Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The sound of Bach in the morning

Do you remember that scene from Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall’s character, Lt. Colonel bill Kilgore is on the beach, and having called in an airstrike says to his troops,


“You smell that, you smell that, I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”


I remind you of that setting as a prelude to the following in more pacific tones:


“You hear that, you hear that, I love the sound of Bach in the morning.”


A friend of mine gave me a CD last week as a way to warm up to this Advent season. One composition that is contained on this recording is “Jesu, Jesu” by J.S. Bach. How sweetly the strings and organ combine to lift my spirit up in the morning. It is a tune that I have been humming for several days now. It is often interrupted by the interfering world, with its discordant cacophony and ugliness -- like napalm in the treeline. But I can and do return to seek refuge. On those airs, though not necessary, are my prayers for peace in the name of our Saviour.


I hope your Advent season is beginning as good as mine.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Much to Say

I haven't blogged in more than several weeks. I continue to spend a lot of time over at Flickr where i am meeting some good acquaintances.

Church work is keeping me busy. I am been directing some changes in our advertising and web page redesign. Haven't done any home visits as Elder; have had discussions with a few individuals.

Work-work is going good. I received a good performance review.

This past week I won a contest on a local TV station. The prizes were two tickets to a Broadway-style show that has opened in Calgary; a facial and two gift certificates to upscale Italian restaurant. A good haul.

This weekend marks another Remembrance Day (i.e., Sunday). "We once lived...and saw the sun go down..." We shall remember them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I Am Paul

I am Paul.

I am filled with sin, yet I have Christ.

I have days where I do not feel worthy of taking the cup or the loaf. I am a sluggard, undisciplined, compulsive, polluted and poisoned. I wonder why people don't recognize me for who I really am. I want to cry out for help, but don't want to reveal who I am less people do not understand.

I am Paul. I am a leader. I have some knowledge; some day that my words really speak to them. I know God. He has spoken to me. He has done remarkable things. Things that I cannot pass off as coincidence. I know He really exists. Some days I experience joy: my mind is clean and it does not covet; my eyes do not go where they shouldn't; I pray, and not just for myself. On those days I want to share my joy. I want you and everyone to truly see me.

I am human. I live a see-saw life. One foot in heaven and one foot on Earth.

So help me God.

"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." - Romans 7:18 (New International Version) Source: Bible Gateway.com

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday, September 24

Today started well. The radio went off when it should, and so did the alarm. But my feet did not hit the floor for another half hour. Quite normal actually. I had stayed up to watch the first episode of the Ken Burn's film, "the War" on PBS. This is turning into a revealing testimony of the men and women affected by this conflict. There is mention being given to some facts so far uncovered in many other historical films about WWII. Military history is a fascination for me. I cannot explain really why. Except I was certainly a product of my time. Growing up in the Cold War era one could not reckon life without knowing that the basis of that era was hinged on the era before, namely 1939-45.

I took time to do my devotional today at breakfast. I try to start my day off here. I find that I am centred when I have spent time in God's Word. In the past I have read from one of the text's that William Barclay commentated on. A few years ago a friend gave me Utmost for His Highest. On the latter i have never gone from cover to cover. Sometimes I will have missed a day or maybe two. Hence, I know some of the devotional better than others. Still it is mostly fresh to me as I go through it. Today's lesson, combined with Sunday's message at church, is "what small sin and or baggage am I not attending to that God wants my attention?"

This afternoon I spent time over at the Harry hays Bldg. It is where my team will end up in several months. Today, however, I was over there for a competency information session. The agency I work for has adopted a competency-based hiring system. To advance into positions you want you need to prove you have a competency, rather a behaviour or technical skill, that they deem is important to the job. Sounds easy enough. Its not. The applicant has to demonstrate through the ability to tell a story about some event on how they felt, thought did, or said that achieved some result. I don't know about you, but when I work much of it is fluid. I don't stop to analyze what I did or why I did it. That is one of the keys to passing this type of testing. IMHO, its horse-pucky. And somebody out there who is good at telling a tale is the one who will advance. I am good communicator. I just don't feel i have a chance at succeeding in this system. For that reason I am feeling a bit down about it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

365 Out-take for Day 14

I have been spending a lot of time on Flickr lately. I have always had a passion for photography; been taking pictures and reading about how to be a better photographer for over twenty-five years. Recent encouragement from friends, and the addition of a digital camera have brought that passion to the forefront again.

