Derek Johnson Muses

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Pretty windows

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Windows like my front window are supposed to be like traps for suburbanites. (Ok, that’s a little too Revolutionary Road.) But it’s odd, going from the small kitchen window of my old place to my new big living room picture window that looks out at the mild traffic on First Street.

It’s harder in the winter when the snow and low temps keep you. I pace the floors and watch tv, forgetting that I’ll be mowing and tending to the outside once the sun comes. But then there’s a mid-January thaw and it’s all good.

Snow Walking

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I mean this sincerely: I enjoy walking outside in the snow during winter. Not when it is utterly, bitterly cold, like last Sunday night when I went out, walked five blocks in the sub-zero ice air before turning back, wishing the whole way I’d brought my scarf. But at least a couple of times a week during winter, I try to walk my usual 45 minutes to an hour.

I bundle up for it. I have a stock of tight, long-sleeved woven undershirts, over which I layer two or three t-shirts and a sweatshirt, two if it’s super cold. The thickness of the sweatshirt matters less than the overall number of layers. If the first two layers are tight enough, the rest should fit snugly.

Bottoms are less important. I wear flannel sleep pants underneath whatever sweats or jeans I have on. Not really a coveralls guy, but I use them on occasion.

The cold doesn’t get enough mention for how tiring it can be. Having done phone book distributions in the cold, I can testify to the fact that Gatorade is essential to getting throw a long snow walk. Snow itself can in fact be bearable and quite pretty when you’re in it. The wind, along with blowing snow, is the part that make snow walking excruciating.

But the essential part of snow walking, being outside in the raw elements, makes the exercise of endurance worth it. Snow walking isn’t about getting out, but moving forward toward the eight-to-nine months of the year where we in Nebraska are bound by the elements (or some winter where we dodge the bullet) and free to roam our streets without the threat of white stuff from the sky. Being outside in those summer months, well, that’s just a breeze.

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Winter Title

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Covered…

It happened. I got snowed in. Now the walk to my truck takes a good 15-20 seconds of trudging through snow, or going around on the sidewalk. I’m not even going to go out my back door until March at the earliest. I am very concerned that this early snow will lower the general temperature bowl so low that it will bring on an even larger snow storm later this month or early in the new year.

 

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Front porch….

I don’t hate winter but I hate that winter siphons off time and energy to deal with snow and cold. Each year, I think more about moving someplace south so I won’t have to deal with the cold and snow. But I digress.

Winter is the time where I read more and get things done inside, but it’s also the time where I long for change to my routine. My mind washes the winter months away almost as soon as they’re done.  But a lot of good stuff happens in the winter too; both of the larger writing projects I’ve written started in the winter.

By the end of February, the season of not-winter will have started, and I will be walking outside with regularity and throwing on shorts as soon as it hits 50 degrees, and all this white stuff will look pretty in pictures.  For now though, time is frozen.

Days Gone By

Ever since I got past the initial burst of buying the house, I hit a personal slump with less to do. I even found out today that the loan is on schedule and I don’t need to do anything for that for a while. With great relief, I’m doing my taxes; this year, the money is more important than it normally is, given what I will have to invest in the house.

I’m in a bit of a writing funk, pretty typical for this time of year. If I’m going to write, I need a lot of walk-outside, free-headspace time on the trail, and the current weather has restricted this this. It hardly feels like I’m two months away from hitting the road to go and see little corn plants popping out of Wisconsin and Michigan soil, ground that is probably now covered with snow. I still try to wear shorts every day that I can, as a way of protesting the snow that still insists on falling.

I’ve stalled on the fiction piece I was working on earlier this year. I have a large chunk of it down, and I have written notes to finish it, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as it did. Of course, all writing goes through phases, and it probably needs a polish. But I worry a lot that it has stalled out after a major revelation, at a point where some of the main characters will need to be very confrontational. Confrontation isn’t always my specialty.

I have followed through on my commitment to listen to more Issues, Etc, and other religious/educational podcasts and regulate out some ESPN radio. It works most of the time, although Issues, Etc, is pretty heavy, and probably does contribute to my need to walk more and process stuff.

But the real affect of listening to theology and reading Christian blogs, it’s realizing all the crappy television and cheap lit I read is full of secularist garbage that keeps me from sharing and living in my faith. Most of this particular revelation comes from a book by Ben Shapiro, Primetime Propaganda, a book about how far left the television is, including breakdowns of specific shows from the last forty years. I knew everything on TV was liberal, but what I didn’t know was that Hollywood treats conservatives with a blind hatred, refusing to hire moderate conservatives who grow up around liberal and keep their politics “in the closet”. Of course, I still watch TV (it’s crack, what can I say), but I do it with understanding that it won’t provide me with any affirmation I need.

And at the center of it all, I think I’m just lonely. My thoughts have turned toward dating again, or at least connecting with people. Perhaps it’s just the natural progression of things, of doing something like buying a home that people usually wait to do until they get married. Certainly, getting married would make all the work I have to do around the house a lot less taxing.

