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Friday, September 26, 2008


I just got out of a movie...

Movies move me.  Like that little mantra?  I thought so.

I don't know where the word movie came from--who dreamt it up--but it's a great root word for what happens when you're watching one.  I don't really care what movie I'm in, I can always--ok, almost always--find something that moves me.  The silver screen dances with images and orchestration that drills into your core and starts causing muscles to tighten and senses to heighten.  Movies.  Movement.  Moving.  Very, very moving.

I guess it comes down to story now, doesn't it?  Story is that transcendent language that unites all tribes and tongues, cultures and creeds...and effortlessly braids them together with the ubiquitous and universal rhythms of the heart.  I don't even need dialogue sometimes to be moved to tears.  I know exactly what is going on.  I don't need music to soften the images, the orchestra is inside my head tracking every nuance and lacing every suspenseful shift.  Story seeps into cracks too small from any other intruder.  It climbs the highest walls around the human heart and penetrates the most impregnable scar tissue protecting the soul.  Story asks questions that you never get asked by other humans.  Questions like, "What do you really, really want?" and "What's your greatest fear?" and "Why are you hiding that?" and "Do you wonder when you're going to get over that?"  It also answers questions that are laying on the floor of your heart, ineffable.  "What you just saw is who you are."  "The tears are streaming down your face because that phrase is your purpose."  "That is the love you are looking for."  "You are made of that kind of nobility."

Story unlocks and unpacks hurt.  It is the WD40 for what binds up your spirit.  It bestows a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for despair, the cloak of thanksgiving for depression.  Story replaces prosaic with mosaic.  Data with drama.  Because we aren't meant to live in statistics, we're meant to live in story.

Movies take us out of problem-solving and trouble-shooting and remind us that we mean more than that.  They remind us that we are in a story, we are a story.  They help us to look at ourselves and those we live with as characters in the great story of life.  Instead of schedules and structures and systems, we reunite with the natural ingredients of story...things like plot and characters.  When you look at life through this lens, animation occurs, life actually lives.

Story is a basic need in our survival.  I love what Reynolds Price says about the intrinsic nature of stories..."A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter.  Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, for the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."  I couldn't agree more, though life without love seems equally perilous.

That is why movies are not so much an escape as an escapade.  I'm sure some only experience a vicarious and virtual set of moments which is most definitely a soul-digression.  But I, myself, find a tuning of sorts, a refining of the real, a brush up against Eden.  I feel God's mouth wrapped around mine breathing meaning into the dust of my futility.  I am reminded of my origin and my destiny concurrently.  Movies are cathartic and therapeutic.  Cleansing and Filling.

So I walked into a movie today story-starved and left story-saturated.  I felt as though an IV was stabbed into my soul nourishing me with a drip of the divine.  

Here is stand, I can do no other.  God help me. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

My red scooter...

A couple months ago, I sold my Ford Explorer and purchased a shiny red scooter.  I call it my "Hog".  It's a 50cc Chinese-made, no-name brand hunk of sheer beauty.  It gets nearly 100 mpg and, when I tuck tight, reaches speeds anywhere between 45-55mph.  

I've already been pulled over by a cop.  I missed hitting a deer by 10 ft.  I've crashed on gravel (though I recovered so quickly it may as well not even happened).  I've ridden it in 40 degree weather with a winter jacket, my daughter's scarf, and skiing gloves.  I've passed a car going down main-street in downtown Lowell where it splits into two lanes--nevermind that it was a Ford Escort that had blue smoke billowing out the tailpipe.  This sucker has been a blast.

