Friday, September 14, 2018

On Maths and Misspellings




For nearly seven years I've maintained this page.  It is hard to say why - although I have tried, over and over and over - I have composed nearly five-hundred posts.  I suppose that is because of the quicksilver quality of intent.  Early on it was quirky and fun, bordering on silly, towards the middle it was about storytelling and these days, well, the mercury has slipped from my hand.

For instance, there was a time when I teased a lot about Nick's spelling mistakes - don't get me wrong, I still think they are hilarious - but, as I look at this now, today, a different perspective presents.  He tried. He didn't care if he couldn't spell a word, he used it anyway.  If he spelled "seconds" "cecants" or tried "explanishion" for "explaination," who cares? 

Here's the thing, he's still trying on words.  He has a wonderful, clever and almost playful relationship with words these days.  Sometimes, still, he may use a word incorrectly, but, often, there is a sort of loveliness in his mistakes.  The other day he used a mashup that still echoes in my mind, "aloneliness" for "you know, when you are by yourself in your room and missing your friends."

Indeed, Nick, I do know that feeling.


More than once over the years, I poked a little fun at Zack's weird math problems and charts and such.  There were a lot of numbers in the, well, stuff he crafted and drew and noted.  There are a couple of examples in this post, The Quirky Little Math Piece (or Move Over Einstein) (no, your title's too long).  In it he did a strange backwards equation, and another, stranger, algebraic-like thing.  When he handed it to me he asked, "Is it right?" 

I told him it was.

He still likes to get things right and the math has gotten much more accurate.

Here, I'll show you:


This is on the opposite side:


Finally, he got out the graph paper to present his final answer, showing his work:


I don't really get what it is, something to do with the total possible permutations on a Rubik's cube.  He says it's right, I don't doubt it.


I spoke earlier of intent.  Boy, that's a rabbit hole of a word - but it comes down to purpose, reason.  'Intentionality' is actually a philosophical concept.  Although it all seems clear in the definition, my intentions have been anything but - they've shifted, morphed, evolved, wavered.  They've at times been pure and true and at other times they have been misguided, mismanaged, muddled.

I guess when I started out, I wanted to show you them.  Then I sort of got the notion that I was showing them them.  I think that may have changed into me wanting to show you me showing them them.  At times, more recently I've been trying to show them me.  Add wanting, at times, to impress or agitate or endear or cajole, well... you.  Confused?  You get used to it.

This is the part where I conclude with one all-encompassing theory of intent.  I shone a light on the misspellings and maths way back when because I thought it was cute and fun, which they were.  Today though, I see what they are doing now, who they are becoming, with such deeper clarity because of those very things.

So, here's my theory:  We can't know intent, we can only guess at it.

You're welcome.

Peace.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat at the breakfast table ..."


Sunday morning breakfast humor:
"Excalibutter"


Yes, indeed you are correct, Nick said it...


Thanks for stopping by, quite a "sellabrashin" wouldn't you say?

(If you were to view my blog in a real web browser, in other words, not the lame mobile mode, you'd see that there are "random" posts, and an archive and a whole bunch of "topics" off to the left of the posts.  One of them is "misspellings" and another is "take-home folder."  Some of them are really sweet and cute... just thought I'd let you know.)


Friday, August 31, 2018

On Other First Days


Okay, so... how's everyone doing?  Good.  It's back to school season and the parent bloggers and memeists (one who memes) are out in full force with their "first day of school" posts and such and well...  WTF!?

I googled "back to school memes+parents" and I just, well, can't.  This is the very first one that popped up:


Here's another from an article in the bastion of enlightenment and truth, The Huffington Post - you know, the folks who don't pay for content.  Apparently, a blogger mommy posted this on her FB page:


(I think I'm supposed to give her credit or something...)  ((The more I look at this the angrier I become - "Favorite Summer memory: Today!"  What?!  It's just, well, disrespectful...))

