The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Category : portraits of a moment

Silent Night

The summer night is silent – not like that “holy night” kind of silent, but rather without the singing, and the lowing, and yon virgins. Instead, a ghostly fog has risen up, backlit by a nearly full rising moon. Creeping up out of the shadows of the bog-land in the bend of the nearby river, beneath and through the trees it moved slowly through the still air. It spread an aura over the night, not quite sinister, but quiet enough that the silent place where the night winds normally blow were filled only with the occasional yip of a distant dog, the drop of languishing pine cone to the forest floor, and the padding of my two companions paws in the volcanic soil. The dogs tested the silence with thoughtful snuffles as we shambled along the fence line, taking in this emptiness and waiting with all the rest of nature for someone, something maybe, to speak.

The highway traffic from 3 miles away was hushed, blocked and shushed by the skulking cloak of fog. And so we stood, we three, beneath The Pines, waiting on the night. An eternity passed before us, with only the moon for its spotlight.

The fog had pushed as far as the house, a thin and shallow blanket, and I thought to bestir and go back inside. But something caught my ear just as I began to step forward. Mollie sprang up, ready to run, and even Ol’ Charlie lumbered back to his feet.

The wind.

It was coming.

The delicate silence balanced the wind’s advance as gently as a new father. I tracked it by its sound over the crest of the Butte, down the hidden slopes, and across the vast expanse of treetops. A full two minutes after the first whispers filtered through the trees, the wind swept through like -well, like Mollie, the cavorting puppy eager to run back and forth along the fence out of sheer enthusiasm.

It swirled and whooshed like an impetuous child fresh from the school bus looking for a cookie.

And just like that, the bog-ghost was banished back to the river hollow. The film fell back from the night sky, and moon-shadows draped and played crisply on the forest floor of needles. The treehouse pines creaked and groaned as they swayed against the lumber. The frogs got back to work. Everything sounded once again as it should.

But yet, in the dark protected shadows leading down towards the river, a pale reflection still flits from tree to tree, a forgotten memory of a time when no human eyes were there to intrude, when no one thought ill of a mist silently cavorting in a child’s dance by the light of the moon.

I catch myself smiling a good night to this silent night. The quiet, pensive child with more to say than a dozen schoolbus children will return when the time is right.

Until we meet again, sweet child.

Sleep in peace.

When the wind shifts

When the winds shift

When the winds from the place where the Great Bear steps from the sea
Ceases to call me
And passes on instead to other folk

When begins the the Winds from where the scorpion pinches the Scales of Balance
I sniff at the new scent, and look up to the heavens.

My name had been called
By the Herdsman, the Ox Driver
The Bear Guardian points
Beneath his Staff flows the river of air, and in it is borne the report, warnings, tidings.
And maybe… maybe if I knew that language better, maybe a portent.
Or an Omen.

Tantalizing fancy of wandering mind
To conjure up the unknown language of a mythical messenger
Or does it?

Or does the Wind bear on its wings
The Words of God?
Does the rhythm and timbre
of the quivering pines
sing a chant
joining my thoughts to the Great Melody
A song from the Creator?

I feel emotions that the new scents trouble, Memories that ring
like the keys of the marimba
Struck, and vibrating,
setting the air to a hum
The combination of memory,
and scent set to a rhythm I seem to already know
Fills my senses

Fills my mind
With what may be
With what could be
With what should be
When the Winds shift
I am called to remember
To return
To balance

Not Mine Alone

So there I was at the Portland VA yesterday.  Veterans of all sorts walked, limped, shambled, rolled, or simply sat, their scars and wounds visible on their bodies, and in their faces.  As I made my way to my appointment with the bone doctor, I took in the view through a window of the photo below.  And it took the time to say a few things to me.

 

Yaknow, it’s kinda strange. I see the American flag out and about, and while i notice it, it doesn’t particularly stand out to me.

 

But put that flag on the hallowed ground of a military installation no matter how humble or grand, or in this case a VA hospital where the wounds of war are visible everywhere,  and a transformation takes place.  A corner of my mind is transported to a place where once there hung a strip of fabric, but now those colors come to life.

 

A pulse beats, a composite rhythm of battles, of hardship, moments of camaraderie, the inner gulp of courage in the face of death. I can feel the weight of the sum of American sacrifice in the languid roll of its furls, the burdened steps of those who have come and gone, as a single, solemn symphony, the full Portrait of American Patriots.

