Category: Searching

Snapshots of Life

I had an epiphany the other day. We were watching the movie “Crazy Heart” – the one with Jeff Bridges who is a country singer named Bad Brad. He’s an alcoholic, but continues to barely function as a ‘has-been’ country star who is now reduced to performing in bowling alleys and crappy clubs. Of course, halfway through, he meets the next love of his life, ruins his chances by being drunk, and asks for help to get sober. He does get sober and turned around, but the love interest never comes back to him. They meet and find peace and closure with each other, though, and he continues to be a creative musician when the end credits roll.

I am usually unmoved by stories of addicts beating their addiction. I accept that type of storyline as a good vehicle for storytelling, but it doesn’t reach into my soul and tear me up with its struggle.

My epiphany is THIS: do addicts feel the struggle of their own journey when they watch movies or read stories about other addicts trying to beat their addiction???????

It honestly had not occurred to me that this might be so. And why wouldn’t it be so? When a person relates to the main character, they FEEL the pain. I learn something new every day.

New topic – some snapshots from the last week or so of fascinating people:

  1. The cold sore on the lip of the earnest young woman serving me my brisket sandwich at a BBQ place in town. She could have been a teenage bride, or she could have been helping her parents out in the family-run cafe. She had a homemade knit cap on, even though wasn’t that cold in there.
  2. A grandmother in the library, smiling at her two grandchildren listening intently to the librarian explain all the privileges they get with a new library card. Grandma had kept her scarf and coat on.
  3. the Latina grandma (abuela) smiling at me, murmuring ‘hola’, while the family walked by us on the sidewalk. The child in the stroller kicking his feet with a serene glee.
  4. In a bookstore, a young lad wore his Batman outfit. He muttered ‘about face’ as he made an abrupt turn in the aisle. And he held the door for us with exuberance, happy to be serving his community.

All four of those people caused me to stop and take notice of the variety of life that moves all around me ceaselessly. Each image brings a smile to my face. This world is a great place to be. (And I dodged the bullet on the cold sore).

Who have YOU seen lately?

Shattered By This Story

Do you count the blessing of every day?  I thought I did, until I came across this story as I casually perused the local violin shop’s website.  In considering selling my viola, I looked up the shop’s website, McHugh’s Violins.  He has a sterling reputation and did some excellent repair work for me a few years ago in preparation for my return to the concert stage (my return was not nearly as dramatic as it sounds).

As I blithely wend my way through my retirement and into my second career as a writer, I consider passing on my wonderful musical instrument, the viola that my parents had gifted me upon graduation from high school.

I spent my years at University of Northern Colorado playing for hours – in chamber groups, in a practice room, in at least 3 different symphonies.  I loved those days.  The gift of serenity through classical music came to me as a 4th grader, playing “Barcarolle”, and continued through all the years I played.  Even though my practice hours were on the low side of the spectrum of music majors at UNC, I did still spend hours in Fraser Hall on that campus.  My wife and I fell in love in those hallways and practice rooms and rehearsals and concert halls.

I recently tried a revival of my career in the viola section, but, due to a series of realizations, the largest of which was I didn’t want to practice the hours I needed in order to excel again, I now count myself as a listener rather than a player.

I have different ambitions and dreams now yet no less hopeful that when I wanted to be an actual viola player in a professional, full-time orchestra.  I am creating a different kind of art but I love that I write best when I run endless classical music through my Bose headphones.

Back to the violin shop.  I got no further than the first sentence on his website (“My sweet wife Susie passed away peacefully on October 18th, 2016”) when I clicked on this link, “Our Journey”, and read his faithful, loving, heartbreaking, shattering account of their loving battle with her cancer.  I can’t imagine.  His and her story stopped time for me as I read from the beginning entry to the final one.  Please, take a few minutes and read.

Another friend of ours has blogged her entire journey through cancer.  The short answer is, in her words, “cancer sucks”, but that friends and family deeply matter.  You can read her journey right here in Michelle’s Blog.


I realize that today’s the day.  Make your move; make your memories; make your love known.

Brothel Tokens and Cartography

The Delano District of Wichita, KS, used to be for cowboys.  Did you know that cowboys weren’t “cowboys” until they crossed into Oklahoma?  They were “drovers” because the men in question didn’t like to be called “boys”.