There are hundreds more, most involve wine and celebrating, one said all the women in Target on the first day of school had wine in their baskets, ha-ha.  If you don't know what I'm talking about just google it, but, I'd guess you've seen a million of them this last week.

That vast majority of them are basically this, I couldn't wait to get rid of my kids because the were driving me nuts and/or I am so glad they are gone so I can daydrink again.  They're supposed be funny and light-hearted but I don't think they are.  I don't think they are even clever, or well-rendered or... worthy.  Plainly stated they are tropes, which MW defines as "a common or overused theme or device," you know, like the bumbling idiot dad - a trope used often by the same kind of bloggers.

I've called folks on them and complained about them on their FB pages but everyone's britches get in a bind because they were "only kidding" or "it's just a joke" and "like you don't feel the same way."  Yeah... well, I don't.

And even if I did, I wouldn't let my boys know that.

Listen, I get it, truth be told, at thirteen, twin boys can be, well... a lot.  Their friends come over quite a bit and they are loud and obnoxious and messy and big.  They crack couch frames and stain carpets and the socks, my God, the socks.  There is taking them to the pool and driving them to this and that and feeding them all the time and... yes, it's difficult and consuming. But, it's what I signed up for, it's my damn job.

I am about to paint myself in a corner here and, well, I shouldn't.  I am sure many parents are glad their kids are back in school - dual income parents, single moms and dads and others.  Frankly, I look forward to the silence and time to myself.

As parents we are constantly sending our kids away, ushering them into the future, showing them what's next.  Perhaps, this is what all the celebrating is, or should be, them going into another year of the adventure that is life.

And, even though it may seem contradictory, right now, our kids need to know they are safe and secure and, well, wanted at home.  That's what I meant before when I said 'worthy.'  Our sons and daughters are better than a trope about how happy we are to have them gone, better than the notion that we have to drink to get over them, or that they cast undo hardship on us, that they are a burden.

What are the children of all these memists going to think - what do they think - when they encounter, now or in the future, these images, often of them, which seem only too mock them, to make them the butt of a joke?  I think it's something to think about.

Here's a back to school meme I made:



Sorry, that noise was me putting my soapbox away...


I took a look back at my first day of school posts over the years to make sure I wasn't guilty of this thinking and I thought I'd share them.
 
My first attempt was in 2012 and featured the two handwritten notes the boys wrote for their teachers that year.  It's called "I'm Varey Icesited To Meat You" and it's really quite adorable.

In 2013, I wrote this lackluster post out of a feeling of necessity.  I probably shouldn't of but, and this might be important, I do not go back and edit any of the old post around here - short of a grammatical error here and there.  It's titled "Post Gaps" and I don't actually hate it, I mean its pretty honest.

I'd say this one, "What to do on the First Day of School" from 2014, is my favorite.

I wrote "Touched Stones and Penciled Lines" in 2015.  It's sort of odd.  I start with a story about three different boys in three different times and the things they carried and cherished and then I share some love notes and sage wisdom (I wish).  It's funny, I like the post but very few have ever seen it... not that it matters.

In 2016, I wrote "The Loud Stuff" about a young scared and excited boy, me, heading to his first day of school and another nervous and anxious boy, Nick, whose worries get a bit loud in his head.  You've been there I'd guess, but I found N's awareness of it interesting and, well, good.  You need to listen to the loud stuff, and to the quiet between.

I didn't post much last year, hardly at all, truth be told, so there's not one for 2017.  I guess this piece, "Forward Looking Back", from December is about as close as I got.

From Marci's "...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..."

"Bacon heals."

Subject, verb.  Show me a better sentence.


Thanks for stopping by, sorry I got all riled up there for a second... ya'll know how I get.

Peace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On Letting Go and Holding Tight


Well, on this first day of Eighth grade, that's about all I've got.

As parents, we must walk that line.

