Thursday, October 31, 2013

"And As Silently Steal Away"


I'd like to tell you a story to illustrate my point.  I'm unsure as to whether I'll get to the point or not.

Sometime before I was married, probably thirteen or fourteen years ago, I got the notion to set an old poem to music.  I didn't have a poem in mind, and, for the life of me, I can't remember what actually inspired me to do it.  I tried Whitman and Donne and a sonnet or two.  I even tried William Carlos Williams and e.e.cummings.  I checked anthologies out of the library, asked friends for suggestions, it was not yet a time when I looked to the internet for anything really, so, I just read and thought and considered.  I finally decided on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done.

I set to work and put it to music, trying and failing and trying and learning and failing better, until I got it.  It was what I had wanted it to be:


video
 
  The day is done, and the darkness
 Falls from the wings of Night,
 As a feather is wafted downward
 From an eagle in his flight.

 I see the lights of the village
 Gleam through the rain and the mist,
 And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
 That my soul cannot resist:

 A feeling of sadness and longing,
 That is not akin to pain,
 And resembles sorrow only
 As the mist resembles the rain.

 Come, read to me some poem,
 Some simple and heartfelt lay,
 That shall soothe this restless feeling,
 And banish the thoughts of day.

 Not from the grand old masters,
 Not from the bards sublime,
 Whose distant footsteps echo
 Through the corridors of Time,

 For, like strains of martial music,
 Their mighty thoughts suggest
 Life's endless toil and endeavor;
 And tonight I long for rest.

 Read from some humbler poet,
 Whose songs gushed from his heart,
 As showers from the clouds of summer,
 Or tears from the eyelids start;

 Who, through long days of labor,
 And nights devoid of ease,
 Still heard in his soul the music
 Of wonderful melodies.

 Such songs have a power to quiet
 The restless pulse of care,
 And comes like the benediction
 That follows after prayer.

 Then read from the treasured volume
 The poem of thy choice,
 And lend to the rhyme of the poet
 The beauty of thy voice.

 And the night shall be filled with music,
 And the cares, that infest the day,
 Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
 And as silently steal away.
 
So, there it is.  It's a cool poem even if it was written in 1844.  I think the words still work, even today as things seem so busy and confusing, a comforting voice from the past reminds me that songs can still "have a power to quiet/ The restless pulse of care."  Reminding me that it is good that the songs "gushed" from my heart.

However, that's not my point.  I am not here today to analyze this poem, I am not here to show you my song, I am not here to tell you about any of that.

Nope, I am doing this to remind myself now, and perhaps the boys sometime other than now, that there is time for this stuff.  I cannot believe, right now, that I ever had the hours, days actually, it took to do this.  I read for a long time, thought for a long time, practiced for a long time and was richly rewarded.

A big part of me feels that there simply isn't time for all this anymore, and, I am profoundly, impossibly, innately... wrong.  No, the problem is, I don't remember how to make this stuff important anymore.  My last post was about respecting and expecting creativity in others, yet, I don't treasure my own.  I tell myself that I can't write that song or start that project or even just get up and go stand in an empty field for a while and remember that I am part of this thing we all call life.  I forget that and it is very regrettable.

People who like what I do here always suggest to me things that I could do to gain a bigger audience.  These suggestions seem to always be things like Twitter or Google+ or a Pinterest page or a better blog interface on Wordpress or some other self-hosted site.  They seem to forget I'm sorta busy already, writing and creating the content here.  A buddy of mine told me I was "poised" to be really big and began to tell me all the marketing things I needed to do.   Speed this up, do this, post this here, "blast" this, tweet this, submit that, ad naseum.

Well, in my opinion, I need to do exactly the opposite of that.  I need to slow down.  I need to respect myself in this creative process.

I need to listen so I can hear more clearly the stories which are being told to me.

I need to read more to remember how many beautiful ways the stories can be told.

I need watch more to better see the stories unfolding in front of me every day.

I need to write more songs, play more guitar, read more poems.

And I really need to remember that I know how to do this.

Here's the thing, I've forgotten about the wildness of it all.  The craziness of it all.  I've simply got to allow myself the luxury of falling into things again.

I sometimes consider epic posts for this page and, well, I dismiss them out-of-hand because I don't know how I'd do it or I don't think I'd have the time for it.  Truth be told, what I don't have is the courage to do it, them, anything.  After a lifetime of experience I am afraid to be wild anymore, to dive into something as crazy as a Longfellow poem set to music, I'm afraid to finish a second novel, afraid to make a movie or record a new song.  It's crazy... how has it come to this?

It is very easy to blame the time constraints of this mad, instant existence that is the Twenty-first century.  It's easy to blame the boys or my job or society.  It's very tempting to blame the internet, social media, advertising, network television, game consoles and the inane glorification of busy.

And I do.

But, that's too simple.  Life is complicated and deep and nuanced and wild and blaming those other things keeps me from blaming myself.

So what am I going to do?

I am going to get wild.

Tomorrow there will be a stack of books on my desk, poems and novels which I will devour with a long forgotten passion, and I will fall into them and abandon myself to them and I will give them the time they deserve.

Tomorrow there will be new strings on a guitar which will be in a stand right next to me, not closed in a case, suffocating in the silence.  I will absently pick it up and sing forgotten folk songs and ballads remembering friends and chords as I need to, as they are given me.

