Tuesday, December 23, 2008


When I began telling my classmates in New Jersey that I was moving to Arkansas, the general sentiment was that I was moving a very long distance away. This was certainly true, and probably on more levels than our junior high hearts realized. However, after being asked a few times just how cold it got in the winter, it became apparent that idea of distance was distorted by mistaking Arkansas for Alaska (when you live just a few hours from four of the biggest cities in the country, it's easy to confine everyone else to the geographical periphery...just ask Texans and Californians).

This specter of distance has haunted me since the day I stepped off a plane in Little Rock, Arkansas and had to call it home. As time has gone on and I've grown from a clueless adolescent to an equally clueless young adult, distance has intruded upon every aspect of life and left me just as bewildered as in those first dizzying days of reconciling myself to leaving a home, a life, behind. It has seemingly made everything tangential and derivative. Distance has become the measure of things.

I live in Portland, Oregon. Most days, it is absolutely glorious. The people, the landscape, the energy - they sometimes intertwine in harmony so breathtaking that it reeks of contrivance. But it's just Portland.

Other days, I am reminded of just how far are the places from which I've come. Memories of New Jersey have been rewritten so elaborately that the seams between fact and fiction are impossible to detect. On a spring break roadtrip during my senior year of college, I drove back to visit friends in Princeton. Driving around one day while they were in class, I found myself at a vaguely familiar intersection. I began turning, half from memory and half from instinct, until I found myself in my old neighborhood. At my old school. In front of my old house.

It was bizarre. Everything was smaller and dingier than I remembered it. Yet, I knew those streets. I grew up with those streets, those playgrounds, those comic book stores. I've never felt so distant from reality as I did parked in front of my old house, peering wistfully at the screened porch, waiting for young Ramón to bang out the door to the sidewalk and turn up the corner at Homan toward George's house. I wanted to ask him, "What happened to you?"

I was a stranger in front of the very places where my memories are staged. My self. My history. How can I be a stranger to my own history? A stranger to myself? These are the types of questions that have driven me to write self-absorbed pseudophilosophy or check into an unreflective stimulus response life driven by appetite. Once in those places, I often despair of ever getting out.

I think about the distance between people too. I grew up around my dad's family in New York, and while the roots of familial love are thick, there is no denying the distance between me and my cousins. Our lives have gone on without each other for 15 years now, with sporadic appearances at weddings and funerals. They all have memories together - watching the new generation of cousins growing up and watching the titis and tíos growing older. Each time we see each other again, the love is deeper but the relationship is thinner. I don't understand it.

Most of my dearest friends, those whose history with me is gritty and unpolished, live far away. Because my rootlessness has attracted me to other wanderers, some of them have begun what seems to be a mass migration to the far flung corners of the globe. As I find my life switching tracks from that international train, the geography between us becomes reflective of deeper estrangements.

Don't even get me started on graduate degrees, careers, houses, marriage, and kids. In my less rational moments, it seems that they have been building their dream lives while I have been caught snoring in the bleachers. A weary, uninspired spectator.

But this is no game. A good friend and coworker at Starbucks would sometimes playfully ask, "Ramón, what are we doing here?!" It was funny in the way that only those piercing truths can be funny - two educated men nearing thirty, pouring lattes and eating shit with a smile for any asshole customer who can pay 50 cents for a coffee refill. In that interaction, the distance between a person and an object can be measured in the negligent toss of a credit card toward a stained green apron behind an infinitely wide counter. He and I can't even joke about it anymore. It's not funny anymore.

Something is at stake in bridging the distance between people. By indulging in my little outburst of profanity above, I have succumbed to the same vampire detachment that bit me at work. Now I am objectifying a living, breathing person. Now I am the one biting.

There are two people in my life with whom I'd like to be closer, but it feels like they are pulling me in with one arm and pushing me away with the other. I only know this feeling because I am quite adept at the maneuver. Even recently, there are people I have invited into my life only to become emotionally withdrawn.

What a mess! I feel hurt and rejected by the ones pushing me away so I withdraw from the others and feel detached and lonely. What gives? Why am I letting myself become controlled by pain and the fear of pain? I know these lessons, we've been over this before. What are we doing here?!

I remember the feeling of utter isolation I had when I discovered that we don't actually see or touch anything. "It's all electrons," I was told. What I "see" is the brain's reception of light particles bouncing off of objects. Of people. What I "feel" is the force of electrons repelling each other as they grow nearer. I almost cried thinking that I had neither seen nor touched any of the people I loved most. They had neither seen nor touched me.

