Please, please, PLEASE get in touch with us and let us know if we're inspiring or annoying you, if you have questions or comments, or just to say hi! We may even stop in and see you at some point!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Depth

Meditation is a form of art to the Buddhists. There are various ideas of what one is supposed to do or who one is supposed to praise while meditating, but one of the more popular schools instructs would-be meditation practitioners to simply focus on their own breath and sit up straight. When you focus and concentrate on your breathing, not in the sense that you're controlling the pace of the breath but in the sense that you're concentrating on just listening to it, experiencing it, your mind seems to get overwhelmed with random thoughts that work their way out of the depths of your head.

Meditation in this fashion tells us lots about life in general. Life is a series of moments, and sometimes we're blessed to be so enamored by something that it's as if we're simply listening to our own breath. Maybe it's a sunrise or a painting. Maybe it's a piece of music. Maybe it's the face or the touch of a loved one. Whatever the cue, something jolts our souls into feeling that which we are tied into, reminding us of what we've had, what we've lost, what we've loved and what we've neglected.

We don't realize, when we get so caught up in life, that connecting with that simplicity is so close to our realities that when it does get cued from that piece of music or that picture of a face that you haven't seen in years, we are deeply touched. Our emotions are driven to their bloom, the flower of all that we believe in.

We all have many thoughts, feelings, beliefs that we cannot explain. Some of these are simply raw emotion, emotion that may seem to us to be bigger than the biggest mountain in the world yet completely contained within our chests. Some of these emotions make us swell with pride and give us a euphoria, convincing us that we alone can change or even conquer the world. Others can cripple us, put us in a state that we would gladly trade for death.

These raw emotions are divine. They are the closest we mere mortals can get to communication with something so much bigger than we can wrap our heads around. They're not prophesies for interpretation. They're not orders or missions for you to improve your life. They're simply reminders from the Universe or God that you are significant, that you matter, that you have a purpose. They are expressions of pure love, albeit not pure love itself. Emotion that powerful, that overwhelming, while crippling to our own senses is but a grain of sand on the beach of what divine providence can show us.

The Buddhists and people from many other faiths (and even the absence of "faith") have found their own ways to tap into these raw emotional waves. Some, the masters, have even found ways to control them and use them for good. Mythological stories which some hold true often involve someone who was so at peace with themselves and so connected to some form of "God" that they, too, achieved enlightened divinity. From the resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth to the enlightenment of Siddhattha Gautama to the apotheosis of George Washington, many inspirational figures in history, regardless of any opinion of fact or fiction, have been models of this connection with pure emotional energy.

These figures had spent a significant portion of their lives learning how to control their minds to be receptive to these emotions. The more you practice, the easier it gets, like anything else. Next time you have one of these moments, embrace it, breathe it in, and let it move you. Depending on what you believe, it could be the closest you could get to God before you die. And while I'm no expert or even a student of these thoughts, I've had too few mind-blowing moments in my life lately. This holiday brought me a few, and I figured I'd pass on to someone how intense it was.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cigarettes And Comraderie

I was walking home from the local drug store this evening when I was panhandled. Unfortunately, in these hard economic times, there's more and more panhandling on the streets of our cities. In a very rare instance, these people asking for money sincerely need help in the form of change for a meal or a place to sleep. More often than not, however, they're druggies or alcoholics, using their money to score their next fix. This is why I don't carry cash on me. Then I'm not forced to lie or be awkward. Tonight, I told the guy, "I'm just getting a pack of smokes. I'm putting it on my plastic. When I come out, I'll bum you one."

It's amazing how well a cigarette can break the ice between two complete strangers. I've discovered in a lot of instances, when I'm being asked for a smoke, it's an opportunity for me to stand outside, alone, with one or two other people. While we're committing our slow, slow suicide, we get to know a little bit about each other, like our names, our social situations, our personalities. It's amazing what one little stick of cancer can do.

In my conversation tonight, I got to know a man who married a crack head and now lives in his friend's van. I'm assuming he has no job, or he does and he spends all of his money on drugs, too. His right eye was blind and lame. He had lesions on the backs of his hand. He didn't smell of booze, and his speech wasn't slurred or awkward. On the contrary, he almost seemed educated and used some big words.

Other nights, I've met doctors, accountants, actresses, other hobos, hippies, hard working blue-collar men and women, and suburban kids out on the town partying it up. These damn things, these cigarettes, seem to be a social plague.

I must make it clear while I write that I am IN NO WAY advocating FOR cigarettes. I think deciding to smoke is a horrible choice for those with poor coping mechanisms for dealing with any sort of strife in their life. The reason I smoke is because I don't have those good mechanisms for addressing what I'm assuming psychologists would call depression or anxiety. For as bad as they are and as much as my lungs hate me on the bad days, the smokes make things a little more bearable.

Being the people person I am, I know it would be hard for me to give up a key to helping myself into other people's lives. I get a rush every time I'm thrown into a group of new people, new surroundings, new lives to learn from and grow on. It's this very strange dichotomy for me in that smoking is probably the worst thing I've voluntarily done to myself. But I have and will go on doing it, at least for a little while. And I will continue to meet the interesting characters that I've been meeting.

I heard a story on National Public Radio a few weeks ago, told by a young woman who had a violent relationship. She and her verbally abusive boyfriend would argue constantly, and one night, they were driving through some suburban street on the other side of town, and he slowed down enough, and she bailed out of the car. Alone in a dark neighborhood, she fumbled around in her clothes for anything... no wallet, no cash, no phone, no lighter, but she did have a pack of smokes.

She found her way to a park. The sprinkers were on, and she sat at a park bench to sort of regain her senses. A figure approached her out of the dark. The closer this figure got, the more the woman could identify. This other figure, too, was a young woman, maybe an old teenager, barefoot, and trying to stop crying. When the situation realized itself, the first woman got up and approached her in a helpful sort of way, and the first thing the second woman said was "Oh, my God, do you have a smoke?!" and the second lady said, "Oh, my God, do you have a light?" She did. The two sat there in the park and bonded, finding all of the commanalities in their equally sub-par lives.

At the end of this woman's story on the radio, she said she left her boyfriend after that, and later, quit smoking. Sometimes, though, she still misses the cigarettes...

Weird how much something less than desirable can be such a bonding thing for people.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie Review: "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West"

This afternoon, I watched "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West". This 2005 documentary-style movie directed by Wayne Kopping and includes interviews with a handful of people who aren't popular in the general public's eyes. Like any other documentary with an agenda, it features quote-mined sound-bytes, which supports the director's points and slanders everyone else's view.

The general synopsis is that the director is trying to paint of view of radical Muslims that connects them to the Nazi's of the 1930s, not through direct association, but through common themes, such as anti-semitism, the use of propaganda, and the fact that they both... umm... hate Americans and their freedoms? The director could have made a comparison to the Crusaders of the 12th and 13th centuries, but as a majority of the audience he is trying to target is likely Christian, the point would likely be lost. After all, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, yes?

Unfortunately, focusing on the idea of propaganda, this film seems to be more of propagandistic than documentation, grouping all of Islam into a category of radically hateful people, but stating as a disclaimer that they're really only talking about 15% of the Muslim population. This film promotes the idea that Americans should be scared of Muslims, that they should be scared, give the government more power to fight the good fight against these crazy Crusaders of the Star and Moon. This is not a good state to be in, because it causes citizens to be complacent with the freedoms and rights that are being taken away from them under the veil of "fear" and "protection". The population must not be sold on these ideals. Instead, citizens must, objectively and with an open mind, have the courage to seek the real truth, to throw out films like this and see what's really going on.

