Friday, November 26, 2004

all good things

What could be better than a hot bowl of chili with cornbread after a nasty cold morning horseback riding? Fun was had by all despite the temps, and the temp was quickly overcome by the chili.
The rest of the day was spent lazily with family, old friends, and another fleeting spectacular sunset. All day yesterday was cloudy with spitting snow, then at dusk, the sky cleared and the full moon and stars shown from a crystal sky. All day today was cloudy so that the sunset had something on which to project its colors. Here is a pic of tonight's sky painting as seen from my parent's back yard.
Then at dark, the sky cleared once again to show the gorgeous moon and stars. We spent the evening by the fire in my brother's new log home.
Like waning moons and evening sky paintings, family visits must come to an end. Just as we stand there watching the sky darken and colors fade, hoping to wade in pastels a moment longer, so we linger into the final night, visiting, telling stories, remembering and laughing as the last logs' flames shrink to a glow the color of the sunset in the darkening fireplace.


Thursday, November 25, 2004


Twenty-six people for dinner. Many sadly missing. How wonderful to spend the day among extended family feasting, talking, laughing, remembering. Four generations represented in a single room with stories of many generations past. Today we looked at photographs of each father dating back to Wilson Lewis, born 1803 in Greenbrier county, Virginia. Wilson was the son of John Baptist Lewis whose picture I've not seen. Wilson's son was George, born 1833, who lived 20 years and begat John Wesley Lewis and lived sixty more years. John Wesley lived 30 years and begat Griffeth Lewis and lived 53 more years. Griffeth lived 26 years and begat Leslie Lewis and lived 54 more years. Leslie Lewis lived 30 years and begat John Wilburn and lived 22 more years. John Wilburn lived 24 years and begat Rod and is still going strong these 40 years later. Rod lived 28 years and begat Jonathan, William and Molly who have yet to beget anyone.
I also saw a picture of John Calvin Lewis who'd have been of my great grandfather's generation but not directly in my line. It is easy to see, then why I am less Calvinistic than Baptistic, with a tinge of Methodism. Can you imagine the debates at Thanksgiving dinner if John Wesley, John Calvin, and John Baptist had all been the same age?
This is a picture of John Wesley Lewis, my great-great grandfather. My roots run deep in these hills, and my children, though born in the Palmetto state, have hillbilly in their blood.
And for a bit of trivia, did you know that our hillbilly label comes from William of Orange, whose subjects, upon coming to America, settled in the Appalachians from New York, south. "Hillbilly" designated these from the potato famine Irish who stayed in the North East and were not a part of the same immigration. And whose colors can still be found from Syracuse to Tennessee, (yea, even Clemson) and in the evening sky over Fancy Gap Virginia at the end of a long day of driving.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Well I wonder if everyone traveling had similar stories today. Seems that the Inkslinger had trouble getting to New Mexico. We also had a harrowing trip. We were very slow getting away from home this morning. As a matter of fact, it was nearly 1:00pm when we pulled away from the house. Smooth sailing through misty rain until we hit the North Carolina line, at which point six lanes of traffic slowed to a crawl, and the sky opened up on us. I'm guessing that congestion is due to folks trying to get on and off I-85 and am discouraged that that means that we'll be in it for another 15 miles or so. When we passed I-85 an hour later, the traffic crawl didn't change. We continued to crawl through Statesville and finally at about the I-40 intersection, we slowed nearly to a stop while the road was invisible through the driving rain and mid afternoon fog. I began to worry that we wouldn't make it up the mountain into Virginia before dark, and would be treated to pea soup fog there. I refused to stop and feed the starving wee ones for fear of the dark while climbing the mountain.
