Sunday, November 30, 2008

I was home

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No, not back at my house, but my home.

It was Glen Phillips, the lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, who’d once said, “You can take me down, you can show me your home. Not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

That’s where I went.

When I finally left Hurricane I was debating whether or not I should take the I-70 cutoff and head to the San Rafael Swell. Taking this course of action would be somewhere around 150 miles out of my way, and the day was well half over.

As the interchange loomed steadily nearer at Cove Fort, I made my decision.

I turned.

I passed through several rainstorms along my way, and a building worth of a few photos. As I traveled, I breathed in the beauty of southern Utah. It was well over an hour before I began to see the familiar sandstone cliffs, arrayed with vermillion and amber about me.

Into the playlist went Nickel Creek, and it was official.

I was home.

I can’t express the feeling I had seeing memorable landmarks as I traveled. I’d taken the boys I mentored there once, I’d gotten lost out in that area, there’s the canyon where I’d run out of water, that’s where I’d taken that one photo…

The memories seemed to swirl around and consume me.

I took to a dirt road and began to head into the heart of the Swell. It was much colder than I’d ever known—usually since most of my excursions took place between April and October. It now being the tail end of November brought a distinct chill with it, but this was not unwelcome as I was usually roasting on my visits to this hallowed place.

I took the opportunity to capture a few images as the sun was setting. I’d hoped that I’d be able to hike to Little Grand Canyon and sit at the edge of the sandstone cliffs to watch the sunset, but unfortunately daylight was waning, and there was no way I’d be able to make it there in time.

With this prospect out of the running, I instead decided to try my hand at a few night images with extended exposure. I tried several variations of these images, however, I soon found that my 2,000,000 candlepower light was nearly dead—I should have recharged it.


I instead tried something I’ve only recently gotten into: using an external flash to light up the subject of focus with a decreased shutter speed and medium aperture. In other words, I would leave the shutter open and move all around the tree, lighting it up with the flash. For each of the images I used the flash about 14 times. This is what gives the images a ‘ghostly’ glow similar to what I imagine the tree of life would have looked like.

When my shots were finished, I found myself standing alone in pitchy darkness. The aged cliffs rose all about me in silent, shuddering awe. In the sky, an ocean of stars took to their nightly journey across the heavens.

It was absolutely overwhelming and yet welcomed…for I knew that I was probably the only person within a 20 mile radius of my current location. One couldn’t get more alone than I was at that time.

Before long I continued onward to find a panel of petroglyphs to try out extended shutter time and painting with a flashlight, but alas, my “super” flashlight—being near dead—only allowed for one image before dying altogether.

It wasn’t the best shot, but not the worst one either.

The journey home was uneventful, and it was well into the evening that I arrived home, falling in to familiar covers to wrap myself away from the relentless chill of night.

It wasn’t long before I fell into a slumber which held me captive until this morning.

I decided to read up on emails and to get ready for the day when I noticed I had an email from one particular woman who had requested a copy of a video I’d posted on YouTube. She wanted to use it for a Christmas party, and had written to inquire if I would be willing to send her a copy on DVD she could show to a large group. I checked my backup drive for the master video and discovered that I had deleted it some time ago. I remembered that I’d archived it on a DVD though.

I began to look around for the sleeve of said DVDs, remembering that that was the case I’d taken with me on my trip. As I began to scour the house for it, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t with the things I’d brought in last night, so it must have still been in the car.

A quick inspection of my vehicle told me at once that the case was NOT there. Panic started to well up inside of me. That case had master video files AND photography images I didn’t have anywhere else!

I concluded that the case had fallen out of my car when I went off for my night photoshoot and, not realizing it was missing, I’d left it behind on the ground. I double checked everything and my worst realizations were confirmed.

The DVD sleeve was indeed gone.

I quickly began to pack a few various and sundry items, and took them to my car. I knew where the case probably was…the only problem was, it would be a five hour round trip to get it.

I said a small prayer and packed the last few items I’d need in my car. As I put the final necessities onto the backseat, I had the distinct feeling that I should look—yet again—under both of the front the seats.
Grudgingly I did so, and what did I see?


Just kidding.

It was the case. Somehow or another, it had gotten tucked back under the seat and it was impossible to see it when looking from the front. However, from the back, it was more readily noticed.

