Back to School

I am doing something kind of strange, I guess, for a gentlemen of my age. You see, I work around college students in an effort to support their academic and often, mental, well being. I did not pursue a doctorate degree instead choosing to stop my formal education with a Masters of Science in Accountancy. I know, I know…long story.

Anywho, although most of the students – actually I prefer to call them learners because for some reason, some people, sometimes, forget that students are human beings. Calling them learners helps me remember that they should be honored and respected for delaying economic gratification often in an effort to improve the lives of their families. Nearly all of the students I support are from a low economic background. I love helping them very much, but sometimes I feel a bit jealous that they get to learn about so many exciting topics and I get to go to meetings. So…

Our semester just began and I decided to create a mini-college experience for myself. I enrolled in 3 Udemy courses at a very reasonable price of $11.95 each. This includes music theory, writing, math and I purchased an American History textbook to go along with a Duolingo app I have on my phone – and now I have 5 courses including Spanish, Math, English, History, and Music Theory. My goal is to spend 10 – 15 minutes, 5 days a week, on each subject. Screw homework. I hated homework the first time around. I will try to do this for 16 weeks, the same length of our spring semester.

I hope I don’t flunk or get expelled for bad behavior. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Adios mi amigos. (If anyone knows how to add accent marks in WordPress, please let me know. Gracias.)

We are the official owners of a house, horse stables, barn, shop and 5 acres.

Realizing that it will probably be years before we can rebuild in Paradise and knowing that this wonderful travel trailer is going to be awfully hot to live in during the summer, we decided to buy a place in a very small farming community called Orland, about 45 minutes from Paradise. (Sounds funny.)

Once again, just like 30 years ago when we bought our home in Paradise (again, sounds funny) we were more drawn to the land than the house.

We are already painting the walls, getting ready to install some wood floors and new carpeting. Apparently I have also taken on 2 seven year old chickens, who have lived there their whole life and we couldn’t bare to upset their lives, and an eighty three year old gentleman who would still like to continue mowing the front lawn for us. Did I ever tell you I have a hard time telling some people no?

My plan is to get some sheep to keep the pasture under control, grow a huge garden, raise dogwood trees as nursery stock, and maybe get drunk one time out in the barn. I have earned it.

I sat at the new table we just brought in and quietly thanked God, asking God to bless this new house into a home.

I will post photos as we personalize the place including painting the exterior, probably white and beginning new landscaping projects.

Oh yeah, I promised my niece a baby goat.

Rainy Day People

I haven’t been very musically inclined lately, so I started thumbing through (literally using my thumb) some old music files on my IPhone… stuff I had recorded just messing around at one time or another.

I am not a fan of my voice, but with one song I recorded, Rainy Day People by one of my songwriting heroes – Gordon Lightfoot, I was struck by my take on the song and I heard the lyrics in a way I never had before. I suppose the events of the last couple months had a lot to do with it, but oh how I have come to appreciate the care and love of Rainy Day People. As I listened to my vocals, it almost seemed like my heart understood something back then that my head had not yet recognized. Interesting.

I sense that many of the bloggers that I enjoy following are Rainy Day People because they bring insight, both in words and pictures, that can only be presented or experienced after spending some time with pain, loss, disappointment.  I know my best conversations are with Rainy Day People. Surprisingly, these are not negative or morbid conversations, they are just impactful and supportive, and usually end up being quite hopeful. I am sure there is inspiration for other songs called, “People I talk to who make me want to jump off a cliff into the icy sea,” perhaps sung to another Lightfoot classic, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald -Try it, I think it might fit – but no need to go there.

Thank you Rainy Day People!

Chasing After The Wind

As of this morning, I have meditated, briefly, for 16 days in a row. That might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but honestly, there isn’t many postive habits I have stayed with for 16 consecutive days, certainly not going to the gym.

