Sunday, December 11, 2022


Collector Ornaments
With this title, as well as the numerous end of the years pleas for donations, you may want to stop now. However, please continue reading. The aforementioned December begging will be addressed in my next YouTube video.

If more people for whom I purchase gifts would be collectors gift giving would be simple. There are plenty of things to collect. My wife did (maybe still does) collect figurines called "Willow Tree Angels." Exchanging gifts between us ended years ago. It succumbed to the, "If you need it buy it." way of living. (When my in-laws were living and the multi-generational brood gathered at their home, presents were opened one person and one gift at a time. This took forever!) If what I purchased was already a part of a person's collection it was simple to exchange it for a new item. No sizes. No colors. No contemplation. Buy it and forget it!

Willow Tree Angels
During my teenage years I became a phillumenist. Everybody had to be special or maybe a bit quirky and this hobby was unique. At that time matchbooks were readily available. Not only did more people smoke, but it was a cheap way to advertise. Try to find a single book of paper matches today. Some were available near cash registers. Next time you order and pay on your app find the option to ask for a book of matches. Or when you come to the drive-up window ask the worker for a book of matches. As you pull away with your order, ask the two people outside vaping for matches. It was good that my time as a phillumenist was short lived! If it was not for placing   
No advertising here!
"matchbook collecting" in the search bar, I would have believed this was an obsolete hobby. Currently it is quirkier than ever!

The idea of collecting, organizing, displaying, and obsessing over stuff no longer holds any value. My stuff, instead of defining me, detracted and delayed me from doing other things. Over the past decade letting go of things and collecting experiences has become important. Experiences can be collected alone, with others, and with a group. They can involve distant travel, as well as coffee with a friend. Season, size, color, fit, or fragrance can be incorporated or discarded as experiences encompass what is at that specific moment. I have been able to travel to other continents packing more experiences than clothing. The colors of the sunset sky and the soon to follow full moon at the nearby state park were amazing gifts. I have digital images stored in a cloud, yet being in the moment of the experiences cannot be duplicated! These are gifts as
Setting sun at local park

Coffee to be shared
varied, unique, and quirky as life itself. Come to think about it, life is a gift to be experienced!

Whatever this time of year means to you; whatever gift giving and receiving traditions you embrace; I hope you are surrounded by experiences which inform, impact, and expand your life. These collections never become obsolete!
In a London park

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Longevity Is More Than Years

Post ride with Bradley Rose at
Peloton studio in London
It will soon be two years since I was gifted with a device that I have used at least weekly since it was delivered. Not only did I receive a Peloton bike, but access to a vast array of workout categories and instructors which have become a part of my life. Yes, I prefer to be outdoors. With the Peloton app, I can participate in workouts on demand while outside. While the basement bike does not offer much for scenery, the metrics which the instructors suggest generate more diversity in speed and resistance than I can achieve on the flat, gravel roads of my area. 

One of Peloton's instructors, Adrian Williams (based in New York City) often uses the phrase, "Mobility is key to longevity." He is promoting running, strength training, cardio, and stretching. He does not instruct 

Part of the basement gym
any cycling classes. However, I like his style of motivation for strength training, cardio, and life lessons. I have found great benefit from exploring "functional fitness" instead of one specific dimension of exercise.

Other words come to mind when I think about mobility. Such words as creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and affability expand mobility. If they promote mobility, I believe they also enhance longevity. There is more to our lives than the physical attributes of maintaining a strong cardiovascular system. The realities of relationships, perspectives, exploration, and aptitude provide holistic functioning. Now more than ever, I sense we want to compartmentalize. Common phrases used for this are: echo chamber, silos, tribalism, and thought bubbles.  Multiple streams of media and our ability to not only choose, but isolate our sources of influence fosters this segregation and in my opinion, degeneration of community. 

Recently a member of the Hillsboro United Parish asked me to watch something on YouTube. The link was to, "Angel Band - Director's Cut." It was a representation of Tyler Childers' recent song of the same name. This was the Jubilee Edition. The video, lyrics, and my research of his life broadened my outlook in many

Rows of free books
ways. Another acquaintance suggested I read, "Liberating the Gospels" by John Shelby Spong. The author makes a case for Christians misreading the Gospels for centuries due to willingly ignoring the Jewish content and context. I have ordered the book. I look forward to our discussions about the ideas presented!  A fellow endurance athlete enjoys a much different political view than myself. When we workout together more than my body gets exercised! For me these are examples (some of which totally unexpected) of flexibility, adaptability, and functional fitness to enhance the breadth and depth of my days.

