone who firmly believed in the Bugblatter Beast Philosophy of: if you can’t see it, it isn’t real and is ten years beyond it’s shelf-life. Sure, it’s rained most of the time I’ve been here and today, the first time I had a moment, pilfered really, to sit in the sun and write, I was immediately discovered by a swarm of gnatskitos and a pack of puginese yap-hounds. Sure, there’s no running water, no shower, no way to wash hands, face or dishes. Sure I spend two or three nights a week here now away from hearth, home and holly, sleeping on either the floor or my woodpile.

But the two hour drive up here, framed on either side by rolling foothills packed solid with autumn leafy things all the colors of the MnM's in the faithful jar at my side and WHUT slingin' its eccentric mix on the crackily ol’ jukebox reminds me that in my humble, pointless opinion, journeys are a heck of a lot better than destinations. Just hope now that I live long enough and strong enough to retire to that motorbike and tent someday and prove it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

My desert is flooding.

It's raining in my desert. Come to think of it, it rained for a large portion of last week in my desert and it's reportedly going to rain all this week too. One would think that all of this water would, by definition, disqualify my arid wasteland from it's "desert" status but one couldn't be more wronger. You see, (try to imagine Larry Fishburne's voice for this next part, i do) this: is a desert. of the surreal.

Tis not water this desert lacks but land. And if it keeps raining that will be less metaphor than material. The ocean is sometimes referred to as a desert. They share much in common. A wide featureless expanse where there is no succor or sustenance to maintain intelligent life. Intelligent life being here defined as: those who would not willingly go into a desert.

Biblically speaking, the desert is a place of testing and purification. Where everything one relies on in this life is stripped away and the soul is laid bare before God. Where the proud are humbled, the independent are made beggars, the active must be still and the distracted and disoriented are taught what is really, truly vital. There was a line from the Book of Eli. Solara asks Eli what life was like before the war made the world a literal desert. "People had more than they needed," he says wistfully. "We threw things away that men kill each other for now. We had no idea what was precious." Hostile and deadly, the desert is a place of silence. Where the only sound might be the wind, which, not coincidentally, is a favorite symbol for the Spirit of God.

The sea however is chaos. The sea is always changing, shifting, never solid. The sea is deep. There is all manner of mystery beneath. Only God can plunge it's depths. Only God can conceive it's vastness and it's boundary. There is no place for a man to stand. He must cling. He must remain in motion. He must fight to live in the maw of a beast that is actively, energetically trying to kill him. One may meditate in a boat on a calm day or steal a moment in the dark of an early morning but soon a wave will come and the struggle will resume. If the desert spawns visionary poems of prayer, with a weary, languid question mark if punctuated at all then the ocean is an exclamation point! A sharp cry is called for between breaths, between crests. One word sums up all and that word is HELP!

My desert is flooding. The pillars topple as the ground beneath heaves and drowns. Thrown from the ship of a steady job, a ship i had served since a cabin boy, i must cling to whatever work washes my way. That flostam can carry me far from home. Family are struck down or betray and those that remain can drag you down in their panic. Illness takes my strength. Disease, the comfort of my beloved. All that seems solid dissolves and i'm aware of a great, gaping depth beneath my kicking feet. What was it Peter saw when his faith wavered in the waves? What took his eyes from Jesus'?

Yea, though i tread in the trough of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. But i'm getting kinda nostalgic for land.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Okay, one more this about that.

Well, it doesn't happen often but it does happen. i was wrong. No not that, i'm wrong all the time, what doesn't happen often is me admitting it. Since i was wrong in print i guess the only noble thing to do is print a...

Correction: Any father who does not weep when he hears Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" may yet be worthy of the title, he may just be really bitter about his own dad.

i was reminded, after my last post, of the power which words possess. Which is somewhat interesting given that the original premise of my post was on the power of some words, albeit set to music but i don't think i choke up because of the chord progression of Chapin's guitar.

But the power of chords or words is nothing to the swords of action. A reality that pierced my skull in a four hour car ride the other day. My swashbuckling driver and host and unwitting teacher was explaining some of the things his church has done in the past year or so. Knowing that i was seeking a new crew of crazies to worship Dad with, he meant it as a plug for his own. It was a fairly successful plug cuz when it comes to putting boots on the ground, his crew of crazies is training marines. As he talked, i realized that it was due largely to the force of this Deacon's personality and skill set. Deacons, in my mind, are the blue collar branch of a church. They were created when the church had to come to grips with the gripes of some greek grandmas. The Apostles quickly remembered that Jesus showed them that feeding the soul was indivisible from feeding the tummy. Being men of action, the Apostles lost no time in appointing someone else to take care of it. And thus were born the Deaconate. Those that don't talk about Christ's love, they show it.

