Not to be published 1

There are days where I just want to be an observer of my own life. Days where I want to send Neil off - and follow at a distance. Step outside myself, see things as they are. See what others see.

Just to see.

The seasons of life are outside of my control.

To see him with his friends, to see how he uses his time, where is he strong where is he weak. Would I like who he is?

The boy is father to the man.

The boy is father to the man.

It took me a long time to understand what that even meant.

And I'm finding that knowledge alone is insufficient.

Nina sings, I don't know why she is so sad - I don't know why her songs resonates with me - I don't hear her words - it's her voice, her performance - she sings about lilac wine and sinnerman's, about freedom and chilly winds. She sings and the mood is thick.

The mood is a new one mixed with an old one.

not sadness, not despair, not resignation - even now it is cooking, bubble-ling and brewing. It ebbs and flows with the music - but only on the surface, the music seeps into what is there, bringing to life stiff and forgotten muscles.

A beast that has been sleeping fitfully for years is about to awake.

Life has forgotten this one - so still he lay - so motionless and rigid - that life grew up and around and over him. But the music flows down, bringing life and light to long forgotten areas. The spice and scent of action is on the air. There are rumbles in the deep, precursors, harbingers of what is to come.

The music flows on and on, the song grows and grows. Down into the depths it shines it light. It echos of walls and chambers, gathering a beat and tune of it's own.

Slowly, dimly at first, light flashes below in the cavernous depths. Soon these dim flashes turn into a blaze all their own. Light pours out of the ground. Out of the ground throwing long sharp shadows across the landscape. Nothing escapes this light - it absorbs all - consumes all - it smashes into the song and the to become inexpressible mixed.

Matching each other beat for beat, measure for measure, they travel into the still and silent night.


Lost in Translation and others

I make no apologies for today's post, I present unfinished thoughts - unrefined brain fodder. Todays post is made up of all the posts that have sat unpublished in my blog. Take them for what they are - unfinished, unresolved - some are old, some are new. A few are finished. Some need to be rewritten - they will not be. Some need to be corrected - they will not be. These are undeveloped snapshots - they are word studies - they are raw notes. Take what you will - tell me what you think. Do you understand - do you see? Snatches written during lunch breaks, written on time slips, on graph paper, on the back of pulled postings, and Subway wrappers. Written after work on Wednesdays waiting to give plasma, written at rest stops while trying to catch a nap.


Grabbing a stack of loose scratch paper I head out for my lunch break. Only one goal – to write. I’ve been cooped up in the office for far too long and so I head out – today’s sound track – Pink Martini. The sun is out, warming the cold streets. The wind is out, doing its dirty cruel work. There is a small plaza not far from work and it is there that I reside. It has very little going for it – very little indeed. I can smell nearby coffee shops and pizza places. I can see a small slice of the world, a row of shops, a busy intersection – and that’s about it. I don’t come here for the view, for the sights and sounds. No, High Street Square has only one redeeming feature – only one. There is a bench set into a raised garden plot that fits me like a glove.

It is one of my many “spots”. Spots that I’ve found.

Here I can slouch, I can sprawl, I can sit alone. I can sit and read, sit and think, sit and write. The sun is at my back and lights my page. I’ve found several of these “spots” in town – in coffee shops, and plazas, classrooms, and libraries, hillsides, backroads, parks, and trails. Spots that are mine. Quiet places midst the noise of life.

Someone questioned my motives yesterday – his question was fair, and honest.

The question was not hard to answer and the answer was hard to articulate.

I answered his question with a seemingly unrelated question.

“Why do you give presents?”

And not just presents – but that gift which screams perfect – that gift you can’t wait to give. The gift that will cause faces to shine, jaws to clench, and eyebrow to rise. Do you know that feeling you get when you know that you can make someone’s day, all of the sudden the gift is something you want to give, something that you get to give. You are so glad that you found it!

Seeing this person happy makes you happy – if seeing them happy did not make you so – then the gift would not really matter. It’s weird how connected this is. And we’ve all felt the opposite of this – the present that failed. The one that missed the mark, and we are kinda of bummed. And we feel as if we’ve failed, let them down somehow. We missed – it’s not the gift but rather the way the gift expresses feelings.

I want to give feelings – but I cannot bottle emotions.

