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Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I dreamed of things being different. “Once upon a time” was both long ago and possibly and unfortunately not so far away. Perhaps it was only yesterday. As the family and I sat down the other night to watch a few minutes of the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”, I was reminded of that and so much more.

Not so long ago, in a land much farther away, some friends and I climbed a mountain. But, things indeed were different: different from my prior experience, different from my visions of the moment, and different in the result. You see, you can’t escape the winds, no matter how hard you try. And, to quote another song, the funny thing is “It’s OK”.
IMG_1889I had been on this mountain before, but the chosen path was changed. In fact, were it not for the winds of change, we would not have been on this path, this day, at all.

It was just about a week ago that my friends were nearing the summit of our climb. I say “my friends were”, because I had long ago lost sight of them, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach the summit myself. The path was steep, I was likely not fully prepared, and there was the wind. As I hiked alone, knowing those friends had gone on before me to reach the top, the wind became suddenly and painfully strong.

The gusts were powerful. The sensations were cold. My mouth was dry, and my tongue was numb. It felt as if the wind would fill the very jacket I wore for protection and would sweep me right off the side of that mountain to an unfortunate landing below. I thought I wanted to quit, to sit down, to give up, and to hope my friends would be back for me later, having experienced the summit without me.

But, it didn’t. Quit, that is; the wind didn’t quit.

I didn’t, either. Quit, that is. I pressed on towards the summit, finally reaching it to the buffeted sound of cheering from my friends as they endured that very same wind.

As we descended the mountain later that morning, I reflected on what we’d just experienced, and was reminded about how life can be. Windy, that is. But, enduring the wind makes for a great story. Sometimes encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

As I said, I’d been on this mountain. My son and I have traversed its slopes twice prior, and the mountain has taught us to expect the unexpected. Fog, snow, lightning, hail, and rain from a sunny sky have all accompanied our experience here. Wind had, as well, but nothing like the wind this day.

Two of my friends from this day were supposed to have climbed a different mountain with us just a few weeks ago, but winds of change prevented that moment. My father entered his last days of life in the very moments that we were to embark on our journey with these friends, and we had to say no that day. But, you see, enduring the wind makes for a great story.

Sometimes, I might suggest, encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

Those friends went on to plan this most recent adventure, and they brought two new friends with them. Had it not been for one of life’s windier and most uncomfortable moments, we would not have found ourselves together this past week, nor would I likely have been inspired by the outcome.

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As we all drove home together, life’s winds continued to blow, this time in the form of car trouble. It blessed us yet again with the reminder of how other people will go out of their way to help when you need it the most and expect it the least.

Which brings me back to the inspiration from “Saving Mr. Banks”. Long ago I used to dream that life could be simpler, and wished that my days could be more like the 1950’s, when it seemed that life had fewer distractions, fewer interruptions, and maybe fewer hardships. But, as I often learn later in life, I was wrong to feel that way.

Mr. Walt Disney himself even had hardships back in the 1950’s. The demands and fast pace of today have only replaced the equally demanding world of yesterday, and there are things we have learned and overcome today that could not be said of a prior “simpler time”.

Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Indeed. Let those winds blow. Life’s outcomes lie ahead, and I’m sure some great stories are right there with them.
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*lyrics from Disney’s Mary Poppins

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Burgers and fries and cherry pies, it was simple and good back then.

Walking in the sand hand in hand never thinking that it could end…*

I’m reflecting on those words as I ponder the lives of five guys: Joe, Howard, Dean, Jeff, and Alec. If you look closely, you can see images of all five in the picture above, one but a reflective image inset with his generational contemporary in the upper right, but reflections of them all are imaged in my thoughts this early morning hour.

But one of the five was intimately associated with the other four of us, and as time goes by, he will soon leave the younger two and join the two preceding us on this journey.

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I don’t know if there are burgers and fries and cherry pies in Heaven, but I believe it will be simply good. One day, I believe these five will get to share, all together, in a much greater feast.