Tomorrow I will write down that story I've been wanting to tell you, but, I'll wait with it as it tells itself, for once not pushing and bullying it into doing what I want it to do.

Tomorrow I'll bake a loaf of bread or two because I had a notion to, and, I'll remember the time I worked in a bakery making bread and muffins overnight and finishing a book I'd started by day.

Tomorrow I'll stand in the storm as it whips the fallen, golden maple leaves all around me, and feel the rain sting my face and wish it was snow or sleet because that would make it even better.

Tomorrow I'll say a prayer not just to God, but to the whole damned universe, and maybe I'll cuss or cry or be forgiven.

Wildness is nothing to be afraid of.  Oh, it can hurt you, but, it can also lift you.


At the beginning of this I wondered if I'd get to my point.  I finally have.  We need to encourage the wildness that is in our children, in especially our sons, and celebrate it.  We also need to show it to them, and, I think I am.  But I'd like them to see it in me more.

Boys, if you need to be wild, be wild.  I will let you, I will guide you if you'd like, it's sad to be wild alone.

Tonight, after I post this, I will turn off the computer - there is an on/off switch - and leave it off for a while.  If I need to write, I'll use the laptop, upstairs, in the light.  I've challenged myself to stay off FaceBook for a month or so, not because it's bad, but because I'd like to give my mind to something else.  I certainly plan to write more pieces here, and hopefully Marci will post them on my page.

It's funny, a part of me wonders if this makes any sense at all, but, for the first time in a long time, mostly, I don't really care.  It's what I needed to do.

It is where the wildness led me.


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

(especially from the Halloween Mime)


"Time out - can I hum?!?"



That just keeps getting funnier and funnier...

Thanks for coming around.  Things might get a little different here in the coming weeks, I might be trying some new things.  Remember, will you, that Nick and Zack are the reason I do this and I try, for the most part to show them them, but I also owe it to them to show them me.


The Day Is Done

  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is done, and the darkness
   Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
   From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
   Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
   That my soul cannot resist:
   
A feeling of sadness and longing,
   That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
   As the mist resembles the rain.
   
Come, read to me some poem,
   Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
   And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
   Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
   Through the corridors of Time. 

For, like strains of martial music,
   Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
   And to-night I long for rest.
   
Read from some humbler poet,
   Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
   Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
   And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
   Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
   That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
   The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
   The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
   And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
   And as silently steal away.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16630#sthash.FAnVOkEk.dpuf

The Day Is Done

  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is done, and the darkness
   Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
   From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
   Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
   That my soul cannot resist:
   
A feeling of sadness and longing,
   That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
   As the mist resembles the rain.
   
Come, read to me some poem,
   Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
   And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
   Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
   Through the corridors of Time. 

For, like strains of martial music,
   Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
   And to-night I long for rest.
   
Read from some humbler poet,
   Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
   Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
   And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
   Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
   That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
   The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
   The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
   And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
   And as silently steal away.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16630#sthash.FAnVOkEk.dpuf

The Day Is Done

  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is done, and the darkness
   Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
   From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
   Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
   That my soul cannot resist:
   
A feeling of sadness and longing,
   That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
   As the mist resembles the rain.
   
Come, read to me some poem,
   Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
   And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
   Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
   Through the corridors of Time. 

For, like strains of martial music,
   Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
   And to-night I long for rest.
   
Read from some humbler poet,
   Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
   Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
   And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
   Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
   That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
   The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
   The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
   And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
   And as silently steal away.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16630#sthash.FAnVOkEk.dpuf

The Day Is Done

  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is done, and the darkness
   Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
   From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
   Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
   That my soul cannot resist:
   
A feeling of sadness and longing,
   That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
   As the mist resembles the rain.
   
Come, read to me some poem,
   Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
   And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
   Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
   Through the corridors of Time. 

For, like strains of martial music,
   Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
   And to-night I long for rest.
   
Read from some humbler poet,
   Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
   Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
   And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
   Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
   The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
   That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
   The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
   The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
   And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
   And as silently steal away.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16630#sthash.FAnVOkEk.dpuf

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Skyflyer


Some number of thousands of years ago a group of people lived together, harmoniously.  A few hundred at best, theirs was a difficult, dangerous and narrow existence.  They had not yet begun thinking about stars and gods and love and honor.  The seeds of bigger ideas of Art and Hope and Glory were yet to be sown in their Eden-like zeitgeist.  They called themselves The Tribe.

The Tribe had leaders and influential Elders and women were honored and children cherished.  The Tribe was sensibly located in a great forest, through which ran mighty rivers and the game was plentiful.  There were berries and seeds and nuts and the like.

One boy, we'll call him Skyflyer, was not very good at many things.  After he had gone through the ritual of becoming a man at the age of ten he began his apprenticeship in hunting and fishing.  He was a horrible hunter, loud and impulsive and far to silly for such an important endeavor.  His fishing was better but, he often lost track of time, letting the tender nets break from overfilling.

