Wandering the savage garden…

January 2016Monthly Archives


I haven’t been feeling well lately – nothing serious enough to keep me from working, but enough to make a lot of things very challenging. Thought to come back to: “Truth,” posted yesterday, which was not part of a reaction to not feeling well, for the most part…

The reason my slight not-wellness is significant is staring at me in the kitchen sink. I’ve been trying to make sure the dishes are (and stay) done as as part of my reprioritization for the new year (along with some other common household chores that really aren’t difficult to do, but have a tendency to stay undone when there are three young men in the house.)

My oldest decided to make a vegan mac-and-cheese – a choice I don’t quite understand, as I don’t know how cheese can be vegan. It was horrible, he said. (I wouldn’t eat it; my wife makes some of the best mac-and-cheese I’ve ever had, and I’m not going to waste time on imitations and perversions of it.)

Part of his task of making this vegan mac and cheese was to clean up afterwards. Let’s just say he … didn’t. He put water in some of the pots he used, and moved them towards the sink. Then he moved on to other things, perhaps intending to come back and finish the dishes later.

I think it’s since slipped his mind.

So here I am, looking at the dishes, feeling poorly. I’m a little resentful that my son hasn’t followed through in cleaning up after himself – and the other young men in the house haven’t done their part to clean up, either. I want coffee, you see – note how I’m avoiding changing tenses to keep you in the moment with me – and I don’t know if I have any clean coffee cups, because nobody – including me – has been doing the dishes.

It’s been a bit of a rough week.

As it turns out, I’ve done the dishes now (some of them; a load is running in the washer, and I’ll get the rest soon, including the things I need to wash by hand) and I did have a coffee cup.

But it got me thinking about responsibility, and thankfulness. I felt bad about the dishes, really, because it has been a priority for me, and I’ve been letting myself down a little (as you might see from some other things I’ve written lately.)

But it’s a responsibility I chose. To some degree, it’s definitely mine, but I choose to own it and how to own it, and that’s a grace shown to me by the love of God: I can see my responsibilities in the same pattern I see my sin.

I am responsible, and I am forgiven, and my acknowledgement and thankfulness is the motive power for my part. (The Grace of God doesn’t need me.)

I mentioned coming back to what I’d written (“Truth“) — and I will. But I’m still trying to analyze it – maybe I’ll get to it on a different day. It’s funny – it’s around five hundred words, and I think I could write another thousand about it.

I’m starting to see the real value of the five hundred words challenge – I find myself actually exploring themes and challenging myself through it.


There was a young man from south Georgia who thought that raccoons could be tamed.

He thought it was cute how their eyes were ringed, like masks, but had no idea how such masks might be considered to be effective.

So he tried to arm a raccoon with a staff – a two-foot piece of PVC pipe – but he never could figure out which raccoon he was trying to arm, or against what the raccoon would use the weapon.

Perhaps he thought raccoons were predatory, and needed a blunt weapon to be more effective. It’s hard to say.

A girl wanted to become a calligrapher, but she disliked liquid ink; she couldn’t write with pencil, either, so she found herself trying to draw with ball-point pens, with thick ink. It was not a pretty attempt. Her calligraphy mostly seemed to signify that her limitations prevented her aspirations, despite her desperation.

Her friends mostly thought she was a little nuts.

A dog howled at the planes overhead. It had no problem with the moon, or the stars; it found that it could frighten away clouds by shouting at them, especially if there was a strong wind. However, planes were its special enemies, and it would not countenance them; it yapped at them until they left his line of sight, which usually didn’t take very long. However, planes were stupid; they kept coming back, over and over again.

His owner mostly regretted buying a home that wasn’t too far from an airport.

Blue always wanted to be yellow; yellow thought white was a little proud of itself, so it would try to stain anything of white, perhaps by harmonizing poorly. It just wasn’t fair, yellow thought ,and it never once considered how blue might have felt, staring at yellow from afar, silently watching and waiting.

Yellow was a little bit afraid of red; sure, it was close by, but red always seemed so… passive compared to what it could be. Yellow was pretty sure red was going to snap some day, and the yellow would leak and fade. Then what would be left? Green?

How tragic.

The grass didn’t care about any of this. The grass only grew when the sun was overhead, when the days were warm, and slept when the sun went away and the cold came. The grass was content, and didn’t know that it was the color that earned yellow’s silent contempt, or that it might have served the calligrapher better than her poor writing utensils, or that the boy had no idea what raccoons actually were, or that he loved the raccoons despite his ignorance. The grass couldn’t even hear the dog, or the planes that terrified it so.

The grass just grew, and died, and grew, and died.

The grass was happier than the rest of them.

None of them knew what it all meant.

But someone did, and does.

