Carpe diem…..

I didnt really know him, never met him in person, didnt even know his name.  But through his online posts on a fishing bulletin board I frequent, I did come to know him as, “Bigstick”.  From the words and pictures he posted I began to form a picture of him.  A big, strong man.  Once a logger, falling trees larger in diameter than he was tall.  An avid hunter and fisherman, that seemed to be his real passion.  The outdoors of Alaska his playground, and he does reap the harvest from all the bounty it provides.  Many, many pictures of all the game he had taken….and it was copious, have I seen.  A master of the wood, ocean, lake and stream, so it would seem, a cunning hunter and fisherman.  A man of strong opinion, not shy to voice his to the online crowd.  I’m sure just as quick in person.  From what I read of those who met him, a funny man, a kind and generous man.  And a father.  Watching his Youtube video’s as he taught his son how to “break in” a new Leupold scope by throwing it into the brush, “Throw that sumbitch” he coached “giv’er hell!”.

In my minds eye he is a towering individual, like Paul Bunyan, fu-manchu mustache included.  Strong, overpowering, capable, living life in his own fast lane, a life to its fullest never wasting a second of any day.  And then one day I logged in to my computer and read this from him……

They say time heals all wounds and perhaps for the first time in my Life,I’m much looking forward to time hurrying along and sorta passing me by. My head is screwed on straight,but the last few days are easily the most difficult I’ve known.

Long story short,for reasons known only him and just a short day before he was going to schlep away to Boot Camp,our oldest made the first and only bad decision of his 18yrs and ended his life. This event was/is soooooo out of character to his mild mannerisms and warm heart,that I can’t begin to accurately communicate the magnitude of the surprise. That as applied to us here at the house,his running mates,team mates and the Community at large. Noone can make any sense of it,despite every single thought beating that path of reason,scouring for clues and drawing a collective blank.

And my heart sank.  And it cried.  This news from a man I do not know, nor have ever met has touched me deeply.  I feel for him, for his family, for their loss.  The hurt and the anguish he must feel, I cannot even begin to imagine.  Nor do I ever want to know.  I pray for him the strength to weather this most difficult storm.

And I pray I may never know such heartache myself.  My two boys, my two men.  Each so different, yet so alike.  So full of life, their futures bright and long before them.  My two men, my precious, beautiful boys.  The most amazing thing I have ever done, or ever will do, is to be their father.  And I thank my Father every day for the gift of these two boys he has entrusted to my care.  And I pray that though they may encounter turbulence in their life’s journey, they will have the strength and the wisdom to endure and overcome.  Lifes journey is wonderful, but not without hardship.  Be strong my boys, my men…… are a Child of Ben.  And you are a Child of God.  And we both love you, just the same.

Carpe diem, sieze the day.  The time we have together is short, and precious.  And oh so very, very sweet.

And Bigstick…….may God be with you, and give you peace.  You will see your boy again, some day…..

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There goes my everything…..

And he cried,
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you.

For seventeen years I’ve tried to be the best father I knew how to be. I’ve tried to show and teach him right from wrong. I’ve cared for him, cried for him, loved and laughed with him. Taken him to see new things, and stayed home and snuggled. For seventeen years he has been at the center of my universe, my reason for being. My life.

Tonight my sweet baby boy… #1… pride and joy just pulled out of the driveway, the car now officially his. A free man. Taking his younger brother, my sweet-pea………my other pride and joy, for ice cream. Together, on their own in the car, for the very first time. I stood at the window and watched….still learning the clutch, as the car jerked down the driveway, and then to the road…..and freedom. Spreading his wings and flying in to the world. And I cried……I cried for what is now gone, and I cried for what yet will be. My marvelous, sweet baby boy has become a man.

He is not yet fully grown, nor fully gone. Hopefully we still have many good years together ahead of us. But with unflinching certainty, the days of his childhood are dwindling, giving way hesitantly, to his still uncertain future as a man. I pray that I have taught him well. That the lessons of life I have tried to instill will be remembered. Choose well my son……… are a child of God. A child of mine. There goes my life……

All he could think about was
I’m too young for this.
Got my whole life ahead.
Hell I’m just a kid myself.
How’m I gonna raise one.

