growed back wrong


I noticed a tree I hadn’t seen the other day on the mail route.

I drive around tree-lined roads every day.  There are a lot of trees on my route…but this was a tree that I hadn’t noticed before.

I don’t know if it was a case of the new leaves coming in just right…or what it was…but this tree on this day really caught my attention.

It was a healthy tree….strong and well-formed…a normal tree in every regard….until I followed the trunk up and noticed something different about this tree I’d just seen completely for the first time.

This tree, about 30 feet up, jutted sideways at a crazy angle.  It was more than 90 degrees…it almost looked like it was something like maybe 103 degrees.  I couldn’t really get an accurate reading…I didn’t have my protractor with me at the time…but this tree was kind of messed up and…strange.

I stared at this tree in amongst the hundreds of other trees lining the road for a moment (I was on a mission after all….I was delivering the mail …) and wondered “what the heck happened to that tree?!”.

All of a sudden, it hit me.  I knew the answer…

That tree had done “GROWED BACK WRONG”.

It looked like maybe at some point it might have broken or bent towards the top…but it didn’t kill it, it just grew back kind of funny…grew back kind of wrong.

With a couple of hours on my hands (it was early in the mail route when I saw the tree), I started to think (as I drove on to deliver the rest of the mail, of course…I wasn’t just sitting staring at this crooked tree) about how it might relate to the people I’ve known.

Most everyone I know has had something weird or bad happen to them.

That’s a given…you live, you get hit with something strange eventually.  It’s hard to avoid.

Some people seem to get knocked around and just spring back up.  You can’t tell they were ever in a storm.

Some people break…and stay broken.  They can’t be fixed and they aren’t going to heal.  That’s a sad thing to see.

Some of them break…and “grow back wrong” to some degree.

It’s strange to see someone who looks strong and whole obsess over that one damaged area that they can still see.

It’s like they’re some kind of mighty oak….branches spreading, full of healthy leaves….and all they can see is that one damaged limb that remains from bad times before.

I guess that what I was thinking about was how different we all are…we can be damaged but grow back to be healthy again…or we can put on our bravest face and grow straight and tall….and it’s only at the end that people find out that “tree was holler …all holler inside”.

Sometimes we just start breaking… and keep on breaking more.


As far as I know, trees don’t get self obsessed.  They don’t visit psychiatrists to get to the bottom of their problems, they don’t ponder why they feel so bad.  If they break, they either return to soil or they heal and grow.  Sometimes they grow back wrong…sometimes, from all outward appearances, you can’t tell anything ever happened at all.

But if they are going to survive after trauma…they are going to grow.  They might grow more slowly…but they are going to do what they can to thrive again.

All they know is to grow.

Man….I wish I could be more like a tree sometimes.


I love the moment when a friend who also loves music says, “hey, how about this guy?  You ever heard of… Willy Porter?”  (or any other great artist that a friend might turn me onto).

This guy is soooo good.

Check out this link for a Grooveshark listing of what you can listen to for free…

here’s another video of what he’s about….

Willy Porter

faster, faster, faster

I’ve heard some people say that time is speeding up.

I don’t know if that’s really true…I think it’s more situational.  I’ve been in some meetings or teleconferences that seemed to bend time.  They dragged on forever.

I guess forever is hyperbole…. maybe not forever…they just seemed to last a long time.

Our oldest daughter will graduate from High School this year.

I still have a strong memory of dropping her off for her first day of Kindergarten.

Where did that time go?

Here’s a quote from Earl Nightingale that I appreciated:

“I never mastered time management.  No one manages time; time cannot be managed.  I merely manage activities.”  ~ Earl Nightingale

Time management…efficiency….squeezing more into each day…organized and “day planned” and blackberried to death….it’s all big business. People want to maximize…winners never quit…or stop scheduling.

If you can take a shotgun approach and do everything…then maybe something is going to feel right.

