Friday, December 18, 2015

A few thoughts on the new star wars movie

That title should be enough for you to not read this if you don’t want spoilers.  The person who doesn’t want spoilers has the responsibility to not click or read stuff.  Especially after the movie has come out.

It was a good movie.  A good adventure.   But I do feel a bit melancholy.    And I don’t think it’s really the movie or JJ Abram’s fault.   I’m just sad George Lucas wasn’t a part of it.  I’m sad they didn’t use his outline.   I’m sad for the end of an era.  The end of the man who created this universe being involved in it.

I’m well aware of people’s feelings about George.   But I love his work.  I feel like he’s the Storyteller.   Every story, I have enjoyed has been held up against star wars.   When I bought a TV, I thought, “how will star wars look on this”   Star Wars is my escape,  my fictional universe.  There are other galaxies, worlds, and times I enjoy.  Even enjoy a lot.  But Star Wars, the Jedi, The Force,   Death Stars, princesses, holograms and Light Sabers.  Droids, wookies, youth, Sith Lords, younglings, Cloud City, Ewoks, Vile Gangsters, Star destroyers, rebel ships, Mustafar—oh my Mustafar, pod racing, double bladed light sabers, Tattooed sith, Tattooine, Owen and Beru, Luke, Obi wan Kenobi, The galactic Senate, Jar Jar, beast, Dooku, political intrigue, trade federation, destiny, midicholorians, speeders, Bail Organa, the epic sound track, the opening crawl, these are what make up my favorite universe to visit.

And the creator of the universe was George.   He had quirks, which I love.  I loved that so much of him was in the movies.  He did things his own way.  Told the stories he wanted. And they made a butt load of money.  All of them.   And so I’m a little sad I guess.   The universe Is gone from him.  I don’t begrudge him at all for selling it.    But I miss him.  I miss his hand in this universe. 

He left us with a great universe to play in.   And he always let others play in it.  The expanded universe.  The video games, and even some less than stellar entries like the holiday special.  

But when a creator leaves a universe, those who pick up are left with the task to either repeat what the creator did, then people will say they did it just like the creator did, or grow it,  Introduce new ideas.  And those ideas may be amazing, awesome, and fun.  But they are not a natural outgrowth.  The spark of creation, that existed in the creators mind is gone.  They are others ideas.  An attempt to guess where the genius of creation should go.   Or in this case a conscious choice to go  in a different path.

Episode VII was great.  It’s a great movie.  Holy cow.  How cool is Kylo Ren.   He can stop a blaster bolt with his hand.   How fun was it to see Han, Chewy, Leah.   And some pretty sweet scenery.  The star destroyer wreck, the falcon (did you notice it had a different satellite dish on it—nice attention to detail seeing how it lost the original in the second Death Star).   That saber was awesome.   A Storm Trooper who got a soul.   A droid on a mission.   And a search for Luke Skywalker. 

The death of Han Solo (if I just ruined the movie for you, it’s your own fault)  Was powerful.  Family has always been such an important part of Star Wars.  Especially parentage.  When Solo went out on that bridge after his son, Kylo Ren (yep another spoiler, why are you still reading) I feel like he knew he was probably going to his death.  He knew how evil Ben had become.  But he had to try.  I think primarily for Leah.  She asked him to bring their son back.  He had to try.   I think for Ben.  There are some things you do, because you love someone.  You have to try-disregarding your own safety.

In that way, Han Solo, was like my favorite character, Obi Wan Kenobi, who went to Mustafar after Anakin.  They both stepped out of their own safety, to do what was right.  That is what a Hero is.  Han Solo may have started a smuggler.   But he was a man who did what was right.  And he died a hero.

I mourn for Leah, who lost a lover, at the hands of their son. 

I mourn for Ben Solo.   How can someone go so far into the darkside?  And how can he have any hope for peace in life?  He killed his father.  He squelched the light in him (as the light from the sun disappeared) and His Journey to the darkside is now complete. 

I’m pretty dang excited to see where this goes.   I’m betting heavily on Rey being the Daughter of Luke.   That makes her and Kylo Ren cousins.   The Son of Leah and the Daughter of Luke, will do battle again.  

How precious was it to see Luke.  A wizened old Jedi master.  The Jedi master.   I had hoped this new movie would have scores of Jedi.   They are my favorite part of Star Wars.  That’s probably why I loved the prequels so much.   But seeing Luke--the last hope for the galaxy—on that rocky island, was a perfect end for the movie.

So here we go again. A new trilogy has started.   It looks pretty sweet.   I will pour out a glass of blue milk and burn an action figure in memory of George Lucas.   Thank you for your great universe. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Potatoes

Ethel Burbank lived for 94 long years, however she only had Christmas, in 93 of them.

It was December 14th, 2015.   An angelic little girl came to visit Ethel.  I assume she was her granddaughter, I had only worked at the Senior Center for a few weeks.  Her small perfect hands grasped Ethel’s gnarled stiff hands with arthritic bulges. 

“I brought you a Christmas present.  Here open it.” 

Ethel didn’t seem to notice. 