We must let the hand go at the preschool, let go the hug that is the first day of First.  Let go the young man handshakes, and my hand shouldered in love.  Let go the long look as that enormous bus drives somberly away.  Let go of knowing exactly where they are.

Let go of, simply, of them.

But we must also hold tight.  Hold tight to their love for us and ours for them.  Hold them tight in a hug, our backs to the storms of this world, protecting them, for now.  Hold tight to our intuition, our sureness, that their road has been safe and their journey happy.  Hold tight our hearts as they burst daily at the slights and hurts only teenagers think they know but we parents remember.

Hold tight, simply, your sons and daughters.

Can I show you a picture I took just this morning?



That's them, ahead of us, looking down the road at what is about to be - prepared, nervous, excited... hopeful.

This image could be, perhaps, our job description, we parents.  Actually, any image of children facing away from the lens, looking out towards what is to come, not looking back at us, morphs into metaphor for me, if that makes sense.  This is one that's been framed and I see it every day:



We may not see their faces, but, they're facing the right way.


Love them, hold them tight.  Make sure they're prepared, let them go, and wish them godspeed.


Peace to you.

Monday, August 20, 2018

On Being Time



Nick’s had a lot of watches, I think seven, maybe eight.  Here’s the first I think he had, a cute, sporty analog job and a digital one:


Here are some of the rest, both digital and analog, all are worn and weathered, some have broken crystals – though none of them are glass.  He chose them all himself.  The gold one down near the bottom is the one he wears now, unless he’s doing something sporty then he wears the “ref-watch” they both have to ref soccer.



He still looks at watches.  He likes to stop at the counters in department stores and I see him looking online at them from time to time.  He was once with me when I went into a high-end jewelry store to get my dad’s vintage Citizen cleaned and batteried, he couldn’t take his eyes off those thousand-dollar timepieces and the store owner - recognizing, perhaps in the glint of N’s eyes, a future customer - showed him some and let him try on a beautiful gold and silver Rolex.

He’s annoyed when he’s forgotten to wear one.  He was the first of the boys to conceptualize the complicated ‘half pasts’ and ‘quarter-ofs’ and transitioned from digital to analog with little effort.

I, too, have long worn watches, in fact I just went to look in my drawer of memories and found four forgotten ones.  Here they are with the two I currently use, the Citizen, which needs a battery again, and the Casio, which is built like a brick:



If this were a different post, and I had few day’s more hours, I’d tell you the why and when of each of them.  It’d be a good one, too, cherished things harbor beautiful stories.  But, I must continue on the road I started, which is about to get convoluted and complicated and may make little sense.

I wonder what is N’s fascination with watches?  Timepieces really, because he once chose this off a table in his Nana’s basement of things to be given away or donated:

 
I wonder what is mine, fascination that is?  Anyone who’s been around these pages for a while will know that I’ve cast Time as my nemesis, my rival, my Moriarty if you will.  But, you know what?, if I think about it, that’s only been in the past decade or so.  Up until then I think we were friends, Time and I.  Perhaps ‘friendly rivals’ might be better.

But, what of Nick?  I don’t think he’s had time to personify time, to capitalize it as I have come to do.  So what is his interest.  Well, it’s not like he has a lot of appointments or meetings or dates, he relies on us to make sure he gets somewhere on time.  He does ask about how long it takes to get places and always seems to know when we need to leave for church or games and such.  He seems happy with time, understands it.

So what links he and I, why a dozen or more watches between us?

It seems to me that there are three approaches people have towards time.  (No, no, I am not a theoretical timeologist nor a theolosopher or philosologian, hell, I’m not even a social anthropologist.  I’m just a guy looking out the window and thinking about time.)  I see them as marking time, passing time, and taking time.

What links Nick and I is that we are time markers.  I never don’t know what time it is.  Nick is the same way.  We know when we have to leave a for a meeting, we know when to start dinner, when to go to bed and get the right amount of sleep (a lot for both growing boys and aging men), when to wake.  We anticipate seasons, notice the days shortening.  I always know the lunar schedule as well and I’m sure he will someday as well.

