Friday, July 07, 2006

Guys Like to Build Stuff

What are you building?

I'm thinking about what I'm building.

We are all working on something, even if it is nothing. Even in avoiding work, we are working to create a life of ease.

When I was young I was building adventures.

I hitchhiked thousands of miles. I gloried in throwing myself, arms wide, into the unknown.

I loved even the dangerous events, they gave me stories to tell.

There was the guy who refused to let me out of his car, until I pulled a knife and yanked on his emergency brake so I could jump out and dodge the five lanes of heavy traffic in downtown L.A. to safety.

There was the guy who related his tale of stealing thousands of dollars from undercover cops and fleeing north with the drugs and money while the officers staggered in a dark street, wiping pepper spray from their eyes. (True story. He showed me proof. I was lucky to have found a way out of that dangerous and weird situation!)

Even when I settled down and wasn’t relying on Ewell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus for my meals, I didn’t really settle down.

I spent at most a year at any particular job. I helped open a vegetarian restaurant and worked my way from dishwasher to head cook. I developed pictures at a one hour photo for a month. I tried telemarketing, and deliveries, and installing insulation (the worst!). I was a milkman for a year delivering wholesome dairy products early in the morning (I once snuck a surfer past a security gate to a culvert leading to the beach in front of Nixon’s Western White House).

Weird jobs, eh? I ran motor grader for my dad. I fondly remember “Maggie,” the 1940s blade. Worm-drive, cantankerous pony engine, bad brakes. She beat blisters into my palms with her refusals to let control gears mesh. I enjoyed watching her spinning metal rods deliver raw mechanical power to her achingly slow repertoire of mechanical tools.

I was the editor of a corporate magazine for almost a year, putting the best face on a group of corporate pirates. I was set adrift when their ship sank (after they sold the rights to that vessel back east). I started a graphic arts business.

So what was I building? Not much. I was having fun, paying the bills. That was good enough.

There were other adventures woven into those years of job hopping. Adventures of the spirit. I go into yoga. I was a practitioner of bhakta yoga in an ashram for a year and a half. A sort of eastern monk. I told myself and others that Jesus was my avatar, but the truth: I was wandering from the flock. I once spent two and a half months reading theological books in a cave. I went on long walks along the Sierras and in Yosemite.

I’m 50 now and I look at other men my age and I see how they have nicer homes, better paying jobs. I wonder what I could have built in the time I have spent jumping and sailing and wandering.

After 2,200 miles of driving during this vacation I am letting Brenda drive. Typical guy, I like being in control. But I have relented, Brenda's driving, and I'm enjoying this respite. We have decided to push on for home, not stopping for the night. It will save us the $70 or so on a hotel room (minus the necessary espressos we’ll need as the night gets late) and will get us into our own cozy beds (Isn't that how it is with a trip? You just want your own bed!).

So I am typing up a blog post as eastern Oregon and scattered thunderstorms drift by, and being a touch reflective.

It has been a great week with my family. We have gotten tired and cranky as we rolled through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We have thrilled at majestic cloudscapes (Big Sky indeed!) and teetering rocks. A bouquet of wild Wyoming rests in a Gatorade bottle on the van’s console.

We’ve seen bison, wolves, coyotes, elk, moose, bears, prong horns, porcupines, and swans. We have seen jagged mountain peaks biting at the sky, and gentle rivers winding through huge meadows. We’ve watched geysers spray high into the sky and bubbling mud in “paint pots.” We’ve seen lightning storms rolling across high plains. We’ve seen rocks balancing impossibly against a brilliant blue sky. We’ve seen... each other. Really seen each other.

What a wonderful thing I have built with my life. I have built a family. Brenda and I have shaped the character of two young men.

Isaac is inquisitive, hypersensitive, painfully honest, and gives me strong spontaneous bear hugs.
(Click to enlarge these pics of some GREAT kids)

Jeremiah is satisfied, happy, with small things, and his constant smile beams like a lighthouse as he works hard at being helpful and kind.

Wonderful boys. My boys. People I’d be pleased to know. Kids I am proud to call my own. Those are my kids!!

My father left us when I was young, and he built an empire of trucks and heavy equipment. My wife's father left them when she was young and built himself a quiet little retirement near Puerta Vallarta. Many men build things to surround themselves with comfort and ease, money and prestige. Nice houses. Nice jobs.

Not enough men dedicate themselves to building a living legacy in the hearts of their children.

It's a little sad some men have so little to show for their years of building.


Judas Hate said...

Amen for those who realize where to find the true treasures of life.

Your boys are beautiful. And their smiles reflect your love for them. There is no greater gift to a child than knowing they are truly loved more than anyone or anything in the world.

Welcome home brother.

Judas Hate said...

Me too.

I hear "The Wild Hare Saloon & Cafe" has ice-cold beer and a wicked cheeseburger and I have been wanting to check out Canby:-)

One day.

curious servant said...

It is a pretty cool place. It has changed hands several times the last ten years or so. The latest owners have gotten it right.

Judas Hate said...

I'm on my way:-)

Vicki said...

You have built a beautiful family, and I enjoy your reflective posts. Glad you could take time to travel with family. I'm sure the boys enjoyed it a lot! Your past wanderings reminds me of some things I've done--that we've all done--at one time or another, except I've never spent much time in a cave:-) They freak me out:-)

Glad you're back! Blessings to you and yours!

Lillee said...

Have I ever told you my oldest son's name is Isaac? I love that name. Alot.
My grandmother just came back from vacationing in the very same place. I bet you ran into her and her eighty year old husband with their cameras and tourist smiles. They make me laugh.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm going to try to read through your blog a bit here. As for some of your thoughts... I largely agree, and in fact you may find that my earlier post has a lot to say about those very things. I'm shortly (hopefully within the next week) going to update again! :)

Ame said...

A "little" sad for the men; a LOT sad for the wives and children they leave in their wake to flounder through life on their own.

Thanks for sparing one beautiful woman and two great kids from having to do the same.

Me said...

What a great post, this is one of my favorites! Your boys look VERY happy! Sounds like a GREAT vacation!

Ishmael's Brother said...

It sounds like you had a great time, CS.

This was a good post.

BTW... I mentioned you in a recent post. I hope you don't mind. I know you live in Oregon and I was writing about something regarding your state.

Take care.

curious servant said...

Thank you. As for mentioning me, I read it over and it is fine with me in how you referred to me. (It's true.)

You may notice that since you have linked to me I have reciprocated.

I just recently went through my links and straightened them out a bit. My policy is that anyone who is kind enough to link to me deserves the same.

I have another post just about ready for posting.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

glad you're back and you had fun. what a beautiful family you got. God bless. :)

Kitty Cheng said...

CS, Your love to your children is so evident in this post. God Bless!

bjk said...


loved this and seeing the boys we have been praying for....

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Jada's Gigi said...

What a beautiful reflective post. It is wise to value what we spend a lifetime building into our kids..they are after all, the only thing we have that we can take with us when we go...
beautiful boys...and bautiful country...I was there with my own kids several years ago...they still talk about our trip...not so much the scenery or the things we did...but the time spent together.

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