I have to be honest, while a part of me felt trepidation at traveling all the way back to the San Rafael Swell, another part of me wishes I’d gone anyhow. I never did get to sit on the edge of the cliffs and watch the sunset.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


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Well, it’s been an eventful weekend—and I am anxious to get on the road.

I arrived in Hurricane on Wednesday and ended up feeling immensely flattered. Of course, one only feels stuff like this when you see photos you’ve taken blown up on the walls of a room. These were two of the images I’d taken earlier this year.

This coupled with photos on the fridge, in the living room, and other shots I’d taken displayed at a neighbor’s house, gave me a feeling of pride. No other way to put it…I was caught with a feeling of, “I took these.”

There’s no other feeling quite like it.

Thanksgiving went off fairly well with good food and even better friends.

Black Friday.

Now THAT is another story altogether. To be honest, I have always gone to Black Friday with my dad, brother, or sister. We’d usually head out at 5 am or earlier. This year, I didn’t have a desire to go. So I opted out when my friends were talking about heading out at 3:30 that morning.

I awoke somewhere around 7:30 feeling marvelously refreshed and content. It was okay that I hadn’t gone—there were a few things I’d wanted, but they were not necessary.

When I got up, my friend, Michelle, asked if I wanted to go to St. George for something she’d forgotten to purchase. I agreed and decided to stop off at a few stores to see if any items I’d wanted were still around—fully expecting them to all be long-since gone.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Everything I’d wanted—save one item—was still on hand in the store. Even a small digital camera I’d wanted to pick up was still available—the last one in the store.

To top it all off, we went to In-N-Out for a breakfast/lunch and then I met up with my aunt and cousin for a late meal and ‘catching up’ time.

It was nice…but I am now ready to return to the land northward.

Why am I still here? My friends decided they wanted to have a family photo taken so, two hours from the time I'd packed and was ready to go...I’m still here and everyone is almost ready. I would like the opportunity to head to the desert…even if it is only for a little while.

The time is ticking steadily onward and I feel that I need to have my solace in the wilderness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Scan

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I went to the hospital today and found out that I didn’t need an MRI, but instead, I needed a CAT scan. As I walked along the hallway with the nurse, I jokingly asked, “Is this going to be a problem? I’m allergic to cats.”

She burst out laughing and proceeded to tell this little comment to several other people on our journey down to the room where I’d have my head examined.

It didn’t take nearly as long as I originally thought; and since I went in early, I was on the road to southern Utah a few hours before I’d originally intended.

I’ll know on Monday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recent Photos

Pin It When I was back in Spokane for my brother’s wedding, my little sister and I visited the town I’d lived in when I was kid. Consequently, this is the same town I used as the setting for “Take the Long Way Home.”

“So, Teachinfourth, how’s the writing coming?

Back burner. Need I say more?

The main reason we had gone to Rockford was so that I could show my sister where we’d once lived…granted, it was before she was born…but our family lived there, nonetheless (by the way, the home is pictured on the front cover located HERE.)

As we drove around this small Washington town, I noticed this amazing little building which just seemed to call to me, so that I might take its picture. I was amazed at one set of doors which had been painted a few times, and had since cracked, faded, and peeled. As I raised my camera I was not disappointed, the ancient wood put on its finest colors for the shot.

This third photo was not actually taken in the early-morning fog—as one might suspect; but rather taken from inside a cloud.

I was staying up at my friends’ house and as I left their home early on the morning of my brother’s wedding, I was in the midst of a hazy wonderland. It opened up the spectral view from their mountaintop home where a simple bush became a heavenly silhouette.

I couldn’t handle it

Pin It The pain stormed through my head like a cyclonic shock wave.

I switched off the light and cradled my head in my hands. The pain was more than I wanted right then…or ever, to be honest.

I wanted to find someplace cool to sit, maybe like the walk-in freezer I’d often used so many times before at my old school. I’d go in and sit in there with my head up against one of the frosty shelves…anything to ease the tormenting pain.

The door opened and the doctor walked in. Out came a file as he began to question me. How long had it been like this? How often did they happen? He swam in and out of my consciousness as my stomach churned violently.

“Since I was five,” I responded, making a dive for the wastebasket and beginning to vomit spectacularly.