Cowboys could drive their cattle all the way into Wichita, which meant across the Arkansas River and to the stockyards, but they had to go back to Delano for whoring and drinking.  Cowboys were NOT ALLOWED TO STAY in Wichita because they would cause too much trouble looking for drink and women.  Plus Delano was a separate place.  Now it is merely a historic district of Wichita.

Have a look at the gold coin in the pictures.  That is a”brothel token”.  A real thing that cowboys or drovers used to get upon completion of a cattle drive.  “Good for one dollar in trade in girls, whiskey, or food” is what it says on the front.

In a little under 65 minutes yesterday, I learned an astounding amount of Kansas cattle history at Westlink Library, in Wichita, KS (Wichita Public Library).  Westlink staff had invited Tom Averill from Washburn University and Mary Lou Rivers from the Chisholm Trail 150th Anniversary Celebration (Chisholm Trail 150th) to come speak to a select few readers who had an hour (plus 5 minutes) to spare.

We had all agreed to read this book.  I happened to see it in a stack by the librarian’s elbow a few weeks ago and asked if I could attend the book talk.  As is their wont, the library happily said yes and set me up as an attendee.  Free.  No charge to come hear living history.

The book centers around an ‘eastern’ Kansan, Leo, who goes out west (near Hays) to teach and both get away from bad decisions back east and start over in the west.  He meets up with a cowboy/rancher and another, older cowboy who have always worked cattle and the land.  The ‘executive summary’ of the book is (and there will NOT be a test) that Leo learns enough to be a cowboy and help drive cattle all the way into Kansas City to the Stockyards back in the 1970’s.  Nice little story, right?

It was only after the expert treatment and discussion from the Washburn professor that I realized how deep the comparisons to life’s complexities the story ran.  As we discussed characters, archetypes, foreboding, and allegory I realized how many books carried similar themes in them.   I thought of Cold Mountain, Lord of the Flies, Lonesome Dove, and the movies City Slickers and The Graduate.  Those of you who teach will already know this.  Those of you who read will have already seen this.  Even though I read quite a bit, the profound truths that we polished took me by surprise during those 65 minutes.  I left the library grateful for the discovery of a vital geographical landmark in my personal map of understanding.

I’ll explain.

As I write, read, interact, absorb, understand, and share with my world (that is, the people I come in contact with), I see myself standing on a particular spot of earth.  Sometimes it is a ridge, sometimes a valley, sometimes a shore, sometimes a cave.  My clearest understanding places are the ridges and peaks of the map – I have a fairly good understanding and can explain lucidly what the situation is.  Air Traffic Control is one of those – I mostly “get it”, and can talk a person through the basic systems.  20th century fiction is another; I’m conversant in a lot of what has been written in the last 70 years.  The valleys, shores, caves are topics in which I have little understanding or data of background to help me out.  The whole refugee situation, for instance, feels like a shore for me.  I know there is a huge problem, but I have little empirical, experienced data to make super decisions with, other than to say ‘we ought to be helping find a solution’.  Clear as mud? OK, on we go.

The joy of adding landmarks to my personal cartography made that book session a gift.  I simply grinned at each person who added a story yesterday.  One of the ladies had a relative (he was a ‘several greats’ relative) who actually remembered how the cattle drive went and how much the pay was – passed down so she knew it.  Another expert marveled at how many people said the Chisholm Trail passed across their land.  She described how the trail moved around a lot – the dry seasons it had to follow water more closely; the wet seasons it had to stay higher to avoid soggy ground.  One point of discussion was how NYC people thought the entire state of Kansas was full of hicks and cowboys, but to cowboys you didn’t have to go farther than Kansas City to find city people (and yes, several of us DID say ‘everything’s up to date in Kansas City’).

Angie and I stopped in The Monarch, which is in Delano (where the cowboys could go, remember?), the other evening to cap off the work week.  The corner signpost, out the window, had a sign that said “The Chisholm Trail”.  We sat in the literal place where the cowboys came to recover from the long drives they’d just finished.

Discovery.  We are built for it.  We often stumble on it.  I certainly do…  it’s like opening the ‘junk drawer’ and realizing it is full of priceless memories.

I’ve got no real idea where we are headed, and I have precious few answers about what is going on today, but it sure is nice to look back over the ground we’ve covered.

Get to the ridge, set your load down, take a deep breath, and look around a little.  Let us know what you see.

The Language of Ravens

This essay stems from an earlier trip to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico; a place I have long loved and enjoyed.  Feel free to visit them –

I heard from the earth – it said this:

“What are you doing for me?”