And that brings me to the point i was trying to make with the last post... what do i show my sons? Many things i'm sure but there's a few i'd like to fix...
  • i show them that Lacrosse trumps church when we skip one to attend the other
  • that trying is futile when i give up on my dreams
  • that work is cursed when i constantly curse my work
  • i show them how to destroy oneness and unity in marriage and to be an adversarial husband when i fight with my wife in front of them
  • i can see how my attitudes have passed on the idea that we are little people who are at the mercy of forces much greater than us. We can't fight city hall, fate, big business or the river.
  • i teach them incorrect roles for a man when i ignore my responsibilities and let others pick up my slack
  • i teach them that the computer is more important than they are when i miss what they are telling me because i'm "doing something."
and on that note, i'm gonna go make them lunch and put a picture on a post-it in their bags so that i can at least teach them that i love them. Maybe that's all i can hope to accomplish.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When you coming home Dad?

Any father who does not weep when he hears Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" is not worthy of the title. i'm just saying.

i was working the seventh or eighth hour of what i suspected was going to be a twelve hour day when it came on the digital jukebox. Yes, i put the music in the pod. i did this to myself. i am my own worst enemy. Tell me something i don't know. Now i also cannot hear it without singing it but as i kept coming to the chorus i choked up. For i can see how it's already begun.

My eldest, Happ, is sixteen. As soon as he realized he could ride his bike to other towns, we started seeing less and less of him. Now that he works and can drive, we don't even bother making dinner for him anymore. Which, come to think of it, is probably saving us hundreds on fodder. My interactions with him consist of occasional shoving matches as we pass in the hall. He's just the vampire who watches tv while we all sleep.

While we may never know where the tall guy is, we always know Rascal's whereabouts. My twelve year old is a video game enthusiast. He's the kind of guy who wonders out loud how a dude in Japan could be a level ninety-three while Rascal has had the game only two weeks and is a level thirty-seven. Or should that read, "has had the game two weeks and is ONLY a level thirty-seven?" When i think about connecting with Rascal, i realize i don't possess the hand-eye coordination or virtual patience to spend quality time with him.

But that apparently won't be a problem now that i am a freehammer. Of the four days of beautiful camping weather the Ballyhoo had off of school this weekend past, i spent three working. The day i didn't work, the Sabbath, i spent not in my Father's house, but sleeping, watching baseball and clicking plastic bricks together. We're always teaching our kids something, even when we're not around. i shudder to think what mine are learning from me.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where's Sargent Ermie when you need him?

i am not a marine. i wanted to be one once though. A nasty knock on the noggin from a secret admirer that i got as a kid kept me out. Seems the marines don't want guys who may suddenly slip into a coma during training or combat unless it's from something they did. Public Service Announcement kids: if you're planning on going into the Marines after high school or college, start wearing a helmet now, just in case. Looking back now, i'm surprised i wanted to be in the marines at all or even the army. i tried them too. i was not what you'd call a recruitment model. i was a small, long haired kid who preferred to sit and read or draw than run, take orders and run some more. Worse yet, i tend to cynically question most authority. Not disobey mind you, just not go along with any real enthusiasm. Think of marines splashing into the water to storm a beach and one of them just kinda moping along going, "yeah, yeah, but what's the point?" i probably wouldn't have lasted long. Most of us navy brats growing up had military dreams but that was more of a chance to use cool hardware to blow stuff up, legally, than a carefully considered career path. Of all the choices i had coming out of high school, what made me think the military was a good one?

Up till now i had always thought that i chose that as an "out." i didn't know what to do so i just kept the military option open. Presidents do this all the time. Yesterday, however, i had a revelation, a peeling back of my psychic onion, if you will, that, after the tears from the fumes cleared up, showed me this was not the case. The real reason was much more bothersome than mere lack of creativity or options. For the fact of the matter is, i normally have plenty of creativity and options tend to be what you make for yourself. i learned that from reading. No, the real reason i wanted to be a marine is the same reason why i didn't hit the road and travel after failing to get into the service and the same reason i've never tried to become a professional writer or artist, why i stare at a blank page and then give up, why i hate days off, it's the same reason i don't volunteer unless asked to and the same reason i'm weirded out by being my own boss now. It's the very same reason that through all these years the most constant prayer i've made no matter what was happening in my life, has been, "Lord, show me Your will." As pious as that last bit sounds, i now know my motivations were slightly wrong of center.

i want to be told what to do.