After a few frustrating and tiresome years, the men of The Tribe talked among themselves and decided to ask the oldest grandmother, a respected and beautiful woman known for her wisdom and mercy, if Skyflyer could be taught the ways of the women in the group, gathering, learning the special qualities of the plants and herbs around them, raising and protecting the young, dear children.  The old women, remembering another special boy, blind from birth, whom had been her companion when she was but a girl, said that she would give it a try.  The boy from her youth, although sightless, was willing to try the fruits and tubers the others were afraid to try and, in so doing, had added many foods to their primitive table, including the "honeywater" the men so adored.  She hoped Skyflyer could be helpful in a similar way.

After a while, the woman came back to the men and suggested they take him back.  She said he talked too much and irritated the other women and was too lax and playful with the children.  He would not pay attention to the chores at hand, always trying new ways when the old ways were just fine, forgetting the lesson of her childhood friend.

The men, respecting the old woman, said they would.  That night, under a full moon, beside a raging fire, the men discussed what should be done with this young, then just fourteen, man-boy in their midst.  Some said he should be banished, set out alone because of his differences and strange notions.  Some spoke of worse things.  Skyflyer heard them, entered into the dancing ring of light, and began to speak:

"It is true that I am not a great hunter.  I am clumsy and loud and so very slow.  But, when the beasts are slain I feel their pain, I know they have great spirits in them which we must respect.  I thank their spirits when we eat them and know I honor them.

"I haven't the patience for fishing, I know that.  I do know the fish are beasts of the water and I give thanks for them as well.  But, on the shores of the great river, hidden sometimes, is a soft and malleable earth.  With this I can make shapes: shapes of the animals and fish, bosoms of great mothers, the moon and the sun, which we could then hold in our hands.  With time, I believe I could make vessels, to hold our water in and brew our honey wine.

"I do not understand the ways of the earth, the plants and roots, how they grow and come again.  This is a cycle, I am sure, and, again, given time, I could understand it.  In the eye of my mind I can see how some plants could be intertwined, tightly, like vines, and made into holders or even cloth for our bodies.

"Do you see that great moon above?  I know when it will come again.  Do you see that ever-bright, constant star?  I know which way is home because of it.  Do you see that great gourd shape?  That great cougar?  That spray of milky stars?  That angry red star?  They all tell stories to me.  Stories of hope and happiness, great battles and sadness, great men.  They whisper to me beautiful songs of what will be and what has already been."

And the Elder felt the boys' words in his heart, the grandmother wept at his words, the children wondered at his words.  The Elder asked if Skyflyer could tell them these stories.

"Yes, but it will take lifetimes..."

The wise Elder said that he would have them.

They made him a hut, away from the others.  He no longer hunted, although he had meat; he no longer fished, although he had tender trout; he no longer gathered, yet he had sweet fruit; he no longer faced the angry bees, yet he had honeywater.  The meat cut with the sharp flint he chipped so cleverly; fish caught in the strong nets he'd imagined; fruit collected in the beautiful baskets of grass he wove; mead served in the pots he shaped from the sticky gray dirt found on the riverbanks.

The Tribe loved him, for, as he made these useful things, his mind was let to wonder, to dream, to listen to the stories from the sky, hear the stories of the great beasts, and remember the stories told him of the great past which had already been.

The Tribe honored him because he remembered and revered their fallen fathers and mothers.  The Tribe loved him because he laughed and told silly, fantastic stories to the children in which were hidden the wisdom and wonder he had come to adore.  He knew the magic of childhood and the weight of age.  The Tribe cherished him because he thought deeply and justly about the things they knew not how to say.  He gave them a voice with which to cry and worship and sing and scream.

The Tribe still revers him, as best they can, so many generations - so many lifetimes - later.  For we are that Tribe and I am that boy.


All children are that boy, I think.  I also think that as they progress we forget that.  We are so hellbent on the importance of math and reading and manners and sports, that we forget their inherent creativity, their sacred and innate creativity, their God-given creativity.

I do not like crafts really, things never work with the pinterest perfection I had hoped for, but, that's okay.  When the boys were younger I used to put out muffin tins filled with paints and let them have at a piece of white poster board or colored construction paper.  I don't do that so much anymore.  Gone are the clay and PlayDoh, sand boxes, and foam cutouts glued haphazardly on random boxes and the like.  Of course, they always have their boxes of crayons and markers and colored pencils and scissors which they still use nearly everyday.  But, I don't really say to them it's time to do a craft, create something, dream something.

On Sunday the Ohio Autumn was calling me out into it and I took the boys along.  I explained what we were doing, we grabbed a bucket and headed to a favorite trail not far from home.  We gathered dried flowers and seeds and thistles, yellow and green and red and orange leaves, some bark and twigs and berries and roses and, well... here's what happened:






Nick

Zack

Nick

Zack

Nick

Zack


I had emphasized that the finished project was to be a photograph, an image of what they were making.  They were free to change it and manipulate it, start over or keep building up.  We even discussed the filter on the camera for "food" pictures and they really liked the "yellowy" one.

Never underestimate the creativity in anyone.  Don't even doubt it.  Proclaim it, honor it, praise it and celebrate it.  It is Love.  It is Spirit.  It is God.



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

"He is a *very* stylish hedgehog."


Indeed he is...

Thanks for listening today, stop by again sometime, any time really, I appreciate it.



Friday, October 25, 2013

"Through Christ, Our Lord, I'm Drooling"


Today, I wanted to tell you about my personal spiritual journey, how it's going and all, but, I don't really want to, and, well... that's a problem.  My plan has always been to tread lightly here on this page, tread gently, tread nicely.  Which is why, ostensibly, I  avoid talking about politics and religion and, other than a few undertones I may have inadvertently added, I think I've done well.