I started a free Flickr account sometime last year. But the free account limits you to how many photos or sets of photos you can post. So recently I opened a paid account. In addition to that I took on a project that many people are also doing -- its called 365. The idea is to take one self-portrait for one year. I am now into Day 14.

As the title here indicates this photo of me is an out-take. In the end for today's submittal it is the better shot. I just didn't like it because, well as I said in the photo description:

"I have submitted too many shots where I am not smiling. You'd think from all the serious poses I have done I lead a grim life. Not so. Lotsa friends and good experiences (oh, the last two weeks have been not so great -- took a whack in the confidence dept.) and it isn't the end of the world."

I am so thankful for my friends. They are so gracious to me; so loving. Just yesterday one of them delivered a patio set that he and his wife offered to me for free. It is in such good condition, and against so many other things that I need on a monthly basis, I have often looked at patio sets to always conclude that maybe next year I'll be able to afford one. Its not like I am poor. Oh no. But in this Calgary economy, with inflation at 6.5 percent, there are practical needs and there are luxuries. A patio set is a luxury...that I now can enjoy. Thank you R&T.

But as indicated all has not been well. Part of the whack I took had to do with stretching my wings in being single again. I went to a party sponsored by a group at a church other than my own. The whole thing was to have fun, yet in the course of trying to get to know some people I came away feeling much like I did in high school: inadequate in meeting girls; not knowing how to ask the right questions or how to respond to questions of others. The rules and social courtesies a man is supposed to know, that kind of thing.

I am not a person to put on "airs"; I am not a person who tells lies or makes himself to be something he's not. IOW, I am WYSIWYG -- What You See Is What You Get. You ask me a question, I'll give you an answer. I won't be brutally honest because I've been on the end of that shotgun, and its a cruel, hurtful reality. I guess I don't do rooms very well (and there goes my aspirations of being a politician (smile)). I do, however, have a great sense of humour when it counts. I can give as good as I take. I will take a lot, if its fun. I do have wit; am well-read; kind. I once posted on one of those single sites the following description:

"I think its possible for a nice guy to finish first and get the gal these days. I am demonstrating that being honest and kind pays off. I am leading a life centred on fidelity, friendship and integrity. I have travelled abroad to give aid, and it taught me about balance. I have a good government job, good friends; am seeking a woman who shares my interests and mature Christian values; who can enrich my life – be my best friend -- be active together. Your glass is half-full most of the time. If you like the smell of fresh earth, and wildflowers along mountain trails, perhaps you want to find out more about me. Sometimes I am a homebody, listening to a variety of music, reading books, and watching PBS. Would you agree two heads are better than one? I am easy to talk with, and I trust you are too. Just so you know I have been separated for over three years now, and soon this chapter will be closing. I am looking to spread my wings."

What held as true then, still does (except I am no longer married). I believe that there should be more nice guys in this world. I was born in the wrong era. I would have gladly been a part of a time when men still tipped their hats to women they knew (or wanted to know, and when they still wore hats).

So it was that I was nervous when, a few days before the party, I had lunch with a woman who I thought I would really like to know (i guess I still do). I made a few gaffes. I also asked her out too soon afterwards. Then with what followed a few evenings later I really felt that I blew it. I began to wonder what will it take to find the person whom I am seeking and whom I described above. My friends said (say), "don't worry about it, just be yourself, and one day she will appear before you when you aren't expecting her" (thanks MT & GC). I really got to believe that, don't I?

It is the interim that is a killer. I miss the love and intimacy that comes from being in a committed marriage. Man was not meant to be living alone, esp. with all the ills that are just a mouse click away. Here too I have been experiencing some sexual tension I would rather not have (and that's all I am going write about it).

So after mulling over all of this for a couple weeks I took on some housecleaning therapy yesterday. I know women do retail therapy, but the above usually does the trick for me. There is no one to blame here, nor is there a need. I know that if I continue to be me, and shake off that desperate and needy feeling, I will be well.

Lord, will you help me get grounded again?

Friday, August 10, 2007

In the Record Bins

Further to yesterday’s article about buying new CDs, it was interesting, and somewhat a relief to see Christian bands like Sonicflood and Lifehouse not being constrained to the Christian music section (CMS) of the record bins. I was in a secular retail outlet, and the Christian section was quite small. So was its neighbour, the New Age music section (actually it was slightly bigger; to find Canadian instrumentalist Jesse Cook in this section actually surprised me).

