Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 234

"so this is the new year and i don't feel any different. the clanking of crystal. explosions off in the distance" are the first few words from a death cab for cutie song. they opened with it in seattle that one early september concert where the air was fair and the summer was ending.

now today, winter, i walked the downtown of this ski town. people carried skis over their shoulders and some are followed by pet dogs. i was going to get a haircut from a friend's dad who's a barber. he's had the shop for twelve years now and we had good conversation as he gave me my first haircut in at least eight months. then a bit of a beard trim. and then, he said merry christmas and didn't even charge me.

tonight we had a few hours work for a new years event on the hill for the kids. i kept the bon fire going for a few hours and then at nine oclock we handed out sparklers to the dozens of children and had a 'kid's new year countdown.' i think the parents liked this idea and, since the darkness falls at five in the afternoon, nine oclock might as well been midnight to these kids.

for what its worth, i wish you a happy new years. here comes the dead of winter. i'm looking forward to it in this place.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 233

another month is almost over and now, nearly, another year. i find it a coincidence to be spending a consecutive new years eve in canada, this year now following last years roadtrip with my cousin to phillip's square in downtown toronto. wildest dreams would have never fabricated any of this that is now the present.

but that's kind of where i am right now tonight- picturing all this in my head and re-appreciating the big picture. there's routine. this is life. i still enjoy rice and beans for dinner all the while thankful and knowing that i'd rather be happy and free and living all this with rice and beans than finding solace in a regulated and uninventive manner of living.

a few of us went on a tim horton's run tonight after an sfc dodgeball competition. tim's is just down the highway and three of us walked along the piled snowbanks under a surprisingly warm evening. we passed the best western hotel and i remembered that first weekend here and temporary homelessness and showing up to church with all our luggage with the faith that things would work out. we left church that morning with friends, a temporary home, and i got a definite and much-needed job. before all this in the middle of the summer, my friend's dad told me about one of his former preaching students who was now working as a pastor in fernie. the fernie plans were still young during that stage and even though there are a few churches in town, i've only become involved with one- the one i'd heard about months and months before at that table in langley . that connection still blows my mind sometimes.

earlier today as these thoughts started to come together, the people who had picked me up to take me to the hill this morning were talking about the avalanche victims. apparently one of the people my driver works with was friends with all of those covered in snow and has lately only found comfort in drinking. even now i think of a friend from high school who's fiance, also one of my friends from college, was killed in a farming accident towards the end of the summer. and even though it wasn't as much of a surprise as the former, my own grandpa's death leaves me feeling a little stunned sometimes.

i'm trying to find a balance. more purpose.

pastor shawn and i are scheduled to hang out over the next couple weeks during his scheduled pulpit break. i'm looking forward to talking with him and to ask questions about faith and moving mountains and purposes and maybe, through it all, find a little more reasons for why i've been led here in such a unique way.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 232

there was an avalanche nearby. apparently this is made news today around north america. thanks for the emails and concerns though.

tonight i took a break from playing piano to chill with the same couple from last night and we got to talking about avalanches. some slides produce winds over two hundred miles an hour, making the gusts alone enough to snap trees in the path below. the only way to try to survive an avalanche is to either try to try to swim atop it or, if close enough to the edges, use your elbows to make an air pocket in front of the face and then dig up.

we talked about music and then he explained his work as an aircraft mechanic. they asked about my journey and travels and were really encouraging towards the music path that's been developing lately.

in the middle of all this, i quietly think to myself that all these conversations and meetings are the greatest experiences of this gig.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 231

the piano was facing towards the big windows at the bluey, darkening mountains and the low-lit lounge inside was filled with the dinner crowd. families of skiers and couples with wine or martini glasses sat at the sofas and tables around the tall room. i had my own wine glass, a tall, empty sprout sitting at the edge of the top of the piano. the greatest thing about canadian currency is that the five dollar bill is the smallest paper denomination. no silly singles here. diners came along and made requests. kids danced next to the piano and i played them 'tiny dancer.' an american couple asked their waitress to ask me to come visit their table when i had a break.

i went around and met the two. she was excited about an old, antique piano she'd bought at a yard sale not too long ago and he affirmed that it was indeed wonderful. they had some questions about piano and lessons because, as she informed me, she'd been looking for a piano like this for a long time and had waited until she found it to start learning. clearly excited, she asked my opinion on the ethics of the matter of methods for repair. should she replace the keys with plastic for cheap or choose the ivory renovation at the ultimate cost of killing an elephant?

i was hardpressed for an answer as i'd never previously considered that i'd been trouncing the poached pride of some dusted elephant. maybe there's an alternative, or maybe call the manufacturer to see how exactly they make their keys. that was the best advice i could give seeing that i'm no expert in piano building or instruction. they were kind and interesting throughout the conversation, still i felt a little like an over-esteemed celebrity in that place in time. i just play piano, really. i have no answers.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 230


Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 229

business was slow at the organic market tonight. i sat down in my corner at the small table by the window and before long the same owner lady passed by. we made small talk about christmas and she muttered that she wasn't a fan of the season anymore. i asked what christmas was like when she had been a fan and both her and the fellow scott, who is usually behind the counter with an apron, answered that they liked christmas when they were kids and when it wasn't so commercialized.

seems like now that christmas is over, winter is slowly opening its mouth in a lazy yawn and washing down the last of the christmas lights and decorations with a fresh blanket of snow. more powder. here begins the dead of winter- the white bacteria and bland taste since long-passed thanksgiving and now christmas and soon a new year.

we shared some more banter about the origin of the organic market before they drifted away and i fell back into the last pages of my book. this was interrupted by their sudden conversation about flying bats..

