Monday, March 6, 2017

A Pretty Good Weekend

It wasn't just the opening of my photography show that made this past weekend so special. The staff at the gallery is great...every one of them. Very professional and very cool. The good vibes and positive energy they maintain at that place are incredible. But the big takeaway for me was the realization that in addition to my family I constantly find myself surrounded by an amazing circle of friends, peers, colleagues and collaborators. Some of those categories overlap, but whatever title or description may apply, I am so lucky to know these people. I was nearly overwhelmed by the number who showed up to see the exhibit Friday night and Saturday. Larry, Ellen, Linda, Bruce, Nancy and Doug, Billy and Karin, Mike and Michelle, D'anna and Dean, Sarah, Bill, Rex and Joanne, Steve and Molly, and the woman who told me a wonderful story about one of my photos on display. I had no idea.

It's worth repeating - I am so lucky to know these people. And it was wonderful to see some of their family members, a few whom I know and one or two I had never met. I've thought about this before, but now is a good time to say it...treasure all of the people in your life, including the ones you don't see often or have much interaction with on a regular or even an occasional basis. Think about them right now. Say their names out loud. The ones who have had a positive impact on your life. The ones who have inspired you. The ones who have helped you grow and learn and live. The ones who have been there for you, including the ones who were there only in spirit...but still they were there nonetheless.
This is not meant to be a lesson or a lecture. It's just a reminder, because sometimes we forget what's important and what we should be thankful for. Sometimes I forgot. Or at least, didn't give it much thought. That changed for me this weekend. It has finally sunk in. I will never take my tribe for granted again. And will try to remember to thank God and the Universe every day for the blessings I have received, not the least of which are the good people I am privileged to know.

Roger O'Dea     2/6/2017

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016: Serial Killer

The title of this post was taken from a comment by my friend, Crystal. The description is accurate. The death toll for the year 2016 is staggering, and each of us was touched in some way.

Muhammad Ali. He truly was "The Greatest"

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. I loved that band "from the beginning."

Arnold Palmer. "The King"

Garry Shandling. Told a joke once about cows on the Tonight Show that I still laugh about.

Alan Rickman. Professor Snape. But also Harry, a foolish and flawed man very well played in the movie Love Actually.

David Bowie. "Far above the moon Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do."

Prince. "I only wanted to be some kind of friend. It's a shame our friendship had to end."

John Glenn. When asked what his job was he could answer "Astronaut."  How many people can say that?

Gene Wilder. You may remember him as Willy Wonka. I remember him best in Blazing Saddles. His name was Jim, but most people just called him...Jim.

George Kennedy. Dragline in Cool Hand Luke. Forget Naked Gun and Airport, watch Cool Hand Luke.

Merle Haggard. "Mama tried to raise me better..."

Leonard Cohen. You know his poetry and music, but did you know he became a Zen Buddhist Monk at age 62? He resumed writing and recording after living in seclusion for nearly five years.

We also lost R2-D2 (Kenny Roberts) and Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia. And just today, her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

There were more. I won't mention them all. And there were others who were not famous. Those are the ones that hit us on a more personal level. One of them I will mention. SaCressa Fleming. She wasn't famous or a celebrity...well...wait a minute. I just looked up synonyms for 'famous' and found these: important, influential, memorable, remarkable, extraordinary. The word notorious was also listed. I guess she may have been a little of that, too. But only in a most wonderful and magnificent way. So I guess she really was famous. And she is the one I miss most of all.

Roger O'Dea      12/28/2016 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Ghosts of Christmas Past

"Ghosts" is probably not the right word. I don't believe in ghosts. At least not the kind that rattle chains and have white hair. These ghosts are more like memories - they linger, but don't haunt me. Although some of them may be a little scary. Like the Christmas I had an ear infection so bad that I eventually ended up in the hospital. I was only three years old, maybe four, and remember being in terrible pain laying on the couch with my head on my grandmother's lap while she was reading to me. A Bing Crosby Christmas record was playing in the background. I knew I was sick. I just didn't know how bad it was at the time.
Another vague childhood memory is of living in a big two-story house on the edge of a very small town. The two-story description is relevent because Santa gave me a toy guitar that year. I took it to my upstairs bedroom and tossed it out of the window. My motives were unclear at the time and still remain a mystery to this day.  It wasn't until I was in junior high or maybe a freshman in high school that I was given another guitar. I practiced on that one for hours and hours and finally was able to play Catch the Wind and Michael Row the Boat Ashore with some proficiency. But that was the problem - I never learned to read music, just how to memorize chords and play songs. So it wasn't too long before I lost interest. At least we were only living in a one story house then.
As I look back, I can't recall a "bad" Christmas. We didn't have a lot when I was growing up but we always had a nice Christmas. Sometimes I wonder how my folks pulled it off, but they always did.

