I teach high school architecture.
Teaching architecture is very similar to teaching art or music in that architecture seems to be a medium through which human beings express themselves creatively. Perhaps it is because of this creative license that topics of conversation in my room often range widely on a variety of subjects. Invariably the subject will turn to love, relationships and sex. Not in a gross or obtuse way, I do not allow those sorts of discussions, but teenagers are naturally curious about these things. Eventually they always want to know what I think. I always advise caution, to be careful… because sex is superglue.
This will always illicit a few giggles and piques their interest. I have their full attention. In the teaching profession, we call this “the teachable moment.” I reiterate my point. I advise them to be careful because sex is just like superglue! Then I seize the moment and leap…
Ya see, superglue (Cyanoacrylate) is a very powerful adhesive… a bonding agent. Unlike caulk which has a lot of body but no real adhesive value, you cannot fill a gap with superglue. In its natural form superglue is really quite thin and runny, there isn’t really much substance to it. So, if there is a missing part or a gap between the parts you are trying to bond together, you cannot fill that void with superglue.
But superglue does have some pretty spectacular uses. Not the least of which is that it has a wide variety of household, medical and industrial uses. How cool is that? But as with any revolutionary tool, device or material… we as a species have found so many other creative uses for this material. We all eventually use superglue… but not all of us, use use it wisely or with the required skill this amazing substance requires.
I like to give the example of broken china, where the parts fit together tightly, well mated, clean, without gaps. In these cases, superglue can give a clean, strong, permanent bond. So if the parts are well mated to start with, superglue is some totally awesome stuff. In the hands of an expert craftsman… marvelous stuff that provides a superior permanent bond. Yet in the hands of the young, the inept, ignorant or unskilled, superglue is quite dangerous.
The important thing is to know where and how to use it… and in what measure.
At this point, I like to point out that if you try to use superglue to adhere pieces that don’t really fit together well in the first place, you’ll probably have less than spectacular result. You’ll have mess on your hands… literally. In unskilled or inexperienced hands, or in applications for which superglue was not intended, you are likely to find yourself unpleasantly and unexpectedly glued to something you had not anticipated.
The effect of which is often quite messy… and permanent.
By this time the room is dead silent, you can almost smell the thoughts like burning rubber at a drag race.
I drive home my point… “Ya gotta be careful with sex and superglue.”
Based on personal observation, it is my firm conviction some souls born among the human species presently living on this planet, being held entirely within a limited corporeal plane, are simply too beautiful to exist here for long. I do not pretend to know what these pivotal attributes are. I just know that some people possess them… and that I do not.
It could well be a gift. Which in and of itself comes from the very hand of the Almighty. Or perhaps some elemental attribute which is created in the heavy center of the stars of God’s cosmos, then forged, formed and polished into a thing of such strength, such power and such beauty that God simply cannot bear to be separated from His own lovely creation for one… nanosecond… longer.
He takes them. They are literally yoinked through the thin membrane of life into His presence.
I also postulate, there might be an entirely different subset of attributes which are specific to each individual. I find this notion highly likely. In other words; God’s love is not one-size-fits-all, it is specifically tuned to each and every one of us. It appears to me some folks who walk among us on this earth, achieve such heighten states of beauty and grace that God picks them for Himself.
For us lesser beings, who have only God’s grace to rely upon… those of us who might have taken momentary comfort and courage by simply basking the radiant light of such a favored person, the loss is devastatingly profound. For me, Rich Mullins was such a person.
Wayne Mullins was born into a devoutly Quaker family on October the 21st, 1955 in Richmond Indiana. I am not talking about the new variety of quakers whom in recent years seemed to have been invaded by crystal gazing, power point seeking, soothsayers. I am talking about REAL Quakers… bonafide members of the Society of Friends. One would guess that Richard’s concepts of Godly peace and social justice were formed during this early time. It was apparent from very early life that “Wayne” as his family called him had a talent for music. By the time he was a teenager he was playing piano for a choir group that toured quite successfully.
In 1988, Richard moved to Wichita, KS where he eventually enrolled in Friends University and was embraced as a member by the West Evangelical Free Church. During this period, Mullins, along with his room mate and best friend, produced a series of slow blooming but very successful contemporary Christian music albums. Over the course of the next several years he wrote and produced some of the finest Christian music of modern times. Many of these songs have become contemporary classics and were almost immediately embraced and incorporated into worship proceedings by churches world wide. Awesome God and Step By Step are just two outstanding examples among these. At his own request, all profits from his music were then, and still continue to be, administered by his church and most of it is divided up and donated to various charities. Richard was only paid an average annual salary.