I cursed electrons. After all, these were ludicrously tiny particles standing between me and the reality of my loved ones. But, ah, the paradox! It was my electron-laden neurons that carried the signal to my brain that I was seeing and feeling. What good is getting to the reality of things if I am trapped inside my body? If I am only electrons?

There is some thing between us that is both much smaller and much more vast than negative particles. Distance seems too limiting a description, and yet it fails to convey the mind-boggling expanse. I am trying to wrestle with this paradox and I am losing. I'm not sure I would want to win if I could.

I often struggle to find meaning in a holiday season so entangled with consumerism, and so it is almost by surprise that tomorrow is Christmas Eve. This year I think meaning has found me.

In my faith tradition, the accompanying story is one of displacement, hardship, and labor. An impoverished Jewish peasant couple scandalized by premarital pregnancy scour the periphery of the Roman Empire for a resting place, any place, to begin the hard work of bringing forth new life.

Babies are born every day, and it is never easy. But according to the story, something more was born in Judea that night. Wrapped in swaddling cloth was the wailing confession of the measurable and the ineffable.

We are not self-contained objects, isolated from one another. We are not far removed from reality. What has seemed so far has been revealed to have always been near. Love is born in that revelation, and love beckons to us who are far off -- we who feel hurt, rejected, withdrawn, and afraid.

To us love whispers, "Draw near."

Friday, December 5, 2008

The setting sun

I went on a short hike in Olympia with McHaley today. The trail wound down from a little parking lot just off the road to a rocky beach on the east side of a small cove along the Puget Sound. We were surrounded by lush vegetation and then all of a sudden - tada! Water. Beautiful water.

Looking to the right, the Olympic mountains loomed in the distance, craggy and snow stained. They do not tower, in the normal sense of the word, but their rugged indifference provokes a certain admiration. I love the Olympic mountains.

Looking to the left, the sun was slowly sinking beneath a thin clutch of wispy clouds, caressing the water with the subtlest hues of a sunset palette. Fire and water dancing beneath the wailing seagulls.

We talked about life--family; friends; places we've lived; places we'd like to live. We are kindred spirits of a sort, two wanderers learning in different ways how to make a home. It's not exactly a task with measurable goals. How do you even know when a place first feels like home? I imagine you just look up one day and realize this place feels just like that other place I called "home" did. Despite having no control over this process, it still feels like hard work.

As we talked, I watched the sun descend toward the hills with lazy confidence. I want that confidence. I want to live life with the steady rhythm of the sun rising and setting each day, no matter which place I am trying to call home.

I want to stop clutching at my increasingly outlandish notions of grandeur, as if the days were sand slipping unhindered through my hands.

See, I want to savor the feel of life flowing unfettered between my fingers, to let each grain tell its unique story until there is nothing left to hold.

Then I will stand at the water, gaze upon the mountains, and know the certainty of the sun in its setting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Postcards Without Postage, pt. 2

Querida Abuelo,

It was your birthday four days ago, but I nearly forgot. In fact, I always forgot. I've never remembered birthdays besides Mom and Dad's, and I even forgot Dad's 50th. I didn't speak to you much at all while you were alive, and I regret it. I let myself be daunted by a language barrier that was nowhere near as formidable as I imagined. I allowed you to be a mythical figure rather than the warm, solid man the rest of the family knew. I missed out. And as a result, I can't tell these days if my grief is from losing you ro realizing how little I let myself know you. I could never remember your birthday but I will never forget the day of your death. I wish it was otherwise, because yours was a life to be celebrated. Dad says the family gathered for a dinner four nights ago. I imagine them eating, drinking, laughing, and maybe crying later in their bedrooms. I don't know; I wasn't there. For so long I haven't been there, but you were. A pillar of radiant LIFE that I could return to whenever I wanted. Why did I not come? And why now, when you are gone, am I so drawn to you, to your absence? I talked about ministry and family with you, but not about me. Not about my shortcomings. So, I'll tell you now--I often have to write later what I did not have the presence to say in the moment.

Te amo y te extraño mucho,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The writing project is failing miserably, so no need for secrecy any longer. I was attempting for the second year in a row to win National Novel Writing Month, and for the second year in a row I have fallen short.

"Wait a minute," you object. "There's still nearly two weeks left in November! Keep writing!" I appreciate the encouragement, I really do. After all, that's what I asked for in my last entry, right? 50,000 words in a month is daunting to say the least, but each passing year it seems more doable. Why, then, am I throwing in the towel halfway through the month?