I think he was impressed; it was clear that I was not acting.

He paused his questioning until I’d finished.

“Have you ever had an MRI for this? Any type of blood work done? Have you ever seen a specialist?”

I wiped remnants of stomachness from my mouth and responded; the answer made me realize how stupid I’d been for a score of years…there was that simple fact that I’d had migraines for years and had never once consulted a doctor about it.

“No, no, and no.”

He made a note on his clipboard.

I was reminded of the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine went to see a doctor and happened to look at her chart; she noticed that a previous doctor had written, “Difficult” in her file. She then tries to steal the chart so that future doctors won't know about this little entry.

I was an idiot. I hadn’t sought out medical help from something which had been an affliction in my life for decades? Here is the beginnings of my own 'Elaine' file.

I had no answer, however, at this time I really didn’t care, it hurt too much to even think.

After another series of questions, and an additional vomiting episode, the doctor gave me some Rizatriptan Benzoate. What is it? Not sure, but it is supposed to work wonders. I am to give it a ‘test run’ the next time a migraine threatens to take over.

I came home and fell into bed, waking up some four to five hours later. Which brings me to my present ‘awakeness’ at nearly 1:00 in the morning. I’ll probably be up for a few more hours as sleep won’t come to me now.

So, final prognosis? As of right now there is none. I will have to get an MRI done…the doctor said he’d like to get a good look at my brain.

Hope he’s not too impressed…

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gratitude - To the Nth degree

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A few days ago I received an email from a friend of mine, who wanted to let me know that her son—I’ll call him, “Joey”—was going to be speaking at his church. Joey had been in my sixth grade classroom five years ago. He was wondering if I would attend; this would be his first time speaking and she said it would mean a lot to him if I were there.

I arrived at 9:00 to the designated address and quietly slipped into the back row, where I could see Joey up at the front. The meeting began and progressed…a few minutes after my arriving, Joey noticed me and broke into a smile, waving.

I waved back.

When it came time for Joey to get up in front of the congregation, I sat up a little taller in my seat. I remembered the young boy in my class, who years before had a difficult time getting up in front of people, and often spoke very quietly. With a lot of practice throughout the year—as well as a mother who challenged him with every assignment I gave—I watched him slowly become much more relaxed in front of a classroom full of his peers.

However, these were not his peers. Some of those present were five or six times his age.

Joey began.

His voice was strong. He looked confidently out into the crowd. He smiled.

He began to talk about how, at this time of year, he was not grateful for parents, religious leaders, good friends, and a teacher who’d taught him to get up in front of crowds of people. He went on saying that he was not grateful for these things only once a year, but every day of his life.

I felt myself beginning to tear up as I watched this young man—still able to see the boy who’d walked out of my classroom all those years ago—a young man who is confident and strong.

For this, I am grateful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Truth 1 & 2

Pin It Ah, words of wisdom.

If only I could but remember them...

Friday, November 21, 2008

To ‘Joey.’

Pin It I know you’re reading this, because I know you come here.

I know you feel horrible about where you are right now in life. Seems like you’re in that place again, doesn’t it? However, ask yourself the question: Are you doing better than you were yesterday? Than you were last week?

I know you are. I know you’re trying.

We all slip, we all stumble. Every time you fall, get right back up again, dust yourself off, recommit, and get going again. Wallowing in a pool of self-pity and despair does nothing for anybody—including yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just call me a wuss

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I took my car in for repairs on Wednesday night this week (of which I won’t give final dollar amounts to the damage done as it would turn this somewhat comedyish-like story into something more like a horror film).

Before leaving school, I’d put a note in a fellow teacher’s room asking for a ride to work the next morning, and would she please call me when she had the chance. Thinking all would be well, I decided that a backup plan was not really necessary, however, I came up with two of them—just in case.

I had decided to leave a note for my roommate before I went to bed, asking for a ride in the morning, but stating that I had a backup plan in place in the event that he would be unable to do so.

Morning came. The phone didn’t ring from my teacher-friend, and my roommate was sound asleep. I decided to use backup plan #2 since I was prepared for the possibility of both my plan and backup plan to not pan out.

I’d ride my bike to school.