Basically, I fabricated a loophole so I won't have to talk of things about which I am uncomfortable.  Like my spiritual journey.  But... but, if I am really writing this for the men-my-boys-will-become, then shouldn't I show them some of the struggles and doubts I have come up against in the walk of faith that is required of us, required of us even as we walk the difficult path that is living itself.  Together we must take on this double-edged sword of mystery and certainty.  It's hard to do, boys, I understand that.

So I'll distract us all and show you this.  It sat alone on the table, no crayons in sight, no boy, no other papers, alone.  I had to pick it up and give it my full attention.  I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but I sure want it as my logo:


Actually, I think it's an angel shirt.

If a man reads this, and is my son, shouldn't I remind him that I too struggled as a man, that I had my faith rocked hard on many occasions, that I have so often had faith in the faith of others as mine withered, including him when he was an eight-year-old first communicant accepting something so seemingly mysterious and different - something which frightens me.  I want to tell you that it is all alright, doubts and fears are an enormous part of this journey, knowing that eases the burden, knowing others feel - knowing that I feel, now or then - the significance of difficult decisions about faith, church, the spiritual, the divine, the sacred, the holy is a great comfort, somehow.

I think I'd rather just show you a spider-boy.  Nick and Zack aren't kids who are familiar with a lot of movies or cartoons or comics or the like.  They wouldn't know The Hulk from that big guy at church, or what the heck Spiderman is about - radioactive spiders?  Swings on a web?  Teenage angst?  No.  But Zack can leap up in doorway and scream "I am Spider Boy" because, well, who wouldn't?



What about you, dear reader, what if something I can say right now could help you, lift you, sustain you for that brief weightless moment when your faith falters?  I'll tell you this, I draw great strength from The Trinity not because of its awesomeness, not because of its impenetrable mystery, not because of its unutterable beauty - although it is all three.  I draw strength in its safety, its flexibility, its forgiveness.  I never have been a great follower of Christ (and I wonder if you will ever see this sentence).  I have always been in awe of God and His essential supremacy, that's a fact.  I have always seen the beauty of the Holy Spirit, sometimes in a meadow or a song or a soul or in the whisper of the wind, but usually in others.  I have not known Christ, however, not with a closeness so many describe.  I am sorry for that, but, it is true.  I have never sensed that I was known by name, chosen, friended by a savior.  But, such is the subtle beauty of The Trinity - by its very design I am forgiven, understood, accepted.  I hope you see that, dear friend.

Let's take a look at this, it's a logic page from third grade:




Well, uh, yeah, so Conner and Joseph had, no that wouldn't work... Makala didn't have, no, did have...  Kaityln probably had the donuts because...  I'll go cook some more sausages.

Wait, wait... there's an answer key:



It is hard to tell about a journey as you are on it; it is difficult to write a story, or a even a chapter of one, as it unfolds before you; it is difficult to trust the answers when you didn't really comprehend the questions.  Is there an answer key?  I hope for my sake, for the sake of these fine young men, and for yours, there is.

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

(OK, actually said at the dinner table before the meal)

“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive from Thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord.
I’m drooling.”
 


I said early on it is difficult to walk two journeys together, but, I think Nick is real close here...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recent Finds


I have recently really forgotten what was one of the prime motivators for me starting this whole hay-wagon (do people say that?).

Silliness.

I still guffaw at some of this stuff, I out-loud-laugh.  Honestly, it's head-shaking, tear-inducing hilarity, in my opinion.  My very first post was inspired by a piece of paper I picked up which read, "No pliars are available."  I knew I didn't write it, Marci doesn't really utilize pliers a lot, so I knew one of the boys had written it.  It struck me as so funny and odd and silly...

Well, whaddya say we get this hay-wagon started?  (They do now.)

Let's start with these two guys.  I know, their cartoon starts on Disney in a few weeks.  It's called "Pinky and Sparrowboy" and you'll just have to wait like all the other kids to find out what their story is.


And then there is this which I believe is a sea creature of the cucumber variety or a winged Christmas ornament:


This is obviously...



...the prototype of this:


Which is clearly a "Mangaloonable."

mangaloonable - \mahn-ja-loon-ə-bəl\ - noun : the inevitable result of forcing pressurized air into a children's graphic novel, never used in parades.  adj : the capacity for spontaneous, silly, yet inexplicable,  pressurization.  His was a mangaloonable  existence.

(It's no way to live.)

You might remember the discussion about alien-dogs I was having with Nick in my previous post.  Well, he and Zack decided that it would be fun to design "space-houses" for them.




















That's Nick's there on the left, Zack's is on the right.  Now, mind you, the whole notion of "space-houses" for "alien-dogs" is just about as odd as it gets (well, not really...), but what really strikes me is the similarity of design.  I can only guess there is a universality of need here to which I had hitherto not been hip.  Yep, there's only one way to build an alien-dog house, we all know that.

Finally, there's this song:



That precipitated this impossibly inane conversation.

"Hey, Nick?  What's this?"

"My song, that's what it says at the top."

"Can you sing it for me?"