When finally we got to Virginia, there was no fog at all once we began climbing, though traffic was still thick and crawling. When we finally reached the top, at about 5:15, two hours behind schedule, I could see a faint glow in the clouds to the west. Another mile down the road and the setting sun broke through. The entire sky turned orange. Will saw a double rainbow out his window and when we all looked, it took our breath away. I quickly pulled over, grabbed my camera and stood beside the teeming interstate taking pictures and watching the sky change minute by minute. The sunset was not just in the sky, it was everywhere. Vivid color bathed everything. The kids inside the truck said, "dad, your skin is orange." I wasn't just watching the sunset, I was part of the sunset. Right up against the rainbow. I've never experienced color like that before. Being color-blind, I've only ever seen yellow in a rainbow. A long streak of single color highlighter stretched across the sky. But today, I saw strips of vivid separated color in two rainbows swiped across orange clouds. I think they were filtered just for my eyes.
As I stood there beside the road on top of the mountain, I thought about the stressful, crawling trip that brought me there. One fuel stop, one potty break, a 10 mile section of normal speed driving - any one of these things would have allowed us to miss this extraordinary moment. We needed to be over 200 miles from home at precisely 5:15pm, and it was all arranged to happen. There we were, a part of the sunset, projecting two rainbows on the opposite sky. Then it was over.
I got back into the truck and crawled another 15 miles to the junction of I-81, and traffic began to move and we drove normal speed the rest of the way to my parents. Go figure. Did you ever crawl into your car and hear the creator of the universe say, "come here, there's something I want to show you?"
So this thanksgiving, I am thankful for things I hadn't even know about this morning. I am thankful for a momentary reprieve from color-blindness. I am thankful for mountains, clouds, sunshine, traffic congestion, rain, fog, and all obstacles needed to govern my pace to put me precisely where I need to be precisely when I need to be there.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Do you remember our resident arachnid? A couple months ago, I blogged about her position in front of our welcome sign on our front porch. At the time, she had been there for over a month - keeping her web clean and neat, and welcoming all who entered our abode. I affectionately named her Charlene as a nod to that wise and encouraging spider who ministered to Wilbur when he was desperately lonely and needed a friend.
Last week I noticed that her web was starting to look a lot like my office. Stacks of stuff piled on top of other stacks of stuff. That's strange, I thought, she's always been on top of maintenence. Then the next day, I noticed that she seemed to be in the same position as the day before - and more stray threads hanging. She's gone, I thought. I reached up and patted her on the shoulder and she did not respond in any way. I kept meaning to bring her down and give her a proper burial, but stayed too busy.
Then, a couple days ago, I walked out the front door and saw her swing far beneath her orb. She was dropping a new support line to the porch rail. Within an hour she had remodeled her orb to new status. I don't know what was going on last week. Sleeping off the cold, much needed rest... who knows? But she's back. A very old spider.
Last night I sat on the front porch and worked on Sunday morning while it rained. Charlene was moving about busying herself with some important spider task. While I planned for the first Sunday of advent, I decided to change Charlene's name to Anna. After all, Charlene, er, Anna is very old and has spent all this time in the same place, never leaving her web. What is she waiting on? She's the only spider left in the yard, or even in the woods behind the house. What is keeping her here? I wondered if she'd been married eight years and widowed 84. I wondered if the cold night lack of insects represented her fasting. I began to look about the front porch for some crusty old lizard named Simeon.
All of a sudden the welcome sign in front of which Anna has been situated all these months took on a whole new meaning. I put down my PDA and decided to stop planning and start preparing.
I'm waiting.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