There was a close call when one year in mid December I had a heart attack, but was able to recover quick enough to be home in time for Christmas. Other than that, I am glad to say we've been fortunate over the years to have avoided any major holiday trauma. It's funny how I remember specific gifts I have received over the years. Those guitars, a slot car race track, G.I. Joe, a chemistry there anybody who did not get a chemistry set at one time or another? Then there was that awful game called "Operation." I remember getting so mad and throwing the tweezers down when I touched the side causing that buzzer to go off. Man, that was irritating! Pigmania was always fun, though. Anybody remember that game? You would toss two small rubber pigs like dice and get points depending on the position in which they landed. As I recall, a 'leaning jowler' was a big point getter.

Christmas this year will be quiet. We don't have a large family, and there will be no little kids around, so after a small gathering of relatives we will come home and enjoy a peaceful Christmas Eve by the fire. Maybe we'll watch "A Christmas Carol" - the one with George C. Scott. Now that's a good ghost story.

Roger O'Dea     12/24/2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts On Standing Rock - An Open Letter to Protesters

Dear protesters,
This is not about a pipeline. Not anymore. You are wasting an opportunity to call attention to issues and injustices that your people have been forced to endure for 200 years. Or longer. Your actions are injuring your credibility and affecting your ability to make progress and improve your conditions where it really counts. In your homes. With your families and friends. And with a society that, for the most part, doesn't understand or appreciate your culture, your history or your struggles.
I see many similarities in these protests to something that happened over 40 years ago. I was 17 years old at the time and was pitched into it with virtually no experience in that sort of situation. It was the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, by members of the American Indian Movement. The take-over was motivated in part as a protest of conditions on the reservations, the conviction and jailing of a single mother of 5 over an incident in which her involvement was questionable, a failure to prosecute as a serious crime the stabbing death of a Native by a non-Native, and a basic lack of opportunity for nearly everyone who lived on an Indian reservation, as well as their over all poor treatment. The siege resulted in at least two people being shot to death and several serious injuries on both sides of the conflict. In the end - nothing was gained. Oh, there were changes promised. Press conferences were held and speeches were made. But nothing really changed. The reason, in my opinion, is that too many people in positions of influence who could have done something significant chose not to because of the militant nature of the protest and the suspected insincere motives of the leaders.
Which brings me to the question - where are your leaders? Who are your leaders? Mostly what I hear about is busloads of "water protectors" (many of whom are non-Native) coming in from other parts of the country and inserting themselves into the situation in the name of social justice and for the purpose of protecting the environment. Guess what. You're not helping. You may think all those selfies you're posting on Facebook along with those rumors and that fake photo of the little girl that was supposedly bitten by a police dog you're circulating are gaining you allies, but they're not. At least not anyone that may actually be able to help.
So cool it. Hearings have been held, tribes were consulted, permits issued, and historically significant sites are not affected. Is there a possibility of a leak? Of course. Is it any more of a possibility than a tanker truck accident or train wreck? Probably not.
I understand your concerns. It makes me sad to see people get hurt. But it also frustrates me to think this will deflect attention away from things that matter more. Like quality physical and mental health care, jobs, improved sanitation, adequate housing, addiction treatment and prevention, child care and education...the list could go on and on. Aren't these things more important right now than an oil pipeline that is only one of hundreds of other pipelines scattered all over the country? When everything is said and done, and when the dust clears, don't you want to be able to say that you fought a good fight for the right cause? And, even though you might not have won the war, you will have won a few battles and made a real difference.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.   2 Timothy 4:7

Roger O'Dea     11/23/2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Good Company

An invitation to a birthday party for a friend this past weekend took my wife and I to a remote location out on the South Dakota prairie. I always find a certain comfort in wide open spaces. As much as I enjoy being surrounded by the dense Pine trees and steep canyon walls of my favorite Black Hills hangouts, there's still something I really like about being able to see for miles and miles in any direction. It was late afternoon when I turned off the two lane blacktop and continued on the gravel road that passed through a few lonely isolated stands of trees, a meandering river, and a mix of fenced pasture and open range. With a nod to the Mamas and Papas - I even "stopped into a church I passed along the way."
The door was open so I went inside. Light from the setting sun provided just enough illumination to light up the colors in the faded stained glass windows. This brief visit to a little country church could have been enough to make the trip worth it, but there would be so much more.

