The Walk

The Walk

Sunday, February 6, 2022

I’m a RCIA sponsor now. Samantha, a parishioner Tawnya and I have known for years called and asked if I would be willing to sponsor her husband Rich. I said yes, but I feel so unworthy.

In the parochial school basement after Mass, the RCIA director played a short video on the Ten Commandments by Bishop Robert Barron. When he explained the genius behind the three commandments concerning God, I was floored. I had never before looked at it the way he presented it. First, you shall have no other gods before me. He said that we all worship something, we just don’t think of these things as gods anymore. What we love most defines us. For us, our love for God must define us. He called it our center of gravity, and I like that. When God is our center of gravity, the rest of our spiritual and moral life falls into place, Barron says.

Then he moved on to the second commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. In other words, he says, once you make God your center of gravity, you have to “instantiate that conviction in your speech and in your actions. Otherwise, it becomes an abstraction.”

We bend that commandment until it looks like something recognizable. “Oh, John took the Lord’s name in vain.” It has something to do with vanity, maybe. No. A woman traditionally takes her husband’s name when they marry. The people of God took His name through a covenant. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” They took his name. What then, is the second commandment talking about, “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” What does it mean to do something in vain? John gave up cussing and decided to learn to play the violin. However, he didn’t have the knack for it. All of his lessons were in vain.

To do something in vain means to do it to no effect. For us, it means as Barron said, that we never instantiated it in our speech or actions. It means we don’t take it seriously. It means we’re all sizzle and no steak.

What of the third commandment? Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. This God thing isn’t merely interior. It isn’t just a matter of the heart. We are social beings and worship is a public action, not a private one. If we don’t gather together as the people of God, present ourselves at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our spiritual life is going to go off the rails sooner or later. For a Catholic, not going to Mass is like cutting the heart out of his or her religion.

How does the Bible show the people of the Old and New Testaments keeping the sabbath day holy? We rest from our labors. We focus on God, who created the heavens and the earth and everything within them in six days, and rested on the seventh. So we’re not supposed to go to work on the sabbath, or for Christians living under the New Covenant, on the Lord’s Day, what the early Church fathers called “the eighth day.” But what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to worship. We’re supposed to be at leisure. We’re supposed to be focused on the higher things, not workaday concerns. We are to celebrate and feast.

Who even does that anymore?

Someone at RCIA lamented the fact that everyone in the parish was invited to the parochial school basement after Mass, but only a handful show up. Is Mass the beginning and end of the celebration and festival that every sabbath day should be for us? It is certainly the source and summit. But attending Mass alone does not discharge one’s duty to keep the sabbath day holy. We need to relearn that. Joyfully. Singing. Playing or watching others play. Belonging. Talking about the important things. Loving.

Do we even know how to do that anymore?

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Snow day! I woke up this morning and looked out the beroom window to discover that we didn’t get much additional snowfall overnight, but the temperatures plummeted into the teens and the blowing and drifting commenced as the wind picked up. There will be 35 mph gusts. So, technically it’s a zero-day for me today because we’re in the middle of the storm. Things have momentarily settled down but we’re to get another four to seven inches on top of the seven we’re already got. I may venture out in it for a bit by foot today because I love snowy woods.

I was writing back and forth with my writer friend Hank this morning and posted a snippet from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and that turned my mind to everything I love about the subject.

“I love hiking on pristine paths with nothing but crisscrossing critter tracks disturbing the perfect whiteness. I love the smell of snow and wet bark, the silence, occasional pops of color on an otherwise black and white palette. A cardinal. A fox. Bright stones in a creek. I feel most alive in moments like that.”

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, and we watched the movie starring Bill Murray, sang Karaoke to “I Got You, Babe” by Sonny and Cher, and made groundhogs out of Nutter Butter cookies and chocolate pudding cups for dessert. All in all it was a good day. It was fun because we were getting a blizzard just like they got in the movie. I haven’t seen Ned Ryerson anywhere up and down my street, though. When I woke up this morning, it was a new day and not a repeat of yesterday, so I must be doing something right.

