The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

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This entry is dedicated to my sister Pam, who captured this beauty from the journey on her adventurecraft. As I looked at…meditated on….this photograph and the manifestation of love in nature, Thoreau quotes flooded my mind. I’ll end with a reflection of his wisdom…

“My profession is always to be on the alert to find God in Nature, to know his lurking-places, to attend all the oratorios, the operas, of nature.”  -HDT

“There is no such thing as pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, i.e. to be significant, must be subjective. The sum of what the writer of what ever class has to report is simply some human experience, whether he be poet or philosopher or man of science. The man of most science is the man most alive, whose life is the greatest event.” – HDT

Love: Part One

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Love is a necessary ingredient on the adventurecraft.

I recognize that this is not new information. This is nothing that a Beatles song, a Hallmark card, a Subaru commercial or the Book of Ecclesiastes has not covered.

But I feel it necessary to mention how much I love my husband. In fact, as I rolled over in bed to tell him I was going to write (at 3:30 AM), he snuggled me in to him and said, “sorry you had such a tough day.” (Of course, that was just after he yelled out, “What, am I snoring?” in a deafening bark that only a man who has handled heavy artillery for the US Marine Corps would produce.)

This is the man who knelt down beside me to ask me to marry him, just weeks after a serious double knee surgery, producing a hand-carved teak engagement ring. Knowing I didn’t want a diamond that came into the world at the expense of someone else’s safety and well-being, and never having carved a ring before, he set out to make a perfect, symmetrical piece for me.

This is the man who admitted me to the hospital one week after our son was born, and proceeded to care for our newborn as a single dad for a whole week while I healed from an infection… and then for the entire rest of my maternity leave with feeble attempts at help by his wife who could barely walk.

This is the man who bakes bread, strategically, in the afternoon so the house smells like honey and oatmeal and warmth and goodness just as I enter the house after work.

He is also one tough son of a gun.

I was generally aware of all of this as we drove to Eagle River last Friday night to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. The temperatures had dipped into the single digits and the largest Big Dipper I’ve ever seen followed us from the sky as we drove north on county highways.

As we came upon an accident, with a car pulled over and a deer lying in the road, we drove slowly and commented on how unfortunate it was. But a mile later, something in my husband’s gut told him to turn around and go back to help.

As we approached the scene from the opposite direction, the deer weakly stood up in the middle of the road and stared, shellshocked. His leg had been shattered and as is often the case with adrenaline in the face of death, “he didn’t know he was dead yet.” (Quoting Tad.)

Cars were backing up in both directions and a large farmer stood in a John Wayne-style face-off with the deer in the road, knife in hand. His attempts to quicken the animal’s demise were unsuccessful. So Tad took his own knife and assisted the man, and the young buck. Max stared out through the window,  into the 8° night air  pointing out the “deeah”. I explained that daddy was helping the deer (and getting a few brutal kicks to the forearms in the process).

As we continued on our drive, all of the reasons I love my husband came sharply into view. That act of bravery and gentleness epitomizes all that he does in this world to care for creation in the face of difficulty.

I don’t believe Max and I could not have gotten any luckier.

Make Room for Miscellany

Our Junk Drawer

This piece was inspired by two things.

1) After I complimented my friend on her fabulously crafted blog (wykydtyny), she described it in the following way: “It’s mostly turning out to be a lot of random things. I suppose, that’s what a blog is. Well. What mine is, heh. I don’t have the patience to, like, pick a topic and write on it steadily.”

2) The fact that I have at least seven bags floating  around my house right now with random configurations of pens, stamps, business cards, charger cords, gum, Aveda products and used gift cards. Little mini-junk drawers. All over our house. Much to the dismay of my husband.

I will declare that every adventurecraft has a junk drawer. Mine has a few. Our home has an office that I call the “junk drawer” of our house. It has, in no particular order:

  • A drying rack
  • An ironing board
  • All of my CDs (yep, not letting go)
  • A pile of thank you notes from our 2009 wedding (unsent, clearly, but addressed with abounding optimism and good intention)
  • My high school Pez dispenser collection
  • Book collection remnants (my husband’s hand loading magazines stacked haphazardly against my Bible doctrine texts from grad school….gosh, that makes it sounds like Sarah Palin lives here)
  • My steel toed boots
  • An antique church pew
  • A disposable camera from the early 2000’s
  • And ironically, a stack of Real Simple magazines from my 2010 subscription with ample home organization tips.

When my brother and his wife cleaned their home, she could get several rooms done, meanwhile he had spent three hours reorganizing their junk drawer. This was fairly irritating for her, and totally cathartic for him.

There is a phrase, stating that someone “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” It is a common phrase. It has an arguably misguided negative connotation that the person has missed the big picture. Well dammit, if they saw the TREES….the TREES…well I think they DO get the big picture.

Here is my point. Miscellany manifests itself on a spectrum in our lives, ranging from a neatly-tucked away junk drawer, to an entire back seat of paperwork and fast food wrappers, to a hoarder home. What I am suggesting is that this randomivity (don’t ask Webster, I invented the word) has a purposeful place on the adventurecraft, typically a breeding ground for creativity and surprise. Now creativity and surprise are necessary ingredients of adventure, and aren’t commonly resultant of planning and organization. It’s just a theory.

I’d love to hear about your junk drawer….where do you allow for miscellany and disorganization in your life? (PS this is not a confession, it’s revelation and liberation…wait, this is turning into a U2 song now….)