I believe it is time to intentionally work ourselves (mind, body, spirit) into places that are uncomfortable. It is when we push ourselves a little further, when we realize some pain that growth occurs. This is not pain for the sake of pain. It is for the expansion of our mobility on multiple levels which will broaden and enhance each day. However, I want people to make their own choices. Dictating one way, one idea, one perspective as the proper or right one causes contraction not expansion. Calcification is not conducive to pliancy.

Moving forward!

I plan to keep my Peloton streak intact while enjoying more expansion and insight into life!


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Someone, Someplace

(Stock photo)
The marquee names of Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds were pivotal in making the 1982, movie-musical, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" gross close to $70 million. An Academy Award nomination went to Charles Durning for his supporting role as the Governor of Texas. The musical was in part a hard hitting satire of politics. The song which impacted me was, "Sidestep" sung by the Texas Governor. This will take you to the performance of that song from the movie.

The ongoing phrase, "Ohhh I love to dance a little side step" sums up most political speech. Add to this, "Cut a little swath and lead the people on" and the timeless refrain of empty rhetoric is captured. Finally the lyrics,"I've taken certain steps here, Someone Someplace is gonna have to close her down" paints the nonstick coating of responsibility over the political process. Over the past 40 years little has changed in this regard. 

In the weeks leading up to what has been called "one of the most important elections in our lifetime," (I thought all elections are important?) and I anticipate the subsequent analysis which will drone on for weeks, large doses of empty phrases will continue. I have heard too often about a candidate's fight (Why is that word used so often?) to lower fuel prices, ease inflation, stop the radical/extremist of the other party, and limit career politicians. Irony alert: the "limiting" phrase was used by a local candidate who has had over 25 years in public office!

The proliferation of empty phrases and "someone, is not my responsibility" is not limited to the political arena. Humankind is flush with hypocrisy! A person recently elected to another leadership/ 

St Andrew + St George Church
Edinburgh, Scotland
bureaucratic position whose vocational life has been within a major Christian denomination said, "I am committed to developing leaders to grow into the very best versions of themselves so that they can be at their very best for God." What about today? Is our "best version" still to come? At times I think my best (my perspective) may have passed. Does God only accept us at our best? Who measures best? Nice sentences. Appropriate sounding words, especially for a church leader. A bit of everything for everybody. Yet, who is the audience? The lack of specific ideas and actions for the present day presents a vacuum. "So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3.16 - New Heart English Bible)

Turtle on the trail
If gas prices are too high, use less. Supply and demand is exulted as American Capitalism. Walk, bike, public transportation, carpool, etc. With less demand prices will drop and maybe new personal habits will be embraced. Climate change may be lessened by less petroleum, less mining, less consumption. All are within  personal, daily choice. Can a cellphone last more than a couple of years? Is the latest technology so  important? Consumerism begins and ends with individuals everyday. Embracing today and each day for what it provides and who we are in that day is enough. The concept of "best" promotes discontentment, striving for more, and seeking things to fill an internal void. Each of us has power. We can use that power each day, not just on election days. Change is a daily choice that does not have rapid results. We are the "someone, somewhere."     

Take a look at this link to what Dolly Parton has accomplished. Or this link. Most of it is simple, direct, quiet, day-to-day action in response to needs. No fanfare. No accolades. Placing books and educational resources into the hands of people does not produce rapid results. Helping a corporation get COVID-19 vaccine developed and distributed did not come with shares of stock. Was it, is it Dolly's best? It does not matter because she is responding to current needs.

Someone, Somewhere? It is each of us, each day. No need for empty phrases nor appeasing the electorate with nonstick promises. No need for bureaucratic church structures to tell us how to be our "best." We are created creatures who can compassionately respond each day. It is each of us, each day, engaged in the diversity of life!

Tribute to "Bobby" at Greyfriars Cemetery
Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Insights From Glass

Mountain Cabin in North Carolina
Before the term, "side hustle" was popular I had one. Actually, I had numerous odd jobs to earn extra money and experience a variety of human interactions. The most recent and longest hustle is ending. I have chosen to strip away old jobs, ideas, and expectations in order to try on new adventures. In my last video, I spoke of the difficulties of letting go. It is not the physical work or the money, but the relationships and the appreciation expressed (builds my ego!) by others for the quality service. This process is more difficult than I anticipated. Second, third, and fourth thoughts have passed through my mind.

Being vocationally centered in pastoral ministry I was proud of the fictitious business name which I kept to myself. A residential window washing service called, "Wash Your Sins Away" was descriptive and expressive. A search of the internet did not reveal another business with that name. I never wanted my independence, reasonable pricing, and enjoyment to be ruined by dedication to a named business. Extra cash, work on my schedule, creativity, being outdoors, and the seasonality were too satisfying to trade for a quirky and catchy name.

