Catchin’ Fireflies

How crazy to think it’s been a while since sitting here at my desk, typing in words, instead of running around making life happen. Hours buzz by. If it wasn’t for a message coming over the Meta-network on my phone, an event would be less meat and cheese tomorrow. I, quite simply, forgot – and it never was entered into my digital calendar. Why? Who knows? This is how May and the first part of June has been.

Except for an occasional meal or entertainment carve out, the huge kraken of lore has come alive to unsettle the calm seas I found myself on at the beginning of 2022. I’ve been losing planks multiples at a time and a once firm grip as the helmsman of my life could be in peril.

Not to be an alarmist, I’ve been here and seen raging seas. Outside challenges have tugged at my personal goals. The needs of others have trumped mine before and surprising tidal waves rocked more than one vessel upon which I’ve found myself. Survival finds a way.

Most of us, I believe, have experienced rough waters. These past weeks aren’t anything new to me, or you. We make our way to calmer shores, right?

I’m not there at present. If the psycho-sextant I currently hold in my clenched hands is accurate, the angle between the horizon and my guiding star shows a position I didn’t intend to be at the moment. Now, either the star is really messed up in its celestial dark matter blanket, the horizon isn’t level, …, or, I truly am taking on too much water.

Damn the kraken of the seas known as “What the hell am I doing?”

Actually, I know. I knew it weeks ago. The different colors on my digital calendar – where “most” of the commitments I’ve made appeared – created a rainbow off in the distance. It appeared as I started a journey. A trek into weeks of scheduling personal, medical, social, musical, and business slaps into my calendar.

As the bow lifted high into the white crests of every 20-foot wave these past few days, that rainbow of over-commitments washed over my memory. This-and-thats for todays and tomorrows. Necessaries and optionals.

This evening, after I realized tomorrow’s event was almost missed … I stopped. It was time. To. Just. Stop.

This is what eventually kills the kraken. Every. Time.

After catching up with a few friends on messenger and texts, I stopped, sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Nothing was going to interfere with the calm seas I imagined at the moment. It was time to rebuild the ship and get a good grip at the helm. One more thing to do, however – check the status of a Facebook post from a few hours earlier. This proved to be magical.

On my feed was a picture with two words, “Catchin’ Fireflies”. If there was an image I needed to see, it was this:

Courtesy of K. C.

Two joyous lives through a jar held by two smiles. A dear friend and precious daughter who, by all accounts, were brightening up their evening … together. No over-commitments, no busy-ness, no calendar rainbow. Just. Life. Now.

A relation-ship as intended.

I sat for a few more minutes than planned – looking into the calm waters reflecting back images of all the kind, considerate, loving, sincere, genuine, and spectacular close friends who survive the journey with me. The smiles and laughter, especially.

It isn’t all fun, to be sure. You know this. I know it, too. With that said, how difficult would the voyage be without shipmates who care … who are willing to take a plank, or two, on our behalf?

At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know tomorrow was coming as it appears to be. I’ll be unexpectedly busy. This coming week will be challenging on the home front as well.

I’m so glad I stopped today. The kraken is dormant for now.

Rest easy, kraken. I am sure we will battle again. For now, I turn the wheel over to a few small lightening bugs.

In their light, I find the smiles and laughter of my friends who, together with me, guide all our ships forward one day at a time on, hopefully, calm seas.

Be a Peanut

“Peanut”.

With only a little imagination, you could see why this little mini lop was named so. She was off to my right as I entered the elementary school where an early morning sun provided a nice shadow. The school’s macadam play area displayed a shadow pointing directly to the grassy area where Peanut and two of her friends playfully enjoyed caged joviality. Two black and white nibbling companions … and her.

I am always attracted to the “odd one out”. No surprise Peanut caught my attention. Yes, her friends were adorable. Sure, the fuzziness of balled up contrasting cuteness on display a few feet away was charming. They were slightly more jumpety than Peanut. Shall I say, “out of their shell” full selves a bit more? With that, the odd-one-out attracted my morning attention.

This differently hued hare, with a calmer character, and I spent a few minutes together. It was nice.

I expected nothing out of the normal that morning. Odd, however, because my weekly life to that point was anything but. A reliable Honda finally gave up the auto ghost two days prior which exhausted my patience for a few hours. A tow truck, mechanic, and the ultimate bad news … all led me to a car dealership to pick out the best option for, ultimately, sucking money out of my bank account once again.