"I don't know how it goes."

"I see... well, what do the words mean?"

"Whaddya mean?"

"Well, like 'triva,' what's that?"

"A word that rhymes with 'divea,' Dad."

"Oh, right... well, what does 'divea' mean?"

"I'm not sure if it's even a word."

"Right, uh, could you just read the words to me."

Here is what I heard, it sort of had a rap beat to it:

        "It's not extra triva /
         It's just a little diva,/
         That I proposed and I/
         Brought my spirits with me."

"Well, uh, I see... what does that even mean?"

"I do not know.  I like it, though."

Pause.

"Yeah, so do I."

Oh, I almost forgot, and a stick:
 

Maybe it's a wand...


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


...

...


Apparently, Marci isn't in today.  So, uh...

I heard Nick call Zack a "chicken-toad" the other night.  I thought it a positively Shakespearean insult.


Thanks for stopping by.  I appreciate it.


 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"It Just Is, I Guess"



I believe I would weep at the sight of an orchard full of blossoming Honeycrisp apple trees.


I think it is easy to loose our way, ours is a uniquely complicated journey, we will all get lost somewhere, we will all stall, we will all falter, we will all doubt, we will all fail. I'm okay with that.

So, when I realize that I had every intention of posting three times a week, and, well, it has been a week since I last posted here, what do I do? What do I tell myself?

Should I forgive myself? Sure, of course, that's what I'd teach the boys.

Should I cajole and sneer at myself for making a promise, a commitment, and giving up on it? Well, yeah, a little...

Should I hang my head in the shame I feel sometimes when my arrogance lets me forget that there is a plan for me, specifically, me? Most definitely.

Should I remind myself that I am doing the best I can? Yes, life's balancing act is a full-time position for me.

Should I be really honest with myself and confess to the fact that I got mixed up and started, once again, writing for you, dear readers, and not for you, dear boys? No, I think that is my struggle not yours.

Should I simply move on, figuring no one will really notice if I don't mention it? Yes, that'd be best...

Oh well.


I have been working on a transition around these parts, my tiny corner of the digital realm. I figure the time is coming when perhaps these stories will become too personal, too close, to revealing to continue in such a public manner. So, I've been trying to focus a little more on storytelling and less on commentary. Listen, I'm not really going to be able to change what I do here, but, do me a favor, if you ever think I am doing even the slightest notion of disservice to my boys, you tell me. Promise? Thanks...


A long, lean eight-and-a-half year old boy, sixty-pounds worth, snuggles next to me at six in the morning. He suffers the same affliction I do, when we wake up we are up, for good, enthusiastic, eager, awake. We are talking in the quiet predawn, in whispered tones we are imagining what a dog alien must be like, giggling a little. Nick suggests that I look a little like a dog with my big beard. I ask him if he likes it.

Yeah, it's okay.” Pause. “It sort of makes you look old.”

I am old.”

Yeah, but do you have to look it?”

The question lingers in the warm, humid air of a small bedroom in the early fall. It seems unanswerable, difficult, uncomfortable.

I tease him back, pinching his slightly chubby cheeks, making him giggle, and, truthfully, changing the subject. He settles down a little and lays back, thinking, I'd guess, I lean against the headboard, I know I am thinking.

I think of my own father, and wildness, and masculinity, and image, and the future, and my past. I see the beards my father had over the years, bright red initially, fading, like memories, to gray and white. I remember the time I was in a play and was told to just let my beard grow, how wild that was, how manly, how crazy, how wonderfully non-conformist and cool. All at once, I see myself as perhaps he sees me – old, tired, different – and wonder.

Do you not like that I am so old?” I whisper, hoping a little that he has fallen back asleep. He hasn't, in fact he seems to understand the query perfectly, giving the pause it deserves, the quiet intake of breath it requires.

It's not really your fault, you know?”

I think he is done, but he is not. He echoes back to me, something I have said to him, something, it would seem, he has come to understand:

It just is, I guess.”

It just is.

Acceptance.

He asks to get up and leaves to go read in the living room. I hold back. I want to think about what I should do. I wonder if I should shave my beard and dress younger and get hip. I worry that perhaps his life is more difficult because I am different, because I am a full time dad, because I am fifty-something, because I am arty and old, because I am a little wild and serious and silly and odd and...

But, wait. I sit at the edge of the bed. I don't have to think of any of that.

It just is.

Thanks, buddy.


I want to forever remember the stories and images I share here. I wonder if anyone will recall this picture of me, taken six or seven months ago. This is how they see me, it suddenly occurs to me:


I will end this here today, without an image of or by the boys.  I'll just see how that feels.


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

(while Zack plays the recorder)

N: "You are Zack's evil alien dog pet, and thus music is all that can contain you."
 
... well, there you have it ...


I hope he sang that in his "opera voice"...

Thanks for coming around again, come back soon, or in the sweet tenderness of the yet-to-come.  Speaking of which, and, since you've been so kind to read this - or should I say thus - far, I'll tell you a secret, sometimes I add an odd sentence or too on purpose for the boys in the future.  I thought that opening sentence aloud one time, as we were snacking on a plate of fresh apples, Honeycrisps, our very favorite kind, and I will forever hope that Zack will remember, the wistful, joyful moment he spent agreeing with my sentiment.  It's beautiful to remember hope.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hope In Progress


Here is today's image:


And today's other image:


And a third for good measure:


Something is hidden in all three, something I can't quite put my finger on, something distinct or silly or wonderful or frightening.

