blowing a whistle in an empty field

Outrageous Coach

A tree falling in the forest, one hand clapping, a bell ringing in an empty sky…all these zen descriptions of what might be effort that remains unknown.

How about something human scale like blowing a whistle in an empty field?

Blowing a whistle in an empty field…face turning red from the exertion, lungs burning, just this shy of passing out…and still blowing on…filling up the space with a sound no one will hear.

If you look up whistleblower, you’ll find out that it’s a pretty heavy term…bringing something to light that’s not right is a dangerous thing to do.

But what happens if your head is so full of paranoia and conspiracy that everything you see holds “something that’s not right”?

I remember the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson…turned out to be a pretty straight ahead thriller by the time we got into the movie a ways…but early on it  was hilarious how deeply he was into every conspiracy under the sun.

It was hilarious in the movie.

I don’t know that I’m not just another noisy “whistleblower”…tweeting and tooting, wheezing and warbling ( I found a thesaurus) about all the other whistling fools out in the world…buying up cases of Windex so I can make sure that the walls of my glass castle gleam.

I’ve always believed that we find what we look for (see an earlier post called “what kind of people”)….so I guess it’s not hard to understand when bad luck and bad people seem to surround certain people.

Maybe it’s time to sit down for a minute…put the whistle away for a while…and catch our breaths.

The world’s a pretty good place still as far as I can tell.

I’m just sayin’.


starving rats live forever

standing-rodent-smI’ve heard about a diet that says that if you restrict your caloric intake to the bare minimum, you can really extend your lifespan.

Apparently, they tested it on rats and found that a limited number of the right kind of calories will make you live a long time.


I watch the Barefoot Contessa (it’s a television cooking show) make real food for her husband and friends and my mouth waters.

There are no caloric limitations on that show.

Just a lot of sighs and exclamations about how good the food is and how much they seem to enjoy being alive so that they can eat it.

“Eat, Drink, and be Merry…for tomorrow we die.”

That’s not a really popular sentiment amongst the starve and live forever crowd.

Deny yourself now so that later you can live a long and unenjoyable life.

Dave Ramsey, a popular financial talk show host and author  (that I like), says, “live now like no one else so that later you can live like no one else”.

His take on saving is that a little self-denial now will allow the future to be better and easier.

Makes a lot of sense from a financial point of view.

This starving rat thing is really kind of crazy, though. I guess the low-calorie diet is something you have to maintain forever so that you can eke out another five or ten years.


Oh…wait a minute.  Check out this article I just found online that appeared in the NY Times…

I bet there will still be a bunch of anal anorexics in white turtlenecks, bald heads gleaming in their spotless kitchens, weighing each 3 ounce portion of sea kelp….thinking, “I’m going to beat this rap….I’m going to live FOREVER!!”

Which raises the question…which is better?  A short life of intense enjoyment…or a long life of denial and discomfort?

Personally, I’d like the really long life of intense enjoyment and pleasure.

Hold the pickles, please.



new water in a dry creek bed


I don’t always understand where kindness comes from.

I’ve seen it in action.  I understand it when I see it…but I don’t always comprehend what leads people to express it.

In some of the books I’ve read about the West, they talk about flash floods filling up an arroyo…a stream bed that’s usually empty of water.  It’s a surprise when a barren creek bed gets filled by something as unexpected in the desert as a lot of water coming fast.

Unexpected rain, coming hard and strong…droplets separate and distinct…join on dry ground to become, at least for a little while…until the next dry spell…a river that covers and carries.

In the moment, these separate acts of kindness mean a great deal.

Later, when we get see the big picture, they mean even more.

We get caught up in arguments about the correct way to baptize….” IMMERSION !!! SPRINKLE !! “…we argue back and forth…each supporting their views with scripture and well rehearsed theology.

I wonder if either one isn’t just a reminder of the deluge to come?

I wonder if, when we get to the end of our lives, God won’t be waiting for us to say, “you did pretty well…you really tried and really did do the best you could…but you know something?  I sent you to be a drop in a raging river and the best you could do was try and stay moist all by yourself on a hot sidewalk.  Now…it’s not your fault…you didn’t know any better…but don’t you think it would have been easier and more effective if you could have just loved everybody…and joined together to flow on and cover the world?”

Or something like that.  I really don’t know what God would say to any of us.

I guess some of us are willing to hold our hand out and say, “Feel the rain? Doesn’t it feel wonderful?”

Others just want to spray everyone down hard with a fire hose.

I guess it’s more appealing to be a powerful fire hose than it is to be a single drop among many.

There are a lot of thirsty people.  There are a lot of people who just need a drink of water…no theology, no preaching…just a drink of water.

God’s kindness is bigger than any “river” we could ever hope to understand.  It’s a quiet and constant collection of droplets getting ready to fill the “arroyo”.

