cello days

Traveling down the highway, road tripping at 65 miles an hour…the not uncommon exclamation, “Did you SEE THAT?!!” as we quickly pass another milestone or marker….each of us seeing something a little different from the other.

Most of the time, we noticed…sometimes just barely.

My daughter plays the cello.

She finds her own ways to have fun with it.

This Friday she graduates from high school.

Another marker flying by.

The funny thing is that, until you pass the milestone, you think that you’re just out for another Sunday drive, a meandering voyage through the familiar country lanes….breeze on your face, fried chicken for lunch, no hurries or worries or thoughts of the future.

No thoughts of what you might have missed when you looked down to adjust the radio.

And then you pass the “milestone” on the one way country road and you wake up and wonder:

“How the heck did I end up on the Autobahn?”

The autobahn?  Now you’re driving to survive…faster than you ever wanted to go and no one is saying, “did you see that?”….we’re all just white knuckled, eyes forward vessels of adrenaline…looking for the first place to exit so we can catch our breath.

But if we realized how fast the journey really goes, we’d never get in the car in the first place.

How do you even keep something that fast on the road?  It sounds impossible.

My daughter plays the cello.

She started playing in the 6th grade…and played all through high school.

The funny thing about vehicles is that even though some of us may pick a fast car…and some of us may pick a slow truck…I think that the general consensus when we near the end of even a small part of our journey through life is that, “that part went a lot faster than I thought it would.”

Maybe we improve our driving skills as we get older….maybe we get fatalistic about the whole game, sure that something weird like a wheel flying off at one hundred miles an hour is just around the next bend.  Maybe we just take the closest on ramp and get swept along with all the other vehicles moving forwards.

We move forward.  That’s our option.  Fast…or slow…we move forward.

My daughter plays the cello.  That’s a small part of who she is…a small part of what she does.

They say that at the end, your life flashes before your eyes.  That’s something that, thankfully, I haven’t experienced yet.

But I have to wonder if some parts don’t flash before my eyes as I move through the middle of my life?

When our oldest children were young, someone wiser than me said, “you better pay attention”.  And in between remodeling a gutted house, working….and dealing with all the other distractions I provided myself…I really did try to pay attention.

If someone yelled out, “DID YOU SEE THAT?!”…I think that, at least some of the time, my response would have been, “What?! What did I miss?!”

My oldest child plays the cello.  My oldest graduates this Friday.

I saw that.

13 Benedictus



today may be a good one


I deliver mail.

I’ve mentioned before that delivering mail is the job I do.  Six days a week, I sort and load my collection of bills and checks, letters and magazines, good news and maybe even some bad news….and then I take it out on the road to deliver it.

I have some routines that I follow.  When you do something 6 days a week…for what seems like forever…routine is the word of the day.

I pull my mail down in the same way.

I load my vehicle in the same way.

My dog bones are in the same place in the vehicle everyday.

I eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s so I don’t even notice that it’s a different workday? Maybe I want it all to run together so I don’t notice what kind of stone I’m rolling up the hill?  Maybe I’m just a creature of lazy habit…

Anyway, this post isn’t really about all my many habits and routines.  It’s about one consistent part of my day that got me thinking about expectations and observations.

I have a customer on my route who is known in the community by the nickname “Zippy”.

Zippy ( I call him by his name, Michael…but Zippy sounds more colorful, so I’ll call him that in this post ) uses a wheelchair.  Everyday that the weather allows it, he powers down the road from his house to his mailbox and waits for a couple of minutes of conversation when I pull up in the mail jeep.

It’s an everyday occurrence.  I look for him and expect that my forward momentum is going to be halted for the time I sit and visit with Zippy.

That’s OK…what’s my hurry?

A typical conversation always goes like this:

Me: ” It’s nice outside today.”

Zippy: “It’s HOT.”

Me: “Yeah….but the breeze feels nice..”

Zippy: “Yeah…but it’s going to rain. ”

Me:  “Where’d you hear that?”

Zippy:  ” 40 percent chance today, 60 percent chance on Sunday, 20 percent chance on Monday, (etc. etc. etc.)

Me: “So…there’s a chance it won’t rain, too….”

Zippy: “Maybe….Maybe Not.”

