Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fighting Back

Stress kills. It may be slow but, in the end, stress will kill us if given a chance.

I began this blog out of frustration. Politicians, injustice, religious bigotry, US imperialism, corporate greed and other issues anger me. It’s not a minor irritation but a strong, seething volcanic anger that demands action even though no action can effect change. This blog was intended to be a vent, a release. I didn’t expect answers or solutions or change. I simply wanted to deal with one distinct part of my life before it spilled over into other parts of my life – and my relationships – with negative consequences.

I learned years ago that ranting solves nothing but makes things worse. I try to deal with the negative in a positive way. As I began writing and trying to focus on the positive, I felt better. The more I focused on the positive, the better I felt. Things haven’t changed -- politicians still lie, corporations continue to be criminally greedy, injustice grows -- but I feel better. Because I feel better, I’m better equipped to deal with the bad and stressful in life. For example, I voted this time with very little anger.

Last spring I wrote an article that was not flag-waving patriotic crap. I received a negative comment. The commenter’s blog was a super-positive, sugary how-to-live manual that pretended problems don't exist. I read a few posts and made a couple comments but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Life isn’t all sweetness, sunshine and butterflies. I don’t have the answers and I damned-well know that no one can tell me how to live. Even if they do know what’s best for me, I want to make my mistakes and struggle for myself. I like living in the real world with problems, imperfect people and stress.

I don’t write for you. I write for myself. I write to maintain my attitude. I write to feel good about myself and my life. There are other reasons – many other reasons – but one of the primary reasons is that I write to combat stress.

Stress kills – but it’s not going to get me without a fight

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I wonder what’s in this book. I have two degrees in the field and know what it’s supposed to say but, what does it really say? Recently, after fifteen year hiatus, I picked up a New Testament and began reading.

I’m not looking for truth or wisdom. I’m not seeking entertainment. It’s curiosity. What does it say? What’s the message? I wonder how many people have read it with an open mind void of preconceptions.

Religion is a mystery to me. Why do people need to believe in eternity, heaven, hell, a spiritual realm and an ecclesiastical structure that absolves them of responsibility?

I’ve heard it said that Ghandi read the Bible and made some statement to be effect that he would become a Christian if he ever met one. Myself, I must say that I don’t want to be identified with Christians because I’ve met many.

I’ve learned that my life improves, enriches and becomes more satisfying, content and euphoric the more I take responsibility for myself and immerse myself in the natural world and flawed people.

What does this book really say? I’m curious. Throughout history, it’s been the source of many wonderful acts of compassion, humanity and lovingkindness. Unfortunately, it has been the inspiration for much evil, destruction, suffering and hatred.

What does this book really say? I’m curious.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Young Lovers

Her face glowed with the radiance of a young love in the flush of infatuation. She was smiling as she extended her arms across the table to receive the hands reaching for her touch.

Four of us were eating breakfast but I was the only one sitting in a position to watch the young lovers. I was enjoying watching them. It reminded me of the feelings of infatuation, passion and blind love that I felt when young. Watching them talk non-stop brought out a vivid memory of Julie and I in a restaurant in Lubbock, Texas laughing, talking, eating and feeling euphoric.

I glanced their way occasionally. When the young lady looked my way, I tried to maintain an appropriate expression on my face. I didn’t want to make them feel self-conscious nor did I want them to think I disapproved of their public show of affection.

I was curious about the recipient of her attention. My curiosity was rewarded when the other young lady turned her head and I was able to see her face shining from within her long hair. Both of the young women were attractive.

Breakfast was enjoyable that morning. Julie and I were looking forward to hiking in the Dragoons. Deb and Chris added to the enjoyment as we discussed our separate plans for the day and discussed meeting that evening. The young ladies added to the bright and hopeful atmosphere and the feeling of gratitude for being alive and in love with Julie and with life.

I was raised to be prejudiced against people unlike myself. I'm glad – so very glad – that I unlearned those lessons and replaced them with more tolerance and compassion.

I wish the young women well. May they find the happiness that I’ve found with Julie.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I cupped my hands behind my ears and listened once again. It sounded like water but I wasn’t certain. The insect was there for certain and the breeze moving through the trees was more defined. I removed my hands and heard a muffled breeze but no insects, no birds and no falling water. Occupational hazards in my youth combined with age have deafened me to the more subtle natural, soothing and intriguing sounds that surround me.

We were sitting near the divide of the Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains. Our hike reached its height and turning point at the divide and we had returned to a sunny outcrop to eat and to experience a feeling of sacredness. My mind was wandering through valleys and peaks of thoughts as I gazed over the scene before me. Julie was sitting beside me as we shared our meal. We sat silent most of the time, each choosing to revel in semi-solitude.

I thought about the names of the scenery before me – Stronghold and Dragoon – which tell of the violent and sad human history of the area. A dragoon is “a member of a European military unit formerly composed of heavily armed mounted troops.” The name came from the Mexican troops who pursued the Apache into the mountains. A stronghold is “a fortified place” or “a place of security and survival”.

Cochise and a band of Chokonen-Chiricahua Apache sought refuge in this section of the mountains as they fled from American troops. He and five others had been falsely accused of kidnapping and theft which initiated a war of attrition that lasted ten years. In the end, the remaining 400 to 600 Apaches acquired and lost a reservation before being relocated to reservations in Florida and Oklahoma.