Peanuts to most, I guess, but not to me – one who hasn’t had a car payment for some time.

By the time Peanut appeared before my phone, a new car had not yet been purchased – although to be in the works later that day. Holy week, with all its keyboard responsibilities was piled up on my mind on top of all other daily to-do’s. A first-event of the hot dawg mobile season had to be prepared by Saturday which flipped over almost too quickly for my own good.

Just too much it seemed.

… Until Peanut cracked my shell of stress and frustration.

Ah, to be a mini lop with the power to jump the low battery of a worn, rundown man this Easter season. What power you yield just by being what you are.

If there is a message this Easter, it is this: be your fuzzy little self. Be approachable – even in the shadows of life.

Someone may need five minutes with you. Ya never know.

Giving Chapter 29

Tuesday nights during lent, I have been going to a book study. One of my reasons for being there, among my busy life-goings-on, is to accompany dad. Driving a few miles over one small hill, my dad and I arrive minutes later after leaving the house.

The study is based on the book, “We Make the Road by Walking”, by Brian McLaren. Now, we drive. Brian would prefer we walk, I guess. His book is a weekly dig-into new ways forward based on Christian ideology. Change us, change the world – in a broad sense. Granted, a Christian life to change the world is far different than a two minute jaunt over a small bump in a tiny town. Our hill is tiny. The hill to change the world? Immense.

Chapter 29 is the third week. We’ve been to two thus far. In 48 hours, dad and I will head back for a group discussion and insight into this chapter.

There will be twenty+ opinions about what the author intended. In all, four to eight spoken, and close to twelve remaining silent souls will sit in traditional church metal chairs. Three arcs of varied thinking sit-systems is what has drawn me into this array of lenten devotional insight. I am interested in conclusions drawn – with individual pencils – on the idea-canvas that is this book:

Chapter 29 is titled, ” Your Secret Life”. When I first turned over to page 136, Groucho Marx and a silly duck dropped into my brain … You bet your LIFE it did! My second thought was, “This could get a bit spicy … ” Then again, remembering THAT secret life most likely isn’t to what the author is referring, so I didn’t need to revisit those particular evenings in my past.

“We all wish the world would change.” Agreed … and so begins Chapter 29. I stopped there twice. Both times I read this 4-page reflection, those seven words, linked with personal challenges, the tail-end of a pandemic, and a Russian-Ukrainian disaster, created an emotional, locked chain on reason and logic. The world makes no sense. None.

How does Brian address this concern? Using biblical principles, withdrawing inward to become the change we want to see in the world.

I would argue the tenants of self-reflection and inward examination aren’t solely handed over to the biblically minded among us. Orienting toward a higher power, aligning hopes with a higher energy, vocalizing needs and concerns to the universe, and asking for guidance away from that which can harm is standard practice for many belief systems apart from Christianity. The maypole around which all these religions dance – and one I wholeheartily agree brings about the most colorful of change in the world – is silence and secrecy.

This is where Brian and I begin to walk the road together. As he writes, “… if we make our lives a show staged for others to avoid their criticism or gain their praise, we won’t experience the reward of true aliveness. It’s only in secret … that we begin the journey to aliveness.”

He advocates giving, meditating, and fasting in secret to pull away from the pressures of the world … thus becoming that “change” we want to see.

In my talk-abouts with the few surrounding my hot tea moments, I rarely discuss larger conflicts beyond my control. It’s difficult to balance a restaurant table with untold numbers of sugar packets – let alone try to figure out how I can change the mess at the eastern border of Ukraine right now. Should I continue to mask, or decide to argue about Hunter Biden’s laptop?

All of this, I am understanding, is best handled quietly. Brian, kinda, has the right idea; however, the transformation may not change the world as much as it changes the individual.

In the end, isn’t this what these book studies in church buildings are all about, anyway? Perhaps most attend wondering, “Why am I here? What is there to gain? What’s in it for me to learn?”

My take-away, first of all, is a paid-for supper as compensation for taking dad in the first place 😉😁 …. Second, apart from the Christianity angle, I do find value in the humanity of the lessons. My extended family members who sit in those three arcs have opinions I value and humor I appreciate. In turn, my contribution is to remain “partially” silent and enjoy the time together.

The recognized lenten season should change those who are open to it. Whether this alters the will of a higher power is up for debate. The world is a tough place. I do believe if we take time, in silence, to think over things in private and give our time and resources under the radar, the “larger than life” problems – both known and unknown – will work out, … or not.

At the end, Brian says, “… a seed will take root”. Ok. I’ll take a more pragmatic approach. You’ll feel better through giving. This may not directly change the direction of a bad thing in the world, but that small act of secret, outward generosity will simply be a nice, warm, vibe.

Groucho and I will bet on it.

A Love Story for the Ages

“Round Midnight” by Jerry Blank

I love this. The northwest trombone caught my eye.

Usually, pianist blood coursing through my veins directs my eyes toward keys in arts … in life. Ten years of youth in this case, however, slid a trombone into prominence. My band experiences from 4th grade through college – then playing off and on since – haven’t exited my psyche.

As it should be.

When Jerry Blank’s colorful print splashed across my Facebook page, music entered once again. In the midst of hassled hurries…, rhythm, melody, and harmony – the trilogy of musical marvels – visited my soul.

Art inspires music. Nobody would argue music stimulates brushes upon canvases, either. This love story between the two requires no handsome princes or beautiful damsels. Neither demands outrageous expectations from the other. They live and love co-equally for us.

Depending upon the colors and sounds in our life’s experiences, art and music speak to us. They allow us entrance in to a world of imagination and pleasure. The artists who create fascinations through notes and hues give us golden gateways through which we find new ways forward … different paths, … distinct, unconnected patterns to our old woven tapestries.

Yes, I do love this print. Especially today.

Love of what can be, and acceptance of the love story before us on this Valentine’s Day IS this day

Music adores art. Art cherishes music. It is a love continuing from centuries ago. We have the great fortune to soak up a few decades of rose pedals placed gently under our feet from their nuptials generations past. In this life, every symphony, museum, child’s drawing, or simple sonatina is a marriage of our imagination and art. Whether it be a single stroke of a brush or the caress of a middle-C, … it is the engagement of our mind with an idea, a wonderment, a dream, a new beginning.

A love story, perhaps.

Whatever today means to you, embrace it through art and music if you are able. There is an enchanting, surreal experience waiting for you through forms and fugues, or perhaps statues and songs.

For me, a love story for the ages. For you, a love of your dreams and those who make your world magical. Look for their bright colors and tuneful smiles. Fall back in love with yourself …. your earthly, rhythmic pulse and rainbow of possibilities.

Find your trombone among the many. Look in all directions. Let arts, in general, be the instrument of your love this February 14th. “Round Midnight” it will be a new day, but love will continue forward just like it has for centuries.

… through the heart chambers of music and art, of course.

Hat’s Off

I am me, and I wear many hats. So writes my elegant friend on a day when I really needed to read those eight words.

She is one who ended a personal message to all her friends with the words, “All I wanted to say was, if you’re struggling with ANY aspect of yourself, your life, the hats you wear, please don’t give up”. I love this sentence. Honestly, I wish words at my disposal could imprint a deeper impression on my “now”. They can’t.

I have too many hats that don’t fit … and overcoming THIS challenge is her victory. She is the gold medal winner of the race I am just now starting to run.

She writes: “I wear many hats: mother, teacher, partner, coach, friend, sister, daughter, woman, creator, artist, student …” By her passionate admission, each hat is worn well some days, other times? Not so.

Like a Dr. Seuss book, as I would characterize, one hat, two hats, this hat, that … Hats may have looked good, but inside? Not ‘dat. Her hats felt, well, uncomfortable. The roles – the toppers personified – were cute to the adoring public, however, quite tight and constraining … possibly itchy to the soul. Perhaps, an itch that couldn’t be scratched until time and motivation were aligned with her tipping point of self-discovery.

This finally happened. She tossed her old, worn, uncomfortable hats over onto a rack and prepared new labels and beautiful bows for them.

In her words, as only she could write (after all, it is her victory life lap to pace herself after stepping off the podium): “So here I am, roughly 15 months into the deepest, rawest, most painful and most rewarding self-discovery telling anyone who cares to stop & read this amidst their scrolling time… I’ve ditched the hat”.

To clarify, she refuses (now) to place hats on her head labeled, “You were so selfish”, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, or, “Look what you’ve done to everyone else”. Instead – if I may take some liberties here – those hats are being replaced with, “I am ____” labeled toppers followed by “myself”, “original”, and “damn happy”. These aren’t selfish ambitions. They are, as she says, bringing you joy, igniting your fire, and driving you forward.

