Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | October 31, 2017


Sleepy HollowThere was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling.  It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveler in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased, on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle . . .

from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving.

Autumn is the season of ghosts and goblins, of witches and witch’s brews, and of all manner of supernatural goings-on.  Halloween is in October for a reason.  As October keeps its annual appointment, nights begin to chill and leaves begin to turn their familiar hues of browns and yellows and reds.  Evenings shimmer in ever-earlier twilight; sullen smoke from a warming campfire rises in the distance on the edge of a woods.  The disturbed rustling of leaves in a barely-moving breeze—faintly illuminated by the clear, cold moonlit sky—somehow commands a greater attention at the crest of autumn than it would on a midsummer night’s evening.  It is at this time of the year that one finds himself in this land between the living and not-so-living, between the real and the imagined.  He may wrestle with unaccounted-for trepidation—perhaps outright fear—gripping his soul in a manner only possible in this season of unrelenting decay and unyielding march toward the dead of winter.

It is while thoroughly embedded in this backdrop that I took a long walk the other evening.  With the sun setting so much earlier now than just a few weeks ago, it is quickly becoming impossible to do the things I most love to do—things that require daylight hours well into the evening, namely kayaking and bicycle riding.  The kayaking is all but gone now, though I will extend it as far as I can into the shoulder season.  By November, my bicycle riding will be consigned to weekend afternoons, at least for as long as the weather holds out.  With any luck, I may be able to ride up to Thanksgiving.  In any case, I am slowly becoming resigned to the evening outdoor walk, the exercise of desperate last resort.

So I found myself walking along a country road that eventually lead me to a foreboding, unlit bicycle path.  The path rambled on for a couple of miles through an area of thinly-spread structures and sparse human habitation.  About half-way into the evening’s trek, I came upon a wooden bridge that traversed a nearly-forbidding marsh—a lowland of odious hospitality.  The bridge was long and narrow with vertical-slat railings on both sides; it had barely enough room for two bikes to pass in opposite directions.  On this evening, though, I was all alone—no bikes or walkers or joggers to be found anywhere.

As I started out across the bridge, my thoughts ran to Sleepy Hollow and Washington Irving’s vivid description of the headless horseman.  I had already stepped onto the bridge, affirming my commitment to cross it; so I continued on, quickening my pace and finding myself glancing over my shoulder with a neurotic frequency.  In my mind’s eye, I imagined the headless horseman at the foot of the bridge.  He sat upon the largest black horse I had ever seen.  Steam billowed from the horse’s nostrils, filling the evening’s cool air around the four-footed beast’s head.  The horse was chomping on his bit, barely restrained as he anticipated the command from his master to charge forward onto the bridge to terrorize the unfortunate soul that lay before him.

Of course, this scene played out only in the depths of my imagination.  The reality was that I never saw the headless horseman that night.  In spite of my preoccupation with him, he would have to wait for my dreams to make his horrific appearance.  However, the truth is that I did keep glancing over my shoulder as I crossed the bridge as quickly as possible.  For one never knows when his imagination may get the best of him!

Originally posted in October of 2010.  I thought it was worth a repeat.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | September 27, 2017

Extended Summer

paddlingIt’s been a while since my last post.  So much is happening these days, and so little time to write any of it down.  We’ve enjoyed a week of unseasonably high temperatures—it has been, in fact, a bona fide heat wave!  We’ve had day upon day of 90 degree-plus temperatures—and in September!  That rarely happens even in July in Western Michigan.

With all of this great summer weather, you would think I’d be spending my waking hours out in the “Banana” (my little yellow kayak).  In fact, I just yesterday got out on the water for the very first time in September.  Two things have conspired against me this month.  First, the weather has been almost too hot and humid to want to go.  In July, I’d suck it up and load the wilting Banana atop my little SUV and make a mad dash to the water.  After all, you expect to contend with heat and humidity in July.  But somehow, it just doesn’t seem right in September.  I found myself, instead, waiting for cooler, autumn-type kayaking conditions (you know, “normal” weather for fall).

The second thing is a little bit beyond the whims of a persnickety old paddler.  I injured my right hand two weeks ago yesterday, spraining the base of my thumb, I think.  I was doing some out-of-ordinary work with my hands and noticed after about three hours that my hand was really beginning to hurt.  After four hours, I was in a great deal of pain, and I knew that something was up when the base of the thumb swelled to around three times its normal size.  I iced it that evening, and bought a thumb support-wrap for it the next day.  I figured I’d give it a few days.  It was nearly constant pain for the next three or four days, but I could tell things were improving by the day, if only a little bit.  I just had to be patient.

