It has been a very long time since I dropped by

Aphids on Sunflower

Hi!  Surprised to see me?  I am sort of surprised to see you too.  I haven’t posted in well over a year in my musings.  I guess my last post was deep enough to free me to focus a little time on other parts of my journey.

Man, it is a cool one.

The journey that is… it is cool journey.  That is what I was referring to when I said “Man, it is a cool one”.

I celebrated by 30th anniversary to my wonderful wife this year.  30 years, hard to believe.  It goes by so fast, it goes by so slow.  But it definitely goes by.  There is no stopping that.

And changes, they are about as steady as time.  The one thing that is constant is change.  Been a lot of changes since my spirit last called me to write here.  Some of them seem good, some of them seem real bad.  I guess only time will tell.

But life goes on.  Until it doesn’t, and then it goes on for everyone else and we just don’t know what happens to you.  We know the physical part, but we don’t know the spirit part, no not at all. Some of us pretend like we know what is out there.  But shit!

We know nothing.  And yet we let the stories we have been told lead us to war, and hate and violence.  A lot of it in the name of religion.  The stories we are told to teach us how to think, religion.  The stories all tell us to love, but whenever I see hate out there, religion is right in there with it.  Maybe not always, but near enough to always to count it.

If it isn’t stories, then it is something else stupid that we draw out to separate ourselves out from someone else.  Color, nationality, what we do, or who we see.  Something to make me think of you as different, so I can justify hating on you and loving on me.

What ever happened to we?  What ever happened to you?  What ever happened to me?  What ever happened to we.

My spirit calls on me to write

I do not know why, but my spirit is calling on me to write.  I have had enough opportunities to have my spirit call to me that I trust it and bide its call.

I guess we are all on some type of journey our entire lives, whether we realize it or not.  In truth, we may each be on several journeys simultaneously.  The journey I am compelled to write about today is my spiritual journey.

Looking back, there are many moments and many people who have played a part in my spiritual journey.  But at this point there are a few that stand more prominently in the light of my vision.

The earliest spiritual experience I had, though I would have called it a religious experience at the time, was at a Catholic retreat in the Catholic High School gym in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I would have been in eight or ninth grade at the time.  It was the first time I had an opportunity to really explore and prod my own relationship with my spirituality.  That was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember the details, but I remember being deeply moved as I nudged my way into spiritual self-exploration.

When I was in college at SUNY Cortland, I had a number of experiences that primed me for spiritual self-exploration, but none of them were a true effort of exploring my spirituality.  One thing stands out during that time period that helped to pave the way for me to continue that spiritual journey, accidentally learning how to meditate.

I remember this very well.  I was sitting on the floor in Paul Fabozzi’s room in Randall Hall, up on the 3rd floor.  We were sitting there doing nothing but listening to music, probably at least a little bit high.  I was staring at a spot on a poster on his wall and focusing on a single tiny spot of brightness in an otherwise relatively dark poster.  I think it must have been a concert poster for some rock band, I don’t remember the poster, but I do remember that spot.  As I focused on that spot my breathing slowed and became deeper and rhythmic.  I let my mind wander into that spot of light and before I knew it, my conscious was outside my body.  I don’t know a better way of explaining it.  It was deeply soothing and my thoughts slowed to the point where I escaped from the bombardment of thoughts that were normally in my brain.  I guess it was the first time I escaped my own consciousness while I was awake and moved into what I feel was a sub-conscious state.  I think Ekhart Tolle would say I had escaped my ego.

A short while later, something, a sound or a movement, caught my attention and broke the trance and I came crashing back into my conscious.  But I was amazingly relaxed and at peace.  I wanted to find a way back to that place so I began a meditation practice.  I made a point of almost every day sitting down in my room and taught myself to meditate.  It was incredibly refreshing and I found that a half hour of meditation was as good as several hours of sleep for refreshing myself and clearing my mind to focus on one thing at a time.