It’s times like this I’m actually happy to go to the office and plant samples, empty the trash, move trays, and mop the floor. I love writing and doing this blog, but I think to myself a lot that I’d be just as happy if I was working with samples every day. Did I just write that?

The Loup River, just off Highway 81

Washed up? Hopefully not yet

At least Holy Week is early this year. I’ll miss midweek dinners at church and seeing my church family on Wednesdays, but I don’t like having to wait until the end of April for Easter. Lent hasn’t felt like the downer it has in the past, because I’ve come to realize that repentance is something to be done in joy, as we are coming before a merciful God, knowing he will forgive us. I’m looking forward to the musical festivities of Easter, and moving forward with the church year. Thanks be to God.

January Get-Up

It’s been a good couple of weeks around Seward. Since the mega-snow that fell around December 20th, the snow has gradually melted away, and I’ve worn shorts outside. Gradually, I’m starting to adjust to warm weather, and yesterday morning, my subconscious gave me a kick.

Friday morning, I woke up at three and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was particularly frustrated because I had just got my awake/sleep balance to where I wanted it to be the day before, and now it was going to get thrown out of whack again. Normally, I can’t sleep, I’ll get up and read after an hour or so, but this time, I spent most of the next two hours tossing and turning. I really, really wanted to sleep normally, but my body would not permit it.

I admitted defeat around 5:20 and decided to take advantage of my insomnia by going for a drive and taking some photographs. Idealizing my path, I envisioned taking the interstate west, stop at Starbucks in York for my morning coffee, and get off at Bradshaw or someplace. By then, the sun would be rising, and I could happen upon some structures to photograph.

I got as far as Tenneco before I realized that I didn’t want to drive in such think fog unless I had to. So I decided to turn back and head into Seward to get some coffee and breakfast at Amigos. The only thing worse than trying to drive in fog was trying to drive in fog without coffee.

So I went to Amigos and ordered a breakfast biscuit, a donut, and coffee. I caught up on Facebook and read the news, all the while trying to turn out the country music that was playing above me. Once I was bored, I decided to try taking Highway 34 out of town this time.

The sense of adventure from this new course lasted until I got two miles outside of Seward and found the fog even more intolerable. All of a sudden, I remembered that I had some trays and carts to wash, and I turned back toward home. Great plans, only to be abandoned.

Later on Friday afternoon, I went for a walk and realized that I hadn’t taken as much time to walk around Seward, even though I could. I’ve been writing a lot recently, trying to break ground on a new story, and I needed that head-space.

World Waking Up...

World Waking Up…

Christmas is Coming…Wait, that Sounds Foreboding

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3 hours into first big snow fall of winter 2012-2013

I am grateful I went advent service this morning instead of tonight-well, I couldn’t have gone this evening anyway, given that the first big snow of the year has started. As of right now, I’m packed in; time to get a photo show ready for the Noyes Focus room in February.

In the business of Blue River Hybrids, Christmas is time to close the office for a week and take a break from the fall test sample-grind. In my world, the only luxury of the Christmas season are the Starbucks seasonal lattes I enjoy. The world’s Christmas, for the most part, is a world that I am oblivious too. Every couple of years, I jump on a sale or two, but sales are for suckers.

It’s not intentional. For the most part, I lead a modest life, and the season of Christmas doesn’t alter that. I will buy gifts for my immediate family at the gallery (plug-Noyes Art Gallery offers a number of great gifts, and they are all originals), and I’ll give some people my pictures as presents. But if you were going to give me a gift and can’t decide, donate the money to a charity that helps needy families or feeds children, or to a missions society in my name. Tom Unger, you may have Christmas solved.

And I don’t care for how Christmas always seems to be celebrated two weeks before it actually happens. While it hasn’t been as bad this year, the networks have been trotting out Christmas programming the day after Halloween over the past five years. With school programs being moved up to December 17, Christmas feels over before it even arrives at times. Please, everyone go to Facebook and like Occupy Advent.

Over these next couple weeks, my family will eventually come back and leave. I’ll make some cookies and few other good meals. My father’s two brothers will cover for a meal, or we will go over there. We’ll exchange gifts, and may have some extra snow. At church, I’ll have some extra duties for Worship Committee, as we will be down to one service with few ushers over the next couple of weeks. Christmas doesn’t feel huge for me; it just feels like a big message in a small world.

In mid-December, I choose to live in Advent rather than look forward to Christmas. The picture in my mind isn’t garlands or trimmed trees, but of repentance. We studied Philippians 4 this  past Sunday in Bible class, and two words struck me: Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” and his commendation of peace to the believers. At church this morning, Pastor Bruick finished our advent series on notable births, including Benjamin and Obed. Both themes welded themselves together: every birth is a time to rejoice and a time for peace, how much more so the birth of Christ! Thanks be to God!

(Christmas meditation)

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