Into each life some rain must fall …

The first rain fell last night; the first rain of fall. The cold weather all week, in the morning hours, has kept me in bed til 6 or 7. The pounds are piling on. The chores, the writing, the AM walks around the block with the golden dogs, all are pushed to “tomorrow” every day. Winter is coming.

Group activities are in a lull. I’m spending more Sunday hours at home. There is no deck reading in the evening. The sun is already fading behind the trees; the shivers come out by 6. The fading light and whipping cold steal away the urge to sit, blow the pages to and fro. I reach for my joggers and sweaters instead of my shorts and tanks. I wear layers to work. Pants and shoes. The flip flops are hiding in the closet now. Autumn has come. In earnest.

I remember fondly the summer days. I remember pool parties and swamp cooler sweat. Ice chests full of beer. I remember it being too hot to sit on the deck for long. Too much light still coming through the window for an early sleep. The air conditioner blaring all night. I remember two weeks without air conditioning, and all the 100-degree days we endured through that. I’m recalling the anticipation of football coming back.

I think about the years, the seasons through each one. Each 13-week succession through 49 years of life. I love change. I’m the rare bird that loves when things are suddenly different than they were. My body doesn’t like the process of the change, though. The sleeping in, like I mentioned. The cracked skin, this year choosing the right-middle knuckle for that. The legs, they itch like crazy when the weather turns cold. I don’t know why; I’ve always suffered that. I move slower in the cold. We all do.

My wife says to me, “we can finally have a fire again!” She loves the ambiance of fire at the hearth. Our current abode has a fireplace that produces no heat, or too little to be of measure, so it is just for the ambiance. But the feeling of things is somehow just as important as the utility of things. Atmosphere matters.

My mood has been affected this year, by the fading light, the rising chill. I get so little time to do the things I love, these days, and the shortened days seem to want to steal away even those scarce moments. I’ll adapt. I’m a reasonable man, a critically-thinking human being, who understands this feeling is fleeting. Tom will return.

He will.

But one thing I learned a long time ago is that we cannot always be ourselves. Our best selves. Like the seasons, we change. Like the daylight, we ebb and flow. Sometimes we shine so long it feels like the day will never end. Sometimes our shine hides behind the gloom. It seems like night all day. It was one of those weeks where the shine was hid, for no reason other than a change in pattern. A change in season. A cold front on the horizon.

It is in these moments that I appreciate the complexity of life. Everything is fine. Perfect, as a matter of fact. Love is strong within my house. Work is lucrative and busy. My writing feels right. A bad president’s numbers are down. Even the Rams are winning games. The perfect autumn. A serendipitous fall.

So excuse my unusual entry. Forgive my lack of witty banter. I’m not in the mood for the light today. I am embracing the gloom. Enjoying the rain.

I feel a little down these days.

And I kinda like it. 😊

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

As most of you know by now I’m not the superstitious sort. I don’t believe in ghosts and goblins, omens or the guiding hand of fate. Things don’t happen for a reason, outside the reason we assign each happening thing. As such, Friday the 13th is just another Friday – which doesn’t suck – and just another #13 on my calendar.

Personally, I’m a fan of the #13. My Rams team won their only Super Bowl, to date, with a #13 as their quarterback. He’s now in the Hall of Fame. It’s a prime number, and those are always cool. Plus, it’s a happy number, and if you understand anything about me by now, you know I’m all about happy.

I understand the contempt of the number, though. So many things we’ve known are based on 12, that breaking the wall of dozens can be scary. There are 12 months in a year. 12 ounces in a standard beer. 12 hours in a day, 12 in a night. Jesus had 12 apostles. There are 12 eggs in a standard carton. The greatest QB of all time wears #12.

So, it’s scary to break the twelve barrier. I get that.

But, when you think about it, there are benefits to breaking through. The baker’s dozen was invented, essentially, to get one extra something free for every twelve purchased. We all wish there was an extra hour in a day, for production or relaxation. There were thirteen people hanging out in Jesus’ club, if you count Jesus himself as #13. Everybody loves more beer. Nobody likes the greatest QB of all time.

But I do. I like ol’ #12, and I like the #13, as well. Need more reasons why? I’ll give you 13:

  1. When we leave our childhood behind, for adolescence, we’re generally 13.
  2. After 12 years of primary and secondary education, we graduate to our 13th level of education.
  3. The Italians love it. 13 is their lucky number, and who doesn’t love Italians?
  4. Triskaidekaphilia is more fun to say than Triskaidekaphobia.
  5. There were 13 original American colonies, and America generally doesn’t suck.
  6. My favorite Antonio Banderas film is The 13th Warrior.
  7. Apollo 13 showcased Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise AND Ed Harris in some of their finest roles.
  8. There are 52 weeks in a year, which means each quarter-year, or standard season, has 13 weeks.
  9. The American flag still has 13 stripes on it.
  10. There are 13 Archimedean solids. Archimedean solids is also fun to say.
  11. “Once in a blue moon,” which denotes a generally fortunate but rare occurrence, gets its meaning from the rarish year when we are blessed with 13 moons instead of 12.
  12. 13 is an odd number, and odd numbers are more powerful and wise than even numbers.
  13. My wife likes the number 13.

