Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Experiment

Day 1
My favorite gifts to receive are books. Well, books and records. Both are personal and the giver has chosen that particular gift because of some intimate or specific thing they know about you. In this case the gift is a book titled The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.



I am taking it seriously and doing the exercises. Most of them anyway. But now I've come to the assignment of "reading deprivation." No, it doesn't involve reading about deprivation. It involves depriving oneself of reading. For a week! Here's a passage that explains the theory;
It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions we are once again thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into an evening becomes a vast savanna in which furniture - and other assumptions - get rearranged. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.
I guess that makes some sense, and I trust the author so I am going to try it. It's not going to be easy. At home I always have a book within arm's reach. And I like checking the newspaper websites in the morning to see what's going on. It is now the evening of day one and I must admit I cheated a couple of times by checking the internet for the latest about the Broncos and the Panthers, Bernie and Donald, and all that bad weather out east. Of course, I do need to read as part of my job... so that I won't count.  And it should be noted a small victory has already been won in that I have not picked up a tattered old copy of In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan which has been staring at me from the bookshelf every day now for about a week. It's one I re-read every winter, and have been thinking lately it's time once again. But I must resist. For at least this week. It was my first big test on my first day of this experiment. I wouldn't give myself an  A or probably even a B, but I passed. That means I didn't fail so I will call it a good start.

Day 2
Day off, with a lot of running around to do, so it was pretty easy to resist reading. That is until I went into the book store. New releases. Recommended reading. Bestsellers. Classics. Staff picks. Bargain books. Books all around me! I realized I couldn't leave there without something in my hands. I reached out and took something off the shelf. It wasn't a book, though. It was this ---


A jigsaw puzzle. I haven't worked on one of these in years. And Kris has been wanting to get one for a while. It was the perfect solution. I resisted the call of the wild book...and kept my record intact of never leaving a bookstore empty handed.

Day 3
Uneventful. I peeked a couple of times. Once was when I noticed a headline in the local paper about a county commission meeting in which a large number of rural citizens turned out to protest a proposed public nuisance ordinance. Turns out that most county residents around here just don't want any part of such a thing, and apparently made their point in a rather loud manner with a certain amount of profanity thrown in for good measure. The ordinance was put aside with no further action planned. And no further reading was done by me.

Day 4
The irony has been noted. As a friend so keenly pointed out to me - this reading deprivation assignment came from a book. A book I had to read in order to find out about the assignment that instructed me to not read. I don't even know how to respond to that.

Day 5
I miss having a book to read. The internet, television and my phone are not acceptable substitutes. And an old favorite is still beckoning....



Day 6
Drove by the library today. Thought about stopping, but kept on driving.

Day 7 - Results and Conclusions
I can't say that by reading much less than I normally do resulted in any great new ideas or inspirations. I won't say it was a failure, however, as it did reinforce my belief in reading as an important part of my life. We didn't get started on that puzzle, but I had time to go a little deeper into my music collection and listen to some lost treasures. And something significant did occur. Last night I woke up from a deep sleep with a great idea for a photo project. It's perfect for me. I won't say now what it is, but I'm sure you will be seeing the results in the future. Was that related to this experiment? I supposed it could be. But it doesn't even matter. I'm still going to keep going with the lessons in the book. And as for right now...think I'll take that Brautigan book off the shelf...

Chapter 1 - In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar. I'll tell you about it because I am here and you are distant........"

Roger O'Dea       1/31/2016








Thursday, December 17, 2015

No More Bad Days

As I write this it's late on the night before the birthday that will see me entering my 61st year on this planet. No small feat, considering some of the things I've done, places I've been and predicaments I've gotten myself in to. Not to mention some dangerously crazy, wild, far out characters I've run with. Magnificent bastards every one of them. Not necessarily these guys...but the time is about right so maybe these guys -