Rain on.


sliding down the hill

It’s funny how small incidental moments that have no real personal meaning to us stick in our heads.

In 1976, I was a freshman in High School.

I remember early on in the year sitting by the window of a classroom that looked out over the student parking lot.  Beyond the parking lot was a hill…the edge of the soccer field.

There were these two kids trying to climb the hill.

One was doing alright with the climbing…the other kid was alternately sliding and kind of cartwheeling down…over and over.  He was kind of liquid…loose limbed and hilarious.

We were all laughing.  I was laughing like I’d never stop.

“What’s wrong with him?” someone asked.

“He took 4 Quaaludes..” was the response to the question.

I didn’t know what a quaalude was.

A kid wants to be “hip”, though….so I pretended to know what would make a kid spend part of a morning rolling down a grassy hill.  The answer to the question was “4 quaaludes”.

I don’t know why that joins my many memories.  I remember it vividly…and I can’t imagine why.

Memory is a funny thing.  It comes and goes and comes around again…kind of like the tide could re-write what it had erased the last time it came through.

I have strong memories of so many things…and then can’t remember where I put my hat the last time I laid it down.  I don’t think it’s a matter of concentration…I wasn’t concentrating on some kid on dope rolling down a random hill…it’s just kind of random and magical.  Hard to figure out.

The first time I saw my wife I think something internal told me in a silent way that I would remember it forever.

In the moment, it felt like something that was going to shift me somehow…but paying that kind of attention to it would be sort of crazy, wouldn’t it?  Ministers talk about getting the “calling”….I think I got a calling that night.  It was a strange feeling.

I think that some people think that everything that happens to us is some kind of accident…like something was rolling downhill and we couldn’t get out of the way in time.

I don’t believe that.

We try to back away from things that happen to us…like it really was something accidental that didn’t really mean anything.  If we can make ourselves believe that it wasn’t something important…just some strange random incidental thing that happened…we have a good excuse for the times when we’ve screwed things up.

We carry it all…but what we remember is flexible and random.

They say that when a person goes through dementia…goes through Alzheimers…that many times they can’t remember the name of the person sitting with them…but they can remember what seat they sat in when they were eating in the mess hall during the war.

I don’t know why things work like that.  Maybe the present has to get out of the way for the past to be able to come swimming up from somewhere else in our minds….I don’t really know.

I have a wealth of good memories.

That is my real wealth if I have any.  I’ve been blessed with a lot of really wonderful memories.

Those good memories are the ones I work at remembering.

Jim Harrison isn’t really a pervert

jim harrison and dogJim Harrison is one of my favorite writers.

My wife thought he was a major pervert for a long time…wouldn’t read him.

It was something about nearly every book having a character who was having an affair with a younger woman.

I mean…much younger…really young…like a teenager.

It was usually an older dude…a worn out character with a long and hard history…having a relationship with a young innocent.

That wasn’t an appealing subject to my wife.

Then she read “Dalva”…one of Jim Harrison’s books.

She commented that she wondered how he could write from a woman’s perspective like that.

She thinks he’s a pretty darn good (my words, not hers) writer now.

One of my favorite lines of his is from the end of a book called “Farmer”.

The main character has…surprise…had and pretty much finished an affair with a younger woman and has returned to his older “lady friend” who he had a relationship with before he veered off into his adventure with youth.

You get the feeling that this mature relationship is one he might stick with…maybe.  It’s all kind of indistinct.

Anyway…the last line in the book was, “She slows the horse by the grape arbor and he takes the halter and she smiles at him, the miniature violets on her cotton dress “

I love that.  No period at the end of the sentence…nothing really wrapped up…just sensory, just life washing over him.  I guess that’s what I love about Jim Harrison…he’s a pretty earthy guy…an outdoorsman and a gourmand…a hedonist.  He gives me the impression that he wakes up “eating life”…and doesn’t stop until he drops into sleep at the end of the day.  He’s a poet, too…so in addition to the animal side that he describes so well…there’s the internal part of us all being described like a poet would describe it…with grace and sensitivity.

There is value in these books.  Sure, there’s the nasty side occasionally …maybe like there’s something a little dark in the best of us…but I think that he balances it with enough beauty and nobility that on the whole it’s not hard to realize that something good may come of it all.

Jim Harrison wrote Legends of the Fall.  When I try to tell people who he is, that’s the book I use in my explanation.  Some of his other books have been made into films but that’s the best known of all of them.

excellent article in Esquire magazine about saving the USPS

esquire february 2013

Esquire magazine had an excellent article about the problems and hopeful solutions at the Post Office this past issue.

It’s unusual to read an article that paints the USPS in any kind of positive light.

Usually the commercials and comments you hear or read about us mention what a pain it is to deal with the mail.

This article was different…talking about the positive effects the post office has in a community and how it would affect these communities if it all went away.

