The past few weeks, I’ve been really digging a couple of bands in particular. Death Cab for Cutie has been rocking my world the past few weeks. Ignore the name (it comes from some obscure song on some obscure album from some obscure music artist in the 70’s). This is some of the most intelligent indie rock music I’ve come across in the past year or so. The singer, Benjamin Gibbard, also fronts his solo project, The Postal Service, who I first heard about from Tim’s blog. (Kudos Tim!) The entire album is themed around a long distance love-affair. Perhaps this is why this album has resonated with me so much lately, with Holly and Hannah being gone so long. The songs are quite reflective and smart, yet not overbearing or superfluous or cliche.
A nice companion to Death Cab, is the American Analog Set. They are a quartet from the Lonestar state whose music is instantly recognizable. The sound is thick, sedate, but driving. Many songs feature an organ, reminiscent of the Doors. Some songs are entirely instrumental. The latest album (right) is “Promise of Love.” Their info can be found on the Tiger Style Records website. Do yourself a favor and give each band a good critical listen.
Today I went hiking in the Colubia Gorge. I picked the Ruckel Creek trail since it sounded less travelled and would offer some breathtaking views of the Gorge. Since this would be the first outing with the new digital camera, I wanted to maximize my photo op’s. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic workout, (a strenuous climb over 90% of the way up the 5 mile one-way trail). I was able to take a few pictures along the way, the most beautiful of the creek and another of a clearing that I encountered.
I was rained upon nonstop except for 2 hours of the hike, when it was snowing. Hehe. When I came across the spectacular viewpoints (along a high ridge) of the Gorge, the visibility wasn’t more than 50 feet. So, I didn’t get to see any of the Gorge. Nonetheless, it was a good time of solace and quiet (I didn’t see a single person until I had returned back to the trailhead). I think it’s ironic that I went on such a secluded hike, where I would see no one, when Holly and Hannah have been gone so long now. Being out there alone made me miss them even more.
I had to turn around about 1/2 a mile from the end of the trail since the snow was so deep. I was sliding backward as I climbed upward, and I realized that it wouldn’t be safe at all to keep climbing. One thing I learned, was that the campground near the trailhead, Eagle Creek Camground, was the first Forest Service campground in the United States, opening in 1916. This was when “car camping” got it start.
I’m sick. I’m lonely. It’s dark and rainy here in Portland. I’ve got the diet of a college student. I’m surprised my gums haven’t started bleeding (scurvy) yet. Hehe. Holly and Hannah don’t return from Denver and Cabo San Lucus for another 8 days yet. I’ve not eaten so much junk food in one week since I was 18.
I’m sick of reading medical texts and journal articles, but I never feel like I’ve read enough. The fear of not knowing a medical fact that could help/hurt a patient drives me to read. The fear of board exams. The fear of that awkward silence and the eventual answer “I don’t know” given to my attending when asked a question. The fear of not knowing the answer when a student or lay-person asks. The fear of peers. Sure, successful physicians are so because they are “life-long learners.” Often, it seems that the desire to learn for the sake of learning dissipates, and all I’m left with are primitive survival tactics morphed into a culturally accepted (and expected) behavior.
Just for fun, when I’m not riding my bike to work but riding the bus, I’ve been reading (finally!!) some Anton Chekhov short stories. Chekhov (1860-1904) was a physician himself. One of the most poignant passages I’ve read thus far, is in “The House with the Mezzanine” in which the protagonist is debating with a woman (a social activist) over the human condition in (then) present day emancipated (Pre-Communist) Russia. He says,
“Their children as they grow up go the same way and hundreds of years slip by and millions of people live worse than animals- in constant dread of never having a crust to eat; but the horror of their position is that they have no time to think of their souls, no time to remember that they are made in the likeness of God; hunger, cold, animal fear, incessant work, like drifts of snow block all the ways to spiritual activity, to the very thing that distinguishes man from the animals, and is the only thing indeed that makes life worth living. You come to their assistance with hospitals and schools, but you do not free them from their fetters.”
American society, in particular, materialism and consumerism, run exactly opposite God’s ethic and the way we were “wired.” The “incessant work” our culture expects from us, and we succumb to if we’re not careful, keeps us from experiencing the rich, expansive, meditative, serving, and meaningful life that God wants for us. I think this Chekhovian dialogue is timeless and instructive for modernity and us “po-mo’s.”
Why is this issue so difficult for Americans? Because it takes a conscious effort to say “no” to bigger, better, more, newer in a country whose very economy rests on its citizens consuming. From the minute we’re born, we’re raised to become unwitting consumers, fueling the monster American economy with the means for tentacular influence upon all other world cultures. One way in which Holly and I have found to limit this influence upon us and our lives, is to not watch television or read pop magazines, which are, in large part, mediums for advertising to have its way with us and, ultimately, our souls.
Why the rant? I have dyspepsia from my imprudent food purchase tonight (see left). Ahem. Note that these two restaurants are owned by the same big conglomerate, Pepsico. The bitter truth is that this picture contains a representation of what I ate two nights in a row. Holly, please come home soon! My waist line is begging you! If things don’t change very soon, I’ll be a changed man when you return. ;)
Well, I just returned from a long weekend in sunny Denver. The weather was amazingly warm, and the snow-covered Rockies were inspiring. In some ways I lament the lack of an imposing mountain range here in Oregon, but, the sheer solitude of Mts. Hood, Adams, Jefferson, St. Helens, and Ranier are cause for reflection, meditation, and praise.
The time was special. Hannah enjoyed being spoiled by her grandparents, and Holly and enjoyed being alone more than we have been used to. We celebrated Christmas early with this side of the family, since we wouldn’t be able to see them during Christmas. During the holidays, I’m always struck by how much Holly, Hannah, and I are blessed to have such close and caring family on both sides.
Holly and I were even able to have a date night. We had fantastic boutique Mexican North of downtown Denver, had coffee at a less than swank cofee shop (cofee was horrible, but we had a blast quizzing each other over the classic Genius Edition of Trivial Pursuit), then went to see Mystic River. I’m always inspired by my wife, especially when I get some time alone with her.
I truly have a lot to be thankful for.