After graduation from the premiere Quaker institution in North America, Richard moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation in the four corners region where he lived among the tribe and taught music to school children. Richard was at heart, an educator. There he continued to compose and tour. In his trademark quiet and unassuming way, he continued to influence the lives of Christians worldwide. One of those fortunate was me.
For me, listening to Richard’s music was like listening to my own spirit. It was as if he had somehow stolen all of my fears, failures and triumphs and written songs about them… just for me. It was as if he had read my mind and accurately articulated the most accurate definition of the Almighty I could have possibly hoped for. Along with A.W. Tozer’s book Knowledge of the Holy, Richard’s music confirmed my suspicions of the nature of the Almighty and helped to coalesce my flawed understanding of the unseen cosmos. I can honestly say, I love Richard Mullins. I consider it one of the greatest highlights of my entire life to have seen him in concert, even if only once. He played in a small church in the near urban slums of Atlanta with Carolyn Arends and Ashley Cleveland. (Another of my favorites!) It was without question the best concert I ever attended. Those of you who know me… and understand the depth and breath of my love for all music will understand the intense profundity of this statement.
Unfortunately for those of us lesser beings who loved Richard, on September 19, 1997, (sixteen years ago today) Mullins and a friend were traveling I-39 north of Bloomington, Illinois, to a benefit concert at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas. His Jeep rolled over. They were not wearing seat belts and were both ejected from the vehicle. When a passing semi-trailer truck swerved to miss the overturned Jeep, Mullins, who was too injured to move, was hit and died instantly at the scene. (wikipedia.org)
At the time Richard had been working on a new as yet unnamed project. Nine days before his death, he walked into an abandoned church, turned on a cassette recorder and on the old out of tune piano there, pounded out nine new love songs to his God and left his final gift to this world. A world that is a more beautiful place… at least for me… for Richard Wayne Mullins having lived.
Rest in peace my brother… until I sing with you again.
“Travis is the quintessential representation of balance between positive and negative.”
July 26, 2013
I have a Black and Decker automotive battery charger I use occasionally to top off batteries which are weak, failing or have been drained by my own negligence. It has a built in program module that senses when the battery is fully charged and shifts to a trickle charge mode to ease in the last few milli-amps of juice for a full, deep, lasting charge. If you happen to be out in the Culley Cave at the moment this happens, one can always tell. There is a curt electronic chirp, followed immediately by a down shifting of the tone emitted by the cooling fan of the charger. A little LED indicator light shifts from yellow to green. At that point, the battery is fully charged, everything beyond that is just maintenance.
Yesterday, after ten days of aimless motorcycle riding in west Texas, eastern New Mexico and southern Colorado, my charger chirped and my LED indicator shifted to green. I’m done! Fully charged! (Yay!) I always know when this happens because I’ll be tooling along and suddenly… I realize what I am thinking about has changed.
I am no longer thinking about the dense center of stars, or at what particular point the mass of a gas giant becomes sufficient to detonate a thermonuclear reaction. I stop thinking about the fact that the road cut I just ran through had a deep layer of conglomerate debris overlaid by a think heavy igneous lava flow, suggesting a sudden volcanic eruption somewhere in the distant past. I stop thinking about how aspen trees, which are of the poplar family, cannot exist at lower altitudes. I stop thinking that aspens are not generally sought after for their wood, except to make match sticks… because it splits easily and straight along the grain. I abandon my ruminations about their somewhat round leaves have a stem that grows at an odd angle for a tree, which captures even the slightest breeze, keeping their leaves in constantly appealing motion. Oddly… this continual motion releases a hormone that encourages rapid growth.
All this, is just so profoundly cool that my concept of the Almighty tends to get mushed together into these thoughts and I find myself dwelling upon the expansiveness of God… and I am humbled by the revealed Truth that He should even bother to think of me…. for even one brief nanosecond of the endless, timeless eternity He fills. Some thing… from somewhere beyond me comes and takes hold of me… inside my soul. For lack of a better term… I become possessed. Owned! Completely and comfortably out of control. There is a great sense of personal freedom in this state of being.
I… do not have to worry because, I… am NOT in control. Zippity doo dah! Turn up the dang MP3 player and twist that throttle… muh, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaaaaaaa… haaaaaa… hah!