I am in New Mexico, at my favorite spot I’ve ever known – Ghost Ranch.  My muse resides here.  God pulls me here so I can hear that muse.  The connection to the Spirit is strong and clear, like I feel nowhere else.

Here is what I mean by a clear connection.  Did you ever live in a place where shortwave radio was the only option for listening?  We spent two years in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and we greatly enjoyed the Voice of America broadcasts every morning.  Imagine spinning the dial on an analog shortwave radio band.  Our shortwave had 6 bands to select from.  It had a dial that slowly spun through frequencies, and a switch that selected the range of frequencies.  Imagine you have spun the dial through 5 bands.  Only a few times did you hear a muted, static-filled voice chattering away in a staccato foreign language.  Upon trying to fine tune that channel, the signal faded or maybe only the hissing got louder.

On the last band, already  midway through and despairing of contact, you reach a crystal-clear, loud, english-speaking voice that is talking about exactly what is on your heart at that moment.  The topic is not important; the coincidence of FINDING a voice saying what you NEED is the important part.  When I set foot on the Ranch, after the details of camper setup, dinner arrangements, and logistics are all completed, that connection (like a radio station) tunes in.  I really don’t have to do anything other than walk, sit, listen, look around.  It may sound far too dramatic, but I say to you that the Ranch is a thin place in the fabric between God and the world.  I am not the first to say this:

  • Belden C. Lane, in writing about the Protestant Reformers, says, “Nature’s untamed beauty awakens in my own Reformed heart an atavistic need to praise, to shout back glory.  I sense this in… the desert terrain of Ghost Ranch, in New Mexico, where Georgia O’Keeffe touched a primeval mystery in the land…  These are thin places, where dread and wonder converge in an apprehension of the holy.”
  • Mindie Burgoyne, who leads tours to Ireland’s mystical sites, defines a “thin place” as “where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin.”
  • “Truth abides in thin places; naked, raw, hard to face truth.  Yet the comfort, safety, and strength to face that truth also abides there.  Thin places captivate our imagination, yet diminish our existence.  We become very small, yet we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.  They human spirit is awakened and will grow if the mind and body will allow it”  Mindie Burgoyne.

The elusive Muse who inspires me to write, who clears my mind of chaff so I can SEE what to write, and who grants me the authority to BE the storyteller, resides there.  Our reunion is a thing of joy.  I feel a calming in me (I DO have things to say still… I DO have more to share) when my travels take me there.  Once I walked along the sandstone cliffs and heard (even, perhaps, understood) the ravens calling – ‘do you remember? do you remember where we came from?’  Their “we” meant all of us.  It reminded me of the thrush in “The Hobbit” when they got close to the back door of Smaug’s lair.  It communicated with the dwarves and Bilbo, trying to tell them the secret to opening the door.  OUR way of speaking had moved on, but they remember the days when we all spoke together.  

I have come to understand that the times that God speaks to a person may be few and far between.  It behooves me (you, too?) to hear Him well, heed His words, and burn my calories in consonance with that message.  I remember a time on a youth retreat where God found us.  We stood with 15 or 20 youth in a cold moonlight.  Simply praying and feeling His spirit.  Tristyn shouted, “I love you God!”  We all felt a little warmer after that (and I believe a deep connection remains between all who stood there that night).  Of course, God never “finds” us; it is US who must shut up long enough to rediscover Him.  I know that.

The writing seminar I attended at Ghost Ranch taught me things about how to form stories and how to tell stories.  The most important thing it taught me was that I was allowed to claim my space in the center of the room as the storyteller.  To a boy from a small town in Nebraska (which, in my head, I will always be), that sounds awfully egotistical.  The truth is that each of us gets a chance to tell our story, and only I (and you, too?) can tell my (your) story the way it needs to be told.  Movies, novels, biographies, histories – all told by the ‘teller of tales’, the ‘raconteur’, the ‘court jester’.  And during the good ones we hang on every word.

My answer to the earth is this: “I am trying.  That is all I can do.  Every day I get up and try again.  I do not know what the finished product is, will be, or looks like, but I am trying.”

Find for yourself, then, that thin place.  Hear what there is to hear.  And try.

After all, when we sit together, as at a campfire, in a place of safety yet surrounded by wild, we are comforted by friendship.  Tell your story; we’ve got plenty of time.