But through it all...the teenage break-ups, car wrecks, sad days (even despair a time or two), some hard days and long nights, several broken bones and one heart attack...I'm still here. That makes me one lucky guy. And one very grateful guy. So I've made a decision to not have any more bad days. Now you may ask, "How's he gonna' do that? Everybody has a bad day now and then."  But I've realized it must surely be possible to find some good even in what might be considered a bad day. The day my heart attacked me was not a good day, but it caused me to give up some bad habits, appreciate life more and become much more active. The truth is I had become sort of lazy prior to that event. Not lazy about work. Just kind of lazy about life. Then there was the day my dad died. Certainly not a good day. But it was a good thing that his suffering was over and he could truly now rest in peace. Those are extreme examples to be sure. A bad day can simply mean you lost your keys, or your boss yelled at you at work, or your kids did something dumb. Or you did something dumb. Those are days when you can easily redirect your energy to make it a good day. You have spare keys or can have new ones made, you have a job, your kids are normal, and you have learned a lesson. See? It's not that hard. It's really just about being positive and gathering up good energy. I've been doing that for some time already. Turning 61 isn't going to make me stop. And I promise you will never hear me complain about having a bad day. I'm sure there will be days that aren't much fun, or that will test my resolve. But I believe we have the responsibility for making our own days. There should be no reason we can't make each one good in some way. I'm going to do it. Care to join me?



Roger O'Dea     12/17/2015
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

High and Dry

Yes, I'm a little late with a new entry. But I have a good excuse. The lack of snow and warm temperatures have made it seem more like September than November and I was very busy squeezing every little last bit of outdoor activity into these final days of beautiful weather before winter wakes up and realizes it is way behind schedule. For example, last weekend's 60 degree temperatures allowed me to do something I can't usually do in November - go for a mountain bike ride and enjoy a slow meandering 19 mile drive on the backroads in the Bearlodge area of Wyoming.


Across the highway from the campground is a seldom used Black Hills National Forest trail. I'm surprised more hikers and bikers don't take advantage of it. The views overlooking the steep cliffs are awesome. Also, less than a mile down the trail there is an area where you will find a group of split rocks. The cracks are so smooth it's like someone took a giant axe and sliced the rocks almost evenly right down the middle. 

              
Nature offers up a lot of interesting shapes along this trail. Some of the old tree stumps have decayed into strange poses.

   

Having come this way, I found myself near enough to that strange little town of Alva to warrant another look for any proof that humans actually live there. If you've read my past comments you know that I have long suspected that no one really does live there, and the town is just a cover for some secret government underground installation. My evidence is that I can't recall ever seeing any people out and about in the many times I have driven through this "town." This is the scene that once again greeted me on my most recent visit - 



I don't remember that camper being there the last time I drove by, but it could just be a new prop. I did, however, notice something even more strange than usual this time. I pulled in to the Post Office parking lot and noticed a light on in a window. Upon closer examination I could see a popular dish washing product and a wind chime in the window as if it was someone's apartment. This was on a Sunday. So, why is there a light on in the Post Office on a Sunday? And why those other items? Who lives in a Post Office anyway? The mystery deepens.


It was getting late in the afternoon and I certainly did not want to get caught in that place after dark, so I headed back toward home. But wait. There was one more detour. I decided to take the back roads that meandered through the forest past an old favorite location from my younger days... Cook Lake. The campground is closed now due to mudslides and washouts, but I was filled with fun memories of camping there with friends all those years ago. One old road sign is still standing, although it looks like something you would see in one of those 80s horror movies with a title along the lines of "The Skinny Dip Massacre." 

If anybody is planning on making one of those movies I would grant permission to use the photo. Just let me know and I'll provide a high resolution copy. Photo credits would not be required if it's a low budget independent project. But if you get Jennifer Lawrence to star in it, well, then I might insist on at least a mention in those credits that roll at the end. Have your people call my people. Maybe we'll do lunch and work out the details.

Roger O'Dea        11/19/2015


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Free Games and A Free Spirit - Adventures In Las Vegas

This is not going to be about wild times in Vegas. It is, however, going to be about being in the wild in Vegas. Actually, about thirty minutes outside of Vegas. In Red Rock Canyon. That's where it gets really wild. Wild, as in Wilderness. On our recent trip to meet up with our son and his girlfriend for a last fling before winter sets in I took a morning off from the craziness of "the strip" and met up with my friend Sara who is from the Black Hills but now lives in a Las Vegas suburb. During all of my previous visits I had never been outside of the city. Not even to Hoover Dam, which is okay because I've never really wanted to go to Hoover Dam. I don't think they allow fishing from the observation areas, so there just isn't much to hold my interest. Standing on 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete is not my idea of a good time. Standing on red dirt in the desert is, and I have wanted to do that for some time but never made the effort. I had a feeling it would be great. It was. It was even better than great. Awesome, mystical, inspiring, calming. These are all words that come to mind. And it was more than that, but words can't do it justice. Certain feelings can't be described in words, especially when you're not accustomed to looking at a landscape like this -