You can’t capture those things behind the eyes – there is so much that cannot be written, explained, packaged, or delivered.

And we find that so much of life is lost in translation.

Bridging that gap from heart to head, from self to world.


I see my reflection in a can, in a jar of Vanilla extract. I see it and realize that I like the angle, I like the shot. The inky black surface reflects the room remarkably well. I can see the overhead lights, desktop clutter, Kleenex and houseplants. I’m in the lull of the day – ate a late lunch – looking forward to going to bed – bed however is hours away. Life gets busy then it gets still. Fast then slow.

Feeling pensive, feeling old, aware of all the decisions that I have to – that I need to make. And the weird thing is – the odd thing is that these are decisions which should be and are exciting. So why does looking for a job – why is this something that I’m avoiding? Why am I not excited? Why am I worried? Why am I paralyzed? Why am I recasting my fear as indifference? Why am I pretending to be too busy? Why?

Honestly – when I sit here and look into the jar of Vanilla extract, when I stop and think and listen. I know what it is. Fear of failure – if I don’t enter the race I can’t lose – if I don’t try I can't not succeed – but it’s


Sometimes encouragement comes in the most unexpected ways - in fact I would venture to say that the more unexpected it is, generally the more encouraging it can be. I love the random phone calls I get from people telling me to get outside and look at a the beautiful sunset. The random emails from friends sharing pictures that remind them of my photos. People don't know how much that says sometimes.

I was driving around picking up students for college group with a young man, when he told me how proud he was that I drive to Seattle on a regular basis - totally unexpected - the sort of thing that you don't even think to be proud of - so encouraging. There is a woman at my church - I think she is the most encouraging person I've ever met - I'll have a five min


The tank is empty - looking inside at first I see no one thing rising to the top - the waters are cloudy. I don't know what to write - I type and delete, write and erase. Think and think and think. I've got no pictures - I've been house bound. I've got nothing I want to get off my chest - at least nothing that is processed enough to type here.

Or maybe I do.

I don't want to talk about me right now. I want to listen not talk, to hear and not speak. To revel in another's tales. To listen, and to do more than that, to let their story connect with me. To let them in. To know someone - to see their shoulders and know it's been a long day. To hear the smile in their voice over the phone. To see the light in their eyes even when they are hundreds of miles away. I want to know and be known. I want to be a part of their life, as much as I want them to be a part of mine. I want to finish sentences, and answer the thoughts rather than the questions.


I've been sick for a while now, battling a cold that has been migrating back and forth from my head to my stomach to my chest. It returned this week with new found energy and vim. Yesterday was spent mostly on the couch, with a brief recess at a local burger joint - where I tried to infect as much of the local populous as I could while meeting with a brave and foolish friend who risked catching the crud in order to have a chance to connect.

Today was almost the same.

I woke up late - called work and told them that I would not be in. Going to have to bust my butt come Monday - they deserve as much for being so understanding. The couch sang it siren song till about noon where after talking to my nurse I decided that maybe getting out of the house would be a good idea. Maybe reading a book in a warm back corner of a coffeehouse somewhere. I've been trying to finish "Desiring God" forever


I don’t imagine large enough – I don’t dream grand enough – I sit and shrink my dreams under the guise of being practical, being responsible, being level headed - so I tone down what I want in life – fearing that if I can’t have the huge big dreams – I’ll just change my dreams into something smaller that is attainable. I’ll settle. I’m not talking settling for a smaller house or a cheaper car. I’m talking about finishing my homework, cleaning my room, doing my laundry. I don’t hold myself to that higher standard enough.

There is a tale of a great war horse that once freed finds it almost impossible to do the feats that he was once able to do. With no one standing over him pushing him on - he settled. I don’t always settle – in fact I’m most content when I haven’t. I know that there is a harder path, a path that is harder now, a path that leads not to ease but better and harder things. Why do I shy from these better harder things? These gems?? They are the things I prize. The things I have sweated for, worked for, prayed and waited for. Why do I settle? Why do I give up? It hurts sometimes; it hurts a lot of times, the striving, the pressing on. But I know what’s best – and so often I avoid it, so often I let myself forget, and so often I find myself relearning the same lessons over and over again.

Why do I change my sights – and turn my striving into loosing?


“Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father.”