Faith of A Child – My Faith

Upon hearing the opening strains of “Jesus Christ Superstar” the other day, I realized my theology, my very understanding, of Jesus began here. My parents took us to this movie when it premiered in 1973 – at least that is when it made it to Hastings, NE, anyway.  I believe they knew what a groundswell this rock opera would bring.  I think their vision about the truly important and formative for us kids remained (remains to this day) at the forefront of their thinking.

Many images from the film float through my consciousness to this day; from the VW van that the cast drove into the desert with, unloading to begin the movie; the high priests rattling the scaffolding that represented the Temple during the song, “He’s Dangerous”; the lepers desperation to be touched and touch Jesus as he walked through their colony.

Most of this music turned into the subconscious loam that fertilizes my spirit.

Not under my control, and by that I mean, I didn’t mean to make that part of my spirituality.  It simply became part of what makes sense to me about the world.  And perhaps that is the very definition of “not my will, but thine”.  Probably not, if I were to ask a theologian to help me parse this through, but I take comfort in God’s hand on my life anyway.

The edgy electric guitar and rock feel of the Overture and the opening number or two set this music apart from what I was used to hearing.  I remember listening to lots of classical music – orchestral and choral, some John Denver, some Neil Diamond.   Handel’s “Messiah” – another of the single most definitive and formative musical pieces of my spiritual bedrock.  I don’t remember listening to any other “rock” than this ‘rock opera’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

I understand the vanity of the apostles – “so we’ll all be remembered when we are gone.”  I understand the frustration of Jesus – “tried for 3 years, it seems like 30” (and, later, “it seems like 90”).  I understand the devotion AND the adoration of Mary Magdalene – “I don’t know how to love him”, and “I love Him so”.  Her heartbroken lament – “could we start again, please” along with Simon Peter’s “I think we get the point now”, dragged me to the foot of the cross, bereft along with them.

“I don’t want this cup of poison” is how Jesus starts his time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, until he finally yields to God.  His dearest friend, Judas – “must you betray me with a kiss?”.  How few of us have NOT felt that betrayal by someone dear to us?  And that is GOOD, because Jesus modeled a response to that way before we had to go through it.

One of the very few things I am good at spiritually is that I continually have to start over.  Apologize, repent, explain, retreat; but always start again at the feet of Jesus.  Renewing my faith in humanity (especially today in our challenging world!!) is always easier with this ‘soundtrack’ running through my audio port.

We, in Wichita, are truly lucky, fortunate, blessed, to have the opportunity to see this live on stage – Music Theatre Wichita told this story in a way that surely rivals any production in any famous district anywhere in the world.  Thank you to the many at MTW who put their hearts and effort into the production.

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – William Congreve, 17th Century playwright.

If only I can continually play music through my soul, “everything’s all right, yes, everything’s fine.”

Great Experiment of Retirement

What I did not realize about high school biology and chemistry is this: All of life can be a lab assignment.  Change one variable at a time and see how it affects the outcome.


But… still.  After you have finished thinking back to high school; drosophila fruit flies in a capped bottle (right?), making peanut brittle the day before Christmas break (but not realizing it because the recipe is written in lab experiment form), the cute girl you never shared a Bunsen burner with (not a euphemism).  Remember how some of the class was the “control” group? They were tasked with performing the experiment exactly as described.  The “test” group did the experiment with only one thing done differently – a change to the amount of a particular chemical added, or a solution’s “molar strength” changed, or the heat applied was different.

All that to help you understand my ‘Great Experiment of Retirement’. I knew I was ready to quit controlling airplanes for a living.  I knew I had a bunch of plans for my free time.  I knew that none of them were ‘world-changers’ (unless you count ‘people pursuing their passions’ as part of a cosmic ledger system where that effort counts as a positive).  Here are a few of the things I was so hungry to pursue (with a brief description of my progress to date):

