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...