It was brilliant, really. I had it all worked out and had convinced myself that this would be a great opportunity for a little more exercise and I wouldn’t have to inconvenience anyone. I could see it already…in fact, I imagined myself flying down the streets with the wind blowing through my hair—my iPod cranking out techno music to carry me all the way to work at the speed of amazing.

I went downstairs to get my bike, which (admittedly) I hadn’t ridden in over a year. To my dismay, both tires were completely flat.

What? I hadn’t thought to check the tires before this, and immediately sent about scouring the area for my pump. Unfortunately, my electric pump was still in my car at the repair shop and after a quick survey about the area, I decided I would instead take my brother’s bike. He did have pegs instead of pedals, but I was sure that I could manage riding it anyhow.

However, there was a problem…both of his tires were flat as well.

I will admit that I was feeling just a bit nervous at this point. I couldn’t imagine the embarrassment of having to call my school to inform them that I would be late and how sorry I was that I had not planned this all out better.

I checked a few more places for my pump and finally found it. Being the little wuss-type pump it was, it took about six million pumps for each tire to finally be filled. By the time I was finished, I felt like I’d just completed a major workout at the gym.

I emptied my computer bag of inessentials and then made ready to go. Already, the front tire of my bike was a bit low on air before I’d even reached the street, and I needed to give it a bit more ‘life.’ Forty pumps later the pavement flying away beneath my tires…I was on my way!

It wasn’t long before I started to feel winded, pedaling up a few hills, and clicking the gears into a much-easier pedaling position. However, my throat was already beginning to burn and the strap of my computer bag—so light a few minutes ago—was pressing up hard against my chest, making it hard to breathe properly.

It wasn’t long before an insatiable thirst seemed to engulf my innards and I was wishing that I’d brought my CamelPak instead of my computer and digital camera—what on Earth had I been thinking?

The helmet I was wearing—the one to make sure I was setting a good example to any student I might have passed when riding by my old (or new) school—was really starting to bother me, and the tie I was wearing seemed to be more of a noose about my neck—slowly choking the life out of me along with that dratted computer bag. However, I couldn’t stop, I’d lose the momentum I’d already built up and there was no way I was going to do that!

As I rode farther, my throat became raw, and the coolness of the morning was starting to freeze my fingers to the handlebars. Why hadn’t I brought gloves? Oh yeah, they were still in my car—at the repair shop.

As the songlist on my iPod blared in my ears, I suddenly came to the realization that I really didn’t like any of these stupid songs…they weren’t making me ride faster as I’d first envisioned, but were really starting to tick me off. Why in the world did I have techno music anyhow? Why hadn’t I chosen an 80’s playlist?

As I rode further, I began to think of all of my friends who WOULD have given me a ride if I had only but asked. Their names came to me like signs I passed on the side of the road. However, I hadn’t wanted to be an inconvenience to anyone.

Why had I been trying to hard to be independent?

After the first few miles, I wanted to stop and rest, but by now I couldn’t. I’d already passed the railroad tracks and was in boundaries of my old school…in the area of my old students. I didn’t want them to see their previous teacher being a wuss and walking his bike, or sitting on the side of the road gasping for life; so I rode on, regardless of the stitch in my side, the rawness of my throat, and that stupid computer which was weighing against my chest like an anvil.

I did pass by a few students as I went through the old neighborhood, but luckily I was traveling quickly enough that they didn’t recognize me before I flashed past them in a blur of blazing pedals and remix songs of Bryan Adams which continued to make me want to scream. As I pedaled faster, I began to get my second wind. By this time, I was coming nearer to my school and sometime between now and Christmas, I arrived on school grounds.

I slammed the brakes to a screeching halt and dismounted—nearly falling to the ground. My legs had turned to string and I felt dizzy. I’d ridden too far, after not riding for so long, carried too much, and pushed myself too hard.

Upon arriving to my classroom, I fell, exhausted into a chair without turning the lights on. I just wanted to sit. Even better, I wanted to fall to the floor and lie there for about a week. I felt totally drained and sweat-laden.

Before I knew it, the school day was set to begin and I had to take on the role as teacher. I took a cough drop, squared my shoulders, and gathered up my students, pretending that nothing out of the ordinary had happened this morning.

I would love to say that after school I rode my bike across town to pick up my car, that I’d once-again conquered the distance and arrived at my destination. But, I would be lying if I did.

I accepted a ride.