My first clue that it was going to be a special hike came when, instead of following the wide well-groomed main trail, Sara climbed over the cable marking the boundary of the parking area and motioned me to follow her down a less traveled trail. It was an alternate take on the advantages of knowing a Las Vegas "insider." We hiked down into a draw and came upon a beautiful spring. The water was incredibly clear and the red dirt and rocks enhanced the visual experience. Around this time it started raining. Not a common occurrence in that area. Instead of running for cover we welcomed it with open arms and continued on ... across a formation Sara called "Jabba." You would understand completely if you were to see it. (I didn't take a lot of pictures because I had decided to look at everything mostly with my eyes rather than through a lens).  Then we wandered into a stand of small trees where we took cover and talked about things friends talk about. From there we climbed up into a small grotto for a brief rest, then as the rain let up we continued back down the trail, stopping for a moment to walk a large labyrinth, and finally we were back at the car. It was a good walk. I needed something like that, and left feeling better physically, mentally and spiritually. I plan on doing something like this again when we go back. It's a nice change from the lights and sounds and excitement of the city. Not that I don't enjoy that also. I do. It's fun, as long as you have the right mindset and stay in control. I mean, after all, they have Flintstones slot machines!
"BIG WIN" is overstating it slightly. In this case, anyway. But it's still kind of exciting. Especially when you win free games. 8 free games to be precise -
I've won more than 8 free games on other machines, but this one sure made a big deal out of it.  

There's also art and culture. The Conservatory at Bellagio has some incredible seasonal displays, some of which include giant scarecrows -
There are also museums and art galleries. The Museum of Fine Art, also at Bellagio, is where several years ago I first saw and was inspired by those famous Andy Warhol Polaroid photographs. 

And don't forget people watching. No better place to do that than on Las Vegas Boulevard. Of course, sometimes the people are also watching you. Some may even be on a mustache-themed scavenger hunt looking for someone with a mustache who is willing to pose for a picture. Someone like...me! 
Yes. Out of thousands of people in that area on that night they picked me. They never said if they were looking for the best, worst or most unusual mustache. So, I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or insulted. No matter. They were having fun, and brought me into it so I guess that's what counts. And mine is better than those fake ones. It is better...right?

It was a good trip. But it's always nice to come home. Especially when your home is someplace like this. Where there are still quiet places to hike, and clean clear streams to sit by and be still. And where it rains, sometimes even in late October. Oh. I should mention that right now on this night in late October...as I'm finishing this story...outside my open window...it's raining.  


Roger O'Dea        10/22/2015





Thursday, September 24, 2015

Feel The Change

The Autumnal Equinox has passed and days are getting shorter now. A change is in the air. I can feel it. It's time to face the stark reality that summer is over. Some people rejoice in that, but not me. Summer is my season. Winter is my adversary. It is a thief who steals my fun, even my health in some ways. And in the past I have not been terribly fond of fall. That is changing. I am beginning to see so much more beauty in this season, and learning to notice so many more details. As I become more mindful and aware I can see details and even hear sounds that escaped me previously. This leaf is an example -
I was on a walk during my semi-annual pilgrimage to Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary in the Black Hills (South Dakota) and happened to see it on the ground just off the trail. There was a time not too long ago when I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed it intermingled with so many other fallen leaves, pine cones and fairly thick brush. Or maybe I would have. It definitely stood out as one of a kind amidst the mostly pale yellow leaves covering the ground in that particular area. I'm just glad I saw it. The unusual and varied colors, lines, cracks and wrinkles make it unique, to say the least. It's tucked safely between the pages of a book at home now. Maybe I'll forget about it and many months or years from now I'll open that book to rediscover it and remember the day in September when it found me.

The Sanctuary is an amazing place. I make it a point to visit at least twice a year, generally in the  late spring and early fall. It's a special place. I always feel a certain energy from the moment I pass under the entrance sign and through the door.

It's a calming subdued energy. It is a place to be still. I am completely grounded there. Sometimes there are other visitors and sometimes I am the only one, as was the case on my most recent visit. Only me and Mother Nature. And we got along just fine.

