Friday, December 13, 2013


The Edge

We punctuate our lives with so many different markers.  Memories, milestones, important events and accomplishments all serve to index an invisible timeline that, in times of peace, relief or rest we can look back upon and wonder.

Growing up in Australia seems like so long ago, the memories belong to another and not me.  It’s funny that, as time takes us by the hand and begins to run with us, just how far back our hindsight can be.

I tend to, as I’m sure we all can, identify those defining moments in my own life with those memories that identify more with “close calls.”  Too many times I have “wandered too close” to the proverbial edge, only to affect a narrow escape from a brief stumble or shallow fall that could have easily ended my life.

The first marker was when, in the second grade and having suffered from severe headaches, I was diagnosed with a cyst or tumor that had grown inside my head.  The pain from the headaches was unbearable, and I would cry until I passed out.  Finally, a neurosurgeon in Australia made the discovery and I was schedule for brain surgery.  Luckily, when part of my skull was removed, the growth came out attached to the inside of the skull.  I was put back together and after a year or two, was as good as new.

Life has been like that for me.  Car accidents that should have been worse, nearly taking my fingers off on more than one occasion, military deployment as a young man, close calls alone in the wilderness, being at the right place at the right time to save someone’s life, or being just slightly not in the wrong place at the right time to lose my own.  So many times I have wandered or skipped along the edge, the earth crumbling behind me, often patting myself on the back for my own ingenuity in getting myself out of scrapes that could have cost so very much more.

A few years ago, while changing a transmission in my truck, and forgetting to set the E-brake, it rolled off a set of railroad tie blocks and landed on top of me.  I was injured, and injured pretty severely as I sometime later found out, but not so much that I was able to get out from underneath, call for help and go about my business the next day. 

I'm not lucky.  I'm not unlucky.  I will admit freely that a large percentage of these things could have been avoided if I had only just slowed down a little and thought more about what I was doing. 

This time, though, I walked just a little too closely to the edge.  While my life is currently intact, it might very well not have been.  I’ve not been feeling the best for a while.  I ignored it until it got to the point where a little too much internet research served not to comfort, but scare the crap out of me…literally.  Less than three months ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer and a large tumor.  Six weeks ago, I had the surgery to remove the affected colon (about two feet of it) the tumor and 29 lymph nodes.  Two weeks ago I started Chemotherapy.    

To say the whole episode ‘has taken the wind out of my sails’ is putting it mildly.  I don’t feel great physically, (which is to be expected I guess) but more than that, I don’t feel mentally as resilient as I always had, every day of my life.  I know that I will get through this and that I will survive, that is expected and reasonably certain, but I will admit to the very foreign feeling of not quite having my feet under me.

 A couple of mornings ago, as I began to wake up, I became aware that I could hear the sound of someone crying.  I turned to face Eileen, but she was sound asleep.  I thought that maybe her son Neal, also asleep at the other side of the house might be having a problem, but as I subconsciously wiped my face, I found the tears had been my own.  I don’t know what that’s about….maybe I do….but it feels like I would only be unbuckling my own armor to try to figure it out any further.  I guess it’s fair to say that I have been through a tough stretch, and that persevering at chemo is also taking its toll.  Just hearing that I had Cancer in the first place sucked on levels I had not yet experienced.  I really thought…..and damn it, forgive the cliché……that something like that would never get me. 

However, while I may not be a lucky man, I am perhaps the most fortunate.   I would never have been able to handle this latest trip to the edge without Eileen at my side.  She has been so very strong and so very attentive….and so patient with me.  I am undeserving of her love and would not have had the courage to make it this far without her.  Also, and really in tandem with Eileen, I have the largest group of friends that any man could ask to have.  I feel so completely loved and encouraged.  Again I am undeserving of their love, but I’ll take it….yes Sir!

It looks like, with the dedication of the amazing scientists, doctors and nurses that are my healthcare team, this particular promenade along life’s edge will not be the one that claims me.  There is a deep sense of relief in that….hopefully….but also a greater notion that hey, I don’t wanna walk this close to the edge anymore.  I don’t want to punctuate my own life with markers born of tragedy and hurt.  If I were given the chance to redo my own timeline, I think I would rather just erase the old one, and start fresh beginning with day I met Eileen, and punctuate it with every moment of laughter, every walk holding hands….even if it’s just to the mail box and back.  I want to remember every bike ride, every holiday, every moment with friends and family. 

As we get older we find out a couple of truths.  First, we are not indestructible. I know this now, and while I most certainly am not afraid of eventually dying, I submit that I am more fragile that I thought.  Second, when faced with our own mortality, it’s not the crap we own and work for so hard that is the thing we reach out for.  Life and love, happiness and security lay in those relationships that are closest and most important. 

You, all of you, are that to me.  Without each of you, I'm nothing.  I'm not a musician without someone to sing for.  I'm not a mechanic or a builder without someone to serve.  I'm not a cyclist without someone to ride home to, and I'm not a writer without someone to read me.  Thank you all for your help, your encouragement and your love.  You mark my timeline with your love, and I am better because of it.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Every Town Has A Wolf Man!

Years ago, almost in another life it seems, I lived and worked in the small town of Los Banos, Ca.  Named by the famed missionary Fr. Junipero Serra, an 18th Century  Franciscan Friar who founded some 21 missions in the late 1700’s, because of several watering holes he visited in his travels….calling the area “The Baths” or Los Banos.  In the late 1980’s, when I lived there, I became familiar with a man who was in fact even more well known by just about every single person who lived in the small farming community. 

We all just referred to him as “The Wolf Man.” He was a huge man, well over six feet tall, approaching seven.  He appeared to be between 50 and 70 yrs of age with the weathered and hard features of a lifelong mariner, more likely caused by the combination of poverty and homelessness.   His hair was long,  black and gray, unkempt, with a long beard that split halfway down his chest, the tips disappearing under either armpit as he pedaled into the wind.  His bicycle was painted black, was enormous and looked as though it was made of cast iron with oily, dirty rags tied all over it.  It could well have been a ghost pirate ship, a “Black Pearl” in a sea of Schwinns and Huffy Magnums.  His handlebars, borrowed from another bike, were the “ape hanger” kind that landed his giant hands above his shoulders, lending more height to an already imposing figure.   I'm sorry to say that I cannot recall or even find his actual name, which is sad on many levels.  The Wolf Man spent his days riding up and down the main drag of town, Highway 152.  He had no apparent destination, and rode with an uneven tempo, wobbling and correcting, always on the verge, it seemed, of pedaling too slowly as though he might fall at any moment….but never did.