If you want to see a more accurate view of terrorism and fear (i.e. what to actually be afraid of), watch Alex Jones's "Terror Storm".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Patriotism

"Patriotism is love of and/or devotion to one's country. The word comes from the Greek patris, meaning fatherland. However, patriotism has had different meanings over time, and its meaning is highly dependent upon context, geography, and philosophy." -Wikipedia.org

The United States of America is an interesting place. It is a country grown out of principles of independence and freedom to do what we please with that independence. Without using over-played buzzwords like "founding fathers" or "forefathers", I'll simply say that those who decided to build a nation that would be the example for people around the world for generations, they created a masterpiece. They created a country where you could have a democratically elected representation of common people to govern them. They built a place with a simple set of rights, including the right to believe what you want, say what you want, and not be told what to say or believe by the State.

Patriotism, at that time, wasn't simply a love for one's country, but it was a defiance against those who would impose any sort of tyranny over the people. This idea of patriotism has fallen by the wayside in recent years. People refuse to challenge over the idea of tyranny because they are sold on what the shepherds have led the sheep to believe, that everything's either okay, or that the sky is falling and everything's not okay. The latter pushes us to grant those in power more tools to pacify the masses and con them into believing that their brand of what some would call tyranny isn't really tyranny at all, it's a good government taking care of you.

If we are so taken care of, why do we have brothers and sisters, parents, kids, fighting in wars that aren't really protecting our freedoms as much as pushing our agenda or even, maybe by some stretch, protecting the freedoms of others, although even there we fail, as we've killed millions in the process of "protecting" them? If we are so taken care of, why do we have the biggest deficit in our Federal budget in our nations history? If we are so taken care of, why are we paying into a Social Security system that twice as many people under 35 believe is less likely to exist when they retire as than in the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials? If we are so taken care of, why is the matter of public health care reform made into thousands of pages of bills that the people in congress haven't really read at all and been told by our chief executive to pass it as soon as possible?

Is the public of the United States really this gullible? Or is the public just uninformed? Do people realize that a law defining a marriage between a man and a woman violates the first amendment in the Bill of Rights by imposing a State-sponsored religious view? Does anyone even know what the first amendment is? Verbatim?

The sad truth seems to indicate that the public's understanding of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights boils down to the adolescent argument that this is "a free country, so I can do what I want." It may be that simple, but the part that teenagers don't get (and that the public doesn't get on a much grander scale) is that this IS a free country, so you should be able to do what you want, provided you've worked hard for it and defended it. The hard work part is where people seem to fall short. Hard work is, well, exactly that: hard. It's not simply working hard at a job or a career to provide for yourself and your loved ones. It's also paying attention to what's going on in the annals of our government, reading bills, knowing who your representation is at all levels of government, interacting with those people, and doing what the Constitution was designed for: THE PUBLIC GOVERNING ITSELF.

THIS is patriotism. It's not blind allegiance to a political party or sporting a yellow ribbon magnet on your car. It's taking responsibility for your actions, stepping up, knowing what's going on, and doing something with the knowledge and abilities that every single American citizen has. We are at a critical time in our growth as a nation. We have fallen from superpower status to simply a powerful nation run by powerful oligarchs, and we need to take the power back for ourselves, the way it was designed to be.

Be a Patriot. Take your country back. Pay attention and have political cocktail parties in your house. Don't be afraid to say your piece and ask and LISTEN to someone else's. Most importantly, don't quit. Don't give up. Live free or die.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More BattleDamage...

It's been 7 days with my spectacular run-in with my new friends from Colorado Springs, and I have yet to hear back from my insurance and their insurance agencies as far as whether or not the BattleWagon will get fixed or replaced. Maybe I'll be sporting an NCC-1701-A pretty soon. (You'd really have to understand some nerdy things to get that reference.

Anyway, for
your pleasure, here are a few more pictures of the banged up BW. I was driving south on Broadway Street in Denver, through downtown, when my new friends ran a red
light on Welton Street and smacked me. The van actually bounced! I spun around, and just took in the situation. This was finally an opportunity to go the wrong way on a
one-way street! Yay! I drove northbound on southbound Broadway for about a hundred yards until I could pull off in adjacent parking lot. We all made an assessment. The witnesses who conveniently left before we could get any contact information all confirmed that I had a green light and they did not. So all is right with the world... except now I'm waiting to hear what's up with my crippled van. Sigh... wish this whole process didn't take so long.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

There is No Chaos, There is Harmony

Lately, I feel like the river of my life has been caught up on some rapids I wasn't expecting. I feel like I've been on a lazy, lax float trip on a calm river, just floating, kicking back, and enjoying the day, when suddenly, the clouds roll in, the wind picks up, and the river turns into this churning torrent, and I'm caught with my pants down.

Saturday night, the BattleWagon was broadsided by a car full of young and innocent people on their way out to a fun night on the town. While nobody was hurt (well, as it turns out, some guy in the back of their car banged his elbow up), it seemed to have been no harm, no foul. We all drove away, going on with our lives. I wish them no malice.

Earlier this week, I also discovered that I've been getting attacked by bed bugs. So tonight, I'm scrambling to clean my new apartment and bag up all my clothes and bedding to make way for the exterminator to come tomorrow and spray the whole place down. This weekend, wherever I wind up, I'll be sentenced to doing enough laundry to wash everything I own.

I admit, I'm freaking out a little bit. I didn't think it was too bad, but it's enough to push some people away, including some of my best friends. One, in particular, is going through enough on their own, and, in their own way, reaching out to my oblivious self.

I took a walk to collect my thoughts, calm down, and try to figure out where to go from here. I'm realizing that if I go with the river analogy, I should just shut up, focus, try not to flip the boat. This way, when I get done, I have an awesome story to tell.

Is it this easy? Only one way to find out...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Battle damage to the BattleWagon

Last night I was out running around when a group of kids, 4 kids, from Colorado Springs, ran a red light and t-boned me. The picture shows the end result. The BattleWagon has an undecided fate. The insurance adjuster will be out tomorrow to give me the 411, and we'll see if the BW gets fixed, or if the time will come to lay her to rest and instill her spirit in a new BattleWagon. Sigh... I've held it together this long. We'll see how much longer I can keep my wits.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Colors

Colors are a fascinating thing. They have this sort of enhancing quality, like a visual adjective to whatever it is you're looking at. Like texture and shape, colors vary so endlessly. I just saw this picture, and I couldn't help but throw it up here. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chillin at the Homestead

I lay here, stay warm and hiding from the frigid December air outside. The 17 degree briskness outside chills me to my core and amplifies the cough I have, the lingering effect of a fall cold.

I ponder many things in my rare moment of solace. I consider returning to life in the BattleWagon, an unfulfilled experiment cut short by a longing for passion and love. I dream of the freedom of the road, the drive and empowerment that comes with that freedom. I remember how strong I felt, how I felt pushed beyond my limits and realizing that those limits were illusions created by society and personal fear.

Looking around and getting a sense for the early winter darkness, I recall the times when I was growing up, home in the winter evenings. My sister and brother were off doing other things. My dad would be sleeping and my mom would be working. I would have leftover pizza from Pizza Hut, and I'd watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Every time a big truck would drive by, this little glass ornament would rattle on the window in the dining room. That is what evenings such as this remind me of.

With any luck, I will once again be in the BattleWagon, but hopefully, this time around, I will be travelling, exploring, and educating those who read my blog about new places and things in the world, geographically, spiritually, and politically. This world around us is not as small as some would think. There is far too much to see, to experience, to really live, and I would feel it a shame to spend so much time away from that life, as if we are denying ourselves access to a world larger than the one we've created for ourselves.

I'm hesitant to commit to a statement about how now is the time to take another big step forward, but I can feel adventure poking it's jovial sunrise over the horizon of my future, and as I wake from this slumber, I embrace this new dawn with an open soul. I am prepared to take it in as much as possible. Now is a good day to live.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dreams That Haunt Us

This morning I woke up to a surreality. I dreamed that I was on a truck with four young men, in the bed of the truck, horsing around like five young guys would do. We laughed and joked as the driver of the truck drove us along a dirt road that gently wound it's way through the foothills of a quasi-desert. If you've been up the Ute Trail near Salida, you know what I'm talking about. It's a desert with rocks everywhere, each potentially hiding a rattlesnake. The trees aren't too thick, but they are there, short and dry pinion trees. But anyway, back to the dream...

