Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shooting Jacobsens for Christmas

This is what it's like to shoot a family of seven. Yes, it was as fun as it looks.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grandfather's Day

We spent some time on Balboa Island the week before Father's Day with my whole family. My great-grandmother bought a place there years ago. My dad spent vacations there during his growing up years, as did I - fishing (that's me in the photo at age 7), learning to sail, making drip castles in the sand.

It had been many years since I had spent any time there. It felt good to be back.

Somehow, my dad convinced my 11 year old son to get up at zero-dark-thirty to go out fishing. Actually, I don't think it took much convincing - he was eager to go in spite of his ambivalence toward fish.

I wrote this as a Father's Day gift to the grandfather of my son:

You have to get up early
to catch the good ones.

The sun barely begins to lighten the sky
and you are already underway,
motor humming as you maneuver under the bridge
and head for the jetty.

The boy at your side doesn't like fish,
for eating or for touching -
and he's not so sure about catching -
but he knows he likes his Grandpa enough
to sacrifice sleep for an adventure on the water with him.
And with fish.

You send the lure flying
and pass the rod to the boy.
He spins the reel slowly, a picture of concentration,
bracing for the tell-tale tug on the line.

It comes -
anticipated but not quite expected -
and soon there's a live wriggly one
at the side of the boat.
You admire the fine specimen together
and send it back into the water.

An hour passes and a half-dozen more
have been inspected and released.
The boy is silently relieved that none of them
are quite long enough to bring home for a fishy breakfast.

You slide into shore,
returning the boat to its moorings.
The boy has a lot to say,
but the love he feels remains unspoken.

The day's catch swims free out by the jetty,
but the memory of an early morning
on the water with Grandpa -
that's a keeper.

I feel deep gratitude for heritage and for memories, and most of all for a father who loves my son and shows it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Something like a star

Tomorrow, voters in California will determine whether traditional marriage will be written into the state constitution. Having heard and read much debate on the issue – both reasoned and heated – I find myself tiring of the arguments and feel drawn to the words of poets.

First, a portion of Robert Frost's Choose Something Like a Star.

And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

And a few lines of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Marriage, to me, is this kind of star – lifting our vision, helping us navigate stormy waters. Marriage serves a purpose that has been the same for ages, and will continue for ages to come: to bring children into the world and raise them in a family with a mother and a father each fulfilling their unique roles as equal partners. There is no suitable substitute.

The things that supposedly weaken marriage – divorce, infidelity, pre-marital intimacy, same-sex unions – do not weaken marriage itself, they only make the power of marriage unavailable to those who wander down these side roads.

I have no doubt that the real power of marriage will always be there for those who can find it. My concern is not that the star will somehow fall from the heavens, but that the clouds created by these diversions will obscure the true power of marriage for us and for our children.

I choose something like a star.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's in a name?

Last names fascinate me. They have history and heritage bound up in them. Every time I run across one whose origin is unclear to me, I'm compelled to ask where it's from.

It's tragic, in a way, that we can only accommodate one family line in our last names, or at most two. I lived for a time in Puerto Rico, where it is common practice for children to carry the last names of both parents. When I received my Puerto Rican driver's license, I was surprised to see four names on it: Erik Richard Jacobsen Pendleton. It was nice to be reminded that I am equal parts of my father and mother.

Of course, it goes well beyond that. You could call me Erik Richard Jacobsen Jensen Marshall Kirk Pendleton Rhead Allred Parkinson, but then you would know that my Scandinavian façade is hiding a whole lot of English blood. And the fate of Eddie K. Brown, that my father used to sing to me, suggests that a long name can be a perilous thing.

So we're stuck with choosing.

It doesn't work for everyone, but I like the approach of some friends of mine. They combined his name (Greenwood) and hers (Fields) and coined a new name: Greenfield. Something fitting about becoming one in that way - the necessary giving and receiving of marriage reflected in the family name.

Whatever our names tell us, it's good to be reminded that a marriage brings together family trees that extend back for ages. And that we must make of those combined heritages something of our own.

When I first wrote this poem (2001), I don't believe I was thinking of these as family trees that we were planting. But I guess they were. The seed of a later poem was planted here as well.

I planted my tree next to yours,
On a calm, bright bank, where life's river roars,

To share the selfsame soil and sun,
The first to shade the other one –

And when the blazing sun reversed,
The other one to shade the first.

With deeper roots and broader reach,
Together they grew – protected each.

Seasons passed and seedlings came
To share their ground and sun the same.

Beneath the watch of the older two,
These eager young ones quickly grew

And added strength to the cheerful stand
Of trees with the river close at hand.

How blessed are we that our trees found
A place to share a piece of ground?

Our sacred grove will flourish there
On the river bank in the sun and air.

You planted your tree next to mine,
And now they intertwine.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Heart Healthy

My wife just finished reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. I haven't read the book, but I like the straightforward approach hinted at by the cover: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

On a brief visit to Idaho this past summer (to celebrate the aforementioned 50th anniversary), we picked some of our own food to eat from a garden at the ranch where we stayed: green beans, snap peas, zucchini, pattypan squash, raspberries, carrots, lettuce. We also trekked to a patch of wild huckleberries and found enough to make a scrumptious huckleberry and peach cobbler.

There's nothing quite like eating fresh food that you picked and prepared yourself. It tastes great and feels right. It's almost enough to make a locavore out of me.

All that got me thinking about a short poem I gave to my Valentine last year.

I don't mind
the occasional bowl
of oatmeal,
or regular servings
of whole grain

but it's my recommended
daily allowance
of you
that keeps
my heart

It's true – she does my heart good.

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