Monkey has a new tool.

For 15 years, we heated with wood.  We heated only with wood.

In the morning, we got a fire going in the wood stove and then waited for the house to warm up.  It was cold in the morning and we waited to be comfortable again.

It took some effort.

Waiting was the easy part.  Once the wood had gotten to the point where we could fit it in the wood stove…once it had been cut and split…we were on easy street.

Unless the wood was still a little green and it was hard to get lit, just getting a fire going was easy compared with splitting and stacking.

A couple of years ago, we bought a propane wall heater to supplement the wood heat.  It’s still a pretty simple system…when the woodstove goes out and it starts to get chilly, the propane heater kicks on.


I have friends…just about everyone I know, really…who, if I asked them how they heat their homes, would say, “Sure, I do. There’s a thing on the wall that you tell what number you want it to do.  The big number makes it hot, and the small number makes it less hot.  If it’s the summer, and you get too hot, you make sure the thing says cool on it, and then the big number makes it hotter…and the small number makes it cooler. You always have to remember to flick the switch or it will just keep getting hotter instead of cooler, though.  You have to keep your wits about you when it comes to flicking switches.”


Actually, most of my friends are geniuses or close to it…so they do understand things on a deeper level than “flick the switch”.  I’m just being silly. They know better than that.

But the “genius” part is true…I guess it’s one of those “birds of a feather” things…I seem to know a lot of geniuses.

Anyway, we cut and split a lot of wood.  There is a lot of wood around here.  It rains a good bit, and the trees must love water, because there are trees everywhere.

Finding wood to cut and split isn’t hard.

It’s a pretty good deal.

If you’re able to cut and split wood, you can heat your house.


I spent a lot of years whacking logs with a splitting maul.

That tears you up.  Holy Smokes…it’s a workout.

Shoulders, wrists…everything takes a beating. It gets you in shape…but it really puts you through your paces to split a couple of cords of wood by hand.

That’s why I’m so in love with this splitter that a friend let me borrow.

I guess that a paradigm is a worldview…a way of looking at things, an explanation for what goes on.  I guess that’s what a paradigm is.

This splitter gives me a new “wood paradigm”.

When the hardest thing is lifting the knotty chunk onto the rail/bed/receiver (what’s it called?  The part?) of the splitter and then moving the handle to let the magic happen, that’s a small miracle to me.

I could be a small ape dancing around the what? Obelisk? Monolith?  That thing in the movie 2001 that freaked those monkeys out at the beginning…that big black thing.  It makes me so happy to dance around the magic wood machine. It is magic to see it push through the knottiest, burliest hunk of unsplittable oak like it was butter that required a beefy hydraulic tool to slice.

2001 apes

That’s a good thing.

You know?

Anyway, it gives me such joy to let a machine that’s stronger than me do the work I used to do with sheer brawn.

I am enamored with this splitter.

I can’t go back to the farm… now that I’ve seen Paree.

But what am I going to do with all my free time?

I guess I’ll just have to make the pile of wood bigger.


woman’s gotta have it


I wonder how many of my various “worldviews” have been shaped by song lyrics?

(People usually use the phrase “worldview”…but I think sometimes it’s not so cut and dried with me…some of it seems to be sort of situational.)

From the occasionally laughable macho posturing I picked up from a Bad Company song…running around singing, “Feel like making…” at the top of my lungs and then turning in shyness…

Or maybe it’s a James Taylor remake of a Bobby Womack song…

“Woman’s gotta have it…everyday now…she’s gotta know that she’s needed around…”

The funny thing about things like that…the “let her know that she’s needed around” part…is that when we really need each other, a lot of the times we’re too busy to let each other know.

I’ve said before that life seems to accelerate…sometimes it seems to slip into hyperdrive or something….it’d be good to slow down long enough to really “let her know”.

I couldn’t find a live JT performance of the Bobby Womack song…so here’s a Calvin Richardson performance instead.

I don’t know Calvin.