So were driving through this open space, and suddenly the truck starts, and we aren't in it anymore. The five of us are in a stadium of sorts, behind the stands, in the dark of the concession area. I look around, and the guys are now in military uniforms. We walk out to the balcony where the stands would be and look down. Beneath us, a street comes out of a tunnell, and the packed stadium is built around it. Everyone's cheering. From the tunnell are troops, marching in parade with tanks and even an F-18 fighter jet. Amazing.

Suddenly we're on ground level in the parade. I let my guard down, and feel honor and duty swell up in me, just in time for the parade to be suicide bombed. I saw some things in my dream that I dare not repeat on a public blog, but wow....

I woke up this morning motivated. To do what, I don't exactly know. I'm still hanging in this odd daze. I can't get over just how powerful our brains are to be able to create such a vivid world, so vivid that it can effect our emotions for hours or days or even years after we wake up.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snow Day Enlightenment

I was supposed to work today, a Sunday. Yesterday I went with a co-worker and spent 8 hours driving to Colorado Springs in the snow, installing window graphics on two banks, and driving back. Afterwards, I allowed myself to enjoy a Saturday and went to another co-worker's birthday celebration. I sang some comically offensive song, drank some delicious beer, and made a great night. I defended my friend and co-worker against those who would seek to hurt his feelings, and then I laughed and made everone else laugh.

Today I woke up exhausted, so I shot a text to my co-worker. Today is a snow day, I'm going to enjoy it. I took a brief ride in the beat up, battle-ridden BattleWagon (whose recovery from the infamous Battle of Trout Creek is still on-going). I went to the grocery store and got the fixings for a crock-pot of Red Chili, using hot italian sausage and ground buffalo instead of the more traditional ground beef. I spruced my apartment up, and I caught up on some liberally religious newsletters I've been neglecting.

It's amazing to me how much we neglect when we get so caught up in things. We work and do chores and go to sleep. We wake up, we do it all over again. Sometimes we squeeze in some time for reading or, accidentally, TV. We listen to the radio during our commutes, and we go on with our lives having just had a snippet of what may be going on in the larger world than our own.

Last night, I met some incredible people and had a wonderful time. It was excellent to be able to get out and do something that wasn't the normal ebb and flow of life. Today, I'm learning how important it is that we all do this regularly. It's difficult to do, I know, but it's necessary for our sanity to take time to appreciate or even accept that there are things, people, pets, news... there is stuff that we're missing. To gain knowledge is to truly grow a healthy thirst for more knowledge, and when we fail to come to terms with this, we become stagnant, not desiring to learn or do anything else, for that matter.

Don't be complacent or stagnant or bland with your life. Learn and grow and learn some more. It's much too short a trip here on this blue and green and white sphere to simply let it fly by us and vanish.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Depends on the Day

Lately I've been pretty introspective, looking inside myself for the things that make me tick. What it all seems to come back to is what and how I believe.  Coincidentally, I've had several spiritually minded newsletters and conversations find their ways into my life, including an opportunity with a curious young lady who asked me what I believe. I told her it depends on the day. It got me thinking about things, and I had to ask myself more seriously what I really do believe.

I don't think we should confine ourselves to believing a religion. I wrote a blog a while ago about what I believed, using the word "belief" in a different context. My spiritual journey has taken me from my naturalist roots through brief stints in Evangelist Christianity, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Humanism, Jediism, Athiesm, and even a made-up religion my high school friend Donavan and I created called Schlingoism.  Where it deposited me, roughly, is a place that I sort of conveniently call myself a Universalist, or more specifically, Unitarian-Universalist. However, I think the specific label is a mis-nomer, for the Unitarianism within that church is all but dead. Far gone are the days where most of the church claimed to be Christians who rejected the idea of the Trinity. It seems that now everyone would fit into the Universalist category.

Basically, this means we believe whatever we want. God is a term used loosely and interchangably with words like "will", "universe" and "spirit". We understand that there is something that ties everything together, and however we decide we want to view that web, that's up to us.

So that puts me in a place to answer the question of what I believe. The answer: I don't exactly know. It's always growing, always changing. I do believe that there's a source (call it God if you want) that is like a silent guide that helps us find our own way if we're willing to let it. I do believe that death is but a way for us to pass on to the next level of conscious existence. I do believe that we should challenge what we hold as true constantly, knowing throughout that the idea of truth itself is only relative to our experiences. I do believe certain people throughout history have mastered their emotions and actions enough to become prophets and visionaries.

So, is this a religion? Maybe not, but putting this all together in my head, heart, and soul (my trinity, oddly enough), I feel like I've gotten a deeper understanding of life itself. Perhaps this IS a religion to some. It feels more personal than any faith I've ever been officially a part of. It feels like I've done all the work and will continue to do so, and every new thing I discover makes me fele that much more joyous and tuned in to the world in which I exist.

I suppose the moral of the story is this:  The next time someone asks you what you believe or what church you go to, really think about your answer. For me, I'm very content and satisfied to have the where-with-all to simply reply "depends on the day".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's been a very challenging week or so for me. It's been a difficult time that put a few things into perspective yet exploded other things so far out of perspective that I can't help but simply have faith that I may start to get it... someday.

Take death, for example. So many of us have such a difficult time when we lose someone close to us. Some of us even crumble when we lose our childhood pet. After surviving the initial shock, we move on into a stage where we wonder how we will ever get by without the person we lost.

Up until recently, I was under the impression that I had moved through this stage rather quickly. I thought I believed that I was ready to celebrate, not remembering what I had lost, but instead chosing to focus on what they had achieved and where they are now. I veiled my own sadness in blankets of joy, failing to acknowledge that the pain was hidden underneath the whole time.

Now that some time has passed and I have grown and learned some hard lessons (lessons that I taught myself through the cunning use of mistakes), I've discovered that there are very hard parts of our lives that we can't simply lie to ourselves (or others) about, covering the pain within ourselves with falsehood. I've started to discover the joy of pain, rather, the relief and growth that can be found in acknowledging and sharing the things in life that we somehow con ourselves into thinking we need to wrap in some sort of escape and toss over the side of the mighty ships of our own souls.

I challenge those who read my blog to grow as much as possible.  Feed your soul by doing things like reading books and magazines and newspapers and talking to friends and strangers and loved ones and everyone else.

Don't fear.  Nourish the saplings in that they will grow to be among tallest trees in the forests of our souls.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Russ for President, 2020

I know this probably isn't the best idea for me, personally, but I feel like I have something to contribute. After reading Friday's Denver Post and seeing the bickering, the arguing, the shady deals, the behind-closed-doors antics, the public displays of power and conflict, and after electing the symbol of HOPE I feel we all wished would bring the change we so desired.... after all of this, I'm deciding, not only to support Todd O'Brien in 2012 (obrienforamerica2012.com), but I hope to launch my own campaign in the coming months. My platform will not be based solely on my own thoughts and opinions. I desire to create a website where people can securely log in and vote and tell me which way to vote on whatever issue is in question. I desire to have a camera crew follow me around and post every second of my life on my website to show the people that I will not be making closed door deals or having secret rendezvous with anyone out of the ordinary, both during my term and in my campaign. I will not accept campaign contributions or accept gifts from the ceo's of failing and corrupt corporations. I fight for those who have earned their lot in life or worked hard and have unfairly been robbed. My platform is serving the people, serving my country. My cabinet will consist of friends, not people with the sort of "experience" that Washington "requires". And, when all the dust settles, I will drive my then-26-year-old BattleWagon right down Pennsylvania Avenue, a symbol to all that even a broke and dirty hippie who reads the news and digs to find out what's REALLY going on, can become president of these United States.