Achieving this state takes days and days of riding. Then… just when I have reached that glorious point, where God is becoming revealed to me… like the sudden flash of lightening in a thunderstorm… happening so fast you can barely perceive it… or the very nature of the living light glittering through a shimmering aspen tree… or the seemingly random arrangement, impact and ring shaped ripples produced by rain on the surface of a puddle… and…
BEEP! The tone of the cooling fan downshifts and the LED shifts from yellow to green. I’m done! I am fully charged!
That’s the point where I usually receive what I have come to recognizes as marching orders, objectives in pursuit of a standing goal. Ya see Timmy… in most cases for a battery to accept and hold a full usable change it has to be exercised regularly. Nothing will kill a battery faster than allowing it to sit idle, unused… un-drained. Draining and re-charging a battery regularly encourages a deeper, more complete charge and increases usability over it’s lifetime.
This is about the point where I start thinking; I really need to get the rest of those AutoCAD assignments scanned in and uploaded for my ninth graders. Or maybe… I think I want to shift recognition of architectural styles and design components to the second year students. Or… I need to develop more and better means to teach file management strategies which integrates more seamlessly into my own curriculum. Or… I need to upgrade the web technologies course to be current with HTML 5. What would that look like?
Hey! I did not make the rules! I did not create the cosmos. This is not my goal! I am not this creative. Left to my own nature, I am a total goof-off! I am not doing this! Something else is doing this and appears to be using me as a tool, a vessel… a delivery device. The relationship is hard to describe; it’s really quite humbling but overwhelmingly positive… rejuvenating… satisfying… wholesome… energizing.
I have said this before and I will attest yet again; if you believe I am addicted to motorcycles you are not seeing the whole picture… the entire scope of my addiction. You are confusing the delivery device with the effect to which I have become dependent. Much in the same way that in my younger days I used backpacking as a tool to achieve this state… motorcycling has now become my preferred delivery mechanism. Adventure motorcycle touring delivers a more intense, more pure and pleasurable effect… far quicker. My motorcycle is just a means to an end. It seems that I have stopped huffing life… and moved on to direct intravenous delivery. The rush is intensely gratifying when it smashes into my soul.
Hi, my name is Travis and I am a hopeless addict and I do not care! I am completely unrepentant of my overt dependency!
I am fully charged… and I want MORE!
“I’d ride in your tail wind anytime.”
March 10th, 2013
My motorcycle friend, Debbie, said this to me on the first fuel stop of the second day of our Spring Break ride to Las Cruces, NM this last March. I was absolutely staggered someone should say something so profoundly nice about me.
What did I do to deserve that?
Well, it seems I have this habit. This compulsion to find the most forlorn and remote places I can find and then travel there. The thing is, besides being out in the middle of nowhere, many of these places are profoundly beautiful. Among those that have backpacked, camped or ridden with me over the years, my penchant for waking early and being deep onto the wilderness by dawn has become legendary. I have a knack for finding adventure.
I have always done this, however it has been only recently I have begun taking groups with me on these outings of mine. On every single trip we reach that point, usually by mid morning of the second day, when people start asking, “How did you find this place? How did you know this was here?” The answer is buried deep in my backpacker soul… topographical maps! Not a GPS navigation system… which I despise with a venom surpassed only by my complete disgust for cell phones. Not a danged Garmin, a Tom Tom or an iPhone… but plain old, 2-D, topo maps! Nothing compares… except maybe Google maps… which I absolutely LOVE! It’s like piloting a rover on Mars… remote control exploring. (Scotland and Northern Italy are two of my favourite places to explore.)
I am doing it again… nosing around in Google way too much. For those of you that want to explore in Google I have two points of advice.
- Find water… and choose the roads that follow along the water.
- Find ridgelines… and explore roads that crisscross high places.
Just to put this within some more meaningful context see the expanded map below.
Of course, how could I possible resist the visceral attraction of the Google street view feature? (clickable images)
This is the stuff my dreams are made of…
So it seems… for me at least, maps are critical to my well being.
As Tolkien wrote… “Not all who wander are lost.”
Some of us are just doing the best we are able, to manage the neurotic compulsions visited upon us by the life we have been dealt.
There are roads and roads… they call, can’t you hear it?
One of the coolest things about being a motorcycle owner/mechanic is that it allows me to unleash my totally obsessive compulsive nature in a positive way.
