Archive for March, 2012

biggs snow

I recently had the pleasure of following a stretch of Oregon’s Highway 97 between Biggs Junction and Bend. I was on my way to reunite with my past, to embrace an old friend and celebrate the present by honoring some yesterdays.
The plow was frozen fast in mid furrow. A tractor wore a hard December’s snow.

snow tractor2

Hands rarely idle were still tending to hungry critters gathered there in a huddle, marked by nostril-fed clouds of steam… standing in wait of tossed hay, in wait of fairer weather, and less-cruel winds and softer days…

snow cows

It was a journey filled with glances into a distant past, before the demise of newness, before the slow erosion of rain, snow and sun had taken its toll on everything that lay under that unrelenting sky.  On this day I looked on rusted barbed-wire, disc and plow…scenes of decades of weather-grayed timber and shake… scenes of the element-decayed remains of shelter and shade.

snow house

I thought about the calloused hands that had put all of this together. I thought of the ravaged stand against time that, at last, had begun the return of wood to the ground from whence it came, and rusted iron and brick to the receiving earth below.  I found myself wondering along the way about the shuttered windows of old homes, and faltered family businesses and gas stations there.

snow gas
I thought about the dreams that had begun, been brought to fruition, then brought to their knees and finally laid to rest. I know I was off the main Interstate…no truck stops or Safeway stores…no wide shoulders or street lamps around…just long rows of hard ground, planted and watered by the snow and rains…urged on to flourish by the power of prayers and God’s good grace…

snow tractor

And, in the distance, I saw a rusted Massey Ferguson, a plow, and disc…and a faltered old John Deere in deep weed and ill repair. It once took a second mortgage and a leap of faith to secure the outfit.  Then more ground was broken, more hours in the noonday sun, and long after the shadows grew long, he toiled and she watched from the home on the hill to call him home ahead of the storm…That was thirty years ago and a dream now at rest…but they still reminisce… Time now for bouncing a grandson on his knee…a generation removed from the fields and the old-time certainty of farming’s uncertainties…
Before the desert was turned over and the sagebrush burned, there was just the majesty of the Three Sisters and their companions in solemn sentry…mountains to feed the streams and rivers, and adventurers’ and wanderers’ thirst and appetite for clear days of distant artistry and food for thought.

snow sisters

There was but a vision, a hopeful promise and a faithful homesteader’s prayers.  There were green timbers sawn in a mill, the old hard way…and a need for shade, for shelter…for a home to the prancing team that pulled the plow and combine over the rolling grounds…a loft for the hay that sustained it all.  There was a youthful sinew and a bounty of day with no quit in sight.  There were four seasons…the dusk and the dawn…all the hours in between…and an ancient urge to plant, to tend, to harvest, to raise, water, feed, slaughter, and market it all.
On Oregon Highway 97, or Alberta’s Provincial 2…the dreams and sweat were all the same…Matthew Landsman

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She won’t arrive on a bus, for that would require a schedule and a sense of time. She can’t be bothered with expectations nor does she have a need for personal validation. She knows she is anticipated, is prayed for, celebrated, and that life really does evolve around her. She shows up in whatever she’s wearing, and regardless of weather, she’ll have you step outside, and then make you wait for her. And though she runs both hot and cold…she is worth the wait and moody ways.

This lady will take your breath away, make your eyes tear up, she’ll melt even the coldest of the cold. She is a shady lady, but after she shows up late she will bring you roses, songs and cause the heart to stir to life…

After my mother, I have loved her most and longest…even though we meet but once a year…I’ll even shed some clothes for her when she does finally arrive. And she always follows a dark time and makes the recent memories seem like an endless nightmare. For her, I will cease the stoking of the fire, leave my door open wide, and even clean up the place and venture out into the light…

I do love her shamelessly and without fail. …Hello Spring, let us renew our annual tryst until your sister we call Solstice comes around and takes me in her arms, and keeps me awake till all balmy and lazy hours. Although you will abandon me once again, I will scarcely notice. You will be forgiven as always…and I will welcome you again in a few months short of a year…Adieu my fair weathered lady friend…My favorite lady, Spring.

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It takes a lot of drops in the bucket that makes up a child…some days you’ll make a splash, and others will be just average days…resulting in tiny ripples.

So don’t cloud the bucket with harsh words and poor examples. Don’t muddy the waters with untruths and unclear signs. Don’t taint the bucket with anger and cruelty. Don’t turn the bucket to ice by ignoring or shutting out the child.

Priorities need to have a young one at the top of the list… And remember that drops you contribute will be reflected for the duration…Make it sweet rain and morning dew, ocean’s spray and a tear or two.

