Friday, October 30, 2009

Who Needs Gold?

The best of Life is a delightful compilation of the smallest seemingly inconsequential elements.

Two of my students gave oral exams today and awed me with their comprehension of world history, moral philosophy, literature and music. In both cases, they were intelligent, personable, fun and instructive. I walked away wiser than when I arrived.

My brandy tastes good tonight.

I'm gratified that after 5 days the rain has ended.

I don't mind the close, dark, autumn skies because they suggest to me that I ought to open a classic work and contemplate the condition of man or perhaps the condition of my soul. They ask me to start a fire and stare into the flames, and simultaneously to stare into my core commitments.

As the sky clears and the constellations beckon for my attention, I feel relief for the expectation of a bright and unclouded sunrise. I only wish the morning would be filled with birdsong. The season doesn't hold very much promise for that, however. "She's glad the birds are gone away/ she's glad her simple worsted gray is silver now with clinging mist."

My four-year-old granddaughter spends the night. Earlier, she sat quietly in my arms, leaned her head against my chest and watched a video, the warmth and relaxation of her little body a richness to my soul filling me with delight. At bed-time, she voluntarily scooted over and comfortably leaned against me again as I read to her the "Unbouncing of Tigger." What better expression of love and trust could one ask from a 4-year-old?

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Robert Frost, My November Guest
Robert Littlejohn, Wisdom and Eloquence
Fancis Thompson, Hound of Heaven
Sally Shapiro, Dying in Africa
Hem, Eveningland
Ludwig von Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Give Me A Sign

I stood wrinkling my nose at a brown sign that said, "Doggie waste is unhealthy for children and the community. Please clean up after your pet." It was kind of odd because the message didn't pertain to me, I don't have a dog, and I wasn't walking a dog ... but apparently this was exactly where I wanted to be. "Are you sure this is it?," I asked. My friend stared at his iPhone. "Yeah. But keep in mind, that it only has a twenty foot accuracy." This was my maiden voyage in geocaching.

Such was the outcome of dinner. My wife was out with her girlfriends this evening, so I met my friend at Chevy's. He's my age and we enjoy just getting together. Sometimes its for nothing more than to listen to a baseball game and burn a cigar. Tonight it was Mexican.

During dinner he asks if I've ever heard of geocaching. It turns out, that on his latest visit with the Oklahoma grandkids, they all went geocaching for the day and had a blast. For those of you who aren't in the loop, geocaching (check it out here is a contemporary form of orienteering, but it's done with GPS devices rather than maps and compasses, and there is usually a little treasure or registration pad at the geocache site. We pulled out the iPhone to search for geocache sites within reasonable distance of the restaraunt and were surprised to find ten, one within a quarter mile. "Wanna do it?" I asked. "It's just over there."

Part of the geocaching fun is finding the hidden cache . It can be very small and subtly in the open (like one of those hollow rocks for hiding house keys), or it can be the size of a shoebox and cleverly hidden. So now you have to imagine a couple of old guys, who as far as anybody knows could be lost Alzheimers patients, wandering back and forth between three park signs at 6:30 in the evening. My friend has memory issues and I can't see. So I'm down in the grass looking at rocks through my bifocals and he's staring at his GPS, when a woman came out from her home asked, "What are you doing?" My friend looked at me as if to say, "I'm not sure ... what ARE we doing?" I just squinted at him and said, "You've got the iPhone." She shook her head and smiled knowingly. "If you are geocaching," she said, "then you're warm." and walked away. This was obviously something she's seen a few dozen times before. She's probably the person who set this one up. And she's probably hidden a camera and has gotten footage. Sometime soon I'm going to see myself on YouTube crawling around with my nose in the grass at the foot of a Doggie Waste sign.

Within a few minutes, we found the cache in a magnetic key box tucked away behind a frame 12 feet away from the original target. We autographed the tiny registration book, mustered our remaining dignity and called it an evening.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
James Thurber, The Thurber Carnival
P.G. Wodehouse, Golf Omnibus
Pat Metheny, Still Life Talking
J.S. Bach, Violin Sonata

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Confessions For All

Tonight its Silbelius ... all night long. So little time. I have 7.6 hours of music and only 4.5 hours until I turn into a pumpkin.