I worked as a writer for the local weekly paper, and had wanted to do a story on him, but had been instructed not to by the editor, who explained that whatever dignity the Wolf Man may have had left, was probably better left to him.  In my youth, I thought the decision foolish, but have of course, come to recognize and respect the wisdom in it.  I had done some preliminary research into his life and found the theories as to his plight and condition were as many and varied as the folks who offered them.  

Some thought him the son of wealthy parents, who unable to cope with his mental illness, provided him with enough funds to live as he chose.  Another proposed idea was that he had been spurned by true love and, unable to cope, searched the streets night and day for his lost love.  There were less kind notions as well, from suggestions that he was a criminal or a deviant to who knows what else…everyone was an expert on the Wolf Man of Los Banos.  My favorite though, and by far the most commonly held “belief” was that the Wolf Man was actually a werewolf.  Cursed by Junipera Serra himself, the Wolf Man was cursed to wonder the streets of Los Banos since ages past, feasting at night on cattle, sheep or wayward children… some punishment for an unimaginable crime.  At night, often, you could hear coyotes howling.  It was not uncommon to hear a parent tell their child to “watch out…or the Wolf Man will get you!”  In the market parking lot, or anywhere the Wolf Man rode by, parents would grab their children and pull them close.  One might well have thought it still the 1700’s, instead, it was a reaction of fear fueled by ignorance, religious superstition and silliness.

I tried to talk to him once.  My friend warned me not too, but I chose not to listen.  In the parking lot of a Perkos Diner I decided I would try to offer him a meal.  My careful suggestion was rebuked with a profanity laced tirade that ended with me ducking plastic grocery bags filled with aluminum cans collected during the day by the Wolf Man (although no one knew what he did with them as he was never ever seen turning them in for the recycling value) as he hurled them in my direction.  He was furious with me, and cried out loud as he chased down and collected his own recyclable missiles.  We sought asylum inside Perkos, finding safety and refuge in our own astonishment and a cup of coffee.

I don’t know whatever became of the Wolf Man of Los Banos, but it seems to me that almost every town has one.  Nowdays, in my local community it does not take long to spot a Wolf Man or two.  In every city and town, in short order, you can find that person who through whatever misfortune of illness or circumstance, chemical or financial imbalance has become disconnected with reality and instead “survives” between the cracks of social welfare and charity.  Their uniqueness of character though, either survives or is rewritten to suit the unjustified mechanisms that keep us just out of their reach, and them out of ours.

Every town has a Wolf Man, just as every family has a “black sheep.”  Maybe it’s the black sheep that become the wolf men and women, already somewhat used to being sidestepped and set apart. 

It is sad, and from a humanitarian standpoint, it’s expensive.  The cost to us all is a loss of a singular kind of genius, of special conscience that only the afflicted seem to have.  How they see their world, and themselves, is something worth knowing and understanding.

Every town has a Wolf Man.  As cyclists we have an opportunity to view our local streets and inhabitants as they roll past us on either side.  We don’t have to make contact, often it’s not even wise, but they are a part and parcel in the current of the never ending river in which we swim.  I think about the Wolf Man every time I see one of his counterparts as I travel though Anytown, USA.  I’ve even been through Los Banos on occasion and have kept a watchful eye, but I have not seen him since long ago.  I’d like to know what become of the giant bearded figure and his ominous, tank like bicycle…..but I'm afraid I might not like the answer.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Sometimes I feel like a sucker, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like the feeling of being  gullible, or being taken for a ride…unless it’s me who is doing the pedaling. 

For those of you that ride, you know that potentially one of the biggest “thorns” in our side can quite literally be…thorns.  Those little sharp grass thorns that seem to have evolved with the rather intentional ability to find their way into anything with an inner tube are the bane of any and all cyclists.  To that end, I have researched and explored the world of bicycle tires and have settle on a combination of tire and tube that seems to work the best….at least I thought I had.

Tires are not the issue.  After much experimentation, I settled on Michelin Pro4 Endurance tires.  They ride great, have a hardened ribbon in the middle and seem to ward off most road beasties with ease.  Reluctantly, I settled on the heavier, thicker Slime filled SLiME inner tube.  The company makes inner tubes full of a green “slime” designed to fill and plug a hole or puncture in the tube.  Opting for the most protection, coupled with a very high quality, light weight wheelset seemed like the best compromise all around.  The extra weight added by the SLiME inner tubes is a bit of a bummer, but hey, I need the training and now that I'm used to them I'm not sure it matters. 

Here’s the catch.  I'm on my third set of inner tubes in less than a year.  Each previous set was compromised by those menacing little grass thorns.  Actually, one tire/tube set was sliced by a piece of obsidian I hit while hustling down the road, head down, ass up, and went through both the tire and tube like a guillotine through a French neck.  While it’s not fair to hold anything but a wagon wheel to task in that situation, the remaining five tubes have all fallen prey to one thorn each.  They have not sealed, but did manage to live out the remainder of their short lives on a gas leaking diet of my CO2 cartridges.  I do not ride on grass or dirt, ever, and do shoulder my bike when forced to cross any potentially tire threatening areas. 

The long walk home today, out of CO2, in the hot sun, and in my cycling shoes got me thinking about the tubes.   The website says, “All SLiME Smart Tubes are factory-filled with a precise volume of Slime Tube Sealant. Smart Tubes instantly seek out and seal punctures as they occur, preventing flats, repeatedly and continuously for up to two years. Ride without worries.”  Damn!  If only they “prevented” flats.  That would be fantastic.  I would love to ride without worries….

I'm not mad at the tubes…I'm mad at myself.  I bought them, three times, telling myself…”hey, these are great.  I can ride without worry.  The inner tubes will fix themselves.”  I knew at the time that it was too good to be true, but tried it anyway.  Not once, but three times!   Each time I said to myself, “well, it must have been a freakishly big thorn, or maybe I wasn’t rolling fast enough for the slime to go into the hole.  Maybe I need to make my very expensive, ultra light wheelset, even heavier and put a thorn guard in there as well…..”   Once I very nearly, foolishly, left the house without my pump and patch kit.  Luckily I listened to my own better judgment in that instance.