That’s the way our conversations typically go…day in and day out.  “Maybe…Maybe Not” is sort of the joke that punctuates the end notes of our visiting….kind of the admission that even though something bad could happen, we don’t know when or what, so whatever the weatherman tells us can be held under suspicion.

My amusement out of all this is trying to figure out if there is going to be a day when I say, ” This snow is amazing…see how that one drift over there looks?! ”  and Zippy will say something like…

“Oh, I know…isn’t it beautiful outside today?”  or even that something to do with the weather is really kind of pleasant.

That’s my game.  It feels like a victory if perfection is ever recognized.

Zippy is not a bitter guy.  He delivers his observations of gloom with tremendous good cheer.  He is happy to point out that it may not be as nice as I think it is…and even if something strange has happened and it really is pretty nice right now, and he has to admit to that fact…well, something is projected to come along soon that will turn “nice” on its ear.

But all I really want is the admission that it might turn out to be an amazing day.

Just once or twice, I want to pull up and have our talk turn to how nice it is outside.

I don’t know if that’s going to happen.  It doesn’t seem to be the way our conversations are ever going to go down.

( It takes a lot of creativity to talk for five or ten minutes about how a beautiful day could turn sour.  It takes more muscles to frown, too…or so I’ve been told.)

Zippy is not a bitter guy.  I said that before….he’s pretty hilarious in his own way, and I think that we enjoy talking to each other.  I don’t know how many people become captive audiences for the moment at the end of his driveway….I think I’m the only car that has to stop at his mailbox…so I may be the only person he gets to talk to consistently.

He waits for me to pull up so he can wheel on down….and I wait for him at the mailbox when I see him coming.

That’s part of my routine.

I think that one of the things that keeps me going is that small break in the routine that I look for…the one where I pull up and before I can even start talking, Zippy says…

“You know….today may be a good one”.


Anything good can happen.




I’m listening

My daughter found this on YouTube…pretty funny.

“I think we all know who the real boss is.  The real boss is the one who does…the tickling.”

Our three-year old has, seemingly all of a sudden, gotten lucid.

It’s strange to understand most of what comes out of his mouth.  He has some unique insights.

Six months ago, most of it required some deciphering.  There were some moments of pure and strange brilliance, but a lot of the time was spent asking my wife, “Did you catch that?  What did he just say?”

I think she is kind of a baby whisperer…many times she could actually translate for me. She spoke his language.

It is refreshing and weird to be able to understand the complete sentences that come out of his mouth these days.

His perspective is definitely a fresh one.

How much am I missing out in the world because I just don’t speak the language?

It’s not only a matter of the rest of the people not being up to speed…not being able to communicate in a way that I can relate to.

I think the problem really does lie with me.


Our child was having the same thoughts when he was younger and unintelligible.  Nothing changed except his ability to pronounce an ever-expanding vocabulary.

But I act like he’s the one who is suddenly “up to speed”.

This was a funny video.  It doesn’t deserve any quasi philosophical rambling…but it’s amazing when you realize that, at least as far as language goes, you really are on the same page/planet as your young child.

Short post this morning…I overslept.  5:30 instead of 5:00 AM.  What happened?

how big is a bushel?


“Hide it under a bushel?  NO!  I’M GONNA LET IT SHINE.”

How big is a bushel?

And just what am I hiding my light under?

I wrote a blog post about Lloyd Kahn yesterday…and it got me thinking about “right livelihood” again.

Of course, if your talent in life is finding ways to be dissatisfied with what you’re doing in the moment…while you imagine some “pie in the sky” perfect activity or occupation…then I suppose you have some major work to do.

There are going to be some things to figure out.

03 That’s What the Lonely Is For

Maybe one of the real gifts of being a parent is when things sometimes accelerate to the point where self-absorption is a lot harder than it used to be?

Although, if I’m up and writing this a couple of hours before everyone else gets up, I may need to back away a little farther from “self-absorption” than I think.

Being so self involved that you feel you need to write about how to escape self-absorption is kind of psychotic.

Not that I’m psychotic or anything.  They don’t allow psychotic mailmen.

I don’t think that a recognizable part of being a “good parent” is total self-absorption.  It’s not something that’s celebrated in all the “parenting” literature.

