Monday, March 21, 2016

a tall tale

one of my bucket list locations is kodiak island in alaska.  since we were young boys playing the in creek outside of our house hunting snakes with sticks, catching fish with spit, and building forts in sideways trees.

kodiak is where the last, real america is.

my younger, larger, stronger brother was there for a summer with the united states coast guard.  but i'm the one writing this, so obviously i'm more clever.

it's not an easy place to get to. and i don't mean that because we live on the east coast.  once you get to the pacific northwest, it is still an adventure just to get to kodiak. an airline, a small plane, and a ferry ride. i'm there.  2.63 of my 10 day vacation spent on travel there and back.

the first few hours at the port, and brother has told me everything there is to know about kodiak.  and the things i don't want to know.

good news:  brother has to work in the afternoon of the next day, and i can borrow a dingy from his friend to put around the island.  bad news:  i stink at fishing.

that first night brother takes me to a dive where i am sure to say i had the best salmon on the planet- for $10.   i saw a moose on the sidewalk on our way home. it was difficult to fall asleep when it's light outside at 1 am. i tossed and turned.  i was so pumped.

coffee never tasted so dull than that next morning. brother took me to buy a fishing license and borrow some supplies from various people who all had massive beards.

i had a map, instructions as to where to go, a satellite phone, food, water, and all the supplies for fishing. i didn't need to pack any extra anxiety- i never leave home without it.  brother's shift at the post could not come fast enough. after lunch i pushed out.

an hour later i found the most remote, beautiful bay in the unknown world.  this was my place.  the water was calm.  the mountains broke the bite in the wind.  the sun was crisp yet far away.  i've never been so cold. my coffee thermos might have well been an espresso shot.

i "fished" all day. exactly as i was told. unsurprisingly, 4 hours later, i caught nothing.  i traded the rod for a book. but i read very little because the actual fishing had begun.  i realized i was not alone, i was sharing this gem of a cove with an osprey who spent the afternoon showing off as to how real anglers do it.  

i spent hours cheering his majesty as he swooped and dived and threw massive fish in the air.  a few gulls strolled by, but the osprey kindly let them know where they were allowed to fish.

it's hard to believe your watch when the sun is in a new home in the sky.  i was warmish finally.  but i needed to head back to pick up brother.

i went back around the bend, and the harbor wasn't there.  lost is real- the entire island disappeared. the map and the gps had to be miscalculating.  brother would be off duty soon.  i rounded a few more corners always coming back to where i had started.  kodiak was no where.  the osprey was gone.

brother had been off duty for nearly an hour when the satellite phone rang.  he laughed. i cringed. he has always had "buddies" who could help. always.  i was never able to talk to people like he could.

45 minutes later, here they came.  brother had a big smile. somewhere between my driving, my not catching fish and the osprey- i had drifted. it was 9pm. the sun was still shining. brother never let me forget that story.

eric mertens

Eric Mertens
Celebration of Life
September 29, 2015

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

I have never read that verse at a funeral.  And in most instances, I would say that it is boarder line inappropriate.  Why would you tell people who are mourning to be “joyful always?”

Here’s why I think that it’s okay to break the rule of thumb.  I believe that Eric Mertens, like all people was created in the image of God.  This is what the Bible tells us in the very beginning.  Among other things, I find our God to be rather clever and sometimes, down right ironic.  Like many who truly suffer, I experienced Eric to be a joyful person.  He was as playful as a toddler, and at times, as awkward as a puppy.  This, I believe is a reflection of God.  Our God suffered on the cross, yet remained without hate.  Eric who indeed endured, reflects the joy of the creator. 

I am more of a Colbert, Conan or Fallon-fan, but today I’ll harness my inner David Letterman.  This is my top 10 things about Eric that displayed a sense of joy, irony and fun:

10.  Eric was a big guy 6’ 5” and 200 plus pounds.  Do you know what they say about big guys?  But not Eric, he had the smallest feet for a big guy that I’d ever seen!

9.  Speaking of Eric’s feet, he always had shoes with swag. Even doing construction, he seamed to always have J’s on. Today I'm wearing my coolest shoes, you well know that Eric wouldn’t be wearing loafers…

8.  Eric was a talker.  You all know this.  But let’s be honest, did you always know what he was talking about?  My friend Rob and I were reminiscing and he even said, “ya Eric would say random stuff man.” He spoke about his work "project" so fast and so much that I couldn't keep them straight. Eric had a white truck.  He might have told you about it…

7.  Eric liked to play with words, especially less common words.  Speaking of our friend Rob… Eric would say “Rob Raaaahhhhhhmlow.”

6.  Eric and I would meet for breakfast at McDonald’s on Forest Hill Ave.  Most of the time we would meet early.  Or at least I would get there early.  I would sit in our corner booth and wait for his white truck to come romping through the drive through… Sometimes the white truck was actually grey.

5.  Eric, had an appetite.  I saw him put food down!  He was very resourceful in the kitchen. He could cook it up for lunch and dinner.  But you know what they say about men with small feet… they don’t eat breakfast.  All the times we had breakfast, he never finished his pancakes.