All he could see were his dreams goin’ up in smoke.
So much for ditchin’ this town and hangin’ out on the coast.
Oh well, those plans are long gone.

And he said,
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
Might as well kiss it all good-bye.
There goes my life…….

A couple years of up all night and a few thousand diapers later.
That mistake he thought he made covers up the refrigerator.
Oh yeah……….he loves that little boy.

Momma’s waiting to tuck him in,
As she fumbles up those stairs.
She smiles back at him dragging that teddy bear.
Sleep tight, blue eyes and bouncin’ curls.

He smiles…..
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you, daddy good-night.
There goes my life.

He had that Honda loaded down.
With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes and his American Express.
He checked the oil and slammed the hood, said you’re good to go.
He hugged them both and headed off to the West Coast.

And he cried,
There goes my life.
There goes my future, my everything.
I love you.
Baby good-bye.

There goes my life.
There goes my life.
Baby good-bye.

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A good day…..

DATED: 12/1/2009

Today was the first clear, sunny day we have seen in a while.

 Today was my weekly trip to Westport.  I got on the company plane (a twin propeller engine King Air) at 6:45.  We lifted off in to the crisp, clear and cold morning air by 7:00am.  Normally our route would take us “over the top”, directly over the Olympics, flying just over and next to Mt. Olympus at 10,000ft and then down and on to Hoquiam.  Today we went around the Olympics.  First flying East, then South over Shelton before turning West to Hoquiam, skirting the Olympics the whole way.

 Today was a full moon day.  Before leaving, as I drove to the airport I could see the full moon, not long for this day dropping to the horizon.  With the clear air and sky, and the full moon,  I knew this would be a good flight.

 As we flew the sun was just coming up.  Though I never saw its golden orb, I witnessed the sun announcing its coming by painting the entire skyline red, orange and yellow.  The cascades silhouetted in black before it.  As we flew South Mt. Rainier grew larger and larger, as the sun continued its lightshow, silhouetting it too with a gorgeous pastel of fire.   Rainier was not alone in the sky this morning, further in the distance Mt. Adams and the now truncated Mt. St. Helens also stood guardian in the fiery sky, and Mt. Hood a small tip in the far distance.

 As we flew I continually looked west, keeping track of the progress of the moon.  Its yellow orb peeking in slivers between cloud layers in the distance.  Slowly falling, turning from yellow in shades to orange.  Peeking in and out until at last look, all that was left was a small bit of the top, a dull distant orange, which cloud and sky had warped into a triangular shape.

 Today was a longer day in Westport.  Our usual departure of 3-3:45 was postponed until 4:15.  As we made the 40min drive to Hoquiam (where the plane lands, WP runway is not long enough)  I again never did see the golden orb of the sun, but witnessed once again its majesty, as it fell into the Pacific Ocean.  Much angrier this time having to leave the day behind, it painted the sky in a burning red and orange blaze much richer and deeper than it had in its quiet morning ascent.

By the time we were in the air the sun was long gone, and only the hot orange glow of its passing, spread across the Pacific Ocean remained.  In short order, that too was gone, swallowed by the night.

 Looking to the east, the Moon which I had seen fall in the morning, had already risen high in the east.  Full, large and bright.  As we flew – this time “over the top” the light of the moon reflecting off the snow covered Olympic mountains lit the night as if it were dawn.  Overpowering its much smaller and dimmer cousins, I occasionally saw a star which managed to force itself through the brightness of the moon lit night sky.

 As we passed Mt. Olympus heading North, a bit of turbulence announced to me that we were on our descent, flying over the Elwha valley where the air rushing over the top of the Olympics met the air coming up the valley from the Ocean, creating the bouncing turbulence announcing to me our location.

