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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Walking Home in the Fog

As a kid—now as a romantic, I thought of fog as the heavenly clouds dipping down to embrace the earth.  I also used to think of thunder as God doing some heavenly bowling, but that is another story for another time--probably when I explain to my grandchildren the more intricate details of nature.  Though some would describe fog as being a cloud at ground level, it is not.  Fog is created by supersaturation of the air, so that the air can no longer hold the water vapor.  The water vapor precipitates out into small droplets of condensation, or fog.  The world and things look different in the fog.  Fog has a tendency to muffle and distort sound . . . tends to make it difficult to see . . . thus making navigation and travel difficult.

I think that it is easy to get lost in the fog . . . especially as we are making our way back home.

This past week I finally got around to fulfilling a gift that had been given to me by my sister . . . I finally got around to creating that photobook that she had given me the funding to do.  It was a simple project . . . go through all the photographs I had taken since I had moved to Montana and create a book of the best of them.  She gave it to me for my birthday . . . nearly eight months ago.  I think the truancy of starting and completing the book was the fact that I had gotten lost in the fog.  No matter how many times I sat down to start the project . . . well, I just couldn’t find my bearings.  I was lost.

Going through nearly eight years of photographs is more difficult than it sounds . . . I take a lot of photos . . . as I tell anyone interested in photography, you have to take a lot of pictures to get one good one.  In all those years I had taken a lot of pictures.  Yet, it was not the immensity of the number of photos I had to view, it was finding the desire to do it . . . finding the gumption to do it. Finally, I sat down and created the book.  What a revelation that exercise in creativity turned out to be . . . an epiphany of sorts.

Whether anyone else likes my pictures or not, I like them.  I have no difficulty sitting and going through thousands of pictures . . . reliving each and every story associated with them.  That is always a joy as even the really lousy pictures have a story to tell.  No, it was not having to go through thousands of pictures.  I did it.  The wife says that it is a beautiful photobook.  She might be a little bias . . . but, that is what makes her a good wife.  I guess we will see once we get the final copy.  The final copy is not the epiphany . . . it and all the work that led up to it revealed just how deeply mired I had been in the fog that settled upon my life over the past few years.

As I went through each year’s pictures . . . pictures of hiking trips in the mountains, jaunts down to Yellowstone, critter creeping excursions, snowshoeing in the Beartooths, or even moosing around the West Fork Road . . . each year revealed fewer and fewer of those moments—those adventures, taking place in my life.  As I progressed through each year, there were fewer and fewer adventures . . . fewer explorations, until this past year when I noticed that in a twelve month period I had hardly done anything except photograph the hell out of the birds that visited the Keener Homestead.  It was an epiphany . . . gone were the adventures that brought excitement and joy and growth to my life . . . instead I found the revelation that I had been wandering in the fog, trying to find my way back home.  I had lost that foundation that brought happiness and joy to my life . . . and, it wasn’t only the photographs that were telling this story, it was also the scantiness of my writing.  My blog was dying.

Wandering around in the fog probably best describes it.  I am sure some of you really sharp individuals out there will get all psychological and pronounce the fog as being depression . . . but, save it.  It was not depression . . . it was fog.  It has been a period of time in my life when things have been muffled, distorted, and difficult to see and hear.  The spiritual mystics might call it the “dark night of the soul”, but I still like wandering around in the fog.  In darkness a person just cannot see, in fog it is not that a person cannot see . . . it is distorted . . . just a blurry image . . . not quite gone, but not quite there.  Always teasing and prodding.  Depression is a deep, dark hole that is hopeless and foreboding.  Fog is wandering around seeking some sort of anchor to hold onto.  I have not been depressed . . . just sort of wandering around, attempting to get my bearings, and hoping like crazy that I do not bump into anything that would hurt me.  I have just been wanting to get home.