4. Our small group at the church would have game nights, where we pretended to care about board games.  Or at our Christmas parties we would play dirty Santa as a gift exchange.  I can never remember Eric playing by the rules.  I loved it, but it drove those of you who are competitive crazy!  Others would get excited about the game, and here comes Eric just playing by his own rules.  Of course you can collect the $200 before you pass go. Of course you can spell it out.  Of course you can pick it back up in order to play a better card.  I want this gift and you can't steal it.  Rules of the game don’t mean anything.

3.  Eric, well how do you say… he had a voice that carried.  At McDonald’s or at church, we would have conversations that I thought were semi-sensitive or even down right private.  But I am convinced that the cashier and everyone else in the dinning room could hear every word.  What Eric lacked in shoe size, he made up for in vocal capacity.

2.  Eric laughed a lot.  He had several types of laughs.  Of course the loud laugh, the breathless laugh, the he-he laugh, and my favorite was the laugh when no one else is laughing and so he punches you in the arm so hard your sore for a week. How do you remember it?  His laugh was the tune of his heart- which was joy.

1.  Eric took a ton of photos on his phone.  He took photos of his work at the “job site.”  He took videos of his dog.  He took photos of random things.  My favorites are his self-ies with random personas, hats, french fries in his mouth and strange facial expressions.  He also took photos of his truck, which now I’m thinking was black- or maybe it was white again...  My wife is a photographer.  Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t know very much about the art form.  Eric was not a photographer.  His photos were never framed well, or in focus.  I didn’t know Eric when he was young, but I like to think that he did not color inside the lines.  As an adult with a camera phone, he didn’t capture the world inside the lines.  His perspective was both genius and hard.

This is that which simultaneously gives us great joy and deep sadness as we celebrate Eric. In the Bible, the book of James encourages a group of people who are experiencing life threatening persecution to “consider it pure joy… in the face of many trials,” that these sufferings produce perseverance.  And by persevering in Christ, we will be made perfect.  This passage of scripture has always been really hard for me.  It never made great sense.

But I believe that Eric was joyful in the face of many trials.  As impossible as it may seem, he persevered, and in Christ he is made perfect.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


white, wet powder brings a capitol
to pause.
3 days of education
  at the mall
  and on the very streets of icy peril.

lights are doubled in the dark.
shoes break the bearier.
those with garages live large.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

newton gravity

i was asked to share regarding a pair running shoes i picked up nearly a year ago. i'm all about pleasing the people.

after a couple years of running, here are a few of my shoe observations:

  • shoes and injury are siblings. and if you spent time in arkansas (or in west virginia for my rva friends), you know how special the sibling relationship can really be.
  • running shoes have a shelf life, rather a half-life.  you can run x00 miles in a pair before you hang them up, but they are still good to do stuff. but shoes, like people, can loose that loving feeling.
  • things and shoes cost money. i realize that many people are not into the pay to run thing. all good. i'm down with fiscal responsibility, fewer regulations and the gospel.
  • neon colors are totally in right now. it's safe; it's fun; it's a reminder that the 80's were really on to something.

patches o'houlihan said running is all about: sweat, water, salt, bananas. and sweat.

cracked sidewalks, arched roads and trails tattooed with roots are a runner's red carpet. stride after stride, mile after mile, each step is a pounding. and yes i've seen the hippies who don't wear shoes, and the 5 finger excuse for a shoe.

i'm aware that this wasn't what the people had in mind…

actual comments about the shoe include:

neutral, minimalistic. mechanics and hikers know what i'm talking bout.

the most distinguishing feature of this ride is not the awkward mcdonald's colors; it's the midfoot pop platform. supposedly, this keeps you forward and hopefully fast. for me, it took some getting used to. as a result i actually hate walking in these shoes, but irony is so hip right now- so i do it anyways. ultimately, the platform has been helpful to my form, or the lack there of.

overall, these are a great trainer and race option. light and firm- still talking about shoes here team. but i didn't run these exclusively.  these are not built for single track. there are days when i need more support. for me rotation is key. hashtag share the love.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

fruits & veges

i recently inserted myself into a conversation- turning the attention to the (im)morality of natural state mega-store. or was it to myself? irony defined.

im a fool. not for my ideals, but because i scarred sacred dinner with words more fit for pubs than friends. my apologies. the lasagna was actually fantastic.

ive drank much- from the well of wendell, but ive had little from his table. ive romanticized the farmer, the worker and my own mind.

goliath still wrong. but im not david nor a smooth stone. keep your head down man. work. listen. breathe and please don't talk. instead enjoy seconds.

for the joy comes in the morning.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


hope lives
on the otherside
of mountains,
and the pillow.

many believe
getting there
takes longer
than return.

i believe thanks
when we allow
to be surprised
to not know all things
to sleep- on the floor.

turns out
getting there
doesn't matter.
but the leftovers
right here.

give thanks. today. try.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

the office

my hands hurt 
and shape 
and free
and nothing.
several  professionals have quoted the job.
never solicited but always recommended, by those who really know- farm it out.

now vested in the land,
i relish their price. 
two are mine for that.
do it alone
with neighbors, learning and slow.

each blade of grass unique.
time eternal and given.
efficiency always wasted.
on occasion, duty and chore delight.

the tortoise always wins.
read the story of old.
i am neither sloth, nor hare.
in a city of mice and men,
we are the cheese.