It’s driven by my compulsion to make all things new. To find the neglected and forgotten. Clean out the goo, the gunk and the dirt. To pick the debris out of the grooves of finely made machine parts with dental quality tools. To wipe, clean and burnish. To polish what needs to be polished. to paint what needs to be painted. To break loose frozen bolts, chase the threads and renew, replace the rubber and plastic parts. To drain, purge and refresh fluids. To add needed or overlooked modifications to make the bike more suitable to… well… to make the bike more suitable to me. My needs. Which I feel probably pretty much represents the desires of the average MC tourer.
My oldest sister once told me that motorcycles are like Barbie dolls for grown men. You mix, you match, you accessorize.
The problem is that generally speaking motorcycle parts are expensive. The level of attention to detail and the resourcefulness required to manage such repairs/restorations is considerable. I would attest that working on MC’s is similar in nature and skill required of the ladies I know who cook seriously… or quilt… or crochet. It is a craft… a hobby… a partially managed compulsion. A compulsion that sometimes has to be righteously and overtly indulged.
Witness here a few examples of the financial burden of owning two aging “classic” motorcycles.
I know it doesn’t look like much but this is a before and after image of what mother Honda calls the right hand fender cover for my 1996 Goldwing. Price: $145.00 + shipping. For a single 5″ wide painted plastic part! Many folks say; “Why not look for a used one on eBay?”
Well… I do concede that I spend a good deal of time browsing on eBay… looking for stuff that I need or stuff that someone I might know might need. But even amoung Goldwings, my Blue Ox is a rather unusual critter. It would seem my beloved Ox is the only Goldwing ever produced over a 30 year span, painted Crystal Pearl Blue. This makes plastic body parts on eBay extremely rare. In fact… in three years of steady looking I have never seen even one body part painted Pearl Blue for sale on ebay. Ever! I guess I could buy parts other colours and paint them to match… but that would entail buying factory colour-matched paint. The Ox, (as with most Goldwings) is a “candy/clear coat” finish. It’s a complicated process that requires a three stage painting process. The color matched paint is easily available but the cost is exorbitant. If I were to buy what I needed to paint one single part, I could easily clock up $200 or more just in paint.
This part… the one you are looking at here, sells regularly on eBay in any colour for about $90+. If you add what I would have to spend to repaint it to the correct colour, it could very likely be $250 bucks or more. Hence the reason I elected to pay mother Honda $149.00 for this. A plastic part the size of my hand that just randomly fell off my bike one day while I was riding.
“Don’t skimp on your mattress or your shoes.
If you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”
In the summer of 1977, I met some nameless guy on the trail in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. This encounter as with all my Philmont experiences, along with my mother’s advice changed my life forever. This “guy”… was wearing a pair of boots unlike anything I have ever seen on the trail… before or since. As a fledgling back country hiker, I asked him about his unusual choice of boots. At the time, I listened, collected and stored this data… into my limited and flawed mind:
- He described them as “paratrooper boots.”
- He told me they were cheap… available at any decent military surplus store.
- He told me good used ones were better than buying new ones. Used ones are already broke in.
Since then I have often ruminated upon this conversation. My little pea brain cobbled together this line of thinking. Gee.. if anyone out there knew anything about proper foot support under impact, and hiking under heavy loads, it was probably a manufacturer of paratrooper boots.
Decades rolled past… and yet I still remembered those boots.
Theses days we have this thingy called the internet. About six months ago I was thinking about the boots I first met on some long by-gone trail. Even with only the information in my three bullets listed above… five minutes later I had located the manufacturer and was browsing used offerings on Ebay.
Okay, to cut a long story short… it is totally amazing what $38.00 will buy on Ebay to the savvy bidder.
Today was quite possibly the best day I have ever had in west Texas… my best friend from Georgia is here, riding with us. (He’s the tall one in the near left center.)
Tomorrow… Marfa, Presidio, FM 170 and the National Park.
The hits just keep on coming! Clicky-clicky on the image for the gallery link…
If you are here looking for the Texas Horn Toads Spring Break 2012 registration page… click HERE!
As is typical about this time of year since almost before I can remember… my soul is longing for my desert homeland… again!
“It used to be I was really free
I didn’t need no gasoline to run
Before you could say Jack Kerouac
You’d turn your back
And I’d be gone
Now days I got two good wheels
I seek refuge in aluminum and steel
It takes me out there for just a little while
And the years fall away
With every mile
Back out on this road again
Turn this beast into the wind
There are those who break and bend
I’m the other kind
Steve Earle, 1991