this immediately reminded me of the time in early spring of junior year when a bat had found its way into the high school. the whole first period was delayed as people crowded the halls to observe the excitement. girls swung emptied purses and some of the guys clumsily hoisted black garbage bags into the air as the bat continued to dart and circle the hall and foyer. i had just come upstairs from the batting cage after an early morning batting practice session. i was wearing batting gloves and went to a hall corner. half the school was at one end of the hall and another group were down the other. i reached up and around in time to swipe the bat from the air in mid-flight- his tiny head peaking out from a soft hold of the inner thumb and palm. his wings were tucked neatly against his body in the deepest crook of my grip. people cheered and we all walked outside to watch the little guy get tossed into the open air. i still can hardly believe it sometime.

also, we've started the process of recording music tonight. between some combined gear and a basic knowledge of recording technique from last semester, we're officially unofficially starting a cd. ian, one of the guys in our little band, blew us all away with stories about his previous life as a carpenter's apprentice in australia. he lived in a shack without plumbing or wired electricity on the gold coast of australia for six months. this is where, at night, he became the greatest technical guitar player i have ever met.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 228

today was the first official powder day on the mountain. i remember when i first got here in october and, for the next two months, had indifferent and borderline shallow-opinions on the people who kept talking about powder riding. shredding the pow. gnarly. all those words.

then after yesterday and a first experience with only a couple feet of powder, i totally understand the delight of floating and cutting across a mountain snowfall and have the same stoked reaction for riding the pow. had my board not broken last night, i'd have been up there all this morning to experience todays dump.

the snow picked up again this the evening as five of us drove to nearby cranbrook for christmas dinner. we'd all become friends with bethany at camp qwanoes over the summer and her and her family had eagerly invited us foreign guys to their house for a proper christmas dinner. the piling snow and van's one headlight stretched a usual one hour trip to over two hours. three of the southern hemisphere guys hadn't seen much weather like this. tim had however and i'd obviously grown up in the midwest so the two of us took turns maneuvering there at about 25 miles an hour.

bethany is a cheerful and attentive personality. her dad is a hunter and map maker and their basement walls are crowded with the hanging heads of deer, antelope, bears, and a crouching cougar that either he or bethany's brother had shot and modeled. mrs franck is kind and looks very much like her daughter. maybe its the other way around.

as we ate, conversations on cultures differences and our collective first christmases away from home revolved around the table. apparently there aren't twinkies in canada and cuba has been a popular vacation spot for canadians to escape the presence of americans. the kiwis were shocked that pumpkins were only really used in seasonal pies in north american cooking- the didn't think a vegetable could perform as a dessert.

their family even gave us presents. we each unwrapped our own flannel blanket and then a house present of a deck of skip-bo cards and a dvd. my dad likes skip-bo. we all thanked them profusely for their kindness. mr franck responded that he'd hope that if his kids were away for christmas that someone would give them the best foreign christmas experience possible. they did indeed do that for us all.

they offered to let us stay the night and then drive us back home in a truck if the roads hadn't been sufficiently cleared but four of us have to work in the morning. the francks provided a thermos of coffee for the road and a few minutes drive after following a neatly drawn map showed that the roads had since been cleared. the drive home took only an hour.

it's been different, but it's been very good. merry christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 227

i woke up early today at a room in the resort on the hill. it was almost nine am and snow was falling. just outside the window the ski lifts jerked and started their slow cycle. a few minutes later, i was heading up as well. the new pair of ski goggles brought the view of the snow and cabins and mountains through a sepia tint. i paused at the top of one of the runs and sat near the edge of the drop off, strapped in and ready to go, while dusty snow whipped against the plastic mask and a fuzzy sun began to climb into the sky. this is perfect, i thought to myself. it's good to have these moments, to be alone and still at the top of a mountain before the first ride on a mint morning. i'm thankful for all this. near the end of the day, a rough patch of combined powder and soft bushes ended up claiming the life of my only snowboard. snap. i had really liked my board.. but after the goggle incident the other day, i'm kind of excited to see how a new one will be presented.

today is christmas eve. day. i'm sure everyone who has a blog has reminded the others of this fact and i'm sure an equally respectable amount of people are readily admitting that its snuck up on them. both are true here too.

there was a christmas eve service at church- obvious fact number three. but i don't think that what happened in the little, packed out building could have been readily matched in spirit and content anywhere else. the church isn't a trendy church, like an imago dei or heartland or wherever else the church people look like they work at gap and american eagle, but this small, conservative baptist church was pulling people in through an advertised hour of christmas music. the band was sharp and pastor shawn led the christmas tunes. it felt like a normal service. then, towards the end, he presented a way for the people to get involved in more than just singing along with a band. after learning and practicing a quick choir-like three part harmony, people smiled and stood and sang.

the message at the end was short. a few minutes into it, the drummer thumped a tame, repetitive beat. shawn stood in the candle light and gave an analogy of how God's creation and salvation was like an eternal rhythm. soon the bass started walking and the piano filled the upper atmosphere of the groove with crisp thirds. then guitars. same jam, same riffs, same everything. like a beat.

i looked at the nearest faces in my area to guess what they were feeling. i wondered how many of these people were making their annual church appearance here tonight. then shawn played an out of key chord. he played it loud- like he said that some people try to play their life or success or the pursuit of riches and who are still confused why its all still not sounding good to them. he tied in salvation to this too. i took mental notes of the whole moment and had ideas for what i wanted to write about later. now, i can barely remember the outline and have started from scratch, but what shawn said and did made an incredible amount of sense to me.

i've been feeling the rhythm. i'm saved and try to follow Jesus but i could still admit and identify the presence and influence of this eternal beat lately. in fact, i probably felt it this morning on the mountain. and i felt it when i received the goggles. a faith-rhythm. now i wish i'd at least jotted a few notes on a scrap of paper like normal so this doesn't all sound cheesy now, but if you've been reading for a while then i hope that the connection can be made. in fact, i'm counting on it.

