Monday, June 29, 2009

stroller

On the beach one more week….my chair was calling me. So here I am with the chair, the sun, the mountains across the water and perfect families pushing their children in baby SUV’s . I wonder if kids who spend their early years being pushed in these huge contraptions will be predisposed to driving Escalades when they are older? Whatever happened to the umbrella stroller? I don’t see those much anymore in the land of excess.
Not many people are staying in here this morning, they’re on the run it seems, even more than usual. They’re running to their busses, running with their dogs, running behind their baby coaches, clinging to handbrakes. It would seem to me that any transporter of cute helpless little humans that is in need of a handbrake just needs to slow down. What are we teaching our kids anyway, that life is always about running? You’d never see anyone running behind an umbrella stroller. One bump and those things fold up like an accordion.
I remember, one thing that made my childhood so rich in experience was the time that I got to spend seeing the sights as I passed through life. It might have been long walks or long drives, but regardless, I was able to sit back, relax, and observe. I see families travelling now, and it seems as if every kid has an ipod fused to their heads and their own video screen. Whatever happened to “ I spy …….” And the concept of travelling games? I’ll tell you what happened…. Baby SUV’s and the parents who run behind them. Walks for these little ones are not for experience any longer. They are for endurance. Walks used to be social events as the little riders would see other little riders and be able to have their cute little rider conversations. They could laugh and point and grunt at each other. Now they are flying by each other so fast, it’s about as effective as yelling your order at a” drive –through” kiosk at 60 mph. No one is recognizable as everyone is a blur….but hey, at least mom and dad are fit in their multi-tasked kind of lives.
I remember some wisdom that came from the lips of my principal when I was in elementary school. He was a Richard Nixon type of figure, which was fitting because it was in the 70’s. Anyway….when any of us were busted for the terrible infraction of running in the halls, he would yell “Hey…take life easy!” He’s no longer principal and that wisdom would no longer be welcome in the training of our next exhausted generation. They’re being taught at an early age, that if you’re not running, you’ll be run down. As Ricky Bobby claimed, “if you’re not first, you’re last”.
It’s no wonder so many of us have dumped our spirituality somewhere along the journey. We’re running so fast that even God can’t keep up. I’m recovering this week from some excessively fast running of late, but I will tell you that the only reason I have something to recover is that even in the midst of this latest round, I remembered the words of my principal many years ago and I took some time to “take life easy”. I still stopped along the way for a bit of the experience. For all of you stroller parents, my prayer is that you’ll never be pushing fast enough to need the brake.

Monday, June 22, 2009

chair

This morning I’ve changed up my routine. My daughter needed a vehicle more than I needed to go to the beach. Don’t weep for me because, as this is Seattle, all I had to do was walk out my door and I’m in another purveyor of caffeine. This morning, I’m not just in some old substitute. I am in the one and only Hotwire Online Coffee drinking my favorite caramel latte highlighted with cinnamon. I also have opportunity to actually eat an amazing breakfast concoction from by favorite baking establishment, Companion Baking Co. The bakeress is none other than my own gorgeous wife, and yes I have to buy the stuff once in awhile like any other neighborhood consumer. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The only thing I’m missing is my favorite chair and the crowd of the retirement group that has been following me around for the 3 years that I’ve been writing this blog. I doubt they’ll find me here and even if they did, there’s no room to congregate. Starbucks was good for the view but the community was certainly lacking….everyone in a hurry, running for a bus, running after their baby stroller SUV’s or like Forrest, just running and running, and…. whatever. This place is a virtual “Cheers” among coffee places. You know the kind, sometimes you wanna go “where everybody knows your name”. And here’s cool concept….there is free WiFi. In my opinion, charging for WiFi is not much better than charging for air to breathe…I mean really. I don’t even have to play Pandora on my laptop if I don’t want to because they’ve already got it on. So why do drive my gas guzzling, smog producing, global warming, Ford Explorer past all of the hundreds of other coffee shops including a number of other Starbucks here in the greenest city on earth, when I could just walk across the alley to my favorite? It’s the chair. I love the chair.
You wouldn’t have any idea if you saw it. It’s a pretty non-descript piece of furniture amongst a bunch of other pieces of nondescript furniture. It’s a sort of suede like fabric and the best thing about it is that if I drop some of my pastry of choice in it this week, I know that it’ll still be there for me next week. I’m not commenting on their cleaning ability there, I’m just sayin….. Anyway, the point is, it’s a friend. I can be myself there. I’m comfortable there. I can sleep there. I can pray there. Sometimes I sleep while I’m praying and sometimes I pray while I’m sleeping there. Most of these posts have originated there and If I miss weeks with this online journey, most often it’s because I can’t get there.
But life goes on whether I want it to or not, and changes come and eventually, it won’t be there for me. So I best begin to consider that reality now. This morning I get to step off for a minute and consider alternatives and prepare for the inevitable day when I walk in and discover “remodel” has happened. You may think I’m ridiculous and indeed I can be, but this off center type of exercise actually helps me cope to the idea that everything goes on whether I like it or not. I can enjoy the experience of the moments, but then I have to let them go as memories because reality changes every day and there are more moments to experience. There are even more chairs to sit in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