Whether it's from a Sargent, a parent, a boss, a wife, a pastor, a total stranger with a gun or God Himself, i would rather have an unpleasant but clear task or responsibility to perform than be cut loose to my own devices. i honestly don't trust me to make a decision in a vacuum of authoritative opinions. That's why the end of high school totally freaked me out. Why the thought of not having a job gives me shingles. It's like being turned loose out of prison. i don't know what to do but i know i have to do something! It's why i became a carpenter in the first place. It's something i knew, gut level, that i could do. It was the lowest common denominator that i thought i could stand when i looked at the newspaper classifieds. It was the reason i was looking at the newspaper classifieds at all! i needed a limited set of pre-approved options from which to start my adult life. The idea of carving out my own path gave me the willies. Granted, it wasn't as if i had no responsibilities, no dire consequences for failure. i had two, a wife and a child on the way who needed me. As it was though, my wife earned more than i did for the first seven or so years we were married but it was safe. i was flogging my body instead of my mind because i knew, solid-as-a-hammerhead knew that if i sweated and bled for certain people they would give me a little paper that my family needed to survive. No one could say i wasn't doing anything. i had protected myself from absolute failure and the harsh but accurate criticism of laziness. To protect my ego and my selfish right to complain, my mind labeled everything else as "impossible." i was a carpenter because i had no choices. When the real reason was, i chose to become a carpenter because there were too many choices and i lacked the confidence to choose one!

So now, i'm laid off. i'm only a carpenter right now because that's what people are offering to pay me to do. The stakes are just as high as they ever were. Absolute failure means not just my family out on the street but the one living with us as well. i think about the options and my soul wants to pull back into its shell and let somebody kick me to the side of the road. The possibilities are limitless, anything could happen, there's no one telling me what to do...

and that gives me the willies.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Post from beyond the grave.

It seemed a strange way to begin the afterlife. He was sitting in the dark, staring at a computer. He kind of thought the coffee would be better. Instead it had that nutty flavor it got when the coffee pot needed cleaning. He would have to throw that in the dishwasher more here in the New Life. He had only been reborn for a half an hour and he already had chores. Clean the coffee pot, shoo scavenger cat away from the recycling, the only semi-holy thing he'd done since rising from the dead was pray for a minute. He had wanted to do this right. He had wanted to dedicate this second life to God. He thought rising up from the dead should start in prayer and meditation like a monk in the lotus position upon a windswept seaside cliff, instead, he had said, "grace" over bad coffee.

Maybe being resurrected meant that he didn't have to force it. Was he closer to God now? That seemed a dangerous line of thought. People who thought they were closer to God seemed to him the type who could justify any fool thing they did and call it "blessed." Like medieval popes, since they were God's emissary, whatever they did was sanctioned. Down that path lay madness. God asked for humility. The Bible called it "fearing" God. Blithely assuming that he and the Big Guy had an understanding now didn't sound like "fearing."

This new life still included scrubbing pots, nocturnal nuisances and breaking wind, what was different? How was he different? The cursor stayed still for a long time after that question. To pass the time it blinked. This is how eternity would be marked, by a steadily blinking cursor next to a question mark. A great, black carpenter ant tried to skitter across the keyboard to remind him that this was not eternity. The forces of decay and destruction were still at work. He had been reborn only to die again some day. So what was this New Life? Again, what made it different from the old life?

The sky beyond the window began to lighten. Somewhere the Sun was rising. The scavenger cat came back and meowed for mercy. Soon he would have to stop writing and go do work that people actually paid him to do. Work that would need to be cleaned and maintained and even so, carpenter ants would eventually devour it. Only the intangible and invisible was eternal. To be seen and to be touched was to be able to be destroyed. Just ask Jesus.

What did Jesus do when he rose from the dead? He made his bed, folding the grave clothes and laying them neatly on the stone. He played peek-a-boo with his friends, serving and sharing meals and talked with them. Then, about a month later, he just flew away. He had just stuck around long enough to prove he lived, to be touched and to be seen and to say his piece and his peaces. Were they new words or did they just have added weight from being said by a formerly dead guy who now lived? Do the words of the resurrected have more impact or are they just more focused from a new point of view?