welcome to the groove

Sometimes a piece of music is more than a piece of music. But you have to know how to listen to it to hear what it is. That should be no surprise - the same thing is true of the spoken word. You've got to listen to hear it. Crazy thing is, even the speaker can say it without hearing it. Sometimes words are just so wonderful that they get in the way of what they mean. Some folks can coin a phrase so wonderfully that we don't even notice that they aren't saying anything.
With music, this is largely what we've come to expect. Does anybody really expect music to say anything? Sometimes though, you happen upon a piece of music that says exactly what you've been trying to say, and so, immediately understand it. It stands out from the chatter. You can hear it so well that it doesn't really matter if no one else ever understands what you're saying with it. But that is not what happens. People with ears will hear it and comprehend.
These past two days, I've spoken with lots of people without saying a word, and I feel like many of them heard.
On Thursday night, four of my guitar students played on a general student recital. Afterward, one of them came up to me and said, "do you remember how you told me about assigning each piece you play as a prayer for a specific person?' "Of course," I said. "Well the piece I played tonight was my prayer for you."
It's one thing to get past the notes to the guitar, and another to get past the guitar to the music. It's still more elusive to get past the music. To help someone else to make these steps is a deeply satisfying thing.
Music, sweet music, such a funky thing – the closer you get, the deeper it means. (doug pinnick)


Friday, November 19, 2004

be careful little mouth

If you've read my blog at all, you'll know that one of my greatest pet peeves is being identified by something that you aren't or that you don't do. I camped there in blog land back in the fall. I try with all my might to find identity in what it is rather than in what it's not. So everything I plan and create, attempts to be something rather than avoid something. Who wants to stoop to being an alternative?
I spent the night last night preparing for a 25 minute set for today, in which I desire to move and motivate - to cause specific thoughts and outcomes. As I was creating visuals for it, I tossed a few images that I thought might not go over too well, despite the fact that the same element that was questionable was also what helped them make the point so strongly. Of course that's just me foreguessing. But experience has shown these things to be true. Words on slides, blurbs between songs, etc. None a big deal, but evidently over time they pile up and cause one to have a list of things to avoid saying, showing, singing, etc.
So this morning, somewhere between alarm 1 and alarm 2, I found myself dreaming that I was the curator of what not to do, the keeper of the avoided. A censor? But it was more than that. I was actually a storage facility in my dream. People would bring these things to me. More than a watchdog, I somehow incorporated these things and became known as the guy who doesn't and isn't. But that, evidently, was a good thing! It was a real nightmare. If you ever notice that I've become this person, please rob my warehouse and steal all those things. I want to be a guy who makes people think rather than a guy who never torques anyone off. Here I go. Off to do one or the other.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

dressed gorillas du ritz

originally a comment to The Punk of Poetry

I dreamt this morning that I was having a conversation with James Taylor. I told him that Allison and I saw him in concert together before we were married and that evening stands out as a magic moment. I also told him that "New Moonshine" was one of my 5 favorite records ever. He asked me what were my others. I told him Kiss- "dressed to kill" and counting crows - "august and everything after". who knew? I don't know about the Kiss thing, but I just saw Adam Duritz interviewed on the Shrek 2 DVD. I do love that album, which explains why I would tell that to James Taylor.
James Taylor had hair, so I don't think he'd experienced Counting Crows yet - he just looked at me kind of lost. In fact, he was bald when Al and I saw him in concert all those years ago, so surely he thought I was weird describing a concert that he'd not yet given. As for the "dressed to kill" reference - well, I haven't heard that record in at least 25 years. Who knows what black and white images from your past lurk in the back of your mind ready to spring forth to James Taylor unsolicited? Maybe since JT had hair, I pictured him on the cover of Gorilla and thought his stance resembled that of Gene Simmons on dressed to kill. I don't know. Anyway, realizing that I was having a conversation with a man who had not yet written "copperline", I quickly jotted down a lead sheet and handed it to him. Perhaps now if you look at your liner notes, you'll see my name. Maybe not.