I sat in the sun, felt the cool breeze on my bare arms and savored the rebellious and cynical thoughts that in reality their land was stolen, their hopes were destroyed, their basic human rights were denied and they were moved to concentration camps in the quest for American Empire – a damned corrupt empire as are all empires. My sadness of thinking of the bereaved families struggling for survival was moderated by my cynicism that life always has been and always will be marked by struggle, competition and conquest. So be it. Eat, drink and enjoy the fleeting moment, the sun, the bird’s song and the beauty of nature, family and friends..

But, this wasn’t the time or place to wallow in cynicism. It was a time for nature and the geologic history that surrounded us – and the potential danger. At the trailhead I saw a sheriff’s vehicle and walked over to ask questions. I discovered he was checking a vehicle which matched the description of one owned by two climbers – a married couple in their fifties – who were over 48 hours past due for a planned phone call to family. They were experienced climbers and were punctual in checking with family. As I sat on the outcrop, I wondered if they were injured or were their bodies lying at the base of some wall. I felt no sadness. I understood their choice and need and their willingness to accept the risk.

Julie broke the silence. “Give me the binoculars! Do I see people?” Indeed, she had spotted three climbers on what appeared to be an impossible face in the distance. Each of us chooses the activities that enrich our lives and our experience of the natural world. We had passed a couple hiking with an old dog, a family with children and three mountain bikers. Here were climbers who would reach the peak and experience a panorama and a thrill that few can achieve. I doubt that I have the strength and endurance to go where they have gone but my life is rich enough.

Cochise Stronghold
The Cochise Stronghold. The arrow identifies the location of three climbers. Here's a larger version of the photo.

Three climbers
Three climbers. Here's a larger version of the photo.

I cupped my hands behind my ears and listened again. Once more I heard the falling water blending its voice with the music of the insect and the breeze. My hearing may be fading but not the richness of my life.

Julie quietly and matter-of-factly commented “We can do this for another 30 years.”

“Yes, I hope so. I have you and a few remaining wild places. That’s enough to make life good.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


(Work, deadlines and scheduling conflicts are interfering with thinking, reading, researching and blogging. Here’s my offering for today.)

Here's an example of something for which I'm thankful. I received this email from Juile.

Isn't this a wonderful response from a very busy woman? I had no idea there was so much to be known about this tasty hot drink. Just thought I'd share. I'm ashamed of my doubts that she would take the time.

Julie had read a new author and was intrigued by a fictional character’s habit of drinking tea and the details the author included about tea. We were in Sedona and saw a small, unusual tea house. Julie purchased a cup of tea and several tea bags printed not with English but with Chinese characters. This experience motivated Julie to email the author of the books. Here’s her email to the author.

I recently discovered your books through a web search and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Lydia and Bill. I'm in the middle of Reflecting the Sky and lack only Concourse and Mandarin Plaid to finish them all. Your writing syle is wonderful and I look forward your next book.

I'm writing today out of curiosity. Are you a fan of delicious teas or is the detail on that subject nothing more than in keeping with Lydia's character? You have done such a good job of interjecting tea drinking into the plot of your books that I have decided I'm missing a very good thing and have begun a quest to learn about and sample oriental teas till I find a few that fit the bill.

If you are a tea lover, can you recommend a starting point for me?

Surprise! The busy author replied.

Julie --

What a great question! And thanks for the kind words about the books. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you but my life's like that.

I am, in fact, a tea lover. Though I don't have Lydia's life-long
experience, or, I think, her palate. Still, I can help you get started if you want.

First, a quick tea lesson. … (details deleted)

And now that the lesson's over, try this: go to which is a tea shop in Minnesota, and tell Bill Waddington you want to try some new teas, and that SJ Rozan sent you. And have fun!

-- SJ

Julie has emailed other authors and received replies.

I like the information age with access to news, knowledge, opinions, photos and email which makes it possible for Julie to communicate with family, friends and authors. On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the Internet. I’ve met many wonderful people via blogging. I’ve been inspired, saddened, provoked to anger, amused and made to think and ponder. I’ve made friends – some whom I’ve met and some I hope to meet. Yes, I’m thankful for the Internet because it connects me to you.

Not all of you are Americans. Some of you are in the UK, Australia and Canada. Regardless of where you are – Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for you.

(Julie and I are meeting her sister and brother-in-law, Deb and Chris, in Tucson to celebrate Thanksgiving, to spend time together and to hike and explore new mountains. My posts may be late, intermittent or missing for the next five days.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Is there something wrong with me? Do I have psychological problems?

If I’m hiking, my mind sometimes wanders to a building project. If I’m working on a building project, I daydream about hiking. Why am I not always content with where I am and what I’m doing?

About two years ago, I noticed a book with the title “Anatomy of Restlessness”. On impulse, I purchased it. As I read, I could identify with author Bruce Chatwin who felt a need for travel, new jobs, different experiences and novelty. Why are we this way?

In a science or philosophy magazine, I read an opinion on why tourists will drive miles out of their way to see the world’s largest ball of twine. Evolution favored animals that noticed the unique and different. In a herd, the weak and sick look and behave differently. They stand out and may be easier prey. The predators that survived developed an ability to identify the unusual. We no longer stalk the herds but we have this drive and it causes us to watch for the unusual – such as the world’s largest ball of twine.