I’ve stopped listening to the radio when I deliver the mail…stopped listening to audio books…stopped listening to anything except the wind noise and my own thoughts.

It’s surprising how little I have going on in my head when I quiet things down long enough to notice the lack.

I thought it would be a constant stream of profundity inside my head…but it’s just a lot of moving air…. and watching the deer and wild turkey… as I zip on to another mailbox.  When I’m really alone, I realize I’m not nearly as amusing as I thought I was.  If you can’t keep yourself amused…then what do you really have going for you, anyway?

Maybe that’s why people like a lot of activity going on around them all the time?  It’s kind of tough sometimes to spend time with yourself….it can be kind of boring.

I think most people have a hard time spending time alone….like they want to say, “OK, me…let’s back off just a little, please…let’s keep all this stuff PROFESSIONAL….ALRIGHT?!!!”

You don’t want to dig too deep…you just might find a big ol’ pile of BURIED CRAZY if you throw that last shovelful of distraction out of the hole.

Who wants to risk that?

I’m pretty good company for myself…just not the non-stop mailman party I thought I presented to the world.

Quiet is peaceful…it’s just not always very exciting.

I guess that’s good enough, though.

Here’s an Eric Andersen song from an album called Blue River…it’s a quiet one so maybe it’ll slow down time for a moment…give you a minute to stack some cups fast.

03 Wind and Sand


yellow savage

In 1967 my father drove into our driveway in California with a new car.

It was a yellow Ford Fairlane station wagon with an automatic transmission and a 289 under the hood.

As a seven-year old, of course I didn’t understand anything about any of that description…all I knew was that we had a big new car and it was yellow.

I remember my mother talking about wanting to put vinyl flower stickers all over it (it was 1967). 

She never did…and that was a good thing.  I guess she was just pondering letting her “inner hippy” out a little.

Sometime, a little while after we’d gotten the car, a political candidate named Savage asked if he could put a bumper sticker announcing his candidacy on the back window.  We were at the beach and feeling benevolent…so my Dad agreed that it would be OK…and from then on the Fairlane became known as the “yellow savage”.

It’s funny how tradition gets set in motion by random events.

When I was learning to drive and just starting to get some confidence, we were on our way to downtown Marietta and Dad said, “you’re going to need to stop up here”.

“I know….I see it..”  The stop light up ahead was turning yellow….I knew the red was coming.  Red means STOP.

My father was a pretty quiet and patient man.  He said, again “you’re going to need to stop up here…you see the light?”

“I know…I see…”

All of a sudden, my father found his loud, excited voice…“STOP!!!!!!”

The rest of it was a blur…all adrenaline and hyper awareness as I locked down the brakes and went fish tailing between two rows of stopped cars on either side of me.

A 1967 Fairlane is a pretty big mass of metal.  It takes a little while to skid to a stop no matter how hard you mash down on the brake pedal.

When our forward trajectory came to a close, after managing to not hit any of the other cars or skid into the oncoming cross traffic, my father said (amazingly, he was reasonably calm)…“Didn’t you see the light?”

I’d been looking at the light that was one beyond the light…the one that was already red.

“I meant this light” my father said.

In this life, I’m just starting to figure out that …even though people expect you to have plans and ideas about what your future is supposed to hold…if you focus so intently on what is going to happen later, somehow or another you’re going to miss the “now” and really screw yourself up.

One of the most bothersome and obnoxious questions I’ve ever been asked is, “So…what are you going to do with your life?”.

Maaaannn….I hate that question.  I wouldn’t want to tell the people asking it any of my grand life scheme…even if I had some interesting and grand scheme to report.

“NUNYA”, I feel like saying….”nunya”.

I don’t know what to say to them.

So…we had this car…a big yellow station wagon that took us to the beach and up the coast and across the country. We drove it in rain and snow and heavy wind and all kinds of weather in a lot of different places around the country.  I drove it to first jobs and to get firewood ( a truck works better)….used it for a lot of things that a teenage boy uses a big old car for.  We lived with that car for a long time.  It had an interesting life a day at a time.