The hours of washing a small portion of the array of window styles, designs, locations, and price ranges provided ample time for contemplation. Pivotal insights I discovered which are as important as reflective glass:

#1  Windows were invented to be barriers which allow natural light to enter a space. Think of them as transparent walls. You can see through them from either side. However, their purpose is to brighten a dark space while allowing the outside environment to remain outside.                 

Dirty window - job security

#2  Windows are always dirty. Debris from either side stains, streaks, spots, and scratches the glass. The windows may appear clean for a brief period of time. However, in a brief time or with closer examination the imperfections on the window appear. 

#3  Most people emphasize wanting the outside of the windows cleaned. Some clients want interior and exterior washing. Yet, most notice the external imperfections and want them removed. We are used to looking through glass rather than at glass.  

Part of providing quality service involves being part perfectionist. The glass needed not only to be clean, but spotless. Bird droppings, bug splatter, shadows in the window corners all needed to be removed. These standards created frustration, anxiety, and stress. Did I say this side hustle was enjoyable? What if I missed a spot? What if it rained in a couple days? What if the scratches were already on the window, but the owner blames them on me? Perfection has a price and I did not charge for it. My goal was to be calm and friendly on the outside making the job look easy. Inside, the negative self-talk was screaming.


Perfection is an illusion. Perfection is a human concept. The image of paradise/perfection in the Christian Scriptures is only used to contrast sinfulness/imperfection. Striving to be perfect is unobtainable, yet we are told that with enough discipline and effort we can reach perfection.  Too often we spend our efforts attempting to perfect the exterior image while neglecting the stains and spots which wreak havoc on the inside. I, along with many others hesitate to look inside, to look at ourselves instead of through ourselves. Scratches, streaks, spots, and sins are inside, too. Anxiety abounds! In my vocation of pastoral care and ministry this equates to job security.

What if we accepted the spots and streaks? What if we washed inside and out while accepting that perfection is an illusion? What if we allowed light to illuminate us, as well as emanate from us? In other words, would our world and our lives exhibit more contentment and confidence if we placed the illusion of perfection aside? Such radical thinking and the acceptance thereof would place window washers and pastors in a position to develop broader vocational skills!

Part of relinquishing the side hustle is finding another space for contemplation. I expect the space, as well as the time for insight to spring up as I enjoy new adventures!                
St Pancras Train Station - London
Glass Abounds!


Sunday, October 9, 2022

ENDracing to ENDing

Portable Sign

For more than a decade, Extreme North Dakota Racing has been a part of my life. Based in Grand Forks, ND it began with brothers, both being Adventure Racers, as well as graduate students at the University of North Dakota, deciding their training could also be a source of income. Their events were billed as "The toughest races in North Dakota." The long distances, harsh conditions, and multi-disciplinary activities appealed to me. I was not certain if I could complete the events, but I was willing to push myself. Being a participant was both exhilarating and challenging. There was a social aspect, as well as connection established in suffering with other people. After a few years, an opportunity became available to learn race directing. In a short time race directing dwarfed participation. Now I traveled further to participate in events. I watched other race directors. I watched what worked and mentally envisioned what I might use to enhance the races I directed. 

My first event to direct was END-SURE. This event had many iterations and routes. As an ultra-marathon held in the Sheyenne National Grasslands in mid-March, the weather was always the wildcard. From open, dry prairies, to fierce winds, to hip deep snow, and plenty of icy slush this was always a challenge for participants. To the initial 50km distance, a 100km option was added. Under my leadership a 100 mile distance and a 25km distance were added. In order for this to happen numerous volunteers were needed. As years passed the number of volunteers dwindled. I do not believe there is a single reason for the drop in volunteers. Peoples' lives have become busier in many aspects. Thus the event was reconfigured to only offer 50km and 100km distances.

This couple completed
100 miles in harsh 

After the fall gravel bike event, END-CHIP (October 8th), my time as director of various ENDracing events has come to a close. I believe it is not only time for others to assume leadership using their skills and visions to continue outdoor, challenging events, but personal aspects of my life need more attention. What impacted my life and inspired me to continue race directing over the years were the participants. I could celebrate and congratulate people whenever they passed the finish line. I could emotionally embrace those whose journey was cut short due to any number of physical, medical, or mechanical difficulties. My goal was to assist people in facing the challenge not only of the event, but of how this impacted their life. 

