Monday, July 20, 2015


One could say that I have been stuck too long in the same job, same place, same ways of thinking. Routine has been helpful in keeping the chaos of parenting and house-holding somewhat manageable. It has been a necessary part of my surviving the strain of constant bills, low wages, and mountains of details.

But I feel like I am heading for a cliff if I don't change direction. With so much momentum, though, I find it hard to try on anything new.

Then we took a road trip up to Seattle where I rode the StP, the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride. Bikes have always been a way to cope for me. Years ago, I used to take summer trips to places like Moab, Utah, where I and my fellow lunatic cyclists would lose all track of decorum. We would camp in the desert and laugh at the moon.

This trip rekindled some of that. Seattle's exotic setting of ships, bridges, rivers, and mossy trees threw this desert dweller into a kind of culture shock or very stimulating disequilibrium. I had fun. Yikes! That was scary.

I wanted to run back to Tucson and get back into my mind-numbing routine as quick as I could.

But it was not to be. After StP, we went to Sisters, OR, for a family reunion. There I was shaken further still by sun, trees, glaciers, rivers, a vision of a life beyond teaching that shook me to my marrow. I think I had the best day of my life riding a bike over McKenzie Pass.

Sun. Wind. Mountains.

One afternoon, some young people and I went to a place called Steelhead Falls. They showed how to fly off into space over cold, fast moving water and then thrill to the frigid river. I had to join them.

I have tasted the dream. On one hand, I can die now in peace. On the other hand, I want more. More creativity, more risk, more nature, more friends, more beer, more nights out under the stars.

But, of course, it hard to change anything, and I have a contract. I am not wealthy. I have commitments.

But I can do more of what makes me thrill and sip the nectar of purpose and meaning. I have to find the courage to shift.

Eight hundred miles later, with these thoughts running through my head, my faithful Subaru lost its capacity to change gears. The hydraulic clutch died and I was stranded. But where did it leave me? Downtown Moab, next to the Visitor's Center. No shifts it said. You need to look at your need to change gears it said. You are stuck and you need to do something about it it said.

Very well, I replied. I took my bike off the car and rode blindly around town. I came to a street that looked nice and rode over to a park. I was grateful and looked to the sign for the street's name. All it said was "Mi Vida."

There was a smell of flowing water in the air. The scent whispered that it is time to change gears, but I will have make changes to do that.

Thank you Suby. Thank you road.

For now, I am stranded. With any luck though, tomorrow my fine friend will be ready to run, shifting like a demon.

I hope I will find the strength to do the same.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Building a House So My Soul Has a Place to Stay When It Comes Home

Many friends ask why I spend summers working on a house in the boonies of northern New Mexico. The pat answer, one that satisfies because it is something that most can understand, is that it will be a "retirement home."

But that does not really get at the heart of why I am doing such a thing. There are psychological dynamics at work that are hard to convey in polite small talk. Those reasons run deep.

Before I go there though, I have to say that I don't know what or why, exactly, I am doing this. I just am because it is there and I can. The reasons are revealing themselves as the project progresses. What emerges later may give more insight than I have at present.

So, a long time ago, I was asked to put my playful little kid on the shelf. Because my father went off to fight wars and I was the oldest boy, I was the "man of the house." Of course, I wasn't really, but I was in that role anyway. I needed to find out how to do things like fix leaky sinks and change flappers in toilet tanks. I also served as a kind of confidant for my mother.

My role felt more "adult" than kid.

All of this is subtle, but I forgot how to just play and be creative, imaginative. I pushed a now angry little kid into the shadows of the psyche.

Fast forward about fifty years, and I am now crippled by depression and anger and need to get off the work treadmill.

The house represents a place where I can begin to woo that crazy aspect of myself back home. It will take some time and some quiet and patience. I may have to sit on the deck and sing sad songs to the changing light on the rocks in the back yard.

But I think he might hear me. And, if he comes back, we might have some things to talk about, some peace after all these years.