When my father drove it home that first day we owned it, the car didn’t have a lot of miles on it.  I don’t think that he had a big itinerary for it for the next 15 or 20 years…we were just going to use and enjoy it everyday.

You have to wonder if the life doesn’t happen around the plan, anyway.  We can steer…but we have to remember to pay attention to all the lights going off around us.

the church without a lock

st lukes newberry

My first two years after high school, I went to a small Lutheran college in Newberry, SC.

I have a lot of good and strong memories of my time at Newberry.  Some of the best people I’ll ever know I met at that college.

One of the memories that remains with me today is of an Episcopal church that was downtown on Main St.

I don’t know how the town is today, but when I was there it was a pretty safe, quiet little place.  If you were feeling restless…or if you’d had too much coffee trying to cram for an exam…it was a good place to walk without feeling like you were in any danger.

This church that I’m talking about was far enough away from the school that it felt separate from it, but close enough that it wasn’t hard to get to.

You just had to walk past my friend Marc’s father’s house…past the little botanical garden…turn left when you hit Main St….and you were there.

The church was never locked.

I suppose that the church’s doors did have locks.  I haven’t seen many buildings that don’t have locks on their doors as a matter of course…but in my time at Newberry, anytime I needed or wanted to go someplace quiet and peaceful, away from the campus, I could count on being able to go to and just sit in this little church.

It was all stained glass and wood worn smooth by years of people moving in and out of the pews, stone and concrete, brass and silver and holy water. It was a good place.

There is something really peaceful about a church that is brave enough not to lock its doors.

I remember how eye-opening it was to serve on the church council at our home church in Marietta when I was 15 or so.  I was the youth representative and full of the thought that a church was a spiritual place. I learned that in addition to being a spiritual place, a church is also a business.  It was a real revelation to me then and I guess it still is…even though it’s no longer a surprise to know that.  I suppose I expected the adults to be even more spiritual than I was at 15…but what adult is more of anything than a 15-year-old?  It’s a pretty intense time.  There are a lot of 15 year old children who know it all…but they seem to forget most of it in the years to come.

I guess maybe maturity is a little about growing into one’s limitations…and learning to live with them.

Anyway….this little church brought back those feelings of intense but quiet spirituality.  Or, maybe, this little church in a small South Carolina town let me bring my own renewed spirituality and hope to it?  I don’t really know…it just felt right to find an unlocked door and go in to sit for a while.

A few years after I stopped going to school in Newberry, a tornado came through town and destroyed the little church.  From what I remember, they went right down Main St. and really tore up most of the downtown area.

They rebuilt the little church in the same location.

I don’t know if they put locks on the doors.


stumbling into meaning

i'm always doing pablo picassoA french press is a wonderful exercise in patience.

When you want coffee in the morning, it’s hard to wait for it to brew a while before you depress the plunger.

It is hard to wait for your coffee when you think it may be the only thing keeping you away from discovering some grand meaning in life…like a jolt of caffeine could kick-start something in your brain and suddenly you’d be allowed at least one decent idea out of your measured quota.

My back doesn’t hurt this morning.

Yesterday I dug a pretty good-sized ditch for a home improvement project.  It was hard work.  Clay soil and a mattock….down in the bottom for the last of it, throwing out spade full after spade full…and then…the job was done.  Now I have to do a little more work on it…and then fill it in again.

It’s funny, though, how there never seems to be as much dirt to fill the hole as what you had to take out to make the hole.

It was kind of a strain to make that long hole…it made my back tired, made my arms tired…but this morning my back doesn’t hurt and you really have to wonder if it wasn’t the exercise of digging that is the cause of my comfort…


This revelation made me wonder if the only measure of comfort we have is the contrast with something that made us uncomfortable?

