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carpe diem

Bloged in life, metaphor, time by rod Friday May 18, 2007


Time takes its toll
and the past is a tolling bell, “come and remember.”
The future whispers, “enter cautiously,
for you can never go back.”

I stand and grieve for the rotting timbers,
and ask why I didn’t listen to the subtle voice of tomorrow
before plunging headlong into the whitewater rapids
and racing from the past.

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the edge of the shire

Bloged in seasons, time, traveling by rod Saturday May 5, 2007

Godspeed to my graduating seniors. My prayers go with you.

“The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”

the edge of the shire

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memento mori

Bloged in life, time by rod Thursday May 3, 2007

Today, while I gave the final exam to my Theory 4 students, a party was happening just outside the door. It was a bittersweet party as a farewell to sole music faculty peer. When I’d got my students started on the exam, I escaped the room, sneaked through the maze of well-wishers and holed up in my office to try to tie up some loose ends of end of semester stuff. The party, however, expanded into my office like suds from an overflowing washing machine as students, stuck their heads in to say hi.
Finally, I made my way out to join in the “official” wordsmithing speeches. After I’d said my heartfelt piece, a student came up to me and asked what was my favorite passage in the Bible. I jokingly snatched at a few out-of-context thoughts, but he didn’t think it was funny. He was serious. So I pacified him with one that means a lot to me.
He told me he’d been watching “Dead Poets Society” for class, and that he’d been thinking about the concept of seizing the day. How does one go about it? He said that he’d been trying to think of bible verses that spoke to this idea but was coming up void. Well I spouted off about a dozen, before he interrupted me and a huge smile came across his face. “Wow, I hadn’t thought about how that is saying the same thing,” and, “wow, that is connected.” Once again, I thought about how narrowly and compartmentally we read the scriptures.
handful of life
When I was driving home this evening I was thinking about this, and about how it was related to Allison’s blog from earlier this week. A stream of consciousness began. Allison was writing about busyness, and being overwhelmed. She wrote of noticing my approach to the chaos that has reached record proportions this spring. I’ve deliberately slowed down. I’ve quit blogging for the past several weeks, perhaps I’ve stopped trying to interpret the chaos that I live in. Instead, I’ve picked up the camera and merely passed on images of what I’m seeing. Perhaps equivalent to recording a foreign language and playing it back as it is. I don’t know. But I’ve photographed things instead of using words. I’ve attempted to freeze beautiful moments forever, to expose ugliness. To make people look up, to look closer, deeper, peer past the surface. Contemplate the hidden. Take a deep breath. This moment will never come again.
I’d talked with the student about that just an hour earlier. We are called to the moment. But we live in the past and the future. The things we can’t change and the things we know nothing about. Who, worrying about what’s past can go back and make anything different than it was? Who, by worrying about the future can add a single moment to his life?
Life is a vapor, a wisp. It quickly dissipates and vanishes. It is sand through our fingers, soap bubbles blown and burst. forever youngAll we have is now, we are promised nothing else.

So I thought about my intentional slowing. My photos. I thought about my ride under the full flower moon the other night. I thought about shooting pictures at 65 mph on my bike. That had raised some eyebrows. “You’d better be careful!”
But I was careful. I was being safe. Just as I was being on my drive home today, snugly buckled in, relaxing behind the airbag and the side curtains. I was being alert when the 18-wheel chemical tanker immediately in front of me blew his back tire and shredded rubber and steel belt shrapnel pelted my windshield and three lanes of traffic all around me punched the breaks. The truck driver was being careful too.
But we’re only promised now. And we weren’t even promised now five minutes ago. Each moment is a gift, undeserved and unearned. This evening has been an unpromised, free gift. I’m grabbing each moment. I’ll try to take a picture for you.