As a human – the most highly developed predator – I continue to respond to evolution’s force and search for ways to improve my probability of surviving life’s challenges. Why do I hike and travel and build and learn useless information? I do these things in part because they are enjoyable but mostly because of an inner genetic compulsion.

Why am I restless? It’s not because there’s something wrong with me. It’s because evolution made me this way.

One of the wonderful things about life is that if we do the things that come naturally then we’re the happiest. I’ve learned to enjoy my sense of restlessness. It’s who I am. It enriches my life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bewildered in a Lava Tube

A better man might be ashamed to admit it. We got lost. Well, perhaps that’s not quite accurate. To use Daniel Boone’s phrase, we were “bewildered” for a few moments.

Entrance to Lava River Cave
Entrance to Lava River Cave.

Juile’s sister and brother-in-law spent the weekend with us. Chis and I decided to explore Lava River Cave which is a lava tube near Flagstaff. The tube extends three-quarters of a mile underground and varies in height from 30 feet to about 3 feet. At one point the cave splits into two passages that join again. It’s impossible to get lost. I’ve been there before and have taken both forks and have been to the end of the cave.

We took the right fork and followed it for what seemed like the right distance to a point were it forks again. Taking the left fork should have taken us back toward the entrance to the cave and to the point there the cave originally forked. As we turned left, the cave was choked with rock that had fallen from the roof and we had to crouch in the low clearance. We climbed up the rock fall and came back into a large area and turned right since we weren’t planning on going to the end of the cave.

Near the entrance to the cave.
Near the entrance to the cave.

As I looked back, I knew I had never seen the small opening before. It was possible to walk by it in the dark. We definitely weren’t in the spot that I expected.

“What the heck? Oh, well. Either we’re right or we’re wrong.”

Turns out, I was wrong. We continued into the cave well passed the half-mile mark before we turned and retraced our steps.

Look at the photos. How could someone get bewildered? It's like getting lost crossing the Golden Gate Bridge! Life has one more mystery. Now, I’ve got to go back again and find that small opening and figure out how a right and a left and a second right was wrong. This challenges the laws of the universe!

Anyone want to go with me? I won't get us lost. Honest! Trust me.

 About half way into the cave
About half way into the cave.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Fifth Grade Incident - Part II

(This is part 2. To understand it, part 1 is required reading.)

Of all of her good gifts, life gave me imperfect parents with unwavering devotion and love. As I walked to my father’s place of work, I was worried about the consequences awaiting me at school but I felt no fear of telling him what had happened. I saw him as endowed with infinite patience, unlimited wisdom, righteous anger and the ability to fix any problem.

I explained the events and my father took me home. I don’t think we had a phone during those years and I am uncertain how events transpired as my parents, the teacher and the principal communicated. I definitely remember the principal coming to the house and talking with my father. I’m 99% certain my father went to the school and confronted the teacher. Somehow, someway my father resolved things.

The next day I was back in school. I wasn’t moved to another classroom. The teacher and I had to learn live together harmoniously. At lunch break, she told me to get my brown-bag lunch that Mom packed for me and to remain in the classroom. While other students went to the cafeteria, she and I had a “discussion”. She had a paper with questions and space for me to respond. There were about eight questions that began with “Why did you….?” To each question, I responded honestly – “I don’t know!”.

One question, the most incriminating question, I remember distinctly. “Why did you say you would kill me?”. Today, I can provide an answer other than “I don’t know” but at the time I was eleven and not yet fully human. She replied “Was it because you were so angry that you didn’t know what you were doing?” My response was “I don’t know. I guess so.” “Write that down” she commanded and I did. I wrote what she dictated.

And life went on. End of story.

As I think back on this event, I have some questions, some observations, some things for which I’m thankful and some things that still rub me the wrong way.

I’m glad I wasn’t moved to another classroom. Life isn’t about running from problems. It’s about confronting them, learning to deal with them, growing through them and becoming more fully human. Life is about learning to live with one another.

I’m thankful for my father. I can’t imagine what children feel who don’t have a champion to protect them.

I’ve heard that “God created mothers to protect children from neighbor children and God created fathers to protect neighbor children from mothers.” (Supposedly C. S. Lewis made this statement but I’m not certain if he’s the source.) My mother carried a hatred for the teacher for forty years. This was a mixed blessing. I regret the harm she did herself by clutching to hatred but I learned from her reaction to let it go. I feel no anger toward the teacher. I’m not certain whether she or I can claim the majority of the responsibility.

I never had another problem with the teacher. Though I reacted to the situation in a childish way, the result does underscore the necessity to stand up for ourselves. We teach others how to treat us. If we accept abuse then we’ll receive abuse.

I was born and raised in the coal fields on the border between Virgina and West Virgina. My heritage is not genteel society. Discussions populated with profanity, anger and violence were common. My statement of “I’ll kill you” can be categorized with “it’s raining cats and dogs”. It was not to be taken literally but was hyperbole pregnant with anger. Interestingly, my experience of moving to western New York state at the age of ten was accompanied by some feelings of inferiority and being classified as “poor white trash”. So be it.