I was going to write about tradition this morning – after reading some Chesterton, I’ve decided to wri


As a guy I want to fix things - to put them right - set them in order - take something that is broken and make it not. Most days this is fun, most days this is exciting, most days you feel as if you've accomplished something. Then there are days when you don't know how to fix something. You can see that it is broken, you can see the problems, but maybe you don't have the tools, or maybe your fingers are too large, or maybe you're afraid that you'll only do more damage. You loose sleep wondering what approach is best, you try and find someone who has fixed this before. You talk to people who have worked on similar problems. Sometimes you stumble on a solution and sometimes you come up empty handed.


Looking out my window, I see the snow, I see the white, I see tomorrow. Nina is singing, asking me where I’m gonna run to. Where am I going to run? So much to do – I should feel overwhelmed – so much to think about, so much to talk about, so much to feel out. Planning, praying, persevering, smiling, enjoying it all so much. The song flows thru me, the piano – the guitar – tomorrow is here. Today is passing. I was by myself in the office today. I left the lights off, turned on my desk lamp – and had the whole world to myself.

I sat in a 2000 square foot sparsely furnished room and heard the clock on the opposite wall. I heard the tires of the traffic in the wet snow outside. I heard me - processing my work, clicking, typing, humming, sketching, sorting, filing, listen and you could hear the ebb and flow of the city’s paperwork. I heard the voices of the octogenarians and septuagenarians who met beneath my feet. The power went – the power went and so did Nina, so did the hum of my monitor, so did my clicking and all was quite. The voices were still, my office dark, and the snow fell outside. Then seconds later it came back – just one powerstrip tripped. My monitor buzzed back to life, the Nina picked up near where she left off. The printers ran a self-diagnostic, and the scanner rebooted itself. I felt the hum of the carpet being vacuumed in the hallway, my boots were off and my toes were free. Free to tap and dance in slow steps beneath my desk.

I had the world to myself -

Not alone – but to myself.


Last week, I got my Trooper back from my folks. Red, boxy, dented - I love it. I fit in it. I can see out of it. It takes me places the Sable never could go.

Years ago I bought a Mercy Sable from a good friend - 500 bucks, busted up fender and all. I like having a car - just not that car. It's a grandma car. It's a grandma car with a busted fender. I don't know if you've had something that you need but don't really want. The shocks and struts are gone. It leaks oil like a sieve, I've got fix-a-flat in three of the four tires. The windshield is cracking. It gets me around at 30 miles to the gallon so that's a plus. But there is no pride of ownership for me with this vehicle.

And I had to laugh at myself when having the Trooper - the first thing I did was buy new seats, vacuum it out, armor-all the interior, take out the center consul and wash it out. There I thought - pride of ownership. I vehicle I can be proud of. Pride was almost the right word. Almost right. I started wondering if pride can ever be a good motivator. And I'm not sure if I've answered that question for myself but I did stumble on something else, and as I thought about it, it changed into something new.

At first I thought I saw a connection between pride and humility. The idea started with humility - humility being that you realize what you are, that sometimes you need work, that sometimes you are wrong, that sometimes there are just things you can't do. But humility does not prompt you to change or at least that was my initial thought. I remember wrestling in junior high, and for the first two years never winning a match. I knew that I was not great, and I got very good at not letting loosing bother me. I had no pride in myself or my skills. Now please understand what I mean - I was not downcast, it did not eat me up inside. I did not care. I was not going to win, and if I let myself care I would have been miserable inside. All of that changed when in the ninth grade I won every match except for one. Weighing in at 225, I had been wrestling in the unlimited bracket for two years now. Fat kid wrestling is very different from fit kid. The fit kids need to know things, skill and determination play a large part. Fat kid wrestling is a different sort of spectacle. The trick here is to use your weight to your advantage, we were not in shape, we did not have to have may tricks or complicated moves. Get the take down, roll him over and get the pin. And I won all my matches that year with ankle picks and half nelsons. A little speed, a little inertia and it would be over. I was having a blast. Winning is fun - it really is. I found that I really enjoyed it. Then came the one match I did not win - a small guy - 180 was wrestling in my weight class - I trotted out to the ring ready to make quick work of him. This should not take long.

I got that part right.

