Monday, November 26, 2007

We Live Like Kings

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is one in which the objective is decidedly non-commercial. I understand that the greeting card industry is trying to make its way in, but for the most part, this holiday is still about family gatherings and counting blessings. Counting blessings tends to promote contentment which is counter to our cultural obsession with consummerism. Thanking God for all He has provided makes me realize how goods things are and produces a sense of satisfaction that buying things can not.

During this holiday, I reflected on my blessings joyfully. At one point during the weekend, I was mindful of my immediate circumstances. My father-in-law commented on how cold and rainy it was outside and that he was grateful that he had a nice warm, dry home and did not have to sleep outside under a bridge.

"Let's see," I said, "I am warm and dry, have a full stomach, just had a piece of homemade pie, and am sipping hot coffee with my family" Then I paused with gratitude and satisfaction and borrowed a phrase that our church's preacher and my good friend, Shane Coleman says often, "We live like kings".

Yes, we do live like kings. We have it quite good. Our needs are met and we have many other comforts and luxuries. In fact, like kings, it is arguable that some of us live in excess. I won't speak for you, but I plan to keep this in mind as the Christmas holiday approaches. It is a holiday that has become a celebration of materialism. It seems to be a ritual for people to spend money they do not have to buy things for other people who do not need them.

I don't need more things. I like the giving part of the tradition. It is the buying things that bothers me. That and the accumulation of more stuff. I have more than enough stuff. Here is my request to everyone who might be considering buying something for me. This year, please refrain from buying gifts for me. I'd much rather have a conversation, share a meal, share in accomplishing some work task, etc. I don't want stuff, I'd rather have you. In fact, if I receive a purchased gift or money, I plan to donate it to a charity.

If that makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry. I've been uncomfortable for many years. This year I plan to do something about it. Imagine what we could do collectively if all our consumer activity was directed to those who ARE in need.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Worth It

From one perspective, it is understandable why there are not more cyclists out there. Cycling is an activity that takes some amount of equipment and gear. It is something that, for those with any kind of life, must be planned in advance. Even for those that commute to work on a regular basis, it is usually not the easiest option. So while it might be understandable, I don't think that non-cyclists have all the facts.

The key fact, of course, and one that keeps on reminding, is that it is worth it. It is worth the expense, planning, preparation, and inconvenience. The rhythm of the spin of the cranks, the feel of the balance on two wheels, the glide of momentum, the physical working of the body, and the perfect pace of movement are worth it all. Fast enough to travel significant distances in reasonable time. Slow enough to take in the sights, sounds, and smells along the way. Fast enough to be able to watch the scenary change. Slow enough to greet people verbally.

Early this morning, it was dark, damp, and cool outside. It would have been easier to stay in bed for another hour. My mind ran through a list of excuses. It is surprising how creative my rationalizing mind can be before even leaving the bed. But the ride was on. No excuses.

Roll out in silent solitude before 6am. Within a handful of minutes, the rich returns on my investment were accommulating. Simply delightful. Spinning through the countryside, watching the darkness dissipate, and rolling from creek bottom to hilltop repeatedly. I was back home by 7:30am and it was easily worth the effort (especially since the black-cat-that-I-saw-while-screaming-downhill-out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye-streaking-toward-my-front-wheel-and-then-realized-it-was-not-a-black-cat-but-a-SKUNK and I didn't collide. His nose stopped within an inch of the tire and I thought I was going to have to sleep in the shop for a month, but "no harm, no foul"...and in this case, no harm, no foul smell).

Anything amazing happen to you this morning between 6 and 7:30?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend at Home

At the outset, let me be more specific about my prior comments about the furry rascals. The menace above is the leader. The ego behind the whole gang of them. Can't you just hear him say, "Go ahead, try to push me off...I'll rip your hand off!"

The thug below is the brawn of the operation. Not much for brains, but if he bumps into to your go down.

With that established, we can move on to a very pleasant Saturday morning ride in the country...(as usual, click for larger image)

...and a foggy short Sunday morning ride.

These are all things you can do when you spend the weekend at home. Photos of the slightly better organized shop could have been inserted here also. But I'm not sure how many of you are interested in looking at a workbench, pegboard, and a few hand tools.

In the odd chance that some of you actually can't hear Ted (furry rascal at top) say what I think he said, we'll just open it up for comments. Let's see your own best photo caption for the rascal standing on top of the sofa.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Containing the Furry Rascals

While out of town for a couple of days, Janet made real progress on the fence. She called someone who knows what he is doing and doesn't get bogged down in details. My brother. It is nice to be related to someone who can be so productive. Why did he get all the practical skills in the family?

Nice work, eh?

Interesting that when four furry rascals use a smaller area for a latrine, are more...uh...concentrated.

Watch your step.

Wolf Pen Creek Trail

Sometimes the bike is permitted to come along on the business trip. Sometimes the travel is within Texas and it can stow away in the pickup. It is those times that exploration in other cities happens. This trip, first to Burnet, Texas, and then on to College Station, Texas was one of those times.

Sometimes things just fall into place and, as a part of other plans, you get to visit with an old college friend unexpectedly. You know how the conversation goes.

