Monday, September 24, 2007

gray

I went to bed last night looking forward to my time with some beach front caffeine. I even woke up this morning, early like a typical day, looking forward to my, shot in the dark, beginning to another week in the pastoral arts realm. For those of you who have not been cultured in the art of coffee, a shot in the dark for me is a grande (that’s graand – A) brewed straight coffee with a shot of espresso (not expresso). My life centers around it now pretty much and my 10 days back on the East coast drove home the reality that I can no longer consider living anyplace that I would have to go more than two blocks for a fix.
Really, I don’t know how the rest of civilization deals with a Maxwell House kind of life.
Anyway, before being sidetracked, as I was saying, or typing, I was looking forward to the day. Almost imperceptibly though, a change began to come over me on the way down to my Monday retreat. It’s almost as if the grayness of the morning sky seeped into my very being.
It is gray this morning. It’s probably a redundant statement considering I’m writing in Seattle. I like to think of it as the land of the concrete sky. Almost as if on cue, as the calendar changed to the first days of Fall, the grayness has begun its relentless march onto our landscape. Now, I want you to notice that I said nothing about rain. All the rumors of the rain in Seattle are pretty much left over desperate whinings of the natives trying desperately to keep the interlopers from southern California from settling here.
You want rain? Try Syracuse. You want gray? That’s what we’re here for. Gray doesn’t mean anything but gray here. It may rain, probably not. In Syracuse, gray means rain, sun means rain, a rogue wandering cotton like cloud means rain. This place is the Sahara compared to my east coast hometown.
This gray is different though. It’s not just the color of the water. It’s not just the marine layer, aka fog, aka overcast, whatever. It’s a point where, imperceptibly, a switch is turned and your soul downshifts, like a truck entering a mountain pass. My headphones become more melancholy, people seem more intrusive, and isolation more appealing. It’s as if a more intense level of quiet and self absorption will reveal an inner voice of comfort, offering answers to great mysteries of the universe and my own personal being. Fortunately for me, in the midst of the gray, almost according to some cosmic stage direction from “The Truman Show”, color happens. A tug boat passes.
It’s not much and you might not quite understand, but the brilliant red of the tug against the backdrop of dull reminds me of a greater truth. This day has purpose in and of itself, regardless of the surroundings. I can be color against the gray. Hope gets to stand in contrast to despair. The Master painter has a greater variety on his palette than I can even comprehend. It’s held out to me, on a Monday of all days, to choose from as I will. I’m not sure of the choice yet, but I can tell you that I will resist the gray.

Monday, September 17, 2007

roles

Joanne and I went on a date last night. After a week of playing many different roles, we were overdue for playing our most important one, that of a married couple still madly in love after 23 years. So when balance is needed we often find a way to get back into one of our favorite Seattle neighborhoods. We were taking in a movie and dinner at her favorite place. The movie, “Becoming Jane” was actually a good investment for us, despite being a fairly obvious female attraction. Anyway, as the credits scrolled at the end of the film, one particular role stood out very near the end of the cast of characters. It was simply listed as “Wine Whore”. The reaction from those of us lazy enough to still be sitting around near the end of the credits was immediate. “Wine Whore”? That’s just funny. As my wife shared, “just imagine telling grandma…Hey I’m the wine whore”. How does one prepare for that part?
As humorous as it was at the time, I guess you had to be there, I’m still contemplating that this morning as I sit here in my seat of caffeinated inspiration. I wonder if that is going to be her big break. I imagine her putting that proudly on her resume. It sure beats “extra” and probably pays a bit more. Will she be type cast in that role from now on? What kind of future is there for her in future films? Did I already see her in any of the “Pirates” films? What would the film have been like without a “wine whore”? It’s a role. It’s a legitimate one to be sure, but hopefully not one that is worn for life.
If one subscribes to the notion of life as art, then a parallel starts to come into focus. I have to then consider the roles that I have played or maybe am still playing. The greater question for me then becomes, when the cosmic game of “Scene it” is played out in the end of time, and the category is “Identify the actor” what will my scroll down resume of credits look like? And maybe more importantly, which role will I be most easily identified with?
I have played many, although I’ll have to confess, never the “wine whore”. I have been or currently am still playing roles such as son, brother, husband, dad, pizza delivery guy, youth pastor, computer tech, pastoral artist, friend, and far too many extras. Some of my roles have changed over time. Some have been refined, some need to be. Some are those that I’m not proud of and would not want to be type cast in. Some I would see as golden statue worthy. To a conscious movie critic, there are some roles that seem to be created for certain actors. These are the ones that get paraded each year on the red carpets. I wonder what mine would be.
A role has certainly been created for me and me for a role. Of this I am sure. Even without my level of faith in the Creator, I cannot deny the evidence of witnessing a fellow actor that is so well suited for a role that even golden statues cannot reward it. Golden streets are more likely. It’s not coincidence. It’s not accident. It is a role written by the Writer himself, with a particular actor in mind and the performance of a lifetime is the result. It’s a beautiful thing to witness. It’s certainly more inspiring than “wine whore”.

