Monday, June 30, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
joy is felt on rainy days, in urban concrete, in cubicles, midst worries, in traffic, and while doing laundry -
but it's easiest to identify in a golden field, on a hilltop, beneath a blue sky.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

gentle hands

gentle hands
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
When the kids and I crossed onto one of the islands on our way to our campsite on Sunday, we came upon a field full of cattle at the edge of the marsh. As we got closer, we could see that for nearly every cow, there was at least one cattle egret milling about her feet, or riding on her back.
Will’s brain made the symbiotic connection, but he began talking about a completely different relationship. I can’t ever remember what it was, but it started us talking about symbiotic and parasitic relationships. The cattle and the egrets are such a wonderful, obvious example. The cattle kick up bugs for the egrets to eat, and in return, the egrets protect the cattle from pesky tickles and painful bites.
We were certainly placed here in symbiosis. We breathe in symbiosis with nature. We inhale what nature exhales, and nature inhales what we exhale. But we increasingly have become parasitic in our own environment. We’ve added exhalation that is detrimental not only to our symbiotic partners, but also to us.
Perhaps there have always been parasites, but it seems they have always depended on stronger hosts to support them. What happens when the strong become the parasites feeding on the weak? The answer is all around. Though nature is resilient and tends to bounce back, it is impossible for it to recover while it is still being abused.

The ultimate end is that humans become parasitic one to another. It fascinates me that most often when we think of humans being parasitic to others, our minds conjure images of panhandlers, welfare recipients, and thieves. And no doubt there are parasites among them. But the most damaging parasites are the powerful who feed on the weak. And I observe that this is the more common parasite. Soon, the weak are depleted and the parasite is fat, happy and powerful.
Human relationships are intended to be symbiotic. Iron sharpens iron. But even, one-on-one, often one partner feeds off the other in unhealthy ways emotionally, economically, narcissistically, and even sexually.
It is so encouraging to see gentle hands finding joy in another, without taking the other as a resource, a pet, or a trophy.


Monday, June 09, 2008

for sale

for sale
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Several years ago, I was riding a 1985 Honda Shadow 500. That’s a tiny bike for a rather large fellow like me. I’m the guy who causes everyone to think my 1100C2 is a 750 until they see it apart from me. All my students ask me why I play guitars with such short scale length. Fact is, my green guitar is nearly a full inch longer than standard.

But, I digress.

On the 500, the grips hit my knees before I turned it all the way to the stops. My bottom ached after 40 miles and my back after 90. Nevertheless, I rode it as much as 500 miles in a single day several times, and put 18,000 miles on it in 2 years.
Allison didn’t just give me permission to get the 1100 when a bargain opportunity came ‘round, she practically made me upgrade. I’ve been extremely happy with that bike. It has taken me through the mountains West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and NC, Texas hill country, along the coast, through cornfields of central Pennsylvania and Western New York, through the bayous of South Louisiana, and the Vineyards of Ontario, and all points between.
It is a musical instrument at any tempo, but at 70mph, on an open country highway, it plays all the parts. It’s the soundtrack to real-time, live action film in 3 dimensions, and a G-force theme park where you don’t stand in line for 90 minutes for a 90 second coaster ride.

In July, it will take me the length of Tennessee, across the river and into the Southwest for a week in Santa Fe, before carrying me across Arizona, and north to San Francisco then turning back east, through Yosemite and toward home.
I’ve been planning this trip in my mind since early spring, first thinking through proper, most-likely-successful approaches to getting permissions not to be places where I’m supposed to be at times when I’m supposed to be there. Then maps, itineraries, travel needs, etc. What things made me stop last year at Wal-marts in obscure little towns after dark, and how can I anticipate those things this time?
All this background thinking and planning and dreaming and imagining obtaining an actual touring bike rather than taking 6000-mile trips on a cruiser. My dream is an R1200GS and that’s what’s been playing in the back of my mind all week. I mentioned it to fellow who was admiring my Shadow at the top of the driveway, and he told me the State Patrol had switched to Hondas and there were some R1200s at the State Surplus.
Ha! So I got online and looked for those bikes. A simple surplus search turned into 90 minutes as I browsed about the world looking for affordable un-affordable BMWs.
By Saturday, I’d become so obsessed that I’d made it my primary (read, “only”) vehicle. Gas is projected to be over $5 by august, and I can’t afford to drive my truck anymore. If I could sell my truck…
… I was acting like a child dreaming.
Saturday night I dreamt about it all and by Sunday morning, I was doing budget calculations as to how to make it work. I’d sold my truck, a couple guitars, my Shadow 1100 and two of the kids by the time Jack banged on my bedroom door to wake me. When I heard his voice, I was still working out a calculation, and said, “hold on a sec, Jack.” He persisted. “Just a minute, I said.” A third shout, and I realized that I was dreaming and he needed me to take him to sound check.
When I did get up, I realized I still had my red truck, green bike, both my silver and green guitars, and all three kids.

Sheesh, what kinda guy would sell his kids to get a motorcycle?
Not to mention that I’ve been trying to acquire Sienna from Hippyhappyhay!

No wonder I need to get away.


Friday, June 06, 2008

the future is yours, child

the future is yours, child
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
When I saw this beautiful princess mingling with her family between recitals on Saturday, I had to ask her if I could take her picture. She ran to a tree about 20 yards away and posed. Her Mom accompanied me and I went over and talked to her. As we spoke, I had one of those rare second-sight experiences. I saw joy, and fulfillment in her future. I could sense a depth of support and love for her that made my heart smile.
The photo is not very good because the light and leaf shadows and breeziness made it quite impossible, but she is beautiful nonetheless.

I love to take shots of Princes and Princesses, usually when they're at work playing. A child's work is the work of play. Play is the discovery, as well as the expression of one’s self. One explores, finds one’s self, and expresses one’s self through play and fantasy. In this sense, it is art.
I always feel that art is a form of play. It certainly is when considered with the concept of “work.” Now, lest you think that I don’t take art seriously enough when calling it play, might I suggest that you don’t take play seriously enough so as to feel the word, “play” demeaning to the concept of art?
Ironically, we use the word, “work” when referring to art, but if you think about it, the word is nearly always applied to product as a noun. “She will display her work next weekend,” or, “his work is always first quality.” When work is a verb in this context, it refers the creative process by which a work is created. And yes, the process of acquiring the knowledge of one’s self, the ability to dig deep, observe keenly, and develop the technical skills by which expression is made possible is a daunting, working task – but expressing, ought never to be work.
A water spigot is made to deliver water to me when I open it, but I would never feel that the spigot is working when I wash my hands. If fact, it seems more accurate to me to realize that the spigot is working when it is not being used because it is holding water back. When it is being used, it relaxes and allows the water to flow as it was made to do. It expresses, if you will.
Ballet is a beautiful, expressive art form. To watch a dancer become hidden by the dance, is to see her more deeply and clearly. Sadly, the culture of ballet too often draws those parents who desperately need vicariously to remedy their missed chances, denied dreams, stolen opportunities, or even personal inadequacies. They are not giving their children opportunities they never had, they are taking those opportunities vicariously at the expense of their children. In this too-common scenario, the child is working for the parent, and nothing is being expressed.
Play allows a child to enter a world of fantasy and thus learn to differentiate between fact and fiction, fantasy and reality; and when appropriate, to seek to meld the two. But when fiction and a parent’s fantasy are forced upon a child, the child has no ability to differentiate it from reality, and thus, never learns what is, or who she his.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

bush battle

bush battle
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
When we moved here, 5 years ago, there were two nasty, ugly, rude, mean, aggressive, assertive, vindictive, ruthless, relentless, sticker bushes in the front yard in the island between our yard and the neighbor’s driveway. I’m not talking about pansy little rose thorns, or wild vines that catch on your pant leg and scratch your arms. No, I’m talking about the kind of thorns that Prince Charming had to drill through to reach Sleeping Beauty.
These thorns are two inches long, sharp as needles, and strong as steel. They are covered with weakened rattlesnake venom, so that when one pierces your flesh (usually in the palm of the hand, or on the knuckles) it aches for hours like the intentional sting of a hornet. And like a hornet, you don’t have to be anywhere near the bush to fall prey to its evil aggression. It will chase you just for sharing airspace, despite the fact that it needs your CO2 emissions.
The bushes grow extremely fast, so that if you were to go on vacation and not ask someone to guard them with a machete, they will literally (not figuratively) take over your house, overthrow the county government, institute militia rule and form a hedge around your city (remember sleeping beauty) through which the National Guard wouldn’t dare to venture. One cuts the three week-old, three-foot shoots of thorn laden swords, lays them under constant watch until he is sure they are completely dead, and glances again at the bush to find they’ve been replaced by stronger, deadlier shoots. These are lopper-resistant strains of torturous thorn bushes, and are the best proof yet of Darwinism.
The branches grow straight as an arrow for 24 inches, or 3 inches and then suddenly make a right angle and repeat the process, myriad times until a maze of branches and two-inch thorns are tangled together in a weave so tight it sends shivers of awe through the unwitting homeowner cum thorn bush foe.

About a month ago, I realized that I’d finally found victory over one of the bushes. As I returned from work, I glanced, as I always do, a glance of anger and fortitude in the direction of the bush, and next morning, I realized that it was just enough to do the bush in. Apparently I’d weakened it over time, and that last steely-eyed glance had enough vitriol to finally kill the formidable foe.
With a new sense of masculinity, I headed to the garage for my chainsaw. I could feel the testosterone pumping as I primed the 2 cycle engine with pure hormone. It started and ran so rich on testosterone that smoke belched from the muffler as I attacked that bush. I didn’t even mess with the upper echelons of the thornical hierarchy, I went straight for the trunk. Cut that monster off at the feet.
Did I stop at seeing that helpless, dead, bush fall to my saw? No, I went straight for the remaining living bush and served it the same fate.

I’ve been doing yard work these past days and I knew eventually, I would have to contend with those thorn bushes. Initially I dragged them whole into the backyard and placed them out of the way. Today I attacked them again.
Much to my surprise, though they had been severed from their roots for weeks, they were only mostly dead. I’d been hoping they were all dead, and that all that would be left to do was go through their pockets for loose change. But no.
And man, were they mad.
This time I put on thick leather gloves, grabbed the loppers, and set about untangling those prickly swords and cutting them away so that I could feed them to the chipper/shredder. With every last drop of energy they had left, they resisted. I’d carefully pull a branch and it would snap back and swing at me with those evil thorns. My hands were bruised and bloody, bits of thorns lodged in my knuckles, arms scratched, legs ached, but eventually, I fed those bushes into the chute and listened with a sweet smile as I heard the bits shooting out the other side.
What is disturbing to me is the anger, and hatred that emanated from my soul as I fought the last bush battle. Would I be content only to clean up the yard? NO! I would not rest until every last fiber of hell-bush was chipped and shredded into nourishing mulch and fed into the lake of fire.
Frustration is an emotion familiar to me. Anger is rare. Hatred is unknown. But oh, the feelings I felt for those bushes.

So long hell-bush.
May your being consumed only increase the heat of the fire that consumes you.