How to make a musical instrument out of a carrot

Here are a couple of musical pieces by Linsey Pollak I came across this weekend.   The first one is from a 5 minute TED talk on how to make your own musical instrument out of a carrot, and the second is just as good.   Let me know what you think. ;-)  DM



Posted in enjoying life, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Conversation With A Zen Master

Conversation with a Zen Master

Like many Westerners in the late sixties, I wanted to be somewhere else in my religious journey.  Confusion reigned in the kingdom of my mind, and I yearned to construct a framework of understanding that seemed beyond my present cultural tools.  I couldn’t seem to get “there” from “here.”

Zen and its idea of enlightenment appealed to me.  That one might sit very still and empty one’s mind and suddenly be hit by a mighty wave of comprehension beyond words – well, that would do.  Hit me with the big news and let me walk away with a sense of “I get it!”

Took a leave of absence from my dailiness and went off to Japan to get Zenned properly.  Got connected to a temple and a master.  Shaved my head and face, put on the drab grey robe of novitiate, and stood in line to get enlightened.  Figured to become a pretty holy man in pretty short order, like in about six weeks, which was when my return ticket home expired. Right.

But of course it was not to be.  Sitting still gave me hallucinations and cramps, but not enlightenment.  The food gave me diarrhea.  Sleeping on a board gave me a backache.  And my fellow monks treated me like a Western fool, laughing at me behind my back.  It was one of those times when you know enough to realize there’s something everybody but you knows, but you don’t know enough to know exactly what it is you don’t know.

But I did know it was time to leave.

To my surprise, an invitation was extended for an interview with the master of the temple.  Which was like a stock boy being asked to have lunch with the president of the company.

Since it was largely because of his reputation that I had chosen this particular temple, and since he rarely spent time with tourists like me, the master’s invitation seemed a special honor.

Manabu Khohara, Ph. D. in economics from Tokyo University, solver of all Zen koans (mind puzzles) adviser to captains of industry, writer of books, speaker of seven foreign languages, a paradigm of the treat teacher.  Wise, good, respected, accomplished.  If he didn’t have “it” all figured out, then nobody did.

After I was ushered into his private study, we knelt on cushions and bowed our mutual respect.  He out of courtesy and I out of awe.  For a long time he looked at me and into me.

Very deliberately he shifted his weight to one knee, and just as deliberately reached for his backside and scratched himself in a way and in that place your mother told you was a no-no in public.

“I have hemorrhoids.  They hurt and itch.”

There was nothing in my mental manual as to how to reply to such an opening remark.  I kept my mouth shut and pretended to be thoughtful.

“The hemorrhoids come from stress, you know.  From worrying about tourists burning down this firetrap of a temple.  From worrying about trying to get enough funding from businessmen to keep it in repair.  From arguing with my wife and children, who are not as holy” – he smiled – as I am.  And from despairing over the quality of the lazy young fools who want to be priests nowadays.  Sometimes I think I would like to get a little place in Hawaii and just play golf for the rest of my life.”

He leaned to one side and scratched himself again.

“It was this way before I was “enlightened” you know.  And now it is the same after enlightenment.”

A long pause while he silently gave me time to consider his words and actions.

Rising, he motioned me to follow him to the entrance alcove of the temple, and we stood before an ancient scroll I had often passed.  He said it was time for me to go home, where he felt I had been a “thirsty man looking for a drink and all the while standing knee- deep in a flowing stream.”  Yes…..

from the book It was On Fire When I lay Down on it.  by Robert Fughum


DM here ;-)  Grant Wood (artist of American Gothic fame)  grew up just a stones throw from where we live.  He traveled all over the world studying the masters of paint  and palate . Eventually he  returned home to Iowa, formed an artist colony and painted profusely until the day he died.

I love that line  “thirsty man looking for a drink and all the while standing knee- deep in a flowing stream.”

If I have to go somewhere else in order to be wouldn’t take long and I will not be happy there either.