I think that in my head, I’m the Norwegian version of this guy.  It would be so cool to be in front of a bunch of appreciative people, singing my soul out, and have the chance to insert a short spoken word section into a song like that.

That would be so cool.

But this post isn’t about me having the chance to turn into a cool Norwegian Black Man.

It’s about knowing how to let someone know that you love and appreciate them in the middle of it all…in the middle of all the excitement and noise…getting a chance to say what you might think your actions are saying loudly everyday.

Something like, “I GO TO WORK EVERYDAY!!! I CARE ABOUT EVERYBODY IN THIS FAMILY!!!” isn’t very romantic.

Not that I’ve ever said anything like that…but it might happen in some other relationships.

It’s got to be something better…something stronger…than just a reminder of the mechanical aspects of holding the family machine together.

There is still a “couple” hiding behind all the parental responsibilities…somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away…there is still a couple behind all the frantic running and wiping…cooking and driving and coordinating.

I don’t have much of an idea about how to act… about how to act correctly.  I make some mistakes.

But “you’ve got to make her feel it…everyday now…she’s got to know that she ain’t walking on shaky ground” is a pretty succinct primer on how to keep a relationship rolling in a positive way.

Maybe rolling towards a Cialis moment where both of you have your own clawfoot bathtub in a field of daisies?

I’m not really sure what that commercial is about…but I do know that if you spend more than four hours in those bathtubs, you’re supposed to call a doctor.

The wisdom of Bobby Womack.  How’d he get so smart?

Here’s a gentle James Taylor song to close out…I couldn’t find his version of the Bobby Womack song…but I could find this.

Good to be home.


the burrs


I have a friend who spent some time out in Los Angeles.

When he talked about how it was out there, he mentioned that he couldn’t get over how the weather was always the same.  He didn’t like the weather being perfect all the time.

I think I remember talking about the traffic.

I’m not really sure what else we talked about. It was a while ago.

Maybe we talked about an earthquake or something.  I don’t really remember.

One thing I do remember him mentioning was how many beautiful women there were out in Hollywood.

I remember that.

But he said that you couldn’t really talk to any of them.

I guess it only went skin deep out in Hollywood.

Maybe it goes even more “only skin deep” out in Hollywood than other places.

I guess the folks out there are pretty good at buffing the surface.

Botoxed and lifted, nipped and tucked…the folks out in Hollywood keep it together any way they can.

Polished until they rub off all the good parts.  Polished until we wonder if anything is real anymore.

And that becomes our standard…some Photoshopped image, airbrushed and re-digitalized to “perfection”…some icon that we can use as a yardstick for our own perceived shortcomings, wondering, “why don’t I measure up? Maybe that’s what people want?”

It’s kind of nuts, really.

Now, I don’t have any need to follow some “Hollywood trend”. I don’t need to wear shoes without shoelaces, or buy a better watch, or inject anything to make it smoother.

I don’t need to take a bunch of “selfies” in the bathroom mirror.

Those are Hollywood trends, right?

I may be a little behind on my trends.

I might be missing something.

When I think about “perfection”….or what we think perfection is supposed to be…I can’t help but think that it’s really the “burrs” that make us most interesting…and those are the things that we’re worried about getting rid of a lot of the time.

We need an honest happy accident in the beauty department.

We need someone like Marlo Thomas who’s “Free to be Me”.

(Remember that book?  “Free to be Me”?)

We need something that we can trust.

Between steroid fueled home run kings and all the nose jobbed and implanted fakes…and those are just the dudes…it’s hard to know what we can take at face value anymore.

It is kind of jarring to be confronted with physical reality now if it veers off from what we’ve come to expect.

If I could jump down out of the saddle that my “high horse” is wearing for a minute, I should mention that when I was watching the movie about the trapper that I wrote about a couple of days ago, I did notice that when the Asian lady who I think was playing an American Indian lady (why do they do that?) was in the right light… I noticed some wrinkles.

She lives in the frozen north…she’s going to have some wrinkles.

But I noticed.  It didn’t matter…but I noticed.