however, all these little ideas and plans in my head took a sudden back seat when i heard the news. my grandpa died tonight. when i'd left illinois in may for camp i'd had it in my mind when we'd last gone out to lunch together and during the last goodbye and exclamation of 'youhooo' that this might be the last time i see grandpa bill. and i knew he'd been declining lately. even past the age of ninety-two, he was the strongest-white-haired man i'd ever know. lately, this apparent and tricky matter of death had been considered as an imminent arrival. grandpa inspired me to play harmonica and we jammed a couple times but it mostly resulted in playing along with him to classics like 'oh my darling clementine.' he also was an excellent example of style and ease in the way that he always wore a fedora hat and sweater and called the waitresses 'honey' as he shook their hand at the end of a meal to give them their tip. i first started drinking coffee during our meals together. he knew several languages and would always get angriest in his native, polish tongue. when i first got to fernie and was buying bagels and bananas for sustenance, i carried around my change in a small, plastic bag just like him, except my collection was nearly the sole representation of my current value. i talked with my family tonight back home for quite a while and things seem to be at peace all things considered. i think i'm almost at peace. whatever all-things-considered means.

even tonight as i pedaled home from church, noah gundersen's song ''poor man's son'' was repeating on my ipod. he was singing about being stone cold broke in the middle of winter and not wanting gold or silver and then there was a verse that said

"i feel a cold wind blowing dark clouds on the western sky
i gotta feeling like knowing
that everyone here will someday die"

and that's where i'm left tonight- christmas eve- with reminders that i don't need much and that everyone here will someday die.

and that the beat goes on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 226

i know i'm a little late in posting for this day but i'm here now to catch up.

in the evening i headed over to the organic marketplace and coffee house. just like last time, i ducked my head against the cold without a coat and with a couple books in my hand. after settling with a cup of coffee in my regular corner spot by the window, i found it hard to find the reading pace. the owner was in the shop tonight and i watched her arrange fondue settings on the bigger tables. we made eye contact and i asked her if there was another christmas party coming in tonight. a few nights earlier i'd been made aware by staff that a private christmas party was due to fill the entire shop, so i left. i think they needed my table. she answered ''what do you think?'' and i couldn't decide if she was being a snob or if i was experiencing the beginning of an awkward conversation.

i looked back down at the words in travels every once in a while. within a few minutes she passed my small table and asked, like she'd done a few nights back ''how the book was.'' she's being friendly, i thought, but didn't ignore the passing notion that she might be getting ready to tell me that they'll be needing my table. again. at the end of the night, after some more scattered conversations, i left the quiet market without any remaining doubts or negative decisions against the place or people. this will be my new chill spot for the moments when rare chilling time has been allotted.


i want very much to be a real person- authentic and not caught up in a lie or in the chasing of what i'd always thought was necessary and important. and i want real faith too.

a few days ago i realized that i'll be needing a pair of ski goggles for boarding; the cold air and flurries are a hinderance when riding in these rockies. money is low and i was prompted to wait. then a few days later, today, i was cleaning a departure room at a resort and found, in the top of the kitchen garbage, a nearly brand-new, discarded pair of a quality goggles. they were clean and i washed them down just in case. and that's just a pair of goggles.

what if we really don't have to worry about tomorrow and all that?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 225

christmas is in a few days. the songs are repeated louder in the resorts, lodges, and grocery stores. a race to the finish.

work didn't end in time enough to hit the hill today.

i was riding a bike home tonight through the patches of dark and under streetlight cones of yellow. the insulation in this beard warms, freezes, and frosts every time.

tonight will be chill. watching this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 224

snowboarded this afternoon. first real mountain boarding experience ever. completely stellar. since i have a pass now, i find myself cringing on nights like tonight when i hear that a big snowfall is coming. i have to work tomorrow. if i get off early, ill grab my board and gear from the hotel room here on the hill and get a few runs in.

a few of us are staying in the lodge resort tonight. our manager friend booked a room for the week and it makes it easy for me to get to work in the morning. and to go boarding whenever.

it hit me today, again and a little stronger, that this mountain and snow and everything is literally my backyard. things are working out. i'm blown away. this is a blast.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 223

cold is a broad enough description for a chilly house or an average winter morning but after hitting negative twenty-five fahrenheit in the middle of the afternoon, my frosted beard and icicles in my nose were telling me that this was a new low. there needs to be a word worse than cold. worse than freezing. still, the sun shone bright. i was standing three quarters up the mountain at the rail jam comp.

four people were offered rare and relatively new volunteer positions this winter. one of my friends, the event's coordinator, asked if i wanted to be one cause she knew my need. the company gives the volunteers a free ski pass if you commit to working twelve of the scheduled events over the course of the next four months as an events assistant. i had no other way to afford snowboarding frequently and wasn't even close to being able to spend fourteen hundred dollars on my own ski pass. not even close.

today was the first event. a rail and box competition on the hill. after getting to the hill at daybreak and setting up and performing registration in the lodge, the four assistants and coordinator rode up the lift with our boards to get to the park. we stood around for about an hour or so while the twenty four boarders and skiers did their best tricks and were judged. once, i happened to look down into the distant valley and town to notice a tiny trail of black coal cars sliding through town. the train.

the air up here was sharp. the sky was clear. the temperature was worse than cold. still, one of the finnish guys and i stood there and laughed. we're getting a free pass to help run snowboarding events. and free lunch.

this is ultimate and i'm really thankful and blessed to have been provided for in this huge way. i'm blown away with the way things have worked out over the past few months and especially how they've been guided and presented since leaving to work summer camp in may.

we had a break for about an hour before we had to set up the awards ceremony so i pulled a book from my backpack and went to the window seats in the cafe. that's the same cafe that i mentioned last week was in the massive hotel on the hill i got to stay in.