 

It moves me.  It is me.  But it is not me alone.

 

Somehow imbued in these colors is a collective living being, whose purpose is to simply be, an image of us, both a memory of who we’ve been, and a projection of who we will be.  We who have gathered in our country’s moment of need leave a critical piece of ourselves in that being, so that it grows stronger.  It is our responsibility, as citizens, to not see only ourselves, but to see all other Americans.  I am startled to realize that the pulse I hear while standing before these Colors is my own.    And comforted as I sense that it is not mine alone.

 

Perhaps I recognize the smallness of my own voice in its breath. Perhaps my understanding of the knowledge of battle allows me to recognize greater voices. Those who have gone before leave a telltale echo. And I feel the companionship of others who hear it too. Each of our voices sound, to us, small in this symphony. Together though, a character emerges that none of us knew we had.

 

The pulse I hear while standing before these Colors is my own.  And yet, I it is not mine alone.

 

We each have discovered a surprise within ourselves; abilities, courage, and qualities we didn’t know we had, and might never have known. To those who have helped me and accepted into their ranks, there is only one thing I can say, and it isnt enough.

Thank You.

Photo looking out the window of the Portland VA Center.

Morning Start-up

Morning Start-up

From somewhere deep in the sawmill floor, there starts a rumble.  

Good morning, Beastie.  I’ve missed you these months since I last visited.

It is no mere random rumble that signals the waking day.  I know, from years of listening, exactly what motor was just started.  And can predict the next.  Far across the expanse, a conveyor belt begins its toil.  A floor chain begins to drag its way through smooth-worn races.  The whine of hydraulic systems scream to life.  Like an orchestra warming up and tuning in its pit, the double bass and the oboe thrum, the trumpet blares, the flutes trill.  The saws whisper to life around their wheels.  I stand on a catwalk, waiting for my work to begin, to see how well each machine operates.  My calibration work the previous night will prove itself through repetition.  

But first, I let them warm up.

I listen to their private rituals, the sub-steel begins to vibrate with a complex harmonic, each machine putting some timbre into the growing cacophony.  I smell the air filling with the scent of saw-guide water, lube oil, hot rubber as a conveyor settles into its track, and yesterday’s dust is disturbed and wafts like yesterday’s coffee.

But I do not look.  Not yet.  I hear.  I smell.  I feel the pulse quickening through the steel beneath me.  I have no need for eyes yet to know what I sense.

And then, it begins.  From the dark void where the biggest machines loom like monsters in a closet, the mighty bandsaws sing out their first long notes.  16 feet of log is cut into three unequal parts, two dropping off to the sides, the center carried on through till it reaches the end of it run to the next transfer.  With a heavy, lumbering thud it roll onto its infeed toward the canter.

From my place between the edgers, the scent of green pine sawdust wafts and flows with Life, spreading over the mill like a morning mist.  The newly-opened wood has announced its arrival.   I still wait, still hearing the rhythm of motors, knowing where each mechanical thud indicates the arrival and passing of a board.  I still only smell.  Only feel.  It is not yet time to see.

Not quite yet.

The first boards crest the incline, are singling up into their lugs, and dropping over the decline one at a time.  I know this with my back turned.  They trigger the infeed table, and nearby mechanisms join the jangled rhythm of the music.  I recognize through all this seeming random vibrations the peculiar pulse of the individuals like footsteps of old friends approaching my door.  And still, I do not see yet.  Almost, but not quite yet.

And then, with a crack like thunder a Board is caught up in mechanical forces, drawn onto the infeed table, and positioned for its sacrifice.  Boom, there’s the first press roll.  It won’t be long now – a few seconds in fact.  One roll, two rolls, and then out of nowhere the shrill sound of three circular saws slashing their way through the board.  There will be two pieces for me to watch.  Three rolls, four rolls, and they begin to lift in reverse order.  It is directly behind me, hidden in an iron chamber. But the sawdust begins to spit out down the conveyor below me.  The first board is nearly here.  Now.  Now is the time to see.

And suddenly, in my mind the entirety of this huge monster of a mill disappears from me, and only this conveyor exists.  At five-hundred feet per minute the light blonde pine of two boards and two edgings burst out from under the catwalk and into view, flying with sure efficiency.  In a fraction of a second I see where the saws cut, analyzing the position of the cut edges against what I know should be.  One twelve-footer and one eight-footer have been made.  The edgings, not even but well-balanced, have been separated from the board as close to the edge as the wane allows for these boards. They are parted from the boards at the end of the conveyor, by steel fingers that lift only the boards, and drop into the waste conveyor while the boards travel on to their next destination.