The CMS had its regulars hanging out like Third Day, Mahalia Jackson (as mentioned), Yolanda Adams, The Gaithers and the WOW collections. But I suspect that unless you were a Christian no one else ventures into it to discover the music. I mean if you are shopping for Pop/Rock where will you most likely go? But if you have listened at all to any of the CCM bands making records these days it is clear that the music is not just hymns anymore. Praise and Worship music is contemporary; some of it really rocks; some of it is hard edge stuff (I am thinking of Kutless, for example). To find these bands in the Pop/Rock section means that there is a greater chance for someone to “discover” them too.

Now, if this sounds at all as being sneaky, I disagree. I believe in music that has merit. I prefer a band or a vocalist who has the chops and the background to be able to deliver. My friend, Gabba, is really into music (I think he should become a music critic). I threw him a video by the Cure last week. He didn’t like it and replied saying as much. He added that some bands just produce filler – a substitution for their very best and that expresses their purpose – and he won’t listen to it. I suppose that this can happen with Christian bands too. But, it shouldn’t. Scripture calls believers to excellence. However, I have digressed. Christian bands need to fulfill two purposes: that they produce the very best that they can musically offer; that they satisfy to God’s pleasure the achievement he wants from them – honouring and extolling his love for a fallen world. Can a Christian band rock out just as good as a secular one. Sure. Why not? Can a Christian artist sing a love song to a child, a girlfriend/boyfriend or a spouse like a diva? Well, forbid that any ever go the way of Celine Dion, but I was listening to Tammy Huggard on my stereo the other day, and she sings a beautiful ballad to a loved one that rivals anything I have heard. Note: Huggard is an Albertan artist from Ft. MacMurray; her Self-Portrait album contains a mixture of folk and personal praise songs.

Music crossover is a big part of extending sales. Most artists dislike being pigeonholed -- you hear it all the time. It benefits the retailer to diversify by offering as many possible spots for artists to be found in their inventory by consumers. It benefits Christian bands to be competitive with secular bands for shelf space. It is in the marketplace where Christians should be making a difference anyways. So, be sure to look for and buy Christian music in secular retailers; ask for them by name. By voting with your dollars you are giving a message that will be heard: these artists are desirable and good enough to be featured in their stores. I realize some of you like buying your CDs in Christian bookstores, and by all means continue doing so. But you are also fulfilling the commission by shopping elsewhere too.

-- Darryl

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Johnny Cash: Rose of My Heart

During the noon hour I went down and bought some CD’s. I wasn’t expecting to purchase Johnny Cash’s last recording American V: A Hundred Highways. However, it was on sale. It hasn’t been just the recent tribute or reverence to Cash that caused me to buy it. No, I have always enjoyed his work. I guess it was the influences of my uncles’ music tastes that largely contributed to my appreciation. They listened to a lot of Nashville music: Cash, Kristofferen, Jennings, Nelson, Horton and even Elvis. I would add Haggard to that group, but I don’t know if he really was a part of the Nashville scene.

There is something that resonates from Cash’s singing. I think it truth wrapped in experience. Thus, when I hear him sing Rose of my Heart on this record (it was written by Hugh Moffat, but sounds so much as Cash had crafted it himself), it imparts such a presence of Cash in the last days of June Carter’s life. The intensity of the testimony of his love for her is so real. You will not find any lyrics with this album. So listen you must.

Rick Rubin writes how when hey completed this album, and were getting set to record American VI that there was a confidence coming from Cash that all was well. He was out of the hospital and was looking forward to recording again. I have heard of stories of couples whose marriage has been so tight that with the passing of one, heartbreak usually claims the other in short time. I would only speculate that perhaps this was the case.

He sings, “if you are feeling cold, let my love warm you up.” Only a man who has such an intense love for someone could say that with meaning. Intense love comes from living and sharing it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Rich People Watch on TV

According to Andrew Ryan, “television writer for the Globe & Mail, rich people prefer watching The Office compared to comedies by Will Ferrell and Ray Romano. They also like watching the Law & Order shows, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, and The Apprentice. What’s interesting about that observation, and its personal, is that with the exception of The Office and The Apprentice all the rest are some of my favourite shows.

So I have to ask, if my viewing tastes correspond to a richer wallet, why isn’t my wallet richer than it is?

