There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
‘Been a Rembrandt fan for a while … twenty-five years, maybe? Light pulls me into the boat, a beautiful contrast between light and shadow. Colors, I can’t put words to. “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee”, I have gravitated towards, over and over (and over). Light … amazingly beautiful … inside and outside of the waves, port side, shadow on the starboard. The story. Story is beautiful; story is jagged, painful; story is redemptive. Guys, in the thick of it, fear intense, emanating beyond the boat. I see myself on the boat, in the storm, terrified. Fortunately, the storms pass, the waters subside. Three hundred years later (1990), art thieves stole the painting from an art museum in Boston, one of many, totaling approximately $500 million dollars in estimated value. It was the most costly theft of art known. “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” has never been recovered. The art thieves, never apprehended. Life, complicated. Beauty in a storm? Art, so sacred … stolen by thieves in the night?
“God” means different things to different people. “A higher power” … For some He is more. For some He is less.
Over my head. I am there. Some days, more than others. A while back, I hiked up to Falcon, a place not too far with a view. I was in over my head. Usually, I came to Falcon to ignore, to avoid, that haunting possibility. On this occasion, I was angry about being in over my head. I hiked off the trail to find a rocky ledge. I looked upward, thinking about the expression, “the heavens”. Somewhere beyond the blue and the clouds were, apparently, the elusive and unseen heavens. I continued to stare into the sky, considering an equally and unseen God who resided, somewhere past the sky, past the heavens, or … in the far end of the heavens. The God, in the midst of the good things, the beauty, and at the same time in the midst of the chaos, the anger … poking me, the pain never far away. The One I was angry with. I couldn’t get to Him … at least that was my perspective from the rocky ledge, somewhere on Falcon. He had the sky and clouds, the “heavens”, separating me from Him. I raised my fist, and challenged Him. I asked, “Where are you, God? You are too busy for me, eh?” I waited. Silence. The air, not much movement. Trees waited with me, sharing the stillness. A breeze came toward me, as if I had called it, which I had not. The breeze reached me, and moved past me, over my face, my forehead, through my hair, past my arms … hair a bit ruffled. What came next was a strong wind that changed to a fierce wind, and changed to a wind that pushed me, like fingers from a strong hand, an intimidating man challenging me, because of something I said. The power with which I shook my fist, on the rocky ledge, had moved on with the breeze, slipping past me. I had stepped down from the ledge, and positioned myself between two boulders, looking for shelter. Words came to me, not from me.
"I am here.""You really don't know much about Me, or what I do.""By the way, I'm glad we've had this talk."
These days I still feel like I am in over my head when I think about what it means to love, to hope for good, to focus less on my self than others, to not worry, to give away my critical stuff, my isolation, to be nice and honorable and teachable. But, I am more careful about going up to Falcon, who I shake my fist at.
I reflect on the years I’ve accumulated. Of the many vignettes, memories, scenarios, I recall a theme pondered and talked about countless times: men, to do the right thing. Several factors have always traveled along with this issue, through the generations; one of those factors being shorterm gratification compared with longterm gratification; another cause being fatigue (mental and physical); and yet another, problematic rationalization versus clarity of thought connected to good ethics, honorable character. So, the original thought, “Men, To Do The Right Thing”, leads into these factors.
Shorterm gratification. In the realm of relationships and marriage, shorterm gratification can lead to trust broken, betrayal, lies. Sounds harsh, yes? But, not uncommon. Here is a, possibly, oversimplified picture of what this looks like is. Two individuals are in a relationship; they have a few arguments over a short period of time; one of the individuals chooses to experience being with someone (seemingly) immediately fulfilling, no (visible) complications, (all in secrecy). Eventually, the truth comes out and the unfatihful one has a choice to make.