END-TICK June 2022
I met hundreds of people of various ages, careers, lifestyles, locations, and life situations. Events had the feel of a reunion, complete with hospitality, good food, and a well marked course. This was especially evident with the 2 gravel bike events. END-TICK (in June) and END-CHIP were hosted at the farm of Jona and Alicia Baer. Their willingness to be open, accepting, and hospitable factored into the return of many participants. Their welcome and interest in the lives of everyone who came made these events, not races. 

Everything comes to an END. One aspect of my life is ENDing, yet I am better prepared for the journey ahead thanks to what I experienced from others! 

END-WET swim cap

100km biker + 50km
runner approaching the end
of their distance. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A Place to Gather

Tolbooth Kirk
(Stock photo)

Cold Town House Pub
(Robertson Memorial Church)
The contrast of the deep red louvers against the misty grey sky, as well as the darkened stone steeple captured my attention. As the tour guide enlightened us on the history of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, that steeple along with a profusion of others dotted the skyline. When the opportunity surfaced to ask questions, I inquired about the significance of the steeple with painted louvers. The guide spoke of the historic church. It is the Tolbooth Kirk (Church of Scotland). As he ended the explanation he continued, "The red louvers help it stand out to tourists. It is the headquarters for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Festival is the largest arts and culture celebration in the world which ended about 10 days ago. Most churches in Edinburgh are now used as theaters or pubs."

St Andrews + St. George's West
Westminster Abby
Westminster Abby, St. Paul's Cathedral, and St Martin's-in-the-Field are a few of the historic religious structures in London. Their unique architecture and grandeur is inspiring. Their vibrancy and daily functionality as a community of faith, in my opinion, is diminishing. While in Scotland, I enjoyed refreshment, nourishment, and respite in two cafes located in historic church structures. Both establishments provided training to their workers in 
order to enhance their vocational and social skills. Undercroft Cafe at St Andrews and St George's West in Edinburgh and Cafe Ness in conjunction with Inverness Cathedral, dedicated to St Andrew in Inverness are examples of repurposing existing structures to enhance the human condition both as patrons and employees. This concept may honor the original intention of a congregation more practically than a stone structure attempting to survive by the donation of tourists. While understanding the original development of grand structures weaving together the political, religious, and artistic realms in order to establish power over others, I greatly appreciate those institution which can serve a practical, day-to-day purpose for everyone. 

In my four decades of pastoral ministry only once have I been part of a congregation's closing. I doubt those who founded and built church structures thought congregations go through life cycles. The Gothic and Victorian structures, as well as the wood framed rural buildings were meant (at least in theory) to last forever.  As congregations close, one positive asset is the large and functional kitchen which grace many buildings in the area I serve. The kitchens, as well as the ability to easily renovate have enhanced the viability to sell the structure as a residence. It is appropriate that a "House of God" can be transformed to a dwelling where individuals or families can gather and enhance their lives. 

Congregation in Fargo warehouse area
We all need a place to gather. We gain insight, build community, and find support from others who share a common purpose. From grand cathedrals, to strip mall structures, to pubs, to used book stores, the opportunity to be strengthened by a "Power Greater than Ourselves" will remain a part of human existence.  
Leakey's used book store in Inverness
(Old Church - pulpit in background)

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Let's Hang On

Cover picture of the 45 RPM
My teenage years were not far ahead when the Four Seasons had "Let's Hang On" make it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. I was not listening to Top 40 radio in those days. But within a few years I was a fan of the Four Seasons. Here are a portion of the lyrics, "Let's hang on to what we got. Don't let go girl, we got a lot. Got a lot of love between us. Hang on, hang on, hang on, to what we got. There isn't anything I wouldn't do. I'd go to any price to get in good with you. Give me a second turn..You got me cryin' , dyin at your door." As I moved through the teenage years these genre of songs and lyrics were abundant. Get into a relationship of love. The magic will happen. Then it is a matter of sustaining it. One's life is happy and fulfilled if you can hang on to that initial feeling.

The teenage years are a distant memory. The music of the Four Seasons come up on my Spotify stream as "Oldies" or maybe even "Ancient!" As my relationship of marriage approaches 41 years the lyrics of "Let's Hang On" are telling, but also unrealistic. It seems there is a desire (at least a little one) to hang on to what was. The romance. The passion. The spontaneity. The reality of multiple changes, as well as recent, significant "in your face" changes breaks the illusion of hanging on to anything. What is real is today. As Frankie Valli sang, "getting in good" is fantasy. What takes priority today is commitment, sustainability, grace, and perspective. Together this helps me maintain sanity. 