What caused the original problem? My father quoted the teacher as saying “He’s from the south and he’s got to learn!”. Was the root of the problem prejudice and culture shock? What did she expect me to learn – academic work or new behaviors? I learn easily and could have been a straight-A student. I seem to remember some resentment because I was lazy, unmotivated and didn’t try. But, perhaps this was another teacher.

The real injustice that I feel is not the way the teacher related to me but the way the confession or report was created. I don't mind being held accountable but I was eleven. My father or an impartial adult should have been present. I interpret our discussion as a cowardly act of manipulation. But, the past is in the past.

I wonder what happened to my written “confession”? Did she keep it to protect herself against legal action or was it put in my “permanent file”. Actually, I don’t give a damn; it’s just an idle curiosity.

I’m not proud of this incident of anger and rebellion and yet, in some ways, I am. It’s part of who I was and helped make me who I am. I like who I’ve become and am becoming.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Fifth Grade Incident - Part I

The truth, if it ever existed, has been filtered and lost through half a century of experiences. She is deceased and all that remains is my fallible memory and, perhaps, a manipulated and coerced signed report -- or should it be called a confession. My choice of titles -- The Fifth Grade Incident -- illustrates my uncertainty and partial ambivalence about the experience. Perhaps, if fear, threat and violence in schools were not inflamatory topics in the news, I would be less ambivalent and more inclined to tell this story that casts me in a not-so-politically-correct light. I do not think threats to kill someone should be taken any way other than seriously.

I have only four memories of fifth grade. The first two are pleasant memories. Each day we walked single file to an adjoining classroom to be taught some subject -- math, English or something else -- by a grey haired teacher with the demeanor of a sweet, kindly grandmother. Though I cannot remember the subject, she touched my spirit and made me yearn to have her as my teacher rather than the harsh woman I endured daily.

My second pleasant memory is of crouching under the balcony of the auditorium as part of a training exercise in case of a nuclear attack by Russia. The stage in the auditorium sagged due to damage caused by an elephant many years earlier. I wished I had been present to see the elephant and hear the floor creak under its weight. Fantasies of being present for the elephant’s performance far exceeded fear of Russians, war and nuclear holocaust.

The memory of refusing to take a test is vivid. The papers were passed out. I accepted the test handed to me, put my name on the top, placed my pencil on the desk and retreated into an attitude which declared that not even the forces of hell would cause me to complete her damned test. Why? What had happened between us to elicit this reaction? I no longer remember the preceding events -- only the memory of my anger and stubborn refusal.

My fourth memory is of the incident.

“You may sit down.” I was standing facing the corner as punishment for some violation that I no longer remember. She and I had a relationship characterized by open dislike. Why? I do not know. As I returned to my seat, I looked toward her desk and saw a harsh look. Was it disgust or triumph or contempt? Whatever it was, it crossed some unconscious line. My next actions were not conscious decisions but were instinctive reactions that said “Dammit! I’m not taking it.”

I got out of my seat, left the room and went to the coat room across the hall. After getting my coat, I turned and she was blocking the aisle and access to the door behind her. I don’t remember what she said or even if she spoke. I remember saying “Get out of my way or I’ll kill you!” She froze with a look a fear. I turned, used another aisle, walked past her and left the building.

As I walked down the sidewalk, I heard someone shout “Stop!”. Instinct kicked in and I easily out ran the principal. My father worked about one mile from the school and I walked toward his place of work.

I was eleven years old and figured there was hell to be paid for what had I had done and said.

(Tomorrow, the rest of the story -- my version of the story -- and my interpretation of it’s significance.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mission Critical

I have been classified among “mission critical” personnel. I’m neither pleased nor flattered nor threatened. Should a pandemic of avian flu sweep the planet, the university will be emptied for several months but some employees must perform critical functions. I’m expected to continue working.

It’s not as dangerous as it sounds. Many years ago, quite by accident, I began working with computers. I develop software. In the event of a pandemic, I’ll work from home.

My first question was “If the university is emptied, why would I be needed?” Part of the answer was that all students will be given a sum of money to enable them to return home. More significant, there are over 2,000 married students, international students and other persons -- some with families -- who live on campus and have no place to go. The university must maintain the infrastructure needed to support these persons and to respond to the crisis. Yes, computers are essential.

The meeting I attended reminded me of the obvious. We -- you and I -- live precarious lives. In the event of a pandemic, how will most people survive if basic utilities such as gas, electric and water are disrupted? What about food?

With the exception of food, Julie and I have everything needed to survive at home for several months. I didn’t plan for a disaster. It’s just a natural part of living off the grid in a sustainable way. Julie and I discussed food and thought it wise to increase our supply of staple foods.

There is one item that I don’t have a sufficient quantity to last several months – bird feed. I have twelve feeders around the house. Birds enrich our lives so much. Last Sunday a motley flock of Robbins, Juncos, Bluebirds and Sparrows arrived together and left together. They were beautiful in the bright morning sun. In my life, I classify them as “mission critical”.

But…do I really want to attract the cute little critters in the midst of a pandemic of avian flu? Oh, well. If I’m trapped at home for weeks on end, I’ll need some entertainment!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mom's Ideas

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” I’m confident you’ve heard this adage. However, my experience with mother and invention was a little different.