The writer guessed he could only write some words and find out.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

For Nick

The thirteenth Jester sweated in the center of the hall like a single rat in a room full of terriers. He removed his belled hat and mopped his bald head with a nervous jingle. It was a stalling tactic. Everyone over the age of seven probably knew that it was a stalling tactic but the Jester was only worried about the Prince.

The Prince was exactly seven.

"I'm sorry," the thirteenth Jester squeaked for his mouth was as dry as the firewood piled up around the stake that stood in the courtyard outside. He tried to clear his throat. Nothing happened. He tried again. Just to make sure, he gave it a third attempt but his throat was acting as if there was a rope already knotted to it. There was a long silence broken by a man chuckling. It was not a nice chuckle. It was the chuckle a man might make if he saw a bullfighter flying through the air in a fight where the bull won. The Prince scowled. The Jester sprang into action!

He dashed across the room like a man who ate footlong burrito and has just spotted the bathroom. The courtly crowd fell out of his way as if he were a man who had eaten a footlong burrito and will probably not make it to the bathroom. His path clear, he ran, skipped a step, stumbled just a little and then fell gracefully face first into the punchbowl. He drank like a lost walrus crawling across the desert who finds a fishbowl. For a few seconds all that was heard in the Great Hall was the sound of his mighty gulping. He drained the bowl and then smacked his lips with a relieved smile. His eye's met those of the royal steward. The Steward was not smiling. Remembering where he was and what he was supposed to be doing, the thirteenth Jester slinked back to the center of the Hall like a puppy who had made a puddle in the kitchen but thought he might get away with it. His face and motley dripped crimson punch. His belled hat, hung limp and askew like a wilting flower. He cleared his throat, successfully this time, and in a bold voice that echoed in every corner of the Hall, he asked, "I'm sorry, sire. What did you say?"

The Prince squinted like he thought he was being stalled and said the four most terrifying words ever uttered in the kingdom of the Oaks. The last four words the twelve Jesters before him had heard: "Tell. Me. A. Story."

"Ah. A story. Of course. A story," the thirteenth Jester took off his hat and looked in it as if the story might be hiding there with the swishing punch. All his life he had loved, read and listened to stories but now as he tried to remember just one, all he could think of was what had happened to the the twelve Jesters before him. For the first time in his life he wished he had become a carpenter like his father and his grandfather and his grandfather's father and his grandfather's father's father before him. What made him think he could do this? Why had he not just stayed in his little village and learned to make cabinets? It would have been dreadfully boring but there was very little risk of ever taking off your hat one day and your head coming with it. What kind of story would the Prince want? His mind was as blank as an unmarked grave.

The Prince grew impatient. "Welllll?"

There was nothing for it. The Jester would have to tell the truth... sort of, "In the land of Pennslobovia, in the village of Chalfont-along-Neshaminy, there lived a boy who didn't want to be a carpenter," he began.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Scruffilosophy


i don't know how profound it is,

i only know it's true;

it doesn't matter what you'd rather,

only what you do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who's steering this thing??

Scruff Fricken sat on the bench in the back of his canoe and watched the Sun rise on his thirty-eighth year. It looked remarkably shiny and smelled fresher than he thought it would. The day that is, not the canoe but then, sunrises usually did. He liked sunrises. Better than sunsets anyway. They had such a hopeful tone to them. Of course he could safely think that because he had never been the victim of a dawn attack by raiders bent on pillage and rape. But then, the dawn probably looked pretty and hopeful to the raiders on those occasions too. So maybe it was just a matter of point of view.

Scruff Fricken was hopeful too. This was remarkable as well for in all actuality he had no concrete foundation for such an airy frame. He was unemployed for the first time in seventeen years with a family to feed. He was deeply in debt because of a house that he would most likely never be able to finish or sell. He was too old and too beat up anymore to continue in the only field he was trained to do and he wasn't particularly gifted at the management side of it. A man has to know his limitations and where planning and logistics were concerned, Scruff was a dog on a short leash. In short, he was in a leaky canoe at the top of the falls and he hadn't packed a paddle.