There is a bon-bon eating King somewhere in the world, maybe in one of the smaller countries…I don’t really know…sitting on a brocaded mound of pillows, waiting for his servant girls to peel another date for him…thinking, ” I AM SO FREEKING BORED.”

He doesn’t have any thing to contrast his life of luxury with…no ditch to make him remember how nice it will be when the hole is filled in.

The Picasso quote at the beginning of the post is a good one…but re-reading it now, I wonder is he saying that he does stuff he’s unable to do?  Or is he saying he does things he’s not allowed to do?

I have friends whose philosophy is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.

Hey….I’m down with that.  If you’ve built a certain amount of good will…and presented past efforts with a well defined sense of willynillyness…you really can get away with a lot.  A well-timed  “Oh, maaaan….I didn’t know…I AM SO SORRY!!!”   can get you out of a lot of jams.

Not that I’m a proponent of that method…I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it, either. And I guess it works better if you pick the apples in a vacant field than if you run over someone with your golf cart.

You really have to have at least a small measure of judiciousness in this life.

Ten feet away from the end of the ditch, it starts to make sense.  The first shovel full you take out at the beginning of the ditch feels a lot different than the last bit of dirt you lay up on the side of the hole.

You don’t know how any of it is going to feel until you actually have the shovel in your hand, though…no matter how many times you’ve dug the ditch inside your head.

I guess that I’m a fan of “forced serendipity”…you have to do the work to realize the blessing.

Stumbling into the hole helps you appreciate the sky again.


i want to be little

To encourage our three-year old son, we frequently tell him, “You are such a big boy!”

We tell him this when he hits any of the milestones that define “big boy” for a three-year old…like not yelling during a wedding or staying with Mommy in a crowd.

Lately, when we tell him how big he’s getting, he yells back, “I WANT TO BE LITTLE!!!!”

Man, I think, join the club.

I wonder if he knows something I don’t remember.

There is a certain strong cache in being a mature member of society…it greases the wheels somehow to just fit in…to accept that along with all the grown up toys there comes a certain responsiblity to “dress the part”. You really have to learn how to play the games to get to join the “successful club”.

You wouldn’t want to draw too much attention to yourself by being the kind of fellow who always has people commenting, “What’s his deal?!  Who does he think HE IS?!!”

It freaks people out if you go too far outside of what they can understand.

That was one of the interesting things about ART SCHOOL ( I capitalize and highlight because it feels like some kind of hyped up myth to me at this point…we become different people as we move from being “little” )….one of the interesting things about art school was that if you weren’t trying to go at least a little bit outside of the understood…it freaked people out.

“Who does he think he is?”  What a loaded question…I don’t know if I could define myself these days.

Occupation helps some…I could say “I am a mailman”…but that feels so weird I couldn’t stand to say it.  I’m a guy driving the mail around.  As a courtesy, I do my best to make sure I do it all correctly, but I wouldn’t say that I’m willing to be defined by my job.

Parent and husband come a lot closer to defining me…it’s something that matters, something I can really and continuously sink my teeth into.

But even that doesn’t completely define me…just like it doesn’t completely define Jenny.  There is more to us than “just” being parents.

Good grief…some days I “just want to be little”.

Here’s a poem by Jim Harrison from a book called “In Search of Small Gods”


Back in the blue chair in front of the green studio
another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie.
They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like
their cousin clocks but break down at inopportune times.
Fifty years ago I learned to jump off the calendar
but I kept getting drawn back on for reasons
of greed and my imperishable stupidity.
Of late I’ve escaped those fatal squares
with their razor-sharp numbers for longer and longer.
I had to become the moving water I already am,
falling back into the human shape in order
not to frighten my children, grandchildren, dogs and friends.Our old cat doesn’t care. He laps the water where my face used to be.

I love that line “I had to become the moving water I already am…”

I guess that we are all oddly shaped pegs that can’t be driven into the round holes that people expect.

Or maybe we can be driven into the expected hole…the process just leaves a piece of us behind when we don’t completely fit?