It had snowed! The first snow I remember. I was pre-school age and excited. I quickly learned that snow is cold on bare hands -- especially a wet, heavy snow. Since I didn’t own gloves, my mother improvised. “Here’s a pair of your father’s socks. Use them for gloves.” May I save you some scientific research time? Socks suck as substitute gloves! They suck up cold water faster than a sponge. I felt like an ape. The socks were long, wet, heavy and the toes drug the ground as I walked with my hands by my sides. With disdain, I discarded the dripping socks. Strike one against Mom’s ideas.

Strikes lead me into baseball. Spring came and we wanted to play baseball. We found some things to use for bases, a stick for a bat. We didn’t need gloves but we did need a baseball. By the process of elimination, we learned that stones don’t work well. They are too hard, too heavy and too painful. Mom to the rescue! “Here’s one of your father’s socks. Fill it with dirt and tie a knot in the end of it.” “Hey, this could work!” Being the oldest, I was first at bat. I waited for the pitch with plans of putting our makeshift ball over the front yard fence. I kept my eye on the ball and leaned into the swing. The bat made solid contact -- but I didn’t make the fence. When the dust cloud settled and I finished coughing up dirt, I found the ball three feet from home plate. It was half-deflated and twisted into an oblong shape. Never again did I try one of Mom’s sock ideas. I quit listening when I heard the words “Get a sock and…”

Her idea for trapping cats was perfect – well almost. A stray came around the house but I couldn’t get within ten feet of it. Mom suggested placing a bowl of milk under a wooden crate that was propped up on one end by a short stick that was tied to a long piece of rope. The cat eagerly went for the milk and I pulled the rope and let the box drop over the cat – and its extended tail. The cat puller her bruised tail under the box and looked for an escape. I lifted one edge of the box – just enough to slip a hand between the edge of the box and the ground. In my youthful ignorance, I expected to feel a warm, furry, purring mass of love. What I encountered was one pissed-off cat with claws and fangs. To this day, I think Mom should have warned me. However, I held on, my wounds healed and the cat and I finally made friends. I named her Bugs. I used the box/stick/rope/milk method to trap her kittens a few months later. Mom’s idea worked well.

My mother was not raised in wealth and learned to be inventive, creative and make do. One of her best gifts to me was the knowledge that life doesn’t always give us what we need or want. We have to be resourceful. It’s a trail and error process.

Her example has served me well. A few winters ago, Julie and I were at a remote abandoned cemetery several miles from the blacktop with dark approaching and the keys locked in the car. Using a piece of wire from a cross on a grave, a dried rib from a Saguaro cactus and a brass paperweight retrieved from an ammo box hidden near the cemetery, we found a way to unlock the car without breaking a window. But, that’s another story for another time. It’s a story that would make Mom proud.

Monday, November 13, 2006

For, Not Against

I’ve learned to view life from the positive rather than the negative. The glass is half full rather than half empty; it’s partially sunny rather than partially cloudy; I’ve come 5 miles rather than I have 4 miles to go.

I was searching for a counter of Iraqi civilian deaths to display with the counter of American military deaths when I stumbled on a website named antiwar dot com.

I found the name interesting. Why anti-war rather than pro-peace? The part that really grabbed my curiosity was dot com.

.COM? That stands for commercial. Why didn’t the creators choose .NET as in a network of people or .ORG as in a not-for-profit organization?

As I browsed the site, I saw a link labeled “Shop”. This took me to a page offering books, shirts and miscellaneous items. Either “Shirts” or “Miscellaneous” displays a page selling buttons, magnets, hats, bags, shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, stickers and “For the Kids”. “For the Kids” had a description of “Kids love too”. This link revealed bibs, creepers and t-shirts.

The items for sale have printed on them, in large black, red and blue letters, the website’s URL – ANTI WAR DOT COM.

I don’t get it. In my opinion, it’s ridiculous to say a baby in a creeper or bib loves their website. How is the peace movement helped by advertising their website? If they must sell items, why not sell items promoting peace?

I’m not against war. I’m for peace.


I have something planned for today but I also have a work deadline.

Today's post will be delayed for a few hours.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


The sun was setting and it was breathtaking. It was 1995 and I was on the north side of Amarillo, Texas. I searched frantically for a place to pull over. After finding a spot, I opened my camera case, removed the lense, selected another lense, raised the camera -- and it was too late. The dramatic rays of color had faded in the few seconds that it took to change lenses! It was one of the most dramatic sunsets I've ever seen.

Sunrise on Saturday, 11/11/06.

I used to start my days early in order to pack as much work into the day as possible. I worked until dark before quitting. No more. Now, I like a leisurely start. I like watching the sky and waiting for the first birds at the feeders. I've missed enough sunrises and sunsets.

Sunset on Saturday, 11/11/06.

My camera has been repaired twice and has seen it's useful life. I've selected a new camera but can't find it locally. I hope to locate it over the Thanksgiving break.

I've reformed. Work is far less important than enjoying and photographing sunrises and sunsets.

Out of the Blue

(Protecting confidences is important. I asked for and received permission before writing this post.)

I woke up Thursday in a foul mood and didn’t want to be around anyone but Julie.