It was a good cut.

And then, as seamlessly as it left, the rumbling roar of the mill floods back into my consciousness, and my eyes see nothing again.  In a half-hour, the entirety of my mind will have tuned itself to the rhythmic dance, cycling between seeing and feeling several times a minute.

But for now, this first board is alone.  There is a hole in my mind where the second board should be, and it niggles at my awareness.  I finally turn, and see that the operator is wrestling the Board back into position – it had twisted sideways.  He will leave it once it’s restored, boards move better in groups sometimes.  And so I go back to waiting, listening, marveling at the Beast, at its pulse and rhythm, at the ripple of its sinews.

Yes, good morning Beastie.  It’s been too long.

The Silence of the Dogs

The Silence of the dogs quiets the night.
While the night wind talks with breathless aire
With foreign accent of scents of the mountains
And valleys beyond, where the farmers till up the earth
And more mountains after that, and the beaches, where the sea hurls it’s essence against the land
And the Sea
All these voices come whispering through The Pines
Tourists, buzzing about the coming storm tomorrow, still out west, and south, turmoil coming
But the silence of the dogs, lying here beside me, listening to the news, somehow stills the gossip, distills it’s substance. They worry about what’s important. Which is, right now, nothing.

The silence of dogs amid the forest song
The frogs talk down by the river.A little ways off, I’d have to walk, but here by the fire is a fine place to hear their chorus. The embers crack and pop, with a casual snap now and then, slowly undoing the years of growth of brush, and trees. The fire burns with a confident slowness, secure in its dying. It is interminably calm, confident in a way only the inevitable can afford to be. The silence of the dogs knows this fire.

it is quieter because of them.

The silence of the dogs, in the dreaming glow,
Of moonlit clouds, floating lanterns of the waxing moon.
The bowing trees salute the arriving storm in welcome. I am ready for it. The silence of the dogs attends to the order of the night, tasting it, breathing in its petty worries, divining the relevant from bustling portents. The lanterns pass overhead silently, knowing it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.

The silence of the dogs, a spoken word in its own right.
I hear their speech with a clarity beyond any human voice. My hands lie still on their necks, to not distort their senses. In that stillness, I am free to attend to matters of the spirit with faith, within this circle of silence.

The Silence of the dogs is deeper than mere quiet. It is more still than a mere slumberous laze. It absorbs everything around into it, a sacred sphere of worship.

The silence of the dogs is a holy place.

Once in a Blue Moon

The moon tonight blazes, with an icy light so bright that the clouds trying to obscure her cannot filter her out. They glow as one misty pool with a cold gray-bluish frost. The celestial veil insinuates mysteries and unseen things. It whispers so loudly with its light that I feel I can almost understand, almost. I wonder.

In this glowing night, I wonder…

I can hear the wind in the distance, coming over the Butte, down it’s southern slope through the woods towards me. The Pines around me begin whispering excitedly about the coming rain. They can smell it in the wind. I can smell it too, now, and the first half-frozen tic-tac-tic-tac of tiny droplets begin to pelt me with all their Lilliputian might. The dogs on either side look up to me as if to say, “Are you getting all this?”. I tell them to be patient, the real storm won’t be here for some hours yet. But they persist. Am I really paying attention?

I am.

Indeed I am. As the night whispers above me, I reach forward with my stirring-stick and move a branch strategically in the fire. Dark red flames flare up into bright yellow for a moment, as if they’d been waiting for a door to be opened, and to fill the void created by the shifting branch. As quickly as they spring to life, they die back to give way to the red heat. The coals go back to their quiet, intense work of reducing these logs to nothingness. This modest campfire has plenty of heat, but makes little light. It sings and sizzles, answering the wind in the trees with a natural harmony. Low flames lick in a spiral around a pair of damp logs on top of the fire, sending up a plume of steam.

The steaming fire-cloud swirls and spirals upward, and in forty feet takes on the same blue glow as the clouds blowing in from the North. It pirouettes gracefully into a silky dance of transcendent dissolution, letting go of its briefly held shape and form. At some indistinguishable moment, it passes beyond the knowing of Self and Other. It has joined with its Great Cousins from the sea. I bid my tiny steam plume farewell with a fittingly absent stare, losing my own self to the endless internal tunnels of thought that happen by firelight.