During an interlude yesterday afternoon, I repackaged my backpacking meals to save room in my pack. Next, I have to decide which ones are going in the pack and which ones are going in my “bounce box” four days up the trail. A bounce box is a durable box you mail or ship ahead of you on the trail so you don’t have to carry the weight of the items it contains. Maybe there’s a spiritual lesson somewhere in there. I don’t know yet, let me give it a think.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

For the first day of February, we got quite a respite from cold and blustery January. It was 53 degrees when I got off work this afternoon. The downside is that Winter Storm Landon is pushing through starting tonight. It is supposed to start raining in a couple of hours, then turn into a foot or more of snow, topped with ice. I slept in this morning and got one of the best sleep score Fitbit has ever given me, which is an 87 based on 8 hours and 45 minutes of sleep. Today was another zero day. I took the Liturgy of the Hours in to work to read on my breaks, but didn’t really get any breaks. The guy on thirds had a rough night with equipment going buggy and age ovens blowing out for no reason. I got everything “pulled out of the hole” so to speak by the end of my shift, but it required working non-stop from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. I choked down a hamburger and spaghetti sandwich on wheat bread at about 2 p.m. and nursed the coffee from my ancient Stanley thermos all day.

My indestructible Stanley thermos is one of my possessions that, as Marie Kondo would say “brings me joy.” It was made in Nashville, TN back when Aladdin was making them. I bought it when I worked as a Banbury operator at GenCorp (Formerly General Tire) in a previous life in the same city I once again reside in. The factory is gone, razed to the ground, and is now an unsightly brownfield. Most of the people I worked with are dead. I and my Stanley thermos survive. Some of the guys I worked with had well-loved Stanleys whose cups were pure stamped steel, with no plastic liner like mine. Their cups were pinged and patina’d from rough handling (which they could take). Mine looked like a showroom model compared to theirs, back in the day. But over the years, mine has had its fair share of topples and tumbles. I’m quite proud of the misshapenness of its noggin. We have earned every ding. I wish I could go back in time and show John Netro, My uncle “Redbird” Lloyd, or Bobby Owens, who used to trade me a handful of Marlboro Lights for my Chicago Tribune sports section every day. They’d have nodded and said stoically, “that’s a damn good thermos.”

I was hoping to get at least the Office of Readings done, but alas… it was not to be. Days like that go fast. My oldest daughter Sierra went out to the store to try to find stuff to make fajitas, but in the lull before a big storm, the shelves are mostly bare. It should be interesting to see what we have to work with.

I took Habibi for a walk after I got home from work. It’s been so cold and icy out the past week or so that I’ve hesitated to take her for her walk. If she was younger, I wouldn’t have batted an eye, but as she’s getting older, she’s having trouble with her back legs and has to take Apoquel every day to keep the pain and inflammation at bay. She did good today. It felt great to walk at Paradise Spring, to see her “I haven’t been on a walk for a whole week” spunk and happiness to be outside just being a dog. We met a collie and a few couples who were out enjoying the calm before Landon, laying down steps and chatting away.

We’re only supposed to work until noon tomorrow because of the storm, and be off all of Thursday. You know what that means…

I’ll probably go on a blizzard hike.

Maybe I’ll sling my backpack on, head down the Wabash River Trail, stealth camp somewhere between here and Lagro, and test out my gear for the upcoming spring Appalachian Trail section hike.

Monday, January 31, 2022

It was 6 degrees and mostly sunny this morning, and frost on the car when I went to go to work. I stayed up too late writing and didn’t get to bed until almost midnight. So I set an alarm for 7 a.m. but was up a few minutes before that. I usually am. Got a shower and ate a bowl of cold cereal, which I almost never do. I like waking up without an alarm, which means I have to be in bed at a decent hour, so I can be up early enough to have quiet time, and as the year ages, to sit and watch the sunrise.

Then I made coffee and put some leftover hamburgers and buns in my lunch box for work.

Tawnya had a doctor’s appointment this morning at 10 a.m.. Steven took her. She sent me a picture of her stitches. They winched them down real good and tight. Not a lot of site swelling. I missed Mass tonight because I went out and got stuff for dinner and then cooked. Wasn’t watching the time.

I need to get in a routine where I start dinner in the morning, in the Instant Pot or Crock-Pot.

I left the dishes last night – the kitchen had been cleaned before dinner – I did most of them this morning, and the rest when I got home. I guess the kitchen is my domain since nobody else seems to be concerned about it. And that is fine. I need order in my life and a clean environment, or my ADHD kicks in and I can’t concentrate.

I think a lot of that has to do with not owning a lot of things, and I’m going to be spending this next year paring down until I’ve reached the Philosopher’s Ideal, happy with the fewest possible possessions. Possessions possess us as much as we possess them. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I don’t think, at least in the right circumstances. If you have a bicycle, you need to be a person who bikes, not a person who has a bike in the shed that he never uses. If you have a whole grain beer brewing setup, you need to be a brewing man or give it to someone who will brew beer for people.

