Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Blows

I guess winter isn’t going to go without a fight.

We started the week out with a rain and snow mixture that turned to snow by Wednesday leaving several inches of the white stuff on the ground.  Then we shifted to milder temperatures before jumping up to early summer temperatures.  Lots of fluctuation between winter and spring . . . lots of unstable air . . . which seems to bring out the last trump card of winter—WIND!  Lots of wind!

Old Man Winter is blowing off a whole lot of steam today . . . ranging from a steady 25 to 40 miles an hour wind with gusts between 50 and 70 miles an hour. This wind is making the storm in the Wizard of Oz look like a walk in the park on a blustery day.  As hard as the wind has been blowing today it would only take a matter of minutes for Dorothy and Toto to get back to Kansas!  It has been nasty.

Now it is true that the wind blows on a fairly consistent basis in Montana.  Most Montanans are used to the wind blowing . . . but, this is not your typical daily wind.  This is a hurricane on land.  It has created quite a bit of havoc in the lives of everyone.

With the lack of moisture and high winds there is a perfect combination for fire.  Because there is a high risk for fire, the area we live in has been in a “red flag” warning for nearly two days.  A “red flag” warning is to serve as a reminder to those of us in it that the conditions are right for fires.  It doesn’t take much more than a spark around here to get a fire going . . . and, with this wind it doesn’t take much to spread it.  Twenty-six miles down the road in Red Lodge a fire broke out today closing the ski resort . . . last I heard they were still trying to battle it, but the wind was making that pretty difficult.  Down the road going east about another 26 miles a fire broke out in the Columbus area.  This one was threatening a subdivision, thus the people were removed from their homes.  That fire is stilling going.  Several other fires were reported.  It seems as if the fire season has begun early this year, and it could be a long summer.

The dry conditions have also created a lot of dust.  With the wind whipping dust around we have suddenly entered into a re-enactment of the Dust Bowl years.  Visibility is none existent in some locations causing road closures.  Interstate 90—a major thoroughfare through Montana—was closed down due to visibility issues between Columbus and Reed Point.  Poor visibility also caused a major pile up on the same interstate highway between Columbus and Laurel.  One person was killed in that accident.  It is also the cause of an accident that one of my sons and his social provider were in.  Luckily neither one of them were hurt, but her car took a beating as it was hit from behind because the other vehicle was driving way too fast for the conditions.  Yep, Old Man Winter is getting in the last few jabs . . . and, it blows.

Old Man Winter is just being a bully now.

Having spent many years in western Nebraska, I thought I was used to the wind.  Shoot, the wind used to be a big joke in Nebraska . . . but, this wind is no joke.  This is serious stuff.  A temper tantrum of the worse kind.  I have witnessed birds walking because it is too windy to fly.  Herds of tumbleweeds have been corralled by barbed wire fences creating some pretty unique art along the roads.  Trash cans have moved on down the street.  Trees have been dancing and swaying.  And, when one stands outside it sounds like a freight train screaming by.  Dust flies across the roads making it impossible to see.  I had even had to put lead weights on our two wiener dogs to keep them from flying across the yard when they have to potty. 

I do not know who the imbecile was who wrote that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb . . . Montana has some pretty vicious lambs!  I don’t know what that writer was drinking or smoking, but apparently he or she was not from Montana . . . but it must have been some good stuff.  Right now, we Montanans, could probably use a little of whatever it was that he or she was drinking or smoking.

Old Man Winter needs to give us a break.  True, we did not get our usual snow or winter . . . back east got that.  And, as much as we want to apologize to our neighbors to the east, we do appreciate the fact that Old Man Winter took it easy on us this year.  I guess we were not thankful enough for the old guy and now we are paying for it.  Dearly paying for it.  The wind is blowing hard out of the north . . . someone told me that was because Wyoming sucked.  I don’t know.  I just want the wind to stop . . . concede that it has lost . . . and, allow Spring to take its rightful place in the seasons.  Someone . . . please . . . offer Old Man Winter a little of whatever it was that that writer was drinking or smoking.  Old Man Winter needs to mellow out.  This wind really blows.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gut Check Postponed

Okay . . . I am “man” enough to admit it . . . I wimped out of my colonoscopy.  According to the Mayo Clinic staff a colonoscopy “is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.  During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.  If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well.”  Just the way I envisioned spending a Friday afternoon . . . being probed by an invasive tube up my bum while it is all being recorded by a mini-video camera for future prosperity . . . well, at least I hope it is a miniature video camera as a full-sized one would really, really hurt! 