My tirade, brought to you by the shady dealers in Washington, stealing your freedom more and more every year! Get your lapel pin now! Supplies are limited. Made in China.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Retrospective Look at Clarksville

While on my road trip last week with Monkey, he snapped this morning picture before we set off for home. We stayed the previous night in Clarksville, which was beautiful, although it wasn't Chattanooga.

Digressing into current events, the time has fallen back to standard time, and it's nearly dark now, just after 5 pm, here in the Centennial State. The sky is overcast, and it's bitter outside. My mood seems to reflect what's going on outside. This time of year always seems to remind me what I've lost, what I've thrown away. There's a song by Incubus called "11am", and it opens with the lyrics: "7 am. The garbage truck beeps as it backs up, and I start my day thinking about what I've thrown away. Can I push rewind? Are the credits rolling signifying the end? Did I miss the best part? Can we please go back to start? Forgive my indecision..." I love that song. In a very general way, it seems to correlate with my mood when I'm down and morose, and finally appropriately connected with the not-so-joyous memories of my life.

There are times when I am happy where I long for the balance of feeling not so great, where I am frustrated that I can't seem to be immersed in emotions I feel should be tied to memories. When these times finally arrive, it's bitter, yet also sweet in that it gives me hope and faith that I am whole and not fractured.

Random Musings on Society

I've been reading a lot of news lately, news about health care reform and balloon boys, wars and potential troop deployments, mid-air collisions and innocent, young ladies being traumatized after their high school homecomings. My friends and family are drinking, celebrating, mourning the deployment of their husbands, laughing and crying together, laughing and crying alone.

I think about the things I learned in history class and things I've researched on my own, talking about how we were as a society and culture and as a nation. We used to have block parties and talk to our neighbors. We used to let our kids vanish for hours at a time, to where, God knows, only having faith that they would be home for dinner. We used to care about things that meant something and dismissed trivial things as they are, in fact, trivial.

Now we've shifted. We don't let our kids leave the house. Some of us do, and are branded "bad parents". We don't know our neighbors, and we don't know what's really going on in the news. We do know that Eastasia is at war with Oceania... or, wait... that we are at war with the Taliban and terrorism as a whole. We're at war with an idea. What happened to the guy who sued God in Nebreska? He's crazy! But we're at war with terrorism, and that's accepted. Grab your duct tape and plastic wrap.

I don't have time to mold this into anything cohenent and constructive, so I leave you with this: get involved and care about what you get involved in. Enrich your life and grow with those around you. Love deeply, despire the potential consequences.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunset in Tennessee

Yesterday Monkey and I drove from Voldosta Georgiae  to Clarksville Tennessee. We drove through Chatanooga mid-afternoon, and I have to confess that Chatanooga was one of the most beautiful cities I've ever driven through. There were gently rolling hills all around, and trees so densely packed. The river gently wound its way through town.  It was just awesome. If I were to move to the south, Chatanooga would be the place. Wow.

We drove through Nashville and wound up staying in Clarksville. We went to a local watering hole called "The Lodge". You can still smoke inside there! That's crazy! After a few beers, we hit the sack in preparation for our day's goal of St. Louis by lunch and maybe Kansas by sunset.

The Dense Trees of Georgia

Never have I seen forests this thick in my life. We drive for hours, and there are just trees, thick and green on all sides of us. It's no wonder people would run off into the forests and make moonshine stills. It would seem like it would be easy her.

At the same time, it would be a little scary. It makes me feel isolated and scared.

What an adventure so far! Throw in Steak & Shake and Krystal... grub! I can't wait for Imo's pizza and White Castle!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The U-Haul Chronicles, Volume I

I'm on a Boeing 757 right now, bound for Orlando, Florida, with my good buddy Monkey.  In this cramped and stale space, with a kid behind me kicking my seat, and a weird gentleman next to me who is a little too sweaty for spurring a conversation with, I sit here for three hours wondering if it'll ever be possible to drive the BattleWagon to Florida. It's probably as likely as me writing a short sentence sometime.

The sunrise in Denver was beautiful this morning. I had stopped at the grocery store on my way to Monkey's. I burned down a quick smoke, the last one for a few days in respect of Monkey's strict non-smoking policy. I grabbed some airport-friendly toiletries and a yogurt smoothie, and got to Monkey's with three hours to spare.  We chatted briefly, and I played with his dogs.

We got to the airport in Denver with plenty of time to spare, on a United Airlines plane full of families on their way to worship the capitalist corruptors at Disney and Universal Studios.

Wow, I just looked out the window. I'm flying over the Gulf of Mexico right now. Incredible!

Our mission will take us back accross the States over the next three days, from Orlando to Saint Louis and then onto Denver, with any luck, but Tuesday evening.  More as it comes...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Snow in Denver

video

I love the snow. It's my favorite weather, especially during the storms where the wind is calm, and the flakes are big and plentiful. I love the storms that drop inches in hours, the ones that bury your car by lunch when you've dug it out by breakfast time.

I was having a conversation with a friend this morning about snow and rain. I prefer the snow, but she prefers the rain. My thought is that when it snows, it feels like God Herself is wrapping me up in a blanket, quieting the world around me, slowing it down, gently nudging people to spend time with friends and loved ones and stop avoiding them.  It's different from the rain, which I feel is how we cleanse ourselves, as if God opens up the heavens and washes our troubles away. I think that's great, too, but there is something very inviting about the snow. Maybe it's just memories and feelings. I remember eating pizza in the dead of winter in an empty house, my mother gone, my dad asleep, and waiting excitedly for a new episode of Deep Space 9. I remember waiting for my son to be able to come home from the hospital. I remember thinking I could have died climbing Mt. Democrat with Ryan... in the end, the snow kept me feeling safe, secure, guarded.  I don't know what it is, but I love it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh, The Hits Keep On Coming

I snagged this shot of a sunset on the state highway that connects Penrose and Colorado Springs a few weeks ago. I thought it was beautiful, and I was thankful for my surroundings, as I was a PASSENGER (yay!) on a road trip back to Salida from my brother's high school football game. It was nice to be idly chatting with my parents and him, crusing through the semi-arid desert that is the Arkansas River Valley and, later, Bighorn Sheep Canyon. (I still refer to it as "The Canyon" and everyone seems to know which one I'm talking about.)

It seems that it's nearly impossible to see a bad sunset. Have you ever heard anyone say, "Oh, that sunset was absolutely dreadful!"? My friend Dan and I have had this conversation a few times where we came to the conclusion that people seem to take things like this for granted. Every once in a while, we need to take time to look, to really see a sunset... or a flower, or the clouds slowly changing shape. Like in the movie "Fearless", we need to stop working when the wind blows and just face it, take it all in.  There are so many sunsets and wooden fences and children playing that we take them for granted, forgetting to acknowledge the ancient mysteries that lay within these moments. These are the moments worth living for. These are the moments that convince us that death isn't really death, it's just a transcendence.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Band-Aid

I drove the van back to Denver yesterday, and when I got here, I did a patch job, moreso than the wiper a few months back. This is the ultimate. I taped a headlight and a turn signal on the BattleWagon. Excellent!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Old Mike Mulligan

A little while ago, I had to go on an install up in Nederland, where they have Frozen Dead Guy Days. Look it up!

Anyway, while there, I saw this beast and snagged a picture. It's an old steam shovel, built in the late 1930s. It went all the way to Panama to help build the canal and what not. It still runs! They start it up once a year if I heard my co-worker right! Could you imagine the labor it would take to keep anything steam-driven running all the time? Trains, steam-shovels, ships... man those were the days, before all of this internal combustion hooplah. I would love to go back and see what they had going on, to take a train from Salida to Gunnison via the Alpine Tunnel, to have Teddy Roosevelt as my president, to have a chat with Mark Twain!