We buy so many things in an attempt to maintain or prevent damage to the things of which we invest our time, love and talent.  Got a cell phone?  You better buy a cover… covers for this, protectors for that.  Perhaps the greatest con-job of the last decade is the “Extra Warrantee” stores offer on their products.   If you buy a TV, or almost anything nowadays that you can’t eat right away, you can purchase a “plan” that protects you, the buyer, from having to purchase another poorly built, overpriced piece of stress inducing plastic garbage when it breaks down, catches on fire or crumbles in your hand exactly one second after the manufacturer’s warrantee expires.  Even more infuriating is finding yourself at the counter of  a Best Buy or similar, that same day, arguing with the vacant head behind the counter who is more interested in seeing how low he can were his work pants, while still keeping his work shirt tucked in so that no one will “notice,”  than he is helping you to replace your busted plastic thingy.  Those warrantees are so full of exclusions and clauses that you have a better chance of getting a ride home on a UFO than you do of successfully leaving the store with a new gadget.  

Lastly, if I hear the phrase, “we’ll do it this time as a …courtesy…,” once more in my life, I may not be able to refrain from explaining the true meaning of “courtesy”  which when dealing with a customer who is, in point of fact, already irritated that his costly investment , advertised and sold by the very same store, heralded as the very best, fell victim to spontaneous combustion, or was perhaps constructed over an Indian burial ground, and seems to have a mind of its own.

As you can see, that two mile walk home in the hot sun wound me up a bit.  I have contacted the SLiME Company though Facebook and have been referred to customer service.  So far so good.  I hope they have an explanation for their product.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I put air in the tube on the wrong day.  Maybe the planets have to be in a linier alignment or maybe I should have installed the inner tubes while facing south and standing on one foot.  I dunno!...  Time will tell. It’s my sincerest hope in this case that the company DOES NOT live up to their name…..I hope there is someone there who has their pants pulled up and is ready to help a stranded cyclist.

UPDATE:  I am truly amazed!  After communicating with a Customer Service  representative named Angela at SLiME Co, they actually took my concerns seriously enough to address them.  They have replaced the tubes with new ones, sent out a generous "care package," and have followed up.  I will even be sending them the tubes that failed so that they can review them to see whats going on.  They offered suggestions on how to best use their product, and really seemed to care about my experience and continued patronage.   I have stated that I would rather fix flats all day, and have the support of a company trying to better there product, than purchase stuff from someplace that could care less whether or not you come back again.  I hope the tubes work out.  That would be great!  But that aside, Its nice to know that there are companies out their willing to stand by their product and their customers.  Well done SLiME!  Well done!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Im Trying, Honest! Atomic Green Junk Food!

I'm such a child.  I can’t help it.  I’ve tried to grow up, I really have.  I’ve tried hard in fact.  I have a job, pay my bills, work hard…hey, I’m even in a grown up relationship with the most amazing woman I’ve ever known.  She’d have to be amazing to wake up next to a misfit like me every morning.  Eileen tolerates every crazy idea with a smile and a kiss, and is the most encouraging person on the planet.  However, try as I may…try as I might, and I am no stranger to trying and remain who I am.

That’s all a child needs really…..encouragement.  That little nod of approval that says, “you are nuts, but go on ahead with your silly self and give it a try.”  There is nothing more supportive or uplifting in one’s life, I think, than to have someone, or several somebodies, who make it their business to adopt an attitude of solidarity in the presence of those creative individuals they choose to love.

My life story could easily be punctuated by those hobbies and interests that have inspired me and propelled me toward new discoveries, adventure and fun.  Music was and is my first love.  At the age of four, a family friend, a guitarist, was probably the first to awaken in my young, growing brain the notion that I could do something besides eat, sleep and shit.  I can clearly remember sitting cross legged on the floor in front of Nole Chivers, the seventeen year old son of my mom’s friend, Val.    I asked him one day if I could “try” his guitar.  He smiled and looked down at me, still seated on my bum at his feet and said, “There’s no reason why you can’t try anything.”   Not long afterward, Nole was killed while racing his motorcycle.  I inherited his guitar at the age of four and a half.  His features has faded from my memory over time but his words to me have never left my brain, and are never far from my consciousness.

Nole would never know the power of what he said to me that day,  but as in that first time his words have changed my life repeatedly ever since.  I have never steered clear of the things that interest me, from that very first day on Nole’s carpet, with a giant guitar in my lap, to multi instrumental recordings.  From skydiving to learning to fly, sail, ride motorcycles and all manner of adventure, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity and talent to chase my dreams and have never been afraid to try anything.

Cycling further , yoga, and getting more fit have taking up a lot of my hobby time lately, but I need to get something off my chest.  I have a new love in my life now, and it’s pretty serious.  So serious that I fear I may be putting my own health and well being at risk.  Funyuns!  Oh my god I love Funyuns.  Little round crispy, loaded with nastiness, delicious, onion flavored rings of happiness.  Whoever invented the Funyun should get the Nobel Prize in Yumminess.  I bought  a bag a couple of weeks ago when Eileen and I took the Catamaran to the lake for a day in the sun and wind.  I almost never buy junk food, honest, but for some reason that lime green toxic waste bag caught my attention and I said to myself….”I’ll try it!”  Since then I have eaten way too many damn Funyuns.  I’m gonna turn into a Funyun if I don’t stop.  I feel so guilty.  They’re like crack for cyclists.  I think that had I discovered Funyuns in the 70’s, that by now I would be a frizzy haired, shirtless, nut job sneaking into abandoned houses with a bag of onions under one arm, a five gallon bucket in the other, building illegal Funyun labs just to feed my own disgusting habit. 

If I don’t get on top of this problem, things are gonna go south in a hurry.  At the store last week I found a giant bag of Funyuns with 12 little smaller bags inside.  Eu-bloody-reka!  What a score.  I tried not to appear too guilty at the checkout stand, but I still got the “look” from the clerk.  It’s the same look I got when I was a teenager, trying to slide on by with a Playboy and a pack of Marlboros nicely mixed in with cart full of groceries, hoping the clerk would be too busy to notice.  Just forget it!  They always notice and you always get the “look!”  Maybe it’s just me….I don’t know.

Today at work, I was putting in roman tub faucet.  My client, a cyclist coincidentally, asked how I had learned to be able to repair such a variety of residential issues.  My honest answer to him was that over the years, if I wasn’t familiar with something, I just tried it till I understood it.   Webster’s dictionary defines the term “autodidactic” as a self taught person.  That’s me I guess…..autodidactic.  I like being autodidactic, but wish there was a different word for it.  It doesn’t sound as pleasant as it is to be.  In fact, in my child like mind, it sounds like there ought to be “colony” for autodidactic people like they used to have for people with leprosy. “Oh, don’t go over there….he autodidactic!”   No matter, I will be autodidactic and learn to like it.  I wonder if all autodidactic people are prone to Funyun addictions.