Scruff Fricken had other talents to be sure and maybe it was the chance to see what he could do with these that lent him his hollow hope. But the label, "starving artist," kept punching holes in his hull and the roaring of the falls made it hard to be creative. The reality of the situation was that he had no work ready to publish, no portfolio, no contacts, no prospects and no idea where to begin.

Scruff Fricken had a sunrise and he had Hebrews chapter eleven, verse one: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." There was some disturbing stuff around that verse about suffering, prison and confiscation of property so Scruff figured he was being warned this was going to be a bumpy ride. Going over the falls usually was, he reckoned. He supposed there was a chance that God would rescue him before the falls but that wasn't what he placed his hope in either.

Scruff Fricken was going over the falls but Jesus was sleeping in the front of the boat and the falls sure looked pretty in the morning Sun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

From the fricken on the roof

Two things, no, make that three distinctly separate forces have driven this fricken to a roof top perch. An aerie of imagining if you will for i have come here with but one purpose caught in the craw of my kidney bean brain:

To write!

Three forces conspired to drag me from the breezy beachhead encampment i have occupied since our arrival here in the sun soaked lands of saute'd N'Yawkers. First came hordes of fearsome dark clouds from the west. Grim and laden with malice they swept over bay and the flimsy rows of homes between and reminded me that a beach is an awfully foolish place to tempt a storm. So with perhaps more caution than valor i retreated to the relative safety of the house. Frickens are big chickens.

There, in the cool but unreliable comfort of the air conditioning, i encountered the second force to move me heavenward. More of a shock than a relentless storm. More thunderbolt than wind. More fart than food poisoning. i was eating my lunch and wishing for bacon when it hit me. No, not food poisoning. The nasty realization that i was nearly done my thousand page book! With two more days of beach bummery ahead of me, this would be a tragedy! i might be forced into desperate action! To borrow one of the house books which i may not be able to finish (a small blessing since the vast majority seem to be romance novels.) But unless the novel be fetid drumfish then it is abhorrent to me not to finish it and i've even choked down my share of rotting fishflesh. My only other option would be to go get another book but that presented an even more abominable choice: a quest into Rehoboth! While certainly a step up from its vile cousin city Wildwood. They are of the same ilk and bear no joy for a fricken for whom filth, fools and frivolous frittering are fiends most foul. What loathsome lout designs a tourist city in a America with no parking? It boggles the imagination and that is but the beginnings of it's bilious boorishness.

No, drastic measures must be taken! i would have to ration my reading time. But what must i do instead? This is where the third force came. As is sometimes my habit, i looked over my blog. As a rooster inspects his hens to see how their getting along. In this way i decide whether i've been remiss in my writings. Usually i find there is a shortfall in the storehouse. Not much fodder for the flock. This is ordinarily the result of two other shortages: time and shmarts. But today i found, not a shortfall, but a windfall! Like a storm at sea that washed up all manner of refuse i found the Coop littered with lines, polluted with poesy, varnished with verse! Where had all these poems come from? Nearly a whole month's worth of it?! Was i going soft? Was there nothing to rail at? No humorous anecdotes to stretch into longwinded stories with no point? No aimless alliterations to assmeble? As i pondered these questions the answer rose like an angel from her nap...

nope. But that's never stopped you before.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Misnomer

Dragonfly over a concrete pond
Chilly welcomes on sweaty days
the sweetest place on earth

Strangling the choking urge
Permissive peasant's child royalty
the sweetest place on earth

Locked doors in ugly walls
Acrid fumes in yellow air
the sweetest place on earth

Babble interrupting public address
Noise interrupting noise over noise
the sweetest place on earth

Savoring the magic moments means
Retreating into fair fiction's leaves
in the sweetest place on earth

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Fricken Blues

(This took several days to thump out. Think i could have gone on writing this forever. For y'all's sake, i stopped;)

Oh, Jeremiah Fricken was a sad, sad chicken,
there was no one sadder than he.
He was bluer than the sky before a storm in July
He was lower than a worm's left knee.

No, no one could lament like old Jerry would vent
he was the king of melancholy.
There was just one hitch in this chicken's dark pitch
He had no cause for his malady.

He was married to a hen that was the envy of men
All over the vicinity.
Who thought she was no prize (but she was in his eyes;
Just cause she tried so hard to be.)

They had two fricks of their own, one big, one just half grown
they were proud of quite naturally
There were never two roosters ever more true, sir
Than ol' Jerry's fine, young pro-di-geny.