On Wednesday evening, I went to a showing of a film about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A religious group was in charge so I knew it was a risky venture. I understood why I was feeling anti-social on Thursday morning so I retreated into myself and prepared to wait for the new sun of a new day. I’ve learned that all things pass and a night’s sleep and a new day solve most problems or give me a better perspective. To contain my frustration and protect the blogging world, I wrote a safe, sterile and neutered post on spelunking and prepared to go to work after checking my personal email. I received this email.

Today is a good day! One of those days that life just can’t seem to get any better. The kids got up good. They had the house cleaned when I got home yesterday. We played Simon Says last night. Laughed! It was good.

I have helped people today with accounts who have been struck by cancer, have no hair, yet they still smile and feel a little better when they leave because I helped them.

Do you know I use to hate it when you would stop to help somebody on the side of the road. I would be tired and just want to go home. I can remember groaning when I would see someone stranded. I just knew you were going to stop. Well look at what it created. Have I ever told you the story of the little oriental girl stranded in a snow bank? I was 23 on my way to work and PREGNANT. As I was coming down the road I could see her sitting in her car spinning wheels. Now when I was a child I would have at this point started groaning. The closer I got I knew what I had to do. The look on her face, I couldn't drive by. I pulled over to the side of the road. Got down on my knees (because I couldn't bend over I'm pregnant) and started digging the snow out away from the tires with my bare hands. Once I had dug enough I helped push her out. I can still see her smile when she realized she was free. She rolled down her window and thanked me. But you know it didn't even matter if she had thanked me because I knew I couldn't have got her off my mind the rest of the day if I hadn't stopped. Nobody knows about that story. I never told anyone but you. I didn't do it so I could brag about it. That was just a little something I have kept to myself so that when I'm having a bad day. I can stop and tell myself I am a good person. I am a good person because I had a great role model.

I know you may not know all the ways you have influenced my life but let’s just say I would hate to think of the person I would be if I didn't have you.

I love you!!


My daughter was almost too perfect as a young child. She was loving, agreeable and basically easy to be with and to parent. When she entered her late teens, she lost her way and we experienced several difficult and hellacious years. We made it through those years much, much better than I hoped at the time.

Her email was unexpected and came out of the blue.

I had a good day on Thursday -- a very good day.

Friday, November 10, 2006


The names of my world latch on to my imagination and become the toys of my mind. It’s enjoyable to wonder about them and the people who chose the names.

I live in the midst of volcanic cinder hills with names like North and South Sheba, Rattlesnake, Junction, The Sproul and Maroon. With the exception of The Sproul, the names are concatenated with “Crater” though most are cinder hills rather than true craters. South Sheba Crater is the eastern-most of the hills and marks the beginning of the Painted Desert. Merriam Crater is a true crater, almost perfectly shaped, with a deep crater and a lava flow that extends miles. The lava blocked the flow of the Little Colorado River. The river fought back and together Merriam and the Little Colorado formed Grand Falls which flows with muddy brown water after heavy rains and snow melt.

Cinder Hills
Saddle Crater in front of North and South Sheba. Our home is circled in yellow. This photo was taken from the top of Francis Crater.

Who named my daily world and why did they choose the names?

Two miles due south is the San Francisco Wash. On the north side of the wash, hidden in the shear walls of lava, is LeBarron Pit House. Above the pit house are ruins of ancient Native American houses and thousands upon thousands of small pieces of broken pottery shards. Who was LeBarron? Some archaeologist? It seems perversely inappropriate and down-right wrong to name an Anasazi ruin after some European.

Some of the names I accept with less thought. I see more rattlesnakes than all other species combined so Rattlesnake Crater seems appropriate. Who named it? Did he see an extremely large snake or was he bitten? Was it even a man? It could have been named by an adventurous woman.

On some evenings as the sun sets, the sky turns shades of reds, pinks, purples and maroons. This light reflecting on red cinders may have inspired someone to choose the name Maroon Crater.

North and South Sheba Craters! Ah, the romantic thoughts they inspire. The French did not explore this area or these would have been named something like the Petite Tetons!

The road to Leupp passes between the Sheba twins. My mailing address is Leupp Road. Yes, upon hearing my address, most people spell it “loop”.

Leupp is on the Navajo Reservation which is less than two miles east of my house. "Navajo" isn’t a Navajo word. The Navajo call themselves Dine. Why use the name Navajo rather than Dine? To the victors go the power to choose names.

Why the name was chosen for Saddle Crater is obvious. Approach it from the high ground to the northwest and it has the shape of a saddle. Approach it from the southeast and it’s impossible to recognize it as the same cinder hill. It looks totally different!

Moon rising over Saddle Crater
The moon rises over Saddle Crater. Photo was taken from our front yard.

On some weekends, Julie and I will finish our planned work and save time to set off in search of adventure. We look at topographical maps, choose some feature with an intriguing name like "The Sproul" and search for roads that will lead us near our goal. Sometimes the goal is fantastic and lives up to our imaginations. Sometimes it’s less impressive but the journey is always full of surprises and rewarding.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Thousands of peopled had driven by the cave and never knew it existed. We may have been the last ones to explore it.

The highway was being widened and a friend of a friend gave a co-worker a copy of a print that showed the location of the entrance to the cave. It would be forever closed by the construction and we wanted the adventure of seeing it before it was gone. Three of us met after work, parked near the area and nonchalantly walked along the road until we ducked over the bank and found the cave.