Until that day, it was burgers and fries and cherry pies in a world we used to know…*

*Lyrics by Charley Pride

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“There are two sorts of traveler.  The first sets off in the general direction of the destination and is quite happy to figure things out on the way, to read the signposts, ask directions, and muddle through.   The second wants to know in advance what the road will be like, where it changes from a country road to a busy multilane highway, how long it will take to complete the different sections, and so on.”  N.T. Wright – Simply Christian

All roads lead to Portland, or so it seems.   Likewise, all roads must lead from Portland, for you can’t get much farther from here when you are there.   I hope that makes some sense, or at least will when I’m done.

Portland was established in the mid 1800’s near the end of the Oregon Trail.   It was named, by definition I assume, as “the land of ports”, a place where rivers come together, and where ships (and people) come and go, delivering their cargos, their freight, and their baggage.   They might ultimately leave Portland feeling lighter, or perhaps they take more with them as they go.

I had long heard of Portland but never visited there until about 15 years ago.   Then, for the better part of 10 years, it almost felt like a second home.   After that, it was time to leave.   More on that later.

This Christmas holiday, I’ve been blessed to have time to do more than just a little bit of reading.   Courtesy of an Amazon gift card, my interests and inquiries led me to two books: “Wild”, and “Packing Light”.   Neither was quite what I expected, both in what was similar about the books and the authors, and in what was different.

Each book is a story about a young lady 26 years of age searching for something more in life, and choosing to take a daring journey to help them find it.   The first was from Minnesota, and ended up in Portland.   The second was from Portland, but ended up in Minnesota.   Ironic?   I think not.   Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Back to Portland for a moment.   Portland (and the surrounding areas) is the home of many good friends, and of Powell’s books, Columbia Sportswear, and organic food.   Each of those people, places, or things has been a big part of my life, my thoughts, my hobbies, and resulting actions and attitudes these past few years.    And, Cascade College.   Portland is the forever home of the former Cascade College, and I have a baton, and a large framed picture of Mount Hood at sunset to prove it.   Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is the story of Cheryl Strayed,  a young lady who lost her mother, made mistakes amidst her grief, and set out to find herself.   She had no experience as a long distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “…an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise”.   The book was a real page turner, a fact that was emphasized all the more by my accidental choice of the large-print-edition when I ordered my copy.   And yet, when I finished this read, there were but a mere one or two “dog eared” pages, a symbol marking when I was particularly moved by words and phrases I wanted to remember or repeat.    This book has its shocking moments, and is not for everyone, so caveat emptor.  What I came away feeling was joy for Cheryl at her completed journey, and the life she has made in the twenty years since.   I came away with an appreciation for the Pacific Crest Trail, and as a Christian man named Albert, her pack-lightening trail mentor said about his time on the PCT “…now there’s something I’d like to do before I go to meet the Lord”.   OK, for me, it may mean a slightly smaller pack.   And, I may not take the full 1,500+ mile excursion that the book describes, but I  also don’t plan to set out alone, as did Cheryl.   I look forward to hopefully being on the trail with a friend or two, and to walking the miles together with my God.

Packing Light – thoughts on living life with less baggage is the story of Allison Vesterfelt, a young lady who had a neatly orchestrated life, but knew she was missing something.    She had no experience as a long distance traveler, but chose to leave almost everything behind to see the country and find what she was missing.   She left almost everything behind, except a big suitcase, a back seat full of “treasured belongings”, a good friend to accompany her on the journey, and her faith in God.   At the end of this read, I found just the opposite of my “Wild” experience completed just a day or two prior.  I have “dog eared” no less than 30 thoughts and quotes from Ally’s book.   Suffice to say, I’m not packing light when it comes to what I want to take away from this read in the form of thoughts, quotes, and remembrances.    And yet, I’m no more impacted than by what Cheryl had to say about things that cross our path.

Each tells a story about our journeys, what we take with us, what we leave behind, and what we pick up along the way.   Each talks of friendship, and the role others play in our lives.   Each tells a story of faith, the lack thereof, or where we place it.

Back to Portland for a moment.   “The land of ports” is a symbolic place for each of us.   We drop our heavy loads.   We take a rest.   We enjoy the beauty of the creation around us.   We celebrate our achievements, and grieve our losses.   We re-stock our packs.   We cull our baggage.   And, ultimately, we pick up our next load, our next set of objectives, our next destination, and we start the journey anew.

As I set out with my friends and my beloved Little Frau toward 2014, many things dot the horizon.   A wedding (lightening one pack, and adding weight to another), new objectives for my company and career (shedding excess weight where I can, and acquiring lighter, more nimble tools), and of course being prepared for the occasional rattlesnake or moose that appears on the path before me. (something Cheryl and I almost have in common).

I look forward to walking with my God each step along the path.

Who knows what lies before us?   I said ‘no’ to a wilderness  trek experience with a good friend almost 25 years ago, but stand eager and ready today with plans we are making to live that moment, now with a few of our almost grown children (the more adventurous, not-yet-married ones).   I’ve even got the overloaded (but ever shrinking) pack to prove it.

…you can’t get much farther from here when you are there.   I hope that makes some sense, or at least will when I’m done.

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I woke up this very early morning thinking about several weighty things.

In the midst of it all, wrists deep in a load of dishes in need of cleaning, a song came to mind. Little surprise in that. Fancy meeting you in the purple stew, indeed, to quote a phrase.

It very much falls in the category of “we don’t sing that one, anymore”. Little surprise in that, as well, and it’s sad.

Anyway, I could talk,about the song and why I think it came to mind, or I can simply share the thoughts of another who has already done so more eloquently than I likely could, or would. Most likely, I might be guilty of “not mentioning it” at all. See what you think.

Don’t mention it…

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Hello again. It’s been a while: 30+ days, to be exact. Why so long, I might ask. I’m not sure who else should.

It started with a conversation. It evolved into a goal. Then, it just sort of happened. I planned to be away for a week, living in a world free of electronics. I would write a little, using actual pen and paper, and if I liked any of it, I might reproduce it here. I did, and I did, but I never did. They say old habits are hard to break, but this 3 year old practice of thinking out loud almost died. I’m not sure I am ready for that, yet, but I digress. There’s a habit that is not yet dead. I think my iPad, however, maybe nearly so. There I go again.

I had a couple of friends tell me I was “out there” in my thoughts and words. I knew what they meant. So, I took them on the road, so to speak. When we left for vacation a few weeks ago, I went off the grid, and took a bound journal. I also took some books, and actually finished one for a change. I would give “Generation iY” a general thumbs up if you are looking for a good relational guide, but I digress, again.

I’m still working on a couple of the books. I need to pick the journal back up. I need to set some other things down. I need to learn to say no. I’m hopefully on my way to practicing that, at an appropriate level, in many ways.

My youngest daughter and I took a long walk last night. We both had our reasons. I took along 35 extra pounds, which drew lots of funny looks, and a question or two, from those we encountered along the way. She took along a few fewer, and I fear the extra look factor may be increasing for her beautiful self as she goes about her confident merry way.

Let’s just say I am in training. There are a few mountains I would like to climb, literally and figuratively, before I am done. But, I can’t carry everything with me along the way. There are a select few heavy things that need to be in my figurative pack, and I’m beginning to work out how to use them in my life’s workout.

In the process, I hope to be less weighed down. I might even learn from the experience, and write it down. Sometimes, you will read it here first. Other times, perhaps not. I don’t want to be too out there.

I will close for today with the “immortal” words of Neil Diamond:

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think about you ev’ry night
When I’m here alone
And you’re there at home, hello

Maybe it’s been crazy
And maybe I’m to blame
But I put my heart above my head
We’ve been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you’re not there
I just need to hear

Hello, my friend, hello
It’s good to need you so
It’s good to love you like I do
And to feel this way
When I hear you say, hello

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Have you ever had “one of those days”? Yesterday was just such a day for me. More on that in a moment. First, some backstory is in order.

Thirty years back, my dad worked as a Christian school administrator, of the small K-12 variety. Accordingly, from Junior High through high school, I had the “opportunity” (aka, the privilege) of working summers and evenings in maintenance, custodial services, roofing, landscaping, and the like. I met several notable characters along the way, some larger than life.

Mr. Voightlander was just such a character, his large frame, firm handshake, and boisterous laughter firmly etched in my memory. So, too, are some of his stories. His name was Harry, or Henry, I’m not exactly sure. After all, it has been over thirty years. I was a Sophomore, and he was the school’s mechanic, responsible for keeping a fleet of a few buses and over a dozen vans up and running.

Mr. Voightlander didn’t even work at good old Shreve Christian for more than a year, but as a kid, a year in my life felt like forever. One day, while he was fixing a part of some type that I needed for my work in the school building, he took advantage of the opportunity to tell another story. We stood in the humid Summer Louisiana morning in a non-air-conditioned outdoor shop, a large 3 foot square homemade wooden box fan serving a dual role as his workbench.

The story he told that day was of his past work as a truck driver and mechanic. It seems that drivers in the older trucks experimented with their diesel engines, screwing the injectors deeper into the heads in order to increase the horsepower. If they kept them too far out, heavy smoke would come from the stacks. If they got them pushed too far in, fire would come from the pipes. But, according to Mr. V, if they got it just right there was “no smoke, no fire, they were just a gettin’ it”.

Back to yesterday. I got a tremendous amount of work accomplished at the office. Not too many days are quite like that. Ignore the fact that most co-workers and customers were off campus for the day. That is irrelevant, and I digress. Let’s just say that something happened as I tuned up for the day, and all cylinders were firing at maximum horsepower. Where the day started with a disheveled and covered up desktop, many old unaccomplished tasks it’s slave, I found the wood before day’s end. It felt really good. And, it reminded me of Mr. V.

One of the things I loved about him, besides his stories, was his work ethic. He always seemed to be working hard. And, he seemed to enjoy his work.

1 Chronicles 28:9-10

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”

I really enjoy my job. It is hard, and there are some days that are better than others. Yesterday was just such a day for me: full horsepower, few interruptions, and a lot of output.

“…no smoke, no fire, just a gettin’ it…”.

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Well, I must say, Ducky Dynasty did not disappoint, once again. Tonight’s new episode featured the men taking their “yuppie, citified” wives out hunting. It brought back memories.

While the men detected perfume in the woods, I once upon a time found another set of smells pleasant to the senses. One scent was that of spent shotgun shells. If you’ve ever spent time around me and wondered what I’ve been sniffing, this might help explain some of that. I would retrieve them after he fired, and carry them in my pocket, taking an occasional whiff of the spent gunpowder.

The other scent was admittedly more innocent. It was the pure simple smell of banana Laffy Taffy, back when it was the only flavor they made. My dad would bring a pocket full of it with him when we wandered across the highway with our dog to go bird hunting. He didn’t have the Jase Robertson beard, but he had an eye for dropping the birds.

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The point was not about the birds, per say, although they were tasty, and dad clearly loved to hunt. No, the point was spending time with me. I went on to spend a few cold moments in a deer blind likely near the Robertson’s place in north Louisiana back in the early 80’s, and I’ve shot a bird or two,and a snake here or there, but hunting was not in my blood. It’s still not. Yep: I’m a Yuppie, citified, kinda guy. Is that perfume I smell?

No, I think the real point was that dad spent time with me. Just like our friend Jase, it took effort, and time. It still does. My son and my daughters have pulled me out to do a thing or two that I never really envisioned doing on my own. While I’ve enjoyed most of those moments, the real point is about making time for the kids.

Dad turns another year older Thursday. Thanks, Dad, for the memories, for the Laffy Taffy, for letting me carry that duck in my game sack, and for letting me sniff those empty shotgun shells. It made me happy happy happy. And Happy Birthday to you.

🙂

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