Time makes no sense in this reverie. There is no past, no future. Even the present moment loses its dominion over the dialogue. The sky’s ghostly incandescence seeps into everything but the fire itself, and my attention is drawn in through its draught into the quiet, furious activity of the red embers. My awareness of self is suspended, to honor this Passing On of the wood’s essence through fire. From smoke and mist, into that place of nothing where Other is absorbed, created anew, and born again into the physical world. I find myself saying goodbye with a subtle, human wistfulness that I cannot help, despite myself. Letting go slowly, I sit for a moment and steep in the melancholy vanity of lost permanence.

And then, the longing to remain is gone as I become aware that someday I too will be dissolved out of time and place, and then recreated. Vanity releases it’s demand for permanence, replaced with the hope that I can pirouette as gracefully as this chopped up tree’s steam plume, into the time of my own passing. My soul rests patiently, idly speculating on that fate over which I have little control, to know what comes next, to be dissolved into the Whole and to be recreated.

And so I am repaired for this evening. Vanity is calmed, my body is comforted, and my soul is shown a mystery. It feels right to be here, where Place and Time stand exposed for their true selves. They are diminished. No longer dominating giants, they aren’t so intimidating. They are no gods, demanding of me whatever they will. They are merely companions, Subjects to the same God as I am.

I am not alone. I am surrounded by equals. There is only God and Creation.

Morning Cafe

The dawn streamed through the glass door of a quiet cafe, guiding my fuzzy mind to the row of perches set before the supporting breakfast counter. By memory, I stumbled along the beam of daylight until there were no more stools, and then shifted myself mechanically back one index, to the last spot.

It may have been comfortable. But most importantly at this sketchy part of the morning, it was solid.

And so was the counter.

And after some hazy conversation with the chirpy waitress, the warmth and aroma of steaming coffee slid in between my hands, and I wrapped myself around its aura.

Gradually, the cafe’s sights and sounds came into focus. First the counter, worn wood-grain with scuffs, and cuts that rendered it precisely perfect for its function. Only one small flaw, a chip where the glue had failed way over there in the corner disturbed this perfection. I reached and slid the bowl of sugar packets over it. But it didn’t help. I knew it was there now, and covering it up just made me think about it. I uncovered it to let it breathe with the rest of us.

The waitress suddenly was standing before me on one hip, pad and pen in hand, as if she’d just spoken and was waiting for my response. My response was a raised eyebrow. From that, and memory, she scribbled a copy of the last three days’ breakfast order, and punched the slip of paper into the order-wheel and spun it around to the kitchen.

The CLUMPCLUMPCLUMP of the bussing cart with a bad wheel lumbered its way behind my over the tile, punctuated by the sudden, eager sizzle of meat and potatoes on the griddle from behind the window to the kitchen. The exhaust fan droned tirelessly pulling air out and spreading the aromas of breakfast around the neighborhood in a smoky rain of onion, and bacon flavor. A disheveled head raised itself from his bed of trash bags in the alley out back,  taking it all in with the quiet joy of a desert landscape drinking in the rain as if a drought was over – until the pangs from his belly reminded him that his money had gone to a bottle. He reached fearfully into his breast pocket to make sure it was still there, and to refresh his hazy wall of protection from the world of pain around him.

Inside, oblivious to this conflict, I opened the gates to my mind, and took in this fresh new day, sorting and placing and knowing the things around me, listening to the patter of a half-dozen conversations around me, listening to the sounds of life, feeling the stream of daylight still casting sideways from the horizon. Life took its place in this new day all around me.

And only that one, virtually imperceptible hole where one man had sealed himself out from it, so near to me in the alley behind, disturbed the perfection of worn, used people and things serving their purpose. One dot of silence poked through where there should have been a voice niggled unrecognized in the back of my mind.

– The Mighty Viking

A Word About Art

If I may wax a little philosophical about Art:
I’ve taken this photo from my trip last week, and removed the color. I then brushed it back in selectively as I saw fit.

It gave the photo some extra meaning to me to do it, and more importantly, the task at hand gave me a chance to ruminate on the meaning I was seeing.

It was a fairly simple process, I wouldn’t say much skill was required. You’ll see that I’ve only re-colorized some of the flags. This was done with intent that I discovered as I worked. I originally intended to recolor all of the flags. But it struck me that the story of our country is far from ended, and those who come after us are still coloring the purpose and meaning of America.