It’s a good way to go, but, honestly, it gets a little stressful.  Whenever I am writing, I am constantly aware of how long I have to do it.  I’ve heard Nick lament the shortness of a practice or the time he has to get his homework done or watch yet another video.  Sometimes, late night, as I’m listening to music on the porch or watching a ballgame or the evening fire die down, I, too, lament the passing of time and the coming dawn, just as he does when time is running short when he and his brother and friends are building forts down by the creek or playing video-games of an afternoon.

I find myself envious of those I call the time passers like Nick’s twin brother, Zack, and my wife.  For them, time can go unmarked.  Z can go for hours just learning algorithms for his many Rubik’s cubes and solving them.  Marci can immerse herself in a book for endless hours, caught in that timeline, unconcerned with this one.   Back in olden times, BSP (before smart phones), people all over did silly, time-passing things like knitting and model-building and quilting and whittling – all things that I’d love to do.  Those all seem so arcane today, but many folks still do them and I admire that.

Time passers seem less stressed and more patient with time, less worried about the next thing on the timeline and can stay much more focused on the task at hand.  I am always afraid of running out of time, while they seem unfettered by the kind of constraints I put on it all.  I actually put things off because I don’t feel I have enough time to do a thing, a task or such.  The passers don’t do that, they figure it’ll all work out and, for them, it usually does.

Finally, there are the time takers - the schedulers, the calendar keepers, the preparers.  They seize time, putting it into boxes and checking the hours off as they get their tasks done.  I truly admire these people… but, I’d hate to be one, honestly, I’d suck at it.  The time takers I’ve known are, most commonly, successful go-getters.  They are the bosses, the CEOs, the administrators and politicians, the lawyers and physicians – all of whom need to vet their time with great care.

I’ve known a few in my life and, actually, they’ve always intimidated me to some degree.  Those of us who generally mark or pass time stand, often, in awe of these folks.  These are the people that always know what’s next, where they are going.  These are the individuals who work between things to do, who listen to podcasts as they exercise at five in the morning and check their schedules as they get out of bed.  I knew by the age of ten that I was not one.

Now, to be fair, I think we all do some of all three.  There are times when I, as a marker of time, can truly let myself pass some time, like when I play guitar or get engrossed in a good book.  Also, we all at times, must take time – busy weeks, busy lives, important events - all must be scheduled, and time must be accounted for.  I get that these categories may seem stereotypical, but, hey, it’s just my observation as I mark my time watching all of you other folks passing and taking it as you will.

One final thought and then I’ll let you go:  There’s a lot of time in a lifetime.  There are hours in childhood where the clock seems to literally stand still.  Even as an adult I notice how long a day can seem.  Sometimes I marvel at the number of books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen.  In my life I bet I’ve learned to sing and play five, six hundred songs, most forgotten.

So, you've got to do something with all that time.  I guess maybe it’s a matter of choice or, perhaps, just a fated sort of thing.  Maybe, it is determined by personality or circumstance, upbringing or…

Hell, I dunno, it was just something I was thinking about as I marked my time.

Tomorrow, school begins here in our corner of the Ohio Valley, and time will need stronger reigns and I’ll, more than likely, start cursing it more, evil-eyeing the whiteboard calendar we keep and marking the time before bed and soccer practice and homework and…  I’m gonna need a bigger watch.

I’ve taken up too much of your time today, or possibly, I’ve given you the opportunity to pass some of your time.  Any way it goes, I’m glad you stopped by.

Peace.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

On Writing Without Words



I’ve always liked it when writers call their audience “kind readers.”  I’d say if you have to have readers, it’s always nice when they are kind.