Fatigue and clarity of thought. In the context of a relationship, where a man becomes mentally and physically fatigued over a period of time (caused by any number of catalysts), resulting in his diminishing attention to his wife and her needs. His apathy slowly increases in proportion to his diminishing level of attention to his wife. Here is my question: will this man recognize what is happening and make crucial changes to avoid further pain to his marriage? What makes this a difficult situation is the power of negative momentum. My own paraphrased definition of the Law Inertia is this: “An object in motion will continue unless acted upon by an external force.” So, what will be the external force, for this man, to keep him from going downhill, inevitably crashing with great chaos.
Lastly, I consider rationalization and clarity of thought. By the way, I truly believe that all three of these areas overlap, to differing degrees. Here is where my mind goes, with rationalization. I think about the workplace. A man is intensely pressured by his supervisor to increase his numbers reflecting a higher level of productivity. His coworkers do not seem to be having any difficulty. So, the man in question asks one of his coworkers to help him think through what needs to happen to get his numbers up, where they need to be. The coworker shows him some “shortcuts”, and points out some steps that “the other guys don’t waste their time on. There is some distinction about what is policy and what the rest of the team is doing, he chooses the latter, to get on board with what works, regardless of policy. In this context several factors are at play: rationalization, fatigue, and the shorterm gratification.
When / if a man comes to a fork in the road where he realizes he chose unwisely, either the man fully embraces his mistake, or he glosses over, minimizes, dismisses, rationalizes. The good news is that one can learn from his “bad call”, and then press on, keeping in mind that he does not want to repeat his mistake. The bad news is that one can become, gradually, more submerged in his pattern of bad choices. His conscious becomes a bit more numb, his focus changes towards the shorterm gratification, the rationalization process, moving away from clarity of thought. Some believe that our world is moving faster; not in the sense of physics, but in the way we process information, the higher expectations placed on all of us, and the higher costs for (almost) everything. True, should not go into a rationalization mode, and say there is an excuse for our breakdown in choices. Having said that, I believe the … higher velocity … brings real challenges to howe live, and what we do. I have known too many men over the years who have lost their marriages and/or their careers because of bad choices. This week, I found myself thinking about the pain these men and their wives have gone through, in these situations. My heart, truly goes out for them. It is a wake-up call for, to do my best to make wise choices.
Today March 17, is St Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Many male children born on this day have Patrick as their Christian name. One of those, living in the village that I call home in the north of County Donegal, will mark his 87th birthday today on 17 March 2018.
He is not known as Patrick at all, but as Paddy. Not only Paddy, but for many, many years of my life, he was ‘Young’ Paddy as his father was also Paddy, or ‘Old’ Paddy. ‘Old’ Paddy – or to be more accurate ‘Ould’ Paddy in the Donegal pronunciation – died not long before Christmas in 1967 and I am not sure when ‘Young’ Paddy became known as simply ‘Paddy’ Vaughan.
10 year old Paddy
Paddy was well known for his ‘tall tales’, many of which were totally outrageous, some of which were totally unbelievable and all of which were…
It’s been a good-tough week. From a weathered paperback, essays on spirituality and encouragement, I read in the back, a page I had forgotten about: a few thoughts, a few dates. “October 3rd 1993. Arrived in Antarctica” …
We came on an Air Force cargo jet … equipped with massive skis. (The picture shows a cargo plane with “big skis”, like the ones our cargo jet used). October 3rd of ’93 was the beginning of a five-month season of work for the National Science Foundation. My residence at Willy Field on Ross Ice Shelf, the ice runway for incoming / outgoing planes, was where I cooked breakfast for scientists, US Navy personnel, and support staff (about 8,000 eggs by the time I left). “February 22nd of 1994, last day on the ice.” On that day, I had jumped on a Navy C-130, with those uncomfortable nylon mesh-strap seats, and left Antarctica. Nine hours later, we touched down at a New Zealand Air Force base, Christchurch, New Zealand. For the first time in five months I experienced rain, and nights, and seeing children, older people, dogs, green grass, restaurants, natural fragrances in the air, colors. “March 8th 1994,left New Zealand for Denver” … reluctantly. “March 22nd 1994, left Denver for the South, to see my parents for a bit.” So, it just worked out that way, one month, after my last day on “the Ice” (February 22nd), I flew out of Denver March 22nd, to a small place in the South to spend a week with my parents. “October of 1994, I met my wife to be.”
