Thursday, February 26, 2009

yesterday

It’s so interesting to me, if you live life slow enough to pay attention to it, that you can wake up one morning in one part of the country and then literally wake up the next morning in an entirely different experience. I’m back in Seattle, by the beach….again, in the snow….again, with a cold dark fireplace….again, when only yesterday morning I was waking up in a Portland hotel ready to wade through one more day of grad school. A few hours on the road, a few stops to catch up with friends, a few hours of sleep, and just like that I’m waking up to snow. I’ll have to admit that I’m not too disappointed because my pessimistic self thought that we’d not experience snow again this season since buying my SUV last month.
It wasn’t enough snow to deal with 4 wheel drive this morning, but I sure felt the confidence that I could have had I wanted to. So here I am, the sun is out on the mountains and the waves are high and crashing over the bulkhead. It has that really cold, if I fell in I would die instantly, look. You know how sometimes the sea looks warm and inviting, especially in the heat of August. Today is not one of those days. The sea today looks cold, like Bering Sea, “Deadliest Catch” kind of cold. I’m trying to assemble my thoughts from the past several days in anticipation of the task of “shoe-horning” my way back into the life I left behind since last week.
In these past several days I was privileged to share life with some friends from all over the country on the same journey towards a Masters Degree. I wandered through a prayer labyrinth in the sunny hills west of Portland. I briefly joined a band of artists and art students during the 10 day process of firing an anagama kiln in the early morning countryside. I met a new friend in a homeless gentleman named Billy living on the streets of downtown and we were able to share our stories with each other. I pray that he found warmth last night as the snow came down while I slept in flannel sheets.
Now here it is, one day after, and I’m back again, like falling back through the doors of the wardrobe after spending a lifetime in Narnia. Things appear the same, as if time hasn’t advanced since I’ve been gone. But according to the mail that was wedged in my mailbox and the crap piled up in my office, life did indeed continue as usual, with or without me. It makes me wonder how much of life we do all get to impact. Life continues after we leave, no matter where we’ve been. That could be a sobering idea I suppose, except for the realization that we get to make a difference wherever we happen to find ourselves. If anything has changed, even a bit for me, it might be that I’m gaining a better backwards perspective. I’ve always been a, forget yesterday, while looking beyond today, always seeking tomorrow, type of person. I’m thinking that I’m beginning to prefer myself to be a, concentrate on today, while learning from yesterday, not worrying about tomorrow kind of person.
I’ve read that somewhere in the “Book of Books” and Billy reminded me of it on the streets of Portland. He’s a widower with 72 years behind him, not sure of how many are ahead, but not really all that concerned. For him, he’ll spend the day with his memories and working towards his next meal or cup of coffee. That’s as far as he goes. He’s not concerned with Wall Street or Main Street, just his street. I makes me wonder, which of us is better off. Yesterday and today are all he is guaranteed and somewhere along the way, we all need to be reminded of that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

blink

A new week has managed to manifest itself right on schedule. It seems as if I’m still in the last one. In fact, it seems as if I just blinked and 5 years has gone by. I’m heading today for round two of my grad school marathon week of classes. I’d swear that I just left round one, but according to the calendar that was over three months ago. It is startling how fast time flies when you hadn’t really decided if you’re having fun or not. Maybe it’s the over the hill thing manifesting itself in my life. I hadn’t realized that I was over the hill. Thing used to go slower, or so it seemed, like steadily climbing uphill. In my headphones this morning Bob Dylan is singing to me about being “Like a Rolling Stone” and according to every bit of physics that I’m aware of, they pick up speed on the down side.
It all happened in a few blinks. I blinked and my kids were not babies any longer. I blinked and I was living in the Midwest. I blinked and I was back in Syracuse. I blinked and then I was in Seattle. I blinked and my kids were graduating. I blinked and I have a daughter in law. I blinked and I’m taking my daughter to college. According to my facebook page, many of my relationships didn’t make the journey with me. According to the pee on my hardwood floors this morning, my geriatric cat is still tagging along. I know that one of these blinks and she’ll be gone as well, so I’ll put up her senility for as long as we have her.
I’m almost reluctant to sleep any more; afraid that I might miss something while my eyes are closed. This might explain why I hardly take the time for a nap any longer. Its sobering to realize how fleeting life is and how little time you have to make a difference. In the Book of Books, there is a part written by James that describes life as a mere vapor, or something like a mist. I’m well acquainted with that picture living around here. His point is simply this; why do you spend so much time and effort worry, planning, scheming, and even dreaming about tomorrow when there is so much of life to be lived today? You can be so fixed on the future that you miss the present and forget the lessons and richness of the past. It’s all lost in a blink.
For a planner and schemer and dreamer like me, it’s a clear message. I can’t stop the inevitable rolling down the hill. I can, however, slow it down enough to enjoy most every turn of my stone. When I think back to the days of my purposeful rolling down grassy hillsides, I remember that those slow rolls were fairly enjoyable and relaxing. It was the speeding, out of control ones that left me disoriented and wanting to puke at the bottom. I’m trying to relax. I’ll find time to nap again. I’ll not be so worried about another blink.

