Monday, April 28, 2014

Good Life

I have found an incredible YouTube Chanel! It's called "UU Music and Songs," by the Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church in Camp Springs, Maryland. The songs and videos here are unbelievably well-made. The one I'm inspired to write about today is a UU version of "A Good Life" by One Republic -- listen here if you're interested.

It appeals to me because this Spring has been a major time of awakening for me ... I turned 29 years old in January of this year, and as I've been coming into these springtime months, I've realized that this is the 30th Springtime that I have been alive. It's rather humbling and inspiring to think back over what has occurred in my life and in the world since 1985.

And it's simply beautiful to appreciate this Spring of 2014 with the perspective that every single year of the past three decades (and, of course, every single year before that) the Springtime has come after the cold winter months.

The cycles that we so often disregard by turning up or down our heaters, layering or peeling off layers of clothing and bedding, and spending so much time inside buildings and cars . . . they are never-ending. Really. All the apocalyptic warnings that societies have propagated and internalized time after repetitive time immemorial . . . not a one of them have "come to pass."

The realities we are facing now are realities that we and our very own ancestors have personally and collectively created. And we personally and collectively have the power to plant the seeds required to continue making our lives and the lives of others genuinely "good."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Birthdays!

April is the one month of the year when the most people I know were born! Let's see if I can get this right . . . .

On April 4th, a Sister-in-Law of mine turned 28. On the 9th of April, one of my Uncles turned 42, and on the 10th, one of my Cousins turned 37 and my Step-Father turned 52. On the 13th, one of my Aunts turned 64, on the 14th, my newest little Nephew was born, and on the 15th another of my Cousins turned 40. On the 16th, one of my childhood friends turned 29 and one of my Nieces turned 16. On the 19th one of my Step-Brothers turned 34, and today, another one of my Nieces turns 3 years old, and another one of my Step-Brothers is now 17. Tomorrow, my Step-Mother turns 61 & one of our mutual friends shares a birthday with her. Finally, on the 27th, my closest friend (we've known each other since we were 12) will be turning 29!

That's at least 15 people who are close to me and were born in the lovely month of April!

In which month of the year were the most people you know born? On my kitchen calendar, January has 4 birthdays (including mine), February has 7 (including my wife's), March has 6, April has 15, May has 5, June and July have only 1 each, August has 4, September and October have 3 each, November has 4, and December has 6.

I find it fascinating how attached we become to the months when we were born ... I tend to view January not only as the beginning of each new calendar year, but quite literally as the beginning of each new year of my life! It's cold then, so I love having occasions like holidays and birthdays to celebrate that time of year. It's so important to keep family members and friends close in our lives during the cold, dark winter months ... people we love remind us that the Springtime will come again! How appropriate, then, that so many of the people I love celebrate the beginnings of the next years of their lives right when the weather is warming up and the Springtime is settling in.

If you're another person who was born in this lovely month, Happy April to you! I hope your birthday month is filled with warmth and sunshine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wandering Wednesday

Where are you wandering this Wednesday?

Through workloads, past time-clocks, over desktops, under pressure, are you repetitively, relentlessly opening and closing folders and drawers?

Through dusty, cobwebbed academic library shelves reaching toward an unreachable ceiling, or up and down isles of well-lit, clean, modern public libraries or bookstores, are you searching, studying, pondering, or learning?

Through yards and neighborhoods, homes and gardens, streets and alley-ways, are you walking your puppies on leashes or your babies in strollers, exploring the wild or cultivated places you call home?

This beautiful Wednesday morning I am wandering through mindful as well as mindless passages of memories, hopes, and dreams.

My mind is wandering down the hilly, winding streets where I live to the relatively bustling downtown . . . just a couple of blocks west of State Street, to where a building lies in ruin, decaying daily, brick by brick. I wander around it, circling, listening . . . are there wildflowers growing through cracks in a hidden parking lot behind it? Are those bricks yellow, or brown? Were they once red, or white? Is every window boarded? Could I wander inside? Perhaps there's a rickety staircase in there (it looks tall enough from the outside) leading to a floor where offices once spread above a cafe or book shop below.

I'm wandering around this building in my mind because I've dreamt for years of buying this old, ruinous, frightfully enchanting place. Repairing it by hand, although I know next to nothing about construction, building real buildings, architecture, or real-world design. It's the age of Google! I do know a thing or three about hard work, and if I care enough about a project, I have the patience and determination I imagine might be required to gut, renew, and beautify something that ancient and brimming over with history.

Why would I ever dream such a ridiculous dream!?

