Monday, December 28, 2015

Fifteen more Miles.

"Difficulties increase the nearer we approach the goal." 
-Johann Von Goethe

Goals should be set high, pushing us to achieve what we thought was impossible. I am close. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

there was Smoke. then Something Changed.

He wanted to quit. The pain was great and the effort had nearly reduced him to tears. But something was changing. 

A compelling tone of encouragement reverberated from somewhere inside. Still, he wanted to quit, but couldn't...or wouldn't. Either way, can't or won't, something was changing and it was good. 

Buried deep within the recesses of the soul, darkness and light dance together. In this place we find our limits are made of smoke. Here we find fire...and something is changed.

Find your fire. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Railroads and Road Blocks

Winding away from me, down the tracks in either direction, no end in sight, are hoppers filled with anthracite. The sounds about me, wind whistling in my ears and gravel popping under my tires, dims and disappears as I approach and stop at the railroad crossing. Nature’s beautiful silence fills the void...birds singing both near and far. 

It’s November and my coordinates are roughly 39.30*N and 87.23*W, the days grow short and the shadows long as the South Pole tilts toward the sun. A coal hopper casts a shadow of doubt over what is an otherwise glorious day. Roadblocks tend to do that. 

Lucky for me I have a bike with attitude, it will go just about anywhere. And so we do. After a quick survey of the situation and a smile for myself, obstacle turns to opportunity. No, I didn’t hobo the wasn’t going anywhere. Along the rail-bed I head East and eventually South. About a quarter mile down the line I find one end of the train. There was no locomotive attached to the last hopper, only what must have been the “End of Train” device, a technological replacement for the caboose. 

As I cross the tracks behind the final car I’m bathed by the November sun, discover an access road to deliver me somewhere new, all while I enjoy the expansive view of rolling Indiana farm ground. And that my friends is what happens when you follow your heart and chase the light! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Courage and Grace: Put Your Boat in the Water.

Life, like a river, does not sit on the bank and watch itself flow by. Moving...always toward destiny under different circumstances, in a state of peacefulness, rage, flood or recession...always moving. Regardless of the conditions, we need only courage and grace: the courage to put our boat in the water and the grace to delight in the journey. We will get there...eventually. 

*Photo by Jim Cota, Wabash River

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Breach for Acquittal and Conspiracy

Up here, 34,000 feet above everything, hurdling through the atmosphere at 540 mph - I quietly contemplate. This space is somewhere between Heaven and Earth.

Up here, the narrowly focused view constitutes considerable perspective - I am. And, in this moment, up here, all at once time stands still, retreats, and then gently disappears.

Up here, in the space between, is a breach for acquittal and release. Up here, in the space between, resides faith to conspire and court what will be. It's beautiful up here.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Here I sit, at a bridge. Contemplating.

"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."
-Winnie the Pooh

Situated on a country road in the shallow valley of a forest near my childhood home there sits a moss-covered concrete bridge. The canopy above opens and closes at the wind's command, letting golden sunlight dance on the water gently flowing out from under the bridge, toward tomorrow.

I have crossed this bridge too many times to count. An interestingly uninteresting structure, this bridge is, for a couple reasons. It literally delivered me from childhood to points near and far about the globe. But more importantly…because there were other roads from my house to the world…this bridge served as a portal for the imagination, dreams, and adventure of a boy.   

But we forget. 

We allow the act of crossing a bridge to become so common place that we fail to recognize or acknowledge the important span between the supports. I passionately work on perspective and its role in my life, yet I still catch my thoughts far beyond and long away; especially when the destination is predetermined and the journey but a means to that end. I suspect most adults are exceptional at crossing bridges in this manner.

We adults also contend with the bridges built in the mind, bridges that cause grown men to yield. They give us pause because we know not where they lead. What happens? The unfortunate manifestation of fear circumvolving change and uncertainty serves adults in a terribly limiting nature.