Of course, the trapper was a roadmap of wrinkles…but he was a dude so I cut him some slack.  I didn’t notice as much with him. It didn’t make me think, “Look at the wrinkles on that grizzled old dude!”

We suspect that things will be good when we get all the rough edges taken care of…but that’s what makes us interesting.

All these “burrs” are pretty fascinating.

Leave the burrs alone.

you can’t do that in that


The first car I ever drove was a 1967 Renault R10.  It was the car I was going to learn to drive in.

It was white and boxy and small…but the thing that was going to make it really interesting was that it had a manual transmission.

It was hard to learn to drive a manual transmission with my sister and an 8-year-old cocker spaniel in the car.

The second car I drove was a 1967 Fairlane station wagon.  It was big and yellow…and had an automatic transmission.

It was easy…even with my sister and an 8-year-old cocker spaniel in the car.

The first car I owned was a 1972 Volkswagen bus…then after that, it was a 1976 Datsun B-210.

Last night, I had a dream about the B-210.

In my dream, I was driving the little green car up a mountain trail.

The trail looked a lot like the trail at Looking Glass Falls…steep and twisting, rocks and roots, lots of switchbacks.

It was some pretty hairy driving.

I think I was slipping and sliding some…white knuckled and holding on…hoping I’d be able to crest the top of the hill and rest on the big chunk of open rock at the summit.

I was hoping the summit would come soon.

In my dream, it felt kind of inappropriate that I was driving this little foreign car up a trail like that.

Anyway, about 2/3 of the way up, I overheard a hiker say, “I tried that once…you can’t do that in that…”.

It was like a magic spell had been broken.  I started sliding backwards, riding the emergency brake, trying to slow down…going down a lot faster than I’d come up.

I think I woke up before I got to the bottom.  It was a wild ride that I was glad I wasn’t around for the end of it.

Dreams are so weird…and so good to wake up from sometimes.

Now I don’t always know what vehicle I’m going to end up in. I know how to drive a manual transmission now, so my possibilities are limitless.

I could end up driving just about anything.

You never know what’s going to happen.

But if I choose to veer off into the allegorical or abstract, I never know what “vehicle” I’m going to be in when I do just about anything.

I don’t know what path my efforts will take sometimes.  I try to be directed most of the time, but sometimes I feel like I’m slipping and sliding a little.  Where I point and where I stop can be two different things.

The thing about it that makes it weird is that I have a hard time ignoring the people who say, “you can’t do that in that”.

I always start sinking when they tell me that I can’t fly.

I always sink.

I suppose that one of the real advantages of being “crazy” would be that the voices in your head are usually louder than the screams of the naysayers. Your crazy drowns out doubt.

I guess that would be an advantage.

I wouldn’t know about crazy, though.  IT IS NOT IN MY LEXICON.

I don’t want to drive a little green car up a mountain trail.  I’ll save that for dreams.

I’ve owned a lot of different cars…each with it’s own quirks and limitations, good points and bad.  They’ve all moved me a little farther down the road…no matter how many times a hose or belt broke, radiators leaked, or tires went flat.  The journey is what I remember…not the obstacles.  I don’t remember the breakdowns as vividly as the new sunrise.

My memory is selective.

I can do a lot of different things in a lot of different vehicles.  I can do it in that.

I can do it in that.

That’s what I’ll tell myself this morning.


consistent obsessions

Looking up Youtube videos with “wilderness” as a search term, I came across this movie.

Watching it, I realized just how long I’ve been obsessed with this kind of lifestyle.

( I have “smarty pantsed” friends who right now are probably tweeting something like, “What?! What kind of lifestyle?! Sitting in front of a computer watching bad videos about some dude living in the woods?! What?!!#youngbilbo” ….I don’t really know how twitter works yet…so that’s the best I could do.  What is a hashtag, anyway?)

It’s been a long time that I’ve lived under the umbrella of a “Jeremiah Johnson” type fantasy.

I’ve thought about living “way out” for a long time. I wonder what fostered that idea?

When you have a family, your priorities change.