The inspiration for that came in the action. And what I want to say about Art is this: That it is the process of finding meaning – maybe for others, but maybe only for yourself. It is a way of learning, a dynamic process that can only really be taught within the construct of action. It is a very specific, unique method of learning about meaning in life.

And this is why it is important for Art to be included in schools, and deserves a higher degree of deliberate inclusion.

I find it harder and harder to accept that the gradual disappearance of Art from curriculum to be a simple lack of understanding of its value. The more I know about the process of Art – real art that is – the more it feels like it has been intentionally repressed and/or perverted into something with the same name, but without the same power to define ourselves. I don’t entirely know why, all the scenarios I can come up with are very, very dark with implication.  I hope I’m wrong.

But one thing I’m sure of: Art is a part of being Human. Parents, encourage your children to think – not just about a proper end product, but to FEEL the process of creating, to understand it’s effect in them, and to give it its proper place in their makeup. We can’t rely on schools to do it.  We can’t rely on our fractured society to do it.  Art WILL be created.  Whether it nourishes us or bleeds us of our strength depends on both the Artist’s dedication to awareness of inspiration, and the vision of us all to perceive meaning.

There. I don’t think that was too bad, was it?

Now go color something.

Drinking in the Moment

So there I was, rolling along through the Van Duzer Corridor between the Oregon Coast and the Big City – Portland. The curves were tight, the pace was low, and I was driving a 40hp 1965 VW. It was a nice crisp autumn morning, and I was feeling fine.

There was a decent line developing behind me, but I wasn’t worried. I knew I could go no faster, and that quite frankly, no one else should be going faster either. I decided to just bask in the day, drink it in, enjoy the scenery, and not worry about the angst-ridden drivers behind me. The car count behind me got up to 5. then 7, 9, 12 cars. But still, I wasn’t worried.

As we exited the tightest curves, and approached the first of a couple brief passing lanes, I could see a 1990 Dodge Shelby about 4 cars back, jockeying into the oncoming lane. He was in a fine kettle, flashing his lights, blaring the horn, weaving out aggressively as if he were going to pass anyway. I smiled. I knew his kind. None too smart, driving a lame car with stuck on effects to make would-be purchasers think they were getting the full Shelby Treatment, when in fact it was nothing but a K-car underneath.

But I understood his angst too. It was a great road to go blasting down, living one’s fantasies of Nascar, or Formula 1 racing, imagining his name in lights beside the greatest racers of our time. And here was this little Beetle – my Beetle – slowing him down. I understood.

But I answered to a higher power. I drove the speed limit, and just drank in the moment.

The moment we hit the straight stretch – even before the solid yellow line disappeared, he did what I knew he would do. He did his best to light up his tires, jerked his car out into the oncoming lane, and bore down on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a competitive guy, and this car closing on me in the rear-view mirror sparked an instinct in me. But still…I smiled. I even chortled a little inside. It was a beautiful day. And it was about to get even more beautiful.

Shelby Sam went flying past me – had to be doing at least 80 as he scream past, arm extended over the car, violently flipping the bird at me with one hand, working the horn with the other, looking more at me than the road. I have to admit that there was, at that moment, just a twinge of sympathy. Not much, just a hint of it. I recovered quickly.

As he roared past, and reached the point where he wanted to pull back in front of me, his car suddenly jerked back and forth. It had been exactly at the moment that he realized that in front of me was a motorcycle cop, and that he was about to overtake that cop going 90mph. He lit the tires with his brakes, skidding a little back and forth, and then just froze. He couldn’t pass. He didn’t know, suddenly, how to slow back and pull in behind. He was just stuck, mentally, out there in the oncoming lane, doing precisely 55mph.

The motorcycle cop gesticulated to him. With a gracious sweep of his hand he invited the Shelby guy to pull in front of him, and then over. It was such beautiful gesture, kind, understanding, magnanimous. They slowed on the shoulder as one, lights blinking, horn silent.

And as I overtook them on that beautiful fall morning, I offered the best I had, a double tap of a Volkswagen horn. It’s chirpy perkiness brightened up an already glorious morning. And behind me, every car that had just witnessed the moment double-tapped their horns in succession. It was a Noble Moment of solidarity from we drivers.