Always crossed on the way from one place to another, bridges provide important and necessary structure in the world. A bridge will deliver us to the other side of something otherwise difficult to pass, or by not crossing will deviate the path meant for us to take.

Here I sit, on a bridge, contemplating the gentle flow of water toward tomorrow. Here I sit, at a bridge. Contemplating.

Monday, April 13, 2015

An act of Piracy

"Perhaps on the rare occasion pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy, piracy itself can be the right course?"
-Weatherby Swann

There is something seductive about the sea that beckons man to her shores. She dances, whispers, calms, and quenches the soul. She comes and goes by the pull of the Moon and kisses the beach endlessly with the mysterious intonation of a siren.

Here I sit half in and half out of the water, touched by time long passed as it marches up the beach, wave after wave, moment after moment. This water, witness to the legend of the world - having rained down on a garden named Eden, made holy by Honorius II, and fallen salty from the cheek of a crying child - now bastes my legs.

My mind is quiet, all is quiet. I am present, but not here. Completely connected and totally disengaged. In the distance a two-masted schooner, a pirate's preferred vessel, sails on the dark blue edge silently becoming one with the horizon. 

As diamonds dance on the hope and faith of sapphire blue, turquoise leads us toward truth, before finally turning to champagne in celebration of the moment. Swelling and crashing, she runs, rises, and falls with Time.

I am taken by an act of piracy. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I've seen that smile before.

Lucille Rees: Always more smile than frown, more friend than foe, and more sweet than sour. Every day she demonstrates how to be more full than empty, more strong than weak, and how to give more than take. Lucy is all these things because she's more interior than exterior, more pond than pool, and more Mom than Dad.

Terre Haute South Winter Homecoming Coronation, January 2015
-Photography by Caleb Pettit 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Always answer on the first knock. Always."

"Beer and wings, Wednesday at 7:30. Attendance is mandatory, unless you can't make it."  I expect to receive this cryptic message, or a derivation thereof, at some point in time every Tuesday. Twenty other guys receive the same knock at their door, and on any given Wednesday, 10-12 answer by showing up at the appointed place and time. We will squeeze around 3-4 tables to share food, stories, laughter and a couple hours of time.

Time has no agenda, emotion, feelings or concerns, yet it's always here. Here, not there. Time waits on no one. Time doesn't care if you dance; it just sets the beat and keeps itself. I try to surround myself with people who recognize this simple, yet difficult to grasp concept. The implacable drum beat of death plays for us all, whether we realize or accept that is an entirely different matter. 

It was August 2014, and my son, Jack would be leaving soon for his first year at DePauw University. I asked him to join me for a Wednesday night outing, I wanted to spend time with him and thought it could be a good experience...think about the scene from Gran Torino where Clint Eastwood takes the kid to the barbershop to learn how guys talk to each other! Per usual, the cadence of endless conversation and story telling created enough laugher to bring grown men to tears. Jack participated fully, occasionally at my expense. It was a wonderful evening. 

That night, Jack got to spend time with Coach Smith, a legend in many circles; the boy took notes on Chad's lessons about life. Chad Smith is a teacher, some of his lessons are literal and many are best taken figuratively. Spending time with him is irreplaceable; spending time with anyone is irreplaceable. Lessons for all to more seriously consider. Those couple hours were time well spent and won't fade from memory any time soon. Chad has ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease is real, relentless, and unforgiving. 

In December, over his holiday break, Jack accompanied me to a New Year's Eve party at Chad's home. Both, Jack and Chad, own infectious smiles that light a room. I may or may not be unique in noticing such things, but the room lit up as they greeted each other. Chad asked Jack if he'd learned anything during his visit to our Wednesday meeting earlier in the year. Without hesitation, Jack answered: "Always answer on the first knock. Always." Chad smiled. 

The context of the story is irrelevant; the application of the quote and its lesson are not. 