On another level, I see our culture in disarray because of the notion, both perceived and promoted of "hanging on." Some people want it like it used to be. There are established norms and perspective that dare not be changed. The belief that "hanging on" will provide some type of stability and ultimate salvation is sacrosanct to many. Now my Spotify stream can open my life to music from around the world. I do find some comfort in the melodies of the past, but they are from a different era. The lyrics, (other than a few) have no context in the reality of today. I discover new perspectives and new stimulation by letting go.

On Saturday (Aug 20, 2022), I participated in a 70 mile gravel bike event. It was in an area of Minnesota filled with lakes, wetlands, fields, trees, and copious climbs. I had a past connection to this area. While some of the scenery brought back memories, the terrain taxed leg muscles that had not been previously called upon. About two thirds through the event I began getting extremely painful cramps running along my inner thighs. I attempted to drink more fluids, ingest additional electrolytes, munch a few salty calories and continue pushing forward. The pain would subside briefly and then without warning become excruciating to the point of getting off the bike. I had a time in my head to finish the event. I believed if I could hang on, continue doing the same things to alleviate the cramping (which WERE NOT working), I could get the  miles completed. In frustration I stopped, got off the bike, and attempted to stretch the cramps away. I looked at my phone. One of my daughters had called. I did something different. I called my daughter. Walked a  little, but focused on conversation, not getting the miles completed. I was not going to win a trophy nor 

Getting to completion
move ahead in the line of salvation. After about 20 minutes of conversation and relaxation it was time to complete the miles. I did something different. I let go of previous expectations, embraced the moment realizing conversation with my daughter had more benefit than a set time of completion, and pedaled with a new perspective.  

70 miles completed. Thigh muscles are slowly releasing their tightness. Hanging on to past expectations were left in a ditch in Otter Tail County.

My next post will be on September 25.

Saturday, August 6, 2022


One of many dotting the area
An often used phrase in the Northern Great Plains says, "There are two seasons, winter and road construction." Along with orange barrels and cones are the familiar detour signs. I am coming to believe that orange is overtaking green as the color of summer.

According to the following are definitions of the word "detour": 1. a roundabout or circuitous way or course, especially one used temporarily when the main route is closed 2. a deviation from a direct, usually shorter route or course of action." 

For the most part I have found detours to be frustrating. When driving I want to arrive at the destination as quickly as possible. With the relatively high price of gasoline, efficiency is also a key factor. The advent of navigation via phone applications has aided me on numerous occasions. This past week I used online navigation even with some familiarity of the area. A 
change of plans brought a change of route finding. Gravel roads were to be a part of the change. Navigation indicated that I was to go straight for eight miles. After one mile, a large sign alerted me, "Bridge Closed." I had driven across, as well as biked across this beautiful, old bridge in previous years. Forging ahead and cresting the hill I noticed barriers on both sides of the bridge. Both barriers had been pushed to one side 
leaving an inviting lane of passage. Being in a hurry I contemplated driving across. Caution reigned and I turned around on the narrow road with steep ditches. Had I been on a bike I would have more fully explored my options. The bridge deck looked solid. Back to the intersection where the initial sign was located I disregarded the spoken navigation (I was told to turn onto a dead end road) and charted my own route. The rural, gravel intersection did not have any detour signs!

Directional arrows
This situation along with a few others which happened this week provided ample contemplation. When highway engineers design roads, is their default developing the most direct route? When the Interstate Highway System began in 1956, these four lane, limited access ribbons of thick concrete were meant to be straight and efficient. Portions were also designed to be used as runways for the lumbering military bombers of that era. I am thankful to highway engineers. When driving I appreciate straight and efficient! Yet the question bounces around in my mind, "Why do highway engineers control where I go?"

The pondering continues for me. Who determines that a detour exists? Who controls the narrative of what is normative? Who determines efficiency? What is temporary and what is permanent? Are these decisions left to lawmakers, celebrities, influencers, opinion polls, medical professionals, clergy, economists, engineers, etc.? Is determining the correct and efficient course for life a collective decision, an individual decision, or a combination? I am grateful for the experiences and insights of others as useful guides. Sharing experiences and stories adds shape, color, and vibrancy to the fabric of life. Why is it that when I veer from the set course I am on a detour? I am plotting my own course. It may not be straight and efficient, but it is mine to experience. Am I less than normal when I go exploring on my own? Is staying within the lanes of "normative", taking the route of least resistance, forfeiting personal growth? Are autonomous driving vehicles the logical extension of humans mindlessly following one another?