My introduction to the work of Jean Sibelius took place in high school when I participated in the symphonic band. For the Spring concert of my sophomore year we performed Finlandia, and being a trombone - baritone player, I got charged up by the opening bars. Ominous, brooding, imposing, anticipatory, dark and dramatic, they stirred in me some sense of adventure and called to life the expectation of descent from a stony vista overlook into a fog filled ravine with a defined notion of the goal. Sounds like a lot for a piece of music, but once you've experienced it, there's no going back. In fact, Allen Bloom (Closing of the American Mind) revels in such experience while detesting rock and roll because rock merely stirs juvenile passions with no context for the richer appreciation of achievement. While preparing for the concert I purchased an LP of Finlandia, En Saga and The Swan of Tuonela. I drove my poor mom crazy, because the high volume wasn't high enough.

Shortly after that concert, I found a recording of Symphony No. 5 and Pohjola's Daughter. That was it, I was hooked. The liner notes declared Sibelius' compositions to be nationalistic, anchored in his love of the Finnish landscape and the brooding shadows of the fjords. While I barely comprehended nationalism, I did detect that there was more. There was ancient story, legend, mythos, identity of people and their place. His music was a conversation concerning the battles of the gods and the kings. It recalls the stealthy approach of Beowulf to Grendel and the bloodletting that ensued. It reminisces about the Volsung and their exploits. It prefigures the ride of the Rohirrim against the amassed forces of the Dark Tower on the wide fields of Pellinor outside Minas Tirith.

It was ten years later when I stumbled upon yet a fourth recording of Symphony No. 4 that I actually fell in love with Sibelius. I had heard the 4th Symphony several times before and didn't like it. I don't know what it was exactly: ... sluggish, swampish, confused, a bad adagio, fairies dancing over a slime pit?? it was hard to put my finger on. These were probably the same kind of reasons that audiences hated it when Sibelius first performed it ...he was booed off of one stage. But he never changed it .. he was resolved... this is how it would be. The recording that captured me was by Paavo Berglund and the Helsinki Orchestra. Berglund interpreted the symphony with a clarity and vigor that I had not heard before. (This isn't really surprising since composers occasionally find someone else who do a better job at communicating their compositions; Samuel Barber for example relied upon Thomas Schippers to present his work.) Somewhere deep in the liner notes an aside was made regarding Sibelius' health; he wrote the symphony during a time when he was fearful of throat cancer and was awaiting the results of tests. That was it. And that's where I fell in love. The symphony was brooding worry laced with dark patience and the struggle for hope. No wonder he wouldn't change a note of it. It was his very heart and psyche. To the devil with anyone who didn't like it. His every composition was a letter, a poem, a diary entry, a confession. And thus with every other composer ...

Tonight its Sibelius. So much music, and so little time.

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Jean Sibelius, Finlandia
En Saga
Pohjola's Daughter
Swan of Tuonela
Valse Triste
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 7
Scenes Historique
Pelleas et Mellisande
Symphony No. 2

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lawyer Shaped Life

Groping around in my daughter's kitchen this morning I stumbled on a package of Cedar Grilling planks. I perused the packaging while imagining the meal possibilities where they could be used when my eye landed on The Warning.

California Proposition 65 Warning:
Combustion of wood or charcoal products may contain chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and/or reproductive harm. This warning is required and issued by pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6

I cannot imagine living in a place where leaders were so hyper-concerned about death or perfect health that it was required by law to warn people that harm could come from burning wood. One would think that they had evolved in paradise and were suddenly introduced to the horrible reality of harm; that they never had an occasion to burn wood or get their eyebrows singed by the flame. When in the 10,000 years that we have been wandering around on planet Earth did we not figure out that life is dangerous?

Et In Arcadia Ego

Very soon we should expect to see the following warning on sidewalks and in fields:

California Proposition 721 Warning:
Walking in the upright position entails risks of loss of balance and subjection to gravity, and is known in the state of California and throughout the world to result in broken bones, contusions and even death. For best results, please crawl. This warning issued by pursuant to California Health & Safety Code.

Wouldn't that be a boon for Health Care lawyers?

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Tim Richardson, The Garden Book
Francis Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man
Will Ackerman, Past Light
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Orchestral Essays

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Path Out and Back

I was asked during lunch conversation today who Wendell Berry is. What mostly came to my mind was his set of poems entitled The Country of Marriage. And so I picked them up this afternoon to linger over them again. Refreshing poems well-rooted in the soil.

I’ve been married 36 years. Sometimes I thrash and chafe, not wanting to be married. (I am certainly not alone in this occasional squall.) When it happens it does so for any number of reasons that all seem to be anchored in one; namely that I am profoundly selfish and truly ignorant of what I am. It’s a radically stupid attitude to have since to the best of my recollection, every blessing I’ve ever received has come to me in marriage.

