I think I might have to make this my title page video.
As many of you know I my family and I are now the proud farmers of 6 ducks. We used to have 7 but I managed to kill one (well it died, but in order to protect the hearts of my children I will not divulge the rest of that story). This has been an interesting addition to our lives as my kids learn about farming, about the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs (great way to start a birds and bees discussion), as well as dealing with death. I told my children before we went and bought the ducks that we would not be taking extraordinary measures to heal the ducks. I found out that my youngest talks very matter-of-factly about Hazel’s (yes she had a name) death while one of my sons takes the death deeply to heart.
Lately though I have found that free-ranging our ducks has taught me a great deal about human behavior. This is a lesson that I think that all of us know but I need to be reminded of lately. We got ducks for several reasons:
First, because everyone else had chickens and I wanted to be unique. Second, because they are better egg producers than chickens and are supposed to be more hearty. Third, and the reason that we looked at it in the first place is because our yard has a big pond. The pond is a seasonal pond, but in the winter it is the size of a basketball court (or a hockey rink) and is very deep. We thought that the ducks would love to have this huge, well protected pond to themselves and the few wild ducks that use it.
Here is the problem; they won’t go in it. They have had multiple opportunities as they wander around our yard they have come within feet of the shoreline but they are more comfortable on the ground than in the water. One day I tried to set two of them in the pond and they shot out of there so fast that you would have thought the water was boiling (it wasn’t).
So one might think that they don’t like water, as though ducks could ever not like water. They LOVE water, they splash in their pools everyday, they make a mess out of their water trough, and they will go sit in any puddle they find. In fact, they will walk around our house and sit in the puddles in the middle of our road before they would walk 20 feet to get into our huge pond. For the ducks the answer to why this is would have to come down to two things. The first would be how they were raised. They are almost a year old and we did not take them out into the pond when they were ducklings. This is partly due to the fact that the pond itself was only a mud puddle up until about 2 months ago. This also is partly due to fear, a mud puddle is small, controllable, and friendly. The pond is huge, deep, and full of unknowns.
How often have I avoided the amazing things that I was built for because it was unknown or because I felt scared. There is no doubt that those ducks would love that pond, and I hope that I can get them to turn the corner. Ducks were made for ponds not puddles.
Find the dog in this photo
I went on a long ride on Saturday, 12 miles of mostly single track in the Port Gamble Trail System. It has been amazing to see how much development they have done over the last few years. Not only am I riding many new trails, but the clearings are starting to turn back into woods so I get lost in there much more often than I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I can always figure out how to get back to my vehicle, it just takes longer than normal.
My biking partner on Saturday is in much better shape than I am, and apparently is much more graceful than I am. I say that is because I would have a hard time waiting for someone to catch up if I were the one constantly in the front.
When we finished the ride he asked me how far we went.
“How far did we go? 8 miles?”
I pulled out my phone to look at my trusty app (I still have not received a call from any riding app companies about sponsorships).
“Twelve, we went twelve miles.” Now I could have laughed at him for undershooting his estimate by fully a third of the distance. However the reality is that to him it probably felt like 8. To be honest, to me it felt more like 20 so I guess twelve is a good middle ground.
That brings me back to this morning, or rather I guess it should bring us up to last night. I came home after having pizza to realize that something had not settled well in my digestive system. At 40 years old I should remember that pizza never settles well in my system. My 12 year old can mainline the stuff and ask for more, but I end up saying things like “I bloated” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that”.
Now we can talk about this morning and the title of my blog. After the events that transpired last night to get rid of the stuff that didn’t settle well I woke up feeling like junk. I went to make my normal cup of coffee and I was resigning myself to taking a day off from riding and catching up on the news (again I am 41, this is what I do, I catch up on the news).
Then I had a cup of coffee.
After the coffee kicked in I started to think that I could go out for a ride and I owed it to Spendy, the family dog, to go for a ride. Last week I mostly went to places that have lots of other people on the trail so I didn’t take her. However, 6:45 am on Millie’s Trail is always dead so she gets to be my riding companion. So I suited up and took off. It took me about 2 minutes into the ride to realize that I did not have it today. Then I committed one of my own cardinal sins, stopping within spitting distance from the top of the ride.
