Old Friends

IMG_5026.JPGI read a quote or saying once that urged us to always see things with new eyes — something like, “Look at an oak tree as if it were the first one you’ve ever seen.” I don’t know when or where I read it, and it could just be someone’s casual new-age philosophizing, but I enjoy the thought. I think it means seeing things fully as they are, without letting familiarity sap away the wonder. It’s part of what I hope to get across through this blog.

My (figuratively) closest friends are scattered across the hemisphere from California to northern Germany, but one of them swung by here last weekend. As I drove her around this little corner of the state, I tried to push my mind back a few years to when I moved here and saw it all for the first time. She helped me get those new eyes again.

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IMG_5036.JPGThat’s it for now — thanks for looking, and have a good Memorial Day.

Dan

Geometry

IMG_8099Fuzzy tendrils reach out from a blossom’s golden innards in a Strawberry Hill Farms potted plant in Columbia, Missouri. The farm might be the biggest plant nursery I’ve seen.

IMG_8101Columbia’s where my grandparents live, at least when they’re not out at the farm. Until a little more than a week ago, it had been maybe a decade since I was there. Their house is almost exactly how I remember — the carpet, the board games on the shelves, the crowded kitchen bar my grandma always apologizes for. The place felt a little smaller than I remembered.

It was an extended weekend of driving, first to Columbia, then up to St. Joe, where my friend Mike makes cookies and hangs out with his shy cat named Henderson.

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IMG_8169From there it was up to Lincoln, Nebraska, of course. It’s been too long for each of these places.

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IMG_8324I’ve known each of these places for years, but they aren’t the same as before. Their shapes always change. It’s the same for people and their stories, I suppose.

IMG_8172For example, take this sister and her two students, running through a big, empty field toward a Science Olympiad event just because that’s what you do in big, empty fields. Science Olympiad is a competition with a couple dozen different topics and challenges, and back in my middle-school and high-school days, I was a massive Science Olympiad nerd.

You can clearly see I’m not a nerd anymore. But the point is new nerds and new coaches have come in. Now one of my old teammates is an event supervisor, and my old coach comes mostly for old times’ sake, and they’re both working on bigger things. The state competition still happens in Lincoln, but the town has changed, too, especially downtown. Time and other forces have nudged and stretched everything’s shape.

IMG_8207The university’s new features include a rock-climbing building and a roving skateboard gang. At least some of the same trombone players are still around to climb with.

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IMG_8377I’m sorry it’s taken so long for this post, and to make it up to you, I plan to have another up today or tomorrow from yesterday’s Razorback Greenway opening here in Northwest Arkansas. Take a look, if you like.

Thanks for looking!

Time for a Wedding

_C1_6084Another weekend, another two friends married back in Nebraska. And both trombone players! I’m sad I had to miss one, but I’m glad I could make it to my friend Ricky’s (and Stephanie’s). I’ll take these little reunions whenever I can, and it’s a thrilling, nerve-wracking, exhausting day for a good friend, so I’m there.

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_C1_6335After the actual marriage ceremony, the bride and groom disappeared to take a couple hundred photos somewhere. They used up all the light, so I have hardly any photos of them, dang it. An hour later, though, they returned, and the party really got started.

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_C1_6480Here they are! Congratulations, Ricky and Stephanie. We all wish you the best. And as always, great to see you, Nebraska.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

Vacation

_C1_4046I just got back from my first official vacation as a grown-up from my grown-up job. I used it to see places I like and people I love up north in St. Joseph, Mo., and Lincoln, Neb. Of course the camera was brought along, too.

First was St. Joe, where one of my best friends now works. Before he got off work I spent a couple of hours getting acquainted with a town that’s about the same size as Fayetteville but lacks the heavy dose of college.

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_C1_3823St. Joe sits right on Missouri’s edge along the Missouri River. Like towns across the Midwest, railroads sustained it. Now the wedge between the rail and downtown, mostly neighborhoods, is in pretty rough shape. But religious statues stand solemnly in many yards and kids found plenty to do in the afternoon.

A woman named Karen asked what I was doing walking around with a camera in a way that was somehow friendly and demanding at once. She’s raising her grandkids, she said, and didn’t like creeps. “Like that guy,” she muttered darkly, pointing to a white man walking in the middle of the street. But Karen was good-natured, busily clearing weeds and leaves from her front yard and chatting with her good friend Patty before picking up those grandchildren from school.

Later my friend took me to a restaurant that had the greatest calzones, bulging with cheese and thick dough that shone with garlic butter. The next morning, it was on to Lincoln.

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_C1_3883It was the weekend of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football team’s spring game — essentially showing (or finding out) what next year’s team can do in front of 40,000 people. Games in the fall will bring more than twice that many.

If you’re not familiar with Husker football, I’ll tell you one thing: It’s an institution. There are no professional teams in the state, and you won’t find anyone who doesn’t at least have a relative or friend bleeding Husker red. In short, even the spring game is exciting here, and my hotel was packed (though a wedding or two also helped).

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_C1_4124If you don’t know, I played trombone for the Cornhusker Marching Band for four years, including the last two as section leader. I almost wished I had brought my trombone along. But the most important part of this trip was my friends. I can’t even say how great it is to see them. I hadn’t been up to Lincoln since August, and my pulse was up the moment I stepped out of my car. Energizing is the first word that comes to mind, but that doesn’t really cover it.

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_C1_3973On Sunday the 80-degree and sunny weather gave way to an epic cold front that dumped the hardest rain I’ve ever encountered and sent temperatures into free fall. Pelicans had arrived for their annual migration at the Bellevue lake where another friend lives.

By Sunday night, the unthinkable happened. It snowed. Good to see you, too, Nebraska.

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_C1_4207I mean that, though. Good to see you, Nebraska.

Thanks for looking,

Dan