The White Pine Tree

Here we are.  Back on the main trail again….

Let’s get back to that White Pine sapling.

White Pines are beautiful trees!  These aren’t Austrian Pines that you usually find along highways and everywhere in-between.  While White Pines are also common, they are much more pleasing to the eye than Austrian Pines are.  White Pines are used for construction, cabinetry, natural medicinal purposes and even Christmas trees.

So I got this White Pine sapling in kindergarten–my very own tree.  I found myself looking forward to many years of watching it grow in front of my eyes.  As I said before, it even went with us when we moved.  Shortly after the tree was replanted, however, something peculiar began to occur.  This took a while to notice, but the White Pine began to take on an odd growth pattern.

Enter Major.

Apparently, once settled upon our new property, Major felt it was his duty, his mission–nay, his life’s purpose bequeathed to him by God Himself–to hike his leg and pee on the north side of that tree.  He was committed.  He was focused.  He wasn’t letting anyone or anything detract him from what he was called to do with his life in this new place.  And he saw it through to his dying day.

As a result, we noticed as the tree grew that the north side of it was developing a significant stunting in its growth.   I really thought during those first few years that I was going to have my very own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  As it matured, though, it really began to fill out.  Except for the north side of it.

To this day, you can drive by the old house in Bath and see a beautiful twenty-five foot White Pine tree with a significantly stunted upper portion on its north side, the permanent marks of a dedicated and unrelenting Flat-Coated Retriever.  I think Major wanted to leave a mark, something that would endure long after he was gone.  And he did just that–literally.

Keep in mind that this is the same dog who bullied a couple of young kids in the winter and gave them ball-less head gear to wear.  He would take his beloved “Babe” (the female) on romantic romps in the gravel pit next door and bring her back absolutely exhausted (black fur on hot days in a gravel pit…..nice).  He even took her on a nature walk, with us in tow, and frolicked on ahead of us with his sweetheart–until he brought her back absolutely covered with ground bees.  All I remember at that point is Mom yelling at us to turn around and run the other way.  Good advice, except that dogs run faster than humans do.

So my brother and I are beatin’ feet down the trail back to the car, looking back and seeing a dog with yellow dots all over it trotting along behind us.  I don’t remember if it was Major or Babe, but the distinct memory of seeing a black dog with a smile on its face, it’s tail almost wagging as it’s trotting along after us has never left me (seeing that smile….it had to be Major).  Thing is, I don’t remember any dogs covered with bees catching up to my brother and I.  Which means that Mom probably did what moms are known to do:  She put herself in the line of fire for her kids.  I do seem to remember that she had been stung a few times.  Thanks, Mom.

But, regardless, he was a good dog (for the most part).  And his “mark” on his life spent with us lives on….

Let’s meet up again soon and I’ll tell you about a runaway horse!

A Rabbit Trail

It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?  We’ve gotten some snow since we last walked.  Take a look over there to the right.  See those prints in the snow?  They’re rabbit tracks and they look pretty fresh!  I’m sure this rabbit trail will come back out onto the main trail on up ahead of us.  C’mon…..

Because it’s just that time of year, and this is the Sunday before Christmas, I thought we’d talk about a certain Christmas song:  “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”.

Most everyone knows this song by the voice that we’ve all heard sing it–Mr. Burl Ives.  He wasn’t the first to sing it, however.  He sang it in 1965, but the Quinto Sisters (I know, me too–who??) sang it first in 1964, the same year that it was heard in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer–yes, sung by Burl Ives, but an official holiday recording by him wasn’t made until the following year.  The song was actually written by a man named Johnny Marks, along with the Rudolph song, for the Rudolph show itself.

So where am I going with this?  Well, there are two lines of lyrics in this song that have always seemed to jump out at me–like when something makes you do a double-take and causes you to ask yourself, “Did I hear that right?”.   Check this out:

Ho ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me

“Kiss her once for me???  Ok, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  First, if a woman is actually waiting for me at the mistletoe, do you really think I’m going to kiss her for you?  And second, the only woman that would be waiting for me at any mistletoe would be my wife.  So, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  Hmmm??  You know what that makes me think?  “Them thar’s faghtin’ wards, ain’t dey?”  How many men have you ticked off with those two lines, Johnny?  I’ll bet quite a few and they’re probably thinking, “Hold it, bud.  You want me to do what for who?  That’s my woman, dude.  Oh, I’m about to go off on you!  You want summa ‘dis?  Game on!  Here Comes The Boom, Baby!  Jingle BAM!!  Didja feel that one?  Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!  I’ll deck your halls….”

Hmmm.  Ok, that’s a bit over-the-edge.  But what if….anyway, one thing is for sure, Johnny.  You have accomplished something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one else has done:  You have forever immortalized flirting with another man’s woman….in a Christmas song.  But, in the big scheme of things, I guess that’s ok.  I suppose there’s no harm done (as far as we know).  Just find your own mistletoe, Johnny, and steer clear of my wife.