 Below the lights of Port Angeles, the lights of home, beckoned.  To the North, across the Strait the larger city of Victoria shone brightly, illuminating a large stretch of the coastline of Vancouver island.  Beyond that, though much further away, almost as brightly shone the lights of Vancouver.  And beyond that………faintly, the lights of Whistler Mountain lighting up the snow for the night skiers. 

 Above it all, the orb of the Moon shone brightly, reflecting large swaths of light on the waters of the Strait.  Between my eye, and the moon, it seemed to light up only the path between itself and Port Angeles, lighting my way home.  The shimmering, dancing of the light from the moon on the waters, with the night lights of the city below was a sight that only could be captured in its fullest by the camera of my mind’s eye.

 Flying just past, and over my house, though I could not see its lights because of trees, I knew exactly where it was. Looking down I knew that inside were a wife, and two children, probably already eating because I was late.  Three people who mean everything in this world to me.  Safe, warm, happy and fed.  I would soon join them, bringing my day at work to a close.

 From 10,000 feet I watched the sun rise and the moon fall as day dawned.  From 10,000 feet I watched the sun fall, and the moon rise as day ended.  In all the glory and majesty nature has to offer.  And I was blessed to be there to see it.  And I thank God for this Earth he created, and all the blessings he had given me, and for the family that I love.

 It was …….  a good day.

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Passages of time.

Last Tuesday night I had the privilege of taking my two favorite people in the world, my sons, to an Iron Maiden concert.  Rylee is 17 and Austin is 12.  They’ve been to a couple of small “concerts” before (Wolfmother, Big & Rich) but this was their first full on “real” Concert.

Think what you may of their music, and the images associated with them – specifically the evil grinnig “Eddie” – but Iron Maiden has been around for over 30 years and is hugely popular the entire world over.  They’re music is complex and heavy, and my boys are quickly becoming big fans.  I’ve personally been listening to thier music for at least 28 years.

The first time I saw the band was way back in 1983.  I have followed their music ever since.  The sounds they create have become as much a part of me as all the many other varied influences that have shaped my life.  If you were to ask me “Who is Ben Phillips”, the music of Iron Maiden would be one small piece of the many colored tapestry of life and experience that is me.

The first time I saw them back in 1983, I was a young 17 year old kid myself.  Last Thursday I again got to see what is a part of me perform live 28 years later, this time with my own 17 year old son.  He really likes their music.  Will he enjoy it for the 28 years that I have, or will it be just another passing musical interlude, that touches his life and moves on.  Much as many have done for me.  Will this one night be another piece that makes up the multicolored tapestry that is Rylee Phillips?  Only time will tell.

I cant help but wonder, what other pieces to this tapestry that is, and will be Rylee, are yet to be discovered?  Will they be good?  Will they make him a better man?  What will they teach him?  Will he choose wisely?  So many questions about the man that he will become, that as a parent I wonder, and worry about.  So many questions that only the passage of time will tell.

He is slowly spreading his wings.  He is becoming a man.  Reluctantly so, hesitant to leave behind the comfort that is childhood.  But he cannot avoid the inevitable, and I know he is beginning to look ahead of him, to where he will go, and where his life will take him.

One thing that I do know for sure. That one large piece of the tapestry of Rylee, the one that we have worked together to weave for the last 17 years, is almost complete. The piece that is our father to child relationship, the piece that is “Rylee my baby, my young son, my young man” and “Ben my Daddy”. I have tried so very hard to be the very best father to him that I could. I have succeeded. And I have failed. And I love him more than I ever thought it possible to love someone..

Soon………hell……… its already begun, we begin together on a new piece to the tapestry of Rylee.  To weave the relationship of Man to Man, Father to Son.   Spread your wings Rylee, be all that you can be.  You will always be my #1 son, and I will always be your Dad.  And I will always be there for you.

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To be, or not to be:

That is the quesion.Running around on what often seems to be the Hamster wheel of life, doing the same thing over and over.  Day in and day out.   Is this what life is all about.  “Why am I here”, “What is the purpose of this life”. Questions with no real answers.  The answer can only be found within, when I can look myself in the mirror and say:  “THIS is why I am here”, “THIS is my purpose in life”.