As I write this evening, I am not writing out of that dissatisfaction. I am content in my marriage.

In one of Berry’s poems, he describes his marriage as a path that leads from a well tended garden into the unknown sections of a dark woods. The known allows him to strike out into the unknown with a fresh sense of stability and anchoring. But then being in the unknown produces a deep sense of longing to return to the comfort of the known.

This is true of my marriage. There are large portions of it that are a lovely, orderly, well tended garden with paths that thread through groupings of fragrant blossoms and nourishing fruit. Familiarity of those paths lead me into dark regions that I don’t know very well at all. (What man could not say this about his wife?) Those dark areas, while fascinating, become unnerving, being filled with peculiar vibrations and scents and movements that startle and keep one off balance. After a short while, I take the return path with deeper appreciation to the safety of the known, realizing that the dark areas are bigger than I suspected and what is unknown will only ever be known slowly.

In this ebb and flow of content and discontent, I concede that my marriage is not an end-all-be-all in the Romantic ideal, but a country to be explored and mapped, settled and sometimes left wild.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Wendell Berry, Collected Poems
J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations, Cello Suites
Pat Metheny, Still Life Talking

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Looking for Renewal

Tonite, all the old pains of a lifetime have come back to visit.

I fell down the stairs, about two hours ago, and every injury I sustained while growing up seems to have been renewed. When I was a kid, I was climbing an old pear tree in my grandmother’s yard and as I reached up I grabbed a dead branch. The branch gave way and I watched in wonder as 16 shades of green rushed upward to a blue sky just before I landed on my back. I couldn’t straighten myself for two days. Back troubles have plagued me since.

When in high school, I got into a psychological scuffle with a friend and kicked his books off the stage where we were practicing for a musical. He made gestures as if to reconcile and reached up his hand in order to shake on peace. When I grasped his hand, he pulled me off the stage, where I crashed headfirst into the orchestra pit. I broke my collar bone and had a concussion for three days. Another friend drove me to the hospital and he reported that the only thing I did was ask him every 20 seconds “What time is it?” for more than an hour. When the weather changes, my collar bone notifies me.

When living in New York, I fell off the roof of a house, shattered my elbow, fractured my hip and gave myself a concussion that lasted two days. In surgery, they removed the pieces of elbow because they couldn’t reconstruct it, and I spent 6 weeks doing therapy to get my range of motion back. The leftovers were chronic arthritis type weakness and pain in the right arm. but that is consolation when i think that I should have been paralyzed.

But deeper than these, I talked with a woman today who just gave her child to another for adoption and she is grieving over what she will not experience and enjoy; all those blessings of motherhood as he grows up. She won’t get the privilege of the first laugh, the first steps, learning to read and sing, t-ball games and puppy love. In addition, she has two other kids that she hasn’t been with in two years and is feeling the loss of motherly connection with them. Soon she will move to a new city, having been emptied of the common joys of life because of bad choices with ugly consequences.

My body hurts and my heart hurts. I long for the world to be renewed.

“Life is pain, Princess. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” -Princess Bride.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers.
Solomon of Israel, Proverbs of the Ancient Middle East.
Roy Whelden, Galax
Richard Souther, Cross Currents
G.F. Handel, Water Music

Friday, April 10, 2009


I wonder how many people would look at this day as the most important day of the year? One of the deepest problems with western civilization in the heights of these days is its appalling nearsightedness. It has concluded that pop culture and mass culture, the acceptable production of our consumerist times, are the pinnacle and subsistence of existence. You know, rock stars, movie heroines, Abercrombie and Fitch, iPhone, and a myriad of other superfluous and silly things that we think we can’t live without. It assumes that man is the solution for all his stupid little needs. All of these amount to so very little in the larger scheme of reality.

There was a time when the calendar of western civilization was governed by the events of the religious year. Moreso, the calendar of western civilization was governed by Christianity. Not because of some religious hegemony, but because the culture as a whole really did understand that Jesus the anointed rose from the dead (by affirmation of Tacitus, Josephus and Saul of Tarsus), and as such it should shape all existence under his messiahship. (For the modernist who wants to wretch at this, I suggest reading some older history books; i.e., those written before 1900, and not modern. The new ones have been corrupted with the most insidious and self-absorbed scientism and revisionism. Man is so remarkably arrogant.) The calendar moved from Advent to Lent to Pentecost to Whitsunday and so on. The progression of time was marked by the significant occurrences in the history of mankind. Not those anchored in a scientific interpretation of the universe, but those that mark the promise and inauguration of renewal.