Fast forward two weeks: the patience was gone; it would be the last day of the heat and humidity; my kayak was calling to me like a son calling from deep in woods for his dad to come rescue him.  So it was on!—messed up hand and all.  I rescued the Banana from its mooring on my garage wall and away we went.  Aside from the struggle getting the kayak up on and down from the SUV—which involved substituting my right hand for an elbow and forearm—things went well.  I may have a few weeks to completely heal up, but I’m back.  Extended summer is over.  Bring on the fall!


Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | November 3, 2016


cubs-winWith the Cubs win of this year’s World Series, there have been a lot of perspectives offered concerning the passage of time, and what was here then, and gone now. For example, Mark Twain was still alive in 1908, the last time the Cubs won it all. Teddy Roosevelt was president, and Grover Cleveland–born in 1837–died that year.
I got to thinking about this in a more personal sense, and was amazed to realize that my Grandfather was a boy of 7 in 1908. He has been gone for 25 years now, having passed on at the age of 89.
Even more interesting: in 1908, it would still be another 5 years before my grandmother would be born, and she passed away 5 years ago this month–at the age of 98!
1908 was a long time ago.
Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | March 2, 2016

The Great Cake Debate

cakeboxWell, so we had a big cake box sitting on the kitchen counter, ready to be thrown out. There were a few crumbs and some nice big globs of frosting left–exactly the type of BLTs (bites, licks, and tastes) that you can eat and not need to count. Free! Right?

I confess that I was tempted to taste just a little bit. But why? The smell of sugar normally puts me off these days. As I folded the cardboard box, preparing it for the garbage bag, I repeated several times: “All sugar; sugar bad; sugar poison.”

The whole thing is now safely tucked into the trash can outside. It is safe from me now. I won’t attack food that is in the trash. I know that much about myself.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | February 10, 2016

Snuggles Blowing In With Gusts Of Kisses – Best Weather Forecast Ever!

cocoaI have one special daughter.  Actually, I have two special daughters—they take turns being especially special.  My school-teacher daughter had a snow day today and reported her personal weather forecast for the day as she was cozily tucked into the warmth of home and family.  Here it is.  I love it!

Snow Day Forecast: 100% chance of mommy time with occasional flurries of joy and silliness. Hot cocoa in the high temps with a swirl of marshmallow splashes. Snuggles blowing in with gusts of kisses.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | January 28, 2016

To Slip The Surly Bonds Of Earth . . .

shuttleJanuary 28th, 1986. I remember it well. How can it be that 30 years have gone by already? I came home from work, made an egg salad sandwich, and sat on the sofa to eat lunch and watch the news. They were discussing the space shuttle Challenger, and it didn’t seem like the typical noon news. It became quickly apparent that something was wrong. In short order, I learned that the spacecraft had exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all aboard. I was dumbstruck. An hour later I still sat on the sofa with the egg salad sandwich in my lap, not a single bite taken out of it.

Hours later, President Reagan gave one of the most comforting speeches ever made to a nation in shock and in sorrow. You can read the remarks in their entirety here: What will most be remembered from the speech, though, is the final, compelling line (taken from a poem by an American aviator in the Canadian Airforce in 1941, John Magee, Jr.):

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | January 4, 2016

Satan 1

worldonheadI pulled up behind a car at the post office this afternoon in the little village that I call my home town.  The car had a do-it-yourself spray-paint job in flat black.  The license plate on the back read “Satan1.”  On the rear window, in very large print, the phrase “God hates all of us!” was displayed.  There were other satanic or Gothic symbols and phrases on this car.  It would seem that the owner wanted to be “in-your-face” and intimidating.

As I was about to cross the street to mail my parcels, the young man who owns the car came out of the post office.  He was well-groomed, wore “normal” street cloths, and had the appearance of a typical, well-adjusted young fellow as he strode lackadaisically across the street and got back into his car.

I took stock and wondered what must possess a young person to be so deliberately offensive, and yet so casual in his offensiveness.  The thought occurred to me that, in our mixed-up world, his actions and his car might seem perfectly normal to him.  To others, though, he may as well have been walking down the middle of the street proudly holding his head high, arms outstretched, with middle fingers on both hands extended. He really seemed oblivious, lost a world of his own making.  And that is sad.

