Armstrong, Park City

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I’m really not sure if it’s named after Neil or Lance, but the Armstrong trail is a fun one.

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I actually heard about it from a doctor friend of mine. He kept raving about the trail. Then I tried it (with another doctor friend of mine), and found out he was right to rave. The trail is on a mountain near the ski runs, but it’s obviously too far in among the trees to offer much fun for skiers, unless they were doing cross-country skiing.

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In the photo above you can see the grooming hills, where skiers play “crash and swear” in the winter months.

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The location and slopes are ideal for mountain biking. I was moving slowly going up, feeling the dragging effects of that ice cream I ate the day before, pacing behind most of my friends, but when we got to the downhill I rocketed ahead. Being a downhill rocket is my purpose for living, I’m convinced. The downhill was smooth. It was eligible for some awards. Not many jumps though. Not many chances for catching air.

 

Pulling Out of a Slump

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That’s all it takes really. Look above. A picture of a blue-eyed kitten is a great way to deal with the doldrums, the blues, the slump, the blockage, the writer’s constipation.

So many names for a low-down mood. So many ways to define sorrows. Why do we do it? Why do we spend so much time defining the things we want to spend less time doing? How does that help anything?

Better to define the things we love doing. Spend more time with the things that bring us joy. Spend more time meditating on what matters, instead of wallowing in the negative. One of the differences between pessimists and optimists is they both can see the muck and the mire but the pessimist sets up camp there. The optimist just grins and pictures…a kitten, for instance.

Personally, I can talk for a mile about mountain biking. I can spin skeins about writing fiction. I could build a rocket from the stacks of science fiction books I have, and I could have plenty left over to create the first library on the moon. I’m sure that would be the best library in the galaxy; for one thing, you wouldn’t have to return the books; and for another, what a great location!

The point here is not necessarily to help others get out of their slumps, though that may be a pleasant consequence of this particular post—I’m mostly just driving myself out of my own slump. I hit an obstacle along life’s busy road. I can’t really say the obstacle was unforeseen. I had an idea it was coming, but it didn’t treat me well whether I knew about it or not. Where I want to go and where I am are far distant. What matters though is that I found a sense of humor that I didn’t know I had. It’s sort of a light and fluffy, whimsical thing. It’s interesting and illogical, but it helped drag me out of the swamp of the pessimist so I wouldn’t start living there. When I started using it, I noticed other people around me had the same kind of humor. Who knew? It’s either contagious or it was always there and I never noticed.

Certain things in life can bring you down. You choose to stay down or not.

You also choose to get back up or not.

Do you look for the solutions to get you back to being happy? Do you seek the people who can boost your confidence? How do you handle the obstacles life sets up for you? What can you do to overcome the obstacles of life? Do you have the skills to manage trials? Do you have the mental, physical, and spiritual strength to carry on? How did you learn those? Who taught you?

Other than cute and cuddly kitten pictures, one of my solutions for pulling out of a slump is to focus on Christ. Even if I only compare my own life to his, I can’t feel down about my situation too long. Do I have it tough? Hardly. Christ had it tougher. Comparison is why Blues songs work to cheer you up. You hear about how tough the Blues singer had it and you feel better. Focusing on Christ has another aspect to cheer you up though. His life may have been full of difficult, even deadly things, but he was able to overcome all of it. He overcame criticism with wit and wisdom. He overcame homelessness by making friends in his travels. He overcame temptation by constantly reminding himself and others who he really is. He even overcame death. And there, right there, is one great defense against the bogs of life—death is not the end. You can look at obstacles in a new way if you know that. The largest obstacles are only temporary. And even if your obstacles are so enormous that they roll over you and crush you until you’re dead, well, that’s temporary too, thanks to Jesus.

Even the pessimist in me can’t stay down too long. He comes up with adjectives for the obstacles: crushingly enormous. The adjectives on the optimistic side are more abundant: charismatic, dynamic, perpetual, limitless, lively, eternal, cute, cuddly, and happy.

So, to sum up for myself, the ways out of a slump are: find kitten pictures, write more, focus on Christ, focus on the things you enjoy, don’t set up camp in the bog, and remember death is not the end.

 

 

 

Of Length and Bread

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Longer than a Twitter tweet…

…shorter than a Facebook rant.

A web log post could be long, but it doesn’t really need to be. Length is determined by the wordiness of the blogger, and sometimes by the subject. There are subjects that require more explanation. Can you tell the story of the wolves without first telling which forest they live in? Can you tell the story of your life without telling the reader about your parents?