Monday, November 15, 2004

the camera eye

There's a place on campus called "The Pointe". It’s a place for lovers and dreamers and me. The Pointe is a knoll sitting high above the Broad River, looking due west across the river to flood plain farmland and the department of corrections complex. If you stand on The Pointe and look left, you can see the I-20 bridge about 2 miles away. From this distance, you can see cars and tractor-trailers crawling along the interstate, but you can't hear a sound. About 4 miles past the interstate, on down the river, the Columbia skyline is visible. At night, all lit up with energy, but not a sound. The first time I stood there and looked out, I remembered an obscure Rush lyric (what's new, you say?). "Pavements may teem with intense energy, but the city is calm in this violent sea."
Years later, in a guitar lesson, when I had just played a piece for him by Roland Dyens, my teacher asked what images I had while I played the piece. Images? I didn't need images, I was making music. He ruined it for me. Immediately, I said, "urban". Actually, the scene I just described to you entered my mind. So it was a kind of "urban, detached." I imagined all the hustle and energy, but as if observed from a distance. This time, though I was not on the point, looking miles down the river, but atop a building watching the traffic from above. Now and then, the noise of a car horn, or stray siren, but mostly noiseless movement. As I played, I wondered if I wanted to be down there in the chaos, or if all those people wanted to be up here in the quiet. Maybe I wanted to be down there in the energy, but experience it in peace. To be unaffected by the chaos, stress, the pace. I've seen video where someone is moving at normal speed while everything around them is speeding by at 10 times the speed of life. I think that is possible. Didn't Einstein say that time isn't real? Stress is probably not real either. How can we figure that out?
Tonight, Dan and I went out to The Pointe at sunset. I took my camera and shot dozens of yellows, oranges, and gradient blues. I shot the I-20 bridge and the Columbia skyline. Every time we'd hear some stray noise invade our space, I'd joke, "oh man, now that's going to be in my picture."
But tonight when I got home and looked at the pics I'd taken – not a single noise could be heard.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

berceuse (compline 2.0)

Breathing in and breathing out. Inhale, exhale. What is uttered on the breath and what is absorbed when we breathe in?
We do it all day long. In. Out. In. Out. A gift and a thank you. A gift and a thank you. A gift and a thank you.
An endless conversation. All day long. As the sun is rising. As it climbs in the sky. In the heat of the day. At sunset. At bedtime. As we sleep and our side of the conversation quiets, the other side continues. He never slumbers, but sings over me through the night alullaby.

A promise to love me all day long and sing songs all through the night.
My life is God's prayer.


Saturday, November 13, 2004


let my prayer be like incense rising to you, my lifted hands are my evening prayers.


Friday, November 12, 2004


Evening, morning, and at noon I cry out, I sigh deep sighs and he hears my voice.


Thursday, November 11, 2004


Through the Lord's mercy we are not consumed because his compassions don't fail. They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004


What a difference a day makes. Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs.
You make the dawn and sunset shout for joy


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


WIth my soul, I have desired you in the night;
Yes, by my spirit, I will seek you early.

We were saddened that the Perseid showers and the lunar eclipse took place behind clouds. But the reality is that stuff like that happens everyday and we miss it only because we are distracted or preoccupied, not obscured. It is there to see, hear, taste, touch, smell and sense. Experience passes without our experiencing. Our chance to be in the moment is gone with the moment.
This morning, the trio barely made it above the trees before the sun came up and washed out the show. The past two mornings, I've snoozed as the serenade took place. Today I was there with Will, listening to the song. Then it was over. Curtain.