Today, the darkest and most difficult and most necessary of days, is the best of all. The Jewish messiah, the so-called anointed, was executed by civil determination, bearing in his person and body the terminal sentence of mankind as declared by the bar of absolute and perfect justice. According to Christian tradition, all things pointed forward to this day, and all things point back to this day. In exchange, mankind receives not judgment, but blessing and gifting which leads to renewal and hope. It is because of this that western civilization stands out from all others as being the most vigorous, the most creative, the most dynamic, and the most productive of all other civilizations. We have yet to see the endpoint and the fruit of such a hard and significant day of sacrifice.

Want to know why this day is declared “good”? Because, once, everything justice demanded was satisfied, and what was left in its place was undeserved and unearned love. How could anyone explain that?

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Micah of Moresheth, Oracles
Richard Gamble, The Great Tradition
Gioachino Rossini, String Quartets
Pat Metheny, American Garage

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dinner (revised)

I'm in recovery mode in greater St. Louis.

I had a heart attack on Friday. But I’m not sure it was really a heart attack. The cardiologist who did the catheterization said it was a mild heart attack, but another cardiologist who works in a different hospital says its only a heart attack if there is muscle damage. I didn’t have any pain and there hasn’t been any muscle damage, but there was a plugged artery that they roto-rootered and put in a culvert. But in either case, attack or no, they did this procedure and now I’m in recovery mode.

My dad went through open heart surgery when he was 54 years old. He was six weeks in recovering from it. I had a heart catheterization on Friday (I was awake the whole time), walked out of ICU to the telemetry wing on Saturday, and was home kicking a soccer ball to my granddaughter on Sunday afternoon. I am awed and grateful for the day of medical arts in which I live.

Recovery mode has been a kind of paradigm shift, however. It's one thing when your general physician says you need to watch what you eat because there's too many cookies in your diet, and another when your cardiologist says, "Here's what you'll be ingesting each day for the next year."

When I walked out of the hospital yesterday I was given two sheets of instructions for my medications. This is the craziest stew I've ever had. Each day I get to take: Metoprolol tartrate, Lisinopril, Plavix, Lipitor, Niaspan, Centrum Silver, Aspirin, and these massive Fish Oil capsules (they are as big as olives). I also get to keep on hand some Nitroglycerin tablets. The weird part about that is the only thing I've ever known nitro to be used for was fuel in funnycars. For those of you who don't know much about dragstrips, I can't help you here. I keep looking for a warning label that says "Don't chew: danger of explosion" but I'm not finding it. After I take the meds, if there is room left over, I get to have food.

Have you ever wondered where fish oil comes from? Get this ... herring, anchovy, mackerel, sardine, menhaden, smelt, tuna and sand lance. These are things no one ever normally puts in their mouth, but I guess it’s okay if they’ve been converted to capsule form. And what is fish oil anyway? The polite language on the label says "fish ingredients". What do they do, put the fish in a press and squeeze the oil out? Hmm. Yeah ... that's like "beef byproducts". I've decided to never eat anything that is simply labeled "beef byproducts". We were surrounded by dairy farms when we lived in New York. I've seen the fields littered with cow byproducts. *sigh*... so I'm eating fish byproducts. Smells like fish byproducts. At least its promoted as Mercury Free. I sure wouldn’t want gain weight.

So, aside from listening to the Dove chocolate whisper sweet teases to me, I've been resting, reading, listening to music and harassing my wife. (I want her to be happy when I return to work). I went for a 1-mile walk today. Tomorrow I see my docs to find out what I can and cannot do for the next few weeks.

What comes of this though is the pointed reminder that, actually, today was never guaranteed to me. Now that it’s here, it’s a good day and I’m glad for it.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Solomon of Israel, Proverbs from the Persian World
Greg Mortgensen, Three Cups of Tea
Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation
Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Symphony No. 3
Diamond Rio, Completely
Jeff Buckley, Grace

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leprechaun Lights

Unintentionally, my house was decorated for St. Patrick’s Day.

The only time I put lights on my house is for Christmas as I am still at heart a child. My deck has rope lighting as an accent and low level enhancement, but its not intended to be as obvious as Christmas lights. I hate Halloween lights because I think putting orange lights on your house for such a day is stupid. It’s a complete marketing gimmick and doesn’t make sense. Seriously, what’s to celebrate about dead things and witches? If that kind of stuff was really laying on our front lawn, we’d be rather freaked out. We’d call the police and want an animal service to come haul it away.