Similar vehicles in a straight line

I will continue to use online navigation to visualize routes and options. I will also inquire of others in order to hear their experiences and glean from their insights. I will no longer be frustrated by what others decide is a detour. I will live fully to explore and appreciate the journey ahead!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Go the Distance

Image from Wikipedia
My daughters enjoyed Disney. Numerous VHS tapes and music CDs were in our house. Animated movies were seen in theaters. We spent days on a Disney Cruise. Disneyland and Disney World were vacations spots. The iconic nature of anything Disney was pervasive in our family. 

"Hercules", the 1997 animated, Walk Disney Studios movie included the song, "Go the Distance." It was written by Alen Merken. These words have been a yo-yo in my mind for years:

               I will find my way. I can go the distance.
               I'll be there someday if I can be strong.
               I know every mile will be worth my while.

I have participated in numerous ultra-marathons (more than 26.2 miles). I have traversed these long distances on foot and bike in all seasons of the year. In the beginning the total distance was foremost in my mind. It was overwhelming. Next to my name on the official results page would often be the initials "DNF" (Did Not Finish). The demons of time would creep into my mind. If I set an estimated time and did not keep on track I would become upset. This escalated into a negative attitude which usually impacted not only my experience, but my completion rate. Going the distance was frustrating even when it was achieved. 

The concept of a starting point and a finish line are common. Measuring not only distance and time, but

A long distance
measuring one's self, often in comparison to others is prevalent in our culture. Awards, achievements, accolades, medals, and certificates become markers of progress and oftentimes measures of identity. Participants in events get labeled, such as: elite, possible podium placers, middle of the pack, back of the pack. All of this speaks of a transaction. A start and a finish. Time is measured and recorded. Status is conveyed. 

Basing my identity on the results of endurance events I would have the label of "back of the pack." Even with increased, intentional training my label did not change. Been there! Tried that! Adopting this perspective for identity opens the door for the demons of distance, time, and results to resume residence in my spirit. In order to bar the door a transformation, not a transaction was necessary.

Long & winding path
As Hercules sang about going the distance, as I gained lived experience, I realized that both a starting line and a finish line are arbitrary points. I am referring to more than physical places, but emotional, relational, and spiritual realities, as well. Specific, accepted events have set marking points. The Tuscobia Winter Ultra has two specific distances (160 miles + 80 miles). I have come to realize that in life there is only the daily distance, whatever that may be for each individual. Every step, every mile, every day, every climb or descent is part of going the distance. There are perspectives to ponder, experiences to incorporate, and attitudes to assimilate. These are the items that individually, but more often collectively result in transformation. I believe that transformations occur over time. Transformations are neither specific not measured. Transformations grow and blossom in the organic matter of daily life.

Climate change has been occurring for centuries. The nature of human beings to speak in terms of fear and scarcity underlies the institution of government. People speak as if there is a single or possibly multiple transactions that can solve a problem. Yes, some things can be accomplished through transactions. However, I will not allow my life to be defined by elections. Relocating to a different retirement setting will not make life easier.  My recycling and reusing will not save the planet. Getting through the medical maladies which impact my spouse and our relationship of marriage will not place me on a podium. Every day, every experience, every opportunity is an aspect of the ultra-marathon of my life. Transactions can be counted, accumulated, filed, and recorded. Transformations are unexpected insights and spiritual changes which cannot be measured by time or trophy. 

I can go the distance. I'll be there someday without worrying about the finish. Life is a complex, precious, frustrating, and formative journey. Every mile has been and will be worth my while!                    

Saturday, July 9, 2022

In Search of the Silver Bullet

During the past few years I've heard the term, "silver bullet" used frequently. Growing up on a farm with two older brothers, knowledge of bullets was as common as knowing where the Corn Flakes were kept. Plinking at various targets moved into varmint control which progressed into pheasant hunting. Basic, small caliber (.22) rifles and standard (12 gauge) shotguns composed the arsenal. However, this rudimentary knowledge wasn't good enough to satisfy my inquiry about silver bullets.

They look silver!

The quest for clarity began at a farm/outdoor store which over the years has increased its hunting, guns, and ammunition section. After walking past glass display cases of revolvers and pistols, then secured weaponry from skeleton stocks to classic shotguns, I came to the ammunition. Signs were posted giving specific instructions not to open the boxes. With phone camera in hand I took a few pictures. Soon a worker for the area asked if I needed assistance.

I pointed to the boxes on the shelf and asked, "Are these the silver bullets?"

"What?" was the reply.

"I've heard so much about silver bullets. The box and image are silver. So, are these silver bullets?" I continued.

The clerk at first glared at me. Then his mouth and eyes shifted into a wily smirk. "You're looking for the silver bullet? We do not sell those here. I suggest you go to the liquor store."