Monday, November 08, 2004

to the gypsy traveler

Molly took us to the zoo for her birthday on Saturday. There among all the other animals were countless marsupial dads with their wee ones strapped to their bellies pointing into the exhibits, trying to get the kids interested in the attractions rather than adults like me waving at the babies and trying to get a smile. Bigger wee ones dragged their feet off the front of their strollers, tangling their sneakers in the wheels and causing dad to crash below the belt level into unyielding stroller handles.
Still larger, less wee ones in that short-lived stage where dad can still ride them on his shoulders, were riding on dad's shoulders all about the zoo. TIny Buster Brown spurs catching dad in the nipples as he clinched them by the ankles nearly cutting off the circulation to their nubby little toes.
I have been each of these dads. Even the three dads whose wee ones had not yet emerged as they walked slowly between exhibits with a camera in one hand and a wife's swollen hand in the other. Get to know the lay of the land before junior arrives and Saturday afternoon demands a tiring excursion.
These guys have it easy. I used to have to carry my children on my chest with my own hands, none of this Kangaroo pouch stuff. Now the men's bathrooms actually have diaper tables in them. You don't know how many times I threatened to march headlong into the ladies room as I stood in the middle of the room holding the kid in one hand while changing, cleaning, and re-dressing with the other.
Yes, those days have passed. It is a whole new set of challenges, frustrations, joys, and smiles now. And I do take the Gypsy Traveler's warnings seriously. These times too, more quickly than before, will go the way of the buffalo. Long hours of homework, sibling fighting, long talks under the stars, marshmallows by the fire, butterfly kisses and tickle fights.
Yeah, you knew when you were that mom at McDonald's that it wouldn't last forever. When you watched that mom at McDonald's you knew that the tennis match would end. But I bet you didn't know how well you would be represented by those you had to let go. I've been with these guys since you turned them loose. Traveled, dined, played hoops, rock-n-rolled, even went to Eastern Europe with both of them. This is to say that even while I heed your warnings about how quickly this stage passes, I witness what you accomplished in these stages and am encouraged. I see more stages to welcome with the joy that those past have brought. I do wish that yours were closer so that you could see the results of your efforts.


Sunday, November 07, 2004


How could such a thing shine its light on me and make everything beautiful again?


Saturday, November 06, 2004

number nine

Well, here we go again, round two of the birthday blogs. Thursday night I said to Molly, "only two days until your birthday." She said, "really only one." "True," I said, and just kind of stared toward her with a pensive look. After about 20 seconds, she said, "dad, you're still forty, it's really not that old." "True too," I said, "but for you the world is young, and you have everything to lose."
Yesterday is a kid in the corner, a wrinkle on MY forehead. She's a Switchfoot fan, so she understood what I meant.
The number 9 is a pretty cool number. This must be a very spiritual year. Three groups of three divisions. Very Trinitarian. compound - triple. Tempus Perfectum, Prolatio Major. A number quite like the one representing our wait for you. Three trimesters of three months each. We waited for you for 9 months, we've had you for 9 years.
This year you'll sing in Eb, A, and B minor with a leading tone. All your songs will have 3 verses, 3 voices, and be in 9/8 time. Your symphony will be in Sonata form with 3 movements and a trio.
Nine years old. Third grade. I hope you don't have to do it three times!
Happy Birthday Molly.


Friday, November 05, 2004

a capella

  • I'm tired of talking about what we should do without talking
    about what we should be.
  • I'm tired of doing it without being it.
  • I'm tired of analyzing what we do without analyzing what
    we are.
  • I'm tired of talking about what it should look like without
    talking about what it is.
  • I'm frustrated with talking about what it should be and being
    filtered through what we should do
    Blah blah blah doobeedoobeedo.


Thursday, November 04, 2004


neatly kept in three-ring binding.
open, insert, order, add.
each arranged for easy finding
pensive, shallow, funny, sad.

inadvertent thought foreboding
order slips through clumsy hands.
binder open thoughts exploding
flutter, flying, spinning, land.

dfvoiweh, sdfihwr? sdfihew; fjieww
asdfih... gjfihw67:rtjertjh,wert
,fcrhtng rngaofn egnengb egper
asfgnbrtnw; wtinbwu3g2=!!