And electric hearts for Valentine’s? Flashing red and pink. How romantic.

But Tuesday morning as my day was beginning, I couldn’t help but chuckle. I was bombarded with the lights of the little people. There were green LED’s everywhere. Green LED on my stereo. Green LED on my clock radio. Green LED’s on my telephone modem. Green LED’s on my Internet modem. Green LED’s on my wireless router. Green LED on my computer waiting in standby and Green LED on its’ powerblock. Green LED’s all over the printer. Green LED on the microwave. Green LED on the coffeemaker. Green LED on the GFCI circuits in my kitchen. Green LED on the portable DVD player. Green LED on the automatic dishwasher. Green LED on the stove.

How did we ever get to the point that we needed Green LED’s on everything? It sort of reminds me of the “Check Engine” light on the dashboard of my car. What is it telling me really? Pretty soon I expect I’ll see a Green LED on my toothbrush (“… ready for brushingthank you for your cooperation …”)

My house used to be dark at night. Good God! … save me from the electrical engineers!

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Solomon of Israel, Proverbs from the Persian world.
Chad Oliver, Rite of Passage
Isaac Asimov, Foundation and Empire
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 7
Bob James, Angels of Shanghai
Moby, Porcelain

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Desperately Seeking Seclusion

At one time I was a student of the forests. I’m sure I mentioned that somewhere. For nearly four years, I spent every other day in a Cypress-Tupelo swamp by myself measuring trees, listening to the wind in the branches and the barred owls calling to one another, avoiding copperheads, and gazing in wonder at a world that few get to see. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or see anyone or interact with anyone for 8 hours at a time. I delighted in Uvularia and Laportea and Botrychium and Dicentra, as well as hundreds of other wildflowers. I felt like the herbalist in “The Harvester”. When it rained I got wet, and when the sun came out I got hot, but it was never terribly trying ... well … maybe the mosquitoes were. I was periodically surprised by Great Blue Heron coming home to the rookery, or the sweet licorice fragrance of Ozmorhiza, or a covey of Woodcocks bursting from the brush as I made my way along the transition zones. I saw grapevines as old as oaks, and fawn still wet from being born not an hour before. I had a taste of what I thought paradise was like.

I’m an introvert. And sometimes I miss home.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Gene Stratton Porter, The Harvester
John Muir, Into the Wilderness
Franz Schubert, “Unfinished” Symphony
Jonn Serrie, Planetary Chronicles Vol.2

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I’m watching the rhetoric heat up over the 800-billion dollar stimulus package being promoted by some of our illustrious representatives. In one report it was said that the President has been compelled to remind Congress who won the election in November.

It humors me to see those who rode a wave of adulation into public office now get to work with the reality of a wisely crafted representative system. Winning an election to public office in the United States does not mean that one has now been given a mandate for the exercise of power. A President is not a king, but the chairman of the committee. A senator is not a Lord, but a State’s representative ostensibly promoting the interests of that state. A representative in the House is not a nobleman, but a messenger of the regional concerns. Election to office means that one has been trusted as a public servant. And the public has a mixed notion of what it deems suitable … hence the battle of ideas and intentions and language in getting a bill passed.

Our founding fathers observed first hand man’s inclinations toward totalitarian power. They built a system that would immediately grind to a halt if there was fundamental disagreement about why a law is needed or how it should be structured. And if some in office choose to be an obstacle for others in office because there is a disparity of conviction, then I’m all for it. There is safety in gridlock.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Founding Fathers, The Declaration of Independence
Constitutional Convention, The Constitution of the United States
Constitutional Convention, The Bill of Rights
Samuel Barber, Essays for Orchestra
Aaron Copeland, Appalachian Spring
Tony Rice, Backwater

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blessing My Pain

Slumdog Millionaire is a painfully wonderful movie. If you have not made plans to see it, do so. This is a “must see” at about half a dozen levels. The crafting of this film captures one’s interest and builds a sort of expectation that doesn’t let go even after it ends.

I am not going to tell you much about the movie at all, except to say that there is not a single wasted scene. One scene in particular, representative of nearly the whole film, is the finest love scene in all of celluloid history. The protagonist gives a first kiss to the girl he believes to be his destiny. That kiss is not on the lips, but on a scar which had been inflicted by his brother. That simple act struck me to tears. It is one thing that I long for.