That’s a good thing…I could think of a lot of wacky places I could drag them.  Into the woods, up to Norway…some Italian villa to refurbish a cheap old house…some other place that might make things weird for a while.

My head is often full of “thoughts of away”.

And “away” never takes place in an urban setting.  It’s always out in an area that might be just a big green space on the map. I don’t have any interest in living in a city.

But, when you think about it, maybe a “grand adventure” might be the kindest thing I could do for all of us?

( I’m not the only one in the family with an interest in adventure…Jenny has a lot of ideas about interesting ways to live, ideas about new experiences.)

This movie is kind of long…but see if you can stick with it long enough to hear the Leonard Cohen song.  Who would have thought that Leonard Cohen would have a song in a Canadian movie?

The thing about a “consistent obsession” is that it probably starts out as a dream, and then over the years turns into a marker for what you haven’t done yet…or maybe a reminder of what you might never do.

Maybe a “consistent obsession” becomes a “realistic interest” at some point.

“That’s not very realistic now, is it?” is a real dream killer.

It seems like I get more realistic about things as I get older….like “the more I know, the less I do” or something.

Maybe that’s what keeps us alive when we get a little older and start to “slow down”.  It’s probably a survival mechanism to get a little “wiser” about what could happen when we jump off the cliff.

I took a bus ride from Minneapolis to Spokane when I was 18.  I’d spent the summer working on a crew that put up big power line towers in Minnesota…and this was a trip to visit family at the end of the summer.

I sat next to a college student on part of the trip and we talked about the homesteading act up in Alaska.

It might have been the last year it was still in effect…1978.  I can’t remember when they stopped giving away land up in Alaska.

I was pretty obsessed with the idea of homesteading up in Alaska.

Pretty unrealistic.  I don’t think I’d ever even used a chainsaw at that point.

The only real skill I had was the ability to dream.

That counts for doodleysquat out in the woods.

I guess it’s really a blessing that I couldn’t act on every goofy dream I have…no matter how long I’ve been obsessed with it.

Being lazy and scared probably saved my life.










alone in the wilderness

When you have a new paradigm planted firmly in your brain of what “really impressive” is, the accomplishments of someone like Donald Trump or even Warren Buffett kind of pale by comparison.

I’ve written about Dick Proenneke before.

He’s an amazing character.

He’s not about chest pumping and self-aggrandizement….it’s just his quiet competence and deliberate action that really made an impact on me.

I wonder how many people are living quietly competent lives who we never know about?

I doubt that many of them would care if we knew about them or not.

They don’t seek out “having babies with Kanye” or dressing in a meat suit at a big awards ceremony.

I guess the point of this is that Dick Proenneke is not alone in being so competent and capable. I suspect that there are quite a few people out “in the world” living a big, quiet life.

The quiet ones are the most interesting.


have you seen her parents?

white gypsyOur children look kind of like this.

They aren’t as dirty…and don’t usually have little braids and colorful pieces of string tied in their hair…but they look kind of like this.

Blonde and Scandinavian…blue eyes.

This little girl was found in a gypsy camp .

She was found in a Roma camp in central Greece.

Here’s the story…

Now the authorities are looking for her parents.  According to the news reports, she only speaks Roma…so she must have been with the gypsies for a while.

It is such a cliché that “you might be stolen by the gypsies”.

“You better watch out…”

But apparently, it really does happen.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a gypsy caravan in our “neck of the woods”.  It’s not something that I’ve ever wondered or worried about.

But I can see why a little blonde kid would be appealing to a bunch of gypsies.  I understand the appeal.

We like them.

We love ours.

I just don’t think I’ve ever had any compulsion to load up the wagon and go out to steal any more of them.

Our house is small enough as it is.

This little girl must have really stood out in a camp of dark-haired Gypsies.

I guess that this is one of those situations where the more you know, the more you have to be nervous about.

I know where all of our children are. Two of them are asleep in our house. One’s away at college.

So I know that this little blonde gypsy isn’t ours, for sure.