All this talk of atomic lime green fat food has made me hungry.  There’s still a few little snack sized Funyun bags left in the pantry.  When they’re gone, that’s it.  No more!  I gotta stop.  Well maybe one more, just to be sure I don’t want any…..or if I buy just one big bag and eat them all I won’t want any more….or maybe….

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Final Frontier

In 1969 I was just 5 yrs old.  I can remember very clearly having dinner with my mom and dad at a friend’s house.  I think the gentleman of the family we were visiting was a “flying friend” of Dad’s.  As a child, I sat patiently on the lime green shag carpeted floor of their living room as the four adults sat on the front edges of their sofa cushions and stared wide-eyed at the small black and white television that, not so long ago, had become the focal point of nearly everyone’s living room. 

Fuzzy images of rockets and lunar modules flickered across the black/green screen as gasps of astonishment and wonder volleyed back and forth between the two couples.  I knew then, that something important was happening. I even understood that men were walking on the moon, and that they had traveled there in a tube powered on reason, science and balls of steel.  The living room of this particular home opened on one end to full sized windows which led out to an upper balcony.  Through the glass, I could see the moon, painted silver, sitting quietly on a cloudy pillow in the royal blue sky of the Southern Hemisphere.  My eyes shifted, in slow time, between the images on the television, the expression-filled faces of the grownups in the room, and the moon.  Perhaps unlike so many, whose love for science was born of science fiction, my love of science fiction was born of fact, as it unfolded in black and white that hot spring night, so far away, and so long ago. 

Often, as a child, riding my bicycle, I would fantasize that I was instead in command of the Starship Enterprise, from Star Trek, or the Jupiter 2, from Lost in Space.  Bath time was just an excuse to journey fathoms below on the atomic powered Sea-View 7, or Jules Vern’s Nautilus.  It was also the beginning of a lifelong love affair with all things mechanical.  As tomorrow’s wizardry becomes today’s playthings, I have found much happiness in acquiring the skills and knowhow to build, design, adapt and customize in my own workshop.  I am able to see and interpret most machines and devices from ‘the inside out.’  In my mind’s eye I can visualize, or imagine, a “blueprint” of how something is put together, which often surrenders its secrets before I take something apart.  Music, for me, is similar.  Creating music, or even repairing or building anything, is sometimes like following a path through a forest.  Sometimes the path is clearly marked, sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees to see it, and every once in while there is no path at all.  Sometimes you just have to cut your own way through.

Today Eileen and I went to see the new Star Trek movie, “Star Trek, Into the Darkness.”  To say that I am a “fan” is putting it rather lightly.  I'm older than the original series, but only by a year, and it’s fair to say that Star Trek and I, like so many others, have grown up together.  It’s the genius of Star Trek that has kept me riveted for so long, and the hope that we may in fact know a similar reality. 

I loved the movie, as I'm sure I will love, and faithfully see, every Star Trek or science fiction offering the future may hold, but still….this time….something was wrong.  It wasn’t until we were on the way home that I began to realize what was so off-putting about today’s trip to the movies.   First, it was fantastic!  It was in fact, too fantastic.   So much of the success of the story depended on moments of “good” luck on the part of the new Captain Kirk that his ingenuity and cunning seem to have been written out of the script.  It is Spock’s character who steals the show, which is OK, but it guess I just liked it the other way around.  Now before every other Trekker writes to me and tells me I don’t know what I'm talking about, and have completely missed the point of the new “time-line,” let me say this…you are probably correct…but it isn’t logical….

This brings me to the second reason I’m writing all this about what is, after-all, just a movie.  It was entirely predictable.  I had purposely stayed clear of most of the previews, and did not read any reviews or spoilers, but I could easily have (If I could type fast enough) written the script about a five minutes head as the movie unfolded before my eyes.  I felt like I was asked to watch a story, albeit in a new time line, that I had watched before.  The visual effects, outrageously stunning!  The movie “magic,” wonderful!  The acting, very cool!.......but never for one second did I get the sense of excitement as I wondered what was going to happen next.  I did not experience any anticipation, nor sense of relief at the outcome.   This is, after all, what science fiction is all about.   It is to this, that I felt the movie left me wanting more.

One thing that never gets old is watching the Enterprise transverse from impulse power to warp speed. It has been the delight of my inner child for decades.  I have played “Starship Enterprise” in my car, on my motorcycle, on my sailboat, my bicycle and even when I learned to fly.  Science fiction is not merely a media genre.  It is the living-out-loud of our hopes and dreams, our ideas and future possibilities.  It’s possible, I suppose, that we have even become used to seeing something marvelous on screen, only to realize it as part of our daily lives in a few short years.  

As a civilization, we have landed spacecraft on three planets, two moons and three other celestial bodies.  We have traveled beyond our solar system, more than eleven billion miles, and are still going.  We have found 778 (seven hundred and seventy eight) planets, including those in our own stellar back yard.  We are just beginning, and soon I imagine our own galactic infancy will find new purpose.  It’s up to us to inspire ourselves.  It’s up to us write the soundtrack that fuels genius.  It’s up to us to turn fear and apprehension into poetry and courage.  It would be a crime against all of us, if we begin to settle for what we see on the big screen….as real enough.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fat Feet!

With all this body fat I’ve been pedaling off in the last months, one of the more surreal results, at least for me, has been the realization that none of my clothes fit anymore.  Even my shoes don’t fit as they used to!  While I don’t think I had “fat” feet, I have learned that with significant weight loss, your feet can actually become a little narrower, and even the arch returns to perhaps what it should be.  I can verify, at least, that my feet no longer “hurt” like they did ten months ago, and that the symptoms of planter fasciitis have pretty much disappeared.

This led to a much needed and long overdue “going though” of my clothes closet.   I have three general categories of clothing.  The first is “New” clothes.  These clothes are brand new as in…I just bought this shirt at the store because I need to look halfway decent for something and there are currently no decent looking shirts in the “new” category.  Or, in the same category, are clothes are a still “new-ish” because I haven’t built an engine in them yet or framed the side of a building while wearing them.

The second category in my closet is by far the largest.  This is the clothing that I wear “Every Day” for every purpose.  I might mow the lawn, go to work, go to dinner, or muck about for any and many reasons.  This category consists of clothing from the “new” section, that have been demoted for some reason, as in, I accidently welded something in my new shirt and now it has a burn mark on it.  Not bad enough to throw it away, but not “new” worthy anymore.  It is likely, that in my own cloths buying history, I have never bought an article of clothing that did not start its life in the “new” category, only later to be cast downward in importance and priority, to live out its life in the perpetual abyss of “every day” service.