I started out fast, nearly matching all of last year's output in the first three days. I was trying to get ahead, because friends were coming into town and then there was Thanksgiving, and November (as always) was going to be crazy. I was not even accounting for the fact that our country would elect its first black president and I would reel at the significance for nearly a week afterward.

Reality - last year when I did not win NaNoWriMo, I noted that I seemed to be more geared toward shorter pieces. Poetry, essays, short fiction. I think I can echo that realization this year, though I feel like a long piece of fiction is within my abilities, however uninteresting it might be to read. At the very least, I seem to be capable of creating characters that I enjoy spending time with, watching them react to alternately predictable and improbable situations. I can't always put them on paper, but they have begun living with me in my head, working their way into becoming lifelong friends (as if I didn't have enough voices in my head already).

Which brings me to a different conclusion this year. What I lack in writing a novel is not time. It is desire. Motivation. This may seem obvious, but it is helpful for me to articulate. People describe the artistic urge in so many different ways. Often we hear that a writer can't help but write, an painter can't help but paint. I think there is some truth in that, but I think these are also the result of cultivated affections.

Within the melange of competing desires, we make a choice of sorts. We must give space for some of them to grow roots, prepare themselves for the treacherous journey upward from heart, mind, and soul to expression, to action. Certainly, some desires impose themselves upon us more stridently, more insistently. Yet in the end, most people choke out their own desires every day, let all manner of unattended weeds overthrow the garden of their passion.

It often feels like the process is out of our control, but I wonder if we would find with honest self-examination that we gave ourselves over to our omnipresent fears, let them take our most valuable impulses hostage. I wonder if we would find our love to be polyvalent, diffused and unfocused. I wonder if we would find our discipline to be soft and pliable, unable to resist the powerful seduction of inertia.

I wonder all of these things, and yet I do not feel like I've failed this year. I am making a choice. I chose to soak in the atmosphere surrounding the election, field the comments and questions from friends, call my relatives in Arkansas who survived Jim Crow and the dissipation of communal strength born of common opposition. I chose to spend a week with my friends without trying to squirrel away a couple hours each day to write, without the raincloud of guilty inactivity dogging our travels. I chose to let other things grow than a novel this month.

In the process, I had a much needed break from work and an even more necessary rekindling of parts of myself that have grown anemic through disuse. The musician. The confessor. These are parts of me that have lain dormant in the absence of shared history. The reluctance toward openness, toward performance, are symptoms of my inner fragmentation.

My friend Dave was one of the three visitors to Portland this past week, and we shook our heads in disbelief at the decade that has passed since we met awkwardly in the Beaumont basement freshman year. This man has seen me at my lowest, staying up all night to watch movies and their directorial commentary consecutively while the incompletes keeping me from graduating stood firm on unfinished papers and final exams. He has seen me at my best, hitting three bullseyes in a row while playing darts with his hometown friends. We have seen each other struggle and helped each other celebrate. The composite of our memories feels closer to the the self I've been struggling to express since I left the Grand Canyon in January.

My time with Dave, Natalie, and Lindsay was reinvigorating, but also somewhat paralyzing. I know it's futile to wish friends like these would always be around, never be separated from me by timezones and mountains ranges. But in the flood of emotions released by our reminiscences, how can I do otherwise? It's so easy to keep digging deeper with these three, to keep making more space for our roots to grow. For all the people I have come to love in Portland, for those who have loved me so warmly, I have yet to figure out how to release the parts of me that have been hiding throughout these three years in the Pacific Northwest.

Facebook is a trip too. Friends from elementary school in New Jersey have been finding me and it's been releasing memories from even further back. The longer ago the events, the less coherent the attendant narratives. All that comes are images, flashes of seemingly insignificant moments. Why do they come? Why are they remembered? I think these are truer memories than the stories I've compiled for my internal autobiography, and I try to let this montage float to the surface from even recent memory.

They are usually without meaning unless I try to impose it. Paper football matches on the desks in Mrs. Wood's classroom. Poor attempts to shave our heads bald at George's house. Jumping on my new neighbor's trampoline in Little Rock. My first taste of rose milk at Naveen's house. The moment when Dr. Buhro explained that electron shells are visual representations of probability, not solid objects. Sean and I sprinting down the hallway of Nemerov 3. Finding my office at Mosaic covered in Hello Kitty and Care Bear posters. The drive up the Columbia River Gorge on my final approach into Portland as a new resident.