There's no insurance.  When I fill it up it costs anywhere between $3.80 and $4.00.  I only have to register it once every three years for $15.  I take my daughters on rides in the Methodist church's parking lot just down the road.  I get to smell the fresh cut alfalfa on a regular basis.  I have already had to pry a horse fly out of my eye on the only day I decided to ride without a helmet. (that solitary incident was enough to make me a helmet believer)

There's only one drawback.  My helmet is almost as big as the scooter I'm mounting.  It's red and black to match the colors of my hog.  But it's drastically over-sized for the kind of low-risk riding I'm accustomed to.  It's a dirt bike helmet, I'm almost sure, made for some thrill seekers who live a jump away from imminent death.  I sometimes feel like my wearing a helmet riding a scooter looks as ridiculous as a casual jogger wearing a helmet on a paved bike trail.  

But, all in all, I'm excited about my purchase.  I've been trying to consume less these days.  I won't call myself "green" yet, but I see the logic of heading that direction.  I love getting by on less.  I love the way it makes me feel and how it makes me think.  My appreciation for the little things in life undergoes a revival of sorts.  It takes me twice as long to get to work in the morning, but I don't mind.  I certainly am more awake when I meet someone for coffee at 6:30am after 12 minutes of freezing my putuchkee off.  And my hair, my well manicured hair full of Suave sculpting product, is in a continual state of disheveled disarray.  The wearing of an oversized helmet can do some pretty crazy stuff to your hair.  I've given up on trying to manage it by deciding to wear a hat that I conveniently store in an covert compartment hidden under my seat.  I've heard that hats make you go bald, so the better part of my life has been hat-free, but it's a choice between saving a buck and going bald or spending a buck and being Fabio.  I've chosen the former.

There are days when it stinks to ride in the rain or meet someone in a neighboring town 6 miles away for lunch, but on the whole, it's worth the occasional inconvenience to curb my American appetites.  

So if you ever want to pull a "Dumb and Dumber", straddle me, and take a ride on a country road, give me a jingle and we can bond.  (This is an offer for males only)  If you are female, I'm sorry to appear chauvinistic, but I made a vow on my wedding day to only allow my wife to straddle me.  If I'm remembering correctly it went something like this: "for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, I vow to straddle you only so long as we both shall live."  That vow has direct implications on my scooter passenger standards.  Accept my apologies if this offends your worldview.  

Well, I must be going.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Movie ratings, swear words and prayer...

I had coffee with Kami and Aly today before school.  On a semi-regular basis we get out to have an honest chat about their views on things, their feelings about things, and their beliefs about things.

After they got their cinnamon rolls and I got my coffee, I started the conversation by telling them they could ask me any question they wanted to.  Kami raised her hand and said she had one.  “Dad, have you ever watched a rated “R” movie?”  That one question led into the different ratings for movies and an age appropriate explanation about violence, horror, language, and modesty (or inappropriate sexual material).  I told her that I do watch occasional rated “R” movies, but not if they are filled with sex, foul language, or unrealistic violence.  I told them that I love real stories of history that movies try to repaint because it helps me appreciate what they went through.

That led into a conversation about swear words.  Kami asked what the swear words were.  So we went down through the list and I explained the dirty meaning of each one.  We also talked about slang words and why we try to steer clear of using those substitutes.  Although Kami looked at me and said, “Sometimes you say crap and fricken’.”  I humbly apologized and said I need to work on that and eliminate those things from my vocabulary.  (I hate it that my kids are old enough to call my bluff.)

Kami then initiated a conversation about “praying before we eat” at restaurants.  She asked, “Dad, does anyone else pray before they eat in front of other people?”  What an amazing conversation emerged out of that line of questioning.  I love trying to explain these simple habits in simple words…but I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s tough. 

I just love my little girls.  I love nurturing them and I have to remember this in times when I get distracted by other lesser things vying for my attention and affection.  Time is flying by, and these moments are fleeting.

Pray for me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Desired destinations and destined desires...

As they say, "Shift happens."  And that is what is happening with my blog going into the fall.  I'm going to be shifting gears from Montana to random stories, musings, commentaries, and the occasional diatribe or classic iconoclastic rant.  I'm excited about that shift.