We  take our baggage with us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you my regular readers! ;-) DM

Looking at the ocean



Posted in enjoying life, faith, humor, life, personal, robert fulghum, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Measuring Long Term Stress

Friend of mine  had his machine shed catch fire yesterday.  Fortunately no one was injured, but I keep thinking to myself, the stress level in his life has got to be off the chart.  He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in April, had surgery in May.  In June their farm sustained considerable storm damage from straight line winds.

In July, their place was hit with a tornado.

…and now a fire.

Back in the mid 80’s I audited several counseling classes.  In one of them we  looked at the effects of long-term stress.

(Side note: Not all stress is bad.  In fact, in measured doses it can actually contribute to your quality of life.  In gardening we call the process  “Hardening off.”  Hardening  enables a  plant to grow strong to be able to withstand  all the challenges it will meet in the garden.  The problems start when the plant experience too much stress in too short of time.)

Back to that class I mentioned….There was a stress assessment we all took called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

It rated life events on a scale from 15 to 100 points.  The higher you scored, the more likely a candidate  you were to come down with a stressed induce illness.

Had a light bulb moment when I saw my score.

Over 300 points.

  Here is a link to that test if you’re interested.


Here is a link to a new Huffington Post article on stress I just came across that ties right in to this topic.

Thoughts, comments questions? DM






Posted in christianity, enjoying life, faith, family, life, perseverance, personal, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Farmer’s Wake

It happened the  Fall of 2012.

 The first time I  read a  poem  that  I instantly connected with.

Heck, it was the first time I’d ever connected w/ a poem, period.

I mentioned recently, I live in the Hinterlands far from the cultural centers  of today.

Just for the record, what I’m about to tell you  does not change any of that. ;-)

Ann Maren-Hogan  (like Grant Wood)  grew up 15 miles from my place.  She has done with words what Grant Wood did with paint and canvas, ie.  both taking their inspiration from the rugged, earthy beauty of  the Midwest.

Here is a little blurb on the back cover of her  book of poems called The Farmer’s Wake :

“I can feel the grit of dust and crunch of downed cornstalks in these poems.  They are not nostalgic ditties, but instead are strong songs, often in a haunting minor key, that remove me to a time when many footsteps, from many families, from many homes, sounded on the Midwestern farm scape.”


The Farmer’s Wake

It’s the third night of his wake,

all nine of his children in line to hold

the hand of the next neighbor or cousin, to hold

their shoulders, to steady themselves in this earthquake,

of letting their father slip into the barren January night.


Each farmer’s hand feels like it could be his, solid,

calloused, oversized,  able.  His grip steadied mourners here,

a pivotal storyteller at wakes, dredging up tales from the fields,

from the years during the war, when farm boys like him were

exempt.  He could resurrect the one lying in the casket till

he was full flesh among us.


Tonight the stories are about him, his hands stroking

the backs of the work horses,

how he always cried when he spoke of his mother,

the way he sang in the stairwells, pickup trucks, booming

songs around the piano every Sunday.


The hands keep reaching out night after night of this wake

strengthening mine so I can lower him into the hillside with

Great-Grandfather from Tipperary, Grandmother from

Rosecommon, lie him down here with all

the faithful caretakers of green fields,

stretching out

like fingers from this hill.


I (DM) knew Anne’s father just a little.  Maybe that’s why I connect so strongly with many of her poems, although I don’t think so.

If you’d like to get a copy of Anne’s book The Farmer’s Wake, you can pick yourself up a copy here, on Amazon.

Took this picture looking at the field to the South of our home:


Corn stalk bales on a Fall evening


Tell me about a writer or poet you connect with (and why)  Feel free to share a portion of their work on your comment if you want. :-)


Posted in christianity, church, faith, family, farming, History, Iowa, Iowa History, life, life in the country, personal, random, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Spiral Into Depression

My Spiral Into Depression

I learned at CCEF  “almost anything can be at the root of depression: a recent illness in which you get behind in your work, hormonal changes, a reversal of fortune, the consequences of simple negligence, guilt over a particular sin, self-pity arising from jealousy or a disadvantageous turn of events, bad feelings resulting from resentment, worry, etc….the important fact to remember is that a depression does not result directly from any of those factors, but rather comes from a cyclical process in which the initial problem is mishandled in such a way that it is enlarged in downward helixical spirals that eventually plunge one into despair.