I’ve known her – and three first name variations – for some time. Your knowing her name isn’t necessary, but knowing this little slice of her life’s pie, I believe, is.

Why? Because any friend of mine, who can render me speechless simply by posting seven short paragraphs on Facebook, deserves to be recognized.

I’ve had challenging times lately. This isn’t the space for details. Life is complicated. Hats are placed on our heads – by us or others – to demand our attention. They want us to fill roles we may not want to act out, but we do anyway out of a sense of obligation. These ill-fitted hats restrict our true self, and yet we keep them on week after week – month over month … Possibly years at a time.

When the noggin’ gets too burdened with numerous family fedoras, and heads sag because beanies piles upon the brain, it’s time for these hats to, in her words, (massive literary license here), “fly off into some Wizard of Oz adventure” of their own.

No more flying monkey hats for me. I’m thinking new brain toppers.

With her permission, I am honored to say the hats I wear at this moment are being re-evaluated.

It’s just as simple as that.

And as she ended, so shall I. As well, I extend the same to all of you, my friends and readers:

“I’m here if you need an ear. You are loved💗”

My hat’s off to you, L.T.

Drawn to a Gift

Current

What I wrote in haste on Facebook – a little over a week ago – didn’t do justice to his talent. There were twenty words, followed by a three word tag line: “Do your gift”. The artwork I received from Trent sits on a shelf nine feet behind where I now sit quietly typing away on my desktop. My virtual canvas is eerily opposite, in all aspects, from this comically amusing predator – otherwise known as a “Verbose Vulture”. I am currently in a dreary, rainy outside December’s day basement office, not in my car during a sunny day as I was nine days ago enjoying this beautiful sketch from a delightful soul.

It was a very gratifying mail moment at the post office when I saw my order arrived. Only a few weeks earlier, I watched Trent turn lines and curves into magical, mythical, black and white, two-dimensional walk-abouts on paper. These creatures with normal heads and normal bodies, but disconnected connections, lived once in the imaginations of Trent’s fans. Into little strips of paper these requests were made: rabbit head on a squirrel’s body, perhaps an elephant holding a balloon while standing on a mouse? Sometimes, simple, wonderful trampoline animals that started his bounce toward international fame. I would estimate thousands of requested combinations filtered through Trent’s talented brain, into a sharpie, then onto a blank, small paper canvas by the time I visited his site.

On the website, I found an amazing world of creativity. His expansive works aren’t contained to just a bucket of one-minute sketch requests from fans. I enjoyed perusing over his “Motley Menagerie” and “View of the Zoo” coloring books that not only would fill in the lines of some cool animals, but also could color your world with some fun and enjoyment as well.

There was apparel for sale on-line confirming a life of “Different not Less”, “No Limits”, and “Drawn to be Different” as a way to say, “You know what? I’m me … and that’s ok”. Not such a bad thing to be reminded that we are all remarkably unique. One-of-a kind. Special.

https://drawingsbytrent.com/ as he is formally known. I would like to call him, instead, a friend with the sharpies. He is someone who is drawn to a gift.

This is what I see when glancing back at that vulture over my shoulder. He sits beside a few sketches I’ve had in the family for a while. Some looking back at me I’ve dabbled in myself – and others from a very talented nephew who has significantly outdrawn his uncle. Silently off to my left at the moment, however, is my piano. I challenge my nephew to a duel – anytime. His pens and pencils against my Chopin and we’ll see who wins.

It would be a cackle to the finish because both he and I would understand what Trent recognizes. If you are doing your gift – regardless who is around – that gift returns a joy multi-fold back to you. The bonus is an aura given off to everyone else who may happen to be around … be it right by your side, or through cables, airwaves, or wires miles away. I saw this in Trent’s smile that very first time his pen melted into the paper.

I know that feeling. I know that feeling when one finger softens into a key to start a Mozart Fantasia or Chopin Nocturne. I know the joy of producing something out of nothing. Hearing, or seeing an idea come to life – from nothing, something – is, well, fantastic.

I read Trent’s story. It is unique and different from mine … and yours, perhaps. Of course, it is. He is autistic. If you have a chance, click on the above link. I love the words they wrote: ” … (We) want to encourage families to help their children achieve their full potential, educate communities on the important role individuals of all skill and ability levels play, and inspire everyone to discover and use their own talents.”

Honestly, all I needed to do is cut and paste that quote. Thirty-seven words of theirs almost said everything I wanted to say here. Almost.