An archive on the other hand, well, needs a certain…length of loquacity. An archive has a perfect limit. I’ve seen some go far beyond the limit and blow themselves up like dropping a cigarette into a closed gas stove. Such needless self-destruction could be avoided either by not lighting up that cigarette, or by leaving off the gas ’til you’re ready to bake. 

I’ve also seen others show too much restraint, barely reaching a word out to the reader, barely showing interest in their own work, not covering enough of the subject to keep a fan, not expanding the concepts enough to thrill the reader’s interest. It’s like making a donut without any glaze. It’s pulling up short. It’s stopping before you’re done.

Fans can be fickle. They need a reason to hang around. They need some pictures to draw them in, and some words to pass their eyes across, and even some ideas suggested by the words. They need rumination material. They need a seed to nurture. The seed of an idea to make the daily meditation more substantial.

They want something to feed their own writing, or other creative outlet. They want ideas to raise the creativity, like yeast in bread. Who doesn’t want a little boost from outside the brain pan now and then? You can’t live off of your own creativity alone. Everyone needs a little help in the kitchen…

Sometimes from the kitchen of a fictional character such as Joe Bakerman—deliciousness.

Sometimes from words—worlds.

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Choice and Consequence

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For every choice, a consequence.

Every choice has at least one consequence. Sometimes more than one. Sometimes the result is good, sometimes bad. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes the beginning of really hard times.

For a person who recently decided to make a super quick u-turn on a busy street—and finished the u-turn right in front of a police car—the consequence was as quickly received as the u-turn was executed. Unless they were going to the hospital, I can’t imagine the consequence being beneficial. Then again, maybe learning the lesson of not making snap decisions that land you right in front of a law enforcer when you’re breaking the law is good for a lifetime. You might never forget such a lesson, such immediate consequences.

For someone who decided to shoot off fireworks inside their house, and managed to burn down half of their house, the effect of such a stupid decision was immediate. The decision they made to live near a fire station was a good one, but still, they ended up with half a house. Most likely, they had to move out while the house was repaired. If I was their neighbor, I’d be hoping they wouldn’t move back. I’d be hoping their house was far enough from mine that they wouldn’t be able to burn it.

For a group of lawmakers who thought they could conduct political actions behind closed doors that affected the public, and started a riot, they might think again before doing something so stupid. Then again, there are those in this world who have to see the varied negative results of multiple bad decisions before they even begin to understand. There are those who have to learn the hard way.

For a grown-up who teaches a child to blow dandelion seeds across the yard, the consequence isn’t immediate. It could be a time between seasons before they’ll see the consequences. In this case, though, is the result unwanted? Maybe the idea is to get more dandelion fluff to blow around. And maybe the neighbors wanted more. Maybe they wanted the dandelions to grow so they would have something to do to pass the time. You never know unless you ask.

“Are you okay if I blow these dandelion seeds in your grass?”

This Feral Soul

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Time captives could be all the memories a head can hold.

Every old man is a boy dressed in old man leather. Leather shows the times gone by, the extended hours in the sun, jokes told to wrinkle around the eyes, and sorrows borne to wrinkle around the brow.

If he’s been anywhere, he remembers it. If he left the cave at all, he logged that choice in instinctual remembrance so future generations would know to leave the cave. Every hunter was once a caveman. Every gatherer was once a cavewoman. No cave can keep a feral soul inside forever. Eventually the hunger will drive the wild things to explore, to hunt, to discover.

To go outside and smell the scent of adventure is sometimes all a belly needs. On the other occasions, when the instinct is total, the taste for flesh is all-consuming, compelling the natural creature to compete as a predator. The predator seeks out its prey.

Some wild ones rend the entire earth with teeth and nails. Others observe, watching for their turn on the carcass. Carrion lunch. Ribcage lunchbox.

Entire worlds of variety await the predator at the top of the food chain. Moments of panic, running, and hiding await the prey.

Man once arrogantly thought himself the top of the food chain. Then he met the crocodile, the shark, the lion. Mankind decided to buck instinct and return to the cave. Decorating the cave with lights and sounds, machines and screens, mankind got complacent, losing that feral edge. The species developed subspecies: the blogger, the tweeter, the troll. Soon these all forgot everything there was to know about outside. They craved it still. Their skins, the leathers of old men, became pasty, undernourished, without the touch of the sun, without the pressures of wind and rain. Then they knew, instinctively knew, they would have to revert to some of the old ways or consider mass extinction.

Then, one day, a thought came. Make the screens smaller. Take them along on the journey. Instead of preying on the field mouse, mankind could take photographs. Pictures of crocodiles prove a new sort of superiority. Digital capture, digital memory.