The Coop that they lived in wasn't that grand but then
It had spare room for company
So they shared it with a duck who was down on his luck
And his bevy of fair chick-a-dees.

Though his friends numbered few, in his heart Jerry knew
They were of a breed most trustworthy
And he could count on them all to come if he called
In blessing or adversity.

He worked hard for his money, gave it to his honey
And had enough for necessity
But what he could never find was a job that worked his mind
spirit and soul with vitality

All he does is survive, only one-eighth alive
dying incrementally
Trading in his health for a paltry sum of wealth
hoping someday to be free

Y'see Jeremiah Fricken is a praying chicken
to the God of Mystery
And he knows that he is loved by his Father up above
So he can wait for something he can't see.

But while Jerry waits for Him he's been growing kind of grim
patience ain't his speciality
and the tunnel he's going through has a light, that much is true
it's the gap before the next one he can see.

But he'll keep slogging on until this life is gone
With a heap of grace and charity
Then once he stops a kickin', Ole Jeremiah Fricken
Will find peace in eternity.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

i'll have what the gentleman on the floor is having.

i just read a couple of my posts from 2006. And you know what i realized? i haven't grown an inch. i am still complaining of the very same things that i was whining of then. And i'm willing to bet that if i could find some of the posts i wrote back when posts were sent to people instead of tacked up willy nilly on the easternet for any poor fly to get sucked into i would see that i have been runnin' this rut long enough for this to be considered a permanent condition.

And that's why i've decided to become a raging alcoholic. Y'see, i figure a downward spiral will at least be something different.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

preachin' to meself

Wrote this for a friend a while back. Found it today, kinda like my rock. Wonder if isn't what i need to hear right now.




Arise Ponderus!

Shake the dust from thy cloak.

Now is not time for sleeping.

Though the Sun set before the hours granted our grandfathers

And may not yet rise again

Till our children’s children be in their twilight.

Though the night may last our whole lives,

Let us keep to our watch

And never let it be said

That we were found shirking.

What news, brother?

What shivers thy shoulders,

And folds them towards the campfire?

Be it not tears moistening our eyes but dew preceding the dawn.

Let us not wail in the darkness

Like those who live without hope.

Though the night may last our whole lives,

Let us sing on our watch

And frighten the devils

That at our hems be lurking.

Look up, Ponderus!

Night spreads lies of isolation,

Yet can we see the stars.

We have not the eyes of the owl nor the ears of the bat

But let us share our lanterns

And hear again the truth of the Light.

Though the night may last our whole lives,

Let us shine on our watch

And be moons of our Son

From which all heat and light are drawn.

Well met, brother!

There are many camps

And a fire in the center of each.

Though the footsteps between them be many and the shadows deep

There is but one mission for us all

And only one East that we face.

Though the night may last our whole lives,

Pray we be the last watch

And until we bask in the Son,

Good night and God speed the dawn.

Raucus

Monday, May 31, 2010

i got a rock.

This is the story of a rock. Maybe two, if you count the one in my head. It begins with a prayer meeting. A prayer meeting with visual aids. There were stations around the room and one station was a bowl of assorted rocks. The rocks, a 3x5 card told us, represented God's faithfulness. God's faithfulness is rock solid, his promises secure. We were invited to pick a rock and meditate upon these thoughts. As i did the rock in my hand became warm. i liked the imagery. i liked the physical token.

Some time later. i came across a smooth little rock at a time when the reminder of God's faithfulness to His promises, His trust-worth was a welcome and much needed thought. i took the little stone, smooth and black, nothing spectacular in itself, and put it in my pocket.

There it stayed. One of the four things i always carry in that pocket. A lighter- one must always have the ability to make fire. See Cast Away. Chapstick- if you work outside you go through a lot of these or you have bloody lips. A multi-tool- the swiss army knife of my generation. And a rock, smooth and black. Possibly the most worthless weight i could carry but in some ways, my greatest treasure. Whenever things get tough or the pointlessness of life becomes crushing i put my hands in my pockets and there is a warm, solid little prompt. A prompt to see things differently. To rest on something, Somebody else. To remember the promises and the Promiser and that i have a faith in something beyond my own skills, devices and preparation. Which is a darn good thing. Cause i'm a'lacking. That little rock is getting smoother.