"Kent", I said happily, "It's good to see you again."

He smiled, "Yes, you too."

To which I responded with something very unusual like, "It's been quite a while." Then I was repaid for my statement of the obvious with a reminder of how old I am.

" 20 years!"

After catching up on each other's lives for the last 20+ years, I told him of my scheme to do a little bike riding before leaving town. That is when I found out my old friend designed a local hike/bike trail. After he provided a few simple directions, I was on my way.

Here are a few photos of his handiwork that I enjoyed on a crisp November day.

The trip went well. My friend has done very well for himself and, unlike me, doesn't seem to have aged a bit. He has designed a very nice quiet trail in this bustling college town. He was proud of it and I was grateful for the chance to experience first hand this part of himself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fence Building

The time has come to parse out a portion of our little spot on the prairie. Like losing the wild free-roaming buffalo to fenced-off ranch land, it is in its own way sad. A fence is a barrier and counter-hospitality. It says to those "outside", "Stop, I have put a division between us. Stay out there, you can't come in. You are not invited. This space in mine."

Of course, a fence also keeps things within. Certain living creatures that might otherwise seek to roam wild like so many by-gone buffalo, must not do so. We must protect them from the wildness out there. Or we must make sure that they do not become their own possession, but remain ours instead. The fence is a barrier between servitude and instinct like it is a barrier between a criminal and his freedom.

...and if I may be permitted to speak personally, a fence could be used to keep so many furry rascals within my household. Unless one day the gate is accidentally left open.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yeah...what he said.

I literally can't think of anything to add. It's pretty much perfectly stated.

...except, no, books are not different.

Portland, Oregon

Stepping off the Max and onto the street at Pioneer Square, the scent of freshly brewed coffee perked me up. The Max is the city's light rail system. It started at the airport and, after after 10 or so miles and several stops, it deposited me downtown. Cost?...$2.05. Try that with a taxi. From there, I had a short uphill, 3-block walk in pleasant 55-degree air to the Heathman Hotel. The combination of a delightful aroma of fresh coffee and the brisk air was just the recipe after a long time cramped in an airplane.

The Heathman Hotel, in Portland, Oregon, is the best hotel I've ever experienced. I've stayed at more expensive places and places with larger rooms, but the atmosphere and service at the Heathman is a step above anything else I've seen. The French Press coffee maker in the room is a nice touch.

So is the evening turn-down service. Note the fancy sheet fold pattern.

Hey, those slippers look comfy.

The hotel is in the midst of the theatre district and near an urban park and college. During a lunch break one day, there was an opportunity for a short walk and to see some nice autumn colors.

The worst part of staying at the Heathman is watching all the cyclists ride by. Portland has been recognized as the most bicycle-friendly city in America. It was tough watching countless bikes spinning up the hill just outside the window.

The photo above was taken looking out the window of the meeting room down to the street, bike lane, and passers-by. Just time for a quick look. Then, it was back to work...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Too Much Travel?

Could too much travel be the excuse for lagging behind? Too much travel has a way of eating into getting things done. It's like a pick-pocket artist that follows us around. We are plenty busy tending to things, but when we return, we're farther behind and feel like someone has robbed us of time that was in our possession before we left.

Excuses documented, last weekend, in contrast to so much travel, was time gladly well-spent. Dear friends, David and Lois, from Austin made the trek way-up-here to Denton County to visit a spell. Friday evening was spent in catch-up chitchat and planning the Saturday morning adventure. Despite the potential hurdle of David being a runner and me being a cyclist, we were able to conjure an excellent plan. The plan involved an early morning trip to the Ray Roberts Lake Dam. More specifically, the trailhead at Elm Fork Park.

We arrived before daylight. David took off running down the trail toward Denton and I took off on the bike in the same direction. We agreed to turn around after about 1.5 hours out and meet back at the trailhead. I ran out of trail before 1.5 hours passed and turned around. I met David on my way back. Unbelievably, he looked to be enjoying himself. So I continued on and explored the park and nearby vicinity waiting for his return. It was a beautiful crisp fall morning and a perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy life on the trail.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the trail.

After returning, we all went into Sanger, met up with another couple of dear friends (Tim and Dorthy) from Argyle for an excellent lunch. Then it was back to our little house on the prairie for birthday cake. Janet...well...reached a birthday milestone.

Later that afternoon, it was tractor time. With the cooler temps, we decided it was time to remove the mower and attach the box blade and try to make to driveway grading improvements. As I handed the control of the tractor over to David, he said, "I guess you are having one of those Tom Sawyer moments". Indeed. I successfully convinced him that tractor driving is great fun and he proceeded to regrade most of my driveway. He successfully smoothed out the sawtooth pattern I had made with the front end loader weeks ago.

This is David just getting started.

We all went to a Saturday evening Bible class and then to Tim and Dorthy's home to watch the Aggies get spanked. Oh well, at least we were there together to console one another.

There was church and lunch on Sunday before David and Lois headed back to Austin.

I actually headed to Austin myself for a long work day on Monday. But that kinda takes us back to where we started this post (which, speaking of too much travel, is being typed in Portland, Oregon), so I guess that's enough for now.