The Long & Short of It

In the Dark
A Place to Reflect. Photo taken by Tim Graves at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

It was longer, it is shorter now. My colon, that is. Two years ago my right colon was removed. That experience of surgery, hospitalization, and months of recovery changed me. Significantly.

On the second anniversary of my semi-colon, my incision said “hello” with a sensation that got my attention. It’s not unusual for it to speak to me, especially when I’m working my abdominal muscles at the gym.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of love, of vulnerability & mortality, and my humanity. The hellos remind me that caring for myself is not an extra. It is an essential.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of the love of my wife of nearly 37-years who took time off work to cook me mashed potatoes and help me manage the infected wound area. (It required gross things). They remind me of my children who ignored me when I told them they didn’t need to come see me.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of my vulnerability. There was something humbling and spiritual about being dependent: by medical staff in the hospital and my beloved at home. I experienced living fully human. To suffer and depend on others is part of how we are created. We are one family.

I confess I like the hellos because surgery & recovery changed me. I no longer give lip service to self-care. I take care of myself even when it is not convenient. I know — I believe & embrace — that I am important to myself, to others, and to the one I call God.  I start my day with the gym or I stop work early and lace up my running shoes. I hike in the Columbia River Gorge, the sage-marinated trails of eastern Oregon, or I hike the sacred Mt. Hood. I take rest days when my body and spirit needs them.

After two-years with a semi-colon, I am thankful for the “one permutation from cancer” growths that necessitated removal of my right colon. Though my life is still filled with personal challenges, personal mistakes, deep grief at times, I am blessed by the divine presence within creation and  each of us that nudges and encourages every rock and human being to be the most loving that we are capable of becoming.


This is the twelfth of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy and removal of my right colon.

Related Posts

God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural, May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos, May 27, 2014
No Big Deal, May 29, 2014
Mortality, June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories, June 6, 2014
Perseverance, June 10, 2014
Scars, June 19, 2014
Embracing Emotions, July 2, 2014
An Unexpected Onion, January 14, 2015
One Year Ago Today, March 28, 2015
The Long & Short of It, March 29, 2016



“I Just Know”

“I Just Know”
New Blooms Burst Forth
Blooms burst forth in the company of trees and grasses that burnt only eight months prior. McCall Point, near Rowena, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

I know a woman who on deep spiritual issues (and small ones) will close off conversations with, “I just know.” I have learned the futility of even asking clarifying questions once she’s pronounced her surety. I’ve experienced the consequences of waking her aggressive defensiveness from its slumber one too many times.

Living in the ambiguity of life, in the space in which there are more questions than answers, can be disconcerting. It’s understandable to yearn for certainty in the midst of the inexplicable and perceived dangers. Despite our scientific strivings to answer the mysteries of our existence, we know little with absolute assurance.

For many, religious dogma or a form of spirituality of “just knowing” provides, if not solid ground, than the illusion of it. We probably all dabble in pretending confidence without solid evidence at times. To do otherwise in at least some small matters would lead us to brain-freeze and the inability to take any action.

To function, we need something onto which to hold on this slippery, rocky trail that is a little too close to cliff’s edge for comfort.

Or do we? Must we have the dogma of absolute certainty of God or no-God to make sense of the world?


Something within me allows me to tolerate the unknown mysteries, the ambiguity of life more openly than the woman who “just knows.” Even so, she and I are not that different. I experience a feeling of certainty that there is an essence that runs within my life and all of creation. I even have a name I call that core: God. I find comfort in the experience of God as I deal with the randomness, the utter capriciousness of life.

Still, she “just knows” and I don’t know. I surmise. I suspect. I perceive and wonder. And I doubt. At times I’m convinced it’s all made up. Whatever it, is.

I make connections as I observe the natural world. I perceive that the experience I call God is the loving life-force that binds creation together. I observe this energy in nature as a forest renews just months after destructive fire. I sense vigor in the healing that comes after death within nature as well as human relationships.

I also see much randomness and pain in nature and human relationships. Why wouldn’t I doubt?

To doubt is to think. It is to pay attention as I traverse the rocky path. Sometimes doubt trips me up and I fall. As I get back up, I inspect my wound. Sometimes I scold myself for not paying attention, for doubting. Sometimes, without much thought, I just get back up and keep moving.

Eventually the redness, the broken skin, or swelling dissipates. Though healing happens in time, I can never be described as good as new. I am changed.

From the doubting and falling, from the self-annoyance and physical pain, I learn. Through doubt I again experience that energy I call God in relationship, transforming me into something more.

Ambiguity, randomness, and mystery are full partners in life. I just know it, except when I don’t.

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Crashing into Sin

I watched the movie Crash last evening. My wife’s comments after it was over were, “Well, that was depressing.” She was right and yet there were also tiny slivers of hope.

This movie begins at the scene of a multiple car crash in Los Angeles. We are then taken back to the day prior. The film builds very slowly as we meet characters from a variety of racial and ethnic groups: Americans of European and Middle Eastern descent, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans. The characters display bigotry, hatred, anxiety, fears, hopes, and many of the worst aspects of human nature. Very few of the characters fully gain the viewers’ sympathy and, yet, none of the characters are without some redeeming character no matter how small.

As I reflect on the film, the word to describe the actions in it I believe is sin. I define sin as a separation from God and from each other. Separation was plenty in this film. People judged one another based on skin color and actions. People used other people, killed other people, and molested other people but mostly they didn’t see each other or hear each other. It was not a complimentary view of humanity.

And yet there were slivers of hope. One character that demeaned another in the worst possible way, refused to leave her to die after a car crash. Another character who seemed to have given up on his brother, made sure his elderly mother had groceries in her refrigerator, one carjacker displayed empathy for illegal aliens who were bound toward slavery. There was hope when the individuals however briefly opened their eyes and saw their fellow human beings.

So, what do I do with these film images that refuse to leave my head?

This film doesn’t reflect my view of humanity or life and, yet, it is hard to deny that there is truth in this film. What I didn’t see in this film were people who consistently choose to operate from a place of love. I know lots of those people. Typically, they are people of faith; they are Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims. In this blog, I will periodically highlight individuals in my life who exude the love of God or Allah or Jehovah or who seek the peace of enlightenment. Some of these people I have known for years; with some I only had brief encounters. In each of these human beings I can feel the Spirit in them.