These moments require room to grow. Space to happen. November would be a great month to write a novel, but it's an even better month to create new memories with my friends. To continue writing the story of my life in greater detail, richer hues.

I am bowing out of National Novel Writing Month, assured that what is being written in me far surpasses what I am able to write. At least for today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Game on

Starting at midnight tonight, please send every ounce of good vibes, prayers, whatever ya got, my way. I am beginning one of the projects I mentioned before tonight, and I might be around online and in person a bit less over the next month or so. Check in on me...prod me...chastise me if you see me wasting time on Facebook. It's time to get serious about not only being creative, but productive.

Game on!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


My relationship with singing has been a rocky one, but it has withstood the test of time, as well as overcome my addiction to chronic dabbling. I don't remember much of the early years. I was no child prodigy, singing in gospel choirs or entertaining the family on holidays. In fact, I was noticed for my talent on the clarinet, but I only once remember being complimented on my singing.

We were doing some kind of choral concert in elementary school. Perhaps a holiday one, I don't remember. Fact is, I don't even remember who our chorus teacher was. Anyway, I have this memory in my head of her chastising me for not singing loud enough. She said that I knew the melody and other students were following my lead. If I did not sing out fully, then many others would trail off into uncertain, indistinguishable "counterpoint". So, I sang out.

Memories are funny though. I don't remember her name. I don't remember the setting (did she say this in front of the class? Oh the embarrassment if she did!) in which she delivered her exhortation. I often ask myself, did this really happen at all? Or did I create some memory in order to serve as a reminder to me to continue with the craft? I don't know.

However, I do clearly remember the agony of enrolling in junior high and finding out that I would have to choose between being in choir or in the band. As I mentioned before, I was recognized for my talent on the clarinet, and in the end it wound up not being much of a choice. Nonetheless, there was a pang of disappointment at not being able to continue singing in a choral setting, something I enjoyed immensely.

And that was that for a long time. I focused on clarinet, made All-Region bands, played solos at concerts, and excelled at the path I had chosen for myself. Then I burned out.

I still regret the timing. I was finishing up my sophomore year. I had gotten a relatively high chair in All-Region band and my clarinet instructor was excited about my chances at All-State. But I told him I was done. Finished. I was too stressed out to continue, could not deal with the pressure. He was dumbfounded, but accepted my decision after his initial prodding was unsuccessful. I know he was wondering, "What in the world have we been working for?"

And I had no answers to his questions. I ditched band and played football my last two years in high school, which was a great experience, but athletics were clearly disadvantaged in having a future for me beyond graduation. So it is that I arrived at college and tried to take my alto sax into private lessons and a jazz studies minor. I never got going. I didn't give it the time, I didn't have the passion for the instrument anymore. I could not for the life of me remember modes. Everything just stopped.

Except singing. See, during my senior year in high school the choir teacher made an impassioned appeal to the senior football players to be play the mostly nonspeaking parts of cowboys in Crazy For You. Somehow, several of us ended up signing on, and it involved singing and dancing. There's probably video somewhere, but woe to the person who puts it online.

Anyway, it was my first time to really sing in almost five years. We practiced hard. There were harmonies, and I had to be told that I was in the low tenor range. It was such a great experience that I kept singing in college. But, without an official venue, I subjected my roommate Sean to hours upon hours of torturous, slightly off tune singing while I tried to figure out Boyz II Men harmonies through my computer headphones.

But, through Sean's perseverance, a voice actually started to emerge. The tones got sharper, more accurate. Coming up with accompanying harmonies became more automatic. I sang in public a couple of times at some church events. Then four of us got together and formed a band at the end of college. Listening to the recordings now, I feel like we were as good as we could have been considering our relatively sparse amount of practice. And it was unbelievably fun.

Being in a band is without a doubt one of the defining social experiences of my life. I think can say without any hint of pretension that I miss being on stage. The thrill of being the point of focus for everyone's attention, hidden only by a guitar and the much more talented musicians at my side. While I still shudder slightly at hearing my recorded voice, it was nonetheless a consistently wondrous thing to hear my voice coming out of monitors or house speakers.

Then we went the way of college bands. Sam moved to California, I eventually moved back to Arkansas, and the Fellowship was broken. I still sang on my own. Recorded a few of my songs solo with terrible microphones on laboriously work intensive recording equipment. But, within six months of moving back to Little Rock, the well went dry. Without new songs, singing became an exercise for me, an enjoyment. That's nice, but I lost my voice.

Here in the last five years I've been trying to figure out what happened, trying to recover one of the great joys of my life. My listening in the last few years has honed in on jazz, blues, soul...vocal heritages that I had not explored in my songwriting nor in my casual singing until I joined a gospel choir in Little Rock. The music fit my voice like the missing half of a treasure map. "My vocal cords were made for this!" I thought excitedly.

This is going to sound awful, but even better than gospel choir is karaoke. I'm not gonna lie -- when you sing Al Green at karaoke and make a roomful of drunk rednecks from central Washington get up to dance and applaud when you finish, your ego is insufferable for the rest of the night.

Yet, there is something in me that is misplaced. There's a fear in that thrill of singing now. I don't in any way understand it. As much as I loved being on stage, I hide my voice away now. Ask any of my friends in Portland...most of them don't know I was in a band in St. Louis. If they know I can sing it's only because they've heard me at work or they were present at Lizz's birthday party when I sang "End of the Road".

What happened? Just the other day at work, a friend asked me to sing a line from John Legend to help jog her memory of whether she'd heard him or not. I refused. I don't know why. I love singing John Legend songs...what was the block there?

I don't get it, and I don't like it. I want my voice back. I want to be comfortable with it again, wear it like an old pair of jeans that are slightly frayed at the edges, but oh so comfortable in the seat. I want to invite my friends to witness one of the things I enjoy doing most in life. Seriously, I think there is a lightness in me that is only present when I'm singing and performing music on a regular basis. How many of you have ever seen that?

I don't know what this post is ultimately about. Glancing back over it, it seems a bit narcissistic and self indulgent. But, I think I needed to write it. Put it out of my head and onto some medium, to prod myself to recover that lost love. So, if you've read this far, thanks for following along with my logorrhea. Yeah...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A memory

When I was still living in New Jersey, we had a huge icy snowstorm one time. School was canceled for a few days and the roads and sidewalks were treacherous, despite prompt plowing and salting. Back in our neighborhood it was particularly slippery, and it was in these conditions that I found myself walking to my best friend George's house a few blocks away.

I was dressed appropriately -- jeans tucked in snow boots, scarf tied round my face against the wind. Each step had to be placed carefully, and I was slipping and sliding all over the place. At one point I must have lost my concentration, because the next thing I know I am staring at my legs unceremoniously splayed above my head, steel sky above my legs.

Yes, I was falling in the most out of control, awkward, unrecoverable way possible. Now understand -- this was the beginning of junior high. Acute self-consciousness falls so far short of describing the paranoia and anxiety of that time. Yet, here I was, walking through the neighborhood where both friends and enemies lived, and I was making a complete ass of myself. Never mind that slipping on the ice is something people do all the time; in that state of mind, it felt like an act with fatal consequences.

After falling solidly on my back, breath whooshing out noisily, I had to take a moment before I could gather my motor control. The first thing I did was look around to see if anyone had seen me. I scanned the crystalline surroundings for any color splashed against the white; any evidence of someone in the vicinity. A beat. Then relief. There was no one.

Once the nervousness of being seen in such a compromised position passed, I began to laugh. A loud, uninhibited laugh. The kind of laugh that carried a hint of the maturity I would have in looking back in hindsight and shaking my head at the ridiculousness of my junior high anxieties turning ordinary clumsiness into social suicide. The kind of laugh that I would never allow myself in any other situation than when I was alone, unseen.

As my laughter subsided and I pushed myself off the ground, I began to get very sad.

I was 12 years old and trying very hard not to believe in God. After all, this was the year that witnessed the only time my father hit me in the face. The subsequent altercation involving a knife and baseball bat ended with me on the ground being choked by the very man who had helped give me life, the man I had just tried to kill.

This was the year I was consumed with guilt after finding out my mother had bipolar disorder, her internal chemistry influencing the mood swings for which I had begun to hate her. When I realized it wasn't her fault, I could direct that hate nowhere other than myself. What kind of son hates his mother?

This was the year I told myself that there could be no God at all if these things could happen to one family. The self-centered trajectory of such thoughts is symptomatic of adolescence, I suppose, but to this day I am amazed at the narrowness of my scope. I had friends in school who had it much worse, and it never crossed my mind to doubt God's existence because of their situation. But this was happening to ME.

Brushing the snow and ice off my coat, I breathed in the aloneness that had moments before released me to laugh wholeheartedly. As that solitude expanded in my mind to a cosmic scale, I was overcome by the stark emptiness I felt surrounding me on Homan Avenue.