The whistle blew, there was an explosion of arms and legs, I felt the world spin and they I saw my companions of old, shining down upon my face - the gym lights. Pinned in six seconds. Six Seconds - SIX SECONDS. We shook hands and he trotted back this time. That was humbling in ways that two years of solid defeat never had been. I learned from it and when we met again in districts that year it was an epic battle. We went all three rounds and while he won - it was only by two nearfall points. He earned it this time. There was no anger this time - he was the better man, but I had put him thru his paces and offered the only real resistance he had ever seen that season.

But this story is about pride and humility and cars not wrestling I should get back on track.
I started this whole train of thought in the car trying to see if there was a link between pride and humility. The idea being that you needed both. Humility to show you that you needed to change and pride making you want to change. But there was something that pride was lacking. It was close, so close but not quite the connection that I was looking for. I'm proud of the Trooper but that was a reason and not a cause.

Pride - humility
pride - myself - pride - me
humility - others - humility - not me

Humility and Pride - somethings not right. It's almost right but not quite.

Then it hit me, it's not pride that motivates when humility shows us something lacking. It's not two opposites that spur me on to change and grow.


Postal Service

I sit in my room listening to the Postal Service.

I sit and stare at my ceiling - I drift away into the night.

The lamp casts long shadows on the wall and the floor.

Downstairs I hear Karl and Alan laugh.

And the music goes on.

Music dances and groves in my head, lights pulse, I see myself running, flying over the surface of the ground. Faster and faster in time with the music, I can go anywhere - I soar with the trumpets, keep time with the drums, spiral and plummet with the strings. I can't tell you - I can't show you.

Music where does it come from? What part of nature inspires it? What is finding expression in music? Why does it resonate so deeply with us. It goes deeper, faster than most anything else.


Why do we sing when we are happy, when we are sad, but never when we are bored?

Why is listening more fun sometimes than partaking?

I follow the notes in my head, follow them up and down, tracing out the beat with my fingers. Longing to live inside the song. I see water falling, hear wind in the grass, and feel sun on my face.

It is late, and I am reflective.

It is late and I am regenerating.

It is late.

It is late



The laundromat--a place like no other. The doors are never locked, the lights are always on, and it is almost totally vacant on Sunday nights. I almost had the place to myself, but there was this lady--who I think must of thought that I was some odd art student on drugs--there.

I’ll do things and go places with a camera that I would never do or go to without one. I’ve stood on tables, got on the floor, climbed into and on top of equipment, opened doors that I should not have, walked in hallways where I am not permitted, pushed my gear and myself farther than usual--all for the sake of a shot. I found myself back in that place on Sunday night. I had slept most of the day after church and was cooped up in the house for way too long. I needed to get out.

So how does a sick, college grad get out? Not by going to the laundromat – for there you find not escape, no you don’t lose yourself in the colors and whites, in the soup and stains. No the laundromat is where you sit and process - where in the quiet hum of washers and dryers your thoughts drop out of solution and crystallize. There in that still nursery, ideals form, they are looked at – examined – inspected – questioned – struck down and build up. No music this night, just me and the sluicing sounds of laundry being renewed. Just me and my camera, looking for angles – trying to get it just right – trying to get that shot I like best.

So, how does a sick, college grad get out? Not by going to the laundromat--for there you don't find an escape. No, you don’t lose yourself in the colors and whites, in the soup stains. No, that is where you sit and process, where--in the quiet hum of washers and dryers--your thoughts drop out of solution and crystallize. There--in that still nursery--ideals form. They are looked at, examined, inspected, questioned, struck down and built up.

There wasn't any music this night. It was just me and the sluicing sound of laundry being renewed. It was just me--and my camera--looking for the right angle and getting the shot I liked best.

I've been asked, “How do you take pictures?” and I've listened to photographers describe how they take their pictures. They talk about how they are trying to express some bigger, grander thing and how there is something that they are trying to capture--some essence, some fragrance or truth.

Maybe this is what marks an artist from a hobbyist: I just try to get a shot that I like--one that I find interesting, one that I want to look at again. Oh, sometimes I’ll go on a hunt for reflections or certain colors, but the only time I think people can capture more than that is when they take pictures of people--of their faces, when they are able to capture moments of moving emotion, when the picture causes others to feel something. That is what I would like to capture someday. And I think that capture is the word, because we rarely let that side of ourselves be seen.

Dang, that was a ramble. Sorry :)


Photocontest . . .