Isn’t that what we all want?  To get back home?  The problem is that we sometimes stumble into the fog . . . or the fog slowly creeps up on us . . . until that moment when we suddenly realize that we are not sure where we are at, how we got there, or where we are going.  We are engulfed in this hazy middle ground between here and there . . . as if nothing else exists and we are left wandering . . . searching. 

In my life, the fog is lifting.  It is not the head that guides one through the fog towards home . . . it is the heart.  I think the head helps create the fog, while the heart finds its way home.  Since completing that photobook project the heart has been leading me out of the fog . . . it has revealed the light breaking forth . . . beyond the fog there is clarity.  Though the fog has kept me safe, insulated me from the world around me . . . the time has come to get back on track . . . to dream . . . to risk . . . to get back in the mountains and hike . . . to live adventures . . . to see where God is calling me to go . . . to get back home. 

Yeah, we all want to get home . . . sometimes the journey home is through the fog.  An important prayer in the congregation I serve is the prayer of “traveling mercies” . . . it is a prayer of keeping those on a journey safe in their coming and going . . . a prayer of revelation that despite the journey—good or bad, that the sojourner is never alone . . . God is with them as much as they are in the thoughts and prayers of those who offer the prayer.  It is prayer of the heart . . . and, it is the heart that carries us safely through the fog of life.  I guess, in a way, fog really is clouds embracing the earth in an intimate embrace . . . in the Old Testament wasn’t God often portrayed as a cloud leading the people?  Maybe fog is just God putting us in a bear hug until we can continue on in our journeys to home.  I find comfort in that.



The water echoes in waves across the stillness of the pond.  The stillness has been disturbed.

Someone once stated that “no man is an island” . . . funny how in this day and age that doesn’t seem to be the prevalent mindset as we live in a very individualistic time . . . a time when the focus is primarily upon us . . . but, this is not about that.  The fact is, no person is an island . . . no person stands alone . . . we are all connected . . . we are all a part of the great cosmic family that is God’s.  And, because we are, the ripples caused by the stones hitting the water do touch many . . . disturbing the peaceful ways that once were.

Recently, after a long struggle, the daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters are getting some stability in their lives as they move up north to the state seat of Montana to begin a new adventure in their lives.  Their destination is Helena.  The son-in-law is beginning a new job with the college located there . . . a job well suited to his passions.  I am sure that he will do quite well in his new career . . . plus it will put him in the location of his other love, flying helicopters for the National Guard, since they are based out of Helena.  None of us could be any happier for him and this excellent opportunity he has.  Also, we could not be any happier as this adventure will be one where they will all be together . . . no more weekends or weeks apart . . . they will be together.  Things are looking up for them and we are ecstatic for them all.

Despite all the happiness and joy, there is a sense of sadness that tinges it all . . . the ripples of this move has rippled out touching the lives around them.  Behind them they leave family and friends who will miss seeing them on a regular basis.  I count myself among those who are numbered in that sadness.  For some peculiar reason I have really grown quite close to them all . . . especially those two little imps that I call my granddaughter.  I have really come to appreciate the close proximity of them living down the road in the big city . . . enjoyed having weekly visits with them.  I’m going to miss that. 

I guess in a way I am being a little selfish . . . but, damn, those ripples have hit hard this time.  Unlike previous moves that the kids have made in the past, this one drips of major change . . . change for the better for them.  It sets their lives on a solid path . . . brings stability to their lives in more ways than one . . . and, it provides them a wonderful future as they begin anew.  It is kind of like the feeling I got when the youngest son and his bride moved to Salt Lake City . . . there were changes to life . . . theirs and mine.  I lost a pretty important part of my life . . . well, maybe not lost, but definitely thrown into a new perspective.  No longer were they going to be conveniently a part of my life . . . not a quick phone call away asking if they wanted to go hiking in the mountains.  It is not lost, just different.  Things are not going to be the way that they have always been.  It won’t be so convenient . . . so easy.