The suggestion is that starting at age fifty a person should get a colonoscopy once every five years . . . I am nearing the age of 57.  I have yet to have my first colonoscopy despite the annual grilling by my doctor to have it done.  I must admit the doctor is pretty persistent . . . pretty patient, too . . . while calmly suggesting it each time I pop in for my annual check-up.  It is working as I have been weakening over the years and actually agreed to schedule one.  It was scheduled for the end of this week . . . on a Friday afternoon.  I canceled it . . . I mean, I postponed it . . . for late July.  I was not ready for the gut check!

For the most part, I have to admit that I did not give the colonoscopy much thought . . . until the last two weeks.  In the last two weeks it had become a growing concern taking up more and more of my free time.  Shoot!  It is practically springtime here in Montana and instead of thinking about all the wonderful activities I could be doing in the nearby mountains, I was thinking about a procedure to my body where no person had ever gone before.  Any sane person would have to honestly admit that the mere mention of “colonoscopy” sends shivers up one’s spine from the portal entrance in the southern hemisphere of the body.  I know it did me.  The more I thought about the more I began to regret that the doctor had caught me in an agreeable mood . . . I didn’t want anybody—especially a stranger—probing me with a mini-video camera no matter how much they assured me that it was for the good of my health.  It sounded invasive . . . uncomfortable . . . and, even painful.  It struck me as undignified and embarrassing.  Struck me as being dirty in more ways than one.

So, I wimped out.  Well, not completely . . . I did reschedule for late July.

The wife was sympathetic . . . at least she respected me enough to not snicker and laugh in my presence.  No, she waited for me to turn my back.  She had one done a little over a year ago.  Claims that it was not that bad.  I am not sure who she is fooling.  I was there . . . well, I wasn’t actually there for the actual colonoscopy . . . but, I was there for everything leading up to it and after it.  It was not a pleasant time.

I witnessed the pre-colonoscopy ritual of depositing the suppository to get things moving.  I watched as she drank the wonder drink that set the bowels in motion.  I saw how as the evening progressed she moved closer and closer to the bathroom and the throne.  I remember being woke up all through the night as she hurried to the bathroom . . . the sighs of relief . . . and the cacophony that created a new name for the bathroom—Thunder Dome!  It was not a walk in the park.  The wife was not a happy camper especially when this all took place after spending a day fasting.

One doesn’t easily erase such memories from one’s mind.

Besides the invasiveness of the procedure, I was not too thrilled with giving up eating for a whole day.  Yes, I am sure that I have an ample supply of nourishment stored on my body that I would easily survive a 24-hour period without food . . . my body would survive; but, my mind thought otherwise.  Such thoughts were not bolstering my will to get on with the procedure.  It made me hungry just thinking about it.  I hate being hungry even for a good cause like my health!

Then after a day of fasting the only thing that I get is a suppository . . . and, lots of yucky fluids to drink . . . all for the purpose of creating a riot to get my bowels moving.  I have heard my bowels when they are not happy . . . it is a scary sound that rumbles out and often signals bad things.  This part of the pre-procedure is meant to waken these sleeping giants to expel all that waste.  It is an endless parade of farting and pooping until a person can no longer fart or poop.  Well, I have never had much trouble with either one . . . I can do it with the best of them.  But . . . NO . . . the doctor wants to help clean out the ol’ pipes.  Charmin tissues ain’t even going to bring much comfort to this scenario . . . hungry, farting, and pooping . . . sounds like a Saturday morning from my college days living with five other guys.

That right there was enough to bring apprehension towards my waning willingness to go through with the colonoscopy.  Yet, everyone kept telling me that it would be okay because they put you under for the procedure . . . a person doesn’t remember anything.  A little gas and the next thing you remember is the nurse encouraging you to pass a little gas before you can go home.  I do not do well with anesthesiology.  In previous surgeries I have caught pneumonia, near-pneumonia, and extra time in the hospital.  Plus I have had to endure the stories about the silly things that I have said to the doctor, the nurses, and my wife . . . seems I am quite entertaining when knocked out.  Going under is not one of my favorite things . . . and, who knows what they do when a person is knocked out.  Makes me shudder whenever I think about it.

So, I wimped out . . . called and rescheduled.  The wife understood, despite trying to keep a straight face and suppressing her giggles.  The nurse on the other end of the line understood even though I could hear her muffling the phone to hide her laughter.  The doctor probably figured that it would get him out on the golf course that much sooner . . . and, that he would eventually get me . . . somewhere down the line, he would get me.  At this moment it is a relief for me . . . a huge pain in the rear removed for the time being.  I am sure I will be embarrassed about wimping out down the road . . . probably even feel guilty about not taking it like a “man”.  But, for me it made sense . . . it was a relief.