That flying ship at the top... it's not, it's a guy, with a face and fully articulated limbs.  I mistook it for a plane.

The thing in the middle - well, two things - are not the monsters they appear to be.  Nope, at the top is a flying creature and underneath is a water creature, they are both good... yeah, I'm not sure.  I just found it on the floor and I really liked it.

The bottom image is two toddlers looking out into the world, the world to come, their future.

Hope.  That's it, that's what they all have in common.

Yeah...


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

N: "He has a very sensible nose."
 

M: "A sensitive nose?"
 

N: "Yes, that's what I said."

My nose is both...


Monday, October 7, 2013

"It's All Dancey and Stuff..."


Sometimes, when the boys play a silly on-line game they like called Pirate 101 (you do understand that I put these specific references in for the boys, sometime in the future, so they'll smile and remember for a moment, right?), I'll pick up my guitar and play a couple tunes and watch them play for a while.  It happened just last night.

I pick up my tired, beloved vintage Alverez and give it a quick strum, a pretty G-chord sings up, hitting the floor joists just above me, echoing sweetly back.  I run the G up to a C and, for reasons I could never begin to explain, I suddenly remember a dozen or so young couples with silver bracelets on their wrists and flowers in their hair (a Bob Dylan reference) dancing in a field, all waltzing, happily singing the chorus to Mr. Bojangles as I play guitar with a couple of new dear friends, all of us dancing barefoot, singing our hearts out.  I can't remember the details, I think it was somewhere on the rolling hills of The Ohio University , circa nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-nine.

So, as the boys carry on in their made up pirate world, I am carried back on a wave of sacred nostalgia.  Instantly, I remember all the words, all the tricky parts, all the chords and, I begin the song anew with a long instrumental intro, watching, once again, a crazy, spontaneous, colorful, exuberant, waltz etched forever in my memory.

I forget them, the boys, briefly and, out of the blue, out of the future, out of the now - I'm not sure which - a voice says:

"That's pretty, Daddy."

"Yeah, it's all dancey and stuff..." another distantly familiar voice says just after.

I proceed to sing the song through, to my audience of two and those in the audience of my memory.  It is a great song, sad yet hopeful, happy, bordering on regretful, but never reaching that conclusion.  I tear up when someone asks him "please... please... dance" just as I have for the nearly forty years I've been singing that song.

"Play it again, Dad."

"Will you sing it with me, you know, the chorus?"

"Yeah," they chorus answers back.

So, I sing it again.


Memories careen for me, around ridiculous corners, cartoon-like, bumping others going the opposite way, riding, barely holding on to each other, trying, beyond hope to reach an ultimate destination.  They simply are unbridled in my mind, wonderful, important, essential, but wild and unfettered.

In just the few minutes it took for me to play that song, twice, I remembered so many who had heard me play it, with whom I had played it, whom I've heard play it while I sat back to listen, too drunk or in love to play along.  Some of the names allude me, but, the faces and the eyes and the voices and the smiles and the timbres and the tones all shake me still.

I seemed to remember an entire era, hundreds of souls, dozens of places, a thousand laughs and as many tears in just a few minutes, and, all as I did something else.  How is that possible? I remember thinking to myself, what makes that possible?

Time, an answer floated back.

Not time, I think, no, time is my enemy, lurking and stealing from me, beating down on me, winning...

God's Time.

Right, I knew that.  Sorry...


So, I am, I guess, experimenting here.  I hope that perhaps, reading this post, or hearing Mr. Bojangles again, most likely for the first time in years, will perhaps jolt one of these boys into a memory, or two, or, with luck, a whole childhood.


And, a few hours after I wrote these words, I remembered this image:

O.U. 1979

 Yeah that's me on the left, makin' memories...

Friday, October 4, 2013

He's a Housewife, Chester


"What do you do all day?"

People do ask me that, sometimes not quite so bluntly.  People ask how I "fill" my days, or what do I do with my "free" time, underhandedly hinting that I must have lots of it.

It's cool.  I am a stay-at-home-dad and I expect a few raised eyebrows and some lightly-veiled condescension, I get that.  I think maybe, if I weren't actually doing it, I might wonder the same thing or feel the same way.  I don't really know what to say to it sometimes.

When I first started staying at home with Nick and Zack I still worked a few nights in a restaurant waiting tables.  Waiters and waitresses - 'servers', I guess, but I hate that word just as I've come to hate the acronym 'SaHD' - suffer a certain condescension as well.  One night I was talking with an elderly couple, it was late, after the rush, so I had the time and they were sweet.

"So what else do you do, Bill?" the old guy asked me.

His wife sighed.

After nearly thirty years waiting tables, this no longer got my ire up.  "I stay at home with my twin two-year-old sons and work a couple nights a week here."  I was trying to imply that this was the other thing I did.

He stared blankly back at me as if I'd spoken in a foreign tongue.

"No," he said shaking his head to, I'd assume, restart his thinking, "What business are you in?"

His wife sighed.

"I'm, I guess, what you'd call a homemaker."  Honestly, I was trying to use a term he might understand, an anachronism suited to his sensibilities.

