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tat 2

Bloged in apprenticeship, culture, life by rod Thursday June 30, 2005

Triquetra, which here means, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as do three pronged ivy leaves. The green of ivy represents the eternal. Ivy grows on a vine and reaches forward and back in time from the center, which is where I tend to find myself.
And of course, where there is a vine there are branches, of which I am one, reaching along, led by the vine, fed by the vine.

of my mind

Bloged in apprenticeship, life, metaphor by rod Wednesday June 29, 2005

Last year I told you about some windmills I saw outside Bowling Green, Ohio. Monstrously large. Graceful, standing in the middle of a corn field. A lot a clear thoughts ensued upon viewing those powerhouses standing in the gentle breeze. But they weren’t moving, and there weren’t many.
Today, Allison and I got to see 44 of them lined across the ridge outside Thomas, WV. We left Morgantown this evening and headed west on I-68 to Friendsville, Maryland. We traveled from there to Oakland and south to Thomas. As we came close to Thomas, we caught our first glimpse of the windmills towering above the trees at 328 feet.
I’ve seen construction in these mountains before. I’ve seen manmade things litter the pristine beauty of the mountains. As a matter of fact, nothing is more common in these hills than the evidence of coal mining, an endeavor undertaken for the same end as those windmills – power. But the extraction of the non-renewable coal imposes traumatic scars upon the landscape. Everywhere are rusted and falling coal chutes, falling buildings, abandoned machinery and even completely stripped-off and leveled hilltops, not to mention the traumatic scars imposed upon the miners. Electricity made by coal fueled power plants causes mercury to build up in marine life.
But these windmills are quite different. My first thought at glimpsing the line of propellers was, “this must be what was meant by the command to subdue the earth.”
“Inspiring, majestic”, I said.
“harmonious,” Allison said. Yes, harmonious with one another and their context. All lined up where they know the wind will be, ready, spinning.
Allison said, “wonder why we’ve done no better at harnessing the power of the sun?” Harness? Can’t be done. She agreed. Tapped-into. That’s more like it.
One can’t harness the power of the sun or the wind. One can stand in the wind and let it move him. But those 747 wingspan blades don’t catch any wind - they are merely manipulated by the wind. Moved. Even the sun, whose energy can be stored, is closer to being harnessed than the wind. The wind is wild, unpredictable, mysterious, invisible, and powerful. All you can do is be there when it blows.
As we drove away I thought of an observation by G.K. Chesterton, who said that it used to be that folks thought the trees were moved by the wind. These days, everyone knows that it’s the motion of the trees that causes the wind. As I took a final glance in the rearview of all those propellered monstrosities, I thought of how ridiculous it would be to look across there and to think that their purpose was to create wind. Let’s burn some coal and create some electricity to power the windmill engines and create wind. What a false spirit that would be – reverse, meaningless, damaging activity.
What a foolish pursuit it would be, to attempt to manipulate the wind.


Bloged in family, life by rod Tuesday June 28, 2005

so Al and I got the kids off to camp yesterday morning at 7:30, went home desiring to sleep for a week, but instead, packed, returned to the car and drove 465 miles back up up to WV. Funerals for a 91 year-old jewel are such sweet sorrow. Granny had completely planned the service, so it felt as though she were issuing requests as we executed her wishes. Her best friend spoke of their 70 year relationship and Granny’s life. At the graveside, doves were released and we all watched metaphorically as a single dove was led by three into the blue sky and out of sight.
Afterward, family visited together and reminisced, wondered at the connections of the folks who had attended the funeral. Granny had infused herself into the lives of countless people, all of whom she seemed to know intimately. She knew whose kids and grandkids were playing ball, what team they played for and when their games were, who went where on vacation, who attended who’s recital, etc. This was true of neighbors and community members as well as extremely extended family.
It is not uncommon to hear Grannies claim to be granny to everyone. But it is much less common when everyone claims one as Granny. Today there were in-laws of in-laws expressing great loss emotionally. There were deep relationships evident between people who in many families might have never met.
I don’t know if this is the gift of encouragement, or hospitality, or what, but I have a suspicion that it is a characteristic that is expected of everyone born of woman. I want to be like this.
Today we laid to rest, in Morgantown, WV, the Queen of Community. The epitome of brotherly/sisterly love - a gem, who no doubt was dreaming of her friends and family when she passed on in her sleep early Friday morning. I’m sure that’s what she’s jabbering on about right now.