Run Away to the Circus…A Lesson in Wonderment

This piece is gonna wander from story to story. Stay with me.

(I was going to name this The Tattooed Lady, then it struck me how irrelevant of a topic that is these days, when you can see more tattoos on a barista than we saw in the sideshow 30 years ago…)

When my father dropped out of high school and attempted to join every branch of the military before he was of age (and subsequently rejected from every branch), he joined the circus. What was his job? This is the standard question. He anchored and twirled the ropes for the girls performing great acrobatic feats of strength and flexibility up above. Or so the story goes.

Now I don’t know if it was because of his own personal connection to the circus that my dad brought us there, but both the big tent and the fair were his attractions of choice during my childhood. I have vivid memories of painted trailers, adorned with the promise of viewing bearded and tattooed women, snake people, giant pigs, ladies with mermaid tails, fire eaters, and the list goes on… and we saw every last one of them.

As a five-year-old, I waited in line to witness these oddities with great anticipation and total elation. In my memory, these opportunities conjure up visions of the movie Moulin Rouge, with thick red carpets, shiny brass hardware on the trailers and sparkling twinkle lights.

I think I was probably oblivious to any casualties life on the road had caused these folks and their own adventurecrafts… Had I been interrogated by crime scene personnel that very evening, I would not have recounted any cracked floor boards, missing carnie teeth or sweat-stained mermaid tail costumes. I bought what my father, and the show itself, sold…wonderment. Total fascination with the surreal and mysterious abnormalities of nature. All I saw was a beautiful dream unfolding in each trailer….compounded by the fact that I could only catch a glimpse of each show before being ushered outdoors, down the ramp, standing dazed in the glow of the snow-cone signs.

The Circus ContinuesI told you that story so I could tell you this one.                     – Bill Cosby

Enter Jason Wilber, Eddie Smalls, Amazing Grace and Sideshow Dan: When Jason Wilber, the opening act for and longtime friend of John Prine, started to recount a carnival tale from his own childhood on stage last Friday night, I was hooked. Along with rivers and trains, a good carnie story gets me in my guts and paints my own childhood on the canvas of my mind.

After the show, I tried to find Jason’s story online. No luck. Hey, Jason, if you’re out there, please record the story with the song! I’ll do my best to capture it here…

When Jason was young, his dad paid for him to see Eddie Smalls, the world’s smallest man, when the carnival came to town. First of all, Jason was absolutely befuddled by the fact that his father had no interest in joining him. Secondly, he couldn’t wait to experience that which was promised to him on the side of the trailer…the opportunity to hold Eddie Smalls in the palm of his hand! Upon entering the trailer, and separated from the world’s smallest man by only a moldy red rope, it became extremely apparent that there was no conversation to be had with the tiny man with the stained shirt and a pile of PBR cans at his tiny carnie feet. And it became painfully obvious, in that short window, that Jason was most assuredly not going to get Eddie to perch on his palm…..so he wandered back outside.

With that memory in his arsenal, though, Jason wrote the song The Ballad of Amazing Grace and Sideshow Dan; ironically, Eddie Smalls only makes a brief cameo in the whole tune. Regardless, the story-song combo makes for a great concert, and clearly brought me back to a few great memories of my dad.

Surely you have a sideshow, circus or carnival memory. We gotta hear it.

What’s the Point

So when my friend Michelle launched her blog recently, I was mesmerized by her greatness. Wait, what? You can just write a blog? Isn’t that reserved for journalists? Or stay-at-home moms that make their own soap and practice holistic medicine on their pets, documenting their endless wisdom on wind-powered apparatuses? (yeah, seems like it should be “apparati,” right? Apparently not.)

I guess these were the things I was telling myself to stave off any misguided thoughts that I could possibly write anything of worth or interest to the general populace. (For anyone considering writing any hurtful comments in response to this or future posts, please note my abundant insecurity. Consider Exhibit A submitted to the court.) With an anticipated four-person reader base, however, I don’t imagine cruelty will abound quite yet.

So what’s the point of writing? Capturing adventure. Every day has one. People and places are exciting. Everyone has a story. I want to tell their stories. And mine. It’s genetic. My dad was a storyteller. He weaved fact and fiction into a miraculous tapestry which was retold as a memory, changing slightly from listener to listener. Part of this memory alone is heresay….my dad died when I was 10 and my library of his stories is limited. But he definitely saw life as an adventure and bestowed that lens to me. I didn’t think that was a big deal, until I met people who didn’t see life as an adventure.

Aside from my dad, however, there is another inspiration. Todd Snider. He is a folk singer who watched other people play guitar and sing for money. His response was, “well, shit, I can do that.(click on that phrase to hear the story; caution: adult language.)

So what’s the point of writing NOW? Well, aside from Michelle, there are a few many other inspirational characters in the storyline recently. My friend Jessica started making pies. Sarah started coaching lives. Jackie wrote a book. Ali and Bethany quit their life-sucking jobs to pursue something they actually like. And Daniel…well, he’s on his way to fame…the dream of being a movie critic is hatching in his soul and he challenged me to pursue my improv comedy dream in like fashion. So, really, I am actually dodging that bullet since a keyboard is less scary than a microphone (just for now Daniel, but the challenge is still on).

So here we go. If this adventurecraft is anything like my Montero, a rusty old farm vehicle that needs major repairs every few hundred miles and smells like exhaust, but has a kick-ass stereo system thanks to the last owner, well then things are going to be just fine.