You can read the article at the above link.

We need more articles about the USPS like this one.

don’t tailgate the mailman

amish buggy rearI’m a victim of circumstance.

That’s what a winner believes, isn’t it?

I don’t know why people want to tailgate the mailman.

We have flashers…we have signage…we only stop at the mailboxes.

It’s not hard to tell who we are and what we’re doing.

So why all the tailgating?

It’s a real pain in the rear.

My old Jeep Cherokee is a slow mobile.  It isn’t fast on a good day downhill.  It’s slow pulling away from the 450th stop of the day.

If you get behind me, you can expect to have to slow down, too.

It’s not something I do to be irritating…it’s just the nature of the beast.

So please…don’t tailgate the mailman…I’ve got enough on my mind without worrying about you and your lead foot.

the non-virtual life

I sit at my computer, typing a blog that no one except my family knows about, listening to a presentation on Youtube about living the non-virtual life.

How ironic.

That’s the way our lives go now…the computer and “connectedness” is something we take for granted these days.  It’s become integral to our lives somehow.

The talk I’m listening to is one given by Tom Brokaw and Yvon Chouinard.

Brokaw just asked Chouinard if he’d “ever put his hands on a keyboard”…the answer was no…but then he said that his friend Tom McGuane says that “behind every Luddite there’s a woman with a computer”.

We know that there’s a big world out there…we can see it on the television.

I’m pretty connected these days…computer, cellphone, satellite tv…if there’s a way to get more connected I don’t know about it yet.  I do know how to set a dvd player clock to get it to quit blinking…but my daughter laughs at me because I don’t really know how to use my new cellphone.

We went out to roam around a little yesterday…hit a couple of thrift stores…ate some Indian food…went to a bookstore or two…went to REI.  I saw a couple of books about “nature deficit disorder”….wow.  Crazy, but too true….we don’t get outside to play like we used to.

There’s a natural order and need that we are bypassing now…with strange results.  “Nature Deficit Disorder”…that we even need to come up with a descriptive term like that is pretty crazy.  We need to be outside.

It’s an easy row to hoe to go from the car to the couch…get home and plop down, maybe after doing a few chores…just plop down and turn on the television and maybe…like we did last night….watch a movie about guys dying on the Eiger, freezing to death out in the harsh and unforgiving natural world.

Like I said before…here I sit, drinking my coffee and moving my fingers around on a bunch of buttons on a piece of plastic.  It doesn’t get much more disconnected to the world outside than that…but… wait a second…I did get a fire going in the wood stove…split some kindling….got it all going, fed the cat, looked at the moon….so I guess I still had a connection to it all if it was only in passing.

I guess I’m golden.

One of the things that this talk is making me feel is that success allows you to choose to not be connected.

At the far other end of the scale, you can be a Luddite because you can’t afford the connectivity.

Unless you get the government to give you a cellphone…Assurance wireless, I think the program is called.  How about that?  The government will give you a cellphone like it’s a priority that you’re connected.  (I think it’s so they can track everybody…but that’s just paranoia talking).

Dirt on our hands…breeze on our cheeks…a hawk overhead…there is something good that we’re given that doesn’t cost us anything more expensive than waking up and getting outside.

Maybe I’ll give it a shot when I finish typing this blog.

…until you’re sliding

ice storm car

We had one of our “ice storm scares” yesterday.

I hate going to work in the morning with the parking lot just beginning to ice up, each drop that falls from the sky coating the windshield…knowing that after a couple of hours of casing our day’s delivery and prepping to start the driving part of the day, it could be a lot worse.

I didn’t end up having all that bad a day.

I had a bunch of “wake me up moments”….moments when the car just didn’t feel right…when the back end slid just a little, or it took a little too long to stop.  That can be kind of terrifying when you’re expecting the “big slide”…but it really wasn’t all that bad when all was said and done and I was finished and back at home.

I think that the thing about the kind of ice we had yesterday was that it was never so thick that you could count on it.  It never got to the point where it was predictable…just to the point where it was expected that something might happen.

That makes for a day of angst…driving around with the fatalistic “lets just see what happens” mindset.

So you creep around the curves, gear down and drive slow on the big downhills (the downhills never seemed so long and so steep before)…and concentrate on what you’re doing.

Concentrating wears me out.

One thing that is kind of nice about the bad weather is that when they say that it’s not safe to be driving, for the most part people stay off the roads.

It makes for a quiet day of driving.

I had some great theological thoughts…deep, deep, deep thoughts…about not seeing trouble until it was sliding you off the mountain.  Now I can’t really remember the gist of those plans.

The reality of it is that black ice is a pain in the rear.

Just spooky enough to get your attention…dangerous because you don’t know when and where it will show up.

Give me some fluffy snow next time…I’ll believe that when I see it.