The Memorial day party at the Coop. Darkness falls and somebody starts giving all the kids glowsticks. My nieces run around "selling" them. One of the blonde haired, blue eyed Sirens comes up to me, "we'ah sellin' gyowsticks, want wun?"

"Sorry, honey, i don't have any money." i fish around in my pockets to prove the point since she's not old enough to know that married men don't carry cash. "All i have is a rock." i show her my rock. The rock which has reminded me of my Lord's faithfulness since before Christmas. She inspects it, approves it as currency and peels off a glowstick for me. Then she skips away. i'm left holding a glowing piece of man's cleverness which will fade before the night is over, longing for the lump of earth i gave up. Oh well, i think. It was only a symbol. i probably should have taken the opportunity to explain the significance of it to her. Maybe she even would have gotten it.

Today. A day of rest. i decide that the best way to recover and relax is too spend hours working on the idea of going fishing. We haven't used any of our tackle since Canada, two years ago. i go outside to collect, repair and refit, a task more suited to a team up of Indiana Jones and MacGuyver than a grumpy little fricken. After the perils of the Temple of the Tastykake toolshed/truck, the excavation through two years of rodent scat, i finally have all the gear. The broken down, next to useless gear. Perseverance being an angler's only virtue i press on. As i finish stringing the last rod in the driveway. The rough, gray, stone driveway. i happen to look down. Naw. i bend down and pick up a rock. It's warm in my hand from the sun. Smooth and black. i had to laugh. i think somebody is trying to explain something to me. i hope i get it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A gravedigger's thoughts.

We all deal with grief in our own way. Some care for the dying. Some weep. Some get angry and then try to figure out why they are angry. Others feel nothing but a need to do something. Something necessary for those who died and for those who grieve.

So we dig the grave. And realize that our sin caused this. And that it didn't just bring death to us; it brought it to the whole world. All of life was cursed because of us. Plants die. Animals die. The Gulf is dying. A pet dies. Because we rebelled, innocents now die too. And the guilty dig the graves.

But not forever. One innocent willingly died to pay for that curse. All life will someday be free of death. In fact, is free of the real penalties now if they are willing to accept that gift of a death in our place. i don't know how to understand death, how to deal with it, but i do know it's helpful to do it in the shadow of a cross.

RIP Tobasco.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Leader or loner?

How does one lead?

Sometimes i know what i want to do, but i don't have any compelling need to compel others to do it too. If you want to come, fine. If not. More for me. Sure, some experiences are better shared but only if those with whom it is shared want to be there. They come of their own free will. i also realize that in certain circumstances, certain folk need to be coerced into doing something good. i personally agonize over this. i don't like forcing people to do anything. i'd rather not have ye if ye don't wanna help. i've noticed a lot of other people don't seem to struggle with this. Many seem to have no problem telling me what to do or at least think they know better what i ought to be doing.

Looking at the big picture, i see there are some responsibilities i have to God, to my family and to my neighbor, but there really seems to be a lot of free ground in which to explore how best to do this. And what might work for me might not work for you or my neighbor. In fact, the discovery may just be part of the process. But i wouldn't throw a lot of what i do into the category of "redeeming creation for God." No. Most of it would have to go into the "keeping busy" file. i think that's what i'll print on the side of my trash can, "busy file." So how does one lead? How does one know that what one is heading for is so noble or true that others need to feel compelled to follow?

How does God lead? God took two perfect people. Put them in a perfect garden. Loved them perfectly and then .... gave them the choice to follow Him or follow their own path. Why? He could have left out the temptation. He could have locked out Lucifer. He chose not to. He chose to give us choices. God doesn't destroy the evil in the world until all we have to choose from are salad and bran muffins, Pat Boone and Sandy Patty, church and children's playgrounds with none of the really fun, injurious machines on them. He allows, tolerates all the wrong paths and just inserts one little, winding, slightly overgrown path and calls it good. Why?

Because that's the path that leads to Him... and He really want's us to choose it ourselves.

Dunno if i answered my question, but i know where i want to go now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hangin's too good for 'em.


The theme of the day seemed to be justice.

My partner doesn't believe in rehabilitation. He's an eye for an eye kind of guy. i think if he had his way, any violent crime (and quite a few less than violent ones) would be punishable by death. Preferably to be carried out by the arresting officer right after slapping on the handcuffs. He spent a good portion of the ride home today yelling at the radio. Well, more the ex-con on the radio who committed manslaughter (shot three of his hostages during a hold up and one of them died) as a teenager, went to one of the worst jails in the country for forty-four years and completely rebuilt his life there. The man's free now, apparently a model citizen and that seemed to really bother my partner. He didn't feel that justice had been done. The man hadn't been punished enough. And that made me wonder? Why do we have jails? Can anyone be rehabilitated? How much is punished enough? How can we forgive?