i watched a mom coaxing her little girl that couldn't have been more than four years old. they were both on skis and the kid was taken by the ice and gravity from her awkward penguin shuffle to a sudden, nervous slide. they both ended up disappearing down the hill to the right. i wondered how she ended up doing. inside, there were parents coaching their kids behind me giving them advice and encouragement on their turns and runs. they're serious here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 222

i used my thumb a lot today.

fernie has a well established travel tradition for those without cars. you walk down the road, about five minutes from our house actually, and across the bridge. that's the hitch point.

from there, its usually only a five to ten minute wait before one of the cars leaving town on the highway will pull over. they're going to the hill too. usually for work. don't get your hopes up for any nicer sedan or pick up truck. only the vans, rusty four by fours and occasional beater are driven by the benevolent who are not too displaced from the overall circumstance you find yourself in. they just have a car.

after working housekeeping for the first half of the day, i hopped over to the resort to play piano for a few hours. both owners have been around for those nights and have introduced themselves. they're cool. i feel privileged to be on a first name basis in only a couple days. it was mostly their doing, but still, i'm really thankful.

then, after the resort, i caught a ride down the mountain to the last coffee house gig. i'm very thankful to those two friends and owners at the shop who have given me the privilege to have played on weekends for the last month. their story is incredible.

they say the best snow doesn't hit the mountain until january or february. until then i'm really content and suddenly busy as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 221

i didn't mean for it to happen, but i think i'm a busier person now.

the owner of the resort was in the restaurant tonight for my first night at the piano. he was cool and stayed the whole time to listen. not many other people came through and my friend the manager said they're only thirty eight percent full. next week they're booked out. good times still.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 220

the dark creeps earlier and earlier on the valley. the ski hill closes by four in the afternoon and, not more than an hour later, thick night slides down the shadowy side of the mountain and across the cold highway with the ever-present arctic exhale. six o'clock feels like midnight. it has also always inversely been the case that midnight feels like six o'clock to me but that's a different story.

friends from all over town frequent our place by this time to watch a movie or play cards or hang out. its good. but tonight i still had a stack of books in my backpack. and there's a secret place i have. maybe not so secret after the next couple paragraphs, but i'm willing to sacrifice this for a raconteur, recreated now from a few, blue ink jots on the back of a scrap of paper.

the organic market and coffee shop is across the small street behind the convenience store of whose internet i am borrowing at the moment. this is only my second time going to this place and i wonder why i usually walk at least ten minutes to go downtown to the tea house or mug shots. the other places know me, i guess.

i don't put a coat on and throw my black backpack across my red flannel shirt and walk across the icy street.

the organic market and coffee home is titled as such because, besides fair trade coffee, they sell organic produce. although i am the only customer currently sitting in the small and homey floor space, there are several people who wander in and out to ask about buying fresh eggs or other certified-organic goods. one dark haired lady walks in and asks for scott. an oval headed, short haired man with an orange t-shirt and white apron comes to the register. the counter seems to be located in the middle of what used to be a front room back when the market used to be just a house. he answers matter-of-factly that since she hadn't ordered this morning, she missed participation on the current bread shipment. i take a sip from my small coffee and they begin to chat merrily.

there are two girls working behind the counter as well. the blonde has bright eyes and an accent that's probably australian. the other one, a brunette, reminds me of an actress because her figure and loud, enunciated speech. there's a red bandana in her hair and i caught her looking at me once when i'd happened to glance left at the counter.

i'm more than halfway through the book travels since beginning it yesterday. the conversation of the three behind the counter interjects reading. i hear the words 'american' and lower my eyes from the pages to listen. 'they're all so bloody opinionated,' the blonde says. the three of them banter about how hot coffee spills draw american lawsuits and the brunette adds that they're always ready to sue the pants off anyone for anything. i don't look over this time, i'm kind of nervous for some reason and pull an old envelope from my backpack and start making notes next to my book with a blue pen.

the blonde girl drawls that they're friendly in their own country, but they also seem to always be looking for a way to make a quick buck. i sigh a little and stare back at the motionless pages of the book. i'm forced to agree and almost catch myself nodding when the actress said that the mountains suddenly disappear after crossing the montana border. i know that route well now. the blonde girl says she wants to go to colorado. so do i. i write 'denver' down on the list on the back of the envelope scrap.

they're conversation wanders and i look around the place, noticing a vintage farmhouse image. muddled narrow floorboards and an exposed border of drywall and building structure add to the atmosphere already contributed by the old, metal coffee maker on a shelf and the artificial milkweed stems propped in a ceramic pot behind my chair. i continue reading about climbing mount kilimanjaro. now i want to climb mount kilimanjaro.

the text adventure is interrupted by a voice, soft and accented, asking if i was hungry. the blonde girl is standing next to the table. apparently they have one serving of cream of mushroom soup left and would rather not freeze the small amount. i accept in short speech, not really concerned about the americanisms earlier but still not interested in being asked where i was from. sometimes people can call it on 'the accent', whatever that means. most can't.

she offers water and routinely comes around to refill the mason jar glass. they gave me a free refill on coffee after i'd asked earlier and her and scott couldn't remember if it was still thirty-five cents or was made a dollar yet. everything in fernie is getting a little more expensive now that the hill is open. still, i decide that i like this place.

after spending a couple hours in the seat at the front window, i leave some dollar coins on the table and return the cups. the walk home takes about thirty seconds but the mental transition takes a little more effort.

still, this life is good. and expanding. tomorrow will be my first night playing piano at the resort in the big, fireplace and window room. this has been day two hundred twenty.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 219

the town of fernie is divided by a highway that, in itself, connects two parallel highways. this perpendicular cut, made possible by the elk river valley, also serves as the passageway for dozens of coal trains.