Well, it's really not the first place I remember singling out for my dreams. I believe the first was an empty lot near where I lived from ages 10 - 16, in what felt like a small town, compared to Salt Lake City, about 20 minutes south of where I live now. I dreamed of building a small house there, just spacious enough that my childhood friend from North Carolina, whom I missed so dearly, could come there and visit me! As I grew up I dreamed that I would someday ask the city who owned the overgrown, malnourished little corner lot, and could I buy it for a steal? Could I build a little playhouse there?

I later dreamed of purchasing the small duplex in Spring City, North Carolina, where I was born at home in 1985 . . . my sister and I visited the place around Christmastime in 2005 or '06. From pictures and stolen memories, the town and the house hadn't seemed to have aged a day, let alone 20 years! I thought, if I could just buy it someday, I wouldn't even have to live there, but I could rent out one side of the duplex, and have the other side available whenever I wanted to return to visit my birthplace!

I've also dreamed of purchasing the House in the Avenues, or the House on Kensington -- two familiar homes from my childhood where my Grandparents and an Uncle, Aunt, and four cousins had lived. I could fix up the House in the Avenues, live in part of it, rent out the basement to a local family, and rent other rooms to students attending the University of Utah! The home was so huge to my memory, so cavernous, with towering shelves piled to the ceilings with musky-scented books, nooks and crannies everywhere for crawling out onto the rooftop, hiding notes and letters, or playing hide-and-go-seek. It was a kid's paradise . . . there were even cherry trees in the front yard, a trampoline in the backyard, grape vines along the back fences, and swings rigged to any tree on the property that might hold them! There was plenty of room there to have multiple renters, which could help pay a mortgage. The House on Kensington had a trampoline as well . . . there really are too few families with trampolines in our sue-happy modern times.

There was another empty lot that called my name in my early twenties, on maybe 500 East, just north of 400 South in downtown Salt Lake. I wondered every time I passed the place, how could such an absolutely prime area in downtown not be claimed, not be owned by someone, somewhere, who wanted to develop it? Of course someone, somewhere, certainly did just that . . . there's no more empty overgrown fire-hazard of a lot there, but a sparkling new condominium complex next to the renovated Burger King on the corner.

So, why indeed would I set my dreaming sights on this old falling-apart building near the downtown post office? Of course it wasn't once owned by any family member, and I didn't dream of building a playhouse there. I suppose you could say it's just the one that happened to catch my eye one day, when I was walking down that street, daydreaming about the possibility of opening a Community Center in Salt Lake City for the non-religious people of Utah.

I was interning at the old Utah Pride Center, around 300 South and 300 West, and I was thinking how completely amazing it would be if the Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers, and Skeptics of Utah had a similar community center. A place where they could meet for tea & coffee, chill together in a comfortable lobby surrounded by walls filled with books on every non-religious topic in the world - humanistic thought and philosophy dating back to the Founding of America, then further back to the Greek and Roman philosophers, and including philosophical thoughts and ideas from around the world, from all cultures and places! People could play games, read science magazines, have group meetings, and host open-mic nights, book clubs, and lecture series. The upper floor could host board meetings, and be opened up into an interactive, modern office space where group leaders could meet frequently to plan meetings & programs to benefit the community in as many ways as we could come up with.

So today, I'm still wandering over there in my mind . . . running my fingers over the crumbling bricks, considering if a place like that could be built into a community center to celebrate reason, science, philosophy, and free-thought. Could a community of diverse-minded people come together to purchase an old, run-down place like that? Could you herd the cats of "non-joiners" to believe passionately in creating that space? Could they provide the man-and-woman-power required to rebuild and craft a place like that into something spectacular?

Because I could wander over there and run it. I could be there, 12-14 hours a day, pausing only for sleep, planting gardens, painting walls, replacing roofs and windows, scrubbing and making it shine.

Where would you wander this Wednesday, if you could?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pansies and Finches

Common Pansy or Violet

This morning, as I sat down to breakfast on the deck looking out over our backyard, I watered the lovely golden, purple, fiery orange, and deep-red pansies my mother bought for me a few weeks ago, that I have somehow managed not yet to kill.

I also tried to find the source of an interesting, repetitive birdsong: "Ca-caaw-ca, Ca-caaw-ca!" I trained my eyes to the branches arching over our hilly, wild, grassy yard -- and soon noticed a tiny little grey-and-white bird blending easily into the trees. The song was not his, as I learned when he flew overhead to join a few friends in another tree, calling out to them with a garbled, quiet chuckle.

There are many varieties on birdsong to hear this morning . . . "chit-chit-chit-chit-chit," "t-t-t-t-t-t-t," a sweet, sudden "sstt!" and a celebratory "swt-swt-swt-swt!" So many patterned conversations are happening overhead that I have to wonder just what it is they are communicating to one another. Are they up there wondering, "I hear an unfamiliar chirping this morning, coming from that little blue thing the large, feather-less bird sits with ... "tap-tap-tap-"
House Finch Bird