Detroit Lakes, MN (2014)

cig smoke wafting through the slathered
sun lotion air, knotty trees giving
shade to flabby Scandinavian skin,
boats of all stripes coming and going
from the gently sanded shore, the
crack-pop of a Pabst in the hand of
a tramp-stamped blonde, the idle toil
of oil-soaked hands on Sea-Doo engines
from pot-bellied, slightly balding men,
the breeze stilling the boiling temps
wafting from Fargo, little kids
growing little sunburns
in little lifejackets

Stuck in the Moment

There is a connection between a buffalo and a building falling down, and it’s beautiful.

Words trickle out. Thoughts escape. A question: Where did time go? Another question: What is time? I have this feeling that, for the past ten years, a lot of movement has occurred in space, but not much time has passed. Not much, that is, unless I count the hairs on my head or the lines under my eyes or the thought patterns of my nieces and nephew; differing kinds of growth and decay. For better or worse, the hallmarks of progression our society has stamped on us fall inside the painted white lines: first word, first bike ride, pubes, high school graduation, college graduation, career placement, marriage, children, mid-life crisis, empty nest, shuffleboard, grandkids, cancer treatment, shriveled skin, aching joints, please God take me now…

And unless I’m in between those white lines, I must be out of them. Uncharted territory. Where time does not progress, but space stretches on for what seems like eternity. All this freedom, but no structure. Terror grips. Let me back in the white lines! Terrified. Look in the mirror. What is this? What am I passionate about? There is nothing in my way except my self saying No.

Terrified. Terror. Turning the page…

I find it difficult to talk to people who don’t see beyond the white lines. They don’t want to know what I’m doing now, but what I’m doing next. Why are you going to do that, they ask. What do you hope will result from X? Is that a sort-of History degree? When will you just become somebody so I can easily tell all my friends about you using a single unhesitating sentence? Life is chaos, I say. Life is simple, they say. Get with it.

I assume that I’m not alone in feeling that life is just a series of moments, and that we are either fully engaged with them or we are not, and there is nothing much else we can say about life as it is lived by humans. I don’t assume everyone shares my belief in the circular/spiral view of time, that there is no such thing as progress or improvement, that if I say something to you tomorrow, it’s both my 7-year-old self saying it as well as my 31-year-old self, no matter how many therapy sessions I did or did not take. We can’t escape the present (though we try), but nor can we escape the past or our future. It is also my 78-year-old self saying this, even if he is senile and, yes, a dum dum.

Life is a mystery. Why don’t I have children? Where is my empty nest? When can I expect a career? Life is a mystery, mystery, mystery. And I love love love it.

Tomorrow I chug a lug to the Rocky Mountains, to the open ended west, to the sagebrush and the cold, dark, breathless starry sky. I’m going because I want to get bigger, reach further, play harder, and all those old college brochure mantras. It doesn’t matter what degrees are proffered or why the sun is a shade pinker in Wyoming. The goal is growth, and the battle is decay. To waste not, want not. I will paint new lines in the sand; perhaps a shade of blue and of purple and of crimson. Why not?

Yes, I say. Yes.

One year ago I returned from Peace Corps service in Ethiopia. I recently came across this ‘Best of’ sheet that I made at the Close-of-Service Conference. So many memories. It is unfair that I am no longer Peace Corps-ing. Someday I shall return to the Land of Far-Off…
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1000
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Exposure: 1/20th
  • Focal Length: 5mm

One year ago I returned from Peace Corps service in Ethiopia. I recently came across this ‘Best of’ sheet that I made at the Close-of-Service Conference. So many memories. It is unfair that I am no longer Peace Corps-ing. Someday I shall return to the Land of Far-Off…

I’ve got nine minutes to write

I’m giving myself this space to let out a few words. Like a trickle, dipped pickle style.

I don’t know whether to call myself a true “chuckwriter” anymore. It just doesn’t seem to fit, what with the excruciatingly long gaps between any real “writing.” I guess we all go through dry phases of life, where things just don’t want to come out; or, if they do, we don’t allow them.

Words need space. Words need time. Words, like anything, go stale in the brain, like a hot meal that is rushed into the Tupperwared fridge before it can be consumed. I feel like I’ve got a lot of Tupperware in my brain, and I just want to let it out. At some point. When I have a moment. To catch my breath.

Now is not that time. Tomorrow I begin a monthlong journey into what can only be described as The Most Epic Summer Job, 2nd Only To That Other Most Epic Summer Job: Northwest Youth Corps. This time I’ll be working for The Nature Conservancy as a LEAF Mentor, guiding four high schooling boys into the wild plains of North Dakota buffalo country. First there is the training in the “wilds” of New Jersey. Then a rest in New Haven, CT. Then a month in North Dakota. Lots of travel and movement, so little rest. Will I find the time to write notes? Record a western meadowlark’s mating call? Speak deeply about ecology and truth with the youth?


What I probably won’t be doing is writing on this blog. See, there’s this thing called life. And I’m too busy living it to write about it. This is problematic. My dog, pictured above on his deathbed, passed away last week. I’ve got words that need saying, but these words will have to thaw out. In the meantime I take more notes. In the future: Less social media, more deep notes.

We can only speak in the couplets of our breath. My book is slowly being written. Sure enough, there will be fruit on this tree, yet.

Under Construction

Please bear with me as I get my collected ass together with this webpage. I’m thinking about re-structuring it, yet again. In the meantime, please enjoy this image from 1899. The two houses in the middle of the block (one is partially blocked by the tree in the foreground) are my family’s twin houses in Astoria; the sole surviving structures on this block from that era.