Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Twenty books was a stretch but not entirely unattainable. It turned out to be just right (I finished last night). And let me tell you, if I could encourage you to try something in 2009, it would be to go for 20 yourself. If 20 is too many, try 12. Start somewhere. I promise the endeavor will be one of the most worthwhile things you do next year.
My list contained everything from a children's series to Pulitzer prize winners, a healthy dose of pop fiction, nonfiction, some in betweeners (The Sign and the Seal), a few old, and several new. It included the surprise number one book of the year The Shack. It also included a few duds. I love Tom Clancy but Teeth of the Tiger, beyond the perplexing amount of typos, is not his best.
My favorite? There were a lot of good ones. By far the best, however, was Marylinne Robinson's Gilead. It is a masterpiece. The language alone gave me chills. The story made me cry (sad and happy tears). And the message has continued to linger.
So What's Your 20? What is on my list for 2009? I'm up for suggestions. I have gotten a headstart on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (it's like 650 freaking pages), next in line is American Lion (the biography of Andrew Jackson), after that something light.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Two years, to screams of terror. You would think we would learn our lesson. But no. Oh no. Oh yes. Don't you fret. We'll be back next year!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Adventure 1 was a two day hike through "The Narrows," the world's longest slot canyon, 16 miles top to bottom, my sources tell me. Gordon was our shuttleman. I stiffed him on the tip because I left my wallet in the car. Fortunately, he was our shuttleman for our 3rd adventure so I got to make it up to him.As it turned out, The Narrows thru-hike was a perfect introduction to Zion National Park. We began in this field of wild flowers, a tiny stream serving as our sole trail description. It was hard to imagine such a small thing could cut a 1,000 foot trench into the earth. Soon enough there was nothing to imagine - the proof was chiseled almost out of sight on both sides of us.
We ate lunch on some slickrock outcroppings. Tuna-bagel sandwich. Lesson learned: don't pack tuna. We had bought "family size" (it should have been called "small army size"). It served as lunch and dinner. And it's a good thing that we were not in bear country because it stunk! We would have been goners for sure.
We spent half the time wading. If the water wasn't so low, we would have waded even more. We crossed that river so many times I wouldn't have been able to keep count. The trail continued to grow "narrower." Soon we were completely bracketed by impossibly high cliffs. I think I said "woah" more times in these two days than on all others combined.We found our campsite around 5pm. It was already beginning to get dark. We set up camp, ate dinner, and enjoyed the last bit of light down by the river. We had quite a laugh at the expense of my feet. Peeling off the canyoneering boots and neoprene socks we had rented, I was introduced to one of the most frightening sights of my life. My skin was this crazy stale purple color, and it hung hideously in wrinkles from my bones. It reminded me of Emperor Palpatine's skin in Star Wars, at least what I imagine his feet looking like based on his face.
We were fast asleep by 8pm. The next morning we ate peanut butter bagels (much better than tuna, though Lia had been a bit (way) extreme in her apportioning) and lamented the lack of coffee. We had decided not to bring my peculator on the two day hike because we didn't want to have to take dumps (they give you these foily bags to poop in and make you carry it out). However, our plans were spoiled by gastro-colic reflex from the humongous glops of peanut butter. The poop bags worked great until one exploded as I was cinching it down to my pack. Still things were ok. I simply put one bag in the other, and it was fine, until the second exploded when, while I was wading, chest high, I slipped, throwing my bag to safety but having it land directly down on poop bag two. I'm pretty sure people could smell us before they saw us.Speaking of people, the first day, we saw a grand total of three. The next, we didn't see any until about 11am or so when the bottom-uppers began trickling upstream. Frankly, it was kind of weird seeing them. We had grown accustomed to having the canyon to ourselves.
What a beginning! What a blast! And amazingly we came out unscathed. Lia did have one plunge, but the pool was so deep she didn't hit any rocks; only her wrist (and the camera she was holding) remained dry.Adventure 1 compete. If it had been the only thing we did all week, it would have been well worth the trip...but there was much more to come...(by the way, to give you some perspective, in the picture below, you can just barely see me, climbing the bottom of the rock!)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Growing up, my best friend and I used to eat what we called "Fat Apples." Starting in late summer, we'd be sitting around and one of us would get the hankering. We'd get on our cool sneaks and jog through yards until we got to the trees. There was an orchard about a mile from his house. We'd go up and pick the largest one we could find and try to eat it as we walked home. These were "fat" apples mind you. Easily over a pound each. Over two dollars of apple by yesteryear standards. That's why we stole them. I loved every bite.