He smiled pleasantly, nodded his head knowingly and said, "Housing starts are way down these days, what are ya, a carpenter?  Roofing, now that's hard work..."

His wife sighed again, loudly, uncomfortably, apologetically.

I smiled at her and reassured her with my look that I did not take offense.  I was, however, a bit stumped as to what to say next.  The man was looking from his wife, who's sigh had interrupted him - as I am sure it had many times before - to me and back to his wife.

"He's a housewife, Chester.  Just like I was."


I am actually considered an old veteran in this small corner of parenting, this "homemaker"-as-dad thing I do, and I still never know what to say about it to others.  Sometimes the parent of a kid who's on the boys' team - soccer, baseball, whichever - or a dad watching his kids at the pool or a mom at the park will ask me what I do and I'll them, usually I say that "I stay at home with the boys."

I've seen grown men actually wince and women physically turn up their noses at the notion.  They may mumble something complimentary, but, they don't really mean it.  More often they seemed surprised, shocked even, and sometimes, most often, they change the subject, usually to sports for men and school for women.

So, what am I getting at?  I like to consider myself a homemaker, it's lovely.  And, it is what I do.  I make meals, over a thousand a year; I paint kitchens and hallways and sheds and play-sets; I clean bathrooms and vacuum floors and launder piles of clothes, pre-treating and soaking as needed.  I mend fences and broken screens and mangled fingers and cracked hearts.  I plant bushes and trees and tomatoes and grow herbs and then I trim bushes and trees and pick tomatoes and wash herbs.  I straighten up and dust (sometimes) and iron and put those little felt pads on the bottom of the chairs in the dining room so they push in smoothly.

I make sure lunches are ready and snacks are available.  I shop and go to the pharmacy.  I go to practices and games and take long bike-rides through the neighborhood.  I throw endless fly-balls through the Ohio sky as I try to explain football and girls and eternity and...

Well, you get it, don't you?

"But, what do you do all day?"

Honestly, I am not sure.  The above and the oh-so-much more I do around here does not take all day, that's the truth.  I'd guess, maybe two or three hours, in spurts and spazzes, really, this for a while, wait, fold, wait, chop, this, wait, that.  It's not real linear.

I also try to play guitar a bit everyday.  Everybody loves a campfire song or a Christmas Carol or a kitchen sing-along, but, everyone forgets one has to practice to make that happen.  I walk for an hour or so four or five times a week, lately through the local parks because it is fall and it smells nice, but, sometimes through the same streets I may later bike through.  This I do because I want to love and live for a long time to come, but, it takes time.

I pray most days, which for me amounts to listening and hoping, and sometimes that can take an eternity.

I make a home, not just a home as in 'home and hearth,' but a home in my heart.  (I don't have time right now, but, perhaps that is where the word 'hearth' comes from, heart.)  Not just clean sheets and fresh clothes, but something less tangible, a place to dream and cry, to love and hope, to grow and be heard and respected.

That's all wonderful, true, but it's got nothing to do with me being a man, or with you wondering how you'd spend your time if you did what I do.

By the way, what do you do all day?

Now who's condescending?


There's more, there is always more.

In my defense It's funny to feel like I'm defending myself here, when I am not.  Actually, I think I do a bang-up job at all this and, this is the hard part, I try to keep at least a feeble grip on me, on who I am, on what I think is important.

And, I think this is important, these words I send out to you, or you, or...

But they don't come free, they don't type themselves, these words, these thoughts.  They've got to be thunk, lined up.  And think them I do.

For instance, I came up with the narrative for this curious drawing.  Sort of a Charlotte meets Sun Tzu and his doppelganger mini-me who lives on his hat, it's silly and about twenty-five-hundred words which I will spare you:


I've spent probably eight to ten man hours trying to figure out what this was a blueprint for.  I actually built a working model of it out of parts from an old dehumidifier and English Ivy vines and a rare nine-volt battery.  I turned it on... it turned itself back off.  In my defense, I only did that like a dozen times before I threw it across the room, freakin' whimsical nonsense:




I also spent, like, an hour trying to figure if that was a stylized cursive capital "Z" there up on the top right, like a logo or something.  And, I know that 63 X 7 to the curious symbol = curiously, pi, well I cheated, I googled it.

I also try to listen as much as possible when they are drawing or talking or playing or dreaming.  I can tell you this, it is essential to listen.  If I hadn't been listening I wouldn't know that this was a castle under siege:


Or that this was the firepit in the backyard where we roast wieners and make 'smores.



If I weren't paying attention, I may have missed this triumvirate, "Maxnock" "Altock" and the unfortunately named "Nock Cock."  I think they live in a forest near Antwerp:


I do waste some time around here, I will admit.  For instance, I spent several hours determining that this is nose-ringed bull's head breathing out a cyclone of poisonous smoke, resting on a sword-impaled home-plate, uh, wearing a crown when actually it is just "IdunnodadIjustdrewit":


And then there's this:














 
I tried it every way I could and, I still got nothing.  I can't see it's face is the problem, I think, unless it's a vehicle, or, uh, well... something else.


Listen, what I do is important and noble and decent and honest and respectable and good.

And so is the job of the garbage man and the surgeon, the priest and the politician, the mother and the father, the waitress and the astronaut.