I should say that I believe he has a right to express himself this way in what remains of the “Land of the Free.” But I can’t help but consider this stark irony: On the one hand our society – specifically my local community (or at least the government thereof) – finds it offensive to raise a Christian cross on a hill on public property, and so they banish it; on the other hand they tolerate, and even tacitly accept, behavior that is overtly offensive to Christians and should offend anyone’s standard of human decency. Christian standards these days, it seems, are openly mocked, while what might be considered by many to be deviant behavior is simply dismissed as “free expression,” which is often accepted and even promoted at times.

My assessment: It seems that in my lifetime alone, we have managed to stand the world on its head.  We are living in very sad times, folks.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | December 23, 2015

Media Disinformation


This past Monday, my wife and I attended the Donald Trump rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This was the famous “Schlong-gate” rally.  Nevermind that the comment went virtually unnoticed by the crowd at the time.  The media chose to seize on this comment in an attempt to once again try to take The Donald down a notch or two.  And once again, it does not seem to be working.

Anyway, the point this entry is to post a little video I took of the first of five or six protesters being removed from the rally (contrary to media reports of a dozen complete disruptions to his speech). They all left relatively peacefully. With some of them, Trump never missed a beat and just talked over them. With others, he wanted to make sure that they weren’t mistreated by security or attendees so he kept asking that they be handled gently and carefully, and then he continued on. You don’t hear that from the media.

I found Trump to actually be very pleasant to listen to. It felt a bit like sitting on your grandfather’s lap and listening to him spin you a story. He was down to earth, quite anecdotal in a Garrison Keillor sort of way, had a very agreeable personality, and really only got stoked up a couple of times. But, of course, those fiery moments are the only moments that you see in the media.

I’m not saying that Trump is my man, but I’m glad I went to hear him. I’d go hear any of the candidates if given the opportunity, including those on the Democrat side. One thing that was confirmed for me, though, is to never accept the version of events that you get from the media. Not only do they not tell the whole story, they actually actively craft an alternative story, often made up nearly entirely up of whole cloth!

A friend of mine told me yesterday that her mother always told her, “Don’t trust anything you hear, and only half of what you see.”  I believe this to be true.  But don’t trust me on that.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | December 21, 2015

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Five PeopleIf you want something to read that will really oil the gears in your brain, pick up a copy of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven.” I read this with the my grandkids in Texas over Thanksgiving break. Then tonight my wife and I watched the movie on Netflix. The movie is very faithful to the book, and I recommend them both, but I would read the book, then watch the movie.

Be forewarned that, regardless of your religious background, you will find this to be horrible theology, but don’t get hung up on that. Theology is not the point of the book. It is a fantasy constructed to get you to think about the things that are really important in this life, and to think about your place in the grand scheme of this grand adventure that we are all on.

It is not a book about death and the afterlife; it is a book about affirming life, here and now.  I think it is a wonderful read, especially during Christmastime when we really pause to consider the people in our lives and the importance of our relationships.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | October 31, 2013

Reggie’s Woods

It was many years ago on a Halloween eve.  My friend Paul and I volunteered to scare the living daylights out of some kids—small groups of middle school students, I think—as they neared the end of a church-sponsored, haunted trail out in the expansive woods behind a church member’s home, what I like to call “Reggie’s back 40.”

Dense autumn woods

We spent a good chunk of the afternoon with fellow high school teens setting up a walking path through the woods—a path that contained all sorts of Halloween horrors for anyone who dared to take the challenge.

Now it was time to lie in wait, prone on the ground, hidden out there in the dark and cold of a moonless late October’s evening.  As soon as a group of kids got near us, we jumped up from the brush and the leaves and started yelling bloody murder and running toward them quickly!

As part of our preparation, we had strung a line between two trees so that we could travel along it, thereby avoiding running into any other trees in the densely wooded area.  (I remember that we had trouble even finding the line in the cave-like, black darkness.)

We must have been dressed as zombies or ax murders or something—I don’t remember; maybe Paul does.  What I do remember is that the final joke was on us, or on me anyway.  When we emerged from the woods, I found that I was covered nearly head to toe with large welts—hives!

I’m not sure all of these years later whether or not Paul shared my fate.  There must have been something in the brush or the leaves or along the ground that got to me.  It was actually a bit scary, and it made for an unpleasant end to a very memorable evening.

Older Posts »