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.

lego alchemy

lego man

We are blessed to live in a geographically rich area.

It’s rich in mountains, trees, rivers and lakes…if you drive a little ways, you’re at the beach.  There’s a lot going on.

And there’s plenty of thrift stores.

Any way you go, you’re going to find a thrift store.

They say you find what you’re looking for…we must be on the prowl for the thrift stores because we see them everywhere.

One of the directions we go when we need to buy groceries is down to the south.  And…you guessed it…there’s a thrift store we stop in at when we’re down there.

One of the cool things about this particular thrift store is that they sell “toy grab bags” for five dollars.

The bags are clear so the kids can see what’s in it…and we usually buy one when we see something that looks promising in a bag.  That way, we can cherry pick the 4 or 5 good toys out of the pile and re-donate the rest.

Anyway…long intro to my main point but none of it would have made sense otherwise.

In the latest big bag (when I say big, I’m not exaggerating…think clear garbage bag)…there was a small snack size Ziploc with about 10 random pieces of Lego parts.

After my wife had already put together or repaired all the other toys in the bag….all her toy triage done in the back of the Caravan…my son found the mysterious bag of legos.

Was this some kind of terrorist vendetta?  Some Al Qaeda plot?   We used to worry about razor blades in the apples at Halloween….who would do this to a parent?

“Make a plane”, our three-year old said.

There was no way in h…

There wasn’t any way to turn this bag of nothing into something that would satisfy a three-year old.

It didn’t have a plane in its DNA.

Children expect us parents to pull a tiger out of the hat.

I know the saying is about a rabbit…but little guys don’t know any of that.  I really feel like tiger probably makes more sense.

It’s going to be bigger…grander…more of a surprise each time.  Maybe it’s conditioning for when we migrate into an adulthood of never really being satisfied with anything…always reaching for some improvement…always hoping for the chance to have the next best thing. I don’t really know.

It’s a lot of work to explain that the little bag just didn’t have it in itself to transform into a plane.

It’s surprising just how much work it is to explain any of that to a three-year old sitting in the back of the Grand Caravan on a cold Winter day at a thrift store just across the border to the south of us.

It’s one of those moments when I was glad I was stuffing mailboxes.


yvon chouinard and the germ

And then the lesson: “You know, I absolutely forbade my children from washing their hands before they ate. Weakens their immune system. You have to learn how to handle germs. I drink from every stream I fish for the same reason.”

I asked him if he’d ever had giardia.

“Oh, God,” he cackled. “So bad the farts would clear out a bus. But that’s not the point. The point is, I’m trying to adapt myself to the environment. Not the other way around.”

Everybody here has the flu.

Maybe it’s not the flu…maybe it’s a cold with flu-like symptoms, I don’t really know.

But all of us have been under the weather for about a week or so.

They tell us on the television that it’s going to be a bad flu season…you better get your flu shot, get ready for being sick.

I can’t help but think of Yvon Chouinard and his philosophy on germs.

yvon chouinardI don’t have any sports stars who are heroes , I don’t really have many musicians who are heroes, maybe a couple of artists who are heroes…I don’t really know.

Yvon Chouinard is a hero.

If you don’t know anything about Yvon Chouinard, you might want to google his name.

He was the founder of Chouinard Equipment…and later the Patagonia clothing company.

Here’s an article from Outside Magazine that is pretty good…gives a good feel for what he’s all about: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/rock-climbing/King-of-the-Dirtbags.html?page=5

Anyway…back to the germs.

He doesn’t wash his hands.

I guess that eating over at his house if he’s serving a salad might be too much of an adventure for some folks.

His philosophy is that we need to build up our natural resistance…don’t over medicate or “anti-bacterialize”  or any of the things we do in our modern society.

Just get plenty of exposure to the natural world and the germs it contains…and let your body get used to and take care of it all.

I can hear some of the gasps from people I know if I was going to share this philosophy with them…or if I was going to prepare a salad for them while I was sharing this philosophy.

“Adapt myself to the environment…not the other way around”.

How often have you heard people express that sentiment?  Don’t we have dominion?  Aren’t we given, as our birthright or something, the right and ability to change the natural world to suit our needs?

What’s a bulldozer for, anyway?

(full disclosure…we had some grading work done at our place and we love it…changed our place for the better, for sure.  So I guess I am sort of a hypocrite…)

We’re working our way through whatever it is that we have right now.  No Z-Pak (what is that?)…no antibiotics…no Dr. visit.  It didn’t get that bad.

Maybe we just need to stop washing our hands…drink from some streams?