Celebrate the slowly filling vessel and the waves and splashes that result. There is but one chance to rightly fill the bucket that is a child, please be kind and purposeful…and you shall be remembered well…as the well from which such sweet waters were drawn…

Dedicated to dedicated teachers such as my friends Pam and Jiggs and Jennifer Marie…


Matthew L Landsman

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Here is my vision of how a young man might have induced a young lady to join him in a life as a pioneer in farm country during the 1800’s and early 1900’s…A proposal of sorts…

My Love…I will plow, till and turn. I will drag, rake, stack, and burn. I will clear the land and plant the seed. I will give you everything you need. I will thin the timbers from that grove near the river…I will saw, plane, groove, and pin. I will haul, dig ditches, pump, and dam…I will seed, cover, water, shade and tend. I will feed you and ours from the fields near the home I intend to build…from what I brought, can create, and can find in nature.

And after the stones are made foundation, after setting the timbers for frame, wall and floor…Then I will plank, pole, and shake; covering those frames, walls, ceiling, rafter, and roof. After you unwrap the panes from the quilt and towel, I’ll bring sunlight into your kitchen, bedroom, and parlor. Then I’ll build you a porch with shade from a great tree. And I’ll hang a front door. Mine and yours…And we’ll call it home…you and I.

Matthew Landsman

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John and Norma…it was meant to be. Not one in a million…one in billions. And yet there they were for the duration. Though nobody knows for sure what the duration will be ahead of time, but the intent is there for more decades than we are sometimes gifted. The granting of one love and that set of vows is the real gift…One set of lives together…then the addition of family, little lives out of combined souls. It is indeed an enviable accomplishment. John and Norma…plus Jason and Jeremy. Priceless.

John was called to service, to duty, to sea. While his home was at times on the waves near lands and countries where the winds of change were in need of stern encouragement…But the real rudder and true North stayed home upon land. I speak of course of Norma. And while others waited for flags and masts to emerge from beyond the horizon, Norma kept the home fires burning. And she contributed her part as liaison between those out to sea and the faithful souls in wait of a port busy once more with vessels and loved ones home safe again. Perhaps today she serves as ombudsman between the ones left earthbound, and with God there on her heavenly shore…

I have thought a great deal about the dedication, the faithfulness of both of them, about faith and fears, and the strength that comes from the successful passing of as many missions and separations for extended periods. The times John spent out at sea reminds me of some words spoken by a late President when I was but three years old…Recently it has taken on a new, deeper meaning…

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.” (JFK)

This lends then to my vision of our young couple living at a distance with many miles of land and oceans between them, and yet the elements JFK referred to also lent to keeping them together with the common bonds offered by the saltiness of the swells that supported crafts on the waters, of the tears on both ends of reaching bow and safe harbor. The salt from the sweat of labor and battle…and in times of anxious waiting. Elements  on both ends that brought the salty sea into the hearts at home, and the promises and comforts of home to places beyond the horizon where patriots travel in duty to country, and in hope of coming home.

Although Norma’s departure to a different sort of sea was untimely and equally unexpected, she is none the less afloat on a sea of a celestial sort, somewhere beyond the horizon, beyond the place where ocean meets the sky. Somewhere down the road, John will arrive at that place…past the spot where a river crosses over the bar. A place where the line between heaven and earth become one. A place where a living soul waits, and a departed soul beckons to beyond the shore and one waiting there.

Matthew Landsman 03-04-2012

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There’s a memory in my kitchen, hanging over the sink. It teases me on a regular basis…each time I get a drink. While I run the tap until the cooler water flows, the origin of it taunts me, its faded petals and fractured leaves look down on me as the mystery grows.

I’m not sure why I hung it there, nor how long ago. There’s no clue except that a lot of time has passed since there was still velvet in the petals, dewdrops on the leaves, and a lingering scent.

Time and again I’ve heard it said, “If these walls could talk…” In this case it is so…the wall is trying to say something, but just what, I simply do not know.

It’s just an old rose in a dusty sandwich bag…and also so much more. Once there was a reason I hung it there.  There was a day of relevance I wanted never to forget. Was it a moment of pleasure, or of pain? There was perhaps a night of new love being born, or a day when one met our Maker and my world was drenched in life’s proverbial rain.

How else do we mark such days? We stash mementos in drawers, marks on a calendar, pictures on side tables, and always, we have songs. We absentmindedly leave things in the pockets of a Sunday suit…a funeral program, a theatre ticket, a celebratory cigar, a trace of life enjoyed, ended or begun.

But upon this wall I made a declaration of a resolute sort, to mark the time and remind me of it several times each day.  I’m not sure if it’s meant to urge me to smile or to miss someone.  In silent vigil it rings out with sorrow and joy alike.

A rose on the wall may mark a birth, a celebration of a first dance, a marriage, a growing love, a faded love, a last day on the job, a time of praying…first for life to be saved, then for it to end swiftly and mercifully. It reminds me to not take those in my life for granted…to live… and not just live vicariously.  In not so many words, the writing is on the wall…A faded rose that leads to prose…A metaphor for a floral visual aid to jog my memory, which isn’t quite what it used to be.

Matthew Lyle Landsman, July 2008

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