To be fair, I also enjoy Everybody Loves Raymond, and when Ferrell was on SNL he was doing some of the best comedy around.

Is there a correlation to the level an individual is educated and maintains to the type of entertainment that they have an attraction? Does intelligence quotient and the funny bone connected?

Friday, July 27, 2007


I have been neglectful of this blog. For the last week, if not more, I have been giving a lot of my time to Facebook. I have built a profile over there and have been meeting and making new friends.

I have heard Facebook being referred to as Crackbook. Simply it is addictive. You are interacting with people you know and building up your network by finding friends and inviting them to join. And people are interesting.

One thing I have been doing is trying to meet the Darwent's of the world. As part of this big dispersed family I am keen to know as many as there is. It has been estimated there are about one thousand found in the U.K., South Africa, Asia and Caribbean/South America. Facebook offers a good opportunity to find other with the same name and ask to be invited to their friend list. Most whom I have contacted have been willing, except one person. She wanted to limit her Facebook experience to her known friends. I can respect her request.

I ahve started a group that asks other Darwents to contribute what their impressions are of the characteristics that come with being a Darwent. I have had a few interesting discussions on whether genes or nurture have the greater role in developing these characteristics.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on Mt. Yamnuska Hike

Read my account of this hike at God's Green Earth Hikers

Bow Valley Below

Bow Valley Below
Originally uploaded by Just a Prairie Boy
On July 7, 2007, Malcolm and Ginny and myself ascended Mount Yamnuska, which is east of Canmore, AB. The weather was a nice 20 degrees. This was taken on a lower outlier of the peak. Behind and below is a sheer drop. I had achieved a goal by making this ascent that day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Camping in the Rockies

One of my favourite activities is hiking. Now combine this with camping and I am a happy man.

Had the opportunity to do both this past weekend. Friends of mine, the Veenstra's invited me to join them in sharing a campsite at Elkwood Campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. John went out on Thursday night and found the site, sheltered as they all are in lodgepole pine, and set up the family trailer. I had Friday off as pertaining to regular work schedule. I busily got all my gear together that morning (I had a council meeting the evening before). I made some last minute purchases on the way out of town, and hit the Trans-Canada by 12:30 PM.

I arrived at the campsite around 2 PM. On a side note, throughout Alberta this month there are a number of jazz festivals going on. To foster a good appreciation and turn-out, CKUA is promoting the playing of jazz n its daily line-up. So along the way to Elkwood my fingers were drumming to the beats from the radio. That alone had me in good spirits, plus the anticipation of the weekends events and the natural beauty as I turned down Kananaskis Trail (Hwy. 40) - my heart was grinning 5x5.

John assisted me with getting my tent up and gear stowed. we sat back and had some beer. Enjoying the sunshine. His wife, Edith and their two daughters had yet to arrive. i thought they were going to leave Calgary ahead of me. so it was with some surprise to find him minding the camp alone. They eventually did arrive a couple hours later than me. All was well.

There is a interesting phenomenon that happens in a forest of lodgepole pine. These skinny pine trees that have no branches on their lower stalks tend to sway in accord with the wind. It comes in waves. Across the valley nestled between the crags of the Rocks. Down, down it flows with a rushing sound into the sea of green. You can hear the noise ahead of itself like a freight train when the weather gets colder. Pushing the limber lumber ahead it passes through the pines making them rock like so many pentameters dancing like Fantasia broomsticks. And here is where the phenomenon happens -- the trees literally clap. From down below you observe them going out of time with each other, and then they collide. Its difficult to assign a word to the effect. Its an applause for all that is good in the forest.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Passionate Living

Over the past week I have been listening to a CD of Praise & Worship songs. There are many styles to be found in contemporary gospel. One such song I have been very taken with is a single by American country music artist Tim McGraw
called "Live Like You Were Dying". To quote the description in the Wikipedia article,
"...tells the story of a man in his early forties, with an unspecified, life-threatening disease. Upon realizing that he does not have much time left to live, the man decides to engage in certain activities that he has always wanted to do, such as skydiving, mountain climbing, fishing, and bull riding. He also decides to improve his standing with other people, including his wife. Also, the man starts to read the Bible, and forgives everyone against whom he previously held grudges."