I can joke about it.  I have been told that a person has to have a sense of humor about colonoscopies.  Others before me have.  Here are a few of the things they had to say to their doctors about the whole procedure:

  • ·        "Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone


  • ·        "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

  • ·        "You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."

  • ·        “You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."

  • ·        "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"

  • ·        "Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."

And, my favorite one:

  • ·        "Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up


Confession is good for the soul . . . this confession was good for my rear . . . at least for another couple of months.  So, bring it on.  All of you colonoscopy veterans, bring it on.  Hit me with your best shot . . . I can take it.  It beats starving one’s self for a day, planting a suppository, drinking yucky stuff, and spending a whole night worshiping in the Thunder Dome farting and pooping before being abruptly probed in an invasive procedure sure to bring nightmares in the days and weeks to come.  Go ahead, I can take it.

Besides the day is coming.  I can run, but I cannot hide.  I told you, the doctor is patient and persistent . . . he almost got me this time.  He senses the kill . . . my time is coming.  Shoot, I feel a bilabial fricative even now!  And, I ain’t tooting my horn.  The guts know that they will get me in the end!

Friday, March 6, 2015

I Heard an Owl . . .

One of my favorite movies as a kid was I Heard the Call My Name (1973) based on the book by the same name by Margaret Craven in 1967.  I have never read the book, but probably will should, even though I loved the movie.  Basically it is the story of an Anglian priest with an incurable disease (unknown to him, but known to the Bishop) who is sent to a remote Indian village in British Columbia to minister to the Kwakiutls.  It is the story of how he and the villagers become family.  It is while he is ministering in the village that he comes to consider it to be his home and family.  Also, he hears the owl call his name.

According to Kwakwaka’wakw belief, to hear an owl call a person’s name was a foretelling of imminent death.  This is not a belief that is central only to the Kwakiutls tribe . . . there are many tribes that speak to this belief.  In looking at the mythology of owls there are many references to this idea.  Since I was a teen this idea . . . this phrase . . . has always fascinated me.

Owls are not easy to find . . . at least they haven’t been since we have been in Montana.  The first owl I ever saw in Montana was several years ago at the entrance of a ranch on a country road near the homestead at dusk.  The second one was in Yellowstone Park in the dead of winter.  The third was on an isolated mountain in Idaho.  And, then this evening . . . just down the street from our house.  It was a magnificent bird . . . but I did not hear the owl call my name . . . I heard it hooting, but I did not hear my name.  But, then again, I might have missed it since I am not fluent in Great Horned Owl.

As I have stated, this “idea” . . . from learning it from the movie . . . has always fascinated me.  I think, whether we want to admit it or not, that we all have some sense of death within our lives and thoughts.  I think we all have inklings about death . . . but, most of the time we push it back to the deepest recesses of our minds because we really do not want to deal with the thought of death.  But, it is there.

In an earlier blog I wrote about the fact that for many years . . . especially in my twenties . . . I figured I would die around the age of fifty . . . well, I broke that prediction by nearly seven years now.  I am still among the living.  Death is not uncommon in my life.  As a minister I have dealt with numerous deaths . . . people die.  Burying the dead is part of ministry, and as a minister I have celebrated the lives of hundreds through death.  As a child I have witnessed the deaths of my parents.  Death is no stranger in my life.  Yet, like everyone else, I do not give it much thought for the most part . . . kind of depressing when you think about it.

Though most of us are not willing to give it much thought, it is a part of life.  Probably more prevalent than most of us will give it credit for in our daily lives.  It is natural . . . but, depressing none the less.  Who wants to think about death when life seems to be so much fun.  Whether we like it or not, it is there . . . it is there no matter what age we might be.  Didn’t someone once say that the only certain things in life are death and taxes?

Lately, I have a friend on Facebook who has become greatly aware of his fascination of death . . . his desire to understand death . . . to come to a more holistic awareness of death . . . especially as it touches the lives of those he cares about and loves . . . about how it touches his life.  This friend is not a young person, but one that others might consider lingering in the “twilight years” . . . he is not a spring chicken.  He has started a blog dealing only with death . . . interesting, and at time fascinating reading.  He has just watching the old HBO series, Six Feet Under—an excellent study about death in such a way that one cannot help but to be moved to discernment about the topic of death.  His interest has sparked a small fire within me to respond to his interest . . . and, maybe this is just the first attempt to address my understanding of death to him.  Whatever the case, I have to admit that death is never too far from my consciousness . . . death, whether we admit it or not, is a constant companion in our journey through life.