The waters of life, and time, are increasingly flowing by, faster and faster.  What was once a far distant tomorrow, has now become a far distant yesterday.  And I run and I run to catch up with the sun….but it’s sinking.  Racing around to come up behind me again.

Why am I here, what is the purpose of my life.  I am Ben, I am a husband, I am a father, I am a brother, I am a son……….I am me.  Sometimes strong, sometimes weak.  Sometimes invincible, sometimes fallible.  Sometimes so many things, sometimes not anything at all.

When this sojourn of life draws to a close, and I look back, and reflect with finality “Who am I”, “What was my life all about”.  Will I be satisfied with the answer.  I know I will have regrets.  Regrets that hopefully were lessons hard earned and learned.  But will I be satisfied with my answer?

There is so much I want to do, to see, to learn, to be.  But that must wait , while I get back on my hamster wheel and run in my own race of life. 

Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity.  Another day that all too soon will be yesterday.  Will I make the best of it?  CAN I make the best of it?  I dont know.  Questions for which I dont have the answer.  But they are questions for which I MUST find the answer.  To be or not to be……..I choose to be.

And tomorrow….is the first day, of the rest of my life. 

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A metaphor for life.

Several weeks ago, just another Saturday, business as usual around the house.  The sun was out in all its glory, a rare treat it seems these days.  The wife and I were out and about tending to our house, our yard, our life.  Because we were busy, going in and going out, I had both of the big garage doors open.

One trip through, I entered the garage and heard a buzzing noise above.  Looking up I could see that a Hummingbird had flown into the garage.  Finding itself walled in by unfamiliar, un-natural surroudings, it flew up to the one thing it could see that did look right.  The only patch of blue sky in this confine…… sky as seen through the skylight window of the garage.

Having flown to the one thing that surely must provide freedom, blue sky above, it now found itself trapped by an invisible barrier it could not understand.  It only saw the blue skies of freedom beyond, and continued fruitlessly trying to get there, buzzing against the pane.

I attempted to free it from its misery, but it was too high up, and too small.  A fishing net duct taped to a wooden pole proved useless, only frightening the small creature more.

The way out was easy, was wide open, ready and available for the bird to use.  If it could only see it.  The two open garage doors provided a cavernous escape route.  But trapped where it was this tiny creature could only see and focus on the one sure thing that it knew HAD to be freedom.  It could not see nor comprehend the invisible barrier that prevented its escape, so it continued to flail itself against the impossible.  Anymore than it could see or comprehend that there may be another way out.  By only looking up, never looking down, it died.   By continuing to focus on one thing it could see as the most important goal of its life, it died.  All the while to doors to freedom stood wide open.  Just feet away from its suffering.

How human is this, to keep beating our heads against that which we cannot see as the barrier that prevents us from flying to our own freedom.  To continue only looking up, looking at whatever path we have set ourselves on, and not see that it is ultimately a path to nowhere, but our own ruin or failure.

Stop, look around, look down, look where you have been.  Perhaps there is a barrier right in front of your vision, that you cannot see, preventing further groth.  Perhaps the answer to some of lifes struggles, lies behind us.  Not in front.

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R.I.P. Tree

You got too big.  You really didnt fit in, or even play well with the others in the yard.  You got in the way.  I’m sorry, but your time had come.

It took you well over 10 years to get as big, and as tall as you did.  One quarter of my own life span, you shared this planet with me.  I was only there for half of it, you started before I came to know you.  And in the short span of only an hour, you were nothing but pieces on my lawn, and piled into my truck and heaped into my trailer.  In only an hour, one small drip of time compared to the river of time you had grown, all that you worked for, all you had hoped to be….reaching for the sky.  Was gone, forever.  Your legacy?  Just a few small pieces of firewood that will someday warm my campsite.

And so it can be in life.  One small choice, one seemingly random decision, one odd twist of fate…..and the life we know, and have known for so long can be changed irrevocably in an instant.  The future we reached to be, worked so hard to achieve…….gone.

Choose wisely.

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