I feel like I was born 130 years too late. Then again, who knows? Maybe I was born at exactly the right time. Maybe people will see our Information Revolution as one of the great turning points in human history. Maybe we, humanity as a whole, will realize our full potential, that the Kingdoms of God truly are within each of us!

Wow... I love history.

Resurrection!

After a long and depressing week, I went to Salida to try to pick up the peices of a shattered van. I was driving my dad's PianoWagon, and I was cringing at the prospect of trying to fix my Cherokee Chief. Dad and I towed the BattleWagon back to the homestead where he had the insight and genius to try to use a hi-lift jack to pro open the engine compartment so we could see what was really going on. We did, reached down, and discovered that it wasn't the radiator the fan was hitting. It was the plastic shroud! Dad removed the culprit, and I started it up. The BattleWagon roared to live, hungry as ever for the adventures that lay before it!

I stowed some coolant just in case, and I set off for Denver with a renewed sense of Justice and alarm!  The only details which I soon hope to remedy are the absense of any lighting on the driver's side. I'm hoping some duct tape and replacement bulbs will take care of most of this, but as I've learned the hard way, I will not hold my breath in believing this will cute all my ails. I am considering, however, that the green duct tape may make a cameo in this whole debacle. Wouldn't that be a treat! After all, it's still serving diligently at it's post on my passenger side windshield wiper... couldn't think of a more fitting tribute to the BattleWagon.

It's supposed to be rather chilly tonight. My prayers have been counted in having a cozy and familiar place to lay my head tonight. Thank the Architect that things may be as they are.

Friday, October 2, 2009

If Wishes Were Wagons...

I've been ever so graciously and humbly driving around in my dad's PianoWagon, a 1985 Totota Tercel, with almost 250,000 miles on it. Granted these miles have almost exclusively been on the previous engine, but it's still very impressive. It makes me wish, in futility, that the BattleWagon was a Toyota, simply based on the reliability and resale values of the stuff they produce.

On a more philosophic note, I ponder this:  As the end of this chronicle starts to sink in, so, too, does the reality that the adventures are ongoing. Yes I spent an incredible year in a van, yet I never once parked down by the river. I met lots of people and made tons of friends, but never near a school. I decorated the van with stickers, vehicle graphics, and prayer flags, but I never spraypainted "free candy" on the doors. But ultimately, I learned how simply we can choose to live our lives when we really apply ourselves. It's amazing to me that we really don't need television or movies or the full and relentless witchcraft we call the internet to surf our minds away. All we really require (all I really require, I should specify) is fellowship, love, friendship, books, and a journal. It's amazing how when we try to access the core of who we are, we start to visit a much higher force.

A passage in the book of Luke in the Bible tells us that "the Kingdom of God is found within us". It challenges the reader to look inside one's self, deeply and honestly, and that is where we find, or even become, God in God's image.

Simply. Honestly. That's what I got from the BattleWagon, and I hope to go on applying the fruits of this experience to my everyday life.

Here's one...

It's a little hard to see unless you zoom in, but it was a very pretty car.

Hugs,

Russ

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The End of an Era/A New Beginning

The time has come. The BattleWagon, while fighting a true and noble fight, has fought and lost its final battle.

I had spent an excellent weekend at home with my parents in Salida. My sister and her husband were there, and my brother and I had a chance to catch up some things.  I left at about 8:00 on Sunday night, in the evening in high spirits that my week would be good.

An hour later, while driving over Trout Creek Pass, I was listening to some Massive Attack, enjoying the starry night, when a doe ran out in front of me.

Thump.

I walked three miles, making phone calls along the way as I stumbled into areas where I got service. The van was towed to a body shop, where the insurance company declared it dead on arrival.

In the interim, my dad was kind enough to lend me his car, a champion 1985 Toyota Tercel, but the BattleWagon is no longer in service.

These chronicles of mine will go on, as there is a world of things to write about, a world of experiences to be had, good and bad. I have no regrets. If anything, I'm inspired be the possibilities of the impossible. I just hope some of you took something with you from all of this. It would be a shame if I couldn't share this with anyone else.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ONE YEAR!!!

Today is a year in the van! It's excellent! I have more to say, more to do, but this is a new day for me. Hardship is only hard if you make it that way.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me along this journey!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunsets in Alpenglow

I don't know if it's always called Alpenglow, but what I refer to here is usually a mountaineering term. It's when you're in the mountains early in the morning, before dawn. When the sun first starts to rise, it lights the mountains up in the most vivid of colors, usually casting a gold or red paint on the still otherwise magnificent mountain peaks. This effect is so vibrant that the first Spanish explorers in Colorado met some mountains in the morning (or evening) and named them the Sangre de Christo Mountains, which translanted means Blood of Christ. I could only imagine the awe and spectacle of these mountains which would drive the Spanish to name them that.

I've found recently very beautiful places after numerous trips west and driving east into the next day's dawn. Coincidentally, I always drive east at sunset and have continually been caught by this phenomenon, sometimes inspiring me to pull over and simply gaze at the sunset without looking towards the sun. It's like an old analogy I use to describe religion: God is the sun, but it's what we find beauty in, what the sun shines upon, that's how we believe God to exist. No two people will have the same love for God as each of our beliefs are custom made by us and for us alone. I believe this is how God should be. I believe this is how God is, universally loving, yet intimately personal for each of us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Downtime in the Park

I picked up a second job a while back at FedEx and now work evenings there. It's become my ritual to spend some time on the phone, grab a bite, and head to work. If I have extra time, I spend it writing in my journal or reading a book at the park near the Ralston Creek Trail in Arvada. It's conveniently close to work, and it's pretty, especially now that it's closer to fall and the sun is setting sooner.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, but life in this van has given me a new appreciation for it. Fall and Spring are the only times when I can just sit with the doors open and take in life without roasting and melting into a sweaty puddle of goo or freezing and finding my thumbs inoperable for blogging.

As my anniversary of these BattleWagon Chronicles approaches, I wonder if I'll be in here much longer. I seriously doubt I'll stop blogging, as I think this experience has been a lesson in hardship and joy simultaneously, inspiring to me and I'm sure will go on inspiring me for years to come. But it has also made me want to settle down, to enjoy and practice the things I've learned, to work hard, start a family, and have as much fun as I can, honestly and simply.

Coincidentally, in the background of my life, I've seen my family go through some pretty heavy things, and this experience has compelled me to speak out and say my peice to those around me who I care about. To paraphrase J. K. Rawling's Professor Dumbledore, it takes courage to confront your enemy, but it takes much more to confront your friends and loved ones. I feel more and more dishonest for keeping my opinions to myself these days, and I think this raw deliverance is a result of the brutal honesty I have when telling people I live in a van.

All these thoughts make me enjoy my time in the park.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunshine

I wake up and drive to work. The sun hits me in the face. The drive is quick, the sun is invigorating. I smile. I didn't make my bed this morning. I didn't even put it away. I slept until I knew I couldn't anymore, and then I got up and brushed my teeth, hopped up front, turned the van on, and left. Sometimes you need these mornings. Sometimes you need to just relax and appreciate how big the sun is, how small we all are.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon/Fall is Coming

Today, after too much sleep and a late night Guitar Hero session, I sit here in my home, a 1994 GMC Safari, and I think about this past year.

I've learned many, many things living in this van. I've learned that my faith is much stronger than I had known before, that my belief in myself and my belief in some grand idea of a higher power may be more closely linked than I thought before. They are inexorably intertwined, and they kept me going and will, I hope, continue to keep me going in the worst times. Whatever your faith be, it's fluid, it adapts, it grows as you grow, and your ideas on God or whatever you call it will change to suit you as your needs change. Never in my life have I believed in something with such conviction.

I've learned a thing or two about relationships. I know that you can't fall in love with an idea. People have ideas of who they want to be with, who they think they should be with, and in the process of trying to make that work, they start to lose themselves. I discovered, conversely, that if you fall for someone who you believe you can fix or change, you're only falling for their potential, not who they are, which will ultimately end in disaster.  I also found that, no matter how much you've shared with someone, there comes a point where you have to let them go, set the baggage down, and walk away, no matter how comfortable it may feel at times. But most importantly, I've found that when you are most yourself, most real and most pure, that, when you least expect it, you will stumble into a beautiful life who accepts and loves that about you. When you stay true, honest, and loyal to yourself and only yourself, you will be rewarded with the love of one who is mostly made for you, and you will discover you are mostly made for that person. It will be truer love than you've ever known, because you are truer to yourself.

I discovered that we live in an amazing place in difficult times. While I've made this a life choice, I've met and seen others who have made this a life necessity. I can't put all the blame on our standard definition of a government, because I believe that we ARE our government, and we have done little to take responsibility for that. We are a nation with all the power, and we give it to a select few without asking questions or challenging ethics of those we've elected into office. We are a nation with all the money, and we give it to other countries because it's less expensive and more convenient. We are fortunate to have a very liberal (and not pinko-commie "liberal", but freedom and liberty "liberal") Constitution and Bill of Rights that guarantees so much and asks so little, yet we do so little and ask so much. I've learned that I need to be more involved, moreso than simply voting for the lesser of two evils in elections. I've found that true patriotism isn't blind obligation to our decision-makers, nor is it challenging everyone who is in charge, nor is it having faith in Jesus Christ as many claim our nation was founded. True patriotism is knowing who's in charge and making sure they know that it is we who are, in fact, in charge of them and telling those people what we want done.  Then we will have our nation back.

I've also learned some finer, trivial points:
1. General Motors makes a fine van, provided you can afford to fix it four times a year.
2. Canned chicken juice will make your house smell really bad when you spill it in the carpet.
3. Showering at the gym isn't so bad.
4. Pooping at Walmart is somewhat vindicating.
5. Fuel pumps cost around $600.
6. It's super handy to have empty pop and bottled water bottles around.
7. It's way easier to add blankets than it is to subtract clothes.
8. Mothers will always worry.
9. Eighteen inchess between the mattress and the ceiling will hurt your forehead in the morning when you forget.
10. When autumn shows up, you should welcome it with open arms.
11. True love only ever happens once.
12. Road trips really aren't that bad, but they're much more rewarding when you have a good friend with you.
14. Always skip the number thirteen.
15. Stickers will get you called a "dirty hippie"

I suppose the moral of the story is never be afraid to do what you want, but realize that there will be tedious labor involved in almost everthing.

Autumn is in the air. Time to enjoy it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Redcliff Bridge

This weekend I drove about 800 miles. I saw some pretty things. The coolest thing was heading west on U.S. 24 and driving over the Redcliff bridge, just west of Camp Hale. The whole drive was gorgeous, but this bridge just kind of appeared suddenly. I drove over it and rounded a corner to find that the bridge was an arch over this huge casm in a cliff. The Eagle River flows underneath, and beautiful pine and spruce trees grow in the vicinity. It was amazing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

THOUGHTS on Intellectual Credibility

A good friend on mine posted on his blog "THOUGHTS" an interesting article about having conversations with those who are "typically" educated (typically meaning graduated from high school and went on to successfully complete at least four years in college). For a man such as he, a man who has only completed a ninth grade education, I feel compelled to comment the chip on my own shoulder, being a college drop-out and only completing one year at an institution of higher learning.

The emotions I've felt, mostly short-comings with people who have had an education, haven't arisen in everyday conversation as much as I would defensively like to think. Usually the times when I feel like I'm mostly offended, offending, scoffed at, or pitied are the times in the conversation where people start siting credentials. I've found that due to my life experience and my observance of the world, through the reading of news and participation in politics and theology among numerous other things, I can and have carried very informative conversations with people who have no formal education at all, working at the bottom of the totem pole flipping burgers and serving fries as well as those who have obtained Masters and Ph.Ds from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world.

The one thing that the most enlightening people seem to have in common is their outlook on life. The people I find most intriguing are those who have worked diligently for what they have accomplished, whether it be finishing umpteen years of school or working their way up from cutting sheetmetal and welding to hold a very rewarding position in a large and successful company. The common thread is a work ethic, something my parents have instilled in me since I was old enough to start working at all.

I don't hold a high regard a person's perception of my education and experience unless I hold theirs in high regard as well. There are a great many people in this world whom I respect, regardless of whether or not I agree with them on their positions in various things. The people that have worked hard to obtain what they have, as I feel I have, are the people whose opinions of me are the ones I will consider. The ones who haven't worked for their standing in society, the ones who stop when they see their mission accomplished, those are the people who I hesitate to accept. Those are the people who cannot understand that one must be working one's entire life for a better understanding of self, which usually translates into hard work, discipline, and honesty.

Some of the greatest teachers in this world have been the ones who have had no education whatsoever. Some of the most spectacular and informative nuggets of information I've ever heard have been from bus drivers, waiters, and children, especially children, whose worlds are almost pure thought, untainted by external opinions and pressures.

Would I consider these things in making my own judgements on one's opinion? Absolutely. Wise men have talked about the honesty and irreverence of the "uneducated" for centuries as "typical" educations seem to lead to a certain arrogance that roughly relates to the attitudes of those who obtain power without earning it, like senators and representatives and presidents in an centuries-old republic who have been given something instead of earning it.

My personal beliefs support those who have earned their perspective. It's as simple as that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Early Morning Start

Whether it's climbing or for work, sometimes you gotta get up at the crack of dawn or before. I am up here at 5 in the morning waiting to pick up a co-worker from the bus stop for an exciting day at work. I love work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Essence

We get to places in our lives, destinations, where we think we've got everything. Sometimes it's a passion for someone you love or something you love to do that pushes you into believing that it's invincibly strong. Usually when we wind up in these spots of pure joy, we thank God, we do the right things, and we take it at face value. We get lost in the moment, and we feel like nothing can stop us. Instead of thanking God, and facing the joy with humility, some of us, like me, fail to respect the fragility of these things. We see them for what they are, appreciate them, and then have a stupid lapse in judgement that destroys (or does it's damnedest to destroy) everything that you stand for, that you understood about everything.

I can't say I'm a perfect person, nor would I ever want to. There's no such thing. But, in a very big way, I am one of the rare people who has found pure happiness. I have been blessed in ways few people could even begin to understand. I have found a spiritually charged love and passion that flows through me more deeply than I even knew I had the depths to behold. And when I first found it, I couldn't even express it in ways I could understand myself. It's so much bigger than me, than anything I knew about the Universe or God or anything.

Despite all of these things, despite the promise of riches eternally, I made some bad judgements that hurt me more than anyone else has ever hurt myself. I thought even though that this thing I had found was so amazing, so overwhelming, that, when tempted with something that was inexorably tied to my past, I faltered. The hardest part, for me, was even acknowledging it. After some very traumatic events in my life, I became an expert at mentally disconnecting myself from things. I can think about people who have meant more to me and are no longer in my life for whatever reason, people I loved, people I had all the hope in the future for, and now they're gone, and I can't shed a tear. I want to, and I can't.

But this is different. The compartmentalizing of this is impossible, because it was so big to begin with. It was so overwhelming, it was like water filling a water balloon that can't pop. It just slowly rips open and the water winds up consuming every aspect of your life. What people don't realize is that if you add something to that water, if you taint it, that tainted water now consumes your life, too. I'm learning this the hard way. I have a life, and it's consumed with tainted water that leaked from the water balloon of my soul which was overflowing with joy and elation.

Where I go from here is inconsequencial. If I'm lucky, I will be able to make it right, filter my water, make it a place of happiness absent of sorrow. But it is largely obvious to me that had I not tainted it in the first place, life would be peaches and cream. This is my warning. This is the essence of the moment. Don't take the things that mean the most to you for granted. Don't fail to acknowledge how much those things really mean to you.