Smoldering in my heart is a strong and undilutable hope that at the end of all things, someone stands waiting who has remained true to me, who will kiss my scars, and affirm and consecrate them by love. My very being hungers for this.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Richard Gamble, The Great Tradition
Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark
Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 8
Tim Weisberg, Party of One

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Is It Really Bad?

I was thinking this morning, staring into the frig looking for breakfast, reading expiration dates on labels and lids. It was more of an unconscious, glazed-over, passive kind of activity, until I came to the edge of the cottage cheese lid. The expiration date was two days ago. I stared at it. I sniffed it. I stirred it and sniffed it. But that evoked a related question. When does cottage cheese truly go bad? Could anyone tell anyway?

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Luke the Physician, Acts of the Apostles
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth
Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark
Scott Joplin, Rags
Lyle Mays, Fictionary

Saturday, January 3, 2009


A few days ago, I watched the complete 12-hour, extended version movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings. I only do this once a year because it is such a huge investment of time. The only thing I’ve ever done in one sitting that took longer is traveling to Hong Kong, or driving from New York to Chattanooga.

What made the viewing so enjoyable this time was having an Atlas of Middle Earth open in front of me. The maps included timetables and paths of travel so that one could get a sense of the effort involved for the characters.

Tolkien created a world that is indeed a world. Geography, geology, seas, lakes rivers, topography, vegetation, peoples, migrations, languages, histories, battles, dangers, family trees and histories that cohere, purpose, prophecies, poetry, stories. It’s all there. What’s so impressive about this story is its remarkable internal consistency. All the things that makes our world so wide and rich are all present in his stories. It is genuinely inspiring.

Some might feel that the movies seem to go on and on. (I actually had a friend grumble that they are little more than a lengthy video game!) In the actual story, however, Frodo and Sam left the Shire in September and never made it to Mount Doom until mid-March. Six months of foot travel through tough circumstances. They didn’t actually return to the Shire until 13 months after their departure. The story is a quest in its rightful form, and thankfully the movies capture that sense of arduous, extended, demanding, hazardous, obstacle-filled travel through mountains, swamps and enemy territory.

Whenever I watch the movies in one sitting like this, my appreciation for Peter Jackson and company increases. I know he made alterations in the story line so that he could produce a watchable movie, but he was profoundly faithful to the story, to geography and to the movements of action, reproducing what the written story lays out.

Tolkien believed that what one creates continues as reality beyond this world (thus a strong motivation to be creative). He lived it out. The fact remains that Tolkien created a complex, multi-layered world of remarkable detail and if his notion about “sub-creating” is correct, then he (and hopefully others like myself) will get to explore it someday.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Patrick O’Brian, Fortunes of War
J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf By Niggle
Karen Fonstad, Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle Earth
Vaughan-Williams, Norfolk Rhapsody I & II
Kaki King, Legs To Make Us Longer
Lyle Mays, Lyle Mays

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Backward and Forward

Like Janus, I face two directions at once this day. Usually when I do this it is with the intent to find growth, and to anticipate opportunity. The trouble with looking for grow over a single year is that the kind of growth I want will likely not be found taking place in such a short time. After all, it only takes six weeks to grow a squash; and eighty years to grow an oak tree. I want to be an oak. The trouble with looking for opportunity is that we can’t actually see any further than the minute that’s in front of us. To try to see further is like trying to see around a corner that’s a quarter mile down the road.

What have I learned from the past year?

Walk in wisdom today. It can be agonizingly difficult these days because there are so many voices telling us not to bother. But it is absolutely necessary because there are myriads of fallout consequences for doing the imprudent thing.

Good family relationships are to be treasured while you have them because they can change in the course of a few days through no fault of your own.

Your days are few and fleeting, invest them well. Invest your energies where the return will positively influence others when you have finished running your race here. Build a legacy that leaves the lives of others better off than when you found them.

To what do I look forward this coming year?

Simple pleasures, mostly. (I wonder if the years have beaten lofty dreams out of me. I’ve seen too much tumble into wreck and ruin; lives of young people, families, businesses, churches.) Teaching, serving, gardening, bike riding, writing, reading, good music, good conversations with friends over a bottle of wine. The kinds of things I can do on any workday or on a week-end or on a vacation.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Patrick O’Brian, Desolation Island
George MacDonald, Phantastes
Ben Bova, Orion
Dave Matthews, Under the Table and Still Dreaming
Pat Metheny, A Map of the World
Gorecki, Symphony No. 3