I continued that practice for the remainder of the school year, I even created a video that was shown in a film festival about my experience with meditation, and what it was like in my mind when I was meditating.  But, my practice was broken when I moved out of the dorm in May 1986, and I have never made my way back to a regular meditation practice.  (I should do something about that).

It was a very long time after that before I came back to my spirituality in any way.  It was largely forgotten until my son, Brandt was born in 1992 and we as a family started going to church regularly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Springfield, MO.  It was there that I became part of a community of believers, and developed extremely close ties with a fantastic group of people, especially the Men’s Club and their families.  We spent many years with this family of friends watching our families grow, and exploring our faith and belief systems together.  I am still very close friends with a few of them, even after 16 years of living away.

In 2001, very shortly after 911, my family moved to Rockhampton in Queensland, Australia on a work visa that wold also eventually lead to my PhD studies.  In Australia, our experience with religion, and with Catholicism began to change and the facade of religion started to remove itself from my spiritual beliefs, but not in a big way yet.  But one thing stands out in my mind from our time in Australia.

I was traveling down a road just out of Rockhampton with a colleague, Wal Taylor.  We came to an area and I got ah overwhelming feeling of dread or foreboding.  I told Wal, “there is something evil around here”. Wal told me that the location where we were at was a place where people used to go to “hunt” aborigines and that there had been a massacre nearby. The thought of hunting human beings is quite disturbing.   (Hunting of Aborigines by the “Native Police” around Rockhampton is referenced in the book “The Secret War: A True History of Queensland’s Native Police”, Jonathan Richards, 2008).

After we moved back to the United States, I ended up working at what was then the University of Missouri – Rolla, now called Missouri University of Science and Technology.  My son Jax was enrolled at the elementary school at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

On December 15, 2006 when I went to drop Jax off, there was a van full of military people parked in the school parking lot.  I asked Jax if something was going on, and he said there was a funeral for a soldier that had died in Iraq.  I dropped Jax off and was heading to work when for whatever reason my spirit told me that I needed to go to the funeral.  I listened to my spirit, and my life has never been the same.

I called my supervisor, Cheryl McKay.  I told her I didn’t know what exactly was going on but that I was being called to be at the funeral for this soldier and told her I would be late for work.  She said something to the affect of, “you have to go, tell me what happens when you get done.”

The soldier’s name was Captain Travis Patriquin (Obituary).

The details of the day are not important here, but I ended up sitting in the back pew with a person who was a cousin, or something to that affect, of Captain Patriquin.  We spoke and I told him that I didn’t know Captain Patriquin, I was a member of the church and when I learned of the funeral I felt compelled to pay my respects .  When he learned that the church did not take up a collection at a funeral, he took out his wallet and said “watch this”.  He took a couple of hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to me and said, “do something good with this.”

After the service had ended and everyone left, I returned to the church and sat, emotionally overwhelmed, sobbing in the back pew.  I knew the priest and when he saw me he asked if I was related to the family.  I told him no and we sat down and I told him the whole story.  I asked him what I should do with the money, and he said that it had come to me, it was my decision what do with it.  I asked him if he would hold the money, and he put it in an envelope in his desk and called it the “miracle money”.  Eventually, and it didn’t take long, we identified a good cause and it is my understanding that it helped a family through a difficult time.

But, I was changed forever.  The series of events that led up to me going to and serving witness at that funeral changed me, and lit a fire in me that has had me on a soul searching journey ever since.

It is now eleven years later.  I am no longer a member of the Catholic church and I do not practice any religion. My focus is spiritual.  There is seldom, if ever, a day that passes when I do not think about my place in the world and relationship to others, and I allow that to lead me through my day.  Some days it is easier than others.