But I haven’t thought about gypsy abduction as being something to worry about for a while now.

It hasn’t been on my “angst radar” before reading this news story.

Jenny said that there’s a meteor shower this morning…but it’s too cool and I’m still feeling a little “under the weather”…so I don’t know if I’ll go outside to try to see any rocks burning up on their way to earth.

There is so much that’s happening all the time.

It’s kind of hard to wrap your head around all of it.

I hope they find this little girl’s parents.


peaceful sunday

Woke up this morning and, because I didn’t really feel all that “up to speed”, decided not to run.

I just wasn’t up to feeling the speed this morning.

Better not to risk running with the wind this morning.

So instead of running, I spent an hour trying to figure out how to fix an old Zune MP3 player we have…and then watching a violent movie on the internet that had Chinese subtitles.

So much for trying to have a peaceful Sunday morning.

I don’t know why I gravitate towards the “exciting” and violent movies….maybe it’s because Jenny has the good sense to stay away from them…so when we’re together I don’t have much chance to pollute my mind with violent movie craziness.

Anyway…it was the typical story of a family trying to defend their house against crazy invaders.

That’s kind of like watching movies about killers hiding in the dark woods when you’re prone to spending time outside when the moon isn’t full.

Why fill your mind full of stuff that might give you pause when the only thing you have to worry about is the reality around you?

I’ve seen some bears in the woods…but not too many crazy killers.  Why scare myself?

It’s kind of a “do as I say” situation…sometimes, I write this blog and it’s really just me mulling over what I wish could be.  It might not always have a correlation with what I’m actually up to…it’s what I hope I can figure out.

So a violent movie doesn’t jibe with what I want for myself or my family.

Why open the door to that kind of wackyness?

I checked out “Zero Dark Thirty” from the library…and because people said it was good…that it might be an important and true story…I thought I might enjoy watching it.

I guess “enjoy” is probably the wrong word. I think that I almost felt as though I needed to watch it…like because I’d checked it out, it was a responsibility or something.

Like it was a chore that I had to check off my list now that I’d set the wheels in motion.

I’d “invited” this video into my house, and now I had to ask it to stay for supper.

Well…we watched probably the first couple of minutes of the movie and I realized that I really don’t gain anything from watching some dude torture another man…no matter how necessary and, somehow, “politically correct” everyone else might view it as being.

I’m the “gatekeeper”…no matter how many awards a movie wins, I still have a little bit of power.

I don’t have to press the “open door” button on the DVD player and load something into it that is going to fill my head with violence…especially “based on a true story” violence.

It shouldn’t feel different if it’s “based on a true story”…but somehow it does, if only just a little bit.

I don’t know about a lot of things.  I watch what other people say with such certainty, and I wonder how they got so smart.

How do they know so much about so many different things?

How’d they get to be experts?

How did they get to the point where they are so free with their opinions?

But…one thing I do know for certain.  I can learn to be a lot better about what I let into my head…and I can be better about what I expose my family to.

No matter what the “Oscar committee” says is a magnificent and important piece of art.

lacks the training

savant 2

Savants are pretty fascinating.

What’s not fascinating about someone with abilities beyond their level of training?

When someone sits down at the piano and seems to pick it up quickly…or paints something beautiful after picking up a brush for the first time…that’s pretty darn interesting to me.

Where’d that come from?  How did that happen?

Now, the people some of us call “idiot savants” are even more fascinating.

How do these people who we are anxious to write off as viable human beings…who we question their ability to contribute anything to “our good society”… surprise us with their talents?

These people were never trained to excel.  They weren’t exposed to opportunity.  They didn’t “catch a break”.

There was something inside of them that wasn’t held back by our preconceptions.  There was something inside of them that wasn’t constrained by our lack of faith.

Maybe it’s the lack of self-consciousness that lets them “get out of their own way”?  Maybe not being really aware of what’s going on around them is a good thing?

I guess we’re all kind of like that, to some degree.