It seemed odd, but I continued the quest and parked in the lot of a alcoholic beverage superstore. It was like most big box stores. I walked in and moved away from the constant flow of customers. I began to scan the perimeter of the building. Flashing signs, stacks of cardboard boxes filled with bottles, and large coolers built into the walls. It was so much different than the previous store. Finally I approached an employee who was arranging bottles.

Original ad
called it the 
"Silver Bullet" 

"I'm looking for the silver bullet. Can you assist me?" I asked rather sheepishly.

"I'm not sure. It sounds rather specific. Let me get Joe. He has worked here many years." I never saw that employee again. I was amused by the steady stream of customers. Most appeared to be on a specific mission leaving the store with boxes of beer and bags of ice. Finally an older man approached me. After making eye contact he motioned for me to follow him. 

As we walked he asked, "Cold or warm? Cans or bottles?" These seemed like nonsensical questions to me. I did not reply before the huge glass doors of a cooler full of beer was in front of me. On either side of me were pallets of 12 packs and 36 packs of beer. 

"This is what we have in Coors Light." he said. "I remember those ads from decades ago. I even remember the store getting a Coors Light train. We must be about the same age. I haven't heard it called the Silver Bullet for a long time." As I stood there trying to understand it all, he asked, "Is there anything else I can help you find?"  I shook my head, no.  As he walked away I heard him say, "The Silver Bullet. Great ad campaign."

Small portion of product

When all else fails or maybe it should have been my starting point, search the internet! A silver bullet is a fictional, magic method for killing werewolves. Also, the Lone Ranger used silver bullets as his trademark. His bullets symbolized the cost of pulling the trigger and the precious nature of human life. Finally, I believe my search centered on a silver bullet being, "a simple and seemingly magical solution to a difficult and complex problem."

From the pandemic to politics, inflation to immigration, we have come to expect effective, rapid, simple, and long-lasting solutions to complex issues.  Just like werewolves, silver bullets reside in the realm of fantasy.

Customers of life!
Solutions are an ever changing mixture created in the depths of daily living. Solutions aren't stagnant, one-size-fits-all explanations. Bullets and booze can become methods of coping with the challenges of daily living, but never solutions. Instead of seeking a silver bullet, I choose to move with the flow of life's customers, gaining insight from my interactions while finding serenity in a power greater than myself.  

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Borrowing a Title

All sizes welcome
The previous post began with a reference to Guitar Ted (Mark Stevenson). He writes a daily blog covering gravel biking, gravel bikes, news and views, and guitars. A title which he uses periodically for a post is, "Randomonium." This title provides a broad spectrum for rambling, ranting, and going wherever he chooses. I am following his lead in this writing. The title "Randomonium" will also be seen here in the future.

During recent stops at the local bike shop I use (Paramount Sports) I noticed that e-bikes are multiplying


faster than bunny rabbits. Every aspect from sleek, pavement cruisers to burly, all-wheel drive, all-terrain, fat-tire behemoths crowd the store. There are purists who denounce these means of conveyance. They believe a true bicycle is solely human powered. They bemoan the use of electric assist. Often these antagonists ride their carbon fiber, carbon rimmed, tubeless tired, electronic shifting, hydraulic disc braked bikes on their merry way. Long gone is the single speed, coaster brake, Firestone branded bike which I was ecstatic to ride as a teenager. Personally, whatever gets a person outside to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds that are not generated from a screen is great! The day is coming when I will gladly ride a two or three wheeled e-machine.

On the shelves and in my world
After a deluge of sump pump sales the precipitation has subsided. Stores can restock these necessary items. Over the years of living in the Red River Valley of the North, I have benefited, cursed, and replaced more than a handful of these submersible pumps in cold, dank basement pits. Over the years I have encountered more than a few people who act like sump pumps. My sense is that we all know a few. A characteristic is to draw down any positive outlook and/or energy while smoothly inviting me into a dark place. While these interactions are a function of human relationships, I attempt to avoid long-term encounters if at all possible. I have experienced (I have no supportive analytical data) an increase in sump pump people. There seems to be a mesocyclone of negativity, "poor me", and Eeyore cloning during the last decade. In order to maintain a balance of optimism and realism (beside living on an upper floor) I limit my encounters with individuals appearting "sump-ish." My preservation of perspective is worth the awkwardness of setting boundaries. By the way, this includes the realms of social media and news media. Sumpy stuff is  everywhere! 