People are loved. We have families and friends who would buy you dinner and feed you even if you couldn't care less. But what we don't have is passion, because people don't take the time to wait for it or earn it. I challenge you, the reader, to respect the passions in your life. They are strong, like spiders webs. They are simple. They are beautiful. They are home. But, they are only distructable by you as it's your passion. Have faith. Love. Don't be afraid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warning

I spent this past weekend in a climbing oasis, and all I had considered all weekend was how great it was to be out with great friends and great rocks. I didn't consider the people that had come before me, both the brave and the foolish, who have lost their lives in pursuit of the thing that gave them meaning. Taken to a larger context, it doesn't have to relate to just rock climbing. What about the drummer who dies in a plane crash en route to a gig? One could argue that he died doing what he loved, too.

The point, I guess, is that we should not be scared of death. We should be scared of not living. Don't wait until you're diagnosed with cancer to start marking ticks off your bucket list. Don't wait until you're a grandmother before  you start pursuing true happiness and love. Don't let life pass you by. Play the guitar. Paint a picture. Visit Paris. Start a family with someone who makes you laugh and stay up way too late, and laugh and let your kids stay up too late, too.

Don't let life pass you by.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vedauwoo

Wyoming is different. There's a real sense of freedom and independence up here. I love it.

My posse and I have been camping out here since Friday evening, and yesterday, I had the crack climbing experience of my life.

Vedauwoo is this fascinating Mecca of sharp rocks and cracks. There are cracks that will swallow you whole, and there are cracks that you can barely force your fingers into. The rock itself seems to be this conglomerate of millions of sharp pebbles glued together. It's amazing.

The area looks like God was simply picking up boulders the size of houses and trucks and dropping them all over the landscape, as if these boulders were popcorn. The formations of some of the more unique rocks I've ever seen, too. There is one formation called the "Nautilus", which is the picture I attached to this entry. The top of it looks like the ship from the Disney version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".

We climbed a route on it, a very stout 5.7. I think everything here by default should be rated two or three grades more difficult. Unlike normal or "slab" climbing, crack climbing is a much more involved. There are instances where you're forced to shove your toes deep into the crack and stand on just the friction created between the shoes and the crack. There are times where you'll put your hand in a crack and make a fist and pull all your weight on the sides of it. It's ugly and it hurts, but it's so much fun.

The only negatives I can find with this park: the people. It's not overcrowded by any means, but it is full.  We didn't camp inside the park, but I also did find a bit of trash left here by the previous parties. People suck. The only other negative is the park's proximity to I-80. There's a background noise associated with trucks and trains that seems to permiate the park.

That being said, this place is amazing! And being two hours from Denver, it may easily replace Moab as my go-to for climbing (although Moab is so awesome... have you read "The Rock That Changed My Life"?). It's good for families, too, with a huge variety of easy trails, mountain bike routes, and FREAKIN AWESOME rocks that everyone can scramble around.

I love Vedauwoo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunset in a Park

I sit here in the grass, the greenest I've seen in recent memory. The BattleWagon is shimmering in the shade of the setting sun, whose golden rays delicately peeking through the leaves and needles of elm and blue spruce trees. The urban crowd jogs by or throws tennis balls to their labradors and their retrievers. The air has no perceptible temperature. I can't feel it except for the faintest of breezes.  The blue sky is marred by high and whispy clouds and contrails that slowly fade away. I am as the thermometer would indicate: not too hot nor too cool. I am. Simply. Minimally. Happily.

I could tie this into some existential meaning-of-life lecture, or I could simply let it be what it is, simply taking it at face value and not put too much pressure on this life-sized diarama of creation. For, as I'm sure we all know, putting expectations onto things that quietly yet solidly exist, we change our perception of those things. Sure, sometimes that perception grows into something more, an inspiring life experience that allows us to continue on with our lives with more excitement and vigor than we were previously conscious of. But, more often than not, what we wish to arise from such simple joys inevitably gives way to the imperfections hidden away within the portrait, the single fast food bag blowing accross the field in the distance, the music blaring from the parking lot, the homeless man reading his yellowed newspaper in the nearby bushes.

I am content, in this instance, to simply appreciate the beauty that is and not read into it. It is what it is. I am what I am. Together, right now, we co-exist, and it is splendid. It's an incredibly calming way to enjoy a sunset in a park.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Redefining Belief

Belief. What is it? What is the standard answer? The best defintion I could find on dictionary.com says that belief is "confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof." How about that? I'm especially a fan of the idea of having confidence in something exists, yet I can't immediately and rigorously proove it. So what is belief then? What's the correct answer? If by a standard grammatical definion we can't proove what a belief is, then the word cancels itself out by default. Doesn't it?

I don't think so. When I think of belief I have to go way back in my life to a time when I thought the only thing anyone was supposed to believe was in Jesus as God. I don't know why, but I always had this walking-on-eggshells feeling whenever I went to youth group or church with my best childhood friend. For some reason, I thought that God had blessed these buildings where people gathered one morning a week and sometimes Wednesday nights for youth group. Warped as that was. Thankfully this wasn't my parents doing, as I feel I would have grown up feeling a lot more guilty, albiet a lot more insincerely so.

As I grew, I started realizing that these church youth functions that I was attending with my friends weren't church functions at all. They were social gatherings. They were opportunities for me, the socially awkward, self-confidence lacking nerd from a small school in a small town, to go to the big city or to summer camp and meet girls who had no knowledge of how nerdy I was. I loved that part. I'd be lying if I didn't feel some sort of inspiration from them playing the delightfully emo songs that made everyone emotional. It's like Dashboard Confessional wrote all of the evangelical teenage hymnals, except the songs were about you breaking the heart of Jesus, not the heart of the girl you loved or had your summer romance with.

The part that offended the most about the big city social gatherings, events like "Acquire the Fire" or "Shake the Nations", was how much I didn't get at the time. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have stuck around. It's fun to get into joyous shouting matches with 10,000 of my new closest friends about how much "I love Jesus, yes I do! I love Jesus, how about you?!" and meet all of these beautiful Katherine Heigl-looking 17-year-old evangelist girls from nice suburban schools. I loved that part. But the parts that didn't register at the time were the stories about the American Christian Missionary who went to Iraq and told people they would burn in hell for not accepting the gospel. He cried recounting the torture he recieved, the ill treatment he was given in return for his generosity in sharing the word. He mustered up all of his strength and courage to talk about how he wanted to turn Islam into Was-lam. For some reason, I glazed over this.

I feel that when you're a teenager, you don't get lots of things. You think you do at the time, but all of us old fogies know that we knew nothing until we were almost 30. The only exceptions are the people who have had major life-changing things happen to them in the past, people who had lost their parents at a very early age or people like me whose only child dies before their first birthday. Or there are the soldiers who come back from wars after serving their four or six year tour, having memories of having to shoot a child who could have had a bomb strapped to them; the young men hardened by years on the streets of the biggest cities, seeing death, some causing death, before they're old enough to drive a car.

So much chaos in the world.

We grow up, and we see things differently, regardless of the positivity or negativity of the things that impact our life. It changes our perceptions. It allows us to grow. We see what seemed like a social gathering of friendly teenagers in our youth turn into a bigoted hate-mongering speech against not just a nation or a civilization, but an entire religion, a religion that shares it's roots with the one preaching it's destruction! It's amazing what a few years can do for changing one's perspective.

As I mature, I see that my parents did, in fact, take me to church every weekend. My church didn't have four walls and a steeple outside. It didn't have someone reading from some book. It didn't have a steeple outside. My church had a breeze with the scent of juniper berries. My church had the smell of a wet dog. My church made me tired and fed me sandwiches and trail mix.

