Saturday, December 24, 2011


I really like rocks.
They’re one of my favorite things.
They might even be my very favorite thing on earth.
It’s hard to explain why that is, it’s difficult for me to understand even. Something about them having been here for a long time, I think.
You don’t ever find a new rock. I don’t even know if there’s any such thing as a new rock. It seems like there’s new everything else, but rocks are always old.

New things don’t excite me that much anyway, but rocks do.
Rocks were not planned, designed, made, manufactured, or crafted.
They’ve just kind of always been here, in one form or another.
Some of them fell out of the sky, and some of them shot up out of the earth. Some of them even formed themselves right where they lay, out of minerals, stardust, and other such properties; but none of them were ever created by some clever marketer. They were not patented, and they are not advertised on late-night television. I like that about them too.

You look up ‘rock’ in the dictionary and it just says stuff about music and describes swaying back and forth in a chair, and stuff like that.

There are hard rocks, I think everybody knows that. There’s even a Hard Rock CafĂ©. But there are soft rocks as well. I’ll bet not nearly as many people know that. ‘Soft rock’ is kind of a contradiction of terms, but it is not a contradiction to a rock.

I used to bring a rock home whenever I went on a hike, or to a lake or river, to remind me of the beautiful place I’d been. Kind of like how some people buy a snow globe in every city, or country, they visit. Or some other kind of kitsch. But I eventually realized that I could never remember which rock was gathered from which place. And I never thought to date and label the rocks with a sharpie, so I stopped gathering them for that purpose. Besides, writing on a rock tends to invalidate its very character. Oh, I still gather them, but I no longer worry about where they came from.

I collect rocks on, and from around, my property, in the mountains, by the side of roads, and near rugged creeks and rivers. I know some environmentalists would have a fit over that, but the way I look at it is that those rocks were somewhere else before they were where I found them. And they’ll be somewhere else again. I’m a part of the natural cycle, and the natural re-cycle of nature, and nature tends to move things around a bit. I don’t steal from nature, I just relocate bits and pieces of it. You could say I do some landscaping, some design work, if you will.

On my own property I’ve found some giant boulders in the forest and dragged them with truck and chain up to the house because I like to look at them there. Some weigh hundreds, and even thousands of pounds. I like to walk out into my yard and see a two-ton rock that I moved by myself. It gives me great satisfaction, and it adds a pleasurable ambience to the area around the house.

I like to pick up rocks, all sizes of rock, really. I like to move them from here to there. I always have. I like to pick them up off the ground and put them into the truck, and I like to pull them out of the truck and put them back on the ground in a different place. I like the way rocks feel, and I like how they make me feel when I interact with them. I like to hold them, I like to throw them, sit on them, lean up against them, and even roll them down hills. I like to pry rocks loose from the earth. I like to climb rocks, and I like to build a campfire up against a big granite rock wall at night in the wilderness. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t really tell you. It’s just that rocks tend to make everything right with my world.
It’s an ancient presence.

I also like to make things out of rocks. Fire pits, yard borders, sculptures, garden areas. I’ve always wanted to build a rock house by a river, and planned to collect all the rocks from the river as I built it. I probably won’t be doing that now because I’m getting pretty old, but I want to.
I’m sure I’ll always want to.

With the arrival of the Christmas season I often find myself thinking about the Rock of Ages. I even catch myself singing the old song sometimes.

Rock on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Brass Ring

Whenever I have something to say about the younger generations I know that I can immediately be labeled as an old guy who either doesn’t know anything about the younger generations, or who might know something about them but doesn’t really get it.

Well, one of the reasons I embrace the moniker of The Old Coyote is to just get that out of the way right up front. Not only am I old, but I’m also getting older every day. If that disqualifies me from valid observation of life, so be it. I happen to know, however, that I know a little more about life than those coming up behind me, as they will know a little more than those coming up behind them.
But if you really believe that age should disqualify my observation, you must then also disqualify my experience. And in that case you should disqualify your own as well, and not bother reading anything else I have to say.

And here is what I have to say today.
“The brass ring cannot be attained.”

No matter how many times one goes around the carousel of life, no matter how many different animals one may ride, no matter how many reinventions of one’s self, a person cannot, as a life goal, seek the brass ring and hope to find happiness, fulfillment, contentment, honor, dignity, or love.

It is never to be found on the carousel. It is anathema to the very concept. The carousel holds two illusions. The first is that if you grab the brass ring you’ll be happy. And the second is that if you missed the ring on the last pass, you’ll get it the next time around.
The ring is a promise, but it is a promise broken, invalidated if you will, even before it’s given. The wise among us know that intuitively, and the fortunate among us have been taught, and embrace, the truth of its lie.

Life is not a party, as many in today’s world seek for it to be. Life is a serious endeavor, punctuated with degrees of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Those whose primary motivation in life is to party, to have wealth, stuff, recognition, prestige, celebrity, position, or power, will wake up to an empty life, a life bereft of everything that matters. The sad part about it is that they will not realize its full emptiness until later in life. It is the modern day equivalent of ‘keeping up with the Joneses', and it plays itself out today just as it always has.