Bloged in life, metaphor, parenting by rod Monday June 27, 2005

Kids! You take care of them, watch out for them, protect them, teach them, cherish them, brag about them, show off your pictures, and you get no respect or gratitude. Last week, as we prepared to head off to the mountains, my little wrens were tiny raw-chicken-looking, helpless, featherless, beak-fed worm-consumers. I left the garage door open about four inches and instructed the mother wren to care for them in my absence.
We returned five days later to an empty nest. No wrens anywhere in sight. A tidy empty nest. Thanks for nothing baby wrens. No fluttering, fledgling, clumsy flight instruction. No swinging from garage door cables. No spinning after landing on bicycle pedals. Only crusty, white droppings on the gas tank of motorcycle and other sundry places.
Where did you go? Where’s your last week’s rent? What colleges have you applied to? How will you make it in that great big world beyond the garage? Will you miss me?
Don’t let the garage door hit you in the tail feathers on the way out.

the ballad of Alice Eddy

Bloged in family, life by rod Sunday June 26, 2005

Last year, on May 25, I road my bike up Broad River Road at twilight and watched Venus slowly sink into the tree line. I didn’t quite make it all the way to Spartanburg, but I did ride a long way. I’d started early, and so rode a good long way before she disappeared. I was very infatuated with the twilight sky last spring, headlined by Venus. I was very aware that the Venus season was changing, and that she’d soon disappear from the evening sky and be visible only in the east, in the morning just before the sun came up without the beautiful colors of evening.
As I rode west, eyes glued on the planet as the sky darkened, I thought of Allison’s Granny, up in years, down in health, ready for the season to change. Venus, and my thoughts seemed to be a metaphor for Granny that night. I thought of how Venus was brightest when she was only a crescent, because she was closest to us. I thought of how that meant that she was in full glory when farthest from us, and so looked dim from our vantage point. Granny was appearing more faint and distant as the days passed, though she was getting closer to fullness. Soon she’d be gone from us completely, for a season. Too much to contemplate.
Venus, the mythological epitome of the feminine, a jewel in the soft colors of the evening. Surrounded by pink. Soon to disappear for the evening, for the season.
Yesterday, as we re-entered civilization and picked up a cell signal for the first time in days, we received voice mail that Granny had finally become full. Seemingly furthest from us, but in full phase. Ironically for me, she held on as Venus was absent from the evening. She stayed around until within a week of my first evening Venus sighting this year. Thirteen months from her disappearance, I saw her again and contemplated time and eternity and infinity - all fresh confusion for me as I join with my adopted family as we contemplate our own measured lives, mourn our loss, rejoice in her gain, and celebrate a colorful life of beauty.

direct link

Bloged in apprenticeship, life by rod Saturday June 25, 2005

A while back, a friend from Spartanburg who was giving a the friendly ubiquitous invitation to visit, said, “some day when you’re out on your bike, just stop by for lunch. Did you know that you can ride all the way from Columbia to Spartanburg on Broad River Road?”
You can ride a long way on Broad River Road. I really like roads that go from here to there, roads that are common to several towns. Just yesterday, on the way home from our fish/raven/bear filled week, we stopped off at Hawk’s Nest State Park to gander into the New River Gorge. From US Rt. 19 south, you turn right onto US Rt. 60 to get to Hawk’s Nest State Park. It’s only about 7 miles. But if you go just past Hawk’s Nest, you start down the mountain, and by the time you reach the bottom, the New River has met with the Gauley River and they’ve become the Kanawha, which you follow all the way to the State Capitol. If you stay on US Rt. 60 for 35 more miles, you’ll enter my hometown, only a block from my parents’ house.
A bunch of nonsense? Not for Rod’s brain. So as we were making the short trek atop the New River Gorge to Hawk’s Nest, I announced this to my children. “Children, this is the main street that runs through Papaw and Mamaw’s town.” They, too, were fascinated. Go figure.
I guess, back in the day, this was no big deal. There were probably very few roads linking towns, and they tended to go directly there. One end of the road was the main drag of one town and the other end was the main drag of the other town. Maybe it went on through and linked another town too.
These days, most roads link up to a larger highway or freeway that in turn dumps you off at an exit at which you connect to another road that will take you to where you need to go, or take you to another road that will take you to where you need to go. This is all very convenient – for the trip – but it seems to have reduced towns to stops along or near to the freeway, rather than destinations that are connected to one another.
Even when I was a kid, there was only one way to get from our house to where I was yesterday. Now the interstate allows you to travel northwest, where you meet 19 and travel south to Rt. 60. The whole trek starts on Rt. 60 and ends on Rt. 60, but you’ve spent very little time on Rt. 60. Most people would do it this way. Take the highway, go really fast. Get to where you’re going. But you miss Glen Ferris, Kanawha Falls, Gorgeous gorge views, and countless tiny towns filled with friendly people who wave when you drive by.