I did not have it today, so I blame the coffee for lying to me a telling me that I am fine. Spendy was slightly disappointed because I had shortened her run, and I was disappointed because I try to never stop within range of the top of a hill. What kind of a wuss stops right before summit-ting to contemplate the cup of coffee that they had that morning?!?
I love to blame things that can’t defend themselves because its easier than blaming myself, and less work than victimizing those that can defend themselves (this is of course tongue in cheek, I am not a monster people). Food would seem to be an easy target except I am not sure that it can’t defend itself. It is constantly kicking my butt or lying to me, and I keep coming back for more. Its almost as if it is executing some master plan to defeat me.
Some people that have called me in the past few years will hear me answer the phone in one of three ways. The first is the casual “hello”. The second, if someone is more familiar with me is “go for Bart”. The third I reserve for family which is a throw back to when I grew up in Wyoming and worked at a couple ranches as a youth and young adult. “Lesco Ranch” is the greeting that will usually be given. Why do I do that? I am not sure. I guess I always wanted to be a rancher that owned lots of land and livestock. I have friends that live in Wyoming that are living the life that would probably say one of two things. Either “Are you nuts?” or “Your not cut out for it, Greenhorn”.
Two years ago my wife asked me what I thought of raising chickens. I told her no, everyone else has chickens and when I was young I did not enjoy cleaning the chicken coop or fighting with the hen over who was going to get the eggs. Only to find that the egg that I was fighting for was covered in poop. I am not opposed to raising livestock, and chickens are probably the easiest form of livestock to care for. But based on prior experience, and because we knew people that were doing it, I was not interested. Something about me does not like to do what other people are doing. This is true of everything in my life. I don’t plagiarize, not for ethical reasons, but because that is someone else’s ideas (okay I do have some scruples, ethics does play a part in it). I don’t like using recipes, and if I do I hardly ever do it the way that it is written.
Then about a year ago my wife asked me what I thought of raising ducks. Now this interested me, I had never raised ducks before, and no one else was raising ducks that I knew of. So I looked into it. The more I looked into it the more I thought it would be fun, and hopefully at the very least, not lose us any money through egg production. So now I am a duck farmer, a term that my teenage self would have scoffed at and maybe thrown an empty Mountain Dew can at.
That made me think about the terms that I use to define myself. As a teenager I honestly always new that the terms husband, father, Christian would be part of my life. I was born with son, brother, grandson, male. But today I find that there are terms that I use to define me that my teenage self would have never seen coming, and as I stated before, would have possibly laughed at. Pastor, mountain biker, duck farmer, renter. The term that my wife uses to define me on her cell phone is “lover”, I like that one. But today I am less concerned about what my teenage self would think of me today, that guy was an idiot. Not to say that the terms that I use today are the greatest in some cases. There is a part of me that is not okay renting a home. I was always told that you should own your own home. But I have to tell you, I love where I live.
There is a real problem with listening to your younger self in order to define who you are. Not only is it asking a teenager to define you, it is allowing someone other than yourself to define you. That person, for me, no longer exists. And like I stated before, he was an idiot.
So I am getting my morning mountain bike ride in this morning and I realized something about myself. I love change as long as it is change that I like, and it changes other people.
About 3 to 4 times a week I am able to go for a mountain bike ride before my day gets started. This, to me, is a luxury of the highest order. When I was in college I thought that the perfect place to live would be a place with mountain biking right outside my door. Since I am missing my leg, biking is a great form of low impact exercise for me and I fell in love with mountain biking when I was in college. So when I found a trail 5 minutes from my house I was more than excited. We moved two years ago and I thought that I would never find something that close again. I can go biking and be back home in less than 45 minutes, its great.