My mind is like a constant display of very short movie trailers. I am either in review of the past or planning the future. On the outside, it would appear that I am a very curious person, a life-long learner, with a wide spectrum of interests. This makes me a fairly interesting person to converse with and an excellent partner to have in  games of Trivia Pursuit. But,…

… there is another side to all of this that meditating regularly has exposed (but was always easily visible to those closest to me.) I have a pretty big anxiety issue. During periods of attempting to become more aware through meditation, I felt like I was being strangled. My elbows, arms, shoulders, wrists, and hands felt like they were shuddering and my throat felt like it was being constricted with invisible fingernails dug into my neck.  One practice in particular is the worse. It is a 15 minute, guided meditation used for addictions, mine being food and mindless eating. During this time, your focus begins slowly moving from your toes and eventually to the top of your head, both sides of your body. (Now that I think about it, they do leave out your private parts…probably wise.) After less than 2 minutes of this tour, I am ready to jump ship. Even writing about it now makes my throat feel like it is closing.

I fessed up to my wife that I was having a big problem and she said that others have commented that I used to have the luxury, prior to losing our place, of being in wide open spaces with lots of available distractions which allowed me to ignore my disagreement with the present moment. I intellectually understood it, yet I didn’t ‘own’ it. I wouldn’t allow myself to emotionally and then spiritually understand what this all meant. I spent my time “chasing after the wind” as noted in the wisdom book, Ecclesiastes – “And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but chasing after the wind.”  

Where do I go from here? I don’t know. I guess one foot in front of the other. Even now, two and half months after the fire, I continue to have nightmares – all of them including death and murders. There is a saying, “You can run but you cannot hide.”  At some point, you have to let your defenses down, even if it is during sleep, or meditation. Maybe instead of chasing the wind, I should try riding on the wind, or at least stop walking into it.

I write this now because soon I will be back into wide open spaces as we are planning on moving to a house on five acres with a large shop, barn, and horse stalls. I need to continue facing what I have learned from my current small and confined spaces – where the wind is not available to chase.

Well I’ll Be Darn

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If you told me on November 7th that nearly my entire town of Paradise, Ca would burn down, I wouldn’t have believed you. You were right though.

If you then told me on January 9th that a fellow blogger would nominate me for a Sunshine Blogger Award, I would have said, “Yes, when pigs fly.” Again though, you would have been correct. Thank you Laundry and Dishes! I enjoy very much reading your blog. It reminds me when my wife and I got married at 19 years old and decided to move from Northern California to Tucson, Arizona. We didn’t have a pot to pee in, but oh such wonderful memories of climbing up on our apartment roof every evening and watching the most amazing desert sunsets. Our recreation was tossing a frisbee at the city park. We did go a few days without much food, but I made up for that years later!

In terms of being a Sunshine Blogger, well, I have my good days….and I have my bad days. I do have a bit of a cynical nature, but God has recently done much to show me the incredible capacity people have to love one another. I have been humbled greatly since November 7th.

There are a set of rules to receiving the Sunshine Blogger nomination. since I type very slow, let me cut and paste from Laundry and Dishes latest post.

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog
  • Answer the questions the blogger has asked you
  • Nominate 5-11 new bloggers and write them 5-11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post

Thank you Laundry and Dishes! I don’t know your first name and it felt kind of creepy doing a social media search. Honestly, thank you very much!

Let me answer your questions:

  1. What made you start your blog?
    1. As I began contemplating my retirement from California State University, Chico, I started looking into different things I might like to do with my time. The secret to staying married for 45 years is…well, one is obviously not getting a divorce and two, don’t get so sick of each other that you murder your spouse…no wait, that ain’t sunshiny…number two, stay intellectually curious and individually engaged in life while supporting your partner’s interests and journey….and well, actually three is the biggest reason: forgiveness. Anywho, I wanted to investigate if I would enjoy writing. By the way, I found out that I liked writing but abhorred editing- it is like taking your sister to the prom, it is not very exciting, or at least really shouldn’t be.
  2. What is your favorite post that you have written?
    1. Ooh, good question. I’ll be right back. I need to check them out….I’m back, that didn’t more than three little dots. It is this one, The Class of ’64.  It only has only  one typo in it and it is about someone who changed my life and many others.
  3. Do you write for yourself or for your readers?
    1. Oh. a trick question I see. One of the worse thing a person can do is limit themselves to either/or options. It is what screwed up religion. Even losing everything in a recent fire, bad thing, yes…but good has come from it too. It changed me, I experienced love and compassion from hundreds of people. I began meditating, praying, realizing things about myself that only a disaster would be able to reveal. I was broken.  I write for the Yen and the Yang in an effort to find that sacred middle space…that exists everywhere, and nowhere. I write for me, I write for the reader. This means I must always be true to myself and authentic, even when I am not so emotionally attractive.
  4. What is your favorite book to read?
    1. Any book by the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr and I am not Catholic! The man has opened my mind which then opened my heart.  I also dig Mark Twain, Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, Mark Mayes, and Indy Quillen. Bonus answer, I am currently reading a great new biography about Arthur Ashe. I enjoy Peter Kerasotis too, especially his biography about Felipe Alou.
  5. Do you prefer movies/tv or books/reading?
    1. Yikes. Read 38 books last year. In the last two months, I have seen 4 new movies. I totally loved the new Spiderman in the Spiderverse one along with Mary Poppins Return. You see, this is unfair because I LOVE buttery popcorn with an oversized box of Milk Duds all washed down with cola. with crunch ice, not cubes..and maybe a rock solid, ice cold box of Bon-Bons…those little ice cream treats….Ok, I LIKE MOVIES!

Ok, now to nominate some other bloggers I enjoy:

  1. Through Rose Tinted Glasses https://throughrosetintedglasses2017.wordpress.com
    1. I seriously started following this lovely person when I was dealing with the death of my father. She is wise, and funny, and creative, and loving, and spunky. I like spunky.
  2. Eliza Waters. https://elizawaters.com
    1. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Eliza’s pictures leave me speechless. They touch my heart and she leaves super cool comments.
  3. My friend doesn’t blog much, but she should. My goodness she can write and she is a beautiful person with much wisdom. Follow the Yellow Brick Road https://followtheyellowbrickroadsite.wordpress.com
  4. I love what this man shares. Len’s Diary https://lensdiary.blog.
  5. The most consistent blogger I follow, I think. She gets to the point and her point is always worth getting to! https://letitgocoach.com

 

Now my 5 questions for my nominees:

  1. What were your favorite games as a child?
  2. When was the last time you danced?
  3. Who are your favorite recording artists, bands, solo artists, orchestra?
  4. You have one month free to travel, where would you go?
  5. Do animals have souls?

 

A Wonder-Full Walk

Not too far from where we are staying, temporarily, is a wonderful preservep where the birds of the Pacific Flyway take their winter vacations. We took a casual 2 mile walk today and I pulled out my cellphone to take some photos. I think I am going to invest in a real camera.

There is something miraculous about being able to walk by the birds that have migrated from so far away to get to this part of the Sacramento Valley. The reserve is called Gray Lodge.

The mountain range in the background is the world’s shortest mountain range, the Sutter Buttes. Personally I am not much in favor of naming anything after “Captain” John Sutter of the California Gold Rush of 1849…but like they say, “that boat has left.” The Maidu Indians of this region called it “Middle Mountain” and it was where their ancestors’ souls would spend three days before continuing their journey from this world. I love the idea of Middle Mountain, because I think we all have a Middle Mountain in our lives, that special and sacred place… the center of our universe. A good friend of mine told me of an experience he had riding his bike to work one morning. It was simple but profound, and for that moment was his Middle Mountain.

Didn’t Black Elk speak of the center of the universe and isn’t everywhere? I think it is and for this afternoon, the center of my universe was walking by the snow geese.