To some jumping out of airplanes, climbing sheer cliffs and bull riding are NORMAL activities. They may have excited me when I was a much younger man, but that doesn't mean I went and did them (yes, Laura I lied in that Grade Ten speech about getting bucked off at a Hoosier rodeo). Now, it seems all that more remote that I would begin doing these things. But, that's the whole point. Living like your dying. When are you going to do these things?

The question dovetails nicely into something I read tonight. Written by Pastor Rick Ezell, with Greer Southern Baptist in Greer, S.C., Passion--A Critical Need of a Leader explains that passion is a force that when applied properly drives the soul to life-changing action. Ezell writes that "passion comes from the heart of God to embrace our hearts, and it compels us to act...passion without action is just a dream, and action without passion is drudgery. But passion with action is sheer delight."

Throughout my adult life I have had many dreams. That is, passionate ideas that bore no fruit because I wasn't able to convince anyone that they were viable or they were a little ahead of their time or, as in most cases, I had not the money. During and after high school I had two passions: to be a radio disc jockey and to be a pilot. I tried to accomplish the first by coming to a Calgary college to study broadcasting. I described what occurred in a sermon about failure I preached on March 11 of this year:

What happened next wasn’t in the plan. I got homesick. I started to fail. It wasn’t like high school. I had to have an assignment handed in every week, and in some cases one assignment for every class. Before you know it, nine weeks have passed and I have seventeen papers overdue. I’m drowning. It was at that point the College asked me to leave. Stubbornness followed Disappointment. I wasn’t going to go home a failure. I got a job at a collection agency. Things went well at first. But my friends were Loneliness and Boredom. Soon I wasn’t meeting my quotas and I was fired. And on a New Year’s Day in 1981 I returned home.

I just wasn't ready to be on my own, facing loneliness in a big city at that time I was willing to sacrifice that passion for something less.

The second dream -- to become a pilot -- that died a little harder. I was raised in an environment where, although unapparent, there weren't too many frills. Any dreams about getting flying lessons were considered unrealistic. What was more acceptable was to graduate and go down to the meat plant the next day and get a real job. But I wanted to fly. I had an extensive knowledge of planes. Yet, it didn't help that due to the National Energy Plan (1980) there were very few pilot jobs available. Consequently, there were fewer jobs for teenagers willing to sweep out hangers. It had been my plan that I would get that kind of a job to gain experience and rub elbows with pilots, you know slowly working towards getting flying lessons.

A lot of things happened between 1980-1985 before I put my sights on a more reasonable goal such a being a farm labourer. Getting a job with an airline of any kind didn't happen. The closest it ever got was in 1998 when I worked for a crop dusting outfit for a short time. All the while that bank of knowledge continued to grow. After that I guess I must have came to conclusion that I could enjoy looking at planes, however I was never going to fly one.

As I have aged I have become more mellower; willing to accept that the job that earns my living is important enough. Notwithstanding the short-term mission I took to Chiapas, Mexico in 2005, perhaps there is nothing wrong with doing the 9-5, and being active in church (and don't forget the occasional hiking/camping thing).

Listen, its not that I am unhappy. I am not having a mid-life crisis. But, Live Like You Were Dying , written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman speaks to doing more. It speaks to living without fear.

I don't know how I begin. And I think that is a good admission and a good place to start. It states in Proverbs 13:10 (The Message) that "...wise men and women listen to each other's counsel." Tonight I have asked a friend whom I admire if he would mentor me on this issue. He said he is going to pray about to see if it fits with his skills and gifts (i.e., life coaching). I will patiently await his answer. I will pray on it as well. In the meantime I am going camping in the Rockies.

The Spotlight

I got admit there have been times when I have wanted the spotlight. Not only did I just want it, but went out of my way to get it. Part of that craving originated from having a low self-esteem for most of my life. Furthermore, there are still times when I want attention. I am getting better and noticing those tendencies – even when writing for this blog – and respond correctively. I have reflected on this in the last little while, especially since writing about the Power of Story.

As you recall I asked a question that if the status quo remains the same who will know of my beginnings and journey. The framing of this question solicits, potentially, the claim of arrogance or some other not so nice view of myself. And that is not the intent.