So what do I believe? What do I have confidence in that exists or isn't immediately susceptible to rigorous proof? Well, maybe the answer is in the question. Spiritually speaking, maybe it's not good to know what you believe in. Maybe I believe in not knowing what I believe in. Maybe I don't believe in a thing, but it's how I believe it that is even more important than what I believe. I do believe what I believe in respect to the planet and everything living on it. I believe that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I also believe what I believe in respect to everyone else. Maybe I'm not putting this as eloquently as I would like, so I'll try again.

What do I believe? I believe that we are all tied in together. You. Me. My dad. Your brother. That guy. This lady over here. That one dude on the bus that one time. I believe that we all believe something, and I believe we all believe it together. I believe that we are all tied in to this planet, which is tied in to the galaxy, which is tied into the universe. Even simpler? I think I have this pegged now.

Belief, to me, isn't a philosophical matter. It's scientific. We are all matter. Belief is energy. When we cease to become matter, we become belief. Our souls are pure belief. Things that are destroyed become beliefs in our memories.

I will redefine belief here. I believe this: belief: n. purely positive energy created through will-power, prayer, meditation, and death.

So what is it that I believe? I believe that every thought and feeling I have is feeding into this world, so I will do my best to have the best thoughts and actions I can. And when I die, I believe I will become pure energy, and that I will be a part of the force that creates, nurtures, and protects the universe. The name for this belief, as best I've found, is Universalism, but you call it what you will.

Just believe it.

Now THIS is Colorado!

Last night, when I got off work, I decided to drive up to visit my parents in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. The Valley is a remarkable enclave of hippies & artists, ranchers & church folk, all of whom seem to get along pretty well (the letters to the editor of the Mountain Mail not withstanding). It's always a very pleasant place to go.

On the way down, I stopped at the infamous Coney
Island in Bailey for a hot polish sausage and some fries. I wish I would have snagged a picture of thi s place for you... the building is
a little diner on the side of the road, but it's shaped like
a giant hot dog, about the size of a bus. When I was a kid, a really little kid, Coney Island used to
be in Conifer, just up the road, and before that, it was in Denver off Colfax, the legendary longest-running east west street in the country, but I digress...

This lady and her husband loved the van! She asked me a bunch of questions, and I gave her a quasi tour. It's proof that vehicle graphics work, and proof that Graphic Rabbit stickers WILL draw attention to your vehicle!

After a pleasant, quick conversation, I hopped in the BW, and drove through South Park and over Trout Creek Pass into the valley of my home. I was following a bunch of traffic, which made me slow up. At one point, you used to pass this sign that welcomed you to Chaffee County when you rounded the last corner that gave up the view of Mount Princeton in all of its grace and royalty. It's a stunning peak at that, reaching over 14,000 at its summit. These signs would say "Welcome to Chaffee County. Now THIS is Co
lorado!" The new signs that say
"Headwaters of Adventure" in promotion of the spectacular whitewater rafting in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, a state park. While I appreciate the focus on the
tourism that makes the county the most money, but in a county that has more 14,000 peaks than the entire state of Alaska, I feel a neglect for the mountains.

Anyway, driving on, I got to a scenic overlook, and I had to stop to hang a leak. When I got out of the van, I looked around. The view...
the sunset... the music I was listening to ("Aqueous
Transmission" by Incubus)... the temperature... everything was perfect. So I snagged a set of
pictures, lit some incense, and drove the 25 miles home. The only thing I could think when I snagged the pictures... "Now THIS is Colorado!"

Just an FYI, the pictures, top to bottom, are looking north to south. Download them and put them together side-by side, right to left.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chilling at Home

I sit here in the B-Dub, having just read two chapters from a heady book about a conventional God, I contemplate many things. However, these things I contemplate are often heavier than I feel like relaying to you, the reader, right now. So, that being said, I want to talk about the rain, the beautiful thing we seem to have stolen from the Pacific Northwest.

As temperatures in Portland and Seattle break record highs, here in Denver, where we average 90 degrees this time of year, we've had a few days of 70s and rain. It's been absolutely glorious. It's everything in me not to go into work tomorrow, give my two-weeks notice, and take off for the Alaskan panhandle. I love the rain.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Shroud

I love the fog. It's my favorite weather. It's like mother nature is wrapping you up in a creepy yet comfortable blanket. It's hard to feel safe at first, but once you give up a little bit of trust to nature, you are home, surrounded by pure mystery and imagination. When you see tops of mountains, you can only imagine what lives underneath. When you see the bottoms of mountains, they seem to rival the heights of the highest peaks in the Himilaya or Karakoram. The forests grow denser. The deserts become vaster. The ocean becomes deeper. The shroud nature creates forces my brain to fill in the gaps, and it does so with unavoidably fantastic results.

I was seemingly purposely lost driving around Colorado, and I wound up cresting Loveland Pass on US Highway 6. It had just rained, and the clouds were around me, not above me. It was beautiful. It makes me want to live where there is continuous fog and rain, some place like Washington, British Columbia, or Alaska. Sigh...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Journal

One thing that I've found a love for is writing. Obviously by starting a blog, I've found a way to share this love with people. But I also enjoy sharing it with myself. I've been doing fairly well at keeping a journal since December of 2007, when I first moved to downtown Denver. Looking back at some of those experiences, I have to sometimes just stop and live for a second in those great experiences which I've been so lucky to be able to enjoy.

Today, this 87 degree Wednesday afternoon, I sit here in my tiny, climate-controlled office, and I catch up on my journal and my blog, along with a little reading. I'll go to the gym later tonight and do some running since, with my late foray into pretty regular climbing, I seem to be tweaking a myriad of different muscles and joints, like my right shoulder, my left wrist, and now my neck, which stabs me every time I have to hold my head up from leaning back.

There's a glimmer of hope for rain tonight in the gray clouds sneaking over the western horizon. Will we get more tornadoes here in Denver? More hail? Will more people lose power like Monday night's storm caused? One can only hope!

Nature is amazing, writing it's own journal all over the earth with pens of rain, crayons of wind, and an ever shifting typewriter of plate techtonics. The story goes back for millions of years, eons, ages, or whatever insignificant label we throw at it. It's awesome in the true sense of the word.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Second Turkey Rocks Excursion

video

Today Dan "StrongSad", Ryan "StrongBad", Keith "Sylar" and I went climbing again at Turkey Rocks. Ryan led a 5.8 something called "Bloody Englishman" and I led the first half of a 5.6 until I fell into the crack. My left arm has a nice gash on the inside. Anyway, here's some video of Sylar way up in the "Bloody Englishman", shimmying like you would not imagine, as we all were. Today was awesome.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Soul Laundry

Today, a Saturday, I will do my laundry. The BattleWagon has been running well, well enough to deliver me to the coin-operated laundromat in Arvada, Colorado. It's a drive from anywhere logical to where I regularly park, but it was the first laundromat I used when I moved to Denver in 2004, five years ago. It's that comfort of knowing where one came from that helps us face where we are going.  In my case, it's like soul food. It's Soul Laundry.

Soul Laundry is a metaphor for lots of things, I suppose. One could have their own facsimile, like a Soul Couch or a Soul House. I'm willing to bet many a middle-aged or retired male would have a Soul Car or a Soul Quarterback. (Mine's John Elway, but don't tell anyone.)

What is it about these people, places, or things, these Soul Nouns, that are so good for us? Why do we always think back to them for inspiration? Different reasons. in John Elway's case, he was a sports hero to me all the way up to when I was in high school. He led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowls in a row after more than a decade of mediocre seasons. He was an inspiration in determination.

Then there's my Soul Jeep... dilipated and decrepid. A true direlect. What does it represent for me? Hope. I see it not for what it is, but for what it could be, what I hope to make of it someday.

Sitting here, doing my Soul Laundry, I'm reminded of the courage I had years ago to drop everything and leave my innocent, small town and move to the big city. It renews my courage for my life's present future, captures the optimism that I had when I was 22 years old, and encourages me to keep going.

It's Soul Laundry. It makes you feel goooood.