Earlier in the day, i heard an interview with a man who had been sexually abused by a priest as an altar boy. He described how it would even take place in the chapel, at the altar. It was very vivid and for a moment, i was not driving in a truck going to work. i was held down, before the altar of God with all the sacraments and sacred imagery before me, being violated and i thought, what kind of monster? How does a child go on after this? That man took so much from him and then left him to find his way in life with the very thing that should anchor his soul tied to the very act that rent it to pieces. What kind of justice is there for that boy? What kind of punishment should there be for that man? i can't bring myself to call him a priest.

And then i knew. String him up, Wrath said. No, hangin's too good for him. Too quick. Beat him first. Beat him until their ain't a square patch of skin on him that don't look like hamburger. Beat him till his own momma don't recognize him. Flay him alive, truss him up and then drag him through the streets so everyone can spit on him and kick him and call him every vile name in the book. Drag him out to the highest hill, then nail him to a board and crank him up where all can see. And hang him in such a way that his lungs fill up with fluid and he drowns in his own spit and every last moment of his miserable, wretched life is pure, fiery agony! That's what his sin deserves!

Course, that's what all sin deserves. And that's just what all sin got. Once. And for all.

Why do we have jails? Can anyone be rehabilitated? How much is punished enough? How can we forgive? i don't think any society will ever be able to answer those questions unless they start from the foot of the cross.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Away message



On safari, hunting down the elusive Timetowrite. Be back soon.

Pappy Fricken

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Witnesses

The children of God gathered in a musty, decaying hall but the lights were too low to see. Shadow hid what was undesirable and flashes of color sparkled in whirling, unceasing motion that made focus impossible. Conversation and communion were given up as the thumping music drowned out all but the shouted exchange. Alcohol dulled pain, lowered inhibitions and substituted for brotherhood. The creatures designed for glory chose to hide in darkness and noise and drunken revelry. The bride of Christ gave up her husband for a grope and bad dancing.

It’s their right to choose. A right they’ve been given. It just made the witness sad. So he wandered out into the night where the moon seemed bright in comparison and bird and frog spoke in more reverent tones. Away, away from the revelers, away from the noise, from the shouting, from the over-stimulation, from the false camaraderie, away from the bad dancing, he found a refuge beneath a great and ancient oak. Leaning back he gazed up at its proud height and strong, still branches and in its quiet way, it seemed to him that the tree was a wise old witness too. Here was a living thing that though without thought or self-awareness, fully knew its Creator, what He expected of it and its place in creation. That a tree could, in the very act of being what it was meant to be, shame those of us in rebellion.

Two thousand years ago, witnesses threw their clothing and branches before their King, their Creator, their Husband and shouted and sang his praises while they danced for joy in broad daylight even though they didn’t understand his Kingdom and that, in just a few days, he would soon hang on a tree for them. The grumps of their day told Jesus to make them stop their unseemly display. He told the grumps that if the revelers stopped, then the very stones would cry out. Creation was so intoxicated with the Holy Spirit that even stone witnesses would cry out. I wonder how often creation looks at us and just wants to cry?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

first things first


i got up to write at a quarter to four
but it turns out i had nothing to say
so i bowed my head and took it to God
and it turns out i had plenty to pray.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Something i lack the talent to say...


From his lofty perch
in his tower of bone
He thinks he wields
power alone.
All that he sees
and all that he hears
is tested and weighed
against the wisdom of years.
His scales are just.
His vision is pure.
His library vast.
His verdict is sure.
Cold knowledge his counselor,
decisions of steel,
based on what's firm,
proven and real.

But alas, his nose tickles
with the scent of perfume;
A warm, rare aroma
rising up from her room.
A ballad of destiny
with a drumbeat for dance
of risking it all
on a sliver of chance.
Passion blind, she knows
only what she can feel.
Feathery touch, silken skin
quickly bruised, slow to heal.
She keeps the fire.
She feeds the fuel.
Hers is the longshot,
the feud and the duel.

Who rules the kingdom
will it be fire or steel?
What he can know
or what she can feel?