Being selfish is bad.  That’s an established idea.

But wouldn’t it be a fantastic gift to give to our children to be able to be employed at the thing that brought us complete joy? How selfish do we need to be for that to happen?

Or is it only a matter of blooming where we’re planted?

I love the old movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  The old movie with Jimmy Stewart….where the angel shows him what kind of effect his life’s had on the world?  I cry every time I watch it…and I know it by heart.

In the movie, Jimmy’s character, George Bailey, is down on himself because he’s sure that he’s wasted his life.  He wasn’t the success he envisioned.  He didn’t have the big life he’d hoped for.

Most of his self perceived short comings came about because he made choices based on other people’s needs.

Anyway…the angel shows him what the world would have been like if he hadn’t been around to make a difference.

It’s pretty eye-opening for George to see it in its true light.

I love that movie.

So…once again…how big is a bushel ?

What have I set in motion that allows me to “hide my light”?

I don’t really know.  It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re just working on getting through the day…although nothing feels wasted when you’re just busy living in the moment.

But when you snap awake at three in the morning, with a question like “what’s this all about?” stampeding through your head, it’s hard to let it rest until you’ve pondered it long enough to realize again that it’s a question without an easy answer.

I don’t know how big a bushel is.  I don’t even know how big a hectare is.

I do know that if you never reach for something, you don’t even have a shot at figuring it out.

But if you’re hiding under a bushel basket at least you’re out of the rain.

And if it’s not raining, you’ll never know it.


grow up not old

“I like builders, like I like farmers, because they have to deal with real things.  Things have to work.”

I’ve written about Lloyd Kahn before…but here’s a short video where he talks about his homestead and his early years working on the Whole Earth Catalog.

These days, when we have the ability to say, “just Google it” when we want access to information, we forget how revolutionary it was to hold in our hands a book that introduced us to new ways of doing and thinking about things.

Lloyd is the best example I know of the thought that age is just a number.

From his example, I guess I can learn that to stay interested and involved…and to work at something you love and are excited about…must be some sort of fountain of youth.

The quality of the years in our lives must count a lot more than the quantity.

It is inspiring to learn about people who take that thought to heart.

Now, that being said, I think that to have a whole bunch of high quality quantity (of years) wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either.


Check out Lloyd’s blog here…


Here’s another short video….


dog shopping

We promised our three-year old that we would get a dog.

He’s not the kind of kid who harps on this dog promise.  He excitedly reminds us that we are going to get a dog sometimes, but he really doesn’t push it.

So now, I’m doing a little bit of dog shopping.

Craigslist is a good source but so far I’ve come up dry.

There are lots of CL ads that say “good with kids”…here’s a picture from one of them…

pit bull with baby 2

My thing with a lot of the ads is that I really just don’t know if a pitbull would be the best choice for my family….even if it’s one that a baby could ride around the yard.

Not that I really have anything against pitbulls.  They can be really sweet…compact, muscular, huge powerful jaws.  They are a potentially aggressive and tenacious breed.

Why wouldn’t that be a good fit for a family with little kids and chickens?

Another thing that a large number of the ads say is that the dog that they’re trying to dump on someone else is looking for a “forever friend” to take care of them.

I don’t know that I could put my human friends on the spot and demand that they be a “forever friend” to me.  That’s just too much pressure.

Nobody likes pressure.

One thing that reading all these ads has taught me is that the greatest dogs are the ones that people need to get rid of the most.

I guess that’s what marketing is all about, but dog shopping really gives you a chance to hear some sad stories.

Probably some of the saddest stories are the ones that basically say, “we made a bad choice” and subtly follow that with, “do you want to be a forever friend…(to our bad choice)? ”

I guess that it’s better to try and pawn off an animal than just letting it go in the woods…but what a shame that it doesn’t work out more often for the craigslist folks and their dogs.

I don’t even want to get started on the veiled “small rehoming fee” option (but I guess I will anyway).  Selling your dog might be OK…but it would be nice to just be able to say, “I’m selling this dog I don’t want”.  It would be great to be able to just call it what it is.

I worked for a vet when I was in my late 20’s.  There were so many great dogs that came through that office that needed “forever friends”…I probably would have ended up with fifteen dogs if I’d taken every one that needed a home.