A few other guests were already there when we arrived. We were greeted warmly by those we knew and introductions were made to those we didn't. Wine and conversation flowed. It was a scene right out of A Prairie Home Companion as we mingled and talked in the kitchen with the smell of cornmeal stuffing drifting from the stove top. The last of the guests arrived and the group separated, with the men moving into the living room where the talk turned to gophers and groundhogs, coyotes and rabbits, and interpretations of a 150 year old original oil painting on the wall. You know, the stuff menfolk talk about. That may seem like a bit of a in the living room on the couch and in the comfy chairs, and the womenfolk in the kitchen talking about whatever it is women talk about in the kitchen. Some might say it was even a little politically incorrect. But those people were not in attendance that evening, and no one who was there would have considered that possibility. 
Eventually we were all called to the table and the conversation continued. Everyone contributed, and nearly everybody had a story to tell. Stories like one about another birthday long ago in another time and place when a cake was delivered by carrying it while riding on a motorcycle across rough terrain where there was no road. Both her and the cake survived the trip. (And, yes, I said "her").  Or the one about a well mannered sheep. It was a great time. The hosts were wonderful, and the guests were all good, decent people who care about family and friends. Even new friends like us. I could just tell. There was also a sense of humility around that table in spite of the fact that there was so much talent present. Artists, musicians and writers. People who work with their hands and people who work with their minds. Caretakers of the land and caretakers of family...both of which also require a tremendous amount of talent. 
There is one other thing worth noting - none of the conversation was about politics. Or the economy. Those subjects never came up. And that was nice. The entire evening was nice. So nice that if there would have been a campfire we would all have been sitting around it.

Roger O'Dea      10/25/2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What's Your Song?

This started with a Facebook post by a friend (thanks Mary Jo) that I shared to my own page. It read as follows:  "If anyone tells you a song is important to them, you should turn it up loud, close your eyes and really listen. Because at the end you will know that person much better."
I believe that to be a true statement so I reposted it. The response was surprising. Apparently a lot of other people also believed it. One of the comments asked what songs are important to me. That question was more personal than one might think, but a great subject for conversation. And I hope this subject will serve as a conversation starter for you with others whom you would like to know a little better. Or much better, as the case may be. Ask them about a song that is important to them, then go listen to it. Really listen.

A song came to me right away that I thought could be the one most important. Then another one pushed it's way into my head. Then another. And another. My intent of choosing just one song gave way to a final list of eight. You might ask why not just round up to ten? Because the number is eight. There are eight songs that stand apart from all others. Here they are, some with a brief explanation. Others with none.  Although, for some of you that know me well, no explanation will be necessary. And if you don't know me well, but take time later to actually listen to these, you will know me better than before.

1. Around and Around - John Denver. Because it's John Denver, and because of this ...
    And I love to see the morning as it steals across the sky
    I love to remember and I love to wonder why
    And I hope that I'm around so I can be there when I die
    When I'm gone
    I hope that you will think of me
    In moments when you're happy and you're smiling
    That the thought will comfort you 
    On cold and cloudy days if you are crying
    That you love to see the sun go down
    And the world go around and around and around 

2. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol. Because one time in the park ...

    If I lay here
    If I just lay here
    Would you lay with me and just forget the world?
    Forget what we're told
    Before we get too old
    Show me a garden that's bursting into life

3. What Are Their Names - David Crosby.

4. My Sweet Lord - George Harrison.

5. Into The Mystic - Van Morrison.  Because I miss my friend.

6. You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio - Joni Mitchell.

    Call me at the station. The lines are open. 

7. Message From The Mission - Brewer & Shipley.

8.  Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh. Because sometimes I just wanna rock!

Those are my songs. Some of you who know me will understand. Others may have just gotten to know me a little better. Feel free to post your own so I can know you better, too.

Roger O'Dea      10/8/2016


Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Bad Year for Tomatoes

Anybody else think this has been a strange year? It's like that feeling when you don't get enough sleep, or you get too much sleep, and you don't quite wake up completely. The day drags on. Things aren't as clear or sharp as they should be. Like you're in a fog. And I read somewhere that tomatoes haven't reached their full potential this year. That's kind of what I feel like. I haven't reached my full potential. If I was a vegetable* in 2016 I would be a tomato.
*(I know. But I am using literary license here, not botanical correctness).

I'm not complaining. I have so much to be thankful for and there have been some great times and some good things have happened. For example, it's been a great year musically. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert was fantastic. Then there was Heart, Ringo, Doobie Brothers, Journey. I discovered Parker Millsap, and gained a deeper appreciation for some local area musicians - most notably the Jerdes / Zeona Road.

Plus, I've enjoyed some wonderful family outings and weekend trips. Backyard gatherings.and quiet times looking for movements in the night sky. Hanging out with old friends, and meeting new ones. Those are all wins, but there have been some losses too. The losses, combined with a too frequent general lack of enthusiasm, have made these first eight months of the year ... disappointing? Unsatisfying? Frustrating? Not sure exactly what the best word is to describe what I'm feeling. Maybe the best way to say it is that the year so far has fallen short of expectations. But I should also consider whether or not my expectations are too high. They usually are. Especially when it comes to my photography.

 What I thought my summer would be like.

What my summer was actually like. 

But it's not over. There's still time. Redemption may be just around the corner. I have more events to attend, more pictures to take, a trip is planned, and there's a little something up my sleeve for late in the year. I really hope that works out. It could be just what I need to turn things around and get the garden growing again. Things grow in winter too, you know. Maybe not tomatoes, but other things. Things that are just as good for you, or even better. I've never really liked tomatoes all that much anyway.

Roger O'Dea      9/10/2016