on any given night, especially crisp, sub-zero ones like today, a faint echoing train whistle can be heard on either of the far sides of the valley. never both at once however. that result would be far too exciting for everyone.

our house, next to this highway and in the very middle of the town, is a straight shot of five or six blocks from the tracks. i particularly hear the train coming around the bend after early nightfalls of occasional restlessness. once the initial warning blast is sent, i know that i have just enough time, if i so desire, to make a brisk walk towards the tracks in order to approach the final block by the time the first dark and raging car comes storming between the two, last brick buildings.

the beast moves swiftly and yet glides surprisingly quietly across the narrow path on the snow. however, the weight and heavy momentum does not go unnoticed- especially if i can make it to the last building. sometimes i lean against the streetlight pole or put my back against the brick. the ground trembles and i imagine a derailing and subsequent swinging and smashing of steel and wheels and then the destiny of any unfortunate thing that might have been sleeping near or, better yet, previously admiring the raw energy that had now spread as strong as a hurricane.

one. two.. three... four.... the longest i've counted was one hundred and forty total pieces. through the valley, across shadows, and past houses, this linked army marches without any recognition to any shivering observer. grey and neutral. mighty and serious. another night, another town.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 218

i assembled a four man team for last night's 'name that tune' weekly competition. there were about six other teams and, after a good time by all, our team ended up winning it all.

camp seems like ages ago. it sometimes comes up in conversations around the house- why wouldn't it, we met each other there- but there's also a strong understanding that this is a totally different life. sure, our relationships started during the close work at camp, but life is different and is supposed to be back to normal now and we don't reminisce too much. i like this new normal.

i've spent this sub-zero evening looking at some more old emails and saved text files. there were letters trying to explain all this that i didn't quite understand to my parents. there were messages from friends.

there was that 'i would' list from almost a year ago now. i haven't opened it since day 121, but i have again tonight. unbelievably, almost, more of these long standing bullets have since been realized. i'm kind of typing as i go and switching over to compare the list and then switch back to type here.

i would play more music
write more songs
ride a bike
walk places
watch the sunset from my front porch
go to coffee shops

i would ask people what they want most in life
i would ask their stories
help people who need help

i would redefine spirituality and the way it had so often manipulated the perspective of my appearances to people rather than the influence it had on life itself

i would stop pretending i was happy and okay with situations that tore me apart
i would lower my expectations for the typical life of searching for ultimate stability, comfort, and self-anhilation

i would have fun
set standards
achieve goals
have adventure
redefine life
have peace
have balance

i would feel free. completely fresh and free.
i would know i was free.
i would be free.

i would has become i am

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 217

i acquired a bunch of my old files recently. i found a short story in them from a while back that reminded me of how much i miss sweet tea here. i'm posting that up for your entertainment and critique while i take a rest to do some reading. i'm finding this book to be really insightful, but i want what i'm absorbing to find its flow.


the porch screen door opened silently. chester shuffled through its white, flaking frame and lowered his shaky body onto the porch swing. heavy, sparse breaths were the only sound of the late summer afternoon; not even a trace of a breeze was left in the air. impulse, or maybe habit, would have called for some toast and sweet tea, but any such thoughts today fell silently into an eternal shell of quiet consternation. there was no desire to say or think anything in particular, yet never had he so strongly felt as if there was something that needed to be done.

not even the swing's unusual resistence could forge the dense, motionless air. it swung in eerie silence. his stiff neck turned to the metal joints and squinting eyes begged for a sqeak or rattle or any noise at all from the suspending chains. even the june bugs and grasshoppers had deserted the crisp, yellow lawn. the tall oak tree was all that was all that remained in the middle of the yard. never before had such a strong contrast existed between its dark frame and the old hay field he knew so well.

countless times had chester watched the sun fall behind this tree and the extending country hills. in fact, he quietly anticipated that time of the day when the sun would take center stage and would perform its glorious solo. the ultimate closing act always followed- a graceful and much appreciated fading bow to a humbled audience.

today the sun cast long shadows from the tree's bare, outstretched fingers and lifted them gently over the old eyes of its solitary audience. it was if the sun knew that it, in all his power and glory, could not muster a single wiff of air nor could it reach the old man's ear with any resilience of a burning crackle.

it was an ironic duo the two made. both, eternally destined it seemed, had their way of life and both silently met to end each day together. no sound, no words, nothing could better communicate the similiarity that burned within each of them. nothing could explain it and, now, nothing could replace it.

suddenly chester sighed, half wondering if it was only to break the stifiling silence in honor and remembrance of a time when he needed not call the air alive. oh the time when crickets sang lullabies from the sweet, dewy grass to the small children asleep upstairs. that time when his dashing wife would bring out two glasses of tea and would silently rest her head on his shoulder as a rythmic squeak accompanied the paling orange decent.

the sigh ended and the sun dipped, lower and lower and lower, behind the familar bumps on the horizon. finally, the tree was outlined by a fading pink brushstroke. flashing lights sprinkled the stillness- stars took their place along the branches of darkness. the swing rocked and rocked and suddenly, strangely, screeched a single, long whine.

somewhere, far beyond the wood rail fence, an inspired, solitary cricket gave an awkward, return outburst of jubilee. the single chirp resounded like the drip on a still pool of water. the wrinkled face pinched into a tiny smile.