19 years later, I’m still chuckling.Scan10002

The Dreariest Day of the Year

I notice that some people make a tradition of wishing others a happy New Year,and fill the ether

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 with resolutions about weight, conditioning, removal of bad habits, attainment of good ones,

And wealth. It always seems to come up that we hope wealth for ourselves and each other.

Well, this just doesn’t make sense to me. I personally have never been wealthy in the traditional sense, and the sense that I did believe myself to be wealthy usually revolved around the beginnings of relationships – marriage, the birth of children, etc., not so much annual observation of the single most dreary day of the year.

Dreariest day of the year?” you challenge, most incredulous, thinking of all the parades, and fireworks, and football, and honeyed hams and confetti. Mounds of confetti.

Ayup. Dreariest. Day. Of… the… year

Granted, I love sitting around eating deviled eggs, and lolling on the sofa chatting it up on the internet, watching two football games at once, texting my kids stupid football jokes in cities far away from myself. But this day, here in the Northern Hemisphere, long has a reputation of being – if you happen to be one of the 3 people in the hemisphere without children, wife, cell phone service and satellite hookup, or tickets to a parade and/or bowl game – a traditional day one week after the festive familial joy of Christmas, the last fervent strains of the Hallelujah Chorus finally fading into wallowing echo in your head, the shrieks of children and grandchildren getting EXACTLY the useless gizmo they so desperately wanted – (take a breath here) This day, finally clear of all the hoopla, the cleanup and recovery after the hoopla, sitting quietly in your chair sensing the sudden vacuum of noise and bustle.

Is the first moment you wake up and realize with a chilled foreboding, “It is winter”. No, not the Charles Dickens Christmas winter, not the Currier and Ives sleigh-bell-festooned joyful celebration – no – just winter. Cold. Pale. Heatless, lifeless, devoid of the things we warm-blooded creatures have managed to learn to live without, but not to live without pining for. The sky is a pale blue, the sun barely mustering into what should have been a mid-morning azimuth before stalling, barrel-rolling over backwards and diving for airspeed just to make sure it can make sunrise tomorrow. That distant, cold orb that in summer sucks the sweat out of our brow, browns our skin, fries eggs on the sidewalk, begs to be let back down in its bed and sucks the life from our marrow by the gloom of an ice-clouded sky. There is no hope for tomorrow, it will be dreary too. If you’re lucky, the excitement will be how much snow piles up during the next storm, or how high the river might crest. But we are old now, and do not get out of school for snow.

And so on this dreariest day of the year I cannot bring myself to lie to you, to pretend that I can wish with any hope a happy New Year. The best I can offer is that you have an entire year. Yes, that’s it. May you have a 2014, in its full entireness.

Live it.

Pace yourself.

Take this festivity that we’ll make tomorrow, and squirrel some away, that you can pay it out over the next few months, while the dreary season lasts.

When Spring comes to us, sit on the grass, and feel it growing beneath you.  Spend a cold morning curled up over a bulb of crocus, or hyacinth (heck, both if you were smart) and watch it come creeping out of the half-frozen ground into life, ahead of everything else in your garden.  Make friends with it, even if it leaves your knees stiff, and your insides shivering.  It is good form as a host to welcome the first comers of a journey.

And when the Plum trees bloom, and the dogwood springs overnight into a dazzling white explosion, stand beneath that tree, even if it is but a small one, and look up through the blooms at the sky beyond, be it a brilliant spring morning, or soaking your face with the showers that must come – look up, and let the growing power of the sun, filtered by the dogwood’s testament, caress your face in its promises, in its tears of joy at return, and it’s beaming face of a friend well-met again. That is it’s only job. Let it fulfill it’s destiny by bringing you hope in the wake of this dreary season.

And when you look out on your lawn, and realize it once again needs a trim, go quickly before you get your mower, and roll in the grass like a week-old foal. Your old, tired legs are no worse that that foals gangly, uncooperative underpinnings – go get in the grass. And then call your son or daughter from across town, or across the state, to help you get up again. Stay there until they arrive, and feel in their arms the strength that once was yours. Relish the passing of this strength. And hold the wee grandchild’s ears to your lips and whisper to them that someday they too will be strong – because grandma is making them oatmeal cookies this very moment.

