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.
‘Couple of Oreos in the night after a disruptive dream. I could not quite remember the details. The Oreos were amazing. A son, undisputedly handsome with a good, a noble, heart, intelligent, awareness of his world sharper than a sword, gifted in a way that he did not ask for, bringing him intermittent sorrow, coexisting with joy, a sense of humor, robust imagination, warrior spirit. I had my share of wounds, lost at times in a world that moves much faster than I can grasp, my own creativity I cannot get to, I look for trails but they are unfairly elusive. I found myself grieving for a man who was and is a legend, who loved well, lived well, laughed well, my friend and my dad. But none of the dream was a dream. Reality has a great deal of mystery, at times.
I was walking with a woman, swirled in beauty with blonde hair and with unfathomable wisdom, a saint of a mother with the spunk to tell me when I was wrong, who married me in spite of me and my wounds and groaner jokes. Two younger ones looked up to me with love and respect, and I was confused by that: a daughter with eyes that can see into the depths of the journey, the hearts and souls of others; my son who creates so many things, his laughs radiate outward and inward toward others. I stood in Scotland at the castle Dunnotar, and at the Loch Ness hoping for a glimpse of Nessie, the Loch Ness “monster”. I walked along the ice road between McMurdo Station and Willy Field (camp) in Antarctica. I sat in the Christchurch Cathedral, putting together some pieces, there at the Christchurch Square. But the dream was not a dream. They are sparkling realities and memories I keep close.
Nights, sometimes endless …Inside, a burning fever, a fever of fearing the future, but longing for more … a fever summoning me from the slumber I cherish. I feel like there is something wrong. This is not where I am supposed to be. This is not the way life is supposed to be, a paradox, accentuated by that quote: “The hardest place to be, is right where you’re at.”
It takes an effort to go into the place, metaphorically a small storage shed, where some thoughts might need to be tweaked or discarded; where emotions need to be checked; where self-pity needs to be conquered, left on the battlefield for the wild animals to feast on … And a question that resurrects me from my restless soul: “What do I know to be true?” I know that I am a good man, that I do have what it takes. I know that I do have hope, passion … That they are not gone. They just to be tapped and released. There is a process. And it is part of my calling to be faithful to the process, and there is some mystery in the process. That’s okay. And a restless soul is not always a bad thing.
Paris fighter jets hammering Raqqa with bombs. 7 darkened souls tracked down in Belgium. Suicide bombers being identified. There is still loss in Paris. I am haunted and humbled. My day: get up on time, make it to church. Pick up kiddos, 2:30, after weekend youth retreat. Walmart prescription. Home; laundry; wood in for the stove because some snow’s coming; get the fire going, get the kiddos dinner. Be a good husband; be a good dad; try to make something out of this old, weathered, life, that will hold some redemptive value. Then I think about Paris: hellishness-trauma-loss-violence-fear. I was driving east down Bowles in 1999 April 20th in Littleton, CO. and saw a SWAT unit, not one not two but three, and so many police cruisers-different counties … I turned on the radio: there was a massacre going on at Columbine High School about 10 minutes away, just off Bowles. In 2001, September the 11th I was at work, Denver Rescue Mission, watching on the two massive TV screens in the auditorium, two planes crash into the towers. A report came in, as I stood by Jon Gettings, that the fourth plane had been hijacked. Jon slowly looked at me …“It’s still going on.” Yes, It is still going on. Different ways, different places, different times, but loss follows, and fear, and confusion, pain, anger. I pray, I grieve, I hope, and … I don’t know what else to do. I still have to work. I continue to love my wife, my kids; and I continue to go out and get three or four trips of wood for the stove. God help me, to not get numb, desensitized. And help me to do what I need to do. And help the good guys wipe out the bad guys.
I’m fortunate in so many ways … Countless ways. Even the wounds are a gift. For I I learn from all of this. Every week or every other, I meet with a wise woman, walking with me for a short season. I bring a few pieces for the puzzle; I reach down, I reach out, to find pieces that might fit. Sometimes a piece will fit. I might want a piece to fit, but it doesn’t. I just keep the pieces coming. I call this process “Puzzle-ing”.
An 11 year-old autistic boy kicked a garbage can because he was having a bad day. This resulted in Kayleb being charged with disorderly conduct.
A couple of weeks later, a school – police officer grabbed Kayleb, threw him down on the ground, handcuffed him, charged him with 1) another disorderly conduct; and 2) a felony.
There is an opportunity to sign a petition with Change.org:
Public School really needs to be a safe place for our kids. In Kayleb’s case, I don’t know all the facts: I was not there. But based on what information is available, it’s wrong for Kayleb to have to endure this. Absolutely wrong. Then again, there will always be injustice among children … on this side of heaven. It’s still wrong.
Three days ago I walked out to see how much snow was still on the ground. A few patches in the shady places, where sunlight filters through the trees. My thoughts were that Spring is coming through the mountains; that we had seen the last of snow. Such thoughts were in the space of obliviousness. I had not checked the weather, which according to some folks up here is a cardinal sin.
Two days ago some of the people I work with were talking it up:
“They’re saying up to two feet above 8,000.”
“Oh, it’s gonna happen. It’s going to be a upslope.”
Yesterday morning, the snow was just getting ramped up. Around noon, I had to push through my reluctance and the thick snow on the driveway. Snow blower doesn’t work, so it was me and shovel. We finally measured our driveway a while back. I would not have guessed, but its 450 feet long. There is a curve in the middle. I embraced the thick wool dungarees that I bought in 1992 at a thrift store; a t-shirt; a workout jacket; a polar fleece; wool hat; Sorrels snow boots; and some gloves (one right, and one left). I attacked the snow, driving back my nemesis (one of my nemesis), to the sides of the driveway. I felt like Gandalf, not with a staff but with a shovel, standing against the bellrog: “YOU … SHALL … NOT … PASS!!!”
By evening it was hammering pretty good. This morning, I looked out the sliding glass door at the two feet of snow. Ahhhhh. Just what I was looking for: more snow to shovel on my 450 feet steep-steep driveway. So … switching gears. The metaphor of the snowstorm connected with my heart and mind. I’ve been in a difficult season that has gone on … way too long. There have been several events over the last 7 years that have knocked me off the horse. In some ways, I have been a hiding man. In other ways I have been a wounded man. A handful of people, who know me well enough to speak candidly with me, have said numerous times over the last seven years: “T: get back in the game …”; “Get back on the horse …”; “You know what you’re supposed to be doing, so do it …” I don’t resent their counsel. They are right. And yet, I see some logic to the idea, expressed in this hypothetical question: “Why should I get back on the horse … just to be knocked off, again?” The snowstorm metaphor. I have no choice but to push back the snow. The snow cannot win. I have what it takes. As Winston Churchill said: “This will be our finest hour.” Chances are that some who are reading this post might have experienced some of the same anguish, some of the same type of dilemma. So, are we going to do this? Are we going to push through?