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new moon shine

Bloged in easter, luna see, metaphor, seasons, time by rod Sunday April 15, 2007

The Paschal moon waned to darkness tonight to make way for the new flower moon. This is momentous for calendrical beings such as myself. I have been suspended in holy week a week longer and my blog has stood empty like the void of the tomb I’ve been contemplating since last Sunday morning. I behaved in much the same way last year until the last morning I saw the crescent rising before it went dark and the lunar symbol of life after death set late in the evening a day later as a waxing promise of growth and life.
I know, I’m so predictable. Not a soul at church seemed surprised on Palm Sunday morning when I waxed on from the platform about Palm Sunday falling on April Fool’s day.
Last month I rambled about the new Paschal moon on the first day of Spring. It grew with the flowers, bloomed full in holy week and waned as life went on, reborn.
Things like that have meaning to me. I immerse myself in the times of the year, the church calendar. I ramble on about time and my fear of it, my inability to understand it.
I read in Genesis that God put the moon and stars in the sky to mark seasons and days and years. So here I am staring up from the deck deep in the night. Wondering at it all. It’s time to turn in.

Good night deck, good night chair.
Good night Yahweh, everywhere.
Goodnight Paschal moon.

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growing young

Bloged in life, love and marriage, metaphor, time by rod Monday March 19, 2007

So Allison turned 43 today.
Rounded off to the nearest year, we’re the same age again. I really don’t enjoy those 37 days during which she is a year younger than I am. I’m always afraid she’ll think I’m too old for her and run off with a younger man. But, now I’m safe for another year, we’re the same age again.
Allison worked last night. In fact, she worked an extra 12-hour night shift this weekend. So on the morning of her birthday, she could have done what you and I would have done after a night’s work. Instead, she came home, changed shoes and ran 50 miles. Well, somewhere between 5 and 50. But still. Right? After a night shift, and at 43? Sheesh.

I’m really proud to be able to say I’m married to a 43 year-old woman because in all honesty, no one believes it. In some ways, she is like my own mom, whose age peaked at some point, and she has since been getting younger. Allison’s age peaked a couple years ago, and while I believe she has grown more in these two years than perhaps all of life before, she has grown younger at an equal rate.
Her increasing youth is manifest in growing dependence on all those around us. She is becoming less afraid to need and is regaining the ability to be vulnerable – a trait that is stolen away as we age and lose innocence and naiveté.
It seems like a paradox that the more we grow, the younger we get. A mystery. But it’s real. We’re told that unless we come as children, we won’t get it. The whole world pressures us to grow up, be rational, reason and understand. But they don’t get. Children can imagine what doesn’t seem possible and believe what can’t be explained. Once we convince ourselves to do what we desperately want to do, to believe what we desperately want to believe, we begin to grow younger. What is too good to be real becomes commonplace.
Rich Mullins wrote, “we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old, but our Father still waits and he watches down the road… growing young…”

Of course, those of you who have seen her lately know that not all her increasing youth is in the form of heart and spirit. There are physical manifestations too, if I may say so.
I’ve known her since we were 18, and in my heart of hearts, I’d choose body, soul, and spirit, March 19, 2007’s Allison over any other day’s Allison since August 1982.
I know that the normal gender expression of aging is that women fight it and men seem not to care (as long as they get a sports car in their early 50s). But we are definitely reversed, Allison and I. She beautifully and gracefully gathers the days and months and years. She joyfully grasps the wisdom those years are bringing. She smiles at the sprigs of gray sprouting in both our manes.
I’m learning from her that there may be some possibility that the results of these dog years are not all decay. I look at the beautiful laugh lines forming at the corner of her eyes and I realize that the older you get the less effective the façade at covering the spirit that lies within.
I too want to learn to carry myself in such a way that the wind and the years form a surface that is indicative of what lies beneath. I want to grow on the inside so that the patina reflects the wisdom and experience found within.
Thank you, Allison, for being pro-aging. Thank you for growing. I pray that we continue to learn to nourish and tend to one another through the rest of our growing season.

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Bloged in easter, seasons, time by rod Sunday March 11, 2007

Spring is walking through the door. Officially, it’s still another 8 days away, but it is at least in a holding pattern. Just when the bare trees, brown grass and chill winds of another gray morning seem to have overstayed their welcome, a miracle happens. Like baby teeth pushed away, all the oak leaves that have been dangling dead since November drop to the ground to make way for the light green baby leaves that are budding. It seems that overnight, color seeps from everywhere.
Today was a beautiful, warm, Springy day. Molly and I grabbed the camera just before sunset and took a color walk. We snapped 156 pictures between our house and the end of our road (about 200 yards). We returned home because the memory card was full.
You probably needn’t worry about spring taking over my blog this year as in years past, but I’m making no promises. There are scores of unfinished, half-thought blogs littering my computer desktop. It would seem that I’m incapable of finishing thoughts these days and so my blog sits unchanged for days. For the next few weeks though, the lawns and woods won’t sit unchanged for even a minute as the Dogwoods finish opening and the azaleas burst, and the wisteria begins to drip from the trees and over fences.