If I had time to extrapolate, I’d give you 13 more reasons why I like Fridays. But I don’t think I have to. You already like Friday, for all the right reasons.

So have no fear today, my friends. Make this a day of celebration. Make every day of your life a day of celebration, if you can.

It’s not like you get 13 tries at this thing. 😏

The Joys of (Not) Traveling

Although I enjoy a good road trip from time to time, I’m not really into travel. I like home base. I like to be around my dogs, my computer, my garage fridge, my deck, my world. Some people find that odd, I guess. Almost every bucket list I see says something about “travel more,” and I think, god, I’d hate to have to do that.

Luckily, I don’t have to. It’s one of the things I love about the modern world, I don’t have to travel to explore. I am an explorer, at heart. I explore ideas and history and people and the characteristics of people, and I never get tired of any of it. At the same time I don’t really care about grand canyons, vaulting pyramids, hanging gardens, teeming redwoods, gushing geysers, or cascading waterfalls. I mean, they’re neat and all, and they have their place, but I’d never go out of my way to go see them on my own. In fact, I’m more likely to pull them up on my smartphone than trek across land, sea, and air to see them.

Because I’m not all that into trekking. I have friends who love to hike, and that’s fantastic. But when I’m asked to go for a hike my first instinct is, “do I have to?” Walking for long periods of time and carrying things around are two activities I actively avoid. I’m not adverse to exercise, mind you, I just like to do it in furious twenty-minute bursts. Or less. And I have nothing against the great outdoors, I just prefer it to stay over there while I’m over here.

My favorite style of camping has room service, an adjoining restroom, and turndown service in the morning.

Even after a few days of that, however, I’m ready to go home.

Finding this out about me sometimes dismays people. They expect, as an adventurous human being with a strong social nature, that I’d be willing to take up any expedition. Others think I’m isolating myself, learning too little when there’s a whole world out there to explore. I find, however, that travelers – by and large – don’t seem to learn too much about the world or themselves that cannot be found in close observations of every day life. They get to reach out and touch things they’ve dreamed of reaching out and touching. They get to ride a mule down to the bottom of a large gorge. All these things they’ve wanted to do. But they seem no wiser about the predisposition of human nature or the terrible plight of the aborigine than they did before their trek. Travel is rarely, from what I have seen, a journey of illumination.

There are exceptions, of course. I am a living exception to so many rules that I tend not to make statements that generalize any group with assumed predilections. In fact, I envy the itinerant one. Not because of the things they see in the world, but because of what they already understand about themselves. They understand that they love to travel, they have a bucket list, and they are living it out. That’s fantastic. I’d love to love something so much that I pursued it with such abandon.

But I don’t. As complex a man as I am, I am a simple one, too. I like being near home. I love my dogs. My wife and I enjoy simple, quiet times together. I like to explore the profundities of the world 30 paces from the coffeemaker. I prefer the depth of exploration to the breadth.

I’ve tried to create bucket lists of my own before. When I try, they mostly become a list of things I do already. Then I seem to list things I think I should do, but generally don’t care if I do. I like too many things, and love the option to choose, each day, which one has my fancy most.

So, if I have a primary objective in life, it is to fill my daily world with the things I love. Right here, within my reach. A home I enjoy. Companions I cherish. A fast computer. Coffee and beer. Amazing friends. Me, being me.

If I have those things – the simple staples of a valued life – then I can die tomorrow and feel like I have not missed a thing. My bucket is already full.

If this must end in advice, which I am not of the nature to give, then I would say: follow your own heart. Always. If travel is your want, go. If leisure is your game, relax. Love nature? Hike. If you love people, mingle. If life is a celebration, revel. The number one item on your bucket list is to find what you love most. The only other item within is “do that.”

Even if that changes, every day.

Now go welcome yourself home, wherever that may be.

A Lone Gunman Opens Fire

Last night, it happened again. A lone gunman with hate in his heart or madness in his mind initiated an all-out assault on unsuspecting revelers. As of this writing, more than 50 people have died. 500 more lie injured. The gunman is dead.

The people who knew him tell us he was the ordinary sort. Not a man full of hate or vengeance. Not an extremist anything. We don’t know yet how much of that is true. The gunman’s motivations remain a mystery. We only know that he lived for 64 years and then left behind carnage.

Almost 16 months ago I woke up on a Sunday morning to a sadly similar tale. The week before, I had written a hopeful piece about my faith in humanity and the direction it was headed. That morning, in contrast, I wrote about the tragedy in Orlando.

Much of what I said then still stands up today. These are dark times. We are on the precipice of glory, or doom. Our leaders and enemies are crazy. As we grow towards enlightenment, ignorance fights back all the harder.

I don’t know exactly what we can do. I don’t know how we can stop the spread of madness. Or the power of ignorance. I do know that, in the wake of these tragedies, we must find a way to come together in our thinking. We must find ways to work together and build a better structure for humanity.

I grieve today. For all those who lost their lives, I grieve. For everybody connected to this, I grieve. But in grief I also find resolve once more. Resolve that we will find solutions to the senseless epidemic of violence and death.

That was us in Las Vegas. Each of us were there, at that concert. Each of us were fleeing, in panic, under a hail of gunfire. All of us were injured. Part of each of us has died.

I am left to wonder, how many more times will I have to write these words?

My heart goes out to the fallen, and to all who held them dear.