Just call me a wuss.

Image garnered from here:

Somebody loves you

Pin It I was on my way to work and I noticed that many of the cars I passed had frost-kissed windshields which hadn’t been steamed away by the still-rising sun. As I passed several of these cars, I was suddenly taken with the story, “Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.”

If you’ve never read the story before, I highly recommend it.

I couldn’t help but stop and ‘write’ the following message.

I only hope it was seen before it was steamed away.

After all, I’m sure that somebody does indeed does love them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being nice

Pin It I had a few students today who had some problems on the playground. It was strange for me to be having this little talk with them about kindness, because those involved were all good friends.

It had started out with something very small between two students, and slowly escalated into something more with a few others thrown into the mix.

When I was talking to the students in question, they admitted they were in the wrong, and that they were not as kind as they should have been.

When the student they’d been teasing—I’ll call him ‘Joey’—came out to join in our little conversation in the hallway, each of the other kids apologized for what they’d done. I watched on in amazement as Joey looked at each of these other kids in turn and spoke the words, “You’re forgiven.”

I found myself thinking about Joey long after the kids had returned to the classroom and I was in the midst of reading groups, and everyone was busy summarizing about planets and reading their picture books with voices and expression.

The way that this student had turned to the others—without any guile or resentment—and simply said, in his own way, “Hey, don’t worry about it.” This made me so proud of the way he was being raised—and the maturity he was showing toward his peers.

How much different of a world would this be if each of us, when we’re hurt or wronged by someone else, could simply say, “You’re forgiven” and mean it? Not harboring secret grudges or thinking of it for days and weeks on end?

You know, sometimes my students amaze me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My dear, old friend

Pin It When I was on my trip to Spokane I decided to visit an old friend.

It had been a long time since we’d been around each other. I couldn’t believe just how much she’d stayed the same, just how good she was still. It was like not a moment had passed. Though I myself had new lines on my face and had gained weight, my friend hadn’t changed in the slightest.

She was still just as sweet and wonderful as I remembered. She also seemed to have this breathtaking aroma which wafted about the very air around her. She is, I must say, unforgettable.

I’m glad we were able to reconnect again.

Unfortunately, Safeway is the only place I’ve been able to find this delectable delight, and sadly, Safeway does not exist in Utah.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Closing the bookstore down

Pin It John McCutcheon wrote a song a few years ago about how a bookstore had reached the end of its age, and had been replaced by something else. His words echo the feeling associated with this type of change which happens in a town, every day, somewhere.

I was saddened on my last trip to Spokane, Washington as I drove by the theatre I’d worked at several years before becoming a teacher, and saw that it had been closed. I had heard that this had happened, but I hadn’t gone up to this area in a long time. As I drove by, I felt a sudden wash of emotion spill over me. I pulled into the parking lot and felt the memories groggily emerge as I stepped onto the sodden, cracked asphalt, where rainy puddles lapped about my feet like dying jellyfish.

This place held so much for me from the years when I was young—a boy struggling through a host of lifescapes. But now, it was gone, the building was now boarded up, stripped of valuables, and completely gutted.

I drove around the side of the building where a huge door had been cut into the wall for trucks to pull in. I looked into the skeletal interior, my vision only impeded by cross-supports and columns—everything was gone.

It’s amazing to me just how much things change, and yet, we go on.

I think about the classroom—the one I left behind at my old school. I promised that I’d never go back. I’d like to remember it the way that it had been over the past 7 years, not what it’s become since they’ve closed the classroom down.

We’re taking a giant step into the future
And turning into a thousand other towns
I heard today the news that they are
Closing the bookstore down

So, take a minute and look around
There are corner shops in every town
Squeezed and pushed and hunkered down
And battered by the blows
No, they might not be shiny or bright or new
But they’re run by folks like me and you
Now, I can’t tell you want to do
But me?…I’m gonna shop in those

So give me slow food and a hometown team
Spencer’s, Bodo’s, Chap’s Ice Cream
Gleason Hardware and that corner store
With dust on the shelves and a bell on the door
I swear I’d love to hear that sound once more
Since they closed the bookstore down

- John McCutcheon

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday Photoshoot

Pin It A photo can speak a thousand words, so I will therefore let a few of my favorite images from Saturday's wedding photoshoot speak for themselves...

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