That’s really an amazing feat, isn’t it?  Want to know something equally as amazing?  I’ll bet you won’t ever be able to hear this song again without reflecting back on what you’ve just read….and finding a smile has crept across your face at the memory of it.



We’re on our way!

It’s a bit chilly, isn’t it?  I think we might get some snow soon.  Hey!  Take a look to our right, up on that hill over there.  See that White Pine tree next to that big Oak?  That White Pine reminds me of something…..

When I was in kindergarten, Mom got me a small little White Pine, about a foot tall, from our local school that was giving them out to children.  We took it home and planted it in our front yard.  We moved when I was in 2nd grade and made sure to take the White Pine with us when we went.

Besides having this seedling of a tree, I also grew up with my parents having two big flat-coated retrievers, a male (named Major) and a female (named Babe).  The male, Major, was almost my nemesis.  In the winter, when my brother and I were outside playing in the snow, we’d be having a great time until one of my parents let Major out.  When he saw us and we saw him, it was the hunter eyeing the hunted.  Why, you may ask?

This dog loved the snow; but even more, he loved to “pick one from the herd” and chase him down.  Once he was upon his prey, he would plow him into the snow, take his stocking hat (remember as a kid when they used to come with a ball on the top, usually the same color as the hat?) and gallop off to his secret lair, snickering to himself, an air of pompous victory emanating from some cruel gene, and chew the ball off the hat.  The victim would later find his hat laying abandoned in the snowy yard, covered with drool.  We sometimes found the balls–and when we did, they were sadly beyond resuscitation, drool dripping from them, snow-covered and maybe some grass and dirt thrown in the mix if Major was in a good mood that day.

When we would see him coming, we’d look at each other and know what the other one was thinking:  Holy crap, it’s Major!  Do I stay or do I run?  Can I get out of his line of fire before my brother does?  Should I take the hit for him?  Will I ever see this hat again?  You didn’t dare let the fear of something happening to your new stocking hat drive you to start running away from Major.  That only sealed your fate.  No, your chances of survival were far greater if you just stood there and waited for his sadistic game to play itself out.   Sometimes my younger brother would start to cry–probably because he knew he was going to lose another hat.  (He lost more hats  and balls to Major than I did.  I do recall a time or two of choosing to run from Major in the hopes of diverting his trajectory onto my brother’s path, who was by this time either running slower than I was or was already curled up in the fetal position in the snow, whimpering and probably praying for the rapture to happen NOW, just waiting for the inevitable.)

You know what?  That dog even came after us when we didn’t have any balls on our stocking hats!  If there was a ball on one hat but not on the other, that just meant that all three of us knew who he was going after.   And then the next time this would happen, and we’re both wearing castrated head gear, it was anybody’s guess.  Ah, such wonderful childhood memories!

Now here’s where the white pine comes in….

The First Few Miles

So we’re on the trail together!  Most excellent.

How about I go into a little more detail about what we’re doing and where we’re going.  I mentioned before that we’re going to walk in each other’s shoes for a while.  When we do that, we experience life together from a unique perspective.  Walk in my shoes and let me show you some truly amazing things that have happened to me–and still are–things that I believe can help you and strengthen you on your journey.

We’ll definitely laugh together (I’ve got some stories to tell); probably shed a tear or two; be challenged together; and generally have a great time as we head to our destination.

And speaking of our destination…..where we’re going is really going to blow your mind.  You’ll be amazed when we get there!  But it’s going to take a while.  This trail we’re on is a good one–it’s used quite often–but some of the journey could get a little treacherous.  No worries, though!    When you see where we’re going, it’ll be worth it.  And by the way, this isn’t some metaphor for Heaven that I’m speaking of (although, just between you and me, that’s going to be even better than where we’re going!).  Our destination is tangible, we’ve got a lot of miles to cover and a whole lot of fun to be had, so let’s get to it….

In The Beginning…..

Hello.(….”My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”)

Sorry.  I can’t help but hear those lines whenever I see the word “hello” (if you don’t know what those lines are from, stick around for a minute and I’ll tell you).

Matthew is my name.  Glad you could join me.  This promises to be a fantastic journey, and I’m thrilled you’re willing to walk this leg of it with me.  Let me post some landmarks before we go….

You should know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ–a “Christ-one” or “Christian” in today’s vernacular.  You should also know that I have the utmost respect for your right to believe what you believe.  I don’t push my beliefs on anyone; I simply want you to know where I’m coming from as we head out and that I speak of Him often (that’s what Best Friends do).

One more landmark to post:  this blog is about walking in my shoes for a while, and me walking in yours.  Life can pass by so fast and before we know it, we’ve missed all kinds of opportunities to touch others’ lives and experience life with them–joys and sorrows and everything in-between.  And why snowshoes??  It has to do with where we’re heading.  I’ll fill you in as we go….

Oh yeah.  Those lines are from a classic 80’s movie called “The Princess Bride” (one of the best “escape-into-a-fun-story-for-two-hours” movies ever made).

Ready?  Let’s get our boots on, zip our coats up and head on out.  We’ve got a lot of ground to cover……