I miss my youngest son, his bride, and our latest addition to the family—the grandson.  I will miss the convenience of my daughter and her family being just down the road . . . instead of minutes, it will now be four hours.  But, that is how ripples work . . . they echo out and lap up against our lives.  Sometimes in crashing waves, other times like gentle taps.

Over the years I have thought about this “ripple effect”.  I have thought about it, because Lord knows, I have done my fair share of tossing stones into the still pond of life . . . in fact, looking back, I have probably done more than throw stones, I have tossed boulders.  Leaving home after graduating high school, never to really return beyond sporadic visits . . . jumping around, moving from church to church, through the years . . . packing up and moving to Montana.  Looking back, I am certain that the ripples of those choices came crashing into the lives of those who loved me . . . changed things . . . changed relationships.  That is the effect of ripples.  Remember, no person is an island unto him or herself.  We are all connected.

Movement to and from places in life are not the only things that ripple across our lives.  There are children born with disabilities who have created ripples across the way one once imagined life would be and what it actually turned out to be.  There are children growing up, moving out, moving back in, and moving out . . . getting married . . . having children.  There are parents getting older . . . dying way too young . . . relatives that once graced our lives, no longer around.  There are times of unexpected abundance and times when no one could even scrape two nickels.  Ripples come in all shapes and sizes . . . and, they touch others . . . effect others.

I guess the time has come for me to admit to something that I have always known . . . life changes, we all grow, and sometimes that growth hurts . . . growing pains.  I am all for growth in myself and in others . . . that is how we know that we are still alive.  But, and I admit, I have not always gone into that growth gun ho; nope, sometimes I have gone into it kicking and screaming.  But, I have always gone.  I have always gone and hoped for the best, dealt with what was there, and allowed things to fall where they fell.  Still, it is a feeling of melancholy that shades this change in all of our lives.

That is the way it goes . . . ker-plunk!  The ripples touch everyone who is in that pond of life . . . remember, no person is an island.  As my mother used to say, “This too shall pass.”  And, it will.  It won’t be the way that it has always been . . . no, distance and time will change that.  Yet, it will still be there . . . the love of parent for his children . . . the deep devotion for grandchildren . . . and, that sense of connection that makes us all one.  It will still be there.  True, it will take a little more work than it has in the past, but it will still be there.

I am proud of my son-in-law for getting the opportunity for an adventure in his life that will provide stability for him and the family he loves.  I am proud of my daughter for packing up “one more time” and moving to a new community, being the glue that holds the family together, and bracing herself for a new adventure.  This is a wonderful gift that they have received, a special opportunity . . . and, I am excited for both all of them.  This is a ripple, though I do not like it, which is full of potential . . . they have been blessed (which they will realize once the dust of moving has settled) . . . and, in a way, so have I.

I love putzing around Montana.  Montana is a beautiful state.  Between us and Helena is a whole lot of Montana to see, and now I have an excuse to make the trek to Helena for more than work.  The convenience is gone, but the effort will be well worth it . . . the moments treasured even more deeply than before.   I like Helena . . . they have some good breweries and even a baseball team . . . it is surrounded by mountains . . . and, it is a pretty city with lots to do.  And, now it is going to have my family.  Who wouldn’t want to make regular trips to the Capital City?


The ripples waft across the pond . . . always have, always will . . . touching our lives in many different ways.  This ripple—though expected, splashed kind of hard.  Washed over me . . . washing away the past, changing the present . . . creating a new challenge.  A challenge that will be well worth the effort.  I am looking forward to the adventure.

The ripples will never stop happening in our lives.  They will always be there as long as we are living . . . always be there until the day we take our last breath.  It is a part of life.  With this ripple I have chosen to get a surf board and ride it out . . . see where it takes me . . . yeah, Helena, I know; but, it also takes me into a new dynamic relationship with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters.  Bless be the tie that binds.  Let the adventure begin.