I’m going to be throwing away and giving away a ton of stuff I don’t need and don’t want over the next dozen months.

Also, to go with this whole trail journal spiritual theme, I think I’m going to start tagging my posts with either a “trail day” tag for the days when I actually get intentional and put in some “miles,” or otherwise tag them as a “zero-day” or a “nearo day.” That’s when you’re off trail or mostly off-trail. Today was a nearo since I got up so late, but did get a good way through the Liturgy of the Hours on my break times at work, and that kept me spiritually grounded. But the zinger was… I missed Mass. Definitely a nearo.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Thursday, January 20th — Tawnya’s birthday, although I didn’t get to see her for long. With its vigil the night before, it was one of the most transformative days of my life. We got the return on premium from when I switched car insurance companies last summer. It was a hefty sum if you know anything about mutual insurance companies and subscriber savings accounts, then you know what I’m talking about. Aaron and Brit came up from Nashville. They said Britni wanted to celebrate her birthday and Tawnya’s birthday with family, and Aaron needed a break from work. We were sitting in my Mom’s living room after I got off work at 8 p.m. (working 12 – 8 all week for Jason Campbell who is in the hospital).

Aaron passed out “presents” to everyone, which contained little onesies with various phrases on them, along with black and white ultrasound pictures showing what appears to be my grandson. My fingers are shaking as I write that because it is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever typed. Tawnya and I are going to be grandparents. The test they had done said it is a boy, and his name is Gatlin David Garlits. May God protect and guide him from this day forward. This news is like a light in a dark place.

Last year and the one before were so awful in many respects. This seems like a new beginning. I also found out yesterday that I’m going to day shift on Monday, and Tawnya found out that she is having surgery on her foot this coming Friday. That seems like a downer, but it is actually good news. They found a ligament she tore that, once repaired, should solve the problems she’s had with her feet. I wish my dad had lived long enough to have seen Gatlin, but I’ll be there in his stead. My heart is full.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Woke up to a clear, frosty morning, with a sharp blue sky. Eleven degrees, but it is supposed to get up to 32 in the afternoon. I had a rough night. I’ve been fighting Omicron since Friday. At its worst, I’ve had some achy bones and felt a bit hot. Tickly throat, dry cough. It took forever to fall asleep last night because of the achy bones thing, but I felt refreshed this morning. I think I’m over the worst of it. I was one of the first people to get it in the first wave. We were living in Virginia, outside of DC and I was working as an Army contractor. My cube mate was super sick with what in retrospect were all the classic COVID symptoms, but he wouldn’t stay home and gave it to me. That was in November 2019. I had achy bones that time too, and as a variant of the “no taste, no smell” phenomenon, things smelled weird and lots of things tasted like dish soap or metallic. I haven’t experienced that particular symptom this time around. I’m just glad that I seem to be over the symptoms “hump.” Tawnya went to Mass this morning. Out of respect for my fellow parishioners, I stayed home. Still sent in my enhanced offering for the collection basket. As I was saying yesterday, I canceled over $200 in monthly online services. It is easy to get trapped into a subscription for a cool new tool, only to realize a few months into it that you aren’t using it at all, or at least not enough to justify the expenditure. So with my giving up cigarettes and peach iced tea every day at the convenience store ($10 a day), stopping eating out of the vending machine and at fast food joints nearly every day ($10 a day), and canceling the online subscriptions (nearly $10 a day), I’ve regained nearly half of my paycheck. Intentionally. One of the nicest benefits is that I now have the ability to give to charity with a cheerful heart, without wondering if my “gift” was going to overdraw the checking account. It’s fun putting the cash monies in the church envelope each week, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The temperature dropped overnight and it is 18 degrees now. The sun will be coming up in a few minutes, revealing a partly cloudy sky. While not bitterly cold, it is enough to remind you that it is January in Indiana. I went out and walked Bibi around the neighborhood instead of taking her down to Paradise Spring. Today I’m reading Norberg-Hodge’s “Local is Our Future” as a segue to getting back to writing my book on human scale and pace. So much of what she says echoes Fritz Schumacher, John Senior, Max-Neef, and others who have commented on the subject. She’s not right about everything, but she’s right about most of it. A brilliant woman who unfortunately has been ignored. 

This is part of my intentionally paring down my life, even to the possible demise of other cherished projects that aren’t going anywhere. I don’t have the time or the focus to devote to so many projects, and so like in other areas of my life, I’m scaling back in those, too. I’m going to cancel all of my online subscriptions except for the website, and do I really even need that? In a way, I’m starting to prepare myself for partial retirement in a couple of years. I’m paying for too many stupid things. Impulse purchases. And then I don’t use them enough to justify the expense.