In late January, I met Jack and his buddy Emily at J's Bikes to pick up some helmets. He was planning a mutiny on my Trek Madone. I've always made my kids wear bicycle helmets; never in his 19 years had he been so excited about a helmet! He also needed shoes and cleats compatible with the Look pedals on the Madone. The shop didn't have a pair of shoes that both fit and appealed to his sense of style. Jerry had mentioned he had a pair of used shoes in the back that might work. He liked them at first sight; white, flashy, expensive looking, super light, and they fit. We had a match.
The guys in the shop, all Wednesday Night Door Men, explained with a sense of reverence that these were Chad's shoes. Todd and Joe offered Jack an easy out, or opportunity to decline: "Chad's feet stink, really stink. The shoes likely have an odor to them that will never come out." Unfazed, Jack said it was all good. Later, he would say, "Dad, these are Chad's shoes. "It was as if those stinky old shoes had super powers, he knew it and wasn't letting go.   

I am a better man because I know Chad Smith. I suspect that anybody who spends time with Chad is a better person for it. It is easy to wish our paths had crossed earlier, but I believe things happen when and how they're supposed to happen.

Thanks Coach. Attendance is mandatory and always answer on the first knock. Always.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Falling down. Getting up.

On a regular basis, I purposefully enter the woods to find myself lost. It's a fact, you have to be lost before you can be found. 

A couple weeks ago, while getting myself lost, I quickly discovered how ill-prepared I was for the intended expedition. The ground was frozen and I had the wrong tires on the bike with entirely too much air. I went down three times. The first two falls were relatively harmless. The third fall harbored a greater level of intensity. It caught my attention. In fact, there was enough intensity involved that I took inventory. 

After testing the larger pieces of my body to determine if I remained intact and was working properly, I laid back down. I was lost. It was beautiful. 

Eventually, I started talking to Me: "What in Hell do you think you're doing...riding a bike in the middle of a 250 acre forest...alone? Seriously, you're closer to 50 than 47!" 

Then, Me says to I: "Relax, I'm out here to fall down. You can't pick yourself up until you've been summarily knocked to the ground." 

End of conversation. Get lost.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Good things come in threes.

AMI, FL, USA - Three girls: Helen, Margaret, Lucy

Good things come in threes. True. But we also hear that bad things come in threes. Again, true. For future reference please note that bad news is readily available and nearby when a person is looking for and expecting it! 

The same can be said for good news or good fortune. How many times have you heard Hard Luck Charlie exclaim, "Good luck follows (insert a name) around like a lost puppy! He wakes up and Fortune has coffee brewed and waiting on his front porch." 

Good things happen to those who are looking for it. One, two, three. Ready, set, go! 

So what's with the number 3? No idea, all I have is a cool picture of three girls on a beach. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Speed of Life

"There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."
-Mahatma Gandhi

I pedaled by this 'twice-blasted road closed sign' at about 20mph, on Friday, January 2. The day was brisk at 36 degrees Fahrenheit, yet it wasn't cold. Cloudy but not grey. I was making good time on a planned 35 mile shake-down on the Domane, and a shake-down of myself after spending much of December on rollers.

Most of my surroundings on this Midwestern January day had assumed the color of winter, earthy and largely brown. Throw an orange sign in on that back drop and it tends to jump...if you're paying attention. I was paying attention. But I was making good time! Still the urge to capture an image of what had just caught my eye was strong. I rode on. Making good time.

At about a half-mile 'post sign' I got on the brakes, stood up and turned around. Why was I so intrigued with a road closed sign where there was no road?! Mounted to a fence post at the gated entrance of a picked corn field was a sign that had in fact been shot twice with something much heavier than a .22.

I took the picture, got back on my bike and continued doing what I was doing. I was happy. Oddly, satisfied. Five minutes of down time didn't cause me to miss my favorite TV show (don't have one), show up late for dinner (I was making dinner), or ruin my ride in any way. It actually added value to my ride. I was happy.