dandelions

And so begins day 29 with no rain here in Seattle. If we make it through the day, we’ll set an all time record for this time of year and possibly severely damage our reputation as a rainy, gloomy, fleece and umbrella haven. And yet, Al Roker continues to talk about “clouds and showers in the Pacific Northwest”. I wonder if he’s ever been here? My lawn would whole heartedly disagree with his observations.
All of this sun has come at a price. The emerald city has become a bit more brown….at least on my block. My own water bill has become an investment as I try to keep some green in my back yard. This has become my own version of an automobile bailout….investing way too much and way too late. My back lawn has become a parable of sorts for me. It is a living example that no matter how much the investment, if the foundation is suspect, then you’re simply peeing in the wind. If you’re a guy, you get the analogy.
A few years ago, some very well intentioned people made the investment of time and money to lay down sod in about one half of my back yard. I’ll have to admit that, at first, I was a bit bothered that the whole back yard didn’t receive the same treatment. The first summer it was down, it was like a thick green carpet. It was pretty amazing, but it was also a glaring reminder of how pitiful the rest of the yard had become. I secretly began to resent that old growth crap and berate it for becoming such a poor excuse of a lawn. I would sit on my newly finished deck and dream of the day that I could dig up all of the old stuff and replace it with this new rolled up wonder grass. Throughout all of my verbal abuse and disdain, the old stuff quietly took it and patiently waited beside the” new kid in town”.
The change came subtly. It began as a lone dandelion last Spring. Before I knew it, by the end of July it was crumbling into a dusty mixture of concrete like dust and plastic mesh screen with clumps of green scattered about. Now all of you “green thumbs” can save your breath. I have done everything that could be done to maintain and now revive this piece of real estate. Did you…….? Yes I did thank you. What about…….? Tried that. You should…… been there, got the t-shirt. Don’t send me advice, I’ve got the encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and google, all in my court. Anyway, this lawn has cost a fortune and my thought is why should it continue to cost a fortune just to do what it was supposed to do in the first place….grow. Guess what part of my lawn hasn’t cost a dime? Guess what part of my lawn is still green even with a month of Spring that had no rain. Oh yeah, that would be the old original stuff.
People are like lawns I suppose. How many have I seen in my role as pastoral artist that are trying to hide their crumbling base beneath the veneer of whatever looks good at the time? How many, if they had to endure extended times of stress, would be able to hold up under the pressure? How many are looking at their neighbors, grateful that they don’t have the same dandelions growing within their thick lush coats? How many eventually find out that dandelions may not be the most desirable, but hey, at least they’re green?