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

communication theory

Last night in class we had a guest who dropped a lot of info on us in 75 minutes. After he left, next 75 minutes were spent unpacking a small portion of his info. A thread through the whole talk had to do with communication theory and he spoke to the class about oral tradition, written, broadcast and digital communication. Throughout most of history, oral tradition was foremost. Then for nearly 500 years written communication was elevated with the advent of the printing press. The past 100 years have been dominated by broadcast and then digital. The spans of time are shrinking. It struck me that as far as communication theory goes, we now have two generations living simultaneously, whose theories are very different from one another.
It struck me that different people approach new technology skewed to their communication theory. I thought about the great bogus news article that was circulating via email a few years ago about a third world man who had been given a modem and used it to crack a walnut. It was very effective at what he had used it for, but that wasn't what it was designed for, and it was capable of so much more.
A broadcast generation sees the internet as a source of consumables. It is a place to see what is going on in the world and gather information, to try to keep up with culture so that one doesn't get left behind. The exchange of information is one-sided and doesn't allow for any interaction.
The digital generation sees it as a means of plugging into the world, joining the conversation, contributing thoughts and ideas, helping shape the culture, interacting globally and becoming the information that the broadcast generation receives. An interesting thing about digital communication is that it is copied and pasted and within a (digital) generation or two, becomes entirely anonymous and sourceless. Already, I have had myself inadvertently quoted to me from my blog. It won't surprise me a bit when I show up at a meeting and find myself being "taught" something that I wrote.
Several months ago, I experienced this first hand when someone known for his internet passion read my blog and told me, "you have entirely too much time on your hands." I am baffled by the thought that consuming non-sense is not considered time consuming, yet 30 minutes a day producing a consumable, is considered wasted time.
I predict that this phenomenon will have a huge impact in many ways very quickly. I told my class last night that in the very near future, they will find themselves much more knowledgeable than their teachers in many areas that are being covered in their courses. This is inevitable as consumer teachers play catch-up with the culture, technology, and methods that the students are creating. It already happens to me as folks go to conferences or read books and learn some mind-boggling information about me, and then come back and share it with me as if I didn't know how I'm thinking, or what I'm doing. I'm supposed to be as surprised as they were. I want to scream, "I am the information you are sharing with me." I feel that the interaction of a mustard seed would have made this old news to these people.
The hopeful irony in all this is that I might finally be heard by folks with whom I've never had a voice. If they are bent on consuming, and I'm bent on contributing, surely at some point the voice of my generation will be all that's left to consume.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

i voted

Yesterday, I realized that I had not changed my voter registration for the new precinct/county after we moved last summer. I worried for a moment that I'd sacrificed my right until I remembered having done that last time we moved as well. That time, I'd simply voted in my old precinct. Allison had changed her registration, so we'd have to vote separately.
Normally, on Tuesday, I don't go in to work until after lunch because I teach until 9:30pm. So any other Tuesday I could have gone to vote at anytime during the morning. Today, though, I had to do Chapel this morning and so had to be at work a lot earlier. Most folks had voted already. The stories about the long lines were all over campus. 2 hours here, 2 and a half there. I became quite nervous because I didn't have a span of time long enough between classes to stand in line. I drove to the polls at 12:30 but had to abort to return to campus to teach. On my way back, Allison called from her place in line and told me she had been there 90 minutes and was almost to the sign-in table. As soon as my 2:00 o'clock was over, I drove back to the polls. There were about 7 cars in the parking lot. It took me less than 5 minutes from the time I left my truck until I returned having submitted my red and blue mixed ballot. As I drove back to work, I passed the precinct where I should have voted and the line was still backed up a hundred yards or so. I sighed at the misfortune of my new neighbors and drove back to work in plenty of time to get on with my day.
Everywhere, the day seemed charged with excitement, even when people were telling of their long stands in line. I don't ever remember this much unity of purpose even among people with differing political views. That is except for James Carville who yesterday, said that the 41% of Americans who thought that the country was on the right track were the "dumbest" Americans ever. That reminded me of the billboards a couple years ago that informed South Carolinians of how stupid they were if they didn't vote for the education lottery. I think maybe once, when I was in kindergarten, I was persuaded to change my mind about something because I was called "dumb" for my stance on an issue. Anyway, besides Carville, the rest of America seemed to be about a common purpose of electing leaders that in their opinions would be the best for the nation. Everyone seemed kind of pleased that there was so much civic responsibility being exercised that they had to spend large chunks of time standing in line to exercise their own.