That quote is missing what pegged my heart from the very beginning.

I sat here and asked myself, what could be the exact expression to park my feelings in the perfect space where Trent’s art first appeared prior to that sunny day? What words best describe his gift that drew me in to his world before I ever opened the package?

Revisiting the site, I found their words … their phrase: “THE EMOTION IN HIS ART IS UNMISTAKABLE.”

There it was … all in CAPS. Perfect.

It was Trent’s happiness and joy in doing his gift. Pulling me in was just the simple act of a twenty-four year old man with autism drawing fun-loving fantasticals with a sharpie marker, requested slivers of paper, small paper canvases, a desk, and abounding cheerfulness. No more complicated than that.

Looking closer at the picture above, I see the eyes of my friendly vulture looking directly at me. He’s smiling. He sees in me what I need to re-acknowledge in myself. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder to recognize some gifts in my life and enjoy the experience of them in my life.

This is solely an extension – a halo effect, if you will – from Trent. I extend the same to you. Live your gift. Do your gift. Your emotion in what you do will be unmistakable and, perhaps, twenty words will be enough to describe your fantastic journey and influence on someone else’s life.

For me, twenty wasn’t for Trent. I had to do more. His story was too important not to share. We need reminders. We need “Verbose Vultures” looking over our shoulders – even during dreary December days.

Greta & The Dark Trees

Photo courtesy of a friend who lives in N.Y.C.

I met her once. A stranger to start, a friend at the end. It was during Greta’s final get-together – that wonderful Sunday afternoon surprise when so many stopped by to see tears and smiles find their way over grateful cheeks.

She came to see a friend. A musically connected friend to whom so many memories of a dad were embedded into a jazz-filled room from their past. Her dad and Greta bent rhythms and sounds into sculptures of lasting remember-whens.

Not just music. Included in these times was a picture. To identify it as a “picture” does no justice to the artwork. To my understanding, an original piece hung in the studio where Greta and a special dad recorded. This was a large, Greta original. As unique as she was:

This was an enlarged engraving she did of an old family photograph. Not surprising to me, it was exceptionally well done … in as much as my pianistic eyes could determine.

My new friend rediscovered this gem after days of dutiful praying and diligent perseverence. She wasn’t going to be denied. Knowing Greta’s deeply held respect for her family, she found it behind, below, and beside other of life’s set-asides. With all the possibilities where this art could have been set aside, she held the hands of memories that day as a small gate opened upon her arrival.

And Greta’s life – with all it’s problems and challenges at that moment – was embraced by those memories as well.

A New York friend. A connection to Greta. Someone I met once. A stranger to start, a friend at the end.

She left an hour or so after arriving and I’ve kept in touch since then, infrequently. In the meantime, Greta passed on to etch her way into our sad, but grateful hearts. All of us are so grateful to have loved someone so special. We lost someone dear to us. For me, I have an acquaintance-connection otherwise not possible if not for Greta.

When I saw her post pictures of Central Park recently, my mind immediately swung back to that small metal gate. An entrance to a Sunday afternoon when some – who were strangers to me – became friends … thanks, in no small way, to Greta’s heart full of sunshine through the dark trees in her life.

That is this picture. A central park-place for all of us to remember what life can be. In the middle of really stupid stuff – even terminal cancer – there can be a little sunshine. In my case, it’s been friends.

Your little sunshine doesn’t have to be friends, of course. Hopefully, dark trees in your way aren’t tumors from rare, terminal appendiceal cancer. Wherever you are sitting … whatever green, lush lawn finds your life struggles reclining upon, look for that little peek of sunshine glancing across the blades. It’s very likely a connection of some kind will be there for you.

If nothing else, a memory.

I’m glad I met her once. Her name? Silent here because she represents all those who have stepped forward from behind the dark trees of a brave, talented, artistic, beautiful life – into the central park-place where strangers are now friends…

…because Greta was truly an original. A one of a kind. Someone I am so glad I met once as well.

… And missed by all who knew her.

Hand Held Reflection

We have to remember that life comes around only once. So many songs, poems, and books have been written about the progression of minutes and hours we experience, right? Some good, some difficult.

.. “… I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills,’Til the landslide brought me down”, as time moves forward according to Fleetwood Mac.

One month ago, an earthly relationship ended. The end of a beautiful time together came when death visited someone I loved. She faced rare, terminal cancer with confidence. Her ability to look at dying with open eyes amazed me. When her eyes closed that final time, the end arrived. There would be no more side-by-side hand holding. Singing, laughing, and words between two souls drew to a close.

At once, the veil of death draped over that picture I took of our hands a mere four weeks prior.

We sat alone on the back patio during a mid-afternoon break from regularly scheduled medicine drops and difficult eating push throughs. Those sit beside, smile times were precious few moments for us. She was weak, but managed to give me smiles … and I gladly accepted the gift of those happy, accepting grins so rare in the midst of her struggling facial frame.

Our short time together was picture perfect – save the weathered rips and dimples in each of our personalities. She had strong opinions and a dedication to all the colors and hues in her life. I felt a deep connection to every stroke of our brushed experiences together – especially the music we had a chance to create. What we did, when we did – and, if not alone, who we were with at the time – created a special magic for us. A connection. Emotional hand-held moments we cherished.

I saw my reflection in her. Greta’s death brought me down. A landslide of emotions came over me as that picture above appeared among many of us in my gallery. Faces and hands of the Doug and Greta story are plentiful inside this little electronic box full of memories.

Yet, there is an upside.

In many ways, our short story will have a longer life than what we had in time. Ten months was too short. We lived an “every day was special – no sad days” togetherness because time here on this earth wasn’t guaranteed. Calendar pages will never make the flip to 2022 with her fingers assisting. A significant birthday will not be celebrated. Her favorite holiday, Halloween, will mask silently in her memory. Fate released her hand.

As destiny closed its chapter for Greta, it left open possibilities for all of us to consider what time has for us. Specifically, what are we holding on to that has value, purpose, and meaning beyond our circumstances today?

Nothing we are holding onto today is ever guaranteed. The gift from Greta is my knowing this fact – and it is a fact. I often say I am a changed man because of my closeness to her. This is why. Realizing, finally, life is better holding on to what is true rather than wasting time – spinning emotional wheels in the mud. Since there are no guarantees anyway, why not hold hands with something, or someone, adding sweetness to our breaths?

The loss in her death is real, of course. The music. The laughing. Her depth of artistic talent to our community. All of it I was drawn to initially … and the picture finally completed ten months later – I will cherish forever.

We had a special time together. Holding hands was such a small part of a larger experience, however, we knew life together – from the start – was limited. How limited? Well, let’s just say I think she was a bit surprised by how fast the cancer progressed.

From my perspective, forever would have been too short.

Even during some frustrating moments, she managed a few smiles. Those will continue with me as I remember her longer lesson of perseverance and dedication to life. In the course of “no bad days”, we held each other, supported our individual and collective causes, and tested the waters of fate.

A month removed, yet so close it seems only moments ago. Time has a funny way of skewing itself when loss is handed over.

I’m so glad, for me, Greta’s energy is holding my hand now because this would be so difficult to handle alone.

Pictures in galleries are priceless. Find yours and let time be suspended for a moment. Future moments aren’t guaranteed, so make sure what you’re holding onto is what brings you joy.

I had it once in person. Something to be cherished and valued … When it happens, it’s beautiful.

Golly, Dolly

What a face! Dolly the Shepherd lookin’ at me with the same expression most folks find available when seeing me scamper about in my crazy shoes. She was pretty sure my zany ways – jamming buns, frozen raw meat, and coolers into a van across the street from her – matched what ideas she had about me in her astute, shepherd brain. The crooked smile. Those arched eye brows. I’ve seen it all before … many times from folks’ faces, too.

Not to say it’s a bad thing. I like to think, “wonderment”, or perhaps, “fascination”, just to keep my wits intact. Dolly, on the other paw, may have thought, “What the hell is he doing?… I’m across the street, looking all cute and adorable, yet, he’s unsuccessfully attempting to maniacally run around – doing that van-jam thing … Not really paying attention to me.”

True ‘dat. I was busy. Life in the prep-lane for a 530 student, out-of-town, (what turned out to be a literal stuck-in-the-mud) event took a lot of mental energy out of already stagnant, slow steps. Focus had to be forward, not so much sideways toward that leashed bundle of spunk across a happy path of asphalt.

All she had to do was sit there and make sense of it all. After looking at the picture hastily snapped, I started to understand why her particular expression easily appeared. Her life is simple: sit there and look delightful. My life is complicatingly unlovely at times. Our roads intersected at that moment.