As many young people find themselves always ‘needing’ the newest ‘this’, the latest ‘that’, the next ‘must have’, they also find themselves needing another drink, another toke, another hook-up, another party to satisfy the emptiness, to be OK with themselves. Every person of substance knows that those things, those endeavors, and those behaviors, don’t satisfy, but rather, just numb the senses, subjugate the pain, and prolong the inevitable.

I do not write these things to judge, or to condemn, young people. I was young once. But I am not here to be their friend either. I am here to show the way. I express what I know because I care deeply about them, as individuals, and as collective generations. I care about their long-term wellbeing, much more so than with their temporal gratification. I want them to wake up down the road and be satisfied that they have made wise, and responsible choices, that their actions, when young, will serve to enhance their overall lives, rather than to inhibit them.

True value in life is in a commitment to what you have, and to what is within reasonable reach of your means, rather than in a compulsive drive to acquire whatever you can get. It is true of relationships with people, as well as lifestyle. Value is in embracing love, and family, finding deeply satisfying work, and an appreciation of the divine, the God around whom all life actually revolves. Honor, respect, dignity, fulfillment, contentment, and, hopefully, even happiness, will follow. Happiness is not guaranteed to anybody, but seeking the brass ring only ensures that it will never be attained.

Do not believe the happiness images that celebrities, rock stars, socialites, and their publicists, attach to their lives. They have the wealth, the mansions, the adulation, beautiful people on their arms, sex at their command, enormous fame and notoriety; and they are, for the most part, pretty lonely, ambiguous, and unhappy people.

The party only lasts until closing time, and then the lights just dim again. They always do. They always will. Unconscious people tend to repeat the same familiar patterns, thinking there is satisfaction to be found. Don’t be unconscious, and don’t be fool enough to just repeat your own futile patterns.
Be smart, and be true to truth.

Our time on earth is short, and much too valuable to live with a shallow and cavalier ambition. Life is the greatest treasure one can be given, and it has already been given in abundance to each of us. It could never have been acquired on our own. It is not a brass ring. It just does not work that way. Take seriously what you do with the gift of your life.

The brass ring is slippery, and all but impossible to hold.
Believe me, it is not even worth the ride.

If you know somebody chasing the brass ring, and you want to help, please forward this to them.

And have a meaningful holiday this year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Walked Into The Past

I walked on the beach this morning, the same beach I walked on when I was a teen-ager. It all felt familiar, like nothing had really changed. And, in fact, nothing had changed.

Now, forty-five years later, the tide still ebbed and flowed. The waves still rolled towards shore and tumbled into whitewater like they always have. Seaweed floated on the surface of the sea, some of it standing vertical, not too far offshore. Pelicans patrolled an emerging sky just outside my reach, or within it had I just had arms a little longer, and dolphins lazed about playfully in the glassy calm ocean like children frolicking on grass.

People looked the same as well; mothers with babies, the surfers, the beachcombers, fishermen, and the beach patrol. The moms and dads, they were there, with two kids, racing the water to deeper sand in a futile attempt to keep their feet from getting wet. Everything was as it had been, and how it will be in the foreseeable future.

I walked the length of the pier, as I used to do, bought a corn dog at the bait and tackle shop, about a quarter mile out to sea, then sat and watched young lovers stealing time from their hurried, and harried, lives, time they finally found to set aside just for themselves.

Clouds drifted by overhead, slowly, reflecting the pace of the people on the pier.
I drifted in and out of reminiscence, present at times, conscious, and at others just barely touching the fringes of life in the now.

I walked into the past this morning. It all felt familiar, like nothing had really changed. And, in fact, nothing had changed, except myself.
And the cost of a corn dog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sometimes I See Pictures

The park was covered with glass, and the children’s playground was dangerous. Tiny feet, bare in the summer warmth of days, hobbled like old men, flesh torn with fresh and numerous wounds, the jugular heel drained of its own purpose. Tender feet bouncing from here to there on sand bleeding from within, clumping like the bitter winds of winter.

And the land mines scattered about, the banned mines still ready to detonate between the toes of those innocents, between the souls of their feet and the soles of their shoes, those children from homes just down the road, who came to play with friends, without concern for the grownups, or the growing machinations and power grabs of ominous men who insinuate themselves into wonderland, the wicked men who separate these kids from their own dreams.

Sharp knives, waiting by the dribbling creek, lying in wait, really, glinting in the noonday sun, with every sinister purpose, camouflaged well behind twisted smiles of feigned propriety, content in their intent to slash the sky, to rip the soul asunder, and from under the feet of the innocent.
The illusion of decency in a world gone mad.

It seems there’s very little for the children to look forward to these days.
Sometimes I just see pictures and have to write them down.