As I grow in Christ I recognize the need to be humble. I am trying to find the balance that exists with practicing humility and being confident. So I want to tell you a story about my life not to say here I am grand and tall, and am I not the cat’s meow. Rather, I think I have something to share that is worth telling; that perhaps you can find useful in application to your own life, and to offer appreciation for what it is like growing up on the Prairies. It’s a bit scary for me. I have to decide how much I want to expose or maybe for those points should I invite another writer to give a perspective. We'll see.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back from Vacation

I have returned from a vacation to Saskatoon, SK via Edmonton. It was great trip. To borrow a cool word, I "chillaxed." I took time in my childhood neighbourhood and school. I took some pictures of this experience, and I plan to write about them in posts to follow. I also spent time with my grandmother who is a retirement home; saw some other family, and enjoyed company of friends who are dear to me.

The trip coming back was great. On Saskatchewan license plates there is slogan, "Land of Living Skies." The CBC recently ran a contest called the Seven Wonders of Canada. One of the successful nominations was Prairie Sky, Canadian Prairies. I wholeheartedly agree with this choice. The day I returned to Calgary I was treated to some of best horizons to be found anywhere. A example of what I saw is found in the picture above, taken in Alberta shortly before the intersection of Hwy 21 and Hwy 9. There was a storm cell building up over the Hand Hills and it was throwing up these high clouds. Only a few sprinkles ever hit my windshield. There have been times when the drive through this same stretch of road has been boring. Perhaps it was how refreshed I felt from being "home," but I did not find this drive to be dull. The landscape always had something to keep me looking and anticipating. The Prairies...the land of living skies. Yeah, that makes sense.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Power of Story

Last night I was at home flipping through the TV channels. The two Law & Order shows that were on opposing channels were repeats. In between was PBS. As I have been prone to do I started to watch Bill Moyers Journal. The person being interviewed was Maxine Hong Kingston. Up until that point I had never heard of Kingston. I almost didn't "tune-in" when Moyers and Kingston started reading verse. There is something about people reading from books on TV that inexplicably I don't like.

However, I came back to the interview and began being caught up in what was said. Kingston is a writer. She has been using the power of story for nearly 15 years by leading writing-and-meditation workshops for (American) veterans and their families. Although not a veteran myself, I have as a reader of history a certain affinity for veterans. Personally I know so few, especially of the "greatest generation" -- those who fought in the Second World War -- that I could say I know none. Their faces are largely unknown. But, through story their sacrifice is familiar. The generations change, but the cost is usually the same. The dead experience peace. The living bear the wounds forever of what they experienced, and of what they did. And it has been through Kingston's workshops that some American veterans from the Vietnam era and including the present are finding a balm that is repairing their psyche.

I borrow an excerpt from Moyers' blog that gives reference to one veteran's writing that shows just how dramatic an exercise this can be:

Poem for Tet
by Ted Sexauer, medic, 173rd Airborne

Lang Cô village, Viet Nam
Lunar New Year, 31/1/1995

This is the poem
that will save my life
this the line that will cure me
this word, this, the word word the one

this breath the one I am.

(more from "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace")

In probably one of the most personally gripping parts of the interview Moyers asked his guest this next question:

BILL MOYERS: What is it about the power of story to change the human psyche? Why do stories do that?

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: I am trying to come up with a good answer. You know, I keep saying it's magic. Let's see whether I can say it in so many words. Story has a form that brings a certain order, you know, the shape of a finely made story has the same energy as sexual energy, or life energy. It's like the tide, you know, the tide that Sandy Scull wrote about. Of the ebbing and flowing of tide, and of storms. I think this goes through our bodies, it goes through our psyches. And the shape of story takes that same cyclical form. And we are in story, we are able to communicate with another being, another mind. And--

BILL MOYERS: Sometimes within ourselves, right?

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: Yes, you communicate with yourself, yes.

BILL MOYERS: Well, some of these people-- you-- you-- when I read them, I think they're writing the story for themselves, although they wanted us to see. But it's primarily they're communicating some dead self, that is resurrected by this, what you say the force of sexual energy or psychic energy or the energy of the imagination?

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: I know that they are writing for themselves but I always held it up as a standard of an ideal that the writer's job is to communicate. And, I tell them, "No diary writing", "No, private writing." These are public acts of communication. And you must tell the story so that you can give it to another person. That you can-- you-- and when you read it aloud, there's mouth to ear transmission. And, we are communicating. And, this way-- we make connections with others and, we also build the community around us. These soldiers come out of war alienated from everyone. They're alienated from their families, from our country, from themselves. And, this communication helps then build a community and a family around them.

(excerpted from the May 25, 2007 transcript. The emphasis shown here are mine - dd.)