"go get 'em little guy, go get 'em."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 216

two big highlights today.

i don't know how what words to describe the sweet experience it was to play a real show tonight. there's four of us. australian drummer, kiwi electric guitar, aussie bass, and me on keyboard and sometimes accordion. ski bums and friends packed the 'bar named sue.' what a good thing.

this afternoon, i finally got up to the resort to meet up with the restaurant manager. perfect timing. after scoring the job playing piano in that big windowed room on the mountain, i had lunch there with the montana girls, tim, and scott the hotel manager who were chilling in a free room. the piano gig will also supply me with free meals on the nights that i play. right now, that has potential to develop into free steak dinners on at least five nights a week. this also comes at a great time cause my food drawer is starting to hallow a bit as i'm still a janitor in the real world.

i ordered a buffalo burger at the resort and it reminded me of a family vacation in south dakota. dust and seven up.

once, well over a year ago by now, i had an acute mental picture of an ultimate scene. dream. the elements were simple but by no means ordinary. in my imagination there was a grand piano, big windows, a fireplace, and massive mountains launching peaks outside.

i'm very blessed and thankful for all this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 215

it's been good to talk with a visiting friend from the summer at camp and to reflect.

i got a message today in a belated birthday card that quoted a proverbs verse. ''trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledging him and he will make your paths straight.''

it seems that i'd always gleaned the first part about how i couldn't handle all these human decisions and that God was trustworthy enough to make me aware enough to want to repeat sincere prayers for direction and peace and purpose in the current state of life. still i'd feel that i'd be left hoping that one undetermined day, tomorrow would be vaulted ahead in a dozen, quick rotations and a sticky today would finally be put deep in the fading stack of yesterdays. like rolling to land on a shoot. a ladder. a lotto ticket. a brand new relationship.

then i wonder about, in this petition and waiting, how the question of 'bad things happening to good people' is the first, fiery front for people who feel short-changed or betrayed in tragedy or turbulence. maybe karma is the catcall of a false start- almost like people started to try to make decisions for themselves on how they were meant to be treated. God even says that he doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked. then ezekiel 18:25 "yet you say, 'the way of the Lord is not right.' hear now, o house of israel! is my way not right? is it not your ways that are not right?"


its in the second part of the proverbs verse too.


i'm persuaded by the instructions of trust and faith and acknowledgment. i'm here today because of God's provisions and preparations. not plans. and it has been very good.

and i'm convinced and inspired that maybe life isn't supposed to be all planned out. how can so many accept and expect the same blueprint.

i don't think i've ever been as ready and willing to let these paths continue to be straightened. i don't feel like i'm holding a magnifying glass to my feet anymore.

tim and i were talking about the pressures of relationships last week and i remember wondering if its just not easier to stop looking for the final, conclusive piece of the puzzle as if it was going to be revealed as one big answer for the previous million little building blocks that were natural and part of the journey. no decision or change is really made in one piece.

all these little ways. acknowledging. straightened paths. i hope i'm thinking clearly because i was looking and thinking for something more than just noting some of the day's happenings.

they were good too, however. today had the biggest snowfall yet. i think it's even safe to call it the first permanent snow because the main streets are still covered in white and the streetlights outside the big kitchen window have been hanging their head over a constant flow beneath their auras for many hours.

church did an outdoor, christmas music concert in the streets downtown tonight and i was asked to do video. i put a rain shield on the camera. wanderers stopped and huddled next to the tea house to hear the live music and snow and wind and music filled the streets. the soft, reflecting light was good and i'm looking forward to editing the footage.

tomorrow is a big day. the hill officially- and finally- opens. multiple groups of out-of-town friends are here for the weekend. our band's first, big show is at night. here we go.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 214

hey. i gotta run. busyness has pounced and i'm running to do a gig at tea house, then have band practice, and then work hooked employees up with a free night in the resort on the hill. we've got training there early in the morning. this is day 214. details later.

post edit:

ray lamontagne is echoing in green peaked ceilings of a two bedroom suit. a snow machine is purring right outside. the thermostat produces a few quick ticks and then three flames appear around a fake stack of wood in the fireplace. i'm here, sipping complementary coffee in this resort room on the ski hill. all for free. here's what happened after i cut it short earlier.

i walked to the tea house to play for thursday night. the icy draft pushed colder and faster down the mountains and over the highway and between buildings and against my bearded chin. the full moon illuminated white peaks in all directions. i feet like the last piece of cereal in a bowl.

the tea house, and all of downtown for that matter, was dead and quiet. even by six this weeknight, the early dark and intense freeze has put people away in their apartments converted from former, main street hotel rooms or into their shared houses or has called them to the smog of loud laugher and classic rock in one of the pubs. it didn't look like anyone would come in tonight so instead of pulling out the keyboard, the owners offered me some coffee. i accepted. both the bob dylan and writing book were in my backpack.

i sat in my usual seat- the furthest, tall table that faces the door- but lowered the book and broke the collective silence, happening to create a conversation with the owners leaving me wishing i had a tiny tape recorder. or a notepad. i framed an imaginary viewfinder to balance her excited face with the coffee and tea in the background as if the conversation was being recorded.

three years ago, after leaving a successful career in book binding and forsaking the idea of opening a bed and breakfast, randy and his wife moved to fernie and opened the tea house as a specific specialty shop. struggles to find a building downtown and contractors for a complete interior renovation were overcome with sincere faith. her excitement could have convinced me that they'd just opened last week.

she asked my story as well. the summary of opportunities, faith, and obstacles excited both of us. i still remember that quick and sudden process of committing to work at camp in late april and telling my family as i left in mid may that i had a feeling that might not be back right away. i still remember that feeling. i still have it. randy's wife said i should write a book. i told her i really want to someday.

we talked about the sketchy theory of global warming and how a recent news headline told how obama was suddenly turning the market around. the tv is flickering across this resort room at the moment and i happened to just notice a cheesy commercial for some newly issued abraham lincoln/obama dollar coin. he isn't even sworn in yet. i wonder how many other presidents have been turned coin before chief. i wonder what it all means.

i was still genuinely interested in their story and asked about book binding. their machine would produce ten thousand books in one hour.

a van pulled in front of the window and headlights flashed. our band had one last practice before our first show this saturday night. we're feeling good about it. friends from montana are coming up for the weekend and we still have two visiting camp friends here too. i walked out the door with intentions to return tomorrow to hear the rest about binding books and running a coffee shop.

