Thursday, November 22, 2007

Good Enough...

I took a longer, more scenic route home this morning for Thanksgiving. I could just about do Hwy. 31 with my eyes closed, and I needed to get a different view. Heading east on 84, meandering in and out of Farm to Market Roads, then approaching Chandler from the south, I was reminded how stunningly beautiful the area I call home is. My recent Wendell Berry readings, the cold front that pushed through Texas last night, and the fall colors painting the rolling hills of pine and oak just south of Lake Palestine combined to create one of those memorable times on the road.

Instead of my usual auditory diet of old-time country music, I decided instead to listen to a book-on-cd I found last night in the bargain rack of Barnes and Noble. Po Bronson's "Why Do I Love These People?" caught my attention about a year ago, but not enough to actually read it. But the book is about family, so I figured listening to other's stories of their family dis functions and all the ways they have been transformed, redeemed, even ruined by the people they didn't get to choose would be a nice preparation for my annual experience of all the joys and pains of a Nash family Thanksgiving. At one point Bronson made the point that the "And they lived happily ever after..." stories are never as good as those of families who can't stand being with each other, but who somehow, over time, come to terms with how things are, and choose to be together. I tried to bring that with me into Thanksgiving, and I think it helped.

As I've shared before, I have a large extended family. My dad was the eighth of nine children. All his siblings had two or more children, and all but a handful in my generation have in turn had numerous kids. It's a long and wide line of people that look an awful lot alike. For as long as I can remember we've had Thanksgiving out at uncle Johnny and aunt Diane's farm. It's the only place large enough for our clan to roam.

For the past several years, uncle Johnny has done a hayride out on the back-acreage for the slew of little ones, some of whom look forward to this day where they can see cows and horses for an entire year. What usually happens is the young ones jump onto the back of the trailer, along with one or two of their parents. He then yells across the field to see if any of us left would like to go along. Those in my generation say no, we're just fine leaving the hayride fun to the children, we'll sit back and have thirds. But secretly I think we all really want to go along, if anything to rekindle the memories of when we were the little and found things to do out on the farm to entertain ourselves.

Today we acted on our impulses, and the hayride was full of three generations of Nash's. My parents were there, holding on as tight as the could, as were a couple of my cousins (one of whom is trying to fix me up with one of her friends,) and several children, who spent most of the trip throwing hay out so the cows would have a good Thanksgiving dinner. I wondered why I could look upon all these people in my extended family with a feeling of warmth, even with my face wind bitten with the cold breeze. Yet my immediate family takes a little more work to conjure up the same feelings. There's something different about the siblings of your parents and their children that is easier to deal with than your parents and siblings. There's enough distance with extended family to preserve the curiosity necessary for good conversation, yet there's the bond of blood there that keeps you bound to each other. With your immediate family, you are close enough to have grudges AND you are stuck to each other.

Toward the end of the hayride some of the younger boys jumped off to go play in the haystacks of the barn. Pulling up to the back of the house, I noticed the rest of the adults had stopped waiting for us and moved inside, where the fire was spreading warm air all around. I knew what was coming. I would say bye to everyone, my parents would follow me out to the car, and I'd head back west to the family I HAVE chosen. I laughed a little inside at the universality AND uniqueness of my experience. I knew it wasn't happily ever after, but it was good enough. Which is about as much as you can hope for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Letter...

Dear Jayber Crow,

I recently finished, at the continual suggestion by my friend Josh, reading the story of your fictional life written by Wendell Berry and narrated by you. It took me over a month to get through it, mainly because I didn't want it to end. I found myself deliberately putting it down after a few pages, just to ration out the enjoyment and enrichment I was getting, so it would last longer. I've told others recently, and I'm telling you now-- If your book didn't transform me in ways yet unseen, then at least the desire is there on my part for it to slowly take root and make me into a new person. A better person.

In the past I have read books about small town life and the power of the mundane as a sort of self justification in this internal war I have fought with the agents of progress all around me. Fearing I would be left behind in a culture that is for the quick of feet and mind, I chose instead to hunker down into my romanticized view of an Andy Griffith type world. I chose the path, at least in theory, of the simpleton. The "Everyman." I suppose my reasoning was that eventually the world would come back around to my way of thinking. I would then be proven the true progressive, one that unlocked the treasures of the past unavailable to the masses and their electronic encumbrances.

It was this mode of thinking that pulled me into your book. Yet as I waded further in, I found you were taking me to new places. Places that didn't allow my thoughts on "community" to be used as the trump card in theological, political, and culture discourse. You made me confront the idea that simply throwing a group of people in close proximity to each other doesn't a utopia make.

Your life exposed two alternately dreadful and hopeful truths: Redemption rarely happens quickly, and is never cheap. And, true community is only available to those who take the long view of things, and who avoid, as much as possible, viewing each other as leverage.

My fear is that because I have chosen a place where people are continually just passing through, that I'll never have the opportunity to experience the longevity of loving a group of people the way you have. Though I suppose we are all a part of places where people are just passing through.

I was moved at your humility. I've spent the better part of two years feeling wronged and diminished by people who I believed didn't appreciate what I had to offer. You spent an entire lifetime in which you were largely ignored, even though you were the repository of the collective memory of an entire community. Through it all you rarely showed any emotion other than an extreme gratitude for having a birds eye view. In the end, it seemed your life was given meaning and inertia by this gratitude that eludes many of us.