As noted there are four concepts that stand out here. The first three:

  • story has energy
  • story has ability to heal
  • story needs to be told
Since from about Grade Two I have been a reader. It is my boast that by two grades later I was quite a proficient one. I could clean off several Hardy Boys stories by Franklin W. Dixon in a month. My taste for history began about then, and hasn't decreased an iota. I have tried writing, and admit that as communicator of non-fiction I am good (so I am told). The creative pen is a hard pen for me to hold and use.

But story is fascinating. I agree that it can transcend and heal. The Bible is one book that does just that. It can be read as story. Indeed it can be explored for the drama it holds as examined by Craig G. Bartholmew and Michael W. Goheen in The Drama of Scripture
: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. However, as a Christian it has more to it than just being a good read. Its a teaching tool. It's inspired writing. Inspire meaning "breathed in." The concept is that God breathed into Adam, and gave him life. That life still exists within the pages of the Bible today by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although, to me its a fascinating story, its not the main point I am trying to make here. It is only one example. I examine my bookshelf I see Carol Off's The Ghosts of Medak Pocket. Children coming through schools today are being taught about Canada's role in Afghanistan. Five or ten years ago few Canadians knew that their army had been engaged in a firefight in Croatia. As a nation we were stilled mired, still angry and embarrassed in what had occurred in Somalia to take any pride in our Armed Forces. Yet, this incident and the forces of history and politics that lead to that firefight needed to be told. Although I have a copy of Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, I haven't read it (frankly I am a bit afraid of what i might read and what images will be left with me). Now that was a story that needed to be told and serve as a call to action against modern genocide.

I think, and this fourth concept is what I went to bed with last night, that for myself this forum I have created should be used to tell my autobiography. In fact, the title of this blog began as the introductory sentence to a testimony I gave when I joined Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Calgary. I am a prairie boy. I grew up primarily in the streets of Saskatoon. Before that I was a son of a farmer and a widower. Before that I was held by a woman who knew England and tasted the salt of the Atlantic as she came to Canada for the first time. I am a survivor. I am an optimist. I am a story. There will never be another one like me to pass through this period again.

Going back to Moyers interview with Maxine Hong Kingston:

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: ... And we are in story, we are able to communicate with another being, another mind. And--

BILL MOYERS: Sometimes within ourselves, right?

MAXINE HONG KINGSTON: Yes, you communicate with yourself, yes.

I have experienced trauma over the course of my life. Those who know me can be my witnesses. I am doing fine now, and I have no need to revisit what has occurred. I have also experienced some happy moments. I am sure if i were to compare the two they would balance out. If the current situation of being divorced and unable to have children continues what will be left of my story?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Acre

While the world is largely metric, except for the U.S., it came to my attention today just how an acre (.4 ha) of land was originally measured. Aecre is an Old English word, in whose time it denoted how much land a yoke (i.e., two oxen) could plow in one day. It equalled 4,840 square yards or relatively the same distance from the goal line to the visitor's 10 yard line on an American football field (don't ask what that is in CFL terms!).

Seeing that I used to work on a farm cultivating land it may come as a surprise that I had difficulty visualizing what an acre looked like. I, more or less, relied on the distance shown on an instrument in the tractor cab. Although that became somewhat improved when one day another farmhand and I had to measure out a quarter-section (160 ac) into strips. Strip farming (see picture)
is done in Southern Alberta to combat wind erosion that can occur due to the high Chinook winds that frequent this region. If fields are cultivated using regular fallow techniques all your good topsoil just ends up in Saskatchewan. So strip farming breaks up the topography of a field, alternating between crop and fallow. The crop creates a windbreak. Anyway, to measure out each strip required using a rod triangle, which is essentially a triangle frame constructed of two wood arms along the sides to the apex, and joined at the base with a 8.25 foot metal rod. I tried to find a picture on the web, but with no joy. You'll just have to imagine it. To measure the breadth of an acre meant pivoting this frame (end-to-end) across the strip you are measuring eight times (twice gives you a measure of a rod; 4 rods gives you the width of an acre). You could do well with a measuring tape, and I am sure many do so. But, there is something about tapping into old farming techniques that gives me some satisfaction.