A sampling of Molly’s and my walk is available for your enjoyment.

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in the bleak mid-winter

Bloged in advent, seasons, time by rod Thursday December 21, 2006

Tonight Allison made a wonderful supper of broiled salmon with rice and sugar snap peas. Mmmm. Mmmmm. After we’d eaten, and while we were still around the table, winter arrived. I felt the chill.
As I’ve said many times, I’m always surprised when it actually gets a bit chilly here, because it stays warm through Christmas. The temperature has been in the mid 70s here for over a week. Today it’s been chilly and dreary. Apt.
Above the rainy clouds tonight, there was a spectacular, hidden solstice party. At sunset, (also hidden) the thinnest, slivery, eerie, fingernail of a baby moon set behind the clouds as a newly returned Venus followed suit to kick off the year’s longest night. But it was not to be seen.

Sometimes, I’m bothered by the winter solstice. Those times, I’m pondering the beginning of the long, cold winter. But sometimes I consider that the longest night means that tomorrow night will be shorter. The sun will set just a little later as it begins it trek northward. It’s the beginning of the trek toward spring. In the darkest, coldest, barren times, hope is kept in the surety of re-birth.

So I’ll shut up about it until spring arrives.

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Bloged in life, love and marriage, seasons, time by rod Monday December 4, 2006

Yes, my normally contemplative brain grows more so at season changes. If you’ve been visiting here for any length of time, you’ll know this about me. The way I ramble on at the changes of seasons actually embarrasses me a bit. You must be thinking, “here he goes again.”
Of course my seasonal thoughts and emotions are contextual to our South Carolina climate, so if any of you would be willing to admit that you are also affected, perhaps your thoughts or emotions occur earlier or later than mine. Spring comes earlier and Fall comes later here than for many of my readers.
Yesterday was our first wintry day. Many of you would no doubt laugh at that adjective applied to yesterday had you experienced it, but when I walked outside between services to get a cup of coffee, it was at least 10 degrees colder than it had been when I got there an hour earlier. The sky was overcast and a chill hung in the air all day long. Last night, December’s “cold moon” was nearly full and shone brightly from behind a thin veil of broken, fast moving clouds.
I remember once riding in a van across the Pennsylvania turnpike on a cold winter day a couple decades ago. Allison looked out the window at the barren hillsides and brown grassy hollows and commented on its dreariness. I disagreed, and told her how I thought it was just as beautiful as any other season, but in a completely different way. At the time, there was little I enjoyed more than slowly walking through winter woods, looking for shape and line in the monochrome landscape, curiously following hollows carpeted with tall brown grass.
For years, I’ve not had time, occasion or opportunity to do that. As a result, it doesn’t excite me like it did back then. On the contrary, it rather depresses me. Long cold nights and short chilly days. One hunches over and moves quickly through the cold outdoors only to get from one building to another, from the house to the car or the car to the house. I seem to have forgotten how much different the experience is if you give yourself to it. For years, I’ve mourned as the colors of autumn flutter to the ground and the once shady trees expose us to the biting winds of winter.

I don’t know, I probably have the same thoughts and say the same things every year at the beginning of each season. But why do these thoughts seem so new and epiphanic every year? Change. It’s uncomfortable. It marks the passage of time. It’s the green light on a one-way street with all you’ve known in your rearview mirror.
Yesterday, as I drove home from church, chilled from the short jaunt to the car, I looked up into the cold, newly bare trees at the countless, huge, dense balls of mistletoe. Now that’s something that you don’t see in the summertime. Mistletoe.
I thought of warm lips. I thought of wintry, woodsy walks all bundled up with gloved hand in gloved hand and frequent pauses under those mistletoe laden bare branches. I thought of fireplaces, coffee, comforters, and Saturday mornings.
Winter ain’t all that bad.