Lastly are my “Grubby” clothes.  Like the name suggests, this is what I wear when I “know” I’m getting dirty.  It’s what I wear when I plan ahead and have an idea of what I'm going to be doing.  Last week I changed the engine oil, transmission oil and filters and performed general tune-ups on all our cars.  Since I fully expected to get a little gritty, I put on some old trousers and a work shirt and got busy.  Like the “every day” clothes, nothing in the “grubby” group started out there.  They were once wonderful new clothes that got a little abused and were put to work as “everyday” outfits.  When those clothes become so stained, ripped in a place you can’t hide, or just so unfit for everyday duty, they are again demoted to serve out their remaining years in grubby, oily, and sometimes on fire, rough service.   I will occasionally choose these clothes over “everyday”, because I may have just purchased a new shirt or pair of jeans for something important and am more “mindful” of trying to keep them in good order, so of course will instead choose to work in a more suitable attire.  I have, in the past and will again in the future, purchased brand new work pants, designed for actual physical labor, like Dickies or Carharts, and because they were new, worn them to a fancy dress party.

It may appear to the reader that I have racks and racks of clothes, but I do not.  I buy clothes as often and with as much skill as many women will check their motor oil.  Only on those rare occasions, when I absolutely am forced too, or even when it’s too late, do I buy new clothes.  However, over many years I have accumulated enough to fill a third of our shared master bedroom closet.  Also, Eileen was running out of room.  As I consider myself luck to still be sharing the closet anyway, it was obvious that some of “my” stuff had to go.  It was time to go through it all and sort out what fit, and what doesn’t, what I could give away, and what will become new shop rags. 

It was in this endeavor, this week, when I discovered an unknown, or perhaps long lost 4th category of clothing.  When you get fat, you get fat slowly, overtime.  It’s an effort that takes little concentration, but can be accomplished if you just keep at it.  In the race between my belly button and my belt buckle, my belly button was way ahead….years ago.   Not only do you get bigger, but so do the clothes you buy.  I used to think that there some sort of conspiracy, perhaps, that “they” were putting size labels on ever smaller clothes.  When I hit a 3x t-shirt, I was convinced that it wasn’t me, but Wal-Mart that was the one to blame.  The bigger I got, I began to hide some clothes that were still in the “New” category and were too good to get rid of, but had become too small to wear.  In the back of the closet, I found a treasure trove of pants and shirts that I easy remembered really liking, and could now fit into once again.

I got rid of a lot of clothes this week, and I am grateful in ways indescribable, that I no longer have to wear them.  The pay off has been in the re-discovery of shirts and pants long forgotten.  The best surprise of all was a shoe box I found with two pairs of Hushpuppy’s shoes.  Guess what!  They fit again! The first pair, a groovy 70’s set of black suede with white piping, I got when I took a job as a busboy for a local seafood chain when I was just 14 years old.  I won’t say the name of the food chain here, but it sounds exactly like Red Lobster.  The second pair I got in the 80’s is red, white and blue leather.  I cleaned those off and wore them to a wedding today, along with a shirt from the “new” section and  pants that are hovering dangerously close to a trip to the dark side of the closet and its residents, the “Grubby” clothes.  It’s hard to believe that shoes I bought some 35 yrs ago are still in good working order.  To be honest, they really belong in the “New” category, even though they are hardly new.  But they are new to me, new again, anyway, and if the comments I got at the wedding today about my red, white and blue suede Hushpuppies are any indication, they are still in style…….like I would know……

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tattoos, Earrings and Red-assed Baboons

Today I saw a T-shirt in an On-line cycling apparel store that said, “Scars are Tattoos with better stories!”  Man….I like that.  I'm going to order that t-shirt up.  How that little phrase appeals to my internal sense of cosmic order and “no-shit-a-tude.” 

Before you get all defensive and assume that I don’t like tattoos or have some issue with folks wearing them, take a deep breath and read on.  I really and truly do not care what anyone does with their one and only true possession, their body.  I don’t believe that it’s up to me, not for a single blistering second, to dictate or judge another because they have chosen to participate in what has become our latest and most popular personal fashion interest.

Folks have been tattooing themselves for thousands of years.  Tattooing is known to exist in many of the earliest of human tribes throughout Europe and Africa, and became more mainstream in the 17-1800’s when sailors where exploring the Polynesian Islands.  Even the word, “tattoo”  finds its origin in the Samoan word “tatau” as described by the great explorer Capt. James Cook.  As late as the 1800’s, tattoos were even considered a mark of great wealth in some European royal circles.

The problem I have noticed is not in the tattoos themselves, or in the wearing of them, but is instead a little more endemic in our modern culture.  Remember when everyone used to smoke?  Smoking used to be cool.  I smoked, I liked it.  At first, it seemed like anyone who smoked was a rebel, in that James Dean super cool way, and was in some part a social outcast or outside observer.  You didn’t mess with them, because they quietly exuded an air of potential danger.  In the same way, someone who had a tattoo, or more than one, was clearly not to be messed with.  They sported an “I don’t care” attitude and were considered to be “on the edge.”  Generally, a smoker might have been considered rough, but someone with a tattoo quite usually also smoked, making them rough and tough.

Like so many things we do, we do them because we want to establish an identity.  We dress, act and participate in life’s offerings that resonate with our sense of soul and purpose.  To identify and be indentified in a certain light is as old as time.  Tattoos are no different, but it does appear that the “edginess” may be dulling just a little.  So many people, young, old and every variation in between now proudly adorn themselves in ink, bought and paid for in one of the many local tattoo parlors.  One can no longer make an assumption of character or presence based on body paint alone.  It’s a good thing, I think, because any social stigma that dies off in our collective conscious is a move in the right direction.  Another example I can think of is the earring.  I remember when a man who wore an earring was automatically considered to be a thug, gay or a displaced pirate.  No longer.  That little personal identity preference went from disapproval, to mass appeal in no time.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, social approval or disapproval can have the inverse affect.  It’s not long ago when a man wearing a clerical collar was considered to be above reproach, a pillar of moral standing and unqualifiedly entitled to our trust.  Just ask yourself today, what goes though your mind when you see a priest in public. Perhaps it’s an awakening whose time has finally come.  Something about “judge not lest you be judged” comes to mind.

