Thursday, December 31, 2015

Years End

Indeed they do, end that is, years that is...

This is my last post this year, I'm supposed to reflect and that sort of thing.  I should look back or look ahead or offer advice or make resolutions.  I know, I should do a retrospective bit and link up my favorite posts and add more stuff to inspire and motivate and...

I'm not going to.  In fact I don't know what I'm doing here today.  Christmas has come and gone, I should say something about that perhaps.  We got a TV...

More and more here, I find it difficult to say things I would like to, about the boys, about our life, about the future, about the world around and in us.  Why?  Because I worry it might hurt them, us, you...

I guess, then, your wondering why I'm wasting your time today.  Well, I'd like to ask something of you - keep stopping by when you can.  You may notice - for reasons I've already mentioned - a sort of transition around here in the coming weeks, months, whatever.  I am trying to shift the focus away from the boys and more toward myself.

Lord, that sounds dickish.

Listen, I can't, in good conscience, continue to keep making fun of Nick's spelling and Zack's unending love for a stuffed bear.  It was cute when I started all this, well- intentioned and all, but, it's not seeming so right anymore.  I can't presume to tell you about their feelings and stuff.  I used to think I knew them, now, well, they cloak them better and they're more complicated, these feelings, and they are theirs.

I hope that makes sense.

I see this all the time in the blogging community, this often jarring and sudden realization that it's time, perhaps, to stop telling your children's stories, that, alas, they are not yours to tell.  More often than not, this clarity leads to, um, well... closure, endings.  I am reluctant to do that, shut down, that is.

If it hasn't become painfully obvious to you yet- or you just haven't mentioned it... thanks - I am not a very good blogger, especially by today's standards.  I am staggeringly inconsistent in posting with any regularity, I use too many words (see last this sentence), and I am atopical and antiviral.

I understand all this.  I've pretty much given up telling folks I do this.  Anyone I am close to has probably poked around here a bit, some kind new friends stop by, an occasional teacher or priest or neighbor looks in every now and then.  That's fine.

There is another of you, though.  The you that is to come, and I'm listening to you playing and screaming and laughing in the basement as I write these words.  More than anything, between that you in the basement and the you that may be you in a now thirty years hence is the place I try to write from.

It's a funny place, a valley where memory and experience, past and present, future and now, boy and man, meet, fuse, loop.

But, somewhere in that amalgam, are the stories - real or imagined - and I'll continue to listen for them.  You do the same.

That's all I've got.

I took a picture of the boys and I, a selfie I suppose.

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

Sarcasm... Nailed it.

You know, I wondered if you'd ask that. Yes, I did show the boys that picture up there and told them I would like to use it here, they were cool with it.  I was afraid you'd ask that... No, I didn't try to explain this place between in which I find myself, hopefully you understand now... I know I don't.

Peace to you in this coming year.  Stop back by.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wait For It

I asked Nick what he was doing the other night.  It was bed time and I'd just finished saying goodnight to Zack.  Nick was staring off towards the dresser, directly at - or through - the lava lamp.

"Oh, I'm just thinking, I guess."

"What about?"

"You know what, Dad?  I'm not really sure," and here he took a pause, a "beat" as we used to say in Theater School, " ...yet."


I've been sitting at the table here, watching the final act of this morning's sunrise, for about forty-five minutes.  I've nothing to show for it, no dishes done, no Christmas carols rehearsed, no laundry started.  Nor have I solved any world problems, figured out how to say something about the deep polarization of today's society, or decided what's for dinner tonight.

Nope, I am still just staring out the window waiting.

Waiting for what?

I'm not sure.

(Meaningful pause.)


It is impossible to overstate the importance of waiting, of stillness, of listening to silence.

And yet, I am very hard on myself when feel like I've wasted a morning, fettered away an afternoon, whiled away a late night.  I know better, but, the power of my old nemesis Time makes me rue those hours as lost, unproductive, wasted.

It is hard for me, balancing the creative need to think and wait - to go down a road and come back, to wait in darkness for that perfect shooting star, to collect the pauses between the notes to actually hear the song, to wait for the light that follows dark that follows light - with the scurry of life, the staccato jumps from this to that, the pace, the turns, slips, the messes, mistakes and screams, the wild, the unpredictable.

So, I guess this may be a reminder to you (I'll let you determine if you are the you I'm speaking to) to go ahead and stare at the lights on the tree, listen to the heat blowing inside and the wind outside.  Go ahead and sit with a rose or a steaming cup or a faded photograph or sleeping baby on your lap.  Watch the bread or the sun or a toddler's chest rise or fall or both.  Light a candle, sing a song, shed a tear and... wait.

For how long, a voice just said - it sounded like that old man Time.

Sorry, old man, there is no way of knowing...


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

"God is pretty boss."

I believe that statement took Nick about two solid hours to come up with - staring at the lava lamp.

Hey, thanks for spending some time here, with me.  I'll keep starin' into the fire, you do the same, alright?

There's always more thing, right?  I wanted to tell you, or remind myself later, or show the boys, now, uh, or then, or... man this gets mixed up.  Anyway, I composed this whole post, start to finish, capturing and editing the images, researching, lining up the words all pretty like, copying and, subsequently, pasting stuff - all on my new smarty-pants phone.  All the while listening to the "Acoustic Concentration" station on Spotify bluetoothed to my bitchin' new Bose minispeakers from, get this, the same dammed phone.

I know that's not very impressive to many of you but, well, I'm a technophobe, and this shit is hard for me.  Also, and this is a little difficult to explain, I'm, well, holding the future in my hands.  My past's future that is.  (And Nick's and Zack's as well, it occurs to me.)  When I was young, the things these phones do was what we imagined our future would be like.

It blows my mind sometimes.

(Ironically, I am low on power and the phone might run out before I can get this done.  That's funny right there...)

Aaaaaand, the sun and shadows spells "BE" on the wall in the dining room...

Yep.  I'd have never captured this fleeting image if it hadn't been for this stupid, smart phone.

Peace and Joy to you all.  It's Advent, let's all wait.  You see, it's not Christmas...


Friday, December 11, 2015

A Tenderness of Intent

Safely stored in our basement is a box of photo books my mom made when we, my two brothers and I, were growing up.  There are captions above, below, beside each black-and-white.  There is an occasional burst of color in some of the earlier books - Christmas, a beach trip, camping - bright and happy like a Sunday comic page.  They are dated well, thoughtfully executed and an excellent chronicle of my childhood - thanks, Mom.

And, I hardly ever look at them.

You should apologize to her now, you're thinking.

I'm not going to.

You see, I cherish those books, I really do.  Their dry crinkly pages, yellowed and stained with that mark that only a glue brush can make, the acetate clear pages also brittle and chipped, have been around for as long as I can remember.  Some of the pictures have lost their moorings - you remember, the little black frame corner pieces meticulously placed to grab the picture - and they float behind the clear page. 

I don't look at them very frequently because I want them to remain the way they are - not in that box downstairs - but in my mind.  It is very comforting to know not that there is a box of photobooks of memories and past awaiting, no, but that their was a past to remember, a childhood, dreams, memories to make, and, and... someone loved enough to chronicle it.

Marci and I, mostly Marci, well, Marci, really, has made and makes picture books for the boys.  There are baby books with notes and bits about them written and remembered.  There are preschool graduation pictures, old friends, team photos, you know what's in them, and the boys like to get them out - as I did - and remember forgotten things and good times and kittens and old cats.  They like to get them out a couple or few times a year.  For now at least.

I am afraid I didn't articulate that very well at all...

I am trying to get to a point, but it seems to keep getting farther away.  I am trying to say that I think - and it sounds trite now - that photobooks and scrapbooks and folders of old school projects and old chests full of letter-jackets and theater posters, envelopes of love letters, a box of undated photos of forgotten faces and times, a little box that once held, well, things that needed to be held, but only holds the crispy petals of a yellow rose, all these things, and, oh, so many more, are sacred places.

They are not sacred things, no, the sacred place I speak of is in me.

It is in my heart.

It is in my mind.

The sacred place is my soul, built and buttressed with each memory kept, each item held, each love listed, each smile captured.

I cherish those old books Mom made, the boys cherish the ones they have, perhaps you have a box of memories as well.  We keep them safe.  We open them now and again.  We know, and this is important, that there is a tenderness of intent inherit in them, and, that tenderness is what makes them good, important... sacred.

This is a transitional paragraph.  It serves to link the opening above to the main topic which follows.  It is not a very good transitional paragraph.

I have a new phone.  It is shiny and smart and takes pretty good images.  I took one the other day of the boys getting ready for their first real band event - a compelling review of thirty second songs utilizing all five of the notes they know.  In all honesty, I just took it because I happened upon my phone in my pocket and thought, what the hell.

I liked one of the pictures, well, a part of one, so I cropped it and added some filters - too many I am sure - and I posted it to a private Facebook page I belong to with little explanation, trying to be cool, I'd guess.

I should be embarrassed to say that I was showing off.  I wanted my friends there to see how grown up and interesting and hip the boys are becoming.  I wanted folks to see the image I'd taken, what I'd done with it.  There is not much sacred about showing off.  And, that's why I am not embarrassed by it all.  It got me to thinking.

I have long been uncomfortable with posting a lot of pictures of the boys on Facebook, oh sure I have now and then, but it never felt quite right.  I'd like to say it's because of privacy issues and the like, but, it's not that.  I'd like to say it is because I hate the thought of an image of childhood innocence, and so many like it, trying to flower in the stench of so much hate and violence and unkindness that seems to the invade event the gentlest of Facebook threads, pages and posts, but, honestly, I don't believe that.  I see beauty and caring and depth and integrity every day on it, mixed in the ugly, so that's not it.  (Boys, if you don't remember what Facebook was, I wrote a little primer here.)

No, what it is is that it's too damn easy.  I couldn't believe that old Luddite Bill, could figure it all out from my new phone.  Tip, tap, swipety, swipe... done.  Do you know the word "flip?"  It is short for flippant, I think, which is defined as "frivolously disrespectful, shallow, or lacking in seriousness; characterized by levity."

Yeah, I think we are all a bit flip about posting images on Facebook.  There is no gluestick, there are no scissors, or little frame corners.  There is no long consideration of what maybe to say about it, no looking long and deep into the slice of life you just excised.  Just, post it and move on.

Oh, there's more too.  Not only are we paying very little attention as we quickly send an image into digital bits on Facebook, we are, in my opinion, disrespecting it, forgetting it, discarding it in the detritus and discourse and decay, where, simply put, it does not belong.

Maybe I am being hard my myself, on you, on us.  I don't mean to say that that every time we post an image on Facebook an angel loses his wings.  For the most part there is no ill-intent, no harm meant, no foul.  But, maybe there is more to that image than just the temporary attention it gets and as quickly fades.  I feel kinda sorry for those images because I don't think they live in a sacred place.  I know many will argue that they make prints and fill scrapbooks with the pictures they've loaded on Facebook and Instagram and whatever other digital host first got them, I hope so.

I want to look at the inverse, though.  Let's imagine you had to buy film and load it and decide on a scene and make sure you had the right light or flash or a "magicube" and enough exposures to get just the right image.  Imagine you yourself developed a proof-sheet and looked at each image through a magnifying loupe, considering which one to print.  Or, imagine an envelope full of prints - twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six - fresh from the drugstore.  You flip through them, one in particular sings, you frame it or put it in your wallet or keep it at the ready in a drawer or glovebox.  You show it to your friends at work or at school.  They hold it, you point to it, maybe brush a piece of lint away.  Your mates at the local bar all pass the pictures of the big game or the homecoming float or the wedding in Wisconsin.  Imagine, now, how invested you'd become in that old photo, how cherished it would be.  Maybe it is this kind of consideration that we should give each image, each moment, before we send it out.

I said I was embarrassed earlier by putting the image out as I did... it's still there, I should tell you.  But here it is again.  Here it is for Nick and Zack.


What's that?  Yeah, I've given that some thought, and, yes, I do consider this blog a sacred place.  There has been from the beginning a tenderness of intent here.  There has been consideration.  There has been silliness.  There have been tears.  These words and images are sacred because I've meant them to be.  And, someday, when you boys are old and come across this archived in an old external hard drive in a firebox in an old ranch house in Loveland, you'll know that the love was in the doing.

I hope no one takes offense at this.  I am mostly indicting myself here, I am the first to embrace the folly and irony of this being a blog post, I get that.  I think Facebook is swell, I like the notion of social media, I think it does connect people.

Listen, I just got to thinkin', is all.  Peace to you all.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Better Question Than Mine

The sunset was mighty fine a few nights ago.  We were sitting at the dining room table and the room began to glow in yellows and golds and that is always a very good sign.  My back faces the glass doors that open out to an oft-imagined but non-extant deck.  I turned and looked out to the horizon on my right.  The sun was gone and the show was not there this time.  I bent my knees a bit and looked up.  Row after vertical row of rolling high cirrocumulus clouds striped the sky like pickets from the dark western horizon to nearly the eastern.  Each one glowed in rich reds and oranges and each leading edge was tipped in gold leaf, all behind the black outline of the leafless maples.

The sky was without hesitation "stripey," as Nick put it.

It was a pretty cool sunset.

The very next morning, the very same table, the very same room - this time glowing in salmons and pinks.  I turn again.  I look left and again there is no sun - yet, this time.  Fast clouds, grey, but really purple, race from south to north, whipping the dry leaves everywhere and bending the tall cedars at the edge of my neighbor's yard.  Looking up I realize that higher clouds can be seen between the fast moving purple-gray lower ones and they are the source of the color and light.  The dance moves quickly as the ominous stratus clouds reveal and conceal and frame and obscure the rich pink and red of the higher altocumulus above.

"That contrast is awesome, Dad," Zack says, suddenly next to me, summing it up nicely.

It was a pretty cool sunrise.

Now, I've explained the basic optics and such - angle of incidence and all that.  We've discussed and wondered and marveled at the intrinsic and extrinsic beauty of sunsets and sunrises.  The boys have drawn them in crayons and markers, I've mentioned both numerous times here.  Just, well, we've considered them.  I've considered them longer.

Zack and I sit back down at the table, back to coffee and Poptarts, routine and comfort.  Nick, who'd been watching from his chair, sits with a spoonful of Cheerios poised for slurping and says:

"Which do you think's best, Dad, a sunrise or a sunset?"

 "I've never considered it before, Nick."  I pause, offput, "That's a damn good question"

 Zack returns with, "That's a tough question."

I stand up to get another cup of coffee as they continue to discuss - reverently, I might add - the topic at hand.  I stare out the window as the fast wind blows and the sky darkens with more and more low clouds.


It is a tough question.  It's the kind of question that, well, I shoulda come up with.

I am not so sure I can answer it, myself.

I suppose if I just look at them, say a painting or image of both, which do I like best?  Do the golds and reds of sunset please me more than the pinks of sunrise?  Is the horizon dark, can I see the sun, would I like to?  Imagine if both were in the same sky.  Would I turn my back to warm it in the setting sun and watch the glory of the rising?  Or would I salute the majesty of the setting sun and know that the eastern sun will warm me later?

And, just like that, that quickly, I did what I didn't want to do yet, but it makes my point.  I couldn't even go one paragraph in considering Nick's unanswerable question before I started using words dripping with denotation and undertones.  "Majesty" and "glorious" slipped in and I was intentionally trying to avoid descriptors like that.

You see, a beautiful thing - a tree, a painting, a painting of a tree, poetry, prose, a waterfall, a sunrise, dusk - is not only what you are seeing at that moment, it is all the things you bring to it, from your past.

Let's reconsider in that light.

Are sunsets sad to me because they ended days and sunrises hopeful for they began them?  Or, are sunsets a triumphant finale and sunrises the squeaky beginning to yet another day of unknowns?  Have more dawns worried me than sunsets comforted?

Is a sunset a prayer of thanksgiving and a sunrise a song of praise, or does praise and glory belong to the sunset, fading royally to be born again in morning when, perhaps, the thanks should begin in earnest?

Have I held more hands - little, soft, calloused, big, perfumed, dirty - in sunset's light or, have I held more lovers in dawn's?  Have I laughed more towards the west, cried more to the east?  Have I toasted more setting suns with a beer and ten other fellows in the mountains, or more times raised my coffee to the sun's rise alone at ocean's edge?

Have I been warmer at sunset with a day's accumulated warmth all around me or has the sun's demise taken away the day's warmth, the warmth sunrise begins?  Have I seen more of one or the other in the heat of summer - sunsets perhaps - and more rises in the cold of winter?  

Is there passion in the pinks of sunrise, melancholy in the golds of sunset?

Is sunset an enemy; sunrise a friend?

Is the rising sun optimism; setting pessimism?  Is one eternity the other finality?

Sunset, Grace; sunrise, Hope?

Which is best?  I can't decide, and that is the very nature of a good, tough question.

I've been thinking on this for a while.  I was ill for a week and then I served on a Grand Jury, so, I've not sent anything out this way for a while.  I doubt it matters, but I just thought I should mention it.  I still don't have an answer, but, because I've been considering it all, I sure did sift through some lovely memories, thanks, Nick.

Also, I've been watching the skies a bit more carefully.  I even took a couple pictures on my phone.  This is a picture of a sunrise in the back yard a couple of days ago:

This sunset played out in front of me as the boys practiced basketball that same day:

It looks like I might be considering this question for a while.  I may ask it of others.  I like it, I like this kind of thinking, I like evoking memories.

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

"I got a pet robot. His name is Muffin."


You know what?  I think I should have to answer the question.  I brought it up, right?

Sunsets are the best.

Peace to you all.  Thanks for stopping by.  I wonder which you think is best?

For me it's definitely sunrises...

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Post in the Wind

I guess, today, I am posting something just for me

It seems so few are listening here these days that I can indulge in a little self-pity and

Songs have long held for me a significance beyond the meaning of their words, above the beauty of their melody, inside the significance of their story

Mass shootings, terrorists, Paris is

Nope, none of those seem to work this morning.

I think I'll just go ahead and sing a song if you don't mind. You can go away if you want - I'm really just doing it for me.

I'd guess that was one of the first dozen or so songs I ever learned on the guitar. There is no end to the ways one can play this song, Dylan himself did it about four different ways, and Peter, Paul and Mary and every-damn-one else have interpreted it for themselves, and it seems to come out different every time I do it. It might seem trite and cliche after all these years. It's not. It is, and shall unfortunately ever remain, topical to the second, to the instant, to every now that shall ever be or ever was.

I've mentioned before that I sing and play the songs I have long known when I am feeling down. Not, truly, just to lift me or make me feel better, but, to... it's hard to explain.

To make me feel more.

Yes, I suppose that's it.

When I sing a song, this song specifically, I do so atop the echoes of all the other times I've done it. The harmonies of friends come back and to fill the lonely refrain. The tune floats along on the vague, nearly forgotten memories of the times I've done it before and it becomes something else. The memories make it new. Or, perhaps the now, the event that led me back to it, adds new weight or maybe it just lightens the burden or... I'm not making sense.

And, why am I crying?

Things happen that I don't understand. If I don't understand them, how, God, can I explain them to little boys?

This song is my lame explanation to them.

Sorry, boys, it's the best that I can do.

When I went away to college - and I've mentioned this before in some post past, but I'll be damned if I can find it - I typed up all my songs on my Mom's monster electronic typewriter...

Damn, this is a rough post to write. In looking at this now, I see that below Blowin' in the Wind is a song that we wrote as freshman in college which means I didn't type this particular one up until after college started. Now I remember. I think a couple of buddies and myself promised we'd type up the songs we knew over Christmas break. Yeah, that seems true enough, at least plausible.

Anyway, I typed them up on something called "erasable bond" paper, an almost vellum like paper that one could erase typing from. It streaked terribly. I remember, this seems impossible but it is true, that we'd agreed to use carbon paper and make another copy of each one so there would be one to share. Of course I couldn't erase the carbon copy but, I worked hard on the project - hours and hours. It is funny what comes back to you when you dive right into it.

I've redone all those songs, modernized them, digitized them, but, in a folder on a shelf are all those old sheets, crisp and brittle, yellowed like parchment, coffee stained and worn out.

(Yes, those are seed burns, no denying the obvious.)

It is funny how deeply this stupid piece of paper affects me. I think of all the hands that handled it, all the times I've looked at it, all the places it's been, all the stories it holds - like a touchstone, a talisman, it soothes me. It makes me remember that I've been somewhere, been through stuff, known folks, loved others... lived.

And, I think that is what this whole thing is about today.  I can't figure things out sometimes, I can't make sense of the seemingly senseless, the arbitrary, the evil, the sad.  But...

I know this song, I've figured out this thing, maybe that gives me hope that I can figure something harder out.

I dunno.

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

Z: "Why did you laugh?"

M: "Because you are funny."

N: "ish"

I'm funnyish, too...

Thanks for coming by, Peace to you, Peace to us, Peace to the whole damn world, we sure as hell need it...

Hey, boys.  I think everyone else is gone.  When you find me, as you both have, playing a song and crying or screaming it with my eyes shut or just mumbling it into the wind, know I am just trying to figure things out.  It's a coping device.  Don't let it scare you.

I love you both so much...

... hand me that guitar, won'tcha?

Friday, November 6, 2015

On Turbines, Titanium and Time

I witnessed something profound the other night.  It made me wonder and worry and marvel and dream.  It scared me and lifted me.  It made time irrelevant and exploded memories like long buried, forgotten landmines.  I laughed and wept.  I felt simultaneously infinitesimal and embiggened.  I was at once a little boy again and then a very old man.

Baseball season is over so, a few nights ago, I took my hard apple cider out in the backyard, sat in an old lawn chair and looked up.  The moon was down over the edge of the yard and the sky was was black and the stars were bright and twinkling, The Big Dipper danced and just a scant smear of The Milky Way could be seen.  The maples in the yard are bare now and those beautiful black-blue branches traced a latticework in front of the stars.

And... somewhere in between, was the thing that overwhelmed.  A jet, high up, red running lights, a faint roar, soared through the night.

I wondered and worried about the souls on board, maybe the cockpit crew of a cargo plane casually ferrying the precious and mundane to those who do and do not need them, respectively.  I marveled at the inconceivable technologies that keep a plane up and guide it through the night.  The Wright's dream seemed manifest above me, true and perpetual.  I was scared with those on board who were frightened of either the turbulent bumps in the night or the more turbulent destination awaiting them.  Time folded on and around itself and settled on now which is both past and future and which always scares me so.  I felt small at the thought of all the importance that jet represented, the commerce and humanity of it when extrapolated across the skies upon which we all gaze and I felt bigger, superior perhaps, because of that same humanity, our Mankindness, that conquered the impossible and shortened and made manageable the vast and painful distances between us all.

And the memories, God, the memories...

My father was a metallurgist and worked for General Electric for a great part of his life designing and testing metals that went into the fabrication of jet engine turbines.  I probably understood the theory and some of the mechanics of jet propulsion well before I understood them in the lowly internal combustion engine.  He brought home pieces of the metals he was developing, powder technologies in those days, and I remembered holding them - which was like holding a piece of him - as he smiled on eager to tell me about it.

As a little boy, we'd go up to the Dayton airport and climb the stairs to the "observation deck" and watch the planes roll around or land, screeching tires and little puffs of smoke, on the tarmac while we waited for the one that would bring grandparents or my dad to land, to safety, to home.

In my twenties I boarded a red-eye from NYC to LA to see a girl who didn't want to see me.  Such high hopes going, bitter embarrassment on the return.

Meeting Marci at an Arizona airport and knowing the importance of it all.

A long flight to Europe, a longer flight back.

A first flight for me in a suit and bowtie and stewardesses in skirts and men in hats and silver wings on the lapels of heroes and china coffee cups and hot roast beef.  My most recent flight in jeans and sweatshirts, heroes double-locked behind closed doors, sad flight attendants, stale cookies and plastic cups and not a silver wing in sight.

All these memories and so many more hit me at once, which is a phenomenon that no longer surprises me as it used to.  Memories do flood.  One becomes another and that triggers another and it happens faster than seems possible.  It happens all the time.  It's a wonder our heads don't explode.

Back in the yard, under the trees, beneath the stars, I had to make a decision.  I knew that trying to imagine all that that plane held, all it represented, conjured, all the souls and collective dreams a pressurized tube of aluminum can carry, would overwhelm me.  I feel this way in crowds and on the interstate and at parties and in restaurants.  It is a sort of social vertigo which renders me scared and silent and lost.

So, as that jet made its inevitable way into the horizon, I let it go.  I prayed for the people on board as I often do when I see a plane overhead, and I whispered my goodbye.

And then I tried to remember every detail of a piece of titanium I once held in my hand, and the man who made it.

Peace to you today, I suppose this isn't very much about the boys, but, I can't help but wonder which of the memories I've put down here might stick, which ones might be important, which ones will linger, which ones will wait, which ones are theirs, which are mine.  Sometimes I think I get the social vertigo I spoke of for a reason.  Perhaps my mind or soul or intellect or whatever, the collective that is me, is saying wait, stop, hold on - we don't need new things to think about, new memories to imprint, we need to think about the ones already planted, already rooted.

Perhaps that is elderhood, perhaps it is selfishness, perhaps it is...  oh, hell I dunno.

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

Nick: "This is the ultimate test of manliness."

Mom: "What is?"

Nick: "Opening this pack of Ritz crackers."

Zack: "True. They are hard to open."

Expectations of manhood have changed when I was kid...

Thanks for stopping around, I appreciate it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

This IS a Halloween Post

I've been trying to get an upper hand on this post today.  So much to consider - the Feast of All Souls' Day; it's the second day of November, a tempestuous month; it is two days past the gluttony of Halloween and twenty-four days until the comfort of Thanksgiving and a mere fifty-two days and ten hours and seventeen minutes and four seconds until the gift that, behind all the stuff, is Christmas.

I don't see a clever way to get all that in today, so, screw it... I'll do this instead.

A Bug and a Bee  '05 & '06

"Workermen" '07
Pink Zebra and Yellow Bunny  '08 & '09
Angel and Devil  '09
A Cowboy and a Pirate  '10
Wizards  '11
A Bat and a Skeleton  '12
 A Mime and a Scarecrow  '13
A Bankrobber and a Clown  '14
A Cow-boy "Literally" and a Hippie (not Dad)  '15

I can't imagine what I should say about this series of images.  Well, that's not true, actually, I can think of dozens of things.  In fact, I'd guess I could write a novel-length piece on them, stories within stories.  The story of the "wizard sticks" that went along that year.  The mime whispering "Timeout.  Can mimes hum?"  The time we went to their preschool party and they made folks weep in their Bunny and Zebra costumes.  True story.  The tool boxes they treasured and used as their goodie buckets that year.  Bones falling from skeletons, makeup running in a cold rain, the clever incorporation of an old black umbrella in a bat costume, the ancient silliness of a boy dressed as a scarecrow, raffia straw tickling bellies and faces.

I could bend it all so easily and expose the love story that lies beneath each costume, each smile.  The love song that is a mother tenderly crafting costumes year after year so two little boys would be happy, will linger a lifetime.  The love story that is hands held in the twilight, words of encouragement to a boy afraid of the doors and stranger and scary decorations.  The gentle reminders - to say thank you and to let the little ones go first and to be careful, and carefree and wild - last like letters in an old trunk, love letters from a past that once was now.

Yes, a past that once was now...  I see these individually and remember each story, each year, but, perhaps, the bigger picture is in the march through time the whole represents.  I constantly see time as an enemy.  It is, he is, she is, not.  Without the journey through the seasons and years, I wouldn't be able to see the whole of it.  The completeness of it.  The journey that is life, that is childhood, simply must play out, as it always has, with time as its ally.  Each shutterclick piled on one another is the essence of time.

There is one final frame I might use here, it's a little more complicated.  In her beautiful, lyrical novel, Gideon, Marilynne Robinson says- speaking in the voice of her main character who is writing a long memoir to his young son, the old and holy and dying pastor, John Ames:   

"For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough.  You feel that you are with someone.  I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean, considering that you are only a little fellow now and when you're a man you might find these letters of no interest.  Or they might never reach you, for any number of reasons.  Well, but how deeply I regret any sadness you have suffered and how grateful I am in anticipation of any good you have enjoyed.  That is to say, I pray for you.  And there is an intimacy in it.  That's the truth."

I have often called this thing I am doing here a long love letter to my sons, maybe the truth is, as Mr. Ames suggests, more than that.  Perhaps this is a long prayer for these boys - my boys, your boys, our boys, all boys.

Thanks for coming around, I've got to go meet a bus and start thinking about the next story, the next love letter, the next prayer.

Peace to you, peace to us.

Friday, October 30, 2015

This Is Not a Halloween Post

Sometimes I see a group of people at, say, a soccer game - perhaps the parents of the team - and marvel at the disparity in them.  So different economically, politically, socially yet all focused on one goal, or two or three.  It happens at the boys' school, too.  At a student council carnival the other day I witnessed little gangs of youths arranged in the damnedest ways, it was cute.  I see it at its most jarring on Facebook sometimes, I've laughed aloud at the notion of the seventeen people who "like" something I posted at the same party, mingling and baffled and flabbergasted that they all agree on things.

(This sounds like I am heading towards the theme of egalitarianism, or worse, peaceful coexistence... I'm not.)

The other day I wrote a piece called Metaphorically.  I got to thinking about how that all came to be, what different elements and characters and memories and ideas meshed to make those rows of words coalesce into one singularity.

It's a weird list that includes Andy Goldsworthy, the story of a sunset, the memory of a crippling blizzard, backyards, porches, loneliness, heartbreak, red leaves in wax paper, photosynthesis, puberty, my childhood friend JB, a girl named Kari, lightening and the deep and daunting conundrum of Faith.

Oh... and this...

On the back is this sketch which began the whole process.

I think that the word "Elements" so aptly titling Zack's work, added to the ruminations about the weather and the seasons that I have every year as Fall ends - or Spring begins, for that matter - mixed with the melancholy that is Time and the hope that is childhood fermented into a new realization for me.

Life is like that.  This was that and is now this other thing because this that was that and is now this.  I know that doesn't make sense, but coming to understanding never does.

That's all for today.  I just wanted to share the rest of the story of my last post.

Crap... there's more to this story.  Sorry.

When I was thinking the other day about writing about these colored pencil drawings Z did - well before they became entwined in the story above - I thought it might be fun to ask Zack to help me photoshop, if that's a verb, the images.

We started with this one, which, in sequence he made before the two above.  I use Picmonkey, most photo editing programs are way above my level of skill and it is simple and effective.  Here is his final edited piece.

Here's the original.

Yeah, weren't we all a little heavy-handed on our first encounter with an editing app - I know I was.  Hey, the image is much clearer in his and, the, uh color is nice and...

Thanks for stopping by.

Here's a TYDETHFTBS* (worst acronym ever) from Marci:


Nick just referenced Sisyphus in describing what it will/would be like when/if the Cubs win:
the Cubs winning is "like that mythical guy pushing the thing up the hill and actually making it."

Best sports metaphor ever.

That's my boy...

Dammit... there's more.

Yesterday Zack's anthropomorphic, and silly, stuffed bear decided to make a Baseball pennant that said "Go Mets!" which was promptly ripped to shreds before he could explain it was just a joke.  To atone for his transgressions (honestly, I thought it was a clever joke from a not-always-so-clever bear) he made a new one today.

Peace to you and yours.

*"...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


And, just like that, autumn closes and winter wakes behind the trees.  It rained and blew all night, a hard rain blown in gusts against the dusty screens, streaking the windows and rattling the doors.  The wind chimes sang a crazy six-note melody along with the wind, tonally perfect against the wild rustling of the dry leaves in the maples.

This morning the rain still falls, there is a chill in the wet wind - a winter wind - and the leaves have left the trees, some still cling but are loosing their grip in the downpour.  The sky is gray, like steel, not with the tinge of blue or purple you see in Summer or Fall clouds, but the dark, low and ominous skies of snow and sleet.

It has been an inglorious fall.  The sometimes red and yellow that can paint the Midwest have been muted with umber and sienna, ochre and loam.  The woods are not ablaze this year, they are sepia.  Curiously, the maple leaves in the back yard - turned an uninspired yellow with veins of sad green -  have nearly all fallen face down showing their beige underbellies, ashamed of their lack of initiative this year.

Winter will come with its blacks and blues and searing whites.  Spring will follow bathed in an astonishing variety greens, and then summer heat and humidity will lay heavily, varnishing those greens and, as always, that varnish will wear off and the leaves will age into decay.

I love the seasons.  I love the cycle of renewal, growth, harvest, decay.  I love storms and blizzards, lightning and thunder.  The feel of August's blistering heat makes the biting chill of December somehow sweeter; the stinging wind and rain of March echoes the crunchy feel and taste of dusty, dry September.

I somehow need the wildness of weather just as I crave the wonder that is decay and rebirth.

Wildness and surety.

I have for as long as I can remember watched the sky, turned my head up to the stars, stopped for the sunsets, marveled at the rose.  I've stood on mountains and mounds, in rivers and oceans, in dry desert and fertile creek bed.  I have sat at this very table and watched the yard fill up with snow and at my childhood table doing the same.  I've laughed along with young boys, marveling at the rain in the front yard and sun in the back; I've jumped into and out of a wall of rain in a meadow as a young man holding hands with a pretty girl.

I've observed so much outside, been drawn into it all.  I've considered it, wondered at it, been mesmerized by it, but...


I think I know, now.  It is so difficult to explain or even define our feelings.  Words, though lovely, are sometimes so inadequate, impotent.

But... I could point to a driving thunderhead coming at me when I was thirteen - churning clouds and bright inner flashes and low, painful growls - and say that, that, is how I feel.  Mixed up, beautiful, frightening, inexhaustible, wild.

I could point to a sunrise and say that is Love.

A shovelful of Ohio soil, rich and loamy and alive is Home - the essence of family, place and time.

The moon rising over city streets as a little girl looks on is Wonder.

Tulips and crocuses poking through dirty snow is Hope.

The crazy blizzard wind, shifting direction and blinding, crystalline snow is Fear.

There is Despair in the long dead, decaying doe over on the fenceline.

So many of my emotions and feelings find antecedents, find definition, in the seasons and the weather and the forces all around us.

Stars are Faith.

Flaming red maples are Victory.

Fire is Desire.

The woods are Safety.

The wind is Grace.

Sunsets are Forever.


I write a lot of words here, I appreciate you reading them.

I try, sometimes, to write on the words I've capitalized above, to describe them to you - and you dear boys.  But they are enormous words, enormous thoughts, and my prose fails.  I apologize for that, but, the rain is Truth and it is pouring out side.

Peace to you all... and Peace is a floating feather.

That's all.  Take your feather and go...

Thursday, October 22, 2015


A boy was bullied yesterday.  I know, I know, a million or more boys - and girls - were bullied yesterday.  But yesterday it was one boy, a specific boy, a boy I know, a boy I like.

I went to pick him up for practice, his parents both work and the practices were bumped up to five recently to accommodate the earlier darkness.  His neighborhood is, well, not upscale.  There are no three-car garages, more likely there are late model cars on jacks or cinder blocks waiting for new rotors or brake pads.  There are no manicured yards or potted mums or sculpted yews.  It is a working-class area of small ranches and carports and little yards and big trees bumping up the sidewalks and staining them with mulberries and crab apples.

A boy was bullied yesterday.

I drove up and there he was, sitting in the dusty, brown grass, knees scrunched up to his chest which was racked with sobs.  Tears stained his dirty face, his usually clear blue eyes were red and his sleeve was wet with snot and tears.  He looked small and hurt and confused and oh, so very sad.

A boy was bullied yesterday.

I parked my truck in front of his house and surveyed the scene.  Four boys stood off in a yard next to his to my left and down the sidewalk to my right another boy, a bigger boy, an older boy, stood looking smug and, well, prickish.  I got out and walked up to my little friend.  I knelt down by him and asked him what was wrong.  A fusillade of anger and pain and hate and hurt was hurled my way.  If you've ever heard a ten year old boy try to speak through tears of injustice and hurt you'll know I didn't understand the details, but... I got the gist of it.

A boy was bullied yesterday.

I pieced together the story.  A football, a taunting older boy who wouldn't give it back, keep-away gone wrong.  When the bigger boy got the ball taken from him, in anger and spite, he threw this little boy's water bottle into the street where it broke and shattered and spilled and still lay in the gutter just behind me.  The water bottle had his last name written on it.  It was a nice big red plastic jug with a handle and a screw-on top with a flip-up sippy thing on it and he was proud of it.

A boy was bullied yesterday.

I went to get the bottle, hoping I might salvage it somehow.  He told me not to bother, that it was all "fucked up" now.  I gave him the f-word, he deserved it, he needed it.  The four boys came towards me, trying, I think, to offer the support they had not given before because the older boy still stood watching down a ways.  They all talked at once, hoping to collectively explain what had happened, how it had happened and why they'd let it happen.

I knew one of the boys, I'd coached him for a couple of years in baseball, and recognized the other three from the years I'd volunteered at the elementary school.  "There was nothing we could do, Mr. Peebles."  I asked him then why was this boy boy crying alone in his front yard as you watched on.  They told me they didn't want to get in trouble with "him."

A boy was bullied yesterday.

"Him" was slowly working his way towards the scene.  I looked at that older boy with a look that would have burned Satan.  Remember, I look like a hard-ass, long gray beard, I had a bandanna on my head, and I looked right into that boy.  And, he was scared.  He realized that here was someone who could bully him.

"Did you do that?" I asked pointing at the water jug.  He said he did and began to justify what he'd done, something about it being his ball and...

"Why?  Why would you damage someone's thing?  Why would you hurt someone like that?"  And then I said something I shouldn't have said, but I did anyway, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

His lower lip began to quiver a little.  I wanted him to cry.  I wanted to break something important to him.  I wanted him to hurt.

I knew that was wrong so I drew in a deep breath, I got right down into his face and said, "You don't get to break people's things, son.  It's not something people do.  It's not something I'd do.  It's mean and stupid and that's not what men are."

I turned to my sons' teammate and said let's get going.  He said he didn't want to go and ran into his house and slammed the door.

A boy got bullied yesterday.

I stared down the older boy.  "You proud of yourself?" I asked him angrily.

"No, sir," he mumbled.  He knew he didn't have the one thing he needed, perhaps the one thing he never gets, perhaps the very thing he longs for at night when he cries himself to sleep - my respect, anyone's respect, self-respect.

"Caps," I said to the boy I'd coached using his nickname, "you're a good boy, I know that and you know that.  Your Mom and Dad know that.  Don't just stand by and do nothing.  I can't tell you to fight or stand up for others.  But, if that boy is your friend," I gestured to the slammed door, "at least sit with him when he is hurting.  At least do that..."

"I know Mr. Peebles, I'm sorry."

I considered trying to get my friend to go to practice, but I knew I couldn't.  He was embarrassed and mad and ashamed and... well, so was I.

A boy was bullied yesterday.  A sweet little boy who has trouble saying his r's.  A funny little boy with crazy blonde hair and yellow soccer shoes and a Star Wars watch and a vulnerable heart and a beautiful soul which was shattered like a drinking jug in a gutter by a boy who thinks that is alright.

So often we think of bullying in broad sweeping statements and treat it like a noun, a thing, a syndrome.  "Bully" is a verb, an action.  It is something that happens to someone.  It's happened to me, it's happened to most everyone I know.  It can only be addressed with action.

You may have noticed that, besides the names, I put a of lot details in this story.  We need those details, details make it personal, details make it hurt more, details make the inherent injustice of it all the more real, all the more hurtful.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month. I am not a guy to jump on causes, but maybe this is one that I can.

On the way to practice the boys were uncharacteristically quiet.  They didn't talk or argue or punch or complain.  It was a loud silence.  I could feel them thinking about it, taking in all that they'd seen and heard, looking out their respective windows and looking into their collective future, a future where there would be two boys, two men, two souls who knew what ugliness bullying can bring.

Talk to your kids about bullying.  Don't use broad, sweeping generalizations, though.  Be specific, use details, tell them the stories of your youth.

A boy was bullied yesterday and so were millions of others.

Change that, I beg of you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


For the many of you (I considered few of you but I am trying to be positive) who have been following around here for the last several years, you know that I find Nick's misspelling quite amusing, and, well, a bit frustrating.  There is, in fact, a whole label devoted to it here.  In school this year there is a renewed focus on it with vocabulary and spelling tests.  I's are preceding their e's - except when... -y's are being changed to i's and ed's added, the sordid there/their/they're menage is clamoring to explain itself, that sort of thing.

Nick brought this home the other day:

I am sad to say, my days of picking fun at them are over.  I mean 100%.  And, honestly, I am hard pressed at spelling the bonus word, inferential, as well.  I also told Nick that in my fifty years of writing I have never used that word in a sentence, there's no doctorate certification on my wall.

I am glad for him, he studied hard and we've been working on them at home, and he deserves the score.  Also - and here's where I may go too far with this - it is all a good metaphor what is happening around here, where I write these words.  I look at this and see an ending, not of everything or anything dramaticky like that, but an end to one more part of childhood.  Not only is he not going to make as many spelling errors - a sign of mental maturation and personal growth - but I am going to stop seeing them as the piece of childhood I have always seen them as.

This forces me to look again at the boys, see them in the new light in which they shine.  To watch differently, perhaps more carefully, as they coalesce into the adolescents they will soon be.  It is easy to grasp the silliness and wonder and cuteness and color and cacophony of childhood.  It is, frankly, pretty easy to write about that all as well.  But now, as that layer begins to bury itself, a new layer of seriousness and work and purpose and understanding surfaces.  It is harder to write about.

But - to carry the miserable metaphor further - if they are willing to get the words right, understand the meanings, go deeper and further into themselves so, perhaps, must I...

Yeah... well, I hope you see my point.  Boys grow up.  It gets different.  And we must look at them anew from time to time and grow up alongside them.

But I'm not gonna do that right now.

Nope, I'm just gonna dive into the "take-home folder" (there's a label for that as well here) and see if I can find something silly.

Actually, on his test, Nick made a couple of drawings.  (On a side note, I asked him why - knowing that this would simply not have been acceptable when I was in fifth grade - he made them.  He said his teacher doesn't mind, "she knows I get bored with stuff I already know."  If only someone would have recognized that when I was his age I'd have not gotten into the trouble I did.  Thanks Mrs. C.)  I like this uh, sword-cross-stars-thingee, maybe there's a future in tattoo design for Nick:

I love the yin/yang effect and who doesn't love stars?

And there is this little guy crouching absurdly on his spelling test:

He plays for the "Backward C's"

How, you may ask, do I know he is crouching?  Well I found him on another bit of classwork standing up:

I'm pretty sure that's him, that signature tongue move is pretty unforgettable.

I found this one on a "Restating The Question Center" worksheet.

Here's the assignment:  "Below you will find a number of ridiculous questions.  Your job is to restate the question and answer in a complete sentence.  Your answer can be completely silly as long as you restate the question!"

He nailed it on number three:

It's funny, for sure, but, behind it is a truth I think many adults miss, don't forget the obvious rules.  I'll save that thought for another time.  Also, I'll save the notion that it might be fun to write a post using all the words on Nick's list... that'd be joyous, marvelous, adventurous and inferential (dammit, you're gonna have to learn that one too, Nick.)

Thanks for stopping by, I know you're busy.

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

"Stabby weapons are best for me."

Know your tools, son, know your tools...

There one more thing I noticed on the worksheet.  I think it is a self-portrait:

It is either that, or this is my fifth grade student picture.  You know what?  That's pretty much what middle school felt like to me, exactly the look on that face.  It's funny how it all comes 'round.

God's Peace to you all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Forever Moments

There are times in life when what comes into your mind is "I will remember this forever."

Sometimes it is just a second or two, just a vignette.  The wave curls, sparkling under a rising moon, and is so perfect, powerful and fleeting.  A gull sounds, the air is salt and kelp and so is the taste in your mouth.  The sand tickles your feet and the warmth of knowing wards off the ocean chill.

I will remember this forever.

It can be minutes, a short sequence of events that must be remembered in time, through space.  A girl is walking towards you, long brown hair held back with vintage silver barrettes.  She wears a woven wool serape with geometric shapes in muted burgundies, ochers and pale yellow.  Her boots are high and leather and worn.  As she approaches her smile and her almond eyes come into focus.  She looks into your soul and says, simply, "Hi," and moves on.  A minute later you turn and chase after her.

I will remember this forever.

It can be a couple weeks camped in the high forests of Arizona - the Milky Way so bright at night and the sky so blue at noon, both bordering on the surreal.  The quiet so deep it sometimes startles the frogs and insects so they stop altogether and listen themselves to it.  It is the flames of cairns reaching into the stars like happy pyres; it is white driftwood under Aspen and Birch and Pine along a wet meadow's edge; it is satellites slashing across the sky, yearning urgently to do it again.

I will remember this forever.

Sometimes, often, it is the symphony of a storm.  Low rumbles in the distance, lightning streaking over blue-gray clouds, ominous, low.  Then staccato cracks and the wall of rain coming at you, one side of a porch deluged, the other still dusty dry.  The wind cries and the rain-tears slap the screens and scatter into  a fine mist that blows over the aluminum chairs and wets the burnt tobacco on the butts in the ashtrays.  One final movement pushes the storm away, a sun peeks out to say goodbye and you turn around and see it, a rainbow as the gutters drip and the thunder fades.

I will remember this forever.

A child - or two -being born.  First steps and words and stumbles, stitches and dripping tears.  A fresh faced kitten playing into the future and the golden or calico shell of fur in your arms and one last, silent breath.  A wedding, a funeral; this dance, that song.  A perfect sea bass baked whole with a brown butter sauce, a can of beef stew warmed in a fire in a gloved hand watching that same fire in the woods of Kentucky.  Another year of loneliness, a second of connection.

I will remember this forever.

We spend a lifetime seeing and making and anticipating and recognizing these moments, we know the weight of their import, but...

How many of these forever moments have I forgotten?  That answer might make me weep.


One of the boy's soccer practices this year has been from seven to eight on Friday nights.  In the humid heat of late August it was nice to have it in the evening, but, as Fall begins its slide to Winter, the evening comes earlier and earlier each week and they practice in twilight.

Two Fridays ago, as I sat in the truck listening to music and watching the team, I also had my eye on the sky and I knew.  High, wispy cirrus floated above lower, cotton ball clouds against an azure blue.

I knew because the fields sit on a high spot circled by woods that drop off to the north and south and, importantly, to the west.  The sun had made long shadows on the pitch and, not ten minutes into practice, it began to blush low over the trees.

A sunset is not a picture perfect shutter click, it is a carousel of color that rides through time, certain, sure and eternal.  This one was, I knew, going to be a beautiful ride.

I was sitting in the cab facing north so I got out of the truck and went and leaned against the bed wall in a position so familiar it comforted me.  I watched the west as the clouds slowly kaleidoscoped - pink, orange, red - behind a sky slowly fading from sky blue to indigo and deep purple.  Along the edges of the field the oaks and sugar maples and honeysuckle and goldenrod caught and held on to the colors and shimmered as though gilded in the waning light.

As I watched I wondered how many sunsets I'd seen in a lifetime, easily thousands, and nearly every one was, perhaps not better, but different than the others.  My home growing up was on a high spot and the porch faced west and I'd seen the sun make its exit in every season and all kinds of weather by the time I was twelve or thirteen.  For some reason I had the sense that I'd seen one like this before, these colors and trees and clouds and I was struck by the notion that it is all just one sunset, really, and it is also the sunrise, because the sun is coming up and going down at some longitude at every moment of every...

Oh, right, practice.

The team is done and are collecting their balls and bottles and offcast sweatshirts.  I watch as Nick gets his stuff and Zack takes another shot at goal.  Nick tips his head back to drink from his water bottle and stops, mid-drink, and stares silently, wonderfully into that majestic western sky.  He shouts and Zack turns and looks up and is uncharacteristically still.  He walks over towards Nick as the other boys drift off towards the parking lot.

I head out to collect the boys and as I walk the maybe sixty yards I watch them.  Zack gets his water and they lay down on their backs, balls for pillows, and watch the sun's dance.  I walk slowly, they know I am coming.  We should be going but I don't yell for them to come along.  Time elongates and seems inconsequential.

I reach the boys and they say 'hey' but they know they don't have to point the sky out to me nor even tell me what they're doing, they understand I understand.  I sit behind them on the grass and dirt and chalk and know this is the best sunset I have ever witnessed, will ever witness, could ever have hoped to witness.

Two brothers, two sons, watching a perfect sunset as their dad watches them.

Zack breaks the silence.

"I will remember this forever."

 So will I, son, so will I.

I vow right there and then that I'd make sure he did.


I was going to write about football today.  I have a long and complicated history with the sport, it is a story I am just coming to understand, as happens when you grow older.

I'm glad I didn't.

This morning I went out through the garage to put a wool blanket that had been soaked in a rainstorm at a soccer game, now dry, back into my truck.  Off under the windows to the east I noticed the two Cornhole platforms I'd made so many years ago, the first year we lived in this house, well before the boys were born - back when I was still just noticing sunsets, not yet considering them.

I saw this and all these words were written:

For context here, this is what you are seeing, two platforms with holes cut out of them decorated with a sunburst pattern leaning one atop each other.  The sun is coming in at a steep angle through that window beside the yellow ladder.  The sun comes in and is reflecting off the back, which is also shellacked, of the top piece.  This brightly illuminates an offset edge of the sunburst below.

It was weird and striking and important.

Thanks for stopping by, you here today.  I am mad at Facebook and am taking a break from it.  Hopefully, Marci will post this on it for me.  The thing is, because I've been so inactive lately, Facebook is cross with me, too, and its petty algorithms won't share it with others.  If you think someone might like this, share it with them.  I appreciate it and, as always, peace to you.

Man, stories pile up on each other don't they.  There are, like, seventeen others I could knit into this one if I wanted.

Sixteen can wait.

Last Friday the coach had bumped up the practice to five and Zack was annoyed at this.  I couldn't really figure why.  He was stomping about and kid-cursing under his breath.  It was cute.

I finally asked him why he was so annoyed.

"I wanted to show Mom the sunset."

from my "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ... "

"Seriously, I just want to be a normal pedestrian!" 


Friday, October 2, 2015

This Is Not a Device

(If you'd like to follow along as I read this piece click the SoundCloud player below)

Hey, boys... listen, well, it's pretty much just you and me now.  Here in the twenty-teens as I am currently writing, things are slowing down for me on this page.  There are a lot of reasons.

I don't have the promotional and marketing skills to further my readership, mostly because I don't want to give the twitter and tumbler and instagram and facebook all of my free time, which, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, were absolutely essential to all this...

What's that?

Right, sorry, none of those are around anymore, are they?  Well, just think about whatever you have your face planted in on your device and...


No one does that anymore, you say.  Really?  Why?

Ah, because you found out in your twenties how empty and vapid it all seemed and the trend led more and more towards having better interpersonal relationships.  Well, that's nicely phrased but I don't understand exactly what you mean.

What's that Nick, it's " our whole generation got lonely and we decided it hurt too much."

I'm sorry for that, son.  I gotta admit I sorta saw it coming.  Back here, in this now, it all makes me lonely sometimes, too.  The false connectivity, the lack of courtesy, the short conversations, the endless abbreviated and misspelled words.  There are no handshakes and hugs in this fake cyberworld, there are no hands patted across the table, no side hugs walking down a street.  There are no sympathetic sighs or audible gasps of outrage, no bursting out of laughter at a clever unexpected joke, no heated arguments, no anger, no passion - just saccherine sweet emojis, and "lol"s and meaningless, empty abbreviations and shallow, unfinished thoughts.

Here's what I can't figure though boys.  It seems from where I am right now that there doesn't seem to be a hope in the world that any of this will change.  I see more and more people - good people, nice people, smart people - further entrenching themselves behind the safety of screens, wielding their phones like shields to keep others out but really making it so that they can't get out themselves.  Folks seem to, well, like this isolation, find false comfort in it.  I don't see it going away.

That's interesting, Zack.  "... I think we wanted to touch things again, hold them in our hands."

Yes, like letters stuffed with slick and shiny photographs.  Like an apple sliced in your palm and shared on the tip of a wet pocket knife.  Like a kitten or a tear-streaked child's face lifted in two hands, safe and comforted.  Like a baseball glove or work glove holding weathered balls or weary axes.  Like a little stuffed bear or a hopelessly worn pillow in the night.  Like the elbow of a friend through the crowded city streets or a hand for the first time on a bench in that park near the amphitheater.

You wanted to touch the vegetables and pull them from the earth, dirt dropping from them like water.  You wanted to climb the apple tree in an orchard buzzing with wasps and singing laughter in the wind.  The same wind you need to caress you as you look out on a mountain range, studded with pines with cold rock to your back and warm sun in your eyes.

You wanted to reach out and try to touch the stuff of dreams.  Never holding hope or lifting love, never feeling the embrace of honor or or the kiss of forgiveness but realizing that what is to be sensed are the hardworking verbs not the lofty nouns.

Yes, Nick, yes I can shut up.

Well, I don't get what changed it all.  It seems, now, so set in stone, so, frankly, destined-to-be.  The devices get better and better, more accepted and more ubiquitous year after year, I don't see what could stop them...

Cars?  Oh, not just cars, "self-driving-vehicles, SDVs, we call them floops."


Something to do with fleets and loops, alright.

So the floops changed everything.  For the price of a month's device support for the crazy-smart-phones and expensive gadgets that had entered the everyday lives of, well, everybody, you could call a floop and visit anybody anytime.

So, basically, you all just started seeing each other more?  Started hanging out and goofin' off and carryin' on and partyin' hearty and dancin' in the dark and drinkin' and...

... you didn't have to worry about getting home.  Yeah, I can see how that would be a game changer.

So, you just hang out with your friends and do stuff together and it's all 1950 again and everyone has a driver?  Oh, so, you still have phones and you still text and stuff, but mostly to just figure where to meet up, what to do, that sort of thing.  Sorta like a phone... in the fifties.

I'm finding this a little hard to believe, guys.

Oh, c'mon Zack!  Let me get this straight.  So more and more people started using the floops and meeting one another and spending far less time on their devices.  The vast infrastructure that had been so brazenly built for advertising and entertainment and social media and advertising, that had, by then, wifi-ed the whole world, was readapted by the commercial "loop fleets" rendering SDVs the safest vehicles in the history of journeying.  Right.  And it's important to note that they are "bitchin' fast."  Thanks, Nick.

But, and you're not making this up, the ad revenue dropped so drastically that new approaches and new campaigns and strategies have been adopted.  Things like quality and fair wages and honesty and loyalty began to influence buyers more than scantily glad models and false promises.  Alright, I can see that, but what's a "crafty?"

Now, stop!  There is no way I am gonna believe that regional craft breweries started opening up little bars and social clubs where people in a small geographic area -a neighborhood, a skyrise, a country village - could meet up and watch sports and have book clubs and sewing circles and folk-singing and pot-lucks.  The breweries made things from local produce, beer and ciders and wine and food and sold them in these local spots brought to them daily by "delivery floops."  There were computers at these places but after a while no one really used them except for research and the like and...

...and they were called "craftys?"  I'm done believing all this, guys.

But, I do hope you aren't lonely and that you hurt less, boys, and I do hope that you touch things that are warm and real and necessary.  I'd sure like to believe it boys.

Maybe I should...

I doubt you remember this, but early this fall we went on a walk around The Two and A Half Acre Woods and you, Nick, found a hairband and put it around your wrist and, just before you left the trail, you, Zack, picked up a twig and a golden leaf and a long flat piece of grass.

When we got home you added the hairband to the long rope of ones you've found over the past few years.

And, Zack, you came home with a vision of what you wanted to hold in your hand.  It doesn't matter that you ended up not using the grass and using the twine instead, in fact I like it better this way.

It is important to note that neither of these are devices, neither are hard and cold and sterile.

No, none of this is a device... unless it all is.

It was nice to see you boys, but, honestly is a little disconcerting so, maybe we should just both stay where we are... or not.  I'll see you again.

Oh, yes, hello to you as well, I didn't see you there.  Thanks for stopping by, as always, peace.