When the rains have slowed for a few days in mid-spring, go into your garden with a spade, and turn over one shovel-full of earth. Drop that shovel-full onto the paving stones beside the garden, and with the help of someone very small, get down there and count the worms. crumble the earth – find all you can, and put them in a plastic cottage cheese container you cleaned out and set in a cupboard for sealing leftovers. Let this one go. fill it with worms, and a little soil, and count them all out of that shovel-full. When you’ve finished, put the dirt back, put the worms on top, and together count how long it takes them to disappear again. Count loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. It’s important to let your gardening competitors hear how lively your worms are, and how smart your grandchildren are. And…It is one more thing for you to know.

When the rains of June come, and the wildflower patch you planted in a box alongside your house has gone wild with color, call your daughter and see if she’s had any contractions. If she even hesitates to answer, put your wife in her car with the bag you’ve packed for her, and launch her like a torpedo, to answer the hesitation before it becomes fear. Take the wee ones to the river, and play in the rocky river bed, letting your bottom bounce with the current over the rocks while they ride you like a fishermen’s dory, screaming “Shark, Shark!” in high-pitched fear of such magnitude that they squeal with laughter. Wade beside them on your hands in the shallows against the rushes, and point out the frogs, staying close to make sure no one actually eats a pollywog.

In the heat of July, and not a moment before, haul yourself out of those shallows, and let your drenched body dry from beginning to end in the midday sun. Call out the shapes of clouds out loud, even if the grandkids have long since gone home to their mommies and daddies, pick up your cell phone and text your kids the pictures of the clouds, and tell them to pass along what you see. Make sure and do it while they are at work, late morning, when they are fully aware of just exactly how much longer they have to spend indoors today. And don’t feel guilty for a second.

As the golden hues of August begin to emerge, drive to the nearest wheat field – especially if it takes several hours. Step into the stalks along its edge, and feel for a moment the solidarity of the whole field’s worth of individual plants whenever a breeze rushes by. Sway with that wheat, and remember to yourself how to bend – remember to do it amongst friends. Text one or two of them a picture of where you’re standing, and explain why. And thank them.

The fruit harvest of late summer will soon come. Begin to visit orchards just to see how they are being tended. If they’ll let you, lie in the shade of a peach tree, and spy for yourself a nicely developing fruit, and contemplate that fruit. Think of it, sliced and in a bowl with cream. Listen to its succulence. Make sure you know how to make a good crumb crust for the cobbler. Quietly, and vividly, remember the feel of your grandmother’s hands holding yours, teaching you to pare and slice a fruit into a bowl – remember how she smelled, and how her voice warbled in those last years as she told you that you could have another cookie from the counter. Remember where she lies, and go pay your respects.

Go far away in September. Wherever you are – don’t get caught there in September. Go, feel the road beneath your wheels, and the hot wind in your face.  Chase the line between earth and sky until you fully grasp the magnitude of the horizon. Aim for it. You’ll know when you’ve gotten where you’re going when you don’t know where you are, exactly, and realize you no longer want your phone to tell you. Oh…and find a different way home.

When October starts to whisper in ominous tones the impending winter, take its warnings seriously. Let the instinct to gather, to harvest, to make sure you know your neighbors, fill you. Visit your neighbors, especially if they are much older than you. If they are well, they will fill your arms with blackberry jam, and apple butter, sealed with wax and love that no longer has children to be sealed for. You are now that child. Be the child, and bring whole-wheat toast you made yourself, pop it into their toaster, and share the first jar of jam right then and there. If they are not well, they will have no jam. Bring your own. Tell them about how much you loved your own grandparents, and let them be yours for the moment. And leave the rest of the loaf of bread when you go.

When the first real storm of the fall hits, go out into it, and feel its madness. Let the wild winds foment around you, tug at your spirit, try to take you away from where you are, to places they can only whisper promises to. Hold the wind in your hands, wrap your grip around its hard pull, knowing you can’t hold it, knowing it can’t take you. Strive that futile challenge to its limit – and then with all your heart release it – letting it ascend again back into the heavens, but bearing your scent, your struggle, your mark upon it.

And as, once again, the Christmas music starts again, and families gather, and remind each other they still belong, let whatever familiarity you have be lent out freely.  Push, pull, or drag the joy of Christmas with you through the next holiday, and in it’s afterglow, look back again.

If you can remember its’ beginning, you either did very well, or very poorly. Whichever you did, rejoice, because in the end, what matters is not your wealth, nor your happiness. It is enough to have had a complete year, One Full Turn around the sun, and in that turn, to be able to say, “I lived it”.