That would have been kind of crazy, though.

You hear a lot about “cat ladies”…you don’t hear as much about “dog men”.

I know that we’ll find a dog one of these days.  I can feel our “forever friend” bounding through the wildflowers, calling to us excitedly as he prepares to join our family for the rest of time.

And if that doesn’t work out, we can always “rehome” him for a small “rehoming fee”.  Maybe we can even make some money on the deal?  You know….just to make sure he’s going to a good home?

Maybe we’ll give one of those pitbulls a shot after all.

What’s the worst that could happen?

( I don’t have permission to use this photo…I don’t know these people…the dog looks nice…the baby is having a blast.  Please don’t sue me.)


Sometimes, it’s not only friends who recommend and lead you to good new music.

Ben Harper mentioned Piers Faccini as being someone he enjoyed.

So, trusting Ben Harper’s judgement….I discovered Piers Faccini.

A big time for me is brewing a cup of tea and listening to some slow, maybe depressing music.

I don’t know why that is…maybe I’m genetically predisposed to be looking out over a lonely winter fjord…my reindeer by my side.

This music is the perfect complement to that kind of activity…minus the reindeer, of course.

Check out the link to Pier’s own website…there’s a lot of his artwork on the site, also.

my father took a ride on Hitler’s yacht

idaho 081

After my father passed away a couple of years ago, we were looking through some of the old photo albums my sister had found.

One of the albums was a bunch of snapshots that he’d collected from when he was serving in the military.

It was filled with pictures of him working on vehicles and goofing around with his other soldier friends.

He was in the Army immediately after the war ended…sent to Germany as part of the occupied forces.

It’s strange to imagine how a young Norwegian farm kid from Montana ended up in Germany…but there he was.

One of the pictures was kind of confusing until I heard some of the back story.

It was a picture of a big boat with swastikas painted on the side.

You don’t see many boats like that these days.

My sister said that it was Hitler’s yacht…and that the service men were able to take rides on it.

I can say that my father was invited to take a ride on Hitler’s yacht…but I’d have to make sure and explain the context, otherwise it might sound funny.

My father didn’t talk a lot about his time in the military.  I remember that he used to tell this one story about a cook that they had in his unit.  He said that the guy had survived the Bataan Death March…and that the Army was “taking care of him”.  I guess this fellow had kind of a “funny” sense of humor…and one of the things that used to really get him laughing was to offer one of the soldiers a tablespoon of hot sauce my Dad called “mexipep” covered in a little bit of gravy.  I guess that this cook got a kick out of seeing the guys sputter and run for a drink of water to put out the fire.

I suppose that there are all sorts of stories from war-time.

Some are huge and heroic…tales of battle and survival.  Some are small and kind of funny.

My father’s heroism came later in his life…but that’s another story for another time.

Looking at his pictures in that album, it hits me ( like it must hit any child of a service man or woman when they get to see photos of their parent serving their country) that these people were young.

They were young men and women… just doing a job.

Some of the jobs were dangerous…some were quiet and steady…but they all added up to something big and important.

You don’t see many yachts in the harbors of the world with swastikas painted on the side these days.

On today’s Memorial Day, I’d have to say, “Thankyou” to all the people serving in the military who made it possible for me to say that.

ugly guitars


One of my favorite scenes in any Indiana Jones movie is the one where he gets an opportunity to pick the Holy Grail.

I think it was in the third movie…Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Anyway, he’s in this cave with the Templar who’s been guarding the Grail for years and Indiana’s Dad is with him.  There’s a couple of Nazis in there with him, too…a full on evil dude Nazi and this woman who was an almost girlfriend until she returned to the dark Nazi side full-time.

This ancient Templar is counseling them about the rules of choosing a chalice and of course the dude Nazi has to go first…he wants all the power the Grail promises.

He chooses the most beautiful and shiny chalice of the bunch and takes a satisfied swig from it…and…he turns into a melting wax head skeleton and that’s it for him.

Indiana is up next….and after much deliberation, he chooses a crude and common looking cup…one that looks like a peasant would use.  He tentatively takes a drink and nothing bad happens…he’s still Indiana Jones.