Mine is just a little weirder.


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

"I am versing Bigfoot with a pencil and a notebook."


This was sung in a Wagnerian high opera style and the libretto later revealed that the pencil was his sword and a notebook his shield.  That might be true of Cervantes and his windmills but, dude, it's Bigfoot, get a bludgeon made out of a, well, bludgeon...


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Elements of a Post, Again


(I did this once before in this post and, honestly, it was a lot of fun.)

Include these phrases written on the same index card:

"I want to remember that."

"I never clean the detritus out of my guitar case, all manner of things... a guitar case..."  (Yeah, that's what it says.)

Some scans of home-made Pokemon-style trading cards:





An arbitrary scan of four Reds tickets:


Some profoundly unrelated photos:





Two scanned objects which should have been photographed:



Something colorful and inspiring like two marker coats-of-arms:



Words to include: distillation, angst, puny and mutton (mutton, what the hell...)

Ideas to include: Baseball's curious hold on me; English muffins; anachronisms and such and what Nick said about the things that sometimes scare him.

Some other considerations:  Use the plural of coat-of-arms, consider why a child does something we think is unusual, be tempted to accidentally hit publish and pretend you couldn't figure out how to fix it, mention a title for a post you never intend to write.

Needed:  A device to include all these things in one post and lunch.

Time allotted:  Three hours and forty-seven minutes, includes lunch.

Note:  Use italics to show result and turn copy red when referenced.


I'm gonna go make lunch and think about it, I'll get back in a few.


I don't think it can be done.  I guess I could lead off with that painfully odd guitar case thing, admitting that I actually know what it means - that things accumulate in strange and perplexing ways, and, as they do, a distillation occurs that sweetens and mellows, greens go to browns, sharp scents change to mere hints of fragrances forgotten.

I don't think that would do, perhaps if I started with the Reds tickets, explaining how we made it to the last regularly scheduled game of the season and had a great time, and my underdog hero Corky Miller hit a two-run double and caught a couple of innings.  I might add some thoughts on how I truly feel about the baseball season, how honestly I am glad I don't have to watch seven or twelve or more baseball games this season.  I might extend my metaphor on the poetry in baseball to include the notion that it is not the number of poems you read, it is in the deep understanding of just that one that landed, movingly on your chest.

And I could end that bit with the picture of Mr. Reds in a snow helmet as a symbol the winter hibernation of our favorite sport.

From there I could use a clever transition, which is currently evading me, and say something about how things shift so stealthily; this show is no longer watched, this cereal no longer favored, this color now that color, English Muttons Muffins are now a breakfast consideration and biscuits are out.

Easy segue into that yellow bungee-cord-looking-thing that I scanned - although I should have used the camera - which is actually a small yellow curled cord that was attached to a little plastic carabiner type clip that Nick got five, yes five, years ago and yet it still surfaces, he cherishes it, adding that he also made the curious metal object out of a cheap little magic trick kit he got, taped it together and showed it to me the whole while not seeing that he'd spelled the word "god" and added a delightfully stylized cross above the 'o'.  And, I could add a picture I took to make things a little clearer.

After all that I would add that when I first started doing this nearly two years ago, my initial thought, when I found this on the floor, was:  "I want to remember this."  It still is my initial mission, in fact the entire purpose of this post is to archive these moments and images I never want to forget, remembering.  If I remember, perhaps they'll remember and perhaps you will as well, whoever or whenever you are.

Speaking of that "whenever you are thing" I've been echoing here, I wonder if you even know what that is there on the right, on a table.  And on the left?  Well Zack asked me:  "What is that, Daddy?" pointing to the candle I have on my desk, my "focus candle", and I launched into why I use it to help me think, and... he interrupted, "No, that other thing."  Oh, that burnout, used match, something which you've never seen before.  Something that I saw everyday as a child their age.  Just as they see that thing on the right, that laptop, that, had I seen in a magazine or book, would have baffled me as to what it was.  (The rest of the story on the picture of the laptop is that, and this is essential, is that I took it to remember the way Nick had perfectly arranged the cord to go that particular way.  Only a boy would think of and then respond to that seemingly unorthodox approach, I wanted to always have image to look back on.)

Lets see then, that would leave the Pokemon cards and the coats-of-arms, but, I could just peddle those as 'the usual' around here and not really dissect them, not notice the darling little monkey-bear in the one on the top right, the puny little guy labelled "worst enemy".  There's a lot of weird imagery in those four drawings, I can always analyze them some other time, in the future, if I need to...

So, that most of it right?  Oh, except that one that's difficult, except that "what Nick said about the things that sometimes scare him."  He said that it scares him when other people are mad or really, really sad, upset in general gives him an angst that he is having trouble understanding, as indeed he should.  I guess I'd tell him, although I don't want to, that we all feel that way but, most of the time, we just have to let that feeling wash over us and engulf us and defeat us quickly, rapier-style and move on.  It's bad advice but he'll never see it will he?

For some reason I want to call this post "I Fed Schoenberg's Schrödinger's Cat" and include atonal piano music and show my general lack of understanding in things philosophical and physics.  I don't know why...

Now to change this would-be piece into the actual piece by adding italics.

And now to avoid hitting publish prematurel