The opening was large but immediately split into two levels. A couple of old bottles and rusting cans piqued my interest and put my imagination into gear. Had they simply washed into the cave during a heavy rain or had someone stopped here to enjoy a drink in peace and solitude? No, it wasn’t the location, kind and size of cave that cried for a story about bank robbers hiding from a posse.

The lower level was small and soon narrowed to a dead end. The upper level was much longer. It was a fun little mental game to be crawling through the ever narrowing corridor and trying to guess our position relative to the highway above. Where we under the highway or had we crossed to the other side? Turning off our lights, we lay still and listened for traffic passing above but heard only the sounds of our breathing in the total darkness.

Finally, the cave was less than two feet high and had narrowed to the point that my shoulders were wedging against the side walls. We could go no further and had to back out to a point where we could turn around.

As we began backing up, I asked Danny, a young co-worker, if he had ever gotten concerned in a cave. He replied that he and three friends had snuck onto some property after dark one night without telling anyone where they were going. As they crawled into a large cave, they came to a narrow point and the third guy – the biggest guy – became wedged. He could neither go forward nor back up. The last person pulled and tugged but couldn’t free him. Fortunately, the second guy was small and flexible. He managed to turn around in the narrow passage. In this position, the second and fourth guy managed to free their friend.

It was a learning experience for me. Danny, the youngest, smallest and most flexible was first. I was the second guy and the tallest but not the largest around the waist. The heaviest guy was last. If he panicked, became wedged or died of a sudden heart attack, we were trapped.

The moral of the story for me was “The biggest guy always goes first and the smallest, healthiest, calmest guy goes last!”.

(Julie is having an MRI today for some neck pain. While scheduling the procedure, she was questioned about claustrophobia. As we drove to work this morning, we discussed the feeling of being closed in and this reminded me of this small adventure.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Young to Play

PBS can be a bad thing. My son, at the tender age of eight, saw something on PBS and tried to use it to avoid work. I told him to do something and he replied “Children don’t play because they are young. They are young to play.” It was a good try but, he had to do whatever it was that I asked before returning to play.

I have thought of that phrase over the years and the phrase “once an adult and twice a child.” I like to combine these phrases. I’m getting older, entering my second childhood and therefore I get to play more and more.

Julie and I are going to play in the water. We are registering for a class in scuba diving. It’s physical, requires learning new knowledge, is an activity we can do together and gives us the opportunity for new adventures. It will help us stay young newly-weds and extend the honeymoon.

It always amuses and amazes me. When I was young, I thought being old was horrible. Was I ever wrong! How that I’m approaching senior citizen status, I find this stage of my life is the best.

I’d like to write more but, I don’t have time. “I’m young to play.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unfinished Business

I went into Scholar’s Corner -- a coffee shop in the university library. As I got a cup of coffee, I glanced around and saw them. They were sitting facing one another, leaning toward one another as if having trouble hearing. Their skin was wrinkled, heads balding and bellies protruding slightly. They were older men engaged in conversation.

What were they talking about? Are they faculty? What are their fields? I began to imagine the treasure of knowledge stored in their minds, the wisdom they have gained and the experiences they have lived. I wanted to join them, to ask questions, to enter into debate as a junior partner and feel the excitement of exploring the mysteries of life. I wanted to hear them talk with passion about their fields of study, the articles they have written and, perhaps, the books they have authored.

When I was young I treated older people with respect because I was taught to be polite and courteous. Now, I treat them with respect and a degree of reverence.

Last month, as I talked with Julie’s uncle who is eighty-two, he said that he wanted to “leave a legacy”. He had written a personal or family history for his children and grandchildren. I understand the desire.

Non-human animals don’t live beyond their child-bearing years but we’re different. It’s as if nature intends us to grow old, be a stabilizing influence on society and pass on knowledge that eludes scientific research.

I’ve been wondering what legacy I would like to leave. What are the two or three most important or valuable things that I have learned? How can I put them in a form that expresses both truth and beauty? For whom will I leave it? At the moment, these remain unanswered questions. I have thoughts and ideas but no final answers.

Someday, someone may look at me and see a wrinkled, bald, frail old man. Perhaps that person may approach me and ask “what has life taught you?”. If this happens, I want to be able to answer with confidence, grace and passion. I want to be able to say “life and has been wonderful and has taught me…”.

How will I finish that sentence?

Monday, November 06, 2006


Election Night 1966: As my father and mother were leaving to vote, he handed her a piece of paper and said “Here are the people to vote for”. She accepted the paper and my father got two votes. He always did. She was not interested in politics and did not read and research the candidates and issues. I remember this incident because I was amused -- and offended.

November 1, 2006: As we sat in bed with our mail-in ballots and laptops, Julie said “OK, we’ve decided how we’ll vote on that one. What’s next?” I was on the fence about one proposition and was considering not voting on it. I listened to her opinion and decided she was right and voted with her. I will always have good memories and feelings about this year – “the year we voted from bed”.

Some of the Arizona propositions were easy. Here’s an example.

