Archive for July, 2011

My buddy Steve the word smith. He had a way with words for sure…When word of a difficult future was given him in summer 2009, the doctor was frank and to the point. Blunt in fact. So was Steve…As I recall, he said something along these lines…”Doctor, have you ever heard of a place called Rainier Oregon? Folks from Rainier are tough. Folks there don’t take any spit.  (He didn’t say spit…but I would be roasting over one if I said what he did say, in here)  And neither do I …I am Steve Keith, I’m a logger from Rainier Oregon, no matter what you tell me, I’m not gonna go down without a fight.

That was Steve. My buddy Steve would have made a good Marine, in times of old; a classic gunfighter. He rarely showed fear, he faced it…he shared it, he weighed it…and all the while, he was looking out for those around him. He protected most souls from his dilemma.

Steve and I talked for hours over the months…I never saw him again in person after July 2009, but the memory and vision of who he was will remain intact, untarnished, and not frozen in time, but saved vignettes over time, moments of laughter, of bravery, of frailty, and honesty and brutal truths.

Steve was happy with the state of all things except the obstacles he faced. They were an inconvenience to his plans and aspirations. But at the same time; a catalyst to reach out to family, to friends, to the past, to things unknown…to seek a little validation, and to deliver the same to those deserving of it.

Steve shared with me some reflections of attitudes that were changing inside of him regarding simple everyday activities like a trip to the store, a drive to a place that was previously insignificant and mundane, Steve told me that to wake up every morning and feel his wife next to him was a gift. That he knew his remission was a miracle not afforded many. That every moment of every day was not only a gift, but an opportunity to mend, to rediscover things overlooked. In truth, there was indeed a moment that it appeared a reprieve might have granted him a greater deal of time than it turned out as actually so. But still he chose to maintain his fresh appreciation of life and lives, as well as his dedication to making the same life and lives better and more memorable. Treasures in fact. This entire journey made him a better soul…a more complete and passionate human.

Steve had left behind the tools of his trades, the need for trudges through the muddy woods, for early morning drives to sites where building rose and grew through sweat and sinew…to fulfill and bring to reality another’s dreams. In place of the duties, there were the pleasures of not only performing reparations to personal properties, but too to life and souls. Steve engaged instead in bridge building and fence mending, pothole filling and patching leaky roofs.

He built a family out of the one born long ago but never quite melded as a cohesive unit. He built bridges over ravine and stream. Over time, proverbial rain and spiritual winters can erode and wash away and otherwise consume the proverbial earth that connects people. Minor crossings in ankle deep brooks can become crevasse and canyon, impassable without a conscious effort to bridge the gap   He mended fences to contain the flock and protect the newly formed bonds between those he loved and who he hoped might always love one other.

And perhaps over the passing of time, there may have been many storms of wind and rain, with a steady drip from a leaky shake or shingle leaving puddle and pool on a floor indoors…but no one tends to think about patching a roof in  the midst of August sunshine. So too are the tendencies of life, and Steve began to realize that one day when  the rains returned, he might not be able to contain the drips and drafts…So he opened ladder and toolbox…and tended to things before the gathering of storm and clouds…and he slept better with the knowing things had been tended to…

And along the rocky road that he had become accustomed to; he became aware that not only a well placed shovel of fill, but a slower pace would smooth the passage, and would also add to an appreciation of the sights along the way…a realization that the gift is as much in the journey as it is the destination…

It has occurred to me, that while readying for his passage to the next phase of his being, Steve chose to not leave a void where his physical presence left off…but to instead gift his children and extended family something tangible and certain…Each other…He made the best of what already exists in the hearts of each of them, and through carefully orchestrated desires and the innate need for a common and collective belonging…in a few short words…Family…mended, blended and lovingly; extended.

In our last meaningful conversation, Steve and I talked of his days in school. Of his time on the courts, fields, and diamonds. Steve was a capable athlete. I’m not sure if his abilities were as much God given as they were a cultivated result of his great work ethic, abundant desire, and a supportive love not only of victory…but of team and a desire to share in the joy of collective celebration among peers and friends. Steve mentioned on more than one occasion of being assigned a play to both end and to win a game. Along with a basket that sealed the win for his team; Steve carried the honor of faith in his ability to carry the moment, for the rest of his life. It helped that he made the shot when his number was called of course…but that was a definitive and character building moment that he took with him. Thanks Coach Doumit

We also talked of his days as a logger. That while not being a part of a sizable operation; the inherent hard work and related perils were no less present. Steve never shied away from tasks and effort demanding days…Even when the end of days was at hand. True to his character and place in the world to the very end…My friend Steve.

Now…In your mind, if you walk to a spot, between Vernonia and Mist…find an old stand of elderly Doug firs…mixed with cedar and pine, berries and fern…near a stream and a place where tall tales begin…A place where you might convene with the memory of long idle saws, muddy corks and long days fighting the brush and cursing the rain…And ask the age old question of whether a tree falling in a place with no one about makes any sound at all…and should you listen closely, you will hear a familiar voice flowing after the cutoff of a long barred  saw…and indeed you’ll hear a warning of “tree coming down”, then a crack of green timber, and the landing’s sounds…followed by a Friday afternoon happy declaration…when Steve declares, “it’s five o`clock on my watch…let’s shut it all down…quittin time boys…”  That, my friends is the sound of a tree falling, when no one’s around…

I am compelled to remind the lot of you, and myself, to not end a day with anger lingering between you and others. If you need a hug, give one. If you need a kind word, speak one. If you harbor a broken heart, mend one. If you feel a song in your heart, put out your hand and dance with someone. If you need an apology, make one. You get but one chance at a last impression, one time to say farewell…each night you lay your head down to rest might mark that last opportunity.

Folks have all heard a song in which the question is asked, “what if tomorrow never comes?” Even if you perish tonight; tomorrow will still come. It will come to everyone you leave behind, and they will have only the final impression and whatever unfinished moments to live with for the duration. Be sure you do right by them, that they know they are loved, and had a fresh hug on your parting ways. Tomorrow always comes…treat it with care.

I will end my words today, with the words I heard from Steve at the end of nearly every conversation over the past couple years……I love you brother…and call me anytime.

Matthew Lyle Landsman 06/17/2011


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