Monday, June 08, 2009

stadium

Some days are more “Monday-ier” than others. I know that I’ve shared this sentiment before, but today it has come to pass once again. Arriving down here at the beach quite a bit later than usual, the first sign should have been the lack of parking. It’s a gorgeous day, to be sure, but it’s easier to enjoy when I can park. The other sign was the “retired bunch” beating feet to get their caffeine before I could get to the door. Apparently it was important this morning for the eight of them to get ahead of the one of me. Whatever…. it was enjoyable to have contributed to their unplanned morning jog. It didn’t matter to me, even though I’m the one on my way to a JOB! But the sun is out and the only thing bitter here is the coffee. At least I have my chair, and my headphones, and my live DVD of “The Boss”.
Not really having any idea where I was going to go with this today, I decided to enjoy the concert footage for a bit. It’s very therapeutic . It inspires me that guys who are even older than I am can put as much passion into something they’ve done thousands of times before. Each song is performed like it was their last, and at their age, let’s be honest, it might be. I guess that is what makes them great, legendary even. You might not agree or even appreciate my music tastes, but when a group as old as the “E-Street Band” is still together and packing stadiums instead of headlining the “Piggly Wiggly” tour, you really have no argument against them. These guys have a relentless passion that drives them to play each song like’s it’s their last. It kind of makes an encore anticlimactic.
I wonder what my life would be like if I attacked it with the same relentless passion. I wonder what Sunday’s would be like if I thought every sermon might be my last? Some people who listen to me week after week might secretly wish for that. I wonder what my faith would look like if I saw every moment to make a difference as my last. I’m learning more every day that life was meant to be participatory. It’s like the difference between white water rafting and a log flume. You get wet either way, but with one it happens not matter what you do, and the other is proportionately determined by what you do…or don’t do. This morning, I just went along for the ride. I was on autopilot and waded through what was less than an ideal beach experience because it was brainless. If I’m honest, there were so many variables that I could have invested in to wring out every bit of experience that was mine for the taking. I could have gone, dare I say it,….somewhere else. After all, I’m not here for the coffee, or the company. I’m really here for this stupid chair. This is Seattle, I passed 332 coffee shops in the 5 minute drive to get here. I bet some of them even had chairs. Routine is like “the Ring” for me, I both love and hate it.
I have a choice as I leave here this morning. I can take the raft or the flume. I’m going to get wet either way, so it might as well be by my own doing. These old people might have beat me in here, but I’m going to beat them out. I have a date with the stadium. They can have the Piggly Wiggly.

Monday, June 01, 2009

bearings

So yesterday afternoon, after what has seemed like years, I finally began to feel like I was getting my bearings. You know what that it is….it’s your internal balance and sense that all is right with the world. It’s been a long haul in the weeks since our house was broken into. I’m not sure if that was the start or not, but at least that is as far back as I can remember at this point. I haven’t felt at all like life was much of anything that is familiar to me. I haven’t been to the beach much, which is never a good sign, and even when I did come I wasn’t interested in writing anything. We even threw in a weeks vacation that was wonderful but really probably only served to keep me from going completely over the edge. Anyway…..back to yesterday afternoon… I was feeling level again. Last night we relaxed out on the deck with the urban version of a campfire, a chimnea. I even had to buy the bundle of wood from Safeway. I did bring it home and split it so I keep a bit of my masculine, outdoors, dignity. We are in the midst of the kind of weather that keeps me in Seattle during the Summer months…sunny and 70’s.
That was yesterday. Seems like a long time ago. I woke up this morning at 5am because of the birds who have established their own version of urban renewal in the rain gutter outside of our bedroom window. No problem…I’ll just head down to the beach early. Maybe I’ll just lay here a bit longer and contemplate that thought, and then next thing I know, it’s 6:30 and somehow I’m thinking that I’ve just lost an hour and a half that I shouldn’t have even had in the first place. No problem…I think that I still have time to write some and even get some good reading in for my grad class, maybe watch a lecture while I’m at it. I was even in a good enough mood to feed the cat without any resentment involved. Showered and ready to go now, open the door and look what my demented senile old feline deposited for me….in the doorway….on some of the last remaining carpet in the house. I’m convinced that she’s bulimic. Now the resentment kicks in, especially after I learn that her continual gastrointestinal habits have depleted our lifetime supply of “Spot Shot”. Now a few choice words kick in which my wife says are futile because she doesn’t understand them anyway. It makes me feel better and by the look on her furry face, I think she knows exactly what I’m saying to her.
Finally….two and a half hours after first having my dreamy thoughts about coffee and the beach, I’m finally here. The sun is warm over the bay, the air is slightly heavy, but breezy with the smell of sea and a slight tinge of fish. The coffee is hot and the fireplace is not, which is all good with me. I sit down here to write, look for my headphones and discover they’ve been left behind. Over the past few weeks this might have pushed me over the edge. Not today, my bearings are back.