Proposition 200 would establish a $1,000,000 prize to be awarded to a randomly selected person who voted in the primary or general election. Anyone who voted in the primary or general election would be automatically entered in the drawing for the prize money, and if a person voted in both the primary and the general election, that person's name would be entered twice in the drawing.

“Having financial problems? Vote and you may win $1 million! Don’t know the candidates? Haven’t read the propositions? No problem! Cast one random vote and you may way $1 million.”

I do appreciate politicians and their abilities and efforts. They are doing their best to take my opinion of them, the political process and the American people to a new low. They are trying but I refuse to let them succeed.

There is a critical contrast between the noble things written in the Constitution, the things the US used to represent and today’s reality. I don’t like this reality. I choose to return to the fantasy world of my youth when we believed in justice, fair play, honesty and democracy.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Being Rich Is Easy

It’s so easy. The more I learn, the easier I realize it is. I’m trying to live a sustainable lifestyle. I’m not where I want to be but I’m making progress.

This weekend I’m taking a class (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) on Solar Greenhouse Design. I built a greenhouse 20 years ago with some passive solar features but this one will be much, much better.

Why sustainable? There are several reasons and they are selfish reasons. I enjoy being self sufficient and relying on myself and my abilities. I enjoy the challenge of planning a project and fulfilling it. I enjoy learning. I enjoy thinking about my death and knowing that I’m trying to preserve for others this beautiful and wonderful world that has so enriched my life.

In the corner of our kitchen are drawers labeled “glass & metal”, “P1 & P2” (for plastic 1 and 2) and “paper”. Under our sink is the compost jar. We try to minimize our waste and recycle as much as possible. We get our electric from the wind and sun. We haul our water, minimize consumption, do some rainwater harvesting and have materials and plans for more harvesting. We live on ten unfenced acres but use only about one acre. The remaining land is for wildlife and to provide a sense of nature and space.

It’s so easy! Julie and I don’t struggle or find it to be tiring. On the contrary, we find it enriches our lives. The less we own and consume, the richer we are.

Cutting a joist
Picking up trash during a semi-annual road clean up.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bad/Good News

Bad news: I have to work for a living.

More bad news: I have deadlines today.

Even more bad news: I don’t have time to write a post for today. That’s not bad news for you but for me. I enjoy the discipline.

Good news: I enjoy my job.

More good news: I like the challenge of deadlines.

Even more good news: Yesterday, I signed the paperwork to change to an 11 month contract. I’m taking off the month of June in additional to my normal vacation of 20 days per year. I’ll have more time for more adventures and have some interesting things to write about.

But, for now, this is all there is. Later today. Maybe.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Night before last it was 2814.

Yesterday morning it was 2816.

Last night it was 2817.

This morning it was 2818.

Now it is 2819.


Not people.

Just numbers.

Who were they?

Were they married?


What were their hopes and dreams?

I awoke this morning with the intention of trying to look behind the numbers to know who they were. Not just know mentally or rationally but to feel and empathize and morn.

The headlines of today’s local Flagstaff newspaper: “Report: Flagstaff soldier killed self in protest”.

A Flagstaff soldier who died in Iraq committed suicide after she refused to participate in interrogation techniques being practiced by her U.S. Army Intelligence unit, according to a report about an Army investigation aired by a Flagstaff radio station.
Her name was Alyssa R. Peterson. She was 27.

She had graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1994 and had a talent for learning languages. While attending Northern Arizona University, Peterson, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, took a two-year leave to go on a mission in Holland. She eventually returned to NAU and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May, 2001.

Right after graduating from NAU, she entered the U.S. Army and studied Arabic and was deployed to Iraq in mid-February 2003.
Two grieving parents

One intelligent, educated, hopeful young lady with dreams and an overwhelming conscience

Alyssa and 2818 numbers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


“I think Julie is pretty…..” Sorry, got lost mid-sentence. That’s a true statement but not complete. “I think Julie is pretty darned lucky to have me!”

Oh, it’s not that I’m good looking. Sometimes I stand behind her as she’s fixing her hair and it scares me. I look at our reflection in the mirror and wonder “What does she see in me? I know what I see in her but what does she see in me? I certainly wouldn’t want to snuggle up with myself.” I guess women are weird and not too picky.

It’s not that I’m wealthy. I assume that is a true statement. She keeps the books, pays the bills and manages our savings. I don’t know our net worth. I never worry about these things and depend on her.

It’s not that I'm much help around the house. She plans the menus and does most of the cooking -- and cleaning -- and reminding me when it’s time to do routine maintenance and chores such as taking out the compost and the trash. Recently, she asked if she could post a comment on my blog to remind me to fix the paper towel holder. It had been broken less than a week. What was the rush?

I’m not the life of the party. Last Saturday night at the barbecue, I met a man and was talking with him. Julie came over and introduced herself. He forgot I was there. He ignored me as he talked with Julie.

I could list several more negatives about myself, but let me tell you why Julie is lucky to have me. “I sit.“ Yes, that’s right. When I use restroom, I sit.

It started when I was single and lazy, before I became married and lazy. I learned very quickly that I didn’t like cleaning the bathroom and did everything I could to keep it clean. Sitting seemed like a smart thing to do.

Julie never asks me to clean the bathroom and, out of consideration for her, I continue my practice of sitting.

Yep, Julie is lucky to have me – but not nearly as lucky as I am to have her!