guest blog 3

Bloged in family, life by rod Friday June 24, 2005

Allison Goes to Cran”beary”

They’ve asked me to “guest blog”, an honor I’ve never expected (nor, to tell the truth- ever wanted!) but there was this bear, and for some reason, someone thought my side of the story might be interesting.
You see, everyone in the family has had close encounters of the bear kind at Cranberry except for me. Feeling very left out, I had to settle for stories about “hoot” owls that hollered and chipmunks that stole bread. But all that changed early Thursday morning. Learning from past experiences, Rod had carefully cleaned (most) of the food off the picnic table and locked the peanut butter up in the car. We then stayed up way too late, talking around the campfire. No sooner had we retired to bed when we were rudely interrupted by the clanking of the trash can lid. He smiled at me and said, “Our friend is here!”
I had always thought I wanted to see a bear- even to have one come into our camp site- as long as it was under my conditions- daylight, kids well protected or at least under the protective glare of the propane lantern. As I started to worry about the kids being alone in a tent between us and the trash can, Rod poked his head out of the tent door and came within kissing distance of a huge black bear! “LOOK!” he coarsely whispered. I quickly stuck my head out beneath him and saw the bear sizing up our picnic table.
Now one of the bad things about bears at night is that they are black- almost imperceptible to the eye. They are also silent- which seems crazy for their size. They are also deceivingly agile and quick. I became terrified and was afraid to breathe. I couldn’t keep track of him as he disappeared into the shadows and I was ashamed of actually wanting to see such a thing…what if something awful happened?
I prayed guardian angels over the kids sleeping totally unaware in their tent. When the bear zig-zagged back towards our tent my prayers suddenly turned to our own safety.
He finally tired of the lack of fare at our meager site and stole off into the woods.
In the morning, as I was cleaning up our tent, I found two knives tucked neatly under Rod’s pillow.
I guess if I can’t dictate how and when disaster enters my life, it’s good to know I’ve got someone by my side who’s ready to protect me, fight for me…and even kiss a few bears if he has to!

dang this river

Bloged in family, life, parenting by rod Thursday June 23, 2005

Tonight, the third night of our skinny-dipping, river baths, was definitely the most meaningful. It was tonight that as Will finally got the nerve to submerge his body under the rushing, frigid current, he came up out of the water and said, “dad, this is addicting. Now I finally know what you meant when you said the mountains take away a part of you.” Jack said, “especially this river, it literally washes a part of you away.” Will said, “dang this river.”
I knew it had happened. Both boys had spent the evening fishing, jumping from rock to rock and feeling the water flowing all around. And just like it always happens, they were being absorbed and they didn’t even realize it. “I’m going to remember this trip for a long time,” Will realized. Not only that, I thought, now you’ll always have to come back. I think tonight the boys felt the absence of the missing parts that had been stripped from them the countless times we’ve come here before. Since they were babies, they’ve been dragged into the woods by their dad, absorbed by the mountains, and washed by the river.
But this time, it includes the first willing metaphoric bathing, and an awareness of the bonding that such activity allows, complete with countless euphemisms and wisecracks not fit for mixed company, but completely guard-dropping when done between father and sons.
I will remember this trip for a long time, I thought as I watched parts of my sons wash down the river, under the hemlocks, and around the bend.


Bloged in apprenticeship, life, poems by rod Wednesday June 22, 2005

River is a river is a river is a river
Water can’t be counted or numbered
This river, that river, same water.
Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.

It’s just water. Volume. Weight.
Surface tension. Least resistance.
Water here, water there.
Pour it together and it’s just water
There isn’t this water and that water.

Water flows. Water stands. Water runs.
Evaporates. Freezes.
Condenses. Thaws.
The water that passed by an hour ago was
Exactly the same as the water that is now.

This river finds as its source a spring atop the mountain.
Where does the spring get its water?
Same place as any other spring.
Same water.

This river will find the Gauley and together
They will meet the New and form the Kanawha.
The four will feed the Ohio and
Travel to the Mississippi and empty
Into the Gulf of Mexico

At that precise moment,
The same water will bubble up on
Top of the mountain and flow downward toward the Gauley.

Time can’t be measured by the journey of water down the river to the sea.
No time passes. Forever passes. Same water.
Begins as it ends. Always beginning. Always ending.
Same water present at every point of the journey.
Every point in the journey present in every moment.
Alpha and Omega.


Bloged in apprenticeship, life, poems by rod Tuesday June 21, 2005

In the middle of the river
Surrounded by water,
white, flowing water.
But I’m not without care.
I cast,
But I keep reeling it back in.

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