Something else that gives me satisfaction is reading the Oxford Canadian Dictionary. This is where all this info about an acre got its start this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Went on a Hike

On Saturday May 19 I joined a group from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre for a hike in Kananaskis Country west of Eden Valley I.R. This was a paid hike, which not something I have done before. But, I can say the experience was worth it. I wanted to get access to an area i had never been (check); I wanted to meet new people (check); I wanted to determine if I was up to hiking at the advertised level -- moderate -- (check). I met all of those objectives and had a really fun time. We saw a lot of Prairie Crocus (my chiropractor jokingly said today that they were "mountain crocuses." Funny. On trail we also saw deer, elk and maybe some black bear scat. On the latter we weren't certain because it was kind of elongated and full of berries. Do wolves eat berries, we asked. I did take a picture, but my better judgment prevents me from posting it.

The views were tremendous. Here is a photo taken by Mai B.
She was also gracious to take a picture of me. I got caught with with my eyes closed. This is not the way you should hike in the foothills of Alberta. Here are some other shots I took before my camera crapped out.

I have excluded the name of the hike because it is largely unknown but to a few. Frankly, i would like to see it kept that way.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Gotta Bro

I gotta a bro, and we're tight. He lives a long way from me, back in Saskatoon, but we're in touch quite regularly. It might not be that a whole lot of words are exchanged. Indeed, lately its been a lot of Youtube links for bands like Queen and Aerosmith. That's cool. I don't alway have time to watch all the vids he throws my way, but I am grateful he sends them anyway. At least he is thinking about me. Besides we're guys. According to the latest gender literature that I have read the difference between the speaking behaviour of guys and dolls is that guys don't need to be face to face to communicate. A grunt will do. (smile)

Gabba has done a lot for me. He was the first kid I sat behind when I came to King George School in 1969. How many of you can say you have a bud who has stuck by you for that long? He stood up for me right then and there. Some kid made an uncouth remark about me. Gabba didn't debate whether he liked me or not. Heck, I probably didn't even say anything but hi to him, and he accepted me and took up my defense. He didn't ask me for anything after that either. And there probably have been many times that he did the same thing over without telling me through grade school, and through high school.

We stood up for each other at our respective weddings, both in the same year. Mine's over now, his...

In the vein of that Ray Charles song, I Gotta a Woman -- I gotta friend and he's good to me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I have just returned from a Mother's Day dinner at a friend's home. It was a good time, except for the swearing, and that's a whole other story.

I grew up largely not knowing my parents. I lost my mother and a sister when I was about two years old. My dad died when I was twelve. It was my step-grandmother who raised me from age nine until adulthood. In the years since I have seen the pictures of my mother holding me. But any memory that I ever may have of her is long gone.

The relationship I had with my grandmother was not a touchy-feely kind of relationship. There were no hugs. So while what I feel for my grandmother now is love, there has been little motherly love coming my way in a very long time.

Which leads to my friend, Leona. Here is the exception. Since coming to know Leona, who is now in her eighties, I have become her "adopted" son. Sonship is special, not to be taken for granted. A mother will have unconditional love for you, whereas you father may have expectations. A mother's hope for you is never ending, even when you have done wrong, while a society may very well write you off and throw away the key. Leona has done much to welcome me into her family, and made sure that there is a gift waiting for me under the tree at Christmas. I cannot tell you how much that means to me. Why Leona even bought me my first Bible that I still have.

So today I was with her family again. But I couldn't help to think of what it would have been like to have spent time with my own mother on Mother's Day. Well I don't know if that will ever happen in the spirit in heaven. Some Christians believe that we will recognize family in our heavenly home. If. If I could talk with her; smell her -- they say mothers recognize the smell of their babies years after they are born. Does it work the other way around too? Of course, if she was alive, that would have changed a lot about my life. Would I even be here in Calgary had that occurred?

As for the swearing -- you know some people adopt a way of speaking that makes them ignorant to the sensitivities of others. Sometimes when you are the sole person in the room who doesn't talk that way it can be a bit intimidating to speak up to that sensitivity. Leona picked me to be her son, I just didn't get the right to pick my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Post Once a Year

Well, it would appear I am a reluctant blogger. If you were to judge by the frequency of my posts. Unremarkable. I don't know if its lack of discipline or I have nothing interesting to say. I have tried to keep a written journal at home. I get off on a good start, but I usually lose interest or I miss an entry or two. Then it snowballs into I can't be bothered.

I am also doubtful that there is much interest by anyone in what I am writing. I have only had one person comment on any of my postings in the nearly two-years i have had this blog going.

Maybe there is a some need for a change...