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even as the world was turning

Bloged in family, life, seasons, time by rod Tuesday November 21, 2006

In 1971, I was in first grade. In the spring of that year, I was 7 years old and huge, life-altering events took place. My baby sister arrived and my Papaw died. The audible clicking of the artificial valves put in his heart to replace the damaged fearfully and wonderfully made originals, ceased sufficiency, and stopped clicking.
I know my mom felt the greatest gift and the greatest theft in the span of a week. Spring brings life and Jodi was the first blossom of 1971, sent to bring color to the dark moments for the broken daughter who bore her. She told me the terrible news first thing next morning. It was a terrible loss. An enormous part of my young life was gone.
The previous fall, when it had gotten too cold to do all the outside things for which he’d let me tag along, he’d assured that warm weather would come again. On that April morning, I realized I’d never ride on his shoulders again, I’d never again ride on the flat bed of his truck and grip the cab and peer in through the rectangle to see him driving. But I didn’t cry. I, who to this day shed tears as easily as sipping coffee, don’t remember crying. In fact, I remember not crying.
What I did was dream about him every night. Every night. Every night the dreams were nothing more or less than was the norm when I was around him. He’d ride me on his shoulders, or perc coffee while he made cornbread or burnt toast. These dreams went on for many nights and then grew less frequent and stopped.
Those are two things that I’ve pondered many times in my life, those dreams and my dry eyes. I believe those dreams kept my eyes dry with joyful memories in my heart.
Often, someone will say something that brings those dreams to mind. Most recently, we were driving along listening to music and Jack said he thought his favorite lyric was this James Taylor verse:

I came out of a dream last night
Thought I was back in my old home
Mom and Dad were both still alive
And the babies not yet born, no
Felt like a festival
Felt like a Christmas morning
Felt the darkness fall away
Even as the world was turning

Immediately, my mind went back to 1971. And I re-dreamt specific dreams from those months. I don’t think I’ve dreamt about Papaw since then. Until this morning.
I was standing in the kitchen that is now Jodi’s, but the formica-top table with the chrome trim was still there. I was looking out through the screen door when Papaw and uncle Bub pulled up in a pick-up truck. He and Uncle Bub were both the same age, about 50, and I was the age I am now. They’d pulled all the way up in the yard, and beside the kitchen door, and were unloading turnips from the back of the truck. The back of the truck also held countless widgets and gadgets he’d just acquired and that he couldn’t wait to show me. “This one peels, this one slices, this one…” I said what are you doing with all those turnips?, it’s November!. He said, “are you kidding? Look how big these things are!”
He cut a turnip in half and we we’re eating it together when my alarm went off.
Sometimes, good dreams leave you feeling remorse at waking when you realize that they aren’t real. Reality becomes clear and the dream fades, and things are the way they are. Other times, dreams provide for a moment, what can’t be, and upon waking, reality is brightened by a memory or a hope and the day is lightened by the wearing of a blessing.
Such was this dream and this waking. It felt like a festival, a turnip festival, it felt like Christmas morning. I felt the darkness fall away even as the world was turning.
Even as the world was turning.

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the stealth of time

Bloged in seasons, time by rod Saturday September 23, 2006

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask
It just walks in where it left you last
You never know when it starts
Until there’s fog inside the glass around your
Summer heart.

-John Mayer

I was at the kitchen table with Allison when it walked in at 12:03 this morning. I didn’t notice until she had gone to bed and left me there to contemplate the beginning of the changing season.
It is a promising first day of fall. I’m sure the first day of fall feels lots of pressure to provide the feeling that though a good thing is passing, what is coming will be no less, in its own way.
That is today. Summer is officially gone.
The night skies are deep and dark, growing longer, lit with myriad stars; and the afternoons are a deep blue that summer has never seen. Today’s deep blue is accented with cottony white of every shape unimaginable.
I dreamed about Orion last night. I really did. I was sitting on my deck and one by one, those bright belt-stars appeared above the trees behind the house. He was lying on his back holding his shield upward as he does in the fall, and then climbs to his feet as he moves over the cul de sac. But he’s not there yet. He’s still hunting during the day and rises just before the sun, who rose directly due East this morning.
The leaves are still green and the afternoons warm, but that will stealthily change. Quietly, the dew will fall early, the palette will glow, and chill of evening will need a fire.

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