Maybe when my son yells, “I WANT TO BE LITTLE”  I should just give him a hug and tell him “sounds like a good plan to me, buddy”.

Sounds like a plan.





If you are ever paid to do something, you are a professional.

At least that’s my understanding of what it means to be a pro.

I’m a pro.

If the definition of “professional” that I found this morning holds true in all cases, I’m sure I fall a little short in some parts of the description.

Part of the definition is “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace”.

Man….I guess I’m still a pro…I think I’m pretty consistent, but there have been times when I felt like losing it.  Maybe “feeling like” and acting out are two different things.

If I’m to understand that payment equates with professionalism….then I guess that I’m a professional lobsterman, a carpenter and sanitation expert, nutritionist, nurseryman, mechanic, farmer, day care worker, landscaper, policeman, set designer, beer cart driver, warehouseman, bookstore worker and literary critic, engineer, disc jockey, hatchery worker, pizza chef, veterinary tech and …sanitation engineer, mailman, retail specialist, painter of refrigeration cases, painter of portraits, media specialist, counselor, driver, courier, movie critic, proofreader, musician…what else?

My resume is kind of disjointed.

If you include all the positions I’ve held that had non-monetary forms of payment, it opens up a lot more possibilities.

One of the ones that springs to mind most easily is PARENT.

I am a true professional in that capacity.

My wife and children can tell you that the part about courtesy always holds true when it comes to my parenting skills.

“Value added” is a term I hear thrown around a good deal, too.

I can’t think of anything that I have done in my life that has added value to it like marrying Jenny and starting our family together.

I don’t make any money being a husband and father… but I am paid.

Value has been added to my life because of what they have brought to it.

I am a professional…one in a line of successful acolytes…apprenticed to good people who did their best to be good to each other.

I hope that my children…after serving out their own version of an apprenticeship… get the chance to be professionals in their own time.






new chickens


We have some new chickens.

A month ago, I would have said, “we have some new baby chicks”….but a bit into a short maturation process I can now say that we have some new, though still young, chickens.

I’m glad our children don’t grow as fast as those chickens.

When our babies were little, one of the best pieces of advice that I got was to pay attention.

Even if they grow more slowly than a baby chick, it’s easy to miss things if you don’t slow down to notice.

Of course, the conundrum of the whole situation is that life seems to accelerate when children come into the picture…so it kind of has to be a focused effort to slow down enough to see what’s going on.

Our first batch of chickens were carried off by an owl or something big in the night.

Our children sleep inside the house…so there isn’t much chance of that happening to them…plus, they are a lot bigger than the chickens so I don’t think I have much to worry about in that department.

I still worry about a lot of crazy stuff…just not owls carrying the children away.

Chickens are pretty cool.  Dollar for dollar, they are a great, stinky amusement.

The eggs are nice, too.

But I think that I like my children a whole lot more than I like those chickens.

Stay away from my kids, you steenking owls!

image from

I’m in the movie


There is a film crew making a movie around the lake in our town.

I drove my mail jeep into the middle of a scene…and when I stopped to ask one of the crew if it meant that I was in the movie, he said that I needed to get a SAG card before they could let me show up on screen.

How do I get one of those?  I want to be in the movie, too!

Actually, in my head I’m the star of my own movie…all the time.  I can’t help it.  It’s just a subversively huge ego at work up in that grey matter.  Things roll better if I present a face of concern and humility…but like an angry co-worker once yelled at me, maybe it really is “ALL ABOUT MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

I don’t know if that crew member was just yanking my chain or not…but if I was in it, I know I’d go see it…just so I could nudge my children and say, “there I am…did you see Daddy?!!!”.  That’d be a cool moment.

Any break from the norm is fun…but to come around the corner into a world of glamour and sophistication (THE MOVIE BUSINESS!!! Tinseltown comes to the country!) is pretty darn cool.

What can I say?  The rube is impressed by the shiny lights.