I remember the Templar said something like, “You have chosen wisely”.

Of course, after Indiana successfully chooses the cup, the Nazi woman takes it and tries to leave the chamber with it and all heck breaks loose. She dies and Indiana almost joins her until his father snaps him out of his enchantment.

That’s exactly how it feels when I’m picking out a guitar.

Maybe not completely…but I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the “ugly guitar” that holds the real power.

It’s funny, but when I go guitar shopping for friends and show some different guitars to them, it’s always the bright and shiny new guitar that they’re drawn to.

And, I suppose, why wouldn’t they be?  New things are better than old used things, right? It’s their money I’m hoping to influence them to spend….the shiny guitar looks a lot better.

Every once in the while, though, I’ll see some diamond in the rough hanging on the guitar store rack.  It might be kind of beat up…might have some finish wear…might look kind of old.  It might have some PATINA.

When I pick it up to play it, this beat up old guitar feels like it wants to jump up off my lap and dance around the room.  The first notes tell me something that the other new guitars can’t say.  This old beater has a story and plays like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

“How about this one?  It’s older…but it’s a great guitar.  How about this guitar?!”

“Nah…I think I’ll stick with this shiny one.”

Nobody ever turns into a melting wax head skeleton, but I want to be able to say at some point, like the Templar in the cave, ” You have chosen wisely”.

We can’t see what something is beyond what it looks like.

Our whole lives are like that…bling trumps character.  First impressions are important, but we need to get to the point where we’re willing to give the “ugly guitar” a chance.

We need to grow into the insight and willingness to look beyond the surface that, hopefully, maturity provides.

After all, nobody wants to turn into a melting wax head, anyway.

image from here.



the udu defense


I’ve spent some time in courtrooms.

I’ve served on a couple of juries….and I’ve watched a couple of courtroom dramas.

I’ve just never been formally charged with anything.

“Formally charged…”  that’s kind of funny.  Actually, I’ve never had any charges in any form brought against me.

I’m clean.

I was thinking about court this morning and the legal system in general…. and I thought that if I ever was in trouble, and found myself being dragged before a judge, that it might be wise to employ a defense that I don’t see used very often in a formal setting.

If I ever found myself in some sort of legal predicament, it makes sense to me that one of the strongest ways I can think of to get out of it all would be…


That’s the maneuver where when the charges are brought against me, and the judge is saying something like “the charges against you are watching illegal Chinese cam shot pre-release American movies on the internet.  Do you understand the charges?“….when that happens, when the judge is coming down on me hard for whatever crime the court has decided I may be guilty of …

I stand to my feet, look the judge in the eye, and say…“YOU DO”.

Worst case scenario it buys me a little time, best case it results in the case being declared a mistrial.

It works for me.

Playground defense…they don’t teach it at law school…we forget it by the time we accept that we need to follow THE LAW to the letter…but it works.

Imagine the pandemonium when, in response to an accusation too horrible to repeat, we calmly stand and say, “YOU DO“.

Those two simple words completely put the issue back in the judge’s court.

The UDU DEFENSE deflects and saves.

The thing about the UDU DEFENSE that’s kind of appealing is that it really doesn’t require any preparation other than developing the willingness to deploy it.

It can be used at any time. When the judge says “How do you plead”, you answer “YOU DO”….when the judge says “Bailiff, RESTRAIN THIS MAN!!!” , you say….”YOU DO”.

When your defense attorney says, “We’re going to get something to eat.  Do you want anything?” you could say something like, “YOU DO”.

Do you see what I’m saying?  It’s a simple system and one without any weakness.

And the beauty of it all is that it really doesn’t require any legal training.  You don’t have to go to law school, you don’t have to have any courtroom experience, you don’t have to worry about whether you ever make partner in somebody else’s whatever…all you have to do is develop the ability to randomly retort “YOU DO” when someone puts you on the spot.

It is an elegantly simple solution.

I do hope that I never have to be in a situation where I have to use my UDU skills.  I don’t want to confront the legal system in any form.

I don’t want to make that kind of history.

But…if the UDU DEFENSE doesn’t seem to be bringing the court to its knees, I could always trot out my ace in the hole…


Don’t mess with me, legal system.  I’ve got you pegged.