Something else you should know about me is that I am terribly out of shape, so my idea of a workout is a little more limited than some. This bike ride of mine is an end to end hill climb. I am in first gear almost from the beginning of the ride. So the first few times I did it I thought that it was taking 20 or more minutes to get to the top, which was fine by me because by the time I had reach the ridges summit I was ready to give a food offering to the trail (I felt like I was going to… never mind, you probably understand what I was trying to say). Then I took my sports watch and realized that this difficult ride was only taking me 12 minutes. So the answer to the question “how long does it take to wind Bart?” is “12 minutes”. Which may explain why I am having a hard time keeping up with my friends when we mountain bike on Saturday’s.
Back to the reason for this blog, THEY CHANGED MY TRAIL!! Anyone that has worked with me or been married to me knows that I love change. I love to be in a stream that is flowing not one that is dammed. I love to be in environments that are asking the hard questions of whether what we are doing it effective, and if not, what do we need to do to make it effective. But dang it, don’t change my trail! I was having a weird morning anyway, I got a late start and I had some chest congestion that was giving me fits. I noticed that over the weekend they had added some gravel to the bottom of the trail which was nice. Then I noticed that they had cut up some downed trees, which was good. Then I got to the dreaded curve that usually dumps me. It is a combination of a tight right hand turn, roots that flow every which way, and nettles on either side. And I nailed it! for the first time in two weeks I made the turn without spinning my front tire around and pitching me into the nettles.
So now comes the part that upset me, after defeating the dreaded curve I felt pretty good until I ran into a detour that had been cut into the trail. Obviously they were trying to change the way the trail takes you up a very steep ridge. So after being initially shocked I thought that maybe this would be a good detour. Then I realized that not only was the ground not packed down, but the trail was not done. For someone that wants to get his work out in, and get down the mountain this was very distracting.
All the way up the trail and back down again I was thinking about how much I didn’t like this change and then something else odd happened, there was someone else on the trail. This trail is great for me because it is close and very unknown and at 7:45 in the morning I am not expecting to see ANYONE. That is why I take my dog Spendy with me (quick aside, herd dogs take some training when you are flying down hill on a bike. They will still try to herd you, this has caused more than its fair share of accidents. I usually end up saying the phrase “Back Spin” about 10 times on the way down. Backspin, that’s funny).
What I was really upset about was that I had set in my mind, based on prior experience, how my ride was supposed to go. I had even timed it so that I would be home at a specific time. On my way home I was trying to figure out why they had to change my trail. Then it occurred to me that they were trying to improve it, and I had just come at the wrong time. Then it occurred to me that I would probably like what they did eventually as soon as I could “routine” it. Meaning as soon as it becomes part of my morning process, I will be okay with it. Then, and this is the crazy part, I asked the question “I wonder if I could help them get this finished so that I can go back to riding uninterrupted.” And if this sounds noble at all I will leave you with what my final thought was. “I wonder if I need to go riding earlier so that I don’t run into anyone?” Isn’t that a great thing for a pastor to think about? Avoiding people.
BTW, The picture was just to get you attention, cute huh?
I noticed that the last time that I wrote to my blog it was to say a fitting goodbye to my first dog “Harvey”. Many of you might be wondering if that was my swan song, my last post, my fond farewell to blogs since I have not posted in several months. As I said in the title, and as I have said many times when the dog is sitting next to me and my son asks “what is that smell?”, “Don’t blame the dog, it was me!” How is that for a re-entry into the blogging world.
I enjoy writing creatively, and humorously. I feel as though many times I am expected to write serious theological dissertations if I am going to write, but that is not me. I am actually someone that loves a good theological discussion, and I find it very serendipitous when I can say something humorous and theological at the same time. However it is hard to pull off humor and theology, especially today when people are so keenly aware of that which they disagree with about the faith that I have and the organization that I work for.
I actually find that my preaching ends up being very similar to my writing, I try to use humor and cognitive dissonance to get to help people to be open to see something in a new way. I like to think that humor shows my intelligence, but based off the first paragraph of today’s blog I might need to find another way to show people that side of me.