Sunday, December 6, 2009

I am going to be a grandfather.

I found out this past week that my daughter, Kasie, is pregnant and due sometime next July. This will be my first grandchild. I think I'm supposed to be either wildly happy or wildly sad or very shook up or have at least some significant emotional reaction. Don't get me wrong, I'm going to love this baby very much, but I am not going through any of the emotional rollercoaster I expected.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I do not think that Dylan Thomas was a very happy man. I fully intend to go as gently as possible.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Planning a Minimalist Christmas

I think one of the greatest benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle is that it helps you live a life with more meaning. When you have less stuff to worry about, you can spend more energy on what is more important. To me, a minimalist Christmas is not just about less stuff, it is about using your energy to focus on yourself and your relationships, the people in your life that are important to you. If you are spiritual, it about having time to focus on that.

My plans for this Christmas are to not buy any significant presents. My daughter Kasie will get a few little things in her stocking (like a lump of coal), but no big presents. Instead, I will give presents that give more of myself. Cooking special meals and treats that I know people like, taking time for conversation and listening deeply, spending time doing something they enjoy. Kasie likes to go places with me, so I will plan a little trip with her, perhaps a couple of days in Sedona and some hiking in the winter snow. I want to go for a walk with a few special friends, share a meal or even just tea together, and have a meaningful conversation where I listen more than talk.

I am sure my minimalist Christmas will also be the most meaningful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple and Minimal

I am a simplifying and minimizing nut case. Truly I am. As I sit here writing this and look around at my possessions, I see both very few and still too many. I feel driven to take minimizing to the extreme. One goal I have is to live with no more possessions than I can fit into my van. Ideally, the van would be my entire home. But that still leaves plenty of room for lots of stuff I don't need, so I want even less. I picture one bin for clothes, another for personal items (including toiletries and electronics), another for kitchen stuff, and another for food, four bins total. One crate for books. My bed, pillows, and sleeping bag. My guitar. In the back would be some space for my spare gas can, jump starter, and tools. My backpack, daypack and a foldable camp chair. A water jug. I think that is about it. Ideally, I would limit my total list of possessions to 100 things.

I also let my thoughts wander to living entirely out of one backpack, to live as if I were always backpacking, even at home. My only possession that does not lend itself to this ideal is my guitar. I could make an exception.

Why do I do this? Because it feels good. I feel relaxed and open when my life is uncluttered. The less I have, the better I feel. I discovered a long time ago that I am an organizer. I have trouble relaxing if my living space is not organized. I need the dishes washed and everything put in it's place to feel completely relaxed. I like my clothes folded or hung up and organized. T-shirts together, button-up shirts together, socks together, and so on.

One day I realized that the less stuff I had, the easier it was to organize. That started me down the road of minimizing my possessions. I also realized it was more than just that, more than just easier to organize. There was something else going on that contributed to my ease of mind. I'm still not completely sure what that something else is, but it has to do with psychic energy and space. I feel lighter when I have less.

As we head into the holiday season I think about what a non-minimalist time of year this is, even non-spiritual, for far too many people. Winter is a time of rest and renewal, for our spirit as much as our body. This is the time of year to slow down and enjoy our relationships more than our work. This year I am going to give less stuff and more of myself. I am going to give presence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nonviolence and Peace

I used to be the sort of person who was just not cut out for activism. I am still that sort of person. I am, however, willing to stand up or speak out against social injustice, especially if it affects me or my loved ones personally. There is so much injustice in our world that I often feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. And then I remember that the source of peace is within each one of us.

I attended a two-day workshop on Kingian Nonviolence this past weekend. It was interesting and it was useful, but it is not something I am going to pursue further at this point. Not because I do not believe in it, but because I want to focus on the source of peace within me. I feel that Kingian Nonviolence is geared toward groups involved in nonviolent resistance, towards a form of activism. I feel that it focuses on the outer with little more than a passing nod to the inner. But the outer expressions of peace need that foundation of inner peace to be truly lasting and effective.

