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Photo by Jeff Suwak (copyright 2019). I found this carved into a tree near the Audubon bird park in Seqium, Washington. I love the color of the tree’s interior contrasted against the white bark.

I don’t normally do this sort of piece, but I got called out!

Besides, thinking about 40 things I love seems like a worthwhile exercise. Thanks Felix Irkinas, Mark Starlin, and Tracy Aston for throwing down the gauntlet.

  1. Old machinery and gradations of rust. Maybe because I grew up in the country wandering the woods and fields and was always finding old machinery and things, or maybe because I grew up in northeast Pennsylvania where the rusting remnants of the area’s coal-fueled golden age are omnipresent…I don’t know, but I love patterns of rust in metal, as well as in general old cars, tractors, etc.
  2. Achieving long term goals and seeing people I care about achieve their goals. I really don’t know which I love better. I get a thrill every time I see the people I care about succeed at something important to them, whether that important thing be financial, career-based, health-based, artistic, whatever. I love seeing people succeed, even strangers, but when it’s people I care about, I usually end up more excited than they are.
  3. Writing. Many people say that once you start doing something you love for money, you stop loving it. That absolutely hasn’t been the case for me. Every dollar I get for writing, every acceptance letter I get from a publication, still to this day gives me a thrill-jolt, and I would say my love for writing has only deepened.
  4. “I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” This line, by T.S. Eliot, from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. It’s probably my favorite single line of poetry ever, except perhaps for Bukowski’s “our hearts roar like lions at what they’ve done to us.”
  5. Long distance running. Injuries have prevented me from doing this for a bit, but long distance running has always been something I love. There comes a point, usually at about the 5 mile mark for me, that everything in the world fades away and all there is is the rhythm of the run and the ground beneath my feet, and it’s total peace. It’s like meditation.
  6. Martial arts and combat sports.
  7. My friends and family. Sort of goes without saying. I have maintained close friendships with the crew of guys I grew up with. We are scattered around the country now but stay in regular contact. I’m very grateful for that. Then, of course, my mom, siblings, etc., and my new friends in my new home.
  8. Curiosity and wonder. People seem to think I’m being hyperbolic when I say I don’t know what it means to be bored, but I really don’t. I find life fascinating…people, places, ideas, all of it.
  9. Learning.
  10. History. I’m particularly fond of ancient history, history of the occult, and old religions. Probably my main area of weird interest is the dark side of the 1960s…the cults, the shady intel agencies, the all of it. I have no idea why this is and have spent some time trying to figure out why this particular area fascinates me the way it does and why I’ve invested enough time reading about Manson Family to get a freaking Phd. I have yet to understand why any of this is.
  11. Books. Favorites include Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, Cannery Row (Steinbeck), Great and Secret Show (Barker), Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway), Roadmarks (Zelazny), The Family (Ed Sanders), Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Songyal Rinpoche), Tristessa (Kerouac), The Wanderers (Richard Price)…eh, I could just go on and on.
  12. Humility. Seemingly harder and harder to find every day.
  13. Raw, honest-sounding music. Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night. Bruce Springsteen Nebraska. Old blues. Tom Waits. Far as I’m concerned, everything music is at its best can be found in Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” (Speaking of Johnson, he was one of few bluesmen named “blind” who really was blind…his mother intentionally threw lye in his face when he was 7 years old…blind from that day forward he still never wavered from his conviction that God put him here to preach and to use music to express his faith…amazing man and amazing story.)

14. Competition. I love competing at just about anything. I don’t like losing, though, but I get over it pretty quick.

15. Outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, camping, whatever…I just love the outdoors.

16. Swimming. Especially in natural water…lakes, ponds, etc.

17. Libraries. Nothing better than finding a quiet corner of the library, roaming the stacks and just gathering 10 or so books that catch my eye, stacking them on a desk and reading and writing for a few hours.

18. The photography of Bruce Davidson.

19. Lake Quinault and the surrounding mountains and forests. If I had to pick on spot that was my favorite west of the Cascades, I’d go with Lake Quinault and the area around it.

20. Mount Rainier. I love being on the mountain, but I also love having it on the horizon as I go about my day. Never ceases to amaze me.

22. Insects. Insects fascinate me…not sure why. I don’t feel a warmth towards them the way I do for dogs, etc., but something about them excites my imagination.

23. Swing dancing. I don’t do it, but I love watching it. Really, I enjoy just about all forms of upbeat dancing. I also love tap dancing.

24. Walking. Separate from aforementioned hiking…here I mean simply walking by myself. Especially if it’s on a nice day.

25. Autumn in northeast Pennsylvania, where I grew up.

26. Summer in the Pacific Northwest, where I live now.

27. Sushi and pizza…carrots, nectarines, and cherries. I also love lamb jalfrezi. Linguine with clam sauce. Caprese. Lobster tail. Mashed potatoes.

28. Hanging with friends around a good campfire. There’s just something about sitting around a good campfire with friends. I can’t think of any better way to hang with friends.

29. The Constitution and everything America stands for at its best.

30. New Orleans. Visited several times and hope to visit several more before I die. I love that city.

31. Hard physical labor. I don’t get to do this too much anymore, but I love hard work that leaves you pleasantly tired and with that glow of satisfaction that only hard physical labor can give.

32. Getting in a good workout first thing in morning. Sets the tone for the whole day. Days are always better if I manage to get my ass out of bed and hit the gym first thing.

33. Otters. I love watching otters in the wild. Something about the animals really cracks me up and makes me happy.

34. Road trips. Where I’m going doesn’t even matter all that much. I just love the travel itself.

35. Independent thinkers.

36. Sound of snow falling. When all the other sounds fade away and you can hear snow falling on top of snow. I love that sound.

37. Anomalous events. I love events that seem to fall outside the bounds of reality…or that seem to insinuate something bigger at work. Things that keep the mystery of life alive.

38. Random connections, opportunities, and experiences that arise out of the writing. The financial ROI for creative writing can be pretty low, but the existential ROI is awesome. I have all kinds of weird encounters and experiences that pop up from having writing out there. It keeps life interesting and fresh.

39. Intelligently done horror films. Wicker Man, Don’t Look Now, It Follows, etc. I don’t watch movies much these days, but I do love well-done horror films.

40. Alchemical/esoteric symbolism and Medieval artwork.

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I’m not in the Matrix. I AM the Matrix.

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