Monday, March 16, 2009

Sunday Drivin'

The Sunday drive. Getting in the car and heading out with nothing more than a general direction and, at best, a vague plan. Yesterday, we did just that, heading north into the White Mountains, a less than busy destination in March, traveled only perhaps by spring skiers. We had a grand time.

Even in winter, with the trees a dead smoky red-tinged gray, the season still offered up scenes of postcard Americana like the one at the top of this page. Stores displaying signs saying, "See you in May!" outnumbered those that were open, and the doors of those shops serving the few stalwart tourists were shuttered an hour before sunset, like something out of a 50's B vampire flick. Still, it was a great way to spend a day.

I worry about the Sunday drive. Will this staple of family life succumb to high gas prices and environmental concerns? I hope not. I suspect that if the pastime is to flourish though, it will require the replacement of our current vehicles with ones using much less gasoline. Just one more reason to solve our energy problems I guess.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry Friday - Pushing the Clouds Away

Wow. It's Friday again already and I haven't posted anything this week. Well, it is what it is. :-)

It's 1978. Hormones rage and all roads are ahead and open. My 19 year old self picks up a book by Rod McKuen, considered saccharine by many, but I like him. One poem in particular touched me at the time. It's funny looking at it again, thirty years later, and from such a different perspective.

Pushing the Clouds Away
by Rod McKuen,

Clouds are not the cheeks of angels, you know
They’re only clouds.
Friendly sometimes, but you can never be sure.
If I had longer arms I’d push the clouds away
or I’d make them hang above the water
somewhere else,

But I’m just a man who needs and wants,
mostly things he’ll never have.
Looking for that thing thats hardest to find:

I’ve been going a long time now
along the way I’ve learned some things.
You have to make the good times yourself,
take the little times and make them big times,
and save the times that are all right
for the ones that aren’t so good.
I’ve never been able to push
the clouds away by myself.
Help me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Poetry Friday - To Laugh Often and Much

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Not sure if this qualifies as a poem, and it's debatable as to whether it originates with Emerson, though it is most often attributed to him, but this is my absolute favorite bit of verse. It's been hanging on my wall for years. -- Fred)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What are we reading?

In the first of what will hopefully be a regular feature here, it's "What are we reading?" Day!

Most people I suspect have maybe a single book they're reading. Maybe that steamy romance novel you read on Sunday mornings in your slippers, or the Andrew Jackson biography that's curing your insomnia. Not being remotely normal (But dear reader you've figured that out by now haven't you?), it's probably a symptom of what I suspect to be adult onset ADD that I never have just one book I'm reading. Here's list of the tomes in which I currently have bookmarks.

  • All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew - Well, technically I finished this one a week or so ago, but it was really good, and I'll be picking it up again is about a week as we start planning our "Victory Garden" for this year. As we all slide into the next Great Depression I'm thinking of upping the amount of food we grow. Might be a good plan.
  • The Bible - Nothing sanctimonious. I've just always wanted to be able to say I've read the whole book, and I haven't. It's about my fifth start at this project in my life. I try to take some time on Sunday to at least read a little. I have mixed success keeping to the plan.
  • Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer - This is Dr. Dyer's analysis of the Tao Te Ching, in which he takes each verse of the Tao and looks at it in detail. Each verse of the Tao is very short, and I thought perhaps I would read one a day together with Dr. Dyer's analysis. There are 81 verses in total. After 3 weeks I've read 3.
  • Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson - In my youth, I was affected by reading Thoreau's Walden, and I've always wanted to look into another of his fellow transcendentalists. My lovely daughter was kind enough to give me this volume as a gift. I think it's a long term project, but I'm enjoying it so far.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin - Marketing guru Seth Godin explains why every business needs a purple cow. I like this book because it's small, pocket-sized, and is great to read in waiting rooms instead of last year's Sports Illustrated.
That's it. That's probably enough. Here's a few books that are on deck however.
  • I Me Mine by George Harrison - My son got this for me and it looks like a great book. I'm a big fan of Harrison and I'm looking forward to reading this.
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearnes Goodwin - Actually, I was about half way through this book over a year ago when I stopped picking it up. It's a great book, apropos of our times, and I 'd like to pick it up again.
  • The Cell by Stephen King - I picked this up for summer reading last year and never got to it. I love Stephen King however, and I am going to get to this.
So, that's it for me, for now. I'd love to know what others are reading. Feel free to share in the comments section. Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lent and the IGUC

There's an old saw that says that two topics one should probably stay away from in polite conversation are politics and religion. So... let's talk about Lent.

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday in many Christian traditions, a day marking the beginning of the 40 day season of Lent. Now these days I consider myself Catholic++, by which I mean that I come from strong Catholic faith, but have found that the Catholic church has left me behind in recent years. Call me a "cafeteria Catholic" if you will. I am one who finds the Catholic church a good place to worship God, but who no longer accepts the authority of the church hierarchy. I bring this up because it's from this perspective that I approach this Lenten season.

Now let me say up front that all beliefs expressed here are my own. (Duh!) I have no issues with the spiritual beliefs of anyone, as long as those beliefs do not cause harm to other people or cute animals. My intent here is to look at one aspect of Lent, what I think of as the "I gave up" clause (IGUC for short). You know the drill. "I gave up XYZ for Lent." XYZ being anything from chocolate to sex.

I think there are two approaches to the IGUC. The first may be that the IGUC is a sacrifice, the modern day equivalent of a burnt offering, something you have no intention of giving up post-Lent, but which shows great will power on your part for 40 days. For most people, I'd say chocolate or sex fall into that category. (That is unless you're striving to give up either permanently.) In talking to people I hear a lot of food sacrifices of this type: pizza, desserts, chinese food... It seems a great many foods are declared "sinful" for Lent. Recreation activities (golf, television, video games) get whacked a lot for Lent as well. None of these sacrificial IGUCs ever struck me as quite right.

If God were to come to earth today to look around at our Lenten efforts what might he think? "You gave up watching 'Heroes'? Is that the best you could do? Do you think I care? I've got bigger agendas here!" That's why I think there's a second, maybe better (my point of view remember) class of IGUCs. I think of them as the "better person" IGUCs. This is where you take something you suspect God would want you to do anyway, that you're not, and just do it. This approach is somewhat more of an affirmative or positive approach. Instead of subtracting something from your life for punishment, you add something to make yourself a better person.

But does adding something even fit the "I give up" requirement? Of course it does. If you vow to be more friendly for Lent, you're giving up being mean and obnoxious. If you vow to help your wife out more around the house, you're just giving up being a schlub. See how it works?

I like the whole positivity approach to Lent. In fact, that's my IGUC. For 40 days I'm going to try very hard to be more positive. Looking back over the years I see so much negativity. It's especially evident in relation to jobs I've had. Sometimes in the past it seems that if a few co-workers got together, the only possible topic of conversation had to do with putting down other (not present of course) co-workers, the company, the world. How much negative gossip have I heard, and participated in?. No. I think there's plenty of room in my life just to be positive (or not be negative if you're a Lent purist). I'm working on it, and if God drops by today to check me out, I think he'll be cool with that.