So, in that spirit, welcome back kind readers.  I’ve been busy, which is good and fine and all, and I’ve not had the yearning to write I often have.  Well, honestly, that’s not as true a statement as it could be…  I’ve really not been busy – no busier than you or anyone else – nor have I lacked the desire to write, in fact I’ve been writing all these last few months, I’ve just not been using words so much.

I doubt that last paragraph will end up in the books as a perfect example of the form, but, that’s okay.

I should probably start over, but you know I won’t.
 
How, you may be wondering, does one write without using words?

Watching, dreaming, hoping, drinking, thinking, listening, praying.  All are excellent ways to get words to end up lined across a screen or paper.  Sometimes, words and sentences, along with all the weight of punctuation and paragraphication and pagination, just seem impossible to conjure from that amorphous clay-like gray mass in our minds so it helps to have a few tools.

If you want to write, you simply must watch.  Watch what?  I dunno… everything, nothing - birds at the feeder, firetrucks flying by, stars or a reluctant moon.  Faces maybe.  The way that feller walks.  The architecture of a building, the chairs, a window up high that frames a certain pew in church then moves on to the next, and the next, a plodding spotlight illuminating family after family.  You can watch hands or wonder about clothing choices or why those boots.

A couple of Thursdays a month, I end up at a local beer and music venue out a ways in the country.  It is in an old schoolhouse and sits right next to a Holstein farm, it’s sort of a hippie hillbilly place.  I go on that day because they host an “open mic” night, where folks play a few songs and move on to the next person.  I play sometimes but that’s a story for a different time. 

There’s a guy who comes in every time I’m there.  He knows everyone, and he comes in with his two sons, probably in their twenties, one of whom has a mental and physical malady, the nature of which remains unknown to me, a palsy of some sort, I’d guess.  He greets everyone, shakes hands, thanks the performers and always has something nice to say.  He’s usually in business attire and seems to have come straight from work.  I asked him once if he comes in often.  Usually just Thursdays, he told me, my son really likes the music.

You write a better story than that.

Dreaming is a great writer’s habit.  I had, as a younger man, the notion that at some point in a life you stop dreaming – I guess I figured once your dreams came true there was no need for more.  I couldn’t have been wronger.  I still dream of a backyard chapel I once conjured (you can read about that here).  I dream other things, too - lottery winning, long forest campouts, a Jesuit retreat.  The truth is dreaming is imagining and I think writing is as well.  As we dream of things we describe them, often offering deep detail and emotion.  I can’t think of a better exercise for the creative mind.

Hoping, I guess, might seem the same as dreaming, but we often hope for others.  I hope for N and Z with complete earnestness, bordering on naivete.   I hope for my wife and friends and you, perhaps.  Hope ensures empathy and empathy serves writing well.  Hope, it seems to me, is also simple and frank, characteristics that also serve prose well.

I guess thinking is obviously a way to work on writing without using words.  Less obviously, and more controversially, I think drinking can be a useful tool in the hallway between the gray place of mind and the black and white of words on paper.  I’m not talking Hemingway’s Whiskey or booze as muse.  I understand – and have seen – that alcohol takes down a lot of very good people.  It can destroy relationships, break hearts, provide false courage, embarrass, cajole, hurt… you know the list. 

I get that, but…

Listen, I know that as a parent of thirteen-year-old twin boys the last thing I should do is sing the praises of drinking.  In my defense, they rarely see me drink, perhaps a beer or two late night watching a baseball game and I’ve never been, what’s the word?, blotto, around them.  I have also not condemned it as much as many parent peers seem to, nor condoned as the other half does.  I suppose I don’t want to demonize it, that’d make me look hypocritical, nor glorify it, which would be hypocritical as well in a different way.

I am digging a hole here I should get out of, but, I’ll shovel a little more.

I’ve witnessed a lot of drinking in my lifetime, both my own hand in front of me and in the hands of so many others.  I was a bartender for twenty-five or more years, also a waiter.  I’ve seen it all, man: fights, shouting, flung beer bottles, broken pool cues, parking lot brawls, called cops, robbers.  Bad stuff.