On my body are no tattoos, but there are many scars, some deep and long, others little more than a nick.  Some I earned by acting bravely, others were engraved in my flesh through acts of carelessness and reckless stupidity.  No matter how I got them, they are mine and each one tells a story.  The one on my thumb is the result of dropping the corner of an engine block on my hand while trying to manhandle it into the bed of a truck.  Another, on my skull, is the result of childhood neurosurgery.  Surgeries, welding burns, sheet metal cuts and battle wounds can be found if you look hard enough.  No matter the mark, I’ve paid for every single one. 

I like the idea of a tattoo, but have never been able to decide on one particular design.  There are a couple of things a scar has over a tattoo.  One is its stealth like quality.  They don’t usually come to light until someone gets close enough to notice, and by then, that someone is usually a friend.  A scar also has the added delight of another dimension.  Most scars can be felt with the caress of fingertip from an interested party, while a tattoo cannot.  A tattoo, however, can be wondrous as an art form, a picture board and often can turn a body into a novel. Tattoos are often treasured by their owners and deeply profound and personal.

Still, for me anyway, there is a notion which hides in a corner of my thoughts.  The thing is….everyone is doing it.  It’s become a fad, which in some respects really detracts from those who don’t follow along with the latest craze, like all the “shee-ple,” who do something just because they want to fit in and muster the appearance of “cool.”  It’s possible that the original motive for getting a tattoo has faded with time and popularity.  The desire to do a thing because it is unpopular hardly seems worth the effort anymore, armed with the knowledge that soon most others will follow along. Like a baboon’s shiny red undercarriage, most of us like to flash our hobbies at the world around us in the hope that we might be perceived as just that extra bit more special than the next shiny, red-assed, baboon beside us.

Cycling finds some overlap here.  Everyone rides a bike at some point in their lives, but it used to be that few took the adventure to the next level, suffering pain and great personal cost (like getting a tattoo) to advance an interest and love in something that not everyone else did.   About ten months ago now, when I got back into cycling after decades of over eating and fat-ass-ery, I was not prepared for just how popular and mainstream long distance road biking, mountain biking and overall cycling had become.  Like all things that seem to piggyback our identities, the technology and marketing are a phenomenon unto themselves.  Where there is a fad, industry pounces like a lion waiting in the long, dry grass.  Soon, and without objection, we habitually surrender our collective jugular to the jaws of capitalism and opportunity. 

Like the T-shirt in the beginning of my story, I will do just exactly that.  I want that shirt and I will buy it.  I will buy it because I want to wear it.  I want to wear it because I identify with the subject matter, and it in turns identifies me.  I love being a cyclist, and I like how I feel when others connect with me and share the same desire, to see the land, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, mounted on the latest carbon fiber wizardry and adorned in the most recent “Techni-kit.”  (That’s my new word….don’t friggin’ steal it). 

When I was younger, I did try to fit in with the crowd.  I smoked too much, and I did get my ear pierced, (actually I did it with a small finish nail, lighter, a hammer and the corner of a table, which accounts for another scar on my noggin) but I never did get a tattoo.  It’s not the “getting” that kept me ink free.  As a musician, poet, mechanic and cyclist to name a few interests, I could never find the one tattoo that would label me well enough for the reader.  I long for a day when we, as people, will be able to identify one another, free of judgment, stigma, ill conceived perceptions and ignorance by recognizing each other by name alone, accepting all that we are, will be and desire to be, to embrace each other in love.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mr. Duncan's 55 Gallon Drum

I'm a pretty excited and happy vegetarian.  Today I worked in the garden, or should I say on the yard.  Actually, I didn’t as much work on the yard or in the garden as much as I worked on yard and garden tools.  Recently, motivated by all things healthy, we built a pretty good sized raised veggie garden in the backyard.  To be honest I have, as long as I can remember, wanted to try and grow some vegetables.  In today’s economy (augh!….I sound like an old guy) and with an ever growing distrust in the way “big business” handles the genetic delicacies of our marketable produce, it seemed like as good a time as any. 

We had a prime location in the back yard for the new planter.  When I first moved in I had made it the storage area for an antique sailboat I had restored.  I later sold that boat and turned the area into a small vineyard.  The vineyard produced wine grapes that were a joint project between me and my step father.  It was a dismal failure and I wondered if I would ever be able to grow anything.  I employed the mighty Ford Bronco easily pulling the vineyard out with a long chain, and returned the area to its flat and unused state. 

When Eileen and Neal moved in, the need for fresh wholesome veggies arose again.  This time, with Neal involved in FFA at his school, the project fit perfectly for one of his class grades, thus killing the proverbial “two birds” with one 10’x24’ raised vegetable planter.

I never do anything small, and this project was no exception.  Wood sided, posted, gopher-proofed, automatic watering system, plastic lined inner walls and weed barrier all went up before the dirt was delivered.  Nine yards of planters mix is a pretty big pile of dirt to shovel, but between Neal and I, we got all in the box and ready for veggies.   That’s only half the story.  Corn, bell, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, kale, lettuce, watermelon, onions and strawberries, with other herbs and even some wildflowers now grow in the planter.  Talk of a compost pile soon followed.  I remember having a compost pile as a kid, in my parent’s yard, not far from the back corner fence.  It wasn’t much of anything really, just a pile on which we dumped everything from grass clippings to banana peels.  I don’t remember ever using the compost on anything.

Last night at Lowes Home Improvement store I was looking at a small garden trailer to tow behind the riding mower.  I managed to luck out and got a roughly $300 cart for $84 on clearance.  I was pretty stoked and could not wait to get it home and assemble it (which is often more fun than having the damn thing).  Once assembled, I realized pretty quickly that it would be a better cart if I lined the inside with plywood, making it more rigid and usable.  I also started thinking about that compost pile.  A short search on and I was drawing plans for a 55 gallon elevated rotating drum, with hatch, aerator holes  and mixing tangs.  I wanted to be able to manage the compost in a way that would be clean and nowhere near as ugly as the smelly pile in the corner of my parent’s yard. 

There is this great old guy in my town, Mr. Duncan, who sells steel drums, railroad ties and landscaping stuff on the cheap.  The barrels are food grade, clean and rust free.  Mr. Duncan is also a talented leather carver and loves to show off his latest tooling.  It’s fun to go there just to see his handiwork and listen to his stories, which are as numerous and as varied as the steel barrels scattered around his property.  He ambles about his yard in an electric “zippy cart” and mixes stories of his past with prostrations of why the government is out to get us.  Almost never a short visit, Mr. Duncan will eventually breathe in long enough to take your money and send you out the gate.  Just $25 and 30 minutes later, I was halfway to an awesome compost barrel.   I have converted other barrels from Mr. Duncan’s business to barbeques, a burn barrel, and even an outboard motor test platform.   Another $30 back at Lowes for cement, lumber and the odd nut and bolt and I was happily cutting and welding away before it was lunch time.