Maybe we’re not easily classified as being “idiots” (someone, somewhere, is thinking, “Man…you a idiot.  YOU IS A IDIOT, BIG TIME.”)…maybe it’s hard to figure out exactly what we are…most of us are pretty good at masking who we really are…but I don’t think any of us lack some hidden ability.

Maybe it’s not something that would really draw attention (in a good way), but I’ve been surprised by people enough that I wonder if we all aren’t “little savants” in some ways.

There is something inside each of us that has the opportunity to shine and sustain…but usually just remains dormant and unexposed.

What do they say about the nail that sticks up? It gets whacked down?

Who would want to risk anything knowing that?

I don’t want to get “whacked down”…I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get whacked down.

Maybe that’s what’s so fascinating about the “idiot savant”… they don’t even seem to know that somebody has a hammer.

What these people carry inside of “themselves” isn’t afraid to come out.  They don’t know that they should be afraid to show what gifts they carry.

Maybe…hey, how about this? OK, maybe…maybe it’s not that they harbor such rare treasure as some sort of compensation for lack of ability in other areas…maybe it’s just that the real gift they have is that they aren’t “aware” to the point where they can let out the gifts that all of us carry?

Maybe the real “savant” part is that they can get out of their own way? Not knowing about limits must be pretty close to being limitless.

They say that a big percentage of atheists come out of the seminary.

That’s pretty sad…well trained atheists who had designs on entering the ministry, but somewhere along the way…after all the study and training….they lost their way.

Chowing down at the “tree of knowledge” and they lost their way.

Who’da thunk it?

I don’t know…sometimes it seems like we can train all the joy out of things.  “Spirit” doesn’t need direction, sometimes.

We can’t outsmart God…and we can’t get smart enough to learn how to get out of our own way.

Those dang “idiot savants” sure do have a leg up on me.


It matters to Nate


The utility of Halloween has kind of evaporated for me these days.

People look at me funny when I go to the door and ask for candy.  I’m not as successful in my efforts as I used to be.

I don’t get the candy anymore, so what good is it?

Things have changed.

It matters to Nate, though.

He doesn’t mark his calendar for anything.  He doesn’t set a clock.

He lives in the moment.

But if someone helps him put on the Power Rangers costume that he picked out, and puts a plastic pumpkin in his hand, and walks with him, holding his free hand…he’s good to go.

He figures things out pretty quickly when the candy starts falling like manna from heaven.

Now, I know a lot of folks who think Halloween is a horrible Pagan holiday….and maybe it is in their neck of the woods.

I’m sure there have been a lot of weirdos in the world who celebrate horrible things at Halloween.

That’s very possible.

I know there’s weirdos in the world. I know they’re out there.

And I’m sure that they might do bad things at Halloween.

These little guys have a lot of fun, though.

“Harvest Festival” or “Halloween”….little guys have a lot of fun.

I don’t remember developing a fascination with the DARK SIDE when I was corking up my face to be a HOBO…or any of my little friends delving into BLACK MAGIC while preparing to greet the world as the SCARY WITCH.

They just wanted the candy.

It wasn’t a portal to the dark dimension…it wasn’t the thing that was going to allow Satan to get a strong grip on them.

It was just CANDY DAY.

Like I said before, Halloween doesn’t hold the same appeal for me.  I don’t get the candy, and I don’t care that much about the day anymore.

But, to a little kid, it’s a blast to dress up with a bunch of other little kids and get a lot of candy.

Does it get any better than that?

There’s a Bible verse that says something like “to those that are evil, everything they see is evil, to those that are good, things are good”.

I paraphrase…badly…but that was the gist of it.  I couldn’t find the verse this morning or I’d quote more accurately.

If I missed the evil behind plastic pumpkins and lots of candy, I probably deserve to be condemned or something…but for now, I’ll just look at the day as a time to dress up and get some candy.

Of course, that may be just what the “Great Deceiver” wants me to think.

Why do things have to be so hard?

Nate looks pretty good in his red Power Ranger suit….and he should really pull down some poundage in the candy department this year.

Maybe he’ll share with me.