  1.  Learn to play the guitar better than my 5 chord library and 1 song repertoire.  My GOAL is to be able to play long enough to enjoy a fresh campfire burned into coals, playing and singing (Beatles, John Denver, Kansas, Hotel California, etc) all the while.  I have purchased a really cool classical guitar plus an awesome case, so when I carry it around, I look great.  Almost as good as Antonio Banderas in that movie about Mexico where his guitar case has a gun in it. I have subscribed to a YouTube channel of guitar teaching – actually learned one song about a month ago; don’t think I remember it anymore.
  2. Re-write my children’s story, Plinka, prepare and submit it for publication.  My GOAL is to have that on the shelves of Watermark Bookstores (a local place) with advertising that says “local author” and “next episode in store by Christmas!”.  I have attended a meeting of the Kansas Writer’s Association where I got some GREAT editing ideas from two professionals in the business.  I joined the SCBWI (Society of Book Writer’s and Illustrators) which is a huge group with lots of resources.  I have not even started on the editing of my picture book series.
  3. Begin writing, with no holds barred, whatever novel comes into my mind on any given day.  My GOAL is to bring a fresh cup of coffee to the computer, sit down, tune out EVERYthing, and type, in a blur, until my imagination is wrung out like an old sponge. I have, indeed, started a novel with a working title of Toxic Dust.  It is gonna be epic; but at this point it is less than 2000 words of reality.  I have not sat down with that attitude for at least 3 weeks, and have ONLY sat down with that attitude 2-3 times in the 94 days I have been retired. 
  4. Write a blog post nearly every day.  I have three.  One is of my time working as a controller at Oshkosh, so won’t have new entries ever (maybe turn this into a book, though?).  This is a second one.  The third is about the laying hens we keep in the backyard for eggs and companionship.  There is always some droll instance that I can describe while making a connection to some part of life.  My GOAL is 5-7 blog entries a week; almost one a day among the two active blogs. Although my “farewell to ATC” post was my most-ever-read, I have only written maybe 2 posts since then.
  5. Take long bicycle rides on the country roads both near and far.  I have two really high quality bicycles which are a pleasure to ride.  My GOAL is to get in shape, lose the 30 pounds I don’t really need as earthquake insurance, and get fit while enjoying nature.  I have ridden some, and have ridden a few races (which are merely rides for me; I don’t compete for podium spots because I am not nearly fast enough).  Haven’t lost a pound, though.  I quit measuring. I do ride my bike on errands some; it’s kinda fun and retro- and ‘planet-saving’.
  6. Watch ALL of “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Bar Rescue”.  I used to love to watch this stuff at work on a break; we’d all talk about the food (good or bad), and the gross glop they ALWAYS found in a not-very-clean kitchen.  I got bored with these shows within 2 weeks.  Same themes, same screaming, same solutions, same results (70% of the businesses closed anyway).
  7. Read every book in my “to-read” pile.  I am constantly adding books to my list to check out or borrow ( I don’t buy books very often, unless I am sure I will be reading it again.  I have most of the Arkady Renko series of Martin Cruz Smith, for instance, because those are fascinating every time I read them).  My GOAL is to whittle this pile down to make room for more. I have not reduced the number of books in my pile, but I have changed a LOT of the titles.  I have probably ready 2 dozen books since I retired.  I love, now, that I can sit and read an entire book right then if it catches my thrall.  Errands can, and have, waited. 

There are more, but I think that list is enough for you to get the idea of my master plan.

What I am still surprised at, and the reason I write this, is that it is NOT as easy as it looks to become a successful player and writer and rider and watcher and reader.  I expected to have a LOT of time at my disposal, and I do.  I expected to have the freedom to CHOOSE what I want to do each day, and I do.

What I did NOT expect is that I would pick the easy things so often.  [Insert inspirational speech here]

How I look at it TODAY is that I have done 94 experiments so far… AND I get to keep experimenting to find the right combination of variables.  I haven’t wasted my time; it’s just all still new information that I get to process.  To be honest, safety goggles are over-rated.  Especially with a classical guitar.

Enjoy your experiment today – make sure you record it somehow.  You almost always have to show your work.

Peeing In The Snow

I pee in the backyard every chance I get.  It grounds me, connects me, and re-aligns me.  I figure it is saving the planet.  Eventually, even in Kansas, there will be a water shortage.  Why waste 2 gallons of water to flush away a pint or two of urine?  That just does not seem responsible.  I walk out the back sliding door (after I open it) towards the fence where I have landscaped with railroad ties.  I balance on two ties and water the earth.  I could be Lewis and Clark spanning the Missouri River way up in Montana at the headwaters.  I could be on the Continental Divide, blessing both the Pacific and the Atlantic with my life water.  I could be in the desert, helping a dormant seed flower at the advent of a spring rain.