Thomas Jefferson, along with being the third president of the United States, was instrumental in formulating the Constitution. Jefferson had numerous personal conflicts and practices which showcased his inconsistencies. Yet one of his understandings is clear in this quote, "The earth belongs always to the living generation." In his view every nineteen years (in his time a generation) the Constitution should be rewritten to serve the living generation, not the past. One generation should not force its perspectives onto the next.

Etched in stone
I ponder, what is a living document? We have codified, glorified, and sanctified the Constitution and Scriptures. These have become museum pieces, battering clubs, and sacrosanct shrines. Words and phrases like inspired, infallible, and God-given are used as fences to keep these vestiges of history untouched. Again, do these images portray something that is living?

I am puzzled how the words, "life" and "choice" have become labels which seem miles apart? I believe life is full of choices and choices birth life lessons. The recent Supreme Court decision have groups applauding and holding picnics with free hot dogs while other groups are marching and protesting. One group is developing new strategies to win what was "lost", while another group gives high-fives because their decades long strategy has given them the "win." It appears we have found our way into slimy and fear-filled trenches where polarizing political prattle is hurled at each other. The living documents have become brick fortresses. All we hear are the echos of like minded people. No dialog, no seeking of understanding, no seeing one another as human creatures can arise from our self-selected tombs. Yet new strategies are constantly crafted in order to claim a victory, no matter how short. 

In 1966, Stephen Stills wrote a song which was sung by the group Buffalo Springfield. The song was titled, "For What It's Worth." I think these words are still profound:  "There's battle lines being drawn. Nobody's right is everybody's wrong...Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid. It's time we stop. Hey, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down."

I am going to ride my human powered bike before I transition into an e-bike. I continue living while recognizing the needs, insights, and efforts of younger generations to make decisions. Finally, hope is not a strategy. Hope is the expectation of a good yet to come. I am hopefully optimistic!  

Life + beauty in the turmoil

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Escape Route

Gravel Goodness
A foundational figure in gravel biking, a gravel event director, an acquaintance, Mark Stevenson (aka Guitar Ted), and a blogger hailing from Waterloo, Iowa, describes the way he leaves pavement to get onto gravel roads as: "escape routes."

On Thursday afternoon I escaped from the confines of the Fargo ND-Moorhead MN metro area. It was a short escape but long overdue. The opportunity arose to get part of a day and a night away. My one person, MSR Carbon Reflex tent had not been set up for well over a year, maybe closer to two. The same applies to my sleep system. There was no need for a camp stove or meals. This was a short trip. Minimal packing was required.

Minnesota State Parks are popular and campsites are reserved quickly. Unless a person reserves a spot online weeks in advance, options are limited. Also most sites are for drive through trailers or RVs, not tents. During a conversation with one of my daughters, she suggested a park a bit further away than I had considered. Time, as well as the price of fuel played into my thinking. However, when I checked availability for a tent site, I was pleasantly surprised and booked it immediately. Time and cost of fuel were set aside for an adventurous escape!

Entrance Kiosk
Glendalough State Park, near Battle Lake MN is a quiet, modestly developed park on the transition line between hardwood forest and prairie. Its origins are a hunting refuge. The owners had ties to a major newspaper in Minneapolis MN. Lakes, wildlife, and hiking/biking trails abound. Due to its modestly developed almost primitive nature, wooded tents sites are abundant. Actually this type of camping is emphasized. It is called "cart-in" camping as carts are provided for each of the more than 20 sites and rustic camper cabins. A well maintained bathroom and shower building is near-by. Yup, hot water showers! A short hike from this area gets you to the vendor which rents watercraft and various types of bikes. No motorized watercraft are allowed on the lakes. Thus the quiet of a canoe, stand-up paddle board, or kayak graces the clear waters which can be fished. 

My place of repose
I was mildly surprised by my memory of tent set-up. More astonishing was having all the necessary stakes and equipment. I needed the help of a sizable rock to drive some stakes into the ground, as I failed to bring my mallet. Part of the enjoyment is improvising! Exploring trails, admiring flowering plants, chatting with the campground host, and a comfortable camp shower made the escape exquisite. As dusk transitioned into darkness the symphony of nature began. Frogs, crickets, waterfowl, and owls joined in a pleasantly diverse lullaby. Minimal human sounds emanated from the other campsites. The rhythm of rain drops dropped from a couple passing showers graced the deep night. As the sky lightened around 5am the soundscape of numerous birds brought me out of a restful sleep.                                                                                                                      
One of many deer

Maybe the escape route was longer than I had desired. However, the benefits even for a brief period of time were monumental. It was back into the fray on Friday morning. More escape routes are in my future!

One of the flowering plants