“Please Grandma.”  The girl’s father whispered something to her.  And she gave up.   “I love you so much.” And with that the little angel gave the most sincere hug, and kiss on the cheek I think I’ve ever seen.

One of the most painful parts of Alzheimer's is the way people who suffer from it sometimes react.  They don’t understand what’s’ going on.  It’s hard on adults, but even harder on children. 

“Get off me you little brat!” Ethel barked, “get out of here.”

Time paused at the angel’s face went from love to confusion, to sadness, to a full bawling.  Her father scooped her up and carried her from the room.  The daggers of the shattered mind, had flown once more.

I didn’t see them again, for the rest of Ethel’s life.  

The holidays kept on coming.  The snow fell.  Church groups came and sang.  Families bustled in and out.   Ethel had a few other guest, but she was even less responsive than normal.

About a week later, I was working the graveyard shift.  The lights were dim.  I was reading some blog.  And Ethel came shuffling down the hall. Cradled in her armss were TV remotes, pictures from our bulletin board of volunteers, and a banana.  Sometimes a patient will revert to hoarding.  A little flustered at having my quiet night shift interrupted, I took the items away and took Ethel back to her room.

Two hours later, Ethel was  going through the pantry.   Once again back down the hall with her.   She kept muttering “Christmas, it’s Christmastime.  Don’t you like the snow?  Do you think Anna will come see me.  She has such pretty eyes”

The next day Ethel was all about presents.  “Have you seen my presents? Can we go to Macy’s?  I must buy something for Anna.  Where is Mark?  He would take me.  You’re useless.  All you do is sit around here.”

Ethel coded that night.   She was gone.  I felt bad for not taking her shopping, not that it’s something we do, but still-- sometimes you just want to humor an old person.

As we cleaned up Ethel’s room, and organized the few things she still owned, I found some lumps under her mattress.  Solid, misshapen things, like her hands I thought, and immediately felt bad.  Pulling back the mattress there were a dozen or so potatoes.   Taped to each potato was a photo that I recognized from our volunteer or staff boards. Each photo had been scrawled upon.  Most were illegible, but some said “Merry” others  looked like “Christmas”  and on a photo of the little angel girl who had come to visit her before was written “love you.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with the Christmas Potatoes as we called them.   In the end we decided to give them to the people in the picture.  Some people were confused, but some had bright eyes as they received Ethel’s last Christmas gift.

I tracked down the angle girl, who I noticed had the most beautiful blue eyes.  Her name was Sarah.  Her father and her had adopted Ethel as grandma after their own had passed away.

I explained that we had found the potatoes and I knew it wasn’t a normal present—Sarah cut me off.

“Oh it’s the most perfect present ever.   Ethel was so nice and beautiful.  And sometimes mean…   But that’s ok.  She’s with God now and He loves her, and she didn’t know what she was doing”

“How do you know that”

“She saw me last night, and her hands were soft, and she gave me a hug.  And told me”

I took my own potato out of the my car, and kept it near my desk.  A gift is more than the present itself.  A gift is a vessel of good intent”

Monday, November 23, 2015

So much!

There is a pile of mashed potatoes calling you.  Mashed perfectly, with just the right amount of butter, salt, pepper, and gravy.  There is cobbed corn waiting to be boiled, just for you.   A turkey was raised from his egg, fed, housed, and killed, just for this meal.  He gave his life for your belly.  Someone woke up in the early hours of the morning, to get some rolls raising.   Pie.   There is Pie, a piece of pumpkin pie with your name on it,  also banana cream, waiting to fill the void we affectionately call, the pie hole.  So many pies, so little time.   Sides of green beans, beats, salads, some new dish, some ancient family dish, all waiting to be set on a massive table.   Eating will commence at 1 pm, and will continue for hours, then a rest, then some pie, then some left overs.

This is the holiday of eating.  

But really the food isn’t what makes it.  Imagine a feast such as this, in a lone room.  Eaten in solitude.  A place setting for one.    No, this holiday isn’t all about the food.  There is one final ingredient.   The people.  Family, friends, new or old.   A feast must have people to share in the abundance.   Find your people.  Whoever they are this week, and as you shorten your lifespans together, be thankful for the abundant life, most certainly evidenced by the mounds of starches, carbohydrates and proteins, but more importantly evidence by those who take devour the turkey, potatoes, yams, and stuffing alongside you.   That is where our abundance is most evident.     

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Late for Dinner

Five miles in on a dusty dirt road, a young man walked alone.   It seemed a good thing to help the chap, so we pulled of and offered a phone,

Or ride, or food whatever the case we’d get him out of this dark night.   His smile had a catch, a pasted on look, his eyes never blinking or shuttered

“I’m seeking my friends out here in the dark” his voice was as smooth as a feline.   “will you give me a ride, up the road to my truck.  The engine last I heard did sputter”

We obliged, tis the way you treat strangers or kin who come needing your help in the country.   Man’s got a duty to help, another in need, in the dark wide expanse of Elberta.