Throughout the Black Hills this time of year you will see the wonderful colors of autumn. I stopped a few times on my way home to snap a picture of some scene that caught my eye, like this one -


I am learning to appreciate these scenes more. But there is still some sadness about summer being taken away from me. I wasn't done with it yet. So, once again, I turn to my old friend John Denver for some comfort... this time from Poems, Prayers and Promises. He seemed to share some of my same feelings about the subject. Funny how often music tends to make its way into these conversations -

Reflections on the water like shadows in my mind
Speak to me of passing days and nights and passing time
The falling leaves are whispering winter's on it's way
I close my eyes remembering the warmth of yesterday
It seems a shame to see September swallowed by the winter
And more than that it's oh so sad to see the summer end
And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see
If it were mine to make the change I'd let it be

But I don't remember hearing anybody asking me


Roger O'Dea       9/24/2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

It's Not Over!

Why do people keep saying that summer is over? Yes, it's past Labor Day. And, yes, temperatures at night are now in the 40s rather than 50s or 60s...or 70s. It's true the sun is rising a little later. And setting a little earlier. Leaves on some trees are starting to turn a lighter shade of yellow. So what? It doesn't mean summer is over. It's not over! As Animal House's Bluto so enthusiastically said in his rallying speech to his Delta Chi brothers,
"Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
I know it wasn't the Germans, but that's not the point. The point is that there are still plenty of things that I fully intended to do this summer but was never quite able to complete the task.  Like...
1.  Finding a rock and cracking it open to discover the wonders of a Geode. I cracked a lot of rocks but, alas, no Geode.
2.  Mountain biking the Big Hill trails all the way down to Spearfish Canyon, then into town. Did that last year and was hoping to repeat it this year.  
3.  Motorcycling to Montana, then cutting across to Devils Tower in Wyoming and back home. Made a run to Devils tower, but it was the short cut. Had my Polaroid camera along -

4.  Drive or ride on a photo safari through the badlands. Didn't even get close to doing this.
5.  Hike around the Stratobowl in the Black Hills. No excuse for not doing this. So close.

I also didn't spend enough time with friends. I tried and failed with some. Succeeded with others, but even then it wasn't enough time. It's never enough. There are other things that weren't necessarily in the plans, but would have still been awesome if they actually happened. Like...
1.  Getting caught in the rain a long way from shelter. I was too careful.
2.  Camping out on Sand Creek, or up in Spearfish Canyon. Even if just for old time's sake. I know the right spots.
3.  Stopping at a flea market. Drove by one many times.
4.  Spending most of an entire day at an auction with lots of "miscellaneous items." Timing was never right.
5.  Going to a drive-in theatre. They're still around.

I suppose the list could go on. But why dwell on what might have been? It's time to get serious and make up some lost time before autumn hits and then...winter. There's still time. Because summer is not over. It's not over until I decide it's over! And once more I will look to Delta Chi for my inspiration. This time from Otter, "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."
And I'm just the guy to do it. Who's with me? Let's go!


Roger O'Dea        9/8/2015
 




Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Polaroid Rally

This was a big one. The 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Hundreds of thousands (some say a million) motorcycle enthusiasts attended this year, making it quite possibly the largest event of this kind in the country. It was also an excellent opportunity to try out the new Impossible 2.0 black and white film for Polaroid 600 type instant cameras. So I loaded up my Polaroid Spirit 600 CL and headed out on my classic 1999 Valkyrie F6 to shoot whatever caught my eye and my interest in the normally sleepy little town of about 7,000 people which, including the surrounding campgrounds, had now grown to the single largest city in the entire state by population standards.
My first stop was the Rally headquarters of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. I stop there every year to pick up a t-shirt, coffee mug or some other souvenir for myself or that one person (there's always one) who says, "Get me something!" The old school Polaroid camera around my neck generated a lot of interest , as evidenced by the fact that I shot an entire pack of film there but only made it out with one to keep for myself. I didn't think it would be a good idea to refuse their requests to keep the pictures I took of them. I heard a lot of, "Take one of us!" And, "Can I get one, too?" What am I going to do, say "No?" Actually, they all seemed like good people. Just there to have some fun, sell some shirts and perhaps gain a few new recruits.



Of course there were girls everywhere attracting attention in one way or another. Girls selling shirts. Girls selling beer. Girls selling tattoos and body paint. Even selling guns.






And guys, too. Guys directing traffic. Guys handing out bibles. Guys staying sober. Even guys with beards sitting on a bench.






Kids. Couples. And workers on break.




And, of course, motorcycles. My favorites were the vintage bikes.





It's over now. Things are back to normal here in the Black Hills of Dakota. People are thinking about summer ending soon and back-to-school time, and about next year. The 76th annual. Probably not as big as this year. But likely to be just as fun. That is if you like this sort of thing. And I do.


Roger O'Dea    8/11/2015