BTW, this might have been the least edited, most accurate picture of “the process” for me that I’ve ever managed to create.

Sometimes persistence is measured by your belief

As I’ve already written, I’m in a rut right now (originally wrote “trough,” and man does that sound pretentious). I’m struggling to do a lot of the things I’ve made a commitment to myself to do, including my daily writing.

I’m having to force myself to keep going, to cross over this valley I’m in.

The day before yesterday, for example, I didn’t shave; one of my commitments to myself was to shave every day. (I hate beards; I just also hate shaving.) That was the first day of the year on which I’d not shaved; even when I was on a business trip, I made sure to lug along my razor. But hey, let me just pick a regular old day of the week – no special circumstances, nothing really going on that’s unusual – and lapse then.

Yesterday, I got back on the wagon, so to speak; I’m clean-shaven again. Hopefully it was a one-day lapse and nothing more.

But then I was thinking about it: Why? Why is it a big deal to me? Why is something so trivial seeming to loom so large?

What if I have another day like that, like yesterday, where I struggle so much to write? Do I just shrug my shoulders and … not do it?

To me, I think it comes down to persistence and the reason for it.

I don’t think shaving is that big of a deal, really. It’s just a personal thing; it’s not even especially a hygiene thing. (I just dislike being scruffy.) Lapsing with shaving causes a focus on my ability to commit, not my willingness to shave my face. That’s what upset me about it (if “upset” is the right word) – it’s the failure of commitment, not the act itself. I don’t believe in the cult of the clean face.

Writing is a little different. With writing, I’m trying to form a habit and I’m trying to fulfill a commitment. I believe in what I’m trying to do here. A failure to write is, actually, a bigger failure than a failure to scrape off my nascent beard.

That’s not to say that the overall impact is necessarily greater – in the end, if I don’t write on a given day, all I’ve done is taken a day off. I’d be disappointed (just as I am with my shaving) but the world wouldn’t end.

But because I believe in the result I’m trying to create by writing, the shadow is larger.

Is that contradictory? “It matters, but it doesn’t really matter, even though it matters,” is what I feel like I’ve said. And I actually think it matters… even though it doesn’t really matter… but it kinda does matter, even so.

This is why, even though I’m trying to avoid editing myself, I have to edit myself; if I don’t, what I write tends to be a mess of contradictory gibberish that only I could read and understand and agree with. Be happy I’m not transcribing my actual word associations (yet)!

Sometimes you have to just keep going

Writing today has been really difficult. I have a lot of new priorities for the year, because it’s important to me to be more effective in how I live my life, but this week has been just absolutely a massive challenge – I almost wrote “terrible” – for those priorities.

Sometimes it’s the circumstances; we have a problem with electrical load somewhere in our house, so one of our fuses keeps breaking. If it were just the fuse, it’d be no big deal; I can replace a fuse, I think. But to find a load problem is a different beast altogether, and that’s a time consuming and expensive process to fix.

I’ve also not been feeling very well; I’m congested and tired.

As a result, most of the things I’ve been doing regularly have been either a mighty struggle or a loss altogether.

The thing is: it’s my load to bear. I chose the struggle. I chose to try to be more effective and dedicated to the things I wanted to prioritize, so it’s mine to follow through.

At this point, I’m reminded of Nehemiah – building the wall around Jerusalem, with people around him trying to malign his character and disrupt his work. He kept on going, and going, like the Energizer bunny – what a terrible analogy, I’m sorry, Nehemiah! – but the result was that the wall was built. He actually finished.

The analogy breaks down a little, because for me, it’s not necessarily that I’m trying to accomplish a single task (although the 500 words challenge might qualify, I suppose). I’m not going to be able to push through for right now, and succeed – for me, success is that in a year, I’m still doing the things that I’m trying to do right now. (Again, the 500 word challenge doesn’t quite qualify – in thirty days, I will be able to say that I managed to write 500 words on – hopefully – all thirty of them, and if I can’t, well, I will be able to quantify my success rate.)

I’m just very tired. Today’s writing is boring to read, boring to write, boring to think about – I’ve been putting it off for quite some time, because I knew it would be difficult. I guess that’s part of why the challenge is structured the way it is: when the chips are down, when the going is tough, can you keep on writing?

And there’s the analogy to Nehemiah again. When people around you keep hammering at you, when things aren’t going your way, who are you? What happens to your effort? Can you dig deeply enough to keep going, to persist, without just typing the same word 500 times so you can take a shortcut to “success?”

I don’t know… but I’m going to try. I’m not willing to give up, especially not at this point in the challenge. I will find a way, if there is a way to be found within me. Five hundred words? You are nothing, words! I will remain myself, and keep on the best I can.