“He’s not over here petting me! I am the giver of joyful moments … That silly seller of delicious delicacies is rushing around too much and needs to get over here – like now – and rub down some fur, itch a little ear fuzz, skritch some nozzle neck whiskers, and talk some lovin’ to me! .”

She’s not wrong. After getting home at 11:35 p.m. from a mud-soaked, less-then stellar event, I should have – hours earlier – drained more captivating canine time out of my reserves than frenetic beef frank foolishness. Golly, Dolly … I didn’t know. You were right.

A few minutes would not have changed a thing.

Isn’t this a lesson for all of us? “Too busy doing the big to appreciate the small.”

My “big” was stuffing a van full of product – something I can do backwards, blindfolded, and with a medium-size monkey tied to my back, playing Czardas on the harmonica. The “small” could have been taking a few moments to walk across the street and pet a kind, wonderfully propped up, goofy smiling, german shepherd …

Moments, right?

These may not be four paws in your life. For pause, look carefully. They may not be deliciously grinning dogs that cause you to stop what you’re doing and appreciate a “small”. Your “bigs” are really consuming. Mine are. I’m almost always ridiculously ahead of myself. Takes work to see these smalls AND act upon them.

Find some smalls. Appreciate them. The bigs will always be around for you to fret over, with, and among.

If peoplefolk I see continue to fuzzy eyeball me, chances are excellent that won’t be a small moment for me to scratch under their chin. Although that confused look is common, it is guaranteed to only work when dispatched from dogs.

Whatever you decide to do is your business for sure. I like dogs, words, music, and thingies crossing my path making life just a little bit more ease-able.

Dolly would be open to a pet, or two, if you’re free sometime. I doubt you’d get the look I got; however, you may be as crazy as I. In that case, she’ll be cuter than ever. Hope you can handle the overload of delightfulness.

Candle Wax in the Moonlight

Photo Courtesy of Pamela and Travis Etters

The Bellagio fountains this isn’t. Sure reminds me of the time I stood in front of those magnificent, rhythmic cascades, however. Difference being, I was a lot younger then and peered over a spray of hallucinating, musical vapors in person … unlike the experience of seeing this picture appear in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

Penn State, Altoona campus. A quiet reflection pond at moonlight time caught in perfect frame by my friend, Travis. No comparison to Bellagio’s 15 or 30 minute interval experience, depending upon when you would happen to scoot by their Las Vegas hook and play casino. High energy, impersonal lights and spray vs. this calm dark, contrasting reach into each of our lives. Inviting, isn’t it?

I don’t visit PSU often. That campus is so beautiful – with groves of trees allowing duck families good-time afternoons and students shady respites from their young, forward-looking studies. Snippets of sunshine I’ve seen on occasion while walking through during a food event, heading to the chapel to keyboard a nuptial hand-in-hand, or attending a function inside the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts.

None of those wound me around the reflecting pond, let alone at night. What moon forces kept me away from such masterfully crafted, deep orange hues ricocheting off a glistening pond into my eyes? Oh, yeah. Me. I was too busy doing something else, … not probably. For sure.

That’s the way life is. We can’t see all the beautiful stuff that’s out there when it happens. Some get missed. Thankfully, there are folks, like Travis, who recognize subtle shimering upon still waters. He saw the light of the moon across the sky, and tapped into your individual imagination … whatever that is for you.

For me, I am a huge fan of black contrasting blue in photographs. The deep monarch orange slightly arching across finely separates the two. Blue is the future and black is now. I see lines of improvement asking me to look forward, through problems and challenges, to the end lights shining as flames tipping wax off candles. Tapered fire to the moon. A blue future burning off any clouds of doubt …

… from a picture of a reflecting pond. Any imaginations are acceptable. Yours, mine, theirs.

This captured image is, to you, whatever you need it to be. Unlimited. It has been left up to you when tapped on a phone … and posted on Facebook. The moon will stay tucked away in the sky. Campus lights flicker every night as the sun goes to sleep. Millions of years don’t change cellestial habits or movements set in place.

I was moved, however. Yeah, this guy – who really hasn’t taken a stroll down through the Penn State, Altoona campus lately – was taken aback by the poetic, artistic photograph my fine friend took the other night.

In a word, stunning. I tip a candle to Travis’ reflecting eye for beauty. May we see in ourselves a future so much more than what 15 minutes of cascading, bedazzling pizzazz would do for us in front of the Bellagio.