And I walked away sad.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Postcards Without Postage, pt. 1

This is the first in a series of postcards I am writing to people with whom I am no longer in contact--people from the past; people who are estranged; people who have passed away (names have been changed where appropriate). This was inspired by a gift from my friend Natalie Gonzalez...so credit her if you like it, and blame me if you don't.

Dear Elena,

Wow, it's so great to hear from you after such a long time and distance between us. I've thought of you often on this journey. Tentatively, but often. So many things I've seen, people I've met, remind me of our love in its infancy. When I'm melting my eyes out on towering landscapes or crystal clear starlit skies, I am reminded of that perfect New England night. At least, that's how it seemed to me then. Cinematic in its timing, its scenery, its cathartic embrace. But remembering back, I celebrated our kiss like I'd won some race. It was reduced to a goal achieved, an affirmation of self. You were utterly left behind, transubstantiated into a phantom of love's ideal instead of the very solid, very present Elena who had been my friend since I disembarked from my East Coast exodus. Elena, I'm sorry. I didn't even know how to crawl, much less walk with you. I caused you a lot of pain over the next year, willfully and spitefully. Childishly. And now, regretfully. It's been over a decade since that snowy night in New England, and I don't remember the kiss anymore. The feeling of apparent victory. There is only the dull ache of love betrayed. For that, I am sorry. Love is a hard teacher. -- Ramón

Saturday, October 25, 2008


One of the inadvertent consequences of deciding to be definitely here is risking the pain of separation after being fully present with people. This is a basic tenet of right relationship -- amount and depth of love is directly proportional to amount and depth of pain that can be experienced.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, my tendency has been to stay lightly disengaged so as to mitigate these effects, but I can do that no longer. It is no surprise, therefore, that soon after making that decision engage fully I am confronted with the potential of two very dear couples leaving Portland. These couples are integral parts of the family that I've found myself among out here, across the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River from my blood relations.

It's hard. I've always been the one to say goodbye. That's hard in it's own way, but the adventure of what's next is soothing, or distracting at the very least. Staying behind...that's something I'm going to have to learn how to do. Especially in a city like Portland, where so many young people come not so much in search of something as to escape somewhere else. We are refugees, us transplants, often running from things we cannot recognize until we come here and realize they have followed us.

The inevitability of having to deal with those things tends to draw us back to where we have some kind of root system. To family. To friends with whom we have history, inside jokes, even drama. To place...the street corners and sandwich shops where we feel utterly at home.

My friends are not considering leaving Portland. They are considering going home. How could I, who have searched for a home for so long, ever be against that? If/when my friends leave, I will be sad. I will regret all the times I should have called, should have visited, should have hugged.

But more than that, I will laugh with them; remember. We have made a home for ourselves here, in this Portland, even if only for a little while. For that, I will ever be grateful--not to the idea of a city, but to my dear friends. We will always come home to one another.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I need some discipline, some regularity, in my writing once again. In my life. Perhaps posting simple blogs can help me get that train back on the tracks.

The weather in Portland has been phenomenal for the last three or four days. The mornings have started out pretty cloudy, but over the course of the day the clouds break and the sun begins burning itself into our pleasure receptors. These sunny, crisp days are amazing in their clarity and briskness.

I've been back from Phoenix for nearly three months now. Though I have come back with some very clear ideas of the values I want to drive what I do here, the day to day decisions, the longer term trajectories, are exceedingly unclear. What do I do with myself? How do I occupy my time with the things that highlight and express the values that are infusing me with purpose?

I've got a couple projects I want to undertake. I will not write about them, because I'm tired of talking. I only mention them for the sake of accountability. Ask me occasionally how those projects are going, though I might not share details with you.

Suffice to say that beginning to post on a regular basis is a move toward a habit, a discipline, that may spark other things. Attempting to write a poem a day in April ended up being such a fruitful exercise for loosening my writing as the spring and summer progressed, and I'm looking for a little more of that magic now with other endeavors. We'll see...

I was thinking about the future the other day. Alternately dreaming and worrying, and then I recalled this line from Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting:

"People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories rewritten."

I've determined to be fully here in Portland. Here does not describe a locale or a time frame (which has dictated the way I viewed most of my living situations over the last decade), but a way of being. A wholeness. An acute attentiveness. And, perhaps, a contentment.

I believe this requires letting go of the illusion that control of the future can be attained, as well as loosing the absurdity of wishing the past could be altered. Perhaps being created in the image of God means living within the bounds, the freedom, of God's self revelation to Moses from the burning bush -- I am who I am.