Check out Yvon Chouinard.  He’s worthy of some investigation.

Stay healthy.

the hand that feeds you


W-2’s are eye-opening.

It’s a time every year when we get to gauge what we trade our lives for.

It’s also maybe a time of year that we can be thankful for opportunities that we are given to keep things afloat.

We complain about work and what we’re paid and conditions, etc. like it was some sort of amusement….like there was something to be said for being in a fraternity of negativity. I’m in that fraternity…I’m the stream flowing downhill, just another finger of bile joining the other complainers on their way to who knows what…but I don’t want to be in that club.  Maybe I can have my membership revoked or something.

They say that misery loves company…but it’s a miserable existence to cut down the thing that keeps your head above water….financially, at least.

I know how big the world is.  I know that there are so many different ways to make a living…so many different ways to live in general. I think about “right livelihood” and finding a vocation that fits my skills and personality…all the things that would make employment and my life perfect. I think about all that stuff.

My job may not be perfect.  Like a lot of situations, it’s kind of sketchy right now whether things are going to be very stable again.  But…I really appreciate it.

I love being able to take care of my family.  It’s a pretty huge deal.

So, when I get my W-2 and the numbers make me wonder if all the time I spent making the “numbers on the piece of paper” was worth it…I’d have to say that it was.

Of course, I still have fantasies of the beach shack, a pair of board shorts and a couple of t-shirts, flip-flops and an old guitar….it sounds appealing when the forecast calls for freezing rain….but for right now, I can’t bite the hand that’s feeding us.


i’m walkin’, yes indeed, i’m walkin’

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

It’s funny how we measure our lives.

Until you go to your high school reunion and some friend from the fringes guilds the lily and tells you that he started a software company, or she tells you she’s the queen of the world, or he tells you that the inauguration ceremony is going to be televised (“and you should really watch it!…oh, you don’t have cable?  Nevermind…”)…until that happens, you’re just as happy as a clam because you got the chimney leak fixed and the house warm.

Who knew there was something missing from a pretty good, simple life?

I think that Winston Churchill also had a great quote (among many) about never giving up.

There are so many times that we don’t have to give up…because we never start.  It’s a safe way to avoid failure.

New thoughts about what we should be can be real mood busters.

I’m not thinking we should rest on our laurels (what the heck is a “laurel”?) and never try anything new or never reach for anything better…it’s just that I wonder if we don’t miss something pretty great if we feel like we turned down the “wrong fork in the road”…and now all we can think about is the fork.

We don’t see what we’ve left behind…and we don’t see what positive outcomes could be down either road the fork provides. It’s like we were sleep walking, but in our mind we’re sitting somewhere far back down the road…crying at the crossroads.

We visited a college yesterday.

It was a college that was a couple of hours away…high up in the mountains, beautiful campus…looked like it might be a good option.

It looked like it might be a “good fork”.

I’m not sure when we began thinking that college was supposed to be some kind of ultimate fulcrum….like if you didn’t launch yourself into the stratosphere with the right college choice and the right job following the completion of your studies and the right choice of spouse and the right…you were pretty much done.

What a lot of pressure for somebody working on figuring out how to get through their young life in the moment.

I hear people say things like, “I know a bunch of people who know some kids who went to college and they never amounted to NOTHIN’!  COLLEGE IS A WASTE!!!”.

Makes me think they need to get to know a broader range of people.

It’s kind of like the people who say, “I read a book in High School.  I’m done with reading”.  To say “completion of your studies” is a sad thing…”I’m done with the collegin’…what a waste of time that was …can’t get no job or nothin’ “.

I think our young student is curious about a lot of things… school and non-school related.

That’s a good thing.  It’s a hopeful thing to see a child have an open attitude about the world.

I want to make good decisions….I want to make decisions that make things better and easier for my family.  I don’t know that I’m always really good at doing that.

A friend’s parent told me, “You could do anything” when I was getting set to go to college for the first time.  It was pretty great to hear…I trusted my friend’s father…he wasn’t a flatterer and if he had confidence in me, it was something that I took seriously.

I ended up doing a little of just about everything.  He did say “you could do everything”, didn’t he?

I guess that you live your life.  Your life.  Some of it’s going to be right, some not right…but you keep walkin’…keep trying…and hopefully the percentage of right to “not right” ends up on the positive side.

I guess that “nest pushing” is part of the whole plan, too.

You just have to try and figure out the softest place you can find for a landing spot….and then try not to look amazed and relieved when it turns out that they could fly after all.