now tonight, the crew of newly hired resort housekeepers were given free rooms at the various resorts after our first day of training. we start again at eight thirty to learn how to clean these rooms.

this is a strange and random combination. poor. foreign. rock star. janitor. resort.

i took a walk around the place as is now tradition for larger-than-life mountain resorts. the chair lift is right outside. there's a dark and empty restaurant and coffee house and gear rental place on the main level. spas are next to the elevator on each floor. the parking garage is warm, clean, and empty. all this is within the incredible amount of stacked logs of this giant cabin. i got up here after ten so i don't know if there are many other employees in surrounding rooms but the season still hasn't started so i know that the whole property is almost entirely vacant.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 213

the mountains glow at night.

we trekked up the mountain today with our boards to find some snow. the hill isn't officially open for business so its free to hike and ride. after sitting down to strap in and ride down, i found that part of the binding had loosened and fallen off. i had no idea where it had disappeared. frustrated, i walked down the mountain, chucked the snowboard in the car, and hitchhiked back to town while the rest stayed up to learn to ride.

tonight was randi's birthday party, so we went over and our house sang her a song in front of everyone by flight of the conchords. good times.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 212

i was cleaning at church today when the pastor and i started talking about design and upcoming events. i was really encouraged when he said he was amazed that i've achieved 'an integral role in the community in only two months'. really encouraged. this is the right place for me right now.

take a look at a video if you're interested. it's the rough draft from the sfc retreat in banff a few weeks ago.

i spent the rest of the afternoon at mug shots reading. i only have a couple free days left before another job starts. my friend jerri who works there would come around to chat in her heavy english accent and to kindly refill coffee.

also, two friends from camp came today to visit for a week. they're staying in the spare room we have that will soon be rented to a swedish friend, jon, at the end of the month. right now everyone's over watching batman and life is good.

thanks again for the letters, books, and birthday cards. they continue to filter through the mail and arrive in timely fashion. very much appreciated.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 211

i went to the tea house to read and chill. the old brick building is on a street corner downtown and looks heavy and content- like a distant relative on the couch after christmas dinner; familiar but fresh. i don't know if that's legal punctuation but those ideas needed to stick together.

from inside of the big windows, i admire the front bay and fireplace. no gig today. christmas music fills the atmosphere and i wonder to myself if people really like these classics as much as they seem to say they do. to be honest, i've noticed seasonal songs see a decrease for myself in overall pleasantry each year and bring less fulfillment of a 'christmas spirit', whatever that means, once the tunes have been played for more than two weeks. i remember the tiny, singing shoney bear tree ornament. i did like that music from his plush stomach.

i feel fortunate to know and have a good relationship with the owners of the tea house. today they bring coffee to where i've got bob dylan's chronicles on the table. an internal monologue starts to flow and i scorn the awareness of crafted words that i always fear will never be recovered. 'i pour cream and watch it chase its silky tails into the murk, tripping and rolling over its creamy momentum until all wisps have mysteriously pulled any straggling color beneath the dark surface. then, with a flick of the spoon, the heavy white expands up and i, like an eye in the cosmos, watch the smokey explosion of the liquid mushroom cloud in my cup.'

at the age of twenty-one, i'm sure some friends from high school have company cell phones or starched, tie-requiring internships. others probably work at grocery stores. most are writing papers and studying and taking big tests to sum up their last few months. a semester has vicariously flown by. i'm sitting in canada and describing what it looks like to prepare coffee and reading books about the music that's inspired me to play in this very building and also making a different attempt at faith while wondering what 'moving mountains' really means. maybe that's a little imbalanced, but maybe it isn't. maybe craig kelley was right in that documentary last week when he talked about breaking into the life you're alive in instead of viewing it as an escape from the one you didn't. maybe this is my internship- except with no human boss and a beard instead of a tie. and this blog.

i'm seeing that it's kind of hard to be an individual in the picture of our crew's relationship to the rest of this small town. we have a cool group of foreigners/non-locals in a good location. this isn't a bad thing at all but there's definitely less individuality in overall greater community consideration. that's probably a good thing.

still, that isn't easy for me. it's becoming more natural to be comfortable and attentive in this bigger picture but i know myself and have to take time to wander on my own. sometimes for a season. sometimes for an afternoon. sometimes for a few moments to stir words into coffee and sometimes by trying to remember these thoughts with scribbles in the back leaves of a national bestseller.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 210

there's something going on. pastor shawn started telling me about it last night and how it started in portland with imago dei's pastor rick mckinley . how about that link action.

this something is called the advent conspiracy. i highly encourage following that link and watching the video on the right side. i liked the idea and it reminded me of when, at about the age of twelve, our family stopped the gift givingness of christmas. i didn't like it then, but it made sense soon enough. now i like it. simple. real.

now tonight after some afternoon grocery shopping- to get ahead of the typical fernie monday as described in last monday's post- and some beans and rice dinner, i've been looking at information on poets laureate. seems like a cool job.

this is sunday night. the kiwi boys are writing music on guitar in their room down the hall, bob dylan is singing on the ipod deck in the kitchen, and tim is thumbing through a stack of dvds and reading the online synopsis for each as we draw nearer to appointing the chosen one.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 209

this is one of those nights. this blog and writing has become pretty natural. but tonight, right now, i'm kind of tired and don't have much to say. i hope that's cool.

the snow melted again. depressing. this is supposed to be the canadian rockies. in winter. december. no one knows what to make of it.

friends came over with a prepared dinner for our house tonight. good times, good people, good work.

and good night.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 208

today was a lot like yesterday, but the job interview segment of the afternoon was replaced with hours in the coffee shop reading.