Today I completely built and installed my compost barrel, lined my new garden cart with wood, finished a sprinkler repair project and planted some wild flower seeds in the planter along the back deck.  It was nearly one hundred degrees outside but I barely noticed.  I again employed the mighty Bronco to pull out some “out of control” rose bushes that hid poorly between massive boxwoods, loaded them in the new cart and hauled them down the orchard row to the burn pile at the back of the property.  Very cool!  Everything worked great. 

Tonight after a shower and a late meeting, I stopped in at Sprouts for some fresh veggies.  (Our garden is still growing).  I wanted to try out the crock pot I bought years ago and have never used.  After peeling potatoes, yams, bell peppers, onions and other stuff for a veggie stew, I very nearly threw out the waist when I suddenly realized…”Hey, wait a minute…what the hell am I doing?  I have a compost tumbler!”  Happily I headed out back, unlatched the newly welded latch and open the hatch.  I dumped the container of scraps into the vast, cold steel chasm and closed the latch.  I know it was silly, and unnecessary, but the kid in me could not go back inside until I had rolled the barrel around by the crank handle at least once!  Mission accomplished.

Just like in another of my previous blogs, you may ask yourself what this all has to do with cycling.  It’s really pretty obvious.  Without the bicycle, I would never have lost all this weight.  Without the weight loss, I would never have been able to weld, dig post holes, cement, fabricate, saw, build, visit with Mr. Duncan and think my way through today as easily as I did.  Working most of the day beside our new vegetable planter gave me a sense of connection and completion I haven’t really felt in a very long time.  The day’s projects were heavy, and dirty, but splendidly simple.  I had a really great day.  Now I’m excited in a rather circular way.  I can grow veggies, prepare them in the kitchen, (really Eileen is the cook…I have no business in the kitchen) eat the food,  take the waste and leftovers to the compost tumbler, make compost, and turn it back in to the very same soil that grew the produce in the first place.  It’s beyond cool.  It’s kind of special.  I like it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Running on Nyquil

I have this recurring dream….

 I'm standing next to a lone tree on a grassy green hill.  Behind me, miles of open, undulating grass covered mounds fall away into nothingness.  Before me rolling and dark green pastures of heavy, ancient earth, damp with a settling blanket of white mist seem to surge toward a rocky escarpment of black, brown and gray.  The air is thick and wet with the memory of things known long before I was born, and my presence there feels like an “arrival.”  In this place I am alone, save only the wind and the cold to keep me company.  Behind me, familiar but forgotten music pushes between my shoulder blades and nudges me gently toward the sharply eroded, craggy formation that hides between where my vision ends and my imagination begins.  

Somehow, in my dream, I know that I am in Wales.  I know that I am dreaming, and I am aware of a powerful sense that I should know this place.   I am also aware that I don’t belong there.  The sounds I hear are an almost perfect balance between the harrowed reeds of ancient Celtic song and the wind.  I wear the cold and wet like an old woolen sea coat, but my feet are dry and my knees are strong.  My gaze is ever upon the old craggy hill in front of me.  I know in my head that the answers to everything lay buried there under the weathered stones and dangerous pyres, but I am satisfied to leave them buried.  It seems right, during my dream that I stay where I am.  The rocky, mist covered mountain seems more like a bank vault, safe and secure, guarded, and to be left alone….

I’ve had this little dream as long as I can remember.  I do not age in the dream, but I am older now than the “me” in the dream.  According to the little bit of research I’ve done on recurring dreams, they are mostly born of stress or a traumatic event.  I don’t feel that way when I have this dream. In fact, about twice a year I wake up feeling rested, refreshed and reconnected.    I can trace my family history back to Wales, according to my father, just a few generations ago.  My last name (Edwards) is anchored well in history and time, but I don’t really know much more.  At times of great stress in my life, I can hear a faint echo of the same music I hear in my dream.  How I wish I could capture it in my head long enough and loud enough to remember it.  I have tried many times in my studio to reproduce it, but every effort is rewarded only in quick failure.  It’s not as much a melody that I hear, but more of drone, like the rhythmic waves of the didgeridoo. 

It’s all rather connected, you see.  The rolling green hills, the ocean like movement of the quiet Celtic sound-scape, the wind at my back and the blackish mount before me…all so familiar yet, at the same time, so very far away, behind me and ahead of me at the same time.   Like the tree that stands beside me, I am rooted in earth, in water and in song.  It sings to me that I am a collection of many parts of every Edwards that has come before, from the Iron Age and Medieval Celts of long ago, to the Victorian Area Australians, to my father before me. 

Unlike my father, however, I am the last.  I'm not the last Edwards on the planet, but I am the last of this particular lineage.  As my 48th birthday approaches, I am more aware of the man inside than I have ever been.  While taking care of the “outside” me, I have somehow become more aware of the importance of focusing on “who” I have become as much as “what” I have become.   It’s strange, and perhaps even poetically correct, that the two main tools available to me in my quest to live a healthier and happier life have not really changed at all since my proto-brothers millennia ago first stood in the fog on those dark green, heather covered hills.  Diet and exercise, to this day are really still the best remedy for what we have made ourselves into. 

As I write this, I have lost my voice.  I don’t feel the best either, but that’s not the worst of it.  I'm not a happy sick person.  I can’t stand it.  I am by nature outrageously and asshole-ishly impatient (again those who know me will laugh and say that this is a massive understatement) and being sick enough to have to stop whatever I had planned, and rest, is not much different for me than sticking a railroad spike in my eyeball.  Everything I want to do or planned to do swirls around and sticks to the inside of my skull like a washing machine on spin cycle, and the sensation of doing nothing while I feel like crap is very nearly unbearable.  One of life’s little quandaries is the notion that, when busy, we wish for rest, and when resting, we seek to be busy.  Perhaps it’s my sense that it’s an unfair ‘waste of time to rest when sick’ that has me “nutted” up.  Earlier today I walked past my bicycle, which hangs on the wall in the TV room.  I felt a pang of guilt as I passed it by and actually said out loud, “sorry buddy.”  The notion of riding with a headache, sore throat and all is too much, and to be honest, my legs could probably use a day or two off.  Still I long to get out and ride, and hope for a quick passage through this seasons version of the flu. 