So a few days ago a friend of sent me an email in regards to an upcoming photo contest that the school is holding -
I hope you have heard about this. You should definitely enter. You will undoubtedly be come famous-er.
Check it out. photocontest.wsu.edu

So the hard part becomes what to enter?

I've made a short list - I can enter up to four, they have some very specific rules so I've picked those that I think meet their criteria - please feel free to leave any suggestions as to what you like the most - commenting is easy, you don't have to have an account to comment, so please feel free - thanks again and I'll keep you posted.

Early Morning Light

Again thanks for any input you have and I'll keep you all posted as to the results.

Sick and tired . . .

Well what's the damage so far . . .

Lost two thirds of a roll of toilet paper

It is looking like two and a half days of work

I'm being a bit of a suffer baby in this post - not the flowing prose I had hoped for.

Found out that self portraits are hard at 4 o'clock in the morning, especially when you can't see what your shooting at, and the camera is having a hard time determining the focal plane, and the light is in your eyes, and you are trying not to laugh, and trying not to wake your roommates, and your eye itches, and you can't see because you don't have your glasses on and your contacts are not in,

and like I said - suffer baby.

Not having insurance really stinks sometimes


Knowing Smiles

A place for everything

I don't know if this story will resonate with any of you. I hope it will make some of you smile; I hope it will make some of you laugh; I hope it connects and clicks, and that you know and understand. I hope it's happened to you--and if it has not, I hope that someday it will.

It was subtle (most changes in life are for that matter and this was like no other), so subtle that only myself and those directly involved were even aware of it. As I was walking into church this Sunday, making my way up the icy sidewalk, a little, nice old lady--I think those of you who know Suzie Flack will agree with my description--spoke to me.

"Hi Neil," she said.

Now, why did this make me smile? Why did it please me so? Why did it make me want to jump and laugh and sing lines out of old Broadway musicals?

While you think about that, think about this: I reached the door and Jack Brossman held it open for me. With a huge grin he said,"There he is." As I said "Good morning" and walked in, his wife gave me a large smile and said "Good morning" as well.

I spent the remainder of the morning smiling and here's why: I've been attending E-Free for at least two years now and there are so many people I still need to get to know--lots of good, solid people I want to know. I have never spoken to Suzie. I've spent time with her husband and gotten to know him over the past two years, but she has never said "hi" to me before. (She's not avoiding me. We just have never been introduced and never crossed paths.) Furthermore, I've never talked to the Brossmans. I wasn't even sure they knew who I was.

So what caused this shift? What caused this interest? What was its source? I believe I know. . .

It is so much fun seeing the consciousness of a large group--seeing it shift and change in a way that is almost palpable, seeing people I know giving me knowing smiles and asking about my weekend plans. It is so much fun having people I don't know seeking me out--wanting to get to know me and sizing me up--and having older men, with their approving smiles, telling me to treat her well because she is one of their favorite people.

To be pursuing and dating one of their daughters is an honor. It feels good--so good--to see how she is loved by the people that know her. It makes me proud of them and the way they look out for her. To be invited over to dinner to tell the story, to be greeted in the parking lot, to receive the support and direction of older and wiser people who know and love her is such a blessing.

As I drove the van to pick up any early-rising freshman who might have braved the cold, as I sat in traffic waiting for the lights to cycle, I thought and prayed for my church. I found it sad that I had not talked to Suzie before, asking myself, "why did it take so long?"

Forgive me, because I'm about to go off on a rather large tangent, but it will tie back in. Ages ago I was reading a collection of mystery stories entitled "Murder for Christmas," a great collection by some of the best mystery writers. In the first story--I forget what it was called and who it was by--the antagonist repeatedly states, "When he comes to me I will forgive him," over and over again, stressing he, me, I and him.

When he comes to me.

Why do I wait on others when it comes to stuff like being nice? I would love it if the Brossmans invited me over for dinner but why am I waiting for an invitation? I live somewhere with a table--or at least I used to. (I've just moved into a new place so I don't have one at the moment.) I should have them over. I would love to talk with Suzie. Why do I wait for her to come to me? I should go to her.

So often I find myself waiting, wanting things to happen, rather than taking the advice I was given as a little kid to go and say "Hi," start the ball rolling and be who I would like them to be to me.

When I go to them, they can tell me.

When I go to them.

It starts with me.

It starts here.