A year after I got off “the Ice”, February 1995, I proposed to my future bride. “June of 1995, Married a princess.” After all this reflection, I am aware of my presence in the “here-and-now” … the present … today, in fact. And I found my self thinking of two pieces in life we deal with: 1) reflection on our stories / journeys; and 2) where we are at, right now. In my time of working with people, many of whom struggle with these two pieces, I have asked the question, “What do we know to be true?”. I’m throwing that out to any who are visiting the Other Side of the Trees, perusing this post. I believe the answers to “What do we know to be true?” are quite different. Here is what I have come up with.
My story is not yet finished.
My story is still being written.
My story (specific elements) needs to be told (to the right people, at the right time, in the right context).
I need to hear the stories of others.
I have the capacity to love; the choice to love well; and I face the reality that I do not always love well.
I have journeys ahead; or, shall I say … the journey continues.
I need good, encouraging, safe, relationships in my life.
I have hope … but, similar to love, I do not always hope “well”.
I have something to offer; and I have a great amount to learn.
I need vision; I need goals; I need enthusiasm; I need wisdom – – – not just intelligence.
And, lastly for today, I am here.
Well, enough said, for now. I always write more that I should, more than I intended. I hope this finds you all experiencing peace, joy, and good health.
“What she knows of the blue-blood set she learned not through birthright, not even through wealth, but through osmosis.”
“He neverstudiesbutlearns byosmosis.”
“Livingin Paris, helearnedFrenchslangbyosmosis.”
Yes. I have the right word, osmosis. Bookish osmosis brings words, ideas, sentences into the heart and mind, from books, held close (my theory). I am nudged in my psyche and my passion, when I think of writers who may have experienced bookish osmosis: Annie Proulx, Anton Chekov, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, Daniel Silva, Maya Angelou, Tim Cahill, John le Carre, CS Lewis, William Blake, Brad Thor, Douglas Adams, Nelson Demille, Craig Johnson, Vince Flynn … and Keith Richards; George Orwell; Anthony Burgess (see photos, below).
My “book-eyes” are bigger than the hours of the day. My desire for good books, transcendent characters, kick-ass plots, great stories, goes beyond what is realistic. And that, my fellow bloggers, is why I am holding out for bookish osmosis.
I woke up this morning, a good place to start. In my goings, my comings, my interactions, I am asked that profound question that has been lurking close by, since the dinosaurs: “How are you doing today?”
Me: “How ‘you doin’?”
Others: “I’m doin’ good. How you doin’?” (Just like the commercial, with a New York accent – “How You Doin’? I’m Doin’ Good. How You Doin’?”)
Me: “Well, I woke up, this morning. That suggested that it was going to be a good day.”
I have a theory: most people know, that on some level, it is good to wake up. Not everyone wakes up. This morning, when sleep slipped away, I thought of my grieving. Anyone who has (miraculously) read any of my posts might know that my dad finished up his race (a metaphor for his life), last year, 2016, June. The grieving process has, seemingly,not been, successful. Some say that this kind of loss involves a lengthy process, longer than a year and four months. And yet, I’ve been on the other side of the forest from joy, from victory, from strength, from my dreams … Get the picture? The weariness of grief shows up in more ways than one: the darkness, the sadness, lack of motivation, the loss of dreams. Evenings, the fatigue may hit like a freight train. I don’t think this is as simple as I would like it to be. Is your grieving over? To think, that there is more life, a different life, just over the horizon. That is a good thought. Some of you have already reached that point. Don’t stop: I’m right behind you.