    Mine came about due to the death of a  vision.

Disclaimer: Going to talk about my faith.  If that sort of thing gets under your skin, stop now, you won’t hurt my feelings. ;-)


May 4, 1980 7:48 PM I wrote this in the front cover of a little New Testament:  “I made a commitment to God to live my life for him.”

Translation:  Just like a marriage covenant between two people, as an adult I made an intentional choice to be in relationship with God himself. What had been a mish mash of confusing irrelevant “church talk” the first 20 years of my life, suddenly became a crystal clear intellectual  decision I was free to accept or reject.  Very much like someone wrestling whether to accept someone’s marriage proposal. I remember wrestling with the implications for 3 days, and finally said “Yes!”

Side note-  this is why I am a big believer in NOT pressuring other people when it comes to the spiritual side of their lives. It’s not productive in our human relationships, and it’s definitely not productive when it comes to matters of faith and spiritual things.

Something definitely changed at that point. There was a new restlessness in my life.  I remember looking at 50 different Christian Colleges, trying to decide whether to be a formally trained pastor, or a marriage and family counselor. Decided I wanted to be a bi-vocational pastor, so we moved from Iowa to New Jersey in 1985 (with two kids in tow),  and enrolled @ CCEF,   Carpenter by day,  teacher/facilitator when  I could.  In 1990 we returned to the Midwest with a strong sense of purpose.  I’d  experienced  5 years of intense discipleship/mentoring  in New Jersey and believed God had brought us home to pass on what I’d learned.

Things were great for the first 2  1/2  years,  then  began to butt heads with our local pastor.  In hindsight, God set me up.  Pastor and I had two completely different  understandings for a healthy church.  His was a more traditional model- Two different models..not wrong/ just different.   I on the other hand craved  deeper relationships  that can’t be cultivated when you’re sitting in rows looking at the back of each others heads.  I know I  wore him out with our intense discussions.   It finally came to a head in November  of 1995. We left the church.   The hardest decision of my life (till then) – 90% of my closest friendships were with those people.  Someone told me later, it felt like a divorce- (it did).

I was confused.  I was angry.  (I’m not giving you all the details- this would get too long.)- I believed I would eventually  be a co-pastor that church…instead, I was on the outside looking in.

The depression had probably started  two years previous, and lingered  another year.  Things  gradually got better  by 1996. Here I sit 18 years later and there is still a bruise on my soul.  Just this morning, as we’ve been organizing our office, I came across several magazines and books related to mentoring and discipleship-  I pitched the magazines, and am selling  some of the books on e-bay. I have no aspiration or intention of ever taking an active role in leadership in a local church.  I’m no longer depressed :-)   just broken- and there is a big difference.

Have you ever wrestled with depression?  What triggered it?  What brought you out of it? (if you’re out of it?)   What good came from it (if any)?

Have you ever watched your life  goal  die?  What was it and where are you at in the process now?

Posted in christianity, enjoying life, faith, life, perseverance, personal, relationships, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why you don’t want to come to Iowa

Hinterlands:  a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers

German, from hinter hinder + Land

First Known Use: 1890

Synonyms : back country, back lands, backwoods, frontier, outback, up-country

Dear Dave,

I know you are thinking strongly about moving to Iowa.  Thought I would jot you a quick note to give you my perspective.  When I hear the word “hinterland” I think of Iowa. Especially that part about being  “beyond the cultural centers.”  Culture is the last thing you’ll ever experience here in Iowa.

My great grand father came to Iowa from Germany before the turn of the century.  Not sure what he was thinking.   There is absolutely nothing here to see or do.  As your friend, I would strongly encourage you to think long and hard before you relocate to such a barren place.  I’m trying to be objective as I write this but I’d rather error on the side of caution, so you won’t be overwhelmed, in the event you would decide to come.