I have learned to recognize and try to minimize the impact on myself of those things that are most divisive among humans: race, religion, creed, gender and politics.  I have come to recognize that human nature, within its ebbs and flows, is relatively consistent.  There will always be the seven sins and they will be countered by the seven virtues.  It is up to each and every person to decide in the form of many small decisions every day whether they will take the path of the virtues. It is never too late to choose a path of virtue, or to fall off of that path.  We can certainly influence others on their paths, but in the end you are the only one that can change your own heart.  You and only you can choose your path.

This is a daily struggle, but one which I am at peace in undertaking.

I think that takes care of getting out what my spirit thought I should write.  You now have access to a little glimpse of my spiritual journey and I share it with you willingly.

Day 50 – Goal Achieved

Rainbow and tree

I started this blog on March 22 as “A Little Something I am doing for myself” with a challenge to myself to post something every day for 50 days.  Well  this is day 50 and I managed to post something on all of those 50 days except for maybe one or two.  So while it wasn’t perfect, I can honestly say I have met my challenge.

On the second day, I framed my challenge as “A cleansing breath” that I needed to do to help me get my zen back and begin focusing on the positive things in life instead of the ridiculous things that we allow to take control of our lives, that I allow to take control of my life.  And so I set off on the challenge toward “pouring my energy into artistic reation”.  And that is mostly what I have done.

Looking for light, I came upon my birdhouse

The beginning days were filled with heartfelt posts, introspective in nature and quite cathartic. At first I was mostly looking back, then I started focusing on transitions and moving forward.  This was my soul trying to heal itself, and it has been working.

Quickly along the way I traveled to San Francisco and met up with a dear old friend. I also networked with some new folks, and tried out some wonderful food while I was there.

Then when I got back, I switched gears and started focusing on being on stage and in my garden, and many of the posts since then have had either my plants or what I was doing in “Little Women” as a focus.  I had rejoined the arts community in Menomonie and it was that time of year when it was time to start growing things.

Continuing on the theme of relationships, I wrote about the pleasure of being adopted as an uncle and a father, and the relationships I have with my family and my friends.  I have had a chance to talk about peace and love, reusing and remembering.

Clematis on pallet trellis
Clematis enjoying the sun and shade provided by this recycled pallet.

I wrote a little bit about work, but the good parts about it.  I got to share some photos from shows that my son is doing and the show that I am doing.  I even got a chance to use my blog to help mobilize the community a little bit when it was looking like the music program was about to get cut.  I have it on good advice that we may have made the difference that kept it from getting cut.

I got to share imagery of spring coming in and then I rounded it out with a posting each about the two most important women in my life, my mom and my wife.

I would have to say that this blog has given me the chance to do a little recentering, gathering my Zen, refocusing on what is important, or whatever you want to call it.  It has allowed me at least an hour a day to put energy into something that I wanted to put energy into and to do so every day.

Sunset picture, father and son silhouette.
My youngest son and I watching the sunset

Along the way, I have learned a few things.  I used my analytics to watch the way that people interact with my little blog.  I check them every day.  I learned that there is a small troop of people who seem to be reading it almost every day, and on days when I have something on a special topic a whole new group of people come in.  Most of the people who have been to my blog have been here more than once.

I get a lot more spam comments than I do comments from people who are genuinely interested in the blog.  I have learned that my keyboard is dying and I have to work to get the letter g to work.  I have learned that I still use the passive voice when I write.  I know that it can take a lot of time to get the images right, but  I also have learned that the right image can kick off a blog post all on its own.  I have learned that some days I have a dozen things I want to talk about, and on some days there are very few.

It is a challenge to come up with something to say every day, and while I will not force myself to write every day, I am pretty confident that I will continue to blog.  I want to make sure that I keep this a blog about things I want to talk about, and not let it become a tool of those things that would take over the thoughts in my mind and turn them negative.

It has been a good challenge and I am glad that I did it.  I also know that I have had 50 chances to wish you PEACE!  So if you are one of the people who reads my blog, thank you and I hope you have gotten something meaningful from it.  I once again wish you PEACE!

Happy Spring 2015
Every year during finals I put a drawing on the board. This is this year’s version


Day 50