But, right now, as I look back over the long arc of my relationship with all of it, I think it swings towards the good times: gut-busting laughter, backslaps and manly hugs, nervous new relationships, a wiffle-ball game in August in Athens, campouts and even late nights alone by a fire watching a ballgame, arguments and, especially, ideas.  Songs and poems and deep friendships, integrity, courage, honor, brotherhood - all understood, considered, conceived in the forge of intemperance.

Whoa, this is a deep hole… I’m out.

Listening and praying are, sometimes, one and the same.  Folks get oddly uncomfortable when I speak of prayer, which I often do.  I think people have a curious perception of what prayer looks like – kneeling in a church, hands folded like a cliché, a chanted blessing before a meal, the tears in a Eucharistic chapel, all of which I do.  But, prayer is also listening.  Not just listening in solitude, discerning a path in faith, but also listening to others.  Dialogue, conversation, banter, joking, even fights and spats, can lead to deep understanding and empathy just as prayer can. 

I hear a prayer in the hopes and dreams of my sons.  I hear a prayer in the cheers at a summer rec baseball game or the applause for a middle school musical.  I hear a prayer in a whispered ‘I love you’ and in the sobs of an injured boy.  I hear the same prayer in uncontrolled laughter and hushed giggles as I hear in shouts and rage hurled at injustice, unfairness and just plain evil.  I hear a prayer in the sleet hitting the windows or the wind rustling the red maples, in a screen door slamming of a summer night or in a kite tail in March’s lion wind.  For me, a prayer runs through it all.  Much of what I write here is simply and unabashedly, a prayer.

Do you have time for a story?  I almost wrote short story, but that’d been a lie.

...

It is overcast here this morning.  The boys are counselors at a camp at the school this week, so I am alone.  It is quiet.  I open my computer and open this draft and remember where I was – transitioning from drinking to prayer – and, well, I close the damn thing.

I listen to the silence and then I stand up and drive my truck to TheTwo-and-a Half Acre Woods.  I walk to the bench I like and sit and say some prayers, mostly thanksgiving because, well, Grace overwhelms me.  And then I listen and watch and look around and I hope and dream and remember.  All at once, for I am now in Kairos, God’s time. 

For some reason a feeling of loneliness sweeps over me as I look around this little forest, this trail I’ve come to know and call my own.  It curves on my left side and begins to descend towards the creek.  On my right it is fairly straight and gently slopes upward.  Beech and maples, oaks and honeysuckle, brambles and those woody vines that climb up and up and scream for some boy to swing on them, line both sides.  I think of paths and trails and wonder how many times I’ve sat at this very juncture.  Up or down?  Stay put?

I consider the loneliness of decision.

A flood of images races through my memory.  Paths and country lanes and city blocks and ridge walks and red rocks and streams and rivers and endless eddies – all in an instant.  I notice the greens of these woods, from fresh almost mint green to deep olives bordering on brown.  I look out across the path where the ground edges downward towards the stream.  I smile at the notion that one can see both the forest and the trees.  I think of waves on an ocean, the majesty of mountains and cliffs, the solitude of deserts and wonder if these woods don’t share that sort of epic beauty.

I ponder why I’m here, what’s drawn me out, what’s compelled me to this spot, this time, these memories, this now, that past.

A quick brown flicker draws my gaze and there she stands, looking at me.  A doe the size of a pony not more than twenty feet away.  Her big brown eyes are on me, her ears twitch, her white tail waggles.  I stare back, astonished not at her proximity, not at her tawny beauty, not at the surprise of it all but because I realize…


 I am not alone.

...

And so, that’s what I’ve been up to, writing without words.  Today, however I’ve used up a lot them and I’ve used up a lot of your time as well.