As I spied the owl from where I was grilling this evening, I could not help but to speak out loud, “I heard an owl call my name . . .”  And, now this . . . a blog about death.
One of my favorite songs about death . . . well, about the hardship of life . . . comes from Stephen Foster.  It is titled Hard Times Come Again No More.  If you have never heard it, take the time to Google it and listen to it.  My favorite version is from a group called Eastmountainsouth (http://youtu.be/Aw14mwAp5oM).  For an old song it has not lost it message:

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count the many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh, hard times come again no more

It's a song a sigh of the weary
Hard times hard times come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

Though we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay
They are frail forms a-waiting by our door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading seems to say
Oh, hard times come again no more

It's a sigh that is wafted across the lowly plains
It's a wail that is heard upon the shore
It's a dirge that is murmured across the lonely grave
Oh hard times come again no more

I think that life is difficult and that death is often the exit that provides relief . . . at least for the one who is dying or dead.  Yet, death signifies hard times for those who are left behind . . . sometimes it only lasts for a little, sometimes a while longer, and . . . sometimes it never seems to end.  Life is hard, death is even harder . . . so, says Mr. Foster, let us enjoy the moment.

Another song about death that has always struck a chord within me is by the band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  In the song, Buy for Me the Rain, again emphasizes that death is not for the dead it is for the living . . . a reminder . . . a memory.  My favorite line from the song is: “Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they’re no use to the dead.”  A wonderful song.  You can listen to it hear http://youtu.be/_hxc6Vnph4E.  The lyrics:

Buy for me the rain, my darling, buy for me the rain;
Buy for me the crystal pools that fall upon the plain.
And I'll buy for you a rainbow and a million pots of gold.
Buy it for me now, babe, before I am too old.

Buy for me the sun, my darling, buy for me the sun;
Buy for me the light that falls when day has just begun.
And I'll buy for you a shadow to protect you from the day.
Buy it for me now, babe, before I go away.

Buy for me the robin, darling, buy for me the wing;
Buy for me a sparrow, almost any flying thing.
And I'll buy for you a tree, my love, where a robin's nest may grow.
Buy it for me now, babe, the years all hurry so.

I cannot buy you happiness, I cannot by you years;
I cannot buy you happiness, in place of all the tears.
But I can buy for you a gravestone, to lay behind your head.
Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they're no use to the dead.

Again, it is the living that is important.

As a pastor I have presided over countless funeral services . . . stood over the graves of many . . . and, I have oftened wondered about who would preside over my grave, who would preside over my funeral.  An old Appalachian song speaks to this.  In this song, Who Will Sing for Me, the singer –-who sings at the funeral services of many, wonders, who will sing for him when he dies.  The song by the Stanley Brothers can be heard here at  http://youtu.be/qOMUDCc9jOg as song by Emmylou Harris.  The words should make us all pause to think . . . who will eulogize us when we die?

Oft I sing for my friends
When death's cold hand I see
When I reach my journey's end
Who will sing one song for me

I wonder (I wonder) who
Will sing (will sing) for me
When I'm called to cross that silent sea
Who will sing for me

When friends shall gather round
And look down on me
Will they turn and walk away
Or will they sing one song for me

So I'll sing til the end
Contented I will be
Assured that some friends
Will sing one song for me

If we are honest with ourselves, death is there.  There is no escaping it.  So, what is death?  Is death an end?  Is it a beginning?  Is it a bump in the journey?  Does it really matter?  As I have stated over and over again, people don’t like to think about death.  Yet, there is no escaping death.  Everyone eventually dies.  That is a fact.  The question then is: how do we handle death?  I really do not think that the dead care.

I think that the goal is in the living.

How does one die gracefully?

How does one die well?

I have always jokingly said that I will probably not die gracefully or well.  Nope, I am going out kicking and screaming . . . a complete embarrassment to my family and friends.  Actually, I am kidding.  I don’t know how I will die . . . don’t know if it will be gracefully or not.  I really do not know whether it matters or not . . . especially to those who are left behind.  I do not think people remember the dying . . . what they remember is the living.

This is not a dissertation on death.  These are nothing more than random thoughts about death.  I am still thinking about death . . . what it means, what it represents, what it is.  All I know is that death is a constant companion.  There is not a day in my life that I am not confronted by death.  Yes, I heard an owl . . . and, no, it was not calling my name . . . but, it did make me pause.  It made me pause and think . . .

In the thinking . . . in the discerning . . . in the prayer . . . we come closer to the realization about death, about life, and what we are going to do between the beginning and the end.  Death only reminds us of life . . . damn owl.  I just wanted to cook a couple of steaks, enjoy a beer, and appreciate the moment . . . you know, life.  Maybe the owl was just trying to remind me . . .

Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they’re no use to the dead.