P.S. I went and canceled just about all of my online services. I feel relieved of a great burden. I’m certainly starting the year out in grand fashion.

Friday, January 14, 2022

I got called into work early today so me and the Beebs (Habibi, Bibi – the dog) got our walk in early. It was 33 and overcast when I got up at 9 a.m., the sun just peeking through the clouds here and there. I was thinking as I was walking and listening to a couple of geese belt out a duet as they flew across the sky. I’d like to write a forest bathing book for Christians, incorporating nature descriptive bible verses as well as commentary on my method of practicing Shinrin Yoku. I was also thinking about the fact that our first parents were gardeners, Eden’s caretakers if you will. And I wondered what the deeper meaning was behind the words “to till it and keep it.” What I found amazed me. To “till it” is from the Hebrew wore abâd. It means to dress it like a military commander forms his ranks, or a surgeon binds up a wound. Isn’t that powerful? The word also has the sense of making something suitable for your use. But the important part is that it means to work it for someone else. In this sense, it was Adam’s dressing it and working it for God. To keep it comes from the Hebrew word shâmar, and it means to guard. It also has the sense of observing it, protecting it, retaining and even treasuring it. Are we not still a race of gardeners, sprung from our first parents to keep it in good order, to guard, protect and treasure it? I think so.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Mostly sunny and about 34 degrees when I got up. Another good morning. I was up before 9 a.m. and got up and took a shower, started some laundry, got about halfway through cleaning the kitchen, and took Bibi for her morning walk. Lots of squirrel activity. We didn’t see any other people out walking. You can still smell the river. The geese are still doing their thing in the river. I’ve been thinking a lot about what this year is going to bring as I pursue this path of intentionality. Yesterday it translated into me paring down my wardrobe by about half, as I cleaned out my closet and tidied up the bedroom. It also entailed me spending about $100 on a shelf for my half of the clothes closet. Hello ADHD. But since my hangers are now mostly empty except for a green suit coat with tan slacks for Mass, a black “marry’m & bury’em” suit, and a few seasonal button-down shirts with ties, I really don’t use or need a lot of hangers. I’d rather my clothes be folded neatly and placed on the appropriate shelf. It allows me to assign a shelf to an activity, like work clothes. “Not work” clothes. Hiking and cycling apparel. And guess what? I’m only allowed to own enough clothes that will fit on the shelves. If it exceeds that, something has to go. And that is the only reason to buy new clothes. To replace something that has worn out or has otherwise been replaced. The old go to the thrift store, are upcycled or downcycled.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mostly cloudy but temperatures above freezing. I could really smell the river as I walked Bibi at Paradise Spring. The river geese were honking and congregating on the ice islands. Some of them were swimming in the current. The river is higher than normal and the current is quick. I love that river smell. 

Cleaned out my closet and got rid of a lot of clothes. I’m intentionally downsizing the amount of stuff that I own. It’s a constant battle. People are always bringing new things into the house. Not consumable items like food. We had Christmas and the annual commercialization thereof. That means a lot of new stuff came in, in the form of gifts. Like any good hobbit, I like giving and getting gifts. I’m guilty of it quite often. But then you’re left with more stuff with which to contend. If you have to get me a gift, please make it something consumable, or better yet, make it an experience. Give me an experience I never would have had otherwise. Bring your guitar or violin and sing or play me a song. Pound on my door early on a perfect morning, have coffee in hand and sit with me on the back porch to watch the sunrise. Or give me a coupon worth one evening sitting around your fire pit with a glass of bourbon or an ice-cold beer. And really talk to me. About the important stuff. The eternal stuff. Things of wonder or great importance. Or just stare into the embers with me.

That reminds me that I need to get some ashes from Dad’s fire pit to start a tradition of “friendship ashes” in the family. Have somebody make a small vial or container that holds the “heart of fire” and each time you share them at a campfire or fire pit gathering with friends, especially if there are new friends, at some point in the course of the evening, give the short memorial and remember past fires with friends and family. Tell anyone sharing the fire with you that, now that they’ve drawn heat from your fire, the fire that has warmed us all, we share a connection. It does not make us family. It may not make us friends. But for the rest of your life you will remember this fire. This fellowship. The faces lit by the orange flames. The stories and the laughter. You will carry it in your heart to the grave, and into what lies beyond the grave. Tonight we are at peace with one another, and at least for this hour, life is good. ***