Monday, September 10, 2007

dawn

They say that it’s darker just before the dawn. I wouldn’t know. It’s not that I don’t get up early. I really do, but contrary to the popular belief of those who know me, it is not before dawn. My creator has graciously wired me to come on line just as the dawn has broken. Ok, so once in awhile he’s wired my alarm to go off then, the result is still the same. I’m up and witness to the unveiling of each new day. For the past several mornings, really since the return from my east coast vacation, my eyes have opened, as if on cue, 10 minutes before the alarm sounded. I enjoy this. In my limited and somewhat demented state I feel that this indicates that I have achieved some sort of balance. I call it life without alarm.
So I’m up early today, earlier than most, and anticipating all that He has in store for me. I’ve already seen some of it. The sky is progressing from that chalk- like gray blue, with a sliver of light outlining the skyline. Now, as the ferries glide across the bay like beacons, I can see the mountains rising behind the city and across the sound. They’re very much background ghosts at the moment, kind of like an artist who has stepped back into the shadows to witness the admiration of his work. The only shortcoming within this plan is that very few actually get to admire this repeating act of creation.
When I arrived at my beachfront caffeine supplier this morning, I was quite alone, except for the two who have graciously accepted the task of arriving here before me to make sure that my drink would be available on my schedule. So I get the amazing gift of sitting by the window, fresh with a morning gift deposited by a seagull, and watch this amazing display that pours forth every day. To be fair, there are a few hearty souls who chose to inhabit this part of the day with me.
Some have chosen this time of day. There’s the woman who is strolling by in rapid step, certainly on a mission directed by her cardiologist. The only thing tighter than the laces on her shoes seems to be the curls in her perm. It’s kind of impressive really. There are the seniors who are now just arriving. Did I say it was quiet here? Well it was, emphasis on was. In fact I was trying to do the morning without headphones, just a piped in jazz kind of thing to sooth my soul at the beginning of the week. But here they all come, so I guess it’s now headphones and Dave Matthews for me. Whatever.
Some have not chosen this time of day, but have had it chosen for them. There’s the walking dead, tethered to some very over anxious canine companions, being towed from bush to hydrant to bush to other bushes. There are those who have the misfortune to have real jobs with real schedules and real bosses that hold them to real deadlines. These poor unfortunate souls stand dutifully at the bus stop, looking quite like travelers in C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” waiting for transport to the great beyond. For them, it’s simply downtown, but I can see how you could confuse the two.
I myself choose this time of day because it is valuable to me. It brings me hope. No matter the day previous, I get to live in this one and I wait anxiously each day for it to be unveiled to me. It gives me more time. I have always gotten up early for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine life any other way. Even with more hours actually lived than the average American, time has still gone by way too fast. This past week I celebrated a birthday. It was one of those double same digit birthdays that are only exciting until you reach a certain decade. This one was manageable, but it did remind me, as I was blessed to spend the weekend with my now adult children, that my dawns are becoming somewhat more limited. I remember dawns interrupted by little feet padding across the floor. I remember dawns shortened by school day drives and discussions about homework and baseball and lunch time choices. Those are past regardless of how early I rose. I can’t imagine what it would be like if my waking hours had been shortened.
So now I continue to enjoy my show in a much different venue, in a different environment, on another coast. The show is always different, but the promise remains the same. It’s a new chance to make new marks and impact new lives. The creator of the show still calls, “take it while you have it”. It’s easy to hear the call this time of day, in the stillness. That is until my new morning interruptions arrive. I don’t know about the whole darkness and dawn thing, but I can tell you that it’s always quietest before the seniors.

Monday, September 03, 2007

highlighter

I am a reader. From the early days of elementary school when my mom would take me to the great mysterious library until now I have read everything that I can get my hands on. To be fair, I know plenty of people who read more than me, some of them walking through life literally with a book in their hand. But I do read more than the average Joe or Jane.
It’s not just that I read frequently, I just read everything. I read labels, packaging on toilet paper, and every magazine that ever found its way into a waiting room . I've read about hair, health, and homes more times than is probably healthy. I’m always searching for that illustrious bit of trivia that only I would care about. And I do know truckloads of useless trivia, enough to keep my wife campaigning for me to park my butt on a game show. I’m not really tempted though. In all of if I’m still not sure that I’d be smarter than a fifth grader.
A thought ran through my brain last night about my reading patterns. Yesterday was the day that we were able to connect with our history as a family during a outdoor picnic event for us to be able to introduce my daughter in law to our east coast connection. Friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen since moving west 7 years ago all came by to hang out for awhile. As I shared with some very special connections, both family and friends, it was like picking up and old favorite again to go back through its familiar chapters.
I said I read a lot, but I didn’t say that I was good at it yet. When one reads, especially for information sake, it is a good idea, and actually common sense, to have a highlighter with you as you delve into the pages searching for treasure. A highlighter vividly marks the special place and calls out, “Remember me! I’m that thought you were looking for”. It’s a way to mark your past and to identify that which is most important in your experience with the wisdom in the words. You could at least take notes or something. I seldom do either. As a result, I frequently find myself with bits of information in my brain and not the reference point to go back to. It’s not until I stumble upon the book again, sometimes years later, and recover the lost pages, that I am reivigorated by the truth contained within.
As I said, yesterday was like finding an old favorite and thumbing through the pages. Some of it was as a third person spectator, watching others reconnect who have not connected since the last time that our relationships connected them. Just like my old books, everyone was a bit more worn from time. Some have certainly advanced and the meaning of their relationships enhanced by our experience through the years. Some things have certainly changed, but the treasure was familiar and most certainly there as the pages were turned back.
I find myself at a place in life just as I find my relationship with a favorite book. I hesitate when I read it again. As the pages open and I rediscover the treasure inside that has been hidden by the years, I want to stop and linger. I am tempted to keep reading it over and over. But there are new books calling me. Barnes and Noble have both stayed open late for me to peruse their aisles and experiences. So I tuck the book back on its shelf and anticipate the next time that I’ll get to pull it back out and wander through its pages. In the mean time, a new book is just waiting for me to wade into its introduction. Hopefully this time, I’ll bring the highlighter.