now, tonight after a gig and a sweet jam session at our house with some of the guys, the movie into the wild is playing. tim and i remembered watching the movie way back on the night before day 10 when we were inspired for a surf trip to tofino...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 207

i wrapped up the night with a bob dylan medley. the fire was dying in the fireplace next to the keyboard in the front window bay. i noticed that the mop and bucket were leaning against the back wall. simple chords fell on the keyboard and harmonica carried the rest. mr tambourine man is my favorite dylan tune.

there's ultimate satisfaction walking the sidewalk of dark and quiet shops of this ski town with a zip lock of tips and change. rent and food. that's all i need. i went to the grocery store to buy a cookie after the gig and the chick smiled when i dug into the massive sack of coins and fished out enough for the goods.

earlier today, i had an interview at the lodge for a retail position in the gift shop/gear stop in the lobby. mugs and ski goggles. t-shirts and trinkets. we sat near the big windows in the same room as that digital baby grand mentioned before and i answered her questions appropriately about retail experience and subsequent success at 'selling products.' she talked about 'their products' in the shop and i couldn't help but silently wonder who's products they really were. not mine.. not hers..

i answered the rest of the interview and nodded my head at appropriate times but my eyes wandered to the piano a few times as she looked down at her paper to quote schedules and other standard info. they'll call me back on monday. i don't know if i can handle retail again. especially after tonight.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 206

scott came by the house today to see if any of us wanted to join a daytrip to calgary. the sleepy fog of a sudden awakening immediately evaporated when a dark flash pushed into the room and began sniffing the contents and clothes on the floor. deano. this is the dog that when brought along on the first roadtrip to montana had left a present on the carpet of our new friend's house seconds after scott had announced that his dog was fully house trained. neither of them have since been allowed to live that moment down. deano....

i decided to stay in town with bob dylan and the other new books and to work on mastering this accordion. you have to be careful when you're learning instruments like harmonica and accordion. there's a potential to lose close friends in the earliest stages but, with time and experience and if you're wise, the two worlds will come together. that's what i've found.

a quote in the dialogue of the book 'car camping' caught my attention this afternoon. "everyone thinks they want to be free but they don't know what freedom is, and if they had it, they'd be terrified. they just want everyone else to think they're free." i remember the painstaking hours in philosophy class semesters ago where a motionless debate between a handful of students spiraled from seeking conclusive answers to floods of instant, fiery opinions. they were trying to answer the majority of discussion questions regarding free will and true freedom. the professor loved the mayhem. i thought it was a waste of time.

i haven't written any papers or entered a classroom in the past few months, but the books and people and places are teaching me more than a midnight essay for the next morning of class.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 205

today. snow. finally.

the first significant snowfall of the season started this morning. this continued until most everything was covered in a moderate cover of white although the main streets have since regained their normal colors. people are concerned with the slow coming of the season but continue to assure that good times are ahead.

icy side streets played tricks with a shivering, stiff gait as i walked from janitoring at church to chill at mug shots this afternoon. the white and black striped beanie pressed curled and stiff locks of hair against my upper eyelids like a climber's grip on a cold, rock face. a quick, lazy gesture might pin back the wild tales for a moment but never accomplished enough to hold them before the next icy blast came sweeping down the whitened mountains and over the sidewalks and buildings, pinching and whispering numbness in my eyes.

the coffee shop and friends inside are the regular place to spend the few remaining unemployed days with this new collection of books.

also, while jamming together around the house, i admit that this accordion is one of the greatest investments i've made.

it's really cool too that people often stop by and come in the house throughout the day. we had some good chills today and might be taking on an extra roommate.

i heard once that if you do something for about twenty days straight, it will be come a habit. hmm. times ten. this blog deal seems all kinda crazy to me sometimes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 204

mondays. it seems like a lot of people in fernie have the same routine of getting out of the house and heading to the bank and grocery store. especially on the first of the month when rent is due. that and perhaps the fifty degree weather that plagues a ski town of locals and foreigners itching for thick, deep powder. it was humid today. crazy.

today was indeed investment day both in rent and in one other, long anticipated purchase.

i'd started walking down the sidewalk to make this second investment of the day when, in a sudden prod and decision, i turned around and headed for the edge of the world shop. i went to visit greg and to pick up the tripod he wanted to give me. he was upstairs in the back room next to the jam/stock room and as we talked, i noticed a couple beatles books on a shelf. conversations shifted and i ended up getting a story about when he saw them live in 65 in atlanta. legend.

after an hour since first setting out from the house, i grabbed the one hundred fifty bones i'd budgeted from some birthday money, coffee shop gig, and ibook sale and was back on track for the pawn shop. the accordion. i've done it. i have it. the 120, left hand bass buttons are not arranged in a typical, musical scale, but i've learned some songs already. i think this is the best investments i've made.

now, we've just gotten back from monday movie night at greg's house. we watched a documentary on snowboard legend and pioneer craig kelly called 'let it ride.' the room fell quiet and both snowboard gurus and pre-beginner, southern hemisphere groms watched the story of the man who fell into his fame by doing what he loved to do as hard and best as he knew how to do it and for the only reason that it made him happy.

this made me think. snowboarding will be fun for the winter, but no movie or image or person's adventure can be claimed as another's. each lives their own life. each has to live their own life or it isn't much of a life at all.

there were philosophies and words in the movie that i admired. kelly, who tragically died a few year ago in a massive avalanche not too far from here, shared in some footage that he 'doesn't find himself trying to break away from life as much as he is trying to realize it and grow into who he knows he is.'

the actual words to that quote are better than my memory's version but that idea, the word and philosophy, is admirable and inspiring. actions speak louder than words. i have a lot of words here. words.. but this life and perspective from the past two hundred plus days is worth pursuing and defining for as long as i have.

consistent rebirth. rain and sun. night and day. sin and repentance. live and death.