Monday, February 09, 2009

shimmer

So who said that I’ll never see any more snow once I bought my 4x4? It didn’t take long. Waking up this morning to the little bit of crippling white dusting that unexpectedly came overnight, I said a prayer for those in parts of the country with real weather struggles this morning. After all, I’m still down at the beach, the coffee is hot and wonder of wonders, so is the fireplace. Maybe that body wash I used this morning really does make a difference.
It, and by “it” I mean the body wash, is supposed to make a difference in my life. It is supposed to add shimmer, whatever that means. A friend this past weekend said that she noticed a new glow about me. I think she’s full of crap, she just had some insider information from my wife regarding our personal toiletries. ( I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence) Anyway, I’m never at a loss for amazement when it comes to advertising claims. If I’m ever at a point in life where I need the advertisers to shore up my self esteem or to create a better self image, then I’ll know that I’ve been swallowed by the dark side.
Of course I’m really not one to talk I guess. I’m sitting in here at Starbucks nursing some fairly good but undoubtedly overpriced coffee. I’m sure at this point in my life, the coffee snob in me would never allow me back into “Flo’s Diner, home of the ten cent cup”. I’m sure that there are some things that are beneath me. After all, I have shimmer.
I’m fortunate to be in this point of life. If ever I were to really forget the lure of “the next greatest fix”, I am quickly brought back to earth by the people I get to interact with all of the time. Mostly the less experienced, which is a kinder gentler way of saying younger, remind me of the constant fascination with shimmer. I can still remember the lure of “The Midway” at the New York State Fair, when I was a kid. It was mostly the games that promised incredible, status building, prizes that could never be won. Everyone knew they were rigged, but that all you had to do was figure it out….like the WWF. Then if you did spend enough to “figure it out” and won the 8 foot gorilla, you discover that you had actually paid enough to take an African safari. It is a great system, built on the American dream. Everyone wins….except me. “I got a rock.” No matter how many times I lost my kid savings, the shimmer always called me back, like the ticket guy at the bearded lady’s tent. As my own children grew up on the Midway, I was finally able to see the shimmer for what it really was…quicksand. It still lured them though as it had me, so we set limits, allowed them to be fleeced for every quarter they had, have a little fun in the midst of it, but over time, the shimmer left for them as well.
I’ve realized that it is only experience that dulls the lure of shimmer. I can influence others who are less experienced than I, not because I am “above the lure”, but because I have experienced it and that experience has worn the shimmer like 60 grit sand paper. Some aren’t as appealing as they once were. Some still have the slightest hint of attraction. I now have more empathy, pretty hard to believe but it’s true. I understand more the more the experience wears on my own items with shimmer. I once heard someone say to a group of students, “Don’t demand the right to make your own mistakes”. I thought that to be true at the time….not so much anymore. I wish it were different for people. I wish they didn’t have to go through the fire of their own mistakes, but I remember my own and realize that it is only through living with their own that the shimmer will fade. After all, it’s only 9am and mine has faded already.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

crossroads

I’m in another crossroads kind of setting this morning. You know the kind….dusty flat fields that you can see for miles around, somewhere in the Midwest undoubtedly, four way intersection of 2 country roads, no sign markings and no one around to ask for directions….like I would anyways. Let me clarify….it’s not like its 7 am Tuesday morning February 3rd, 2009 and I have to turn right, left, or go straight. It’s taken me awhile to get here and there’s no hurry to leave this intersection…it’s just that eventually I will have to leave. I’ll have to step one way or the other. I have thoughts and dreams as to which way I’ll go, so it’s not without any idea, but just as it is with many of these crossroads, they may all look the same, but they are far from it. I don’t have experience with this one. Like Gandalf in the mines of Moria, “I have no memory of this place”.
In case you’ve never been at a crossroads, let me tell you that you don’t just wander up to it. You get there in the midst of a whole variety of life circumstances all converging at one point. All of a sudden the dust clears….and there you are. This is where the dust begins to settle for me and I can make out the crossroads. I’m here at the beach, sun is shining, coffee is hot, fireplace is not, typing my very first official document on a brand new, beast of a laptop. I just passed 200 posts and have turned that corner, wondering if it should continue this typing therapy that I engage in every week. I’m grinding out a graduate degree, my wife has gone through somewhat of a career change and is now the hottest barista at our favorite coffee place (no it’s not Starbucks), son is married, daughter in college, senile old cat is on her ninth life. Things have become simpler and far more complex all at the same time. Even my community o’ faith has celebrated a milestone this past week when we opened our new building. All of the swirl of the past several months has begun to settle around my feet….and there through the drifting dust a crossroads appears.
Which way to go? The thing about life is that as long as you have it, there is so much of it to live. Don’t get this confused. It’s not that I need a change. God knows that I’ve had plenty of that for one life time and I’m sure plenty more regardless of choices. I just don’t want to miss anything… so the best thing to do when you get to this place is to sit for awhile. There are many things that I don’t know, because I’ve never been at this particular crossroad before, but I’ve been at enough of them to know that, eventually, if you wait, God will show up, and the path that is set for you will be revealed. If you’re fortunate, it’ll be like lights along a runway. But it might only be an arrow drawn in the dust. Either way, that’s the time to get up and begin walking again.
It’s like this beagle sitting outside my window right now. It’s not his idea of a good time to be hanging around outside a coffee shop waiting…but wait he must. I can see on his face a sort of beagely confidence. He knows that his owner will come. At some point they’ll be off again together, with new hydrants to explore and new butts to sniff. My wait, by comparison, doesn’t seem so bad. Eventually the crossroad becomes just another road and I’ll be off again. Towards 300…maybe? I’m not sure. I guess I’ll know when I get there.