I know that one day I will visit Wales and stand upon the grounds of my ancestors.  I don’t know what I expect to feel, and perhaps will feel nothing other than the gratitude and contentment of travel.  I know full well that my dream is just a dream.  It’s more than likely an amalgam of this life’s memories and experiences, played out in the theater house of wishful thinking.  However, I’d like to think that the music which lives inside me, that I write and create, is rooted in my DNA and is really my one true inheritance, passed on down though the ages to my finger tips.  This life is my chance to imprint onto others that which I am good at…good at because like so very many of us, our gifts really do live inside us.  If there was ever a better definition of “sin,” it is to bottle up and intentionally stifle the legacy of talent we so naturally possess. 

I get the feeling that when I read back through this Nyquil fueled blog I may not recognize the author.  Still, I feel at least that I did something today.  It may only be that I did a few errands, went to Walmart for said Nyquil, drank a bunch out of sheer frustration and boredom, and then sat down at the computer to write.  If you see me on Monday, not only will I be feeling much better (thank you), but I will be 48!  Don’t forget to wish me a happy birthday!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Embrace Only Love

This month I celebrate a birthday.  Like the Paul Simon song says, “I’m older than I once was, and younger than I’ll be…that’s not unusual.”  For tens of thousands of years, folks just like me have been getting older minute by minute, day by day and year by year.  I remember when I thought forty eight was not just old, but truly well advanced, seasoned…even sage and wizened.  Not so long ago this was true.   A caveman in his twenties was already an old caveman.  Just a hundred years ago (there are a few people from that period still around) the average expected life span of an adult male was forty two years of age.  By 2010 that number had doubled.  While there are many contributing factors, the Center for Disease Control in the USA credits the fact that we, as a society, tend to strive toward less activity that has a directly adverse affect on our health, and tend to focus more on mental stimulation and well being.  It wasn’t too very long ago when we sweated and sacrificed our lungs to the coal mines, broke our backs on the unrelenting steel of the industrial revolution or suffered the criminal indignity of slavery.

It’s ironic then, maybe, that in the year 399BC, Socrates who was age seventy when he died, did not die of old age but was instead executed.  In twenty four centuries we are only just learning that which the Ancient Greeks already knew. 

Also sharing a sense of irony is the notion that folks like you and me now work very hard to find the time and resources to buy fancy, shiny equipment to “flog” ourselves into shape, in the hopes that we may arrive at a time in our not too distant future when, if we manage to get there mostly unscathed and intact, we can retire with enough health and wealth in the retirement silo to enjoy ourselves, our partners and the rewards of our labor.

Admittedly, I haven’t been all that kind to my body.  I suffered from the very same delusion as just about every boy of my generation; the belief that I was as indestructible as the cartoon hero’s of black and white television.  Howard (my childhood friend) and I worked our weekends and summers at his dad’s limestone and dolomite mine.  We made a game of everything, from throwing massive dirt clods and rocks at each other to sneaking up and striking each other with the flat steel backs of our shovels.  We were strangers to fear, and never cowered from pain.  Our toughness, as it grew, became part of our identity, and we apart of it.  As time has passed I have often ignored injury, sometimes as serious as broken bones, reset my own dislocations, sewed my own stitches and often chose a beer and a meal at a Mexican restaurant when a trip to the emergency room may in fact have been much more prudent.  WD40 has always been a great substitute for Bactine or a tetanus shot, and  electrical tape has held parts on when perhaps, had I known better, it would not have worked as well as it did. 

Once, the afternoon before a concert at our local State Theater in which I was to perform on guitar, I cut the tip of my finger off with a table saw.  I was in a rush to finish a project so that I could get ready for the evening.  As a temporary repair, I used wax to make a negative mold of the missing piece of flesh, and then filled the mold with J.B. Weld (a two part epoxy).  When the new piece was set, I super-glued the new piece onto the damaged digit (to the absolute horror of those around).  It worked like a champ.  I played the full concert and enjoyed the evening.  Only the constant throbbing and pain was any reminder of what had happened earlier in the day.

Before anyone assumes that I am bragging…I am not.  Oh…how times have changed.  You know…it turns out that I am not made of steel after all.  I'm a little pissed off about that.  I don’t heal like I used to, and the aches and pains I so readily ignored in my youth have come back to haunt me like the ghost of a civil war veteran wandering his still smoking battlefield. 

Likewise,  the garbage I stuffed in my unhappy and miserably lonely face has also been an injury I have ignored for much too long.  Like the shovel blows I so foolishly enjoyed as a teen, every “lovin’ spoonful” has taken a slow and regretful toll.  However, as fat falls from body like the miles behind my beloved bicycle, so to every pedal stroke rushes toward a healthier me.  I have said to a couple of friends that if I had known how many thousands of miles I would have to ride to get back into shape, I would never have eaten half of the hurtful and dangerous packaged food stuffs I so greedily inhaled over the years….but I don’t think it’s really true.  It sounds cliché, but a healthy body is just another obscene display of self centeredness without a healthy mind to go along with it. 

My yoga teacher likes to read from something she has saved on her phone as the rest of us hold or try to relax into a restorative “asana” or yoga pose.  The passages she reads from focus on the specific pose, its purpose and desired intent, but almost always finish with the phrase…”and embrace only love.”  I don’t think it’s unimportant or coincidental that “embrace only love” should be the direction we want to tune our inward intention toward.  Embracing, and to be embraced by, who we love has always been the greatest reward no matter how hard we have worked or what we have earned.  Embracing what we love is less about ones internal self, but is much more about sharing with those close to us that which truly makes us happier and healthier.

If it wasn’t for Eileen, and her ability to “embrace” my musical, mechanical, extroverted yet deeply internal, creative and often contradictory self, I would still be 260 pounds of “wishing like hell I felt better.”  Her love is something I treasure.  I now “really know” what it is to value something over everything I own, instead of just the romantic idea I have written so often about it my own poetry and music.   In “embracing only love…” I am happier, healthier and more secure than I have ever been.  A lifetime of “10%” in an offertory plate could not purchase that which has been given to my so freely. 

In a few more days, I’ll be “officially” a little older.  It’s hard to admit that it’s taken me this long to learn a few simple life truths.  I am in a great place in my life to be learning, however, I still have a long, long way to go.  In my life with Eileen, we are both truly on a path to reach our personal goals, together, in support of each other.  In yoga, every time I’m instructed to “clear my mind and think of nothing…” I immediately think of Ice-cream.  I don’t know why…It’s like a switch…  I'm working on it though...  In cycling, well, I still have a long way to go, but I just can’t seem to get the damn smile off my face!!