I can't believe the mental and emotional fortitude it takes to stay with writing a quasi-blogbook. There we at least 50 times along the way that I wanted to give way to fatigue and just get to writing about whatever tickled my fancy that particular moment.  But something inside me said, "Keep going...don't abort.  Keep cataloguing and creating and commentating."  It was difficult, but rewarding.  

Too many days of my life have been given over to a collapse of stamina just when strength was needed most.  Part of coming of age (or manhood) is this handling of pressure, either succumbing to it or harnessing it to affect change in the moment you're living in.  I wish I had a better track record as far as intestinal fortitude goes, but unfortunately, like many, I'm a wimp, a weasel and a weenie all braided together into one.  But heres the rub, I don't want to be and I'm fighting it with small things like this Montana blog.  I want to finish what I start, especially when it lasts more than two days or two weeks--God forbid, three months or three years!!  I'm so fickle and given to premature surrender.  I wish to be more stouthearted.

So thanks for joining me in my quest for true masculine depth.  It's not easy, but I'm testing my limitations and wondering if I don't quit too early sometimes.  The only way to know is to put myself through various initiations that reveal masked weaknesses or undiscovered strengths. The Montana Chronicles served as this instructional tutor.  And I've learned a lot about writing, life, myself, God and the universal human condition known as depravity.  

All this to say that I'm looking forward to "shifting" toward spontaneous outpourings in this blog over the coarse of the coming days.  I only hope when it comes time for another initiation that I will be a more willing participant because of the strength I've come to see in myself that I wondered if I possessed.

John Eldredge says that every man's haunting edenic question is...

"Do I have what it takes?"

I would have to say that I have to agree.  This is why we must put ourselves into situations that answer that wonderment.  The strength we find in putting ourselves into situations where we could just as easily fail as succeed cannot be overstated.  

I set out on a pilgrimage to discover if I could do "it", and I reached my desired destination and, with that, my destined desire etched into my free-willed heart.  Have you ever don't something like that?  Don't you know of what I speak?  I hope so.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chapter 37 - "the end: go west young man"

As I walked in the front door, I could smell the aroma of fresh paint.  Being that I struggled with huffing gas in my childhood, I’ve always had a proclivity towards things with toxic and intoxicating odors.  Things like markers, rubber cement, burning foam and fuel.  I’ve lost innumerable brain cells over the years because of this addictive affinity.

The girls were in bed, but Heidi wasn’t.  She descended the stairs like a princess and I hugged her like we hadn’t seen each other in months.  It’s amazing what even five days away from her does to me.  She’s bewitched me body and soul, stealing Jane Austin’s line from Pride and Prejudice.  Even the natural fragrance of her body was something that my senses were cathartically renewed to appreciate.  Everything was startlingly new.  The house even seemed freshly different. 

After talking for a couple minutes, she told me that she had something to show me.  I was picturing a long trail of rose petals leading toward our bedroom—not so much.  But it did have something to do with the “loveshack” as it so happened.  She had repainted our bedroom in my absence and it looked awesome. 

I was so happy to be home.  There is something awesome about being “away”, but it only is meaningful if it’s compared to being “home”.  When your life is nothing but a feeling of “awayness”, you live with a perpetual sense of drifting, a gadabout restlessly and aimlessly lost.  Home is the place where you hang your heart.  It’s the place were “everybody” knows your name (your story).  It’s the place where you don’t have to explain yourself or prove yourself or cover yourself.  There is a freedom associated with home that is ineffable. 

And as I laid my head down on my own pillow in my own bed at my own house, I rested with a restfulness that I had only few times in my life experienced.  It was deep and rich and full.  My mind raced with where I had been the last 6 days and how much I had taken in.  There was no doubt in my mind; it had in some small, yet profound, way changed me. 

My heart will always be pulled west.  Go west young man.  I know what this means now.  Every young man must go west in his life, else his heart dies a slow death.  You can be told that, but you have to go there to really know it deep down in your bowels.

And I know that now.  I really, truly know that.