Above all, I think you showed me the peace that comes from knowing your place. You spoke of the big nuisances and evils of the world in big, constant terms. The War, The Economy, The News, are never things that come and go, but are inevitabilities that will do what they will do. Through it all you had a keen understanding of your place, which served not to diminish, but to increase your value among those you loved.

Jayber Crow, thanks for your story. I will recommend it to anyone.


(Thanks to Robin for her allowing me to use her computer while I wait for the funds to accumulate to get mine fixed.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


It's looking like I'm going to have to take an extended break from blogging. My computer has either crashed, or has had a serious fender bender. I've gotten several opinions, and most assesments are that the cost will be substantial enough that a broke me (with a newfound car payment) will have to wait a few pay periods before I can throw down that kind of cash.

I'll still be able to check my email and facebook before and after work, but I'd feel wrong about using the company's computer to compose a blog (like I'm doing now on my time off.)

If you need to get a hold of me, my email is

And check back in a few weeks...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Future Legend...

I think the Lord made me alert during the writing of the previous post just so I could witness Jason Witten run a quarter of the length of the field without his helmet.

Morning Ritual...

I tried to get my dog to understand that because of farmers, or something, we have this thing in the United States called "Daylight Savings Time," and that the clock changes a couple of times a year. I used charts, graphs, and just a good old-fashioned pep talk to get her to adjust her time clock. But because she didn't understand, I was awakened at 4:00 this morning and am drifting in and out of sleep at 9:00 watching the Cowboys. She is sound asleep.

Jane sleeps on the floor to the left of my bed. When she first wakes up, she sits down next to the bed staring at me. If I don't give her attention after a few moments, she taps her paw one time on the bed near my face. If I don't get up then, she taps it twice. Usually about this time I roll over to the right side of the bed, at which point she just walks around the corner and begins the process all over again, until I finally get her up to take her out.

One funny dog...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thoughts on Grey's...

Grey's Anatomy has lost it's way.

In times past the drama was compelling because, although the story lines may have been far-fetched, the complexity of human emotions mixed with difficult situations was exposed in all it's rawness. Izzie and her terminally ill Denny drew us in because it was just about that-- A doctor falls in love with her patient and experiences unspeakable grief at his death. The story of Meredith and her mother suffering from Alzheimer's was just about that-- The strange conglomeration of love and helplessness many of us feel toward our parents and children. And in my opinion the peak of the shows greatness, when Meredith is in the O.R. holding on to that bomb embedded in the patient's chest while chaos is going on all throughout the hospital, with Anna Nalick singing "There's a light at each end of the tunnel, you shout/ 'Cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out," and "Life's like an hourglass glued to the table..." This was about what it was about-- How fragile this skin and bones and blood is that we all inhabit, and that inhabits us.

People love hospital dramas because a hospital is a built in metaphor for the condition we are all in. Hospitals need no help in reminding us how bad The Fall was for humanity. Their very existence speaks to part of the great (Christian) story, which is that we are all terminal.

So when extra little metaphors started creeping in, I began to feel a little nauseous. I'm not sure when it began, but it found it's lowest moment last night. Dr. Torres, dealing with the dissolution of her marriage to George and trying to move on, is standing in the pit waiting for an ambulance to come in. When it does and the two victims come out, holding a wedding dress, I almost lost it. The two were in one of those contests were the last one holding the dress wins a $100,000 wedding package. Do you get it? Callie struggling to let go of her marriage, these two women struggling NOT to let go of a wedding dress (and by extension, proving the legitimacy of their love for their future husbands?) Vomit. Enough already.

If only life were that simple. But it's not. Never have I been going through a difficult situation in life when a customer miraculously appears in my store with a similar situation that helps me sort through my issues, giving me the miraculous "Aha!" moment we are all looking for. The truly shitty things in our lives remain with us, trudged through, dealt with, put on the back burner, then allowed to simmer again when all our other ducks get put in a row. If we are lucky enough, we have our Christina's and Izzie's and George's who walk beside us, reminding us who we are and that we are all, this side of glory, in jacked up places, and helping us put one foot in front of the other. Cute metaphors are few and far between.

But, the prophet was right about one thing... I am loyal. Many shows have been revived to their glory days, and I'm still holding out hope. Watching and waiting.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

What to become...

"Funny which words stick around 20 years down when you're driving alone..."
Mat Kearney, What's a Boy to Do?

I was prophesied over once. I know, crazy huh? I mean, who the hell knows? Do these people just give some generic prophecy that many years down can be made to fit any interpretation of a sequence of events? Or is it something that once they put the words into motion, you live your life in such a way to make those things happen? The options are numerous. But what about the non-cynical option? What if there are prophets among us with some strange connection to God who are really speaking for Him?

I have my doubts.

Regardless, I was still prophesied over once. The guy told me I was a rock. He said my strength was my loyalty, that I remain. And then he told me I would fly all over the world like a bird, or a rocket, expanding the kingdom of God.

Today I spent a lot of time making change for people, putting together book displays, and listening to annoying people who don't know what they want, but expected me to. While I know (and fully live by the fact) that the kingdom exists in strange corners of the earth and through different means, I doubt this was what he had in mind. I'm pretty sure he was thinking of something a little more wild, evangelical. A little more Billy Graham, a little less American Joe.

The difficult thing is that these are wait-and-see experiences-- still in the making, yet probably a long way off. I guess I'll always remain loyal, perhaps even to a fault. But a rock and flying like a bird or a rocket, not sure if I'll ever pull that off.