Peace, as always, and thanks for stopping by… kind readers, indeed.  Hopefully you’ll hear more from me in the coming weeks and months.  I know, I know, I’ve said that before and haven’t followed through, but I’ve been doing a lot of writing these last few months, I think I’m ready to start using words again.


Friday, March 30, 2018

It Happened on a Thursday



Our family washed each other's feet last night.  We've done it for years, every Maundy Thursday.  If you didn't grow up in the Christian faith - or even if you did, some churches just gloss over it - you may not understand the tradition.  So, and keep in mind here that I have a certificate on my wall that says, specifically, that I am not a bible scholar, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples the night he was to be crucified, the night he was betrayed.

Wait, you might ask, isn't that the night he did all the last supper and Eucharist stuff?  Yes, yes, it is.  But one of the gospel writers, John, well, he chose to focus on the feet washing.  He tells how Jesus took off his outer garments and, wrapped in a towel, proceeded to wash and dry, with the towel around his waist, the feet of his disciples - his friends, his troupe, his posse, his people.  He gets to one of the main guys, Simon Peter, who seems more than a little incredulous at the whole thing.

Peter says to Jesus, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?"  And Jesus says back, basically, if you don't let me do this, well, we will not be cool.  Peter told him that he should wash his head and hands, too.  Jesus is, like, no, the rest of you is clean.  He also snarks on Judas a bit and then, at the end of this passage in John, he tells them that he, as their master and teacher, has washed their feet, they should go and wash another's feet.  He tells them, "I have given you a model to follow so that I have done for you, you should also do."  This, I might add, he also said of the bread and wine he consecrated for the first time that same night.

[You can read the whole passage in John here.]

I may not be a bible scholar, - I was just trying to contextualize what I'm trying to get to today, and, pointedly not evangelizing - but, I do know how deeply this scene always touches me.  It is so humble and sweet, so tactile and intimate, almost sacredly silly.  At church, all the washing amounts to is a pouring on of water and drying with a small towel.  There are not scrub-brushes and soap, although the water is warm, there is no rubbing or washcloths... it's not a pedicure.  And I think that's the beauty of it, the almost pure symbolism of it, it is the ultimate metaphor.  There is the water imagery, the reference to baptism and all the water that flows through scripture and the Faith itself.

There is, of course, the service to others this so perfectly shows, the humbling of the self, the putting aside of worldly things.  Last night I watched parents washing the feet of their children, spouses doing the same for each other.  I witnessed the awkward joy of strangers toweling dry the feet of strangers.  I watched elderly folks bend slowly toward another.  I saw kindness in gestures as helpers replaced the wet towels and brought fresh water and drained off the used water.

The ritual is a joy to watch.  I like ritual, I really do.

Looking up at my certificate there, I see that I can speak on what I feel about the scriptures.  For instance, in this story, I see a sending-off.  Jesus knows after he is, gone... well, you know, after he does what is to come in the next few days, these guys - most of them at least - will hit the road.  He is preparing them for a journey.  He is literally saying "Godspeed."  There is, in my mind, no better story than that of a journey.  It is not just the walk that brings us closer to God or understanding or nirvana, a faith walk, it is, also, the trail of tears that can be everyday life.

I am all about the journey.  The ever-allusive destination, the goal, that mythical 'journey's end' has never been clear to me, and, as a consequence, I always am in the middle of things, en media res.  I don't mind, though.  In seeing yours as a sojourner's life, the trip becomes lighter, baggage becomes necessities, work becomes joy, hope becomes faith.  One is never disappointed when the trip is over or that the final place is unsatisfactory, unsavory or worse.  Perhaps it is because, on a journey, we can always stop and rest. We can refresh ourselves with food and drink.  We can wash the feet of those who travel with us, and they ours, and then start up again, renewed and strong.  I think Jesus understood this, I think, ultimately, he is saying I will attend you on this journey, be both friend and master, see you through this journey's joys and sorrows.  The road is waiting, take it up, and may it never end.