I think about nonviolence in my personal life and have for many years. Unfortunately, many years does not translate into effective practice. I have observed that all of my favorite television shows are very violent. Heroes, Fringe, Bones, Burn Notice... even House. Much of my own language is violent and my humor is often based on violence. I have seen this for years, yet I still practice violence.

For someone who is as calm and peaceful as I am, this all must sound pretty weird. I feel if I am treating someone in a way they do not want to be treated, that is a form of violence. Conversely, I feel that if I am not treating someone the way they want to be treated, it is also a form of violence. Sometimes these forms of violence may be necessary, such as in raising children. So much of parenting is treating our children in ways they do not want to be treated, but this is how we help them be better people.

If you are talking to me and I am not listening deeply, I consider this a form of violence. Disrespect is a form of violence. Humor that makes fun of somebody, even slightly, is a form of violence. Acting out of fear rather than love is a form of violence.

One of my favorite teachers is Thich Nhat Hanh and my favorite book of his is "Peace Is Every Step". I am currently re-reading his book "Creating True Peace" and I feel that reading and discussing and understanding this book should be part of any nonviolence training. The tagline for this book is "Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World."

Where do I go from here? I plan to walk every step in peace.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Our first really cold spell is coming to southern Arizona tonight. Yesterday we had very strong winds as the cold front moved in. Today's temps will stay in the 50s and tonight is supposed to dip below freezing. Since the studio stays warmer at night (and cooler during the day), I have moved out of the Airstream and set up my bed in the studio to save on heating costs.

I have started the oblate program at the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration monastery in Tucson. I will write more about this over time.

I have also become involved with the humanitarian aide organization, No More Deaths.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Drive up to Mt. Lemmon

My daughter Kasie moved to Tucson a couple of months ago and we don't see each other as much as we used to. Fortunately I recently moved about a half hour closer to Tucson and today we got together just to hang out. We didn't make any detailed plans and I thought a drive up the Catalina Highway (now known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway) to the top of Mount Lemmon would be a nice way to catch up.

Mount Lemmon is one of the tallest peaks in southern Arizona and overshadows the city of Tucson. Unlike Mount Wrightson (the tallest peak in southern Arizona), there is a road that winds to the top of Mount Lemmon. Amazingly, we saw several bicyclists riding up and down the highway. At 27 miles and an elevation gain of 6,000 feet, it is a very steep and long climb!

On this fall day it was in the mid 70s when we left around 10:00 a.m. and we passed through a forest of saguaro cacti. We stopped at the first pullout a couple of miles up and already you can see how tiny Tucson looks in the distance. By the time we made it to the top, Tucson was almost invisible and we could see for at least one hundred miles. As we climbed, we passed into oak and juniper and then into tall ponderosa pines. By the time we reached the top, we were in mostly fir and aspen with a few maples thrown in for good color.

I am usually a decent planner and like the good boy scout I never was, I am usually prepared. For some reason that all deserted me today and not only did I forget my water, I forgot warm clothes. Kasie and I were planning on hiking once we made it to the top, but as you can see, she was no better prepared than I was. I knew we had goofed when we got to the top and saw two guys outside in heavy coats. Ever flexible, we changed plans and settled for a hot pizza in front of the fireplace at one of the few restaurants at the summit.

The pizza was absolutely scrumptious and although we hated to leave the comfort of the fire, there was only one way to top it off - gourmet fudge and fresh coffee from the general store that looked suspiciously like a log cabin. I bought a pound of the heavenly stuff and got four kinds: plain chocolate, chocolate caramel peanut, chocolate pecan, and cappuccino. They were all so good, but the cappuccino was definitely the best. And just to throw out ill planning in our faces, it started to sleet on our way back to the van!

We wound our way back to Tucson and after a quick stop at the grocery store, I dropped Kasie off at her apartment. The best part of the day was when she said over lunch, "Dad, hanging out with you is like being on vacation. It's always so laid back and fun and I hate to see it end. I love you so much."