Monday, August 17, 2015

The changing of the blog

Well, isn’t this something.

Welcome to the new After nearly 10 years in Blogger, I have moved over to the WordPress platform.

Read the rest of this post here.

And thanks for visiting all these years!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

God in the land of the living

“I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalms 27: 13-14 NIV)

Because he is omnipresent, it should not be a long wait. You just need to focus a little and he is there.

You’ll find him in the land of the living. He’s not someone you don’t meet until you die.

I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living:

In a dog sniffing the ground for something to eat, then curling up in the grass near my feet.

In the white butterfly that jumps up and flies across the yard.

In the chattering of insects and birds 360 degrees around me.

In the flowers that spring here and there and everywhere from the ground, planted or not.

Even in the sounds from the highway of people on a journey, on their way to a safe arrival or return.

In the branches that sway in the wind. No one can see the wind; we can only see its effect.

God is not someone you don’t meet until you die.

When I had that thought, I remembered a song I had somehow forgotten for some time, by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull … God’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The longest summer ever

Red and I are slowly finishing a project that we’ve wanted to do since we built our house three years ago: insulate the garage. We did the back wall last fall. The other day we committed to doing the biggest side wall.

First we pulled everything out of the garage, and then we set to work, Red cutting the pieces of insulation and I stapling, and it was all done in less than a half-day. Truth to tell the actual work was done in an hour or so – most of the time was taken up in moving the clutter out of the way and then putting it back.

There was still plenty of time in the day to do several other little projects – although I did have one contradictory thought: Is it really three whole years since we moved into this house? The time has flown by.

And yet it hasn’t – a day is a long time, weeks and months and years are longer. Remember how long ago it was cold? That was “only” four or five months ago. But look how much has happened since.

Time flies only in retrospect. Yes, it seems hard to believe that what happened five years ago was so long ago, but then think of what you’ve been through since. It’s enough to fill up 1,826 days. It’s a full life.

It’s one of those “Is the glass half full or half empty” things. Life presents us with so many choices that we will never see and do quite everything we hope to see and do.And yet the average life is packed full of things seen and done.

Sometimes it’s worth reflecting on what life was like before time “flew by” – how much you had not experienced yet, all of the marvelous inventions that people have invented, all of the new building or all of the land reclaimed and preserved.

That’s when you realize the hours and days passed at the same pace they always have.

I drive the highway to work and see the lush green cornfields and the clean clear pavement, and I try to imagine driving slowly through the same scene packed with snow blowing so hard I can’t see out the windshield very well. I have a flash of a long-ago time when I tried to imagine lush green cornfields and 65 mph.

It seems like a long, long time ago. Perhaps the four seasons are there to remind us that time passes, but that it takes a long time.

All things considered there IS time for everything. The day is just as long as it has ever been. 

Door County Advocate, Aug. 12, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A pilgrim arrives in the kingdom of Else

Once upon a time, there was a magic land called Else, which was ruled by a queen named Elsa. Some said Queen Elsa was wise and good; others thought she was cruel and heartless; still others said she was cruel because she was good.

It was a land where no one wants for anything – a land where no one wants for anything – where dreams come true … or do they?

When pilgrims arrive in Else, some discover they are still waiting and the dream was inside them, not in another place. For some, simply being somewhere Else is enough. For others, another journey looms.

“But I came to the kingdom of Else because I want another life – a better life!” cried the pilgrim who has just arrived.

“Yes, you did. Yes, I see,” said Queen Elsa. “Well, you have found another life. It’s up to you to make it a better one.”

“Up to me?” gasped the pilgrim.

“Why, yes,” the queen said kindly. “All we do is give you somewhere Else. ‘Better’ has always been up to you.”

“I traveled all this way only to find I could have stayed in my home and made the changes there? That’s not fair!”

“Meh,” said the queen, turning away. “It is not fair or unfair. It simply is. But now you know, and knowing, you can do what you must.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What to do first

“You want to what?” 

“Fly, Father. I want to fly.”

The wind across the water made a roar. The older man looked anxiously at the younger.

“Look at you, Bill. Look at you in that chair you’ve been sitting in all these years.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m going to fly.”

“Just like that. How? Why?”

Bill’s hair fluttered, just a little, sitting next to the window and all.

“I’m not sure. That’s not the point. I’m tired of sitting. I want to stand. I want to fly.”

“Now you’re getting somewhere, son. First you have to stand, and then walk, perhaps run – probably run. You’ll need speed to achieve liftoff and fly.”

“Now see, there’s where you’re wrong, Pop,” Bill said with a gentle smile. “First, first – first I need to dream.”

Monday, August 3, 2015

4 thoughts that generate better habits

A habit must be a habit, or else it is just a thing.

A habit has to be ingrained to the point where you just sit down and do it, and maybe you don't even remember whether you did it today but when you checked, sure enough, it got done.

You can't be coming back two or three days later to find out you skipped it. Nope, you have to do it and do it every day until it's second nature.

"Practice makes perfect" is a cliche because it's true.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There's good news tonight

Yes, somewhere someone is dying. Someone is killing people. A fire has destroyed. A great wind has orphaned children. Someone is hungry, even starving. Their stories must be told.

But over there, someone is comforting a stranger. Someone is building. Someone is creating new beauty. A habitat is protected. A windmill is drawing clean, healing water for a community. A meal is being cooked to share. A disease is being cured, even prevented.

It has always been my experience that the impulse to to help a neighbor in need crosses social and political lines. The arguments, the differences, are about how to solve the need. If only the passions of the election season could be harnessed into solving and caring and helping instead of tearing and denigrating and hating.

The person who cries “look out” or pulls a child out of the way of the oncoming truck does so because there is a need. It is not a Republican need or a Democratic need. Need is need, and we all recognize it. We disagree only on solutions.

Tragic that a man who makes his living reporting the news should be weary of news that frightens and alarms and disparages. The analytics show that people are drawn to bad news like moths to a flame. Why is there so much bad news in the news? We tell you these things because time and time again, you read or listen or watch these things with rapt attention and in great numbers.

Still …

“There’s good news tonight …” Who was the popular radio announcer who always led his newscast with that phrase? I want to be him when I grow up. (Google tells me his name was Gabriel Heater.)

When we fail to report something troubling, the outcry is sharper and more accusatory than when we fail to report something good. Yet I can’t help but believe that we provide a great public service when we encourage, not discourage; when we comfort, not terrify; when we shine a spotlight on reasons to hope, not reasons to despair or be appalled.

What’s the good news? Where’s the good news? It’s all around us. Perhaps that’s why the bad news gets so much of the attention: because it’s rare. Odds are overwhelming you won’t be the victim of something awful today or anytime soon.

The bad, the horrible is worth noting, because it presents problems in need of solutions. But darn it all, there’s good news tonight, and we ought to be encouraged as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The dream of the rhinoceros

Oh. A rhinoceros!

Just before waking Sunday morning, I was looking up a long dark staircase with random people sitting listlessly on a stair here or there. The dream was progressing in usual fashion when at the top of the stairs appeared a rhinoceros.

It pawed and looked down at the people. We were filled with alarm. Should we sit still and hope we weren't noticed or, as some contemplated, should we creep up and slam the door? What if that enraged the rhinoceros and it broke through the door and down the steps, trampling all in its path?

While we were contemplating, the rhino lifted its head, turned proudly and charged away, out of sight.

I awoke in the predawn and did some contemplating of my own. I've never dreamed of a rhinoceros before. I looked at the clock. 4:31. The alarm was set; I had thought of getting up at 5:00 on this Sunday morning and butt-kicking my writing career. I could settle back in for a half-hour's sleep or jump up and get to it.

The nap tempted me for a moment, but then I realized I wouldn't be dreaming of rhinos unless it was time to do some hard-charging.

I got up, made coffee, and sat down to write. I finished this little essay at 4:56.

Monday, July 27, 2015

On re-reading ‘The Rocket Man’ by Ray Bradbury

So sad – so beautiful – with a final line that kills.

Sometimes I read a story at random from the short-story collection R is for Rocket, my first exposure to Ray Bradbury, and think, no wonder I was enchanted for life.

No wonder Bernie Taupin and Elton John wrote a song about it – a beautiful, haunting song. So much wonder – no wonder. No wonder why we fell under the spell of the words.

Bradbury is a master weaver, a master magician, who knew instinctively (No! who knew after practicing his craft diligently for years) how to use his words to paint fabulous pictures in our minds.

“Come with me here,” he cries, “and I’ll tell you about a young boy on the cusp of adulthood and his lonely mom and his dad who comes home for a few days every three months and then disappears into the sky …”

P.S. Inside the parentheses is the most important point of this post for those who mean to be creative.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sunset electronica: Manifesto

“You see it now, don’t you?” he said, his eyes burning with the light from the glowing screen, the screen that was not as bright as a moment before and would never be this bright again. “When all the screens are shut off and all the networks are disintegrated, there will be no words in the ether and all of these words will be scattered to the winds. And all that remains will be the words committed to parchment and paper with ink and carbon. Yes, fire can burn the words if you burn long enough, but not as quickly and efficiently as turning off the power. That is why we have kept the printing presses running, why we keep scratching in our journals, every strike of the pen a revolution, every turn of the press a declaration of war against you who would silence the poetry and prose of the ages.

“You can’t shut every mind away from every other mind, not as long as we have words to share across time and space. The heiroglyphics mean something. The cursive represent an era. Those who can unlock the keys of written language are time machines. This pen I hold is a life giver. When the battery is dead, the words to cure the illness will still be on the page. Why the battery has died will not matter, because the words will fight on. Oh, the tyrant may triumph for a few days or years, but the words will be found, the books will sit and wait for the tyrant to die – here, in this quiet and peaceful library.

“Yes, the words will wait, and one day a child will find them and learn to read them and discover that we are all alike, all unique, the lot of us, and our uniqueness is our strength – all alike in desiring to be someone, all unique in a way that no other of us can quite be. The words in the books show us, and the books with their fragile, fluttering pages will outlive the electrons.”

And as he held the book high, he cried, “Hello, Dickens – you look as young as the day is long. Hey, Bradbury, my father, look! I found Charles D in your hair and spilling out of your ears. Did you know when Oliver walked the streets that he was sending Spender to Mars? Have you you seen my Wildflower Man? He walked the fields with Ebeneezer.”