Teaching an Old Dog, New Tricks

It has been almost two months since we lost our home in the fire that burned up our town, and our lives as we knew them. As odd as this might seem, even through 45 days of nightmares (I was slow to evacuate and saw the fire a little too close) and great sorrow for things that were lost and awareness that the future we had planned for will not be, I have experienced a deep sense of awakening, a sense of the beauty that lies in human nature, and a sense of belonging, not to just one place, but to all spaces and places.

This little living space we call home, for now, this trailer is so well designed, with so many interesting lines and corners and intersections, if I just really look at it, it seems like a universe in itself. Outside, I can sit in a chair with a blanket around me and watch Orion the Hunter rise from the easter horizon and eventually command the center of the sky. And, while watching this, I think to myself, “They say the universe continues to expand!” Comprehending that is beyond my intellectual abilities. However, from my heart, I can begin to understand what that means.

I continue to meditate daily, for a a few minutes and then I use the space that provides to quietly sit with God. I have even started viewing Jesus Christ in a different way-far from what I was taught as a child growing up.

I joined a health club and now can ride a stationery bike, at level 3, for 10 miles. A long time ago and many pounds ago, I used to ride in those 100 mile organized rides. I am thinking of buying a new bike to replace the burnt one, but not to ride for accomplishment – just to ride with joy. Plus, it really helps strengthen my damaged knees. Today I looked at a tennis racquet. The game of tennis is such a fascinating physical and mental game. Perhaps by spring I can go out and hit again. I used to hit thousands of balls to my daughters as they learned the game-and with fatherly pride I say, they became quite skilled at tennis.

I watched with great love as my son  and his wonderful wife demonstrated a great generosity of spirit in supporting all of us through the transition from home owners to homeless. I also saw, where thick bushes used to be, but now just burned ground, the place in front of our house where he and his friends had tossed some empty and quite potent alcohol bottles. My wife and I laughed. It feels good to acknowledge the failures of parenting when up against the teen spirit, for we too have tossed some bottles into bushes in our days. I am so thankful we all made it through that period in our lives. The man my son has grown to be is the greatest present a son can give his father.

Last year, my resolution included reading 20 books. This year, I only care about the enjoyment of reading – no more ‘accomplishment’ for me…. in anything or any way. I went fishing on the first day of the new year and I could care less if I caught a fish or not; it was just about being on the river under cold but beautiful skies.

Finally I have understood the need to be gentle with myself, since the fire. It is the first step in learning to be gentle with others. Speaking of others, so many readers of my blog have offered such heartwarming support. I never considered that possibility when I started blogging. Thank you.

It is so tempting and easy to say of a difficult person, in our lives, that “They will never change.” I have come to understand that that is not our call. Just love them, as difficult as that can be, and love is a powerful instrument of change. I know the love that I have experienced has changed me. Love can even teach an old dog, new tricks.

Big hugs for 2019.

January 1, 2019 on the Sacramento River, looking up at the. clouds and Mount Lassen in the background.

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Every Single Time

No matter how many times I get on the Sacramento River, I find it all simply stunning. Late this afternoon, my son-in-law wanted to try out a new fishing pole.

I just started taking photos with the IPhone. It makes me want to get a real camera. Happy New Year to you all.

I am one thankful man. See ya 2019.

Gary

p.s. A little song I wrote which seems to capture much of my craziness.

https://soundcloud.com/user-359965116/folk-dream-track-8-of-16/s-hP3GU

Thank You Part 2

Thank you for the hardships for they have soften me and made me stronger.

Thank you for the tears for through them rainbows of the heart appeared.

Thank you for the chaos because it made me more aware of the spaces of peace.

Thank you for the uncertainty because its path leads to God.

I took a few photos of the area where we are attempting to buy a new house. It is in a small farming community called Orland.

Here is Mount Shasta from the Black Butte Dam, the sun playing tricks on the lake, the cattle ranches below Black Butte Dam, and Mount Lassen off in the distance. I took these all while basically standing in one spot. What price would you put on being able to see such beauty? Priceless and all for free! I am so fortunate.