Another friend of mine introduced me to hard core leave no trace apple eating. That was a brand new thing for me: taking on an apple down to the seeds, putting the seeds in your pocket, walking them off the trail. I usually found a fertile spot and planted them. I only eat apples this way when I'm camping.
Currently, I probably average five apples a week. It dominates my fruit intake. And over the years, I guess I have become a kind of connoisseur. For those of you in the know, you will agree that of the grocery store variety Gala apples are the best, followed by Fuji. When my future wife and I were dating, I interviewed her once on her apple taste. She told me, straight-faced, that Red Delicious were her favorite. It still ranks as the only thing I have changed about her in nine years.
Our town puts on an apple festival each year at Bethabara Park. It is a great time. It's more than the apples. It's the old-timey games, the bluegrass music, the atmosphere in general. Anna Rose loves the horses. Mommy loves the cider. I love the apples. I love it all, really. One of the local vendors turned me on to his Jonagold's, a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Jonathon. Man, was it good. I've been eating them all week.
All this apple stuff has gotten me reminiscent. More than any fruit, the apple has shaped me - my understanding of a balanced diet, my compulsive drive to acquire massive amounts of fluoride, my love of all things crispy. I love them. I really do. Sharing it with Lia and Anna Rose, friends like the Andersons, Briggs, Murphees, and Williams at the Apple Festival makes it all the more tasty. Thanks y'all for coming with us. I can't wait for next year!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
There are other days. You know, the big ones, like dropping them off at college, or their wedding. But the first day of preschool? Come on. To fall to pieces over that! To become such an emotional wreck you can't do anything but blubber for an hour! Over preschool! I was seriously unprepared. I was unprepared on many fronts.
No one warned me that it would be this hard: this first tangible experience of handing over. I waited with bated breath to hear how she did. The first thing I wanted to know was if she cried. The second was if she wanted to be held the whole time. The third was whether she had fun. Yes.
But Ms. Tana also told me that "She did awesome." So I have to believe that it was the right decision. Preschool will mold and shape her in ways that I can't. I have to believe that. And it is true. But it doesn't make the letting go any easier.
Fil, a friend of mine, shared with me a story he shared with another one of his friends, Tom, as Tom was preparing to give away his daughter to a young man. Fil said that he was told by an older man that when each of his children were born he imagined it was like God had given him a fistfull of balloons. And on each one of those eventful days, like the first day of preschool, he would imagine letting one balloon drift off into the sky. He would do this at each major event all the way up to the last one, the day his child got married. He shared the image really comforted him. Tom listened and thanked Fil for the story. A week later, his daughter was married. A week and a day later, my friend Fil received a call from Tom. He said, "Tell your friend with the balloons that he's full of shit." Amen brother. Amen. It ain't that easy balloon man.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Written in five minutes in June of 1881 by George Matheson on the evening of his sister's wedding - a ceremony he was not allowed to attend. He was blind.
Years earlier, Matheson, a promising young theologian, was engaged to be married himself when his eyes gave way. There was no reason behind it; he just started losing his sight. Doctors were at a loss. Learning of her fiance's fate, she broke off the enagement. She told Matheson she could not go through life with a blindman.
Crushed, he poured himself deeper into his studies. He wrote a book, brilliant in places; however, because of his poor eyesight, there were also unmistakeable errors. Critics took him to task. His second dream dashed to pieces.
During this time, his sister had taken care of him. With her help, he was able to take a pastoral position and began speaking to a reported 1,500+ people a week. But she was no longer to be there for him. Even this opportunity was slipping away. And tonight, this night, she was getting married. His family had left him at home.
It was in the midst of this that he wrote these words...O love that will not let me go, I rest me weary soul in thee...O Joy you seek me through the pain I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be...
Matheson once wrote that his was “an obstructed life, a circumscribed life…but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not “Good night” but “Good morning.”
George Matheson now has eyes. He lives in a land of everlasting mornings. I hope to meet him someday. Until then, thank you, sir. Thanks for persevering through trial after trial, for leaving this song and for living with quenchless hope.
To hear and see a recent rendition with Sandra McCracken and Derek Webb go to