Today (November 7th) the weatherman said we may be in for it next week.   The winter storms here can last for days.  This past Winter, we had a several week stretch where the temperatures did not get above 10 degrees.    Ice and snow storms are common from the first of November through March.

Once we get into May, it’s tornado season.  If you look on the map, we are in the upper area of what is called “tornado alley.”

Electricity only came to our area recently and we still can’t get a good signal for an internet connection.

And the quietness of this place will drive you batty.

The air is dirty and the soil poor.

The water that comes out of the ground is also tainted with all sorts of nasty stuff.

Prices for groceries are probably double the national average.

There are no jobs to be had and the smartest thing I would recommend is you stay right where you are at.

It’s best to live in an area with a higher population density. There is a reason McDonald s doesn’t put a restaurant in towns of less than 10,000, although I hear they have started to make some exceptions with that.

I know there are a few alarmist that write about behavioral sink.

I don’t believe  a word of it.

They claim that cramming too many people in to small an area results in behaviors such as (quoting now) “aggression, submissiveness, sexual deviance, and reproductive abnormalities….

explosive violence, hypersexual activity followed by asexuality, and self-destruction…

More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic.

Mouse society had collapsed….”

You can read more about those experiments here.

We’re not rats or mice, so I don’t think their theories apply.

Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to give it to you straight.

Here are a few recent pictures I’ve taken.

Don’t let them fool you.  This is not a good place to raise a family.

sunrise in Iowa





October morn

Saturday morning sunrise

Morning in the orchard


November morning sky

evening light

After the harvest

misty march morning

 Misty morning in March


Posted in country living, enjoying life, faith, humor, Iowa, personal, photography, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

My thoughts on current events


Remember the song  Dirty Laundry?

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
In her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry…
Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry


As much as I care about staying informed with what’s happening in the world at large, I also care about the state of my inner world.

Inner world as defined as my inner peace, joy, contentment, etc.

I am currently enjoying an extended season of general well-being that  probably started about 2012.

2008  The financial markets and general population were wrapped in fear, myself included.  We have a friend from the  UK put it like this: “...the current economic climate brings a fear into every household across the globe that we might not be the ones to survive the recessions….”   

2010   I remember sitting at my kitchen table with  Stan.  Between the BP oil spill, a supreme court ruling taking the cap off of election funding,  and some  stuff Monsanto was getting away with, Stan was bugging out.  He cared deeply about all  those issues and felt powerless to do a thing about them.

2012.  I decided I’d had enough.

I was tired of feeling like someone was  playing  my emotions like a fiddle every time I turned on my truck radio. ( I had already stopped watching  the news on TV for several years by now.)

Why should I let a few people at ABC, CBS, NBC, The White House, FOX, CNN, (who in many cases do not share my values), make the decisions as to what I should be thinking about on a daily basis?

90% of it is spin,  propaganda and out right lies in the first place.

Flash forward to the present….

There are two dear people in my life currently who are in a constant state of agitation due to the  news.  I’ve challenged both of them they may want to step back just a wee and look at their current media consumption.  What are they currently telling the rest of us we need to be locked in on?  Ebola, ISIS, 2014 election dirt, etc.

I’m not suggestion they stick their head in their shell like a turtle.

On the other hand, give me a couple of good reasons to live my life in a constant state of fear, in the name of being informed.

That sounds like  great use of my time and energy.  (Not)

 “Keep (or guard) your heart, with all diligence (vigilance), for from it (your heart) issue  the springs of life).”  Ancient Proverb.

I remember back in the early 1980’s being challenged by someone to pay attention to the things I gave my mind to, as in, it was possible to have some say-so in what  went on in my mind.

The first time I heard that concept, I remember thinking, yea, right.    I didn’t believe I had a whole lot of say so as to what went on in my mind.

Not true.

I can control what I mull over.

Loved this quote by Martin Luther:

“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”


View to the East out here in the Hinterlands.


Talk to me.  I would love to hear your comments or questions.  I can’t be the only person  who has wrestled with how to keep from living in a constant state of agitation.  DM





Posted in christianity, faith, family, life, personal, relationships, sex, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments