Once a Future…

Where do you suppose this youngster was headed fifty years ago? I’d say it was a mercy he had no idea where his little car would carry him just a year later…

It was the summer of ’72. That was a very intense summer. It was a summer of exciting and fleeting relationships. It was a summer of deep thoughts and tall mountains and hard work, strenuous physical labor. It was a summer long anticipated that took me completely by surprise. It ambushed me out of nowhere, yet not entirely without warning. The artist Roger Feldman warned me in no uncertain terms as he pointed out what a sheltered suburban life I’d been leading. Of course he was never specific and he needn’t be a prophet to see that life would soon be offering me new challenges. Most likely he’d used much the same language with any number of young men that summer as he led long strings of young people up and down the Canadian Rockies above the fjords of British Columbia. At the time I took the warning as seriously as any teenage kid would, but as it turned out, this warning was just specific enough to be at least a little spooky. Neither of us could’ve known what I would soon be facing.

It was a long hike down that mountain followed by an eight hour voyage back to Vancouver and then followed by an all night drive on to Seattle with my buddy the late Dave Jones at the wheel of Randy Couter’s old beater (that needed another quart of oil every few hundred miles). In the morning I sat at the kitchen table with Mom, Dad, sisters and brothers, all coming and going just as they had my whole life. I was fresh from a hot shower and sat going through my mail, feeling my tired, yet young, strong, hardened body radiating irrational confidence. The black rotary dial phone on the kitchen wall went off. Whoever it was that had been filling in for me while I was off on my mountain adventure had left a van full of newspaper bundles sitting out behind the office of the Eastside Journal. Those newspapers still needed to find all the eyeballs around town who waited impatiently to consume them. The next day was more of the same. Each day as full as the last with some physically demanding something or another, seemingly from dawn to dusk. And the next day and the next and the next more of the same. As each new challenge arose, for a whole long month, Roger’s warning would pop back into my sprawling adolescent mind promising bigger challenges yet to come as some force of the universe continued to toughen me up, mind and body.

Then one bright sunny August day I awoke to find the entire day sprawling out before me containing absolutely no obligations whatsoever. For that one whole day I could be the carefree kid once again. I hopped into my little red car and bounced off up the hill to the high school to engage that tough young mind and body in some of the vigorous touch football that had been going on up there all summer without me. An hour or so later I was crossing the field with the warm afternoon sun on my back and the sweet scent of cut grass in my nostrils. I tossed the ball in the air, snagging it again lightly as it fell. It was that easy motion of the kid at heart that had engaged males of any age or tongue, probably since we had learned that most anything might be flung into the air to some impressive, if not particularly useful, effect.

As the ball dropped lazily, once again, into my grip I spotted my sister Leanne walking hurriedly toward me from the parking lot. Even yet, after all these years, I’m always glad to see my sister, but that afternoon my smile quickly melted into something, I’m still not quite sure what, when I saw that she was crying. Once we came close enough she simply blurted out to me, as best she could, that Dad was dead.

My young soul was suddenly draped in an adult face as I dropped the ball and wrapped an arm around Leanne as we made our way back to the parking lot. All I could think was, “This is it!” But of course I could hardly know what I was talking about. That carefree kid is still in there somewhere, though perhaps, in a decades old body, pretending at life somewhat more carefully since those days. I still had so much growing up yet to do, but those are stories for another day. Maybe these decades later I can at least begin to shed a tear, for myself, for my dad, maybe for a thousand of our tough Norwegian forbears.

I do have a strange little postscript, however. Reaching out to Roger this week I found out that he too had lost his father when Roger was about the age I was when we had that short conversation there on the mountainside in the summer of ’72. Maybe I’ll get to hear that story.

fingers on the sunrise


On a virtual conference this morning my friend Jeff asked where exactly it was that I was off to on this retreat. I shot this image from yesterday morning back to him forgetting that I had “messed it up” by, forgetting the implications, snapping it through the window and capturing my own fingers reflected on the glass. He asked if he could paint it. When I see him again I’ll have to ask if he intends to paint my fingers as well the sunrise, the sound and the ferry dock.

But my original intent here this morning was “Reckless Respect” rather than “fingers on the sunrise”. Somehow, though, respect seems strangely consistent with the way my wayward fingers “innocently” bombed God’s otherwise perfect sunrise…

How can Creator seem to offer such reckless respect for creation? Is not the creation less than, or at least some subset, of the full reality and being of Creator assuming this original creator exists at all? I snapped this image through the window in vain hopes of capturing some moment in time as it slipped through my fleeting experience. Even though in my haste I didn’t even take the time to open the window, the moment slipped on by before I could even snap the shutter. Jeff wants to paint it anyway. Is Jeff, perhaps with the eye of an artist, seeing more in the image than I can see? Is it his desire to somehow capture more than just a moment in time? Or perhaps he would capture as well my ghost behind the image? Is his desire every bit as vain as mine? Could any such desire be not so much vanity as some faint reflection of the heart of Creator?

And yet there lies the question, the mystery. Has some Creator relinquished power to that creation, even at the risk, perhaps even the imperative, that the creation will be corrupted, even grossly corrupted in the hands of the created? Or perhaps such mysteries just may be evidence of a much greater power hidden beyond the limits of my own imagination. Is there some kind of unimaginable genius capable of remaining utterly and incomprehensibly good and compassionate behind, above, even beyond such a creation and beyond my ignorant questioning?

Truth, Knowledge, Love

…unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.

~~~~~~~~~~~ Blaise Pascal, Pensees

I picked Pascal, kind of at random, as a starting point for the proctorcharlie.com website, yet a bit more of the significance of those words sunk in for me this morning. Of course for Blaise himself, as well as for many, many others, including myself for the majority of my life, we would equate truth with God, even capitalizing it: Truth, a name for the Divine Presence. What sunk in a bit for me this morning were my own limitations, the imperfection of my perceptions, knowledge, even my logic. I passed logic in college, but only with a C. My logic is only average, so why should I ever expect any better than an average knowledge of Truth, at least based only on my own level of intelligence?

So here Pascal throws the gauntlet down before me and challenges me to love something or Someone which or of whom I can have only an imperfect knowledge. I do, after all, have just a sufficient grasp of logic to extrapolate that I am no more likely to grasp Ultimate Truth by any other of my imperfect faculties.

As I take careful inventory of several decades of life I have to admit that my default response to anything or anyone with which I don’t feel I have a great deal of knowledge and control over, is fear – certainly not love. How the heck have I made it through to the point of a willingness to even blog on such a subject? The short answer would be that I’ve convinced myself, against evidence to the contrary, that I’m pretty good at faking it. So much, perhaps, for my pursuit of Truth and Knowledge, but I still wonder if faking it isn’t as reliable a pathway as any in my pursuit of Love?

Work, Rest, Refresh, Connect… in Rhythm with Life

The Vashon Island ferry dock: Vehicles wait to board for Southworth and West Seattle. Mount Baker graces the horizon.

Summer beckons and we are being teased with a return to Life. Few of us seem so foolish as to expect some fabled return to Life as We Know It. Life known is no life at all and what life we thought we knew before two winters ago is now a fantasy long gone, if ever it existed.

This morning I am witness to the rhythms of Puget Sound. Even on this calm inland estuary life takes its own course. Those who are always rushing to make the next ferry have never left the City. Watch the Ferryman. (Please grant me license from adherence to the correctness of the times. “Ferryman” just feels more poetic than any more correct term which comes to mind this early in the morning.) But watch them. They are not just “on the clock,” they are rather on the Clock. They are not just minding a strenuously negotiated union contract or some arduously calculated OSHA guidelines, they are pacing themselves according to larger rhythms, rhythms which may accommodate, for a moment, the rushing commuter or anxious vacationer, but most often gracefully and with the smile that follows a different reality.

Work, Rest, Refresh, Connect. These words presented themselves to me yesterday as I contemplated what this little retreat might mean to me over the coming weeks and months and years. In my typical ignorance I first greeted these with some misgiving as I dressed each up in the compulsive costumes of ideals and goals. But the Ferryman teaches me that the Rhythms of Life are not inherently distinct, rigid, demanding. These are not words so much as connotations, the rather more greedy stuff which once drove us from the Garden. These are Attitudes, not Life, much less Love.

The pace of the Ferryman embraces a sabbath rest between each step of work. The hand rests on the rail before the push. The foot rests on the gangway before the kick. The mooring rope rests lightly in the hand before it is pulled across the cleat. The salt air refreshes as the Ferryman works to connect, and in turn is connected with, shore and shore and person and person, Love and Life. Each all happen in rhythm and all in turn happens all at once together.

All are gift. All are Grace. Nothing of Life, nothing of this existence, demands. All is freely offered and may be gently plucked by us at any moment from the Tree of Life and savored for the eternity of that moment, but never violently charged at or greedily hoarded for some fabled future moment.