Sunday, September 3, 2017

1,248 words

Arriving at the spot, the place where I and the machine part was anticipated; it is a known junction, a place where we, as wild animals must part with our creature comforts. Gliding through the grass down the short slope to the edge of the trees, I couldn’t help but notice the dominance of noise coming from the highway in front of me – a four lane of reasonable size, with reasonable amounts of traffic on this, the Labor Day weekend holiday. So predominant was the noise that I longed for the silence of the trees, the whispering of the wind as it coalesced through moving branches, pleasantly disturbed leaves hovering over solemn ground; dirt. Having experienced this trail before, I knew ahead of me the wild noises of nature would again resume and that silence would be an off-key to the ever-present noise of nature. Walking faster, I found myself slowly sifting through the sound – able to channel the noise of the large trees moving over the noise of the large trucks somewhere to my rear.

I am unaware of exactly the transition happens – and it’s not like a faucet being shut off, but more of a downpour to a trickle to a droplet – occurring but not exactly easily measurable. And at this point, I found my speed decreasing, my need for a silently supportive space having come into existence. For this blissful place, surrounded by green and earthen tones on all sides, I was grateful. The trail continued to wind up into the range – gaining elevation on the macro scale, though feeling more variance in the undulations at present in the micro.

One reason I truly enjoy this trail, this getaway, is the amount of water one crosses on their way deeper into the mountains. I like to say that I’m a water baby, bound by the moon, and that the presence of certain bodies of water have a swaying influence on me. I’ve also been called crazy before, and the presence of this flowing medium always seems to bring me back to my element; home. Pausing at one of these flowing side streams, I could not resist the thirst that formed in my throat, and in bowing down to sip the clearness below I found myself nearly flat against the ground, hovering through muscular tension – the physical body – above the quaint but well-defined flow of water. Finding immediate relief in its quick quenching, I rose, adjusted my glasses back onto the bridge of my nose, and continued up the narrow path.

Walking in the woods, surrounded by the alive and breathing beings of the forest I sometimes find myself to be in a moving meditation. While my thoughts may need to surface and issue from my lips as I walk along, there eventually comes a point when I exert mental influence over my thoughts and cease to speak/process; instead, I find myself focused on everything, and nothing at the same time – alert, oriented, eyes open – though not speaking – just being. As if being shaken from a deep dream, one where you have imagined things beyond the normalcy of life, I quickly detected a pulsing body of noise, almost like an angry swarm of hornets approaching. What racket! Snapping back to my comprehension of the world and all its encompassing things, I realized the plight: a gang of leather and chrome bikers rumbling their way up the paved grade, ground by machines hoping to exert a tameness to the wilds, on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. Such nuisance to me in my semi-wilderness state. However, this is a shared space on the overall, and as much as this audible racket disturbed my senses, I acknowledged that that was how these riders of the obnoxious experienced pleasure – call it their own form of moving mediation.

Thankful that the 15 seconds of silence-shattering noise had passed, I continued on, across another larger drainage where the local trail club had volunteered their time and efforts to build an impressive log bridge. Realizing I had brought my rain jacket out of concern for the elements, as well as my hat, I paused on the side of the trail to temporarily lighten my load. I wanted to feel light, and carrying these items sans pack was appealing to me. Carrying onward, free to let my arms and hands swing in the gentle breeze, I found my focus once again to be in the oversized world around me. Eventually, after a few off-slope traverses, past another small drainage of water, running with a cool elementalness, I came to a tall oak tree. It did not seem any more remarkable than the trees surrounding it, however, it was larger, and therefore, in my perception, older than most in this area. Pausing beneath its hulking mass I looked up the erect trunk, craning my neck higher yet, and allowed my presence to be silent. In some part of my subconscious I could hear the conversation of men, discussing the amount of board feet a species of this size would produce; thoughts of another time – perhaps not too distant. Acknowledging this observation at the level of my own consciousness, I found, in focusing, that I did not see that same conclusion directly before my eyes – instead, I found a long and tall, living and breathing being. Just as alive as I, with, what I thought, an inherit right to be.

Waxing onward, past the romanticism of individual species rights, I reached a point in my short journey to turn back. This is sometimes the hardest part – just when I want to keep spiraling into the world of nature – the wilds – I acknowledge the unprepared nature of my current state, and silently promise to return. Reminding me of the little boy from The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), who promises to return to the great giving tree. Eventually, I wound my way back to where I’d come: the spot at the bottom of the ridge where I’d left my belongings; the drainages with their liquid mediums issuing downhill in a gravity-fed manner; the undulations in all their up and down-ness; the quickening of my mind going from wilderness time to that more of the artificial man-made sort. Thoughts of what time it could be drifted into my thoughts, I had to work this afternoon and there were errands to run yet in town. Surely in those thoughts, distracting in their nature, I missed something in the present – a tree dancing, almost as if it was waving, greeting me, having seen me walk past before. Only in this reflection can I acknowledge that I missed something – though, I truly gained something as well; evidence in motion through this written recollection.

For this space I am grateful. I am also grateful for the ability to recall and share – to have been present in those moments, experiencing something greater and grander than my creative consciousness alone. For as much as I enjoy the marvels and comforts of the world of clocks and toilets, I feel far more clear-headed in the world of the wilds. So to you in your day, perhaps accessing the at-large through this digital medium, I hope you are able to leave things behind for even just a number of clarifying minutes or hours to embrace the natural world, arms wide, chest and heart open, as it wishes to be. Grateful to be experiencing this life in its current exactness.

Love and thanks to many and all,


Friday, August 11, 2017

One Life At A Time...

I really only saw the last part of the interaction, and the final gesture was enough to easily be etched into my memory.

While eating lunch with co-workers today at the dining hall on campus, my interest was piqued by an interaction unfolding near me. A young man whom I’d seen around campus, mostly in the rec center where I work, was conversing with a football player. I found it warming to see this young man interact with others because he has a physical disability that he was born with that has misshapen his head and caused a slight twist to his face. So to see him engage with others felt good to me – call it sympathy and compassion; my own acknowledgment of wanting to feel comfort for him. In watching the two interact it was hard to catch the gist of the conversation – plus or minus – until that final gesture by the football player: he made a motion, slowly raising his hand toward the young man’s face, first clenching his hand into a fist, and then unfolding into a thumb up orientation, pointer finger curling around an imaginary object – the trigger of a pistol.

The young man immediately swatted the hand holding the imaginary weapon away and turned his back to his own business at another table. Instantly after witnessing this, I was uncomfortable; I wasn’t expecting that. I was at a loss of what to say or do and turned back to my friends. Walking back across campus to the rec center after lunch, I eventually, after replaying mentally what I had witnessed, pushed it to the side, acknowledging that my chance to have done anything was past.

Arriving back to work I kept focused and in heeding the call to use the restroom at the rec center, not 10 minutes later, I saw this same young man whom had been the target of this psychological intimidation. Finishing my use of the urinal, I silently thanked the Universe for this chance opportunity and turned towards the sink where the young man was standing. Walking up to him, I looked at him and asked him how he was doing. In a quick return of back and forth conversation I admitted to him that I had seen the interaction between him and the football player at the dining hall. Shrugging the interaction off, he seemed indifferent, and perhaps this is something typical for him – people treating him differently because of his appearance, or for the way he speaks slightly out of the side of his mouth – a result of his physical body’s presence. Perhaps selfishly, in needing to feel better about the situation I witnessed, I told him to forget about that football player and we proceeded to launch into a quick get-to-know-you exchange.

I found out he was applying for a job in the fall semester to work at the rec center, and that he had spoken with one of my supervisors. Feeling marginally better about acknowledging him, treating him as if he were as important as anyone else ( basic moral principles: do unto others as you would have done unto you), I bid him a good day and told him it was nice to have met him.

So, why share this socially? I’m aware that people out there in Facebook land may have seen an interaction similar to this – where someone who deserves just as much equal treatment as anyone else is marginalized simply because of a discernable difference – call it a judgment; whether that is physically, psychologically, or socially. And that in sharing, perhaps those that have seen it, or those that will one day see it, will be inclined to acknowledge the stigmatism and marginalization and reach out through whatever means necessary to say “No, this shall not be - you are worthy of basic decency.” Equal treatment.

On my walk home, I thought of the even bigger picture than this immediate circumstance: we have a president currently, whom has publicly mocked physically handicapped people. A person who, in my opinion, values only himself and those most like him. An Ego-centric maniac. And in this, I feel I understand more why it is still a formidable challenge in our culture, our society, for us to accept others we don’t immediately identify with. So perhaps I’m sharing this truly because I was uncomfortable and angry, though ultimately, what I really felt was sadness. Sad that, for all the technological marvels and advances in society – for everything we celebrate that seems positive – we are still struggling for the basic principles of moral decency in how we treat one another in our immediate community, our country, and of course globally.

For to care about one another, as if that person was the most important person in your life at this exact moment, is to acknowledge that all life is precious, and that we all deserve equal treatment as conscious human beings – regardless of our unique differences. That is the culture and society of people I desire to be a part of. One life at a time please; we can make a difference in our world.

Thank you for the space to share.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Morning Laments

Up with the morning light – nothing to see quite yet, at least that willing grabs attention away from the comforts of a bed; warmth, rest. As morning's time continues its jest into the sky – mute with clouds and heavy fog, the shapes of reality form: sun bleeding through, first in individual rays, then in entire shafts, columns – ever expanding layers of light; good 'ol Roy G. Biv in action. This scene taking no more than minutes on the clock facing me. 

Stepping outside, the noticeable nip to the air brings to memory the march of autumn; though it is the last day of July still, and a dip into autumnal weather of this sort seems a bit premature. We'll call it a cold front for lack of a better, more examined explanation – whatever its exact term, it is certainly colder than the temporary heatwave of yesterday’s briefness. Quite welcome in fact, for I’d rather be cold than hot; a man can always take layers off, but skin, on the other hand, doesn’t peel quite as easy without other bodily complications, et cetera.

A bunny, munching in the early morning stillness upon grasses damp with dew follows gravity’s course downhill a few more hops, measurable paces beyond the house trailer my love now calls home. This is a new space for her – for both of us. Not wanting to be surprised, yet at the same time looking for awe and amazement, we have explored the few corners and nearby roads of this new space in a span of hours and minutes from last night till now – with this morning’s movement about being, by far, the easiest: locate front door; approach the front door to the trailer, unlock, open and exit entryway; there awaits the porch, whose dimensions in the early morning light are a new experience for her and I. For at least in this life, that I can remember, I’ve never been in this exact spot, this exact place, this exact time.

Oh the sunlight pouring through the green leaves of a nearby Locust tree; the words that try to form to describe this scene of light mixing with cloud, white and grey layers dissolving to expose more light: yellow in theory, green in reflection off all that surrounds; a portrait of life in motion.

With a minor reluctance - hidden, recessed – I return into the trailer to assemble my few items: a book, a note, and gather my pack for the bike ride home. Just like she, I have a day of work on the clock for the greater good!, and spending time on this lovely morning watching bunny rabbits and sunlight streaming through cloud layers is not an option without consequences of the gainful employment type.  

Mounting the red and two-wheeled steed I call a bicycle, I find an easy rhythm in the relatively flat terrain of road between her place and mine. Fortunately, the ride there is filled less with human obtrusion and more with nature’s bounty: a flowing river headed on its course – down, down, across? – giving rise to rolling hills, clad in trees, whose auxiliary ridges and ripples seem all apart of a greater plan. With sun at my back as I ride, I cannot help but feel light, feel love and a great sense of beauty surrounding. So much so that I float with ease up the final hill blocking access between where I live and the world I came from; a hill that typically grinds at me, my disposition, in the heat of afternoon. Surely this positive inspiration swelling in my breast, issuing across my face in a large and smug smile has contributed to the ease and lightness I feel throughout.

Arriving home, I take the necessary minutes to answer my body’s morning needs before sitting down to peck away at this digital device – striving to capture the moment in memory’s temporary shadow before, like the morning fog and mist, they evaporate – materializing back into the universe from whence it came. Grateful am I for this experience, for this immediate purpose this morning, and for the inspiration of a natural world too large to lovingly capture in words.

Blessings of sun and crisp morning air to all,


Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Full Time Benefits of Part Time Employment

I find the more I work as a part time employee, the less I desire full time work. It seems collectively there is something short of a hidden obsession with working full time – almost as if we don’t work full time, we cannot afford the things we need or love; and, in this, surely we could do other, productive things with our time that contribute to our lives. Say, like grow a garden, build a cabinet from second-hand wood, take a child outside, read a book, sew a button on a shirt, or volunteer at a local nonprofit. Surely, one on the part time work train won’t be making bunches of money compared to their full time counterparts, and what you gain in personal revenue is hard to notch on a board of comparison.

Yesterday was Monday; nothing unusual about this Monday at work aside from a few offices sat darkened, as their inhabitants took coveted vacation days (“10 a year, with no rollover”!) If there was to be something unusual about this Monday, it would be that energy and motivation to accomplish work was low. Now, why could that be? A number of factors strike me when I consider the situation: a) the boss was out – she, herself, on a vacation of her own; b) it was a superb summer day, and through their transparent windows, full time workers could only salivate about what they’d be doing with this summer day if  they weren’t working; and, c) let’s be honest, unless you are managing an active project that needs daily tending (like a garden or a child), you probably are just wasting time at work, waiting for either 12 noon or 5pm, piddling in the work you need to do that really isn’t pressing yet. So it begs to ask, what’s the benefit of working 40+ hours a week for an average salary with average benefits, just so you can afford to live in that above average house, and drive that above average car?

I recently had a conversation with my partner about how we, in the future, could have enough, but not too much. She seemed initially puzzled by this question, as it seemed to come from nowhere (which is usually true), and pausing to think, I could tell she was mining gold in her brain. She is a recent graduate with her Masters in Human Resources, and other peoples’ work, to her, is her job. She takes joy in helping others find meaningful work in their lives – something I applaud about her. Though this is her first real “big girl” job, working that nine to five, five days a week. Tis too early to call it a challenge for her, for she is ripe in the game of full time employment. Perhaps there is a honeymoon period for some folks, a time when they are still enchanted by that which they call work, and to me, it’s a needle in the haystack, fortunately found by very few. When I think about the unlikely affinity that some folks call their relationship with work, I know they must be the exception, and they’ve truly found a niche for themselves. My guess is others are married to their jobs because of what it provides them additionally in life.

I’ve had the fortunate experience of working one full time job in my life, and the benefits and pay were not exactly what you’d expect. While I worked 36+ hours a week – considered full time to most employers, State and Federal workers aside – I found that I simply didn’t have the motivation, nor concentration to plug away at work for that many hours in a day or week. I was employed with a small nonprofit food project, working as an AmeriCorps VISTA. To those unfamiliar with this program, these are one year positions that place you in/near impoverished parts of a local community, so that you can experience and work with these folks as you try to generate ideas, funding, and ultimately programming to help alleviate the injustice and cyclical pull of poverty. Generally speaking, AmeriCorps pays just above the poverty line, and if you are fortunate to have housing provided, then you can consider yourself “living large.” For those without provided housing, a second job may be required; which was my case.

Before and during AmeriCorps I worked at a small grocery store, owned locally by a kind and giving Deadhead. It was the perfect job for me at the time: a van-dwelling, life-living dirtbag. When I came back to that remote part of Western Colorado, I was looking for the easy life – no serious full time job, no big responsibilities, just time to work and earn enough to pay my bills. Taking time to recreate and be a part of the community by being in and involved in the lives of others. A few years prior to this, I had thru hiked the Appalachian Trial from Maine to Georgia after graduating with my Masters degree, and that experience imprinted on me the importance in being instead of doing. So when the opportunity came along to work with those around me that were experiencing hardships I’d only dabbled with voluntarily as a dirtbag, I felt it was time to take on additional responsibilities beyond the easy life.

The honeymoon period for me in my AmeriCorps job lasted for the first three months, maybe four. I started in Spring, and when working for a food project, the summer growing season is your boom time. As the coordinator of volunteers and seasonal garden staff, I was alive with purpose and projects to manage. It was quite a different experience than the laid-back hippie-esque grocery store I worked at 4 days a week prior. An experience that pushed me to accomplish tasks not for personal financial gain, but for the greater good. I was a classic case of volunteerism. And while the thrive of it was good, the good of myself wasn’t thriving. It had been a 90 degree turn from what I was used to, and I couldn’t justify the increased hours by uttering “at least I’m making more money.” When push came to shove, a self-reflection assured me that this was what I had signed-up for: a more meaningful take on work and giving in my local community; also, this experience was just for a year, and short of sounding like a privileged yuppie, it was good for me to be pushed beyond my self-serving comforts. I was used to thriving by trending that medium line of fineness, not working too much to be over-stressed, and working just enough not to be under stress. So while it was an insightful and meaningful experience with people in real need, I eventually, after the buzz of purpose wore thinner, uncovered a recessed desire to work more part time and less full time come the future and my next job beyond AmeriCorps.

Volunteers in the a community garden

To calculate how much work is enough, the equation seems complex and highly personal. And really, maybe a bit of soul searching is essential before even considering inputs into the equation. And, there is something to be said about the benefits one can gain by working part time. If only we had a clearer portrait as a society of what it meant to be employed part time, and engaged full time in purposeful, life-enhancing tasks. You’d wonder if our overall health would improve; if our reliance on fossil fuels would decrease (no more daily commutes in the metal box!); if we’d realize the value in doing things for ourselves and those we loved – if only we could remember what it meant to be a tradesperson, to cultivate life in a garden, to produce our own, rather than always consuming; to be challenged though present in working through financial shortcomings. These seeds of ideas may never take hold in ripe soil, unless of course the idea of working full time was no longer viable, nor purposeful. Like hamsters in a hamster wheel, we’ll collectively continue to chase that which is always just out of reach, again and again, and when we realize we are chasing that same thing day after day, perhaps we’ll give thought to the possibilities outside of the endless cycle. Though, the requirements for full time living don’t come easy to those whom are part time employed, and thus, some could never conceive how to make it work without those digits and decimal places in their bank accounts. And, if we’d just try…

I think back to my colleagues working their full time obligations in the office. Would they rather be enjoying a casual morning, sipping coffee, or a confining office with dictates and expectations? Correct me if I’m reading this differently, and my impression of those working the full time life is you work more to pay more. This idea baffles me, and as I sit here, I intend to not experience this – though maybe it’s just what people see as their option; you know, the American Dream. Work hard, work diligently, and you’ll be rewarded…eventually...maybe. And for me, I’m not really into that version of the American Dream; I guess it just boils down to how hard I work when I’m not at work. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what brings separation from those in the full time employment game from those seeking the innumerable, sometimes irreplaceable, benefits of part time employment.

We, as an American Society are a diverse bunch, and there seems to be a secret driver to our lives: some may call this clandestine operator work, others may call it family priorities or life goals; yet, even more may call it absolute necessity; survival. Either way, the tides are shifting, and will continue to. Just like more Millennials are realizing that the hardwork and steadfast dedication of their parents or grandparents isn’t how they will go about work in today’s world, there are motivators that ultimately bring likeness to some and division to others in our society and world. Like our preference of what to do with a day off from work, we are so very diverse and unique that truly a life of part time work may never be for the masses. In which case, just like the self-chosen life of a dirtbag, there is a niche for everyone – and in this, I’m happy to call my part time affiliation with the world of work just that, part time; it dispenses more opportunity to be full time as a human being, not a human doing.

I would describe myself as privileged in opportunities and fortunate in choices to pursue the counterculture lifestyle. I am gainfully employed part time, allowing me to write and reflect, build wooden pieces of furniture/cabinetry around the house, and wander aimlessly in the woods. I profess to mean well in my writing, and feeling disturbed or challenged by what I write is exactly in line with the point of intellectual conversations and individual expression. Beliefs you hold ought to be tested, for change in life is ripe when we water the roots from which it comes. Comment below or browse my expression as a creative writer.  Respectful disagreement and discourse are welcomed – as we all have something to learn from one another!