Christmas Day

I’m happy to be leaving the holidays behind me this year. Not that I intend to sound like a Scrooge; we all have our issues with this season, don’t we? I will spare you my rant about waste, consumption, out of control capitalism, etc. This year I am only blaming  myself for the irritation I’ve felt. I ended up working too much over the final week before Christmas, and that will continue on through New Year’s Day. It is a situation I agreed to, and I’ve done my best to “serve the task,” but I’ve come up short of being my best self as the week wound down. I all but let it ruin the holiday for me, and that is no way to be. I’ll do my best to never feel that way again.

Reflecting on this past week as night settles on Christmas Day, I realize that it is how we handle time that seems to make the holidays so stressful. So much to do, so many tasks, so many appointments and extra responsibilities. Today I didn’t have any of that. I got up when I wanted to. I puttered around in my office. I got outside. I wrote a little. It was refreshing. It is too easy to fall into a trap of starting every day in a rush from task to task just to make possible the lifestyles we’ve come to expect, meanwhile sacrificing our ability to enjoy them along the way. Our relationships suffer. We suffer. It’s too much.

In the Daily Stoic some time ago I read that, “In his Meditations — essentially his own private journal — Marcus Aurelius wrote that ‘You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.’” I try and remember that, but failed this past week. Thankfully, with a new week starting tomorrow, and a new year after that, all is not lost. I have ample opportunity to try again.

Besides, Christmas Day turned out to be just fine.

Dividends of the Good Life

This is a quote from Sigurd F. Olson, a legendary outdoorsman/wilderness advocate/nature writer with whom I share a birthday (though his came nearly seventy years before mine):

It is hard to place a price tag on these things, on the sounds and smells and memories of the out-of-doors, on the countless things we have seen and loved. They are the dividends of the good life.

I love this river, this bank. Over the years I have stood here many, many times, in all hours of daylight and dusk, in every season, in just about every kind of weather. Alone or with company, including five different dogs. Today, while Bucky tore around in the bushes I watched a large heron wading the opposite bank, slowly and carefully. Then a bald eagle soared overhead. I was cranky when I arrived, but not when I left. Dividends, indeed.

For a Lifetime

The March 18th, 1998, entry from from Ted Kooser’s Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Poems to Jim Harrison, a day the poet, writing from Nebraska, notes as being gusty and warm:

I saw the season’s first bluebird
this morning, one month ahead
of its scheduled arrival. Lucky I am
to go off to my cancer appointment
having been given a bluebird, and,
for a lifetime, having been given
this world.

I didn’t even know this book existed a month ago and reading it has felt a bit life changing. Beautiful.

The Solitary Bee

This is an excerpt from a piece called “The Natural State” by Emma Marris, appearing in issue 02 of Beside magazine.

“We keep the outdoors wild by remaining humble and aware, by embracing the wildness all around us, by fighting to protect nature both remote and nearby — by feeling awe not only for the grizzly bear but also for the solitary bee.”

At this point in my life, the majority of my encounters with “wild” happen in places far removed from what we traditionally consider to be wilderness. Not that I’ve abandoned the broad, remote places on the map. I long for them. But I also love my views from my front porch, and from my bird feeder. From the banks of the river running through the heart of Missoula, and from trails shared with joggers and dog walkers. They are all equally wondrous to me. They are where I am always, as Jim Harrison writes, “in search of small gods.”


The Biggest Guitar

Malcolm Young, one of the founders of AC/DC, has died. It’s a sad thing. AC/DC has been among my all-time favorite rock n’ roll bands since forever. They are a band that no matter how I’m feeling when I put one of their records on, I’m instantly reminded of why I fell in love with music in the first place. They are pure, distilled, no bullshit rock. Malcolm was key not only in the writing of their classic riffs, but in also being the anchor of the three-legged rhythm foundation that allowed his brother, Angus Young, the freedom to go off on lead guitar.  I only saw them one time: August 19, 1986, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, WA, Who Made Who tour. Queensryche opened (Rage for Order tour). The Tacoma Dome is an awful venue but the show was epic.

Still, my favorite AC/DC story has nothing to do with the band. When two friends and I started our first band, in the summer of 1983, our drummer at the time was an absolute tyrant. He was a jerk, and would berate our guitar player, my friend Mike, relentlessly: his playing sucked, his solos sucked, etc. He didn’t like his guitar either, which, if I recall, was a Peavey T25. “Why did you get that piece of shit?” he’d say. “You should get one of those really big guitars. You know, like the ones AC/DC play.”

What’s funny about this is that the guy didn’t realize that the Young brothers were barely over 5′ tall (Angus is 5’2″, while his brother Malcolm towered over him at 5’3″). So any guitar they played was going to look gigantic on their tiny frames. To this day I often suggest to Jimmy, my friend whom I’ve been playing music with for 16+ years now, that what he really needs is a bigger guitar.

RIP, Malcolm.