Friday, September 25, 2015


“In its full radiance
inks dry in their pens, pencils
flare like matchsticks, film
smokes in the camera.”

I walk past these lines every morning at the hospital.  They hang in route to the cafeteria, my coffee source.  My first thought was of the Nazi’s faces burning off while Indiana Jones made sure he and his girl kept their eyes shut and their faces securely attached.  Upon further reflection, I realized this was a different type of "radiance".  

Though this “radiance” will not Ark of the Covenant melt your face off, it will, apparently, leave you at a loss for words.  The poem speaks of encountering something so radiant that is indescribable, something too grand to be captured.  Ironically, these are the things that inspire artists to take up their pens, pencils, and cameras in the first place.  Remember the spirit’s counsel to the Artist in The Great Divorce:

Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”

The artist is born when he is struck dumb by a light.

In knowing my grandparents I witnessed a light.  I caught glimpse of it as I began imagining the stories behind who they are.  I chased it to their doorstep and into an interview, planning to capture it.  Then, as I witnessed the tinsiest bit more of its radiance, my brain melted.

As it turns out, I cannot fathom a human life.  I cannot capture it or do it justice with a summation.  It contains too many characters, settings, conflicts, and resolutions.  There are too many turning points.  There is too much good and too much bad.  It is too significant.  Too radiant. 

In my post-melt, vegetable state I read:

“Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.  To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.  The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in.  The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.  It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.  And it is his head that splits.”

I have found that I will never comprehend the depth of my grandparents’ lives, or cram that heavenly expanse into my head. 

It seems the better way, the only way forward, is as a poet: exploring and accepting, free of the burden that is understanding.

*G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Grandma Boyle standing solo w/ the buckle shoes dress combo
Super good looking.  I know Don.
Wow, Mary.  We are both...
So let's get married.

Honey Moon Swag

Grandpa Boyle joins the Air Force

Has a few kids.  Teaches them to 'play ball.'

~25 years later, grandchild Nolan arrives!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Grandma + Grandpa Boyle

Grandma and Grandpa Boyle within.

Crosswords, mystery novels and a soft chair. Classic. 

The grandchild shrine.
Grandma's fridge. My greatest comfort.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I walked into a familiar place with a familiar person.  I looked into a familiar face, and began something new.  

It takes effort to escape the current of the comfortable.  The current is easy.  It's the way we would float without exerting any effort at all.  Yet, as life goes, the conversations that mean something are rarely found within the flow.  They require struggle and the possibility of failure.  

I sat across from my Dad and placed my phone on the table.  I pressed record, and we tried to talk.  We left comfort behind in search of the right words.

I reached for questions.  My Dad reached for memories.

As the minutes passed, his answers smoothed into a string of stories.  One memory brought up another that brought up another.  We were moving again, but not floating. 

This was more like swimming.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

First Interview: Dad - Reston, VA



Hank is SO excited that I'm back!

He has no idea how many questions I'm about to ask

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What? Why? Versions.

I have a project to complete.

An evident gap that needs filling.

As I've grown older, an undeniable truth has made itself clear.  It is not inherently happy or sad, just true. I am a different person now than I was at ten years old.  At ten, I had navigational knowledge of the neighborhood sewer system and greatly feared the fastballs of mustached 12 year-olds.  At twenty-four, I slug coffee and am free to shape my world, all while fearing landing a job that means nothing to me.

These are two vastly different people.  There are very few people, dogs, or even trees who have known both of them.

This brings me to the subjects of my project.

I have four living grandparents.  This is not common for those at twenty-four.  They have webbed their love through the diapers, dumb books, sewers, mustaches, and sweltering graduations, all for my benefit.  They know every version of me, but what do I know of them?

One of Grandpa Boyle's five rehearsed (and frequently deployed) jokes is: "buy me, take me, give me, I want!", spoken in a very unconvincing whiny, baby voice.  Of course, this is