I light fires now and then, too, for the same reason. Smoke, as from a fire, signals to my inner caveman that I am safe.  Always in an appropriate fireplace – never in a hallway or living room.  Remember James Michener’s story about the tribesmen who built a fire in the aisle of an airplane while flying to Mecca? Also, I bought an incense burner last spring in New Mexico.  It is built like an oven, or horno (Spanish for oven, pronounced OR-no).  We used a similarly shaped oven in the Peace Corps for bread baking (out of the very helpful “Appropriate Technology” government publication).  This incense burner is only about 3 inches tall and I use small blocks of pressed sawdust as the incense.  Bode’s in Abiquiu ( ) sells the burner and the blocks as a set.  There is a tipi and a pueblo dwelling.  They sell mesquite-, sage-, and juniper-scented blocks.  They probably could ship one to you, but, as you may come to understand in reading, it will MEAN more if you go out there and get one.

There are many benefits to living in this modern age (there is even newer stuff than electricity and penicillin!) and in the comfort of the suburbs (almost guaranteed access to law enforcement and emergency services).  We can go get food anytime (does Walgreen’s ever close?).  We can go exercise almost any hour of the day (Anytime Fitness, after all, is for anytime).  Our jobs are secure for the most part, easy to get to, safe from injury, and last only 8 to maybe 12 hours (thank you, firemen, for pulling 24 hour shifts!).  New and used clothing is easily acquired inexpensively.  Heck, the other day in the grocery store I realized I had to KNOW what kind of turkey I wanted for sandwiches.  You can’t just go buy turkey; you have to get a particular seasoning.  Like a wine pairing.  That is a lot of pressure for just a sandwich.

Here’s the thing, though (One of my favorite people often leads with this phrase; I use it to pay homage to him).

Our brains and bodies were built to overcome adversity and to gain safety.  We are made to conquer and tame and subdue and THEN live in harmony with others.  (I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  But that is how we are)

I do not believe it is always a healthy thing for us [for men, anyway (for ME, anyway)] to be able to solve our adversity with simply a checking account.  There must be a need to strive against nature.  My belief is that, at some point, we must set down our technology, remove ourselves from our cultural insulation, and face ourselves.  We must face ourselves in such a way that we then know what we are made of.  We do not have to be happy with what we see, but we have to KNOW.  From that knowledge, we then proceed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Witness Jack London’s character Humphrey Van Weyden.  Humphrey is a pampered writer from San Francisco who falls overboard from a ferry in the course of his writer’s existence.  Wolf Larsen, modeled after a real sea-captain that London knew about, and borne out of Nietzsche’s ‘super-man’ theory (which Hitler then twisted into his mania), plucks Hump out of the sea and forces him to stay on the schooner hunting seal.  Weak and pale Hump is eventually transformed into a warrior who protects his woman, defeats the captain, and triumphs over shipwreck at sea.  My apologies for giving away the plot of “The Sea Wolf” (honestly, though, you should have read this by now).

I do not presume to suggest to you that you go find yourself or go on a ‘vision quest’.  I only tell you that when I, forced by circumstances, went on that same journey I came back stronger, re-aligned, re-focused, and clear of purpose.  I travelled to Ghost Ranch ( ), in northern New Mexico, for a writing workshop which literally changed the course of my life.  The pairing (juxtaposition) of the serene wild of the Ranch and the intellectual demands made by the workshop helped me strip away dead wood that had been inhibiting my spirit (Luke – ‘if this is what happens when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood is dry?’).

Think of a tree trunk – a mighty tree with firm roots but many branches that no longer serve the health of the tree.  A tree itself cannot remove its dead or dying limbs.  A tree must rely on external forces to renew itself – wind, fire, rain.  Witness the Sequoia’s whose pinecones only turn to fertile seed after a forest fire heats them past a certain temperature.  Only then are conditions right for new growth – more sun will reach the ground, fresh nutrients will be available from the ash of the burnt trees.  If we continue in our comfortable, nestled, suburban, first-world, life we may not be exposed to forces that temper us into a keener weapon.  Someone once said, ‘a ship is safe in a harbor, but a ship is not built for the harbor – it is built for the sea’.

I noticed, a few days ago, that when I went out to pee, it had snowed.  Peeing in snow makes a visible mark.  “But people will SEE that I have peed here”, fussed my inner Hump.  I then added to my hypothesis – I must be willing to let the world see my transformation.  No transformation can be totally healthy if it is totally hidden from view.  I must claim my changes.  Humphrey had to remove Wolf Larsen from captaincy and take command of the ship.  I must be willing to stand for what I have changed into.

Stand.  Survey.  Know.