Up the Slant road we drove, then I noticed the cold metal of a Mossberg pump action.   My foot pushed on the gas, the tires spun out real fast,  trying to gain enough traction.

“So what brings you here, out in the deep dark this night, your friends and you, what was your doing”.  My heart beat did race, but was beaten, and lapped, by the sprinting thoughts of my spooked mind contraption.

His lips barely moved, his words slithered out, “we’re hunting for sport and for game.  If we find ourselves enough we’ll be fed here for days.  Won’t need help from another faction”

We came round the bend, a red pickup sat there, I said “ I reckon this is the last I’ll be seein’ ya.” 

His famished eyes looked my portly body up, and down, then up again.  His finger left it’s rest on the trigger

“You’re a lucky man” he said.  I was still full of dread, “my people we don’t really like gristle.” 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekend Escape

Come friend. Follow me down the interstate as it switches from eight lanes to four; then onto the highway where goes from 4 to 2. As the lanes melt away feel your shoulders relax, your brow lighten. Come up the mountain side as you lose lane markings and pavement, see the gravel. then the dirt. Trade your lawnmower for four wheeler, Your shaving blade for a pocket knife. Billboards have been replaced with Deer crossing signs.
It is good here. Soon enough you'll be back in the valley. Soon enough you feet will miss the living sod. Soon enough your log by the fireside will  be an ergonomically correct office chair. Soon enough instead of counting stars you'll be counting calories
Free your soul in the land made by Providence for soon enough you will battle again in the jungle of Man.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


He felt himself a man, but merely a boy, if that.  
He strutted and preened on the open flat.  
The bear approached. He thought, i'm bigger than him,
the bear thought but little and made him his din

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Passing Lane

Passing Gas in the elevator when you're alone 
seems like such a good idea at the time.

The elevator tempts you with it's feeling of seclusion. It's like a mobile bathroom stall just for your breaking wind pleasure.

but then, like the lucifer and all cruel mistrisses, she betrays you. She opens the door, and there is your director, who walks in and becomes intimately aware of the product of your inner workings.

you have no recourse, you may attempt to slide into obscurity, but he knows. and he will never forget

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Woman of Stone

Who do you mourn, oh woman of stone; what pain, oh what sorrow, do you cry for?
Why do you mourn, oh woman forlorn; whose hand made your tears fall so lonely?
Who do you watch or'e full day and all night; whose corpse does your silence still call to?
When will you leave; from whence your reprieve? Your sorrow does serve you no more. 
But stay you will, cold quiet and still. Your wound is still open and dripping.
The pain stays with you. The sting becomes you and your choice to remain is eternal. 
The life that was lost should have been but one cost, but with you old man death got a couple.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Last day at the Farm.

It was good to be there.  The Farm.  One last time, with ma and pa and Zac.   Walking through the field, the tall grasses, the bushes, trees, riverbed of rock and sad.

Here, the cathedral.   Where movies were watched late at night powered by an old pick up truck.   

Here the field, barren as it should be in the dead of winter.   Yellow stubble is all that's there now.   Nowhere to be seen are the pipes thirty on each side of the riser, that we moved so many days, so many times,  in wheat, alfalfa, and some new fangled canola seed.   The vast expanse of the field cannot hold the memories and feelings of just one Packer, let alone an entire family.

Grandpa bought the farm to teach his kids to work.  His grand kids worked there, and played there.  Disc golf, camp outs.  My only memories of tin foil dinners are from the farm.  My first memories of dutch oven cooking, and at the old camp ground, that burned with the great fire, i learned that if you put water in a paper cup and put it in the fire, the cup won't burn.   Opposition in all things?  maybe.  Maybe just a cool science trick.  

The old campsite.  The old out houses.  The old trailer, with the flattened corpse of a porcupine.   just below the dike.   Which kept the flood waters from the old houses. 

Sucker fish in the ditches.

A pond.  And an old cabin.

Half of the farm was fun, exploration.  The other half was some errand for mother.   Usually getting rocks.   And on this day, we had one last task.  to haul wood from the old cabin, which Grandma Ruth said held the first white man born in Bingham county.   So we haul wood.   Dad says its enough, Mom says we need more.   We get more.  

My blue shirt has cockaburrs all over it.   this time i don't remove them.  I still haven't.   they are my last connection to the farm.  No annoyance, their hooks keep them in that shirt through washes.  Their hooks are like the hooks of memory.  The hooks this place has in my soul.  

And so as an accord has been reached between the parentals, and the wood we have is all we get, I snap a picture of dad looking across that barren field the stubble hiding the potential of the coming crop.  this land has been less than half my life.  It has been all of his.   

I let the hooks in my soul tare a little piece out.  And i leave some of my soul here, in this land, located between Thomas Lane and the Mighty Snake River, just down stream of Wadsworth island. 

Part of my soul will always be here.  If i ever drive past the curve in the road, where the Snake is closest.  I will feel it.  I will remember this space, where the old cabin's wood was stacked, where Grandma and grandpa made their own cabin, before the fire, and where i entered a car to leave this place. 

Good bye cotton woods.   Good bye river bottoms. Good bye Farm.