Listen, and this borders on sacrilege I'd say, but, honestly, I struggle with the 'true' body and blood of Christ on the Eucharistic table.  I find myself putting it in my "mysteries of faith" box.  I am sorry to say that, and I hope you don't think less of me for it.

And, if I am staying honest here, I find the crucifixion hard to consider as well.  Here, though, it is not so much about doubt as it is about the pain of it all.  A man, even just a man, hung to die on a cross, nails in his ankles and wrists, thorns on his head, blood dripping in his eyes, thirsty and forsaken,  suffers unimaginably until he dies... for me?

Would you understand if I said it is almost too much for me to bear?  That it makes me very sad?  That I know, in the depths of my being, that I am unworthy of this sacrifice?  Is it okay that his suffering in the tomb and his resurrection to come are more than I would have even fathomed to ask?

If I find the table too unfathomable, and the cross too unbearable, what have I left?  Well, maybe, I have a man, a teacher, a Master who will, with unheralded grace and humility, wash my feet.  And, perhaps at my journey's end, I will ask of him, "Jesus, may I wash your feet?"  That, even I, can comprehend.


There's a story I've been telling for years about my old friend, Hippie Bob.  Yes, that's what everyone called him.  I met him my freshman year of college where he lived down the hall from us.  He was from up Cleveland way and had that sort of clipped accent they have up there.  He was tall and lanky with long dark hair and a majestic black mustache.  He was sweet and had the kind of voice you always had to lean in towards to hear.  Notably, he always seemed to have less and less clothes on as the night (read party) rolled on.  He listened to a lot of music I'd never heard before and was smart and funny and clever.

He lived in the same dorm as I did for two years and I think it was in our second year that this took place.  It was late, he and I were alone in his room, a Spring breeze was coming in through the always opened window.  We'd been partying and out of no where, really, in my mind at least, he asked me if he could wash my feet.  I leaned in towards him and asked him to say it again.  It was a weird request, but hey, it was Hippie Bob and I was drunk and I said, what the hell, why not?

He grabbed a dish tub, which many of us had to clean up with in those days, and put a towel in it and placed it at my feet and asked me to take my shoes off.  He grabbed a water pitcher and left the room.  When he returned, he knelt in front of me in only a pair of shorts and had me put my feet in the empty basin.  He poured the water over my feet.  It was warm and smelled faintly of the hand soap the dorms provided.  He briefly bathed my feet and, one by one dried them tenderly.  I guess it all sounds a bit awkward, but, I never felt that way, even in all the times I have related the story.

Now, to be honest, I always told that story because I thought it was strange, a little funny and I get a kick out of telling stories about the folks I've met along my road.  I usually went on to tell the story of how he went on to become a nudist in Florida, which comes as no surprise to all of us who knew him.  It was just a quirky story about a dude named Hippie Bob.

Today, though, today, some thirty-some years later, I am rethinking the story - time can do that.  Strangely, I've always added that detail of the Spring breeze, and his near nakedness and his tenderness.  I'm not sure, but I think he was raised Catholic and, well, in retrospect, it was probably Holy Thursday.  How could I have missed this all these years?  How could I not see what he was doing?  Why did I not see the grace and humility in that gesture?

Bob, if you ever happen to see this, well, right here and now, with tears in my eyes, I thank you and I am sorry I did not offer to wash yours.


Well, that's all I've got for now.  I gave myself from nine to three to do this, this Friday, this Good Friday, the timing was purposeful, and it is nearly up and my other great fascination is about to begin - the Reds open today.

So, I wish you the peace of this season, whether you find it in a holy supper, see it in a resurrection, hear it in a redemption song, see it in the washing of feet, or simply sense it in the crack of a baseball bat.

My journey begins anew each morning.  I am clean.  I am rested.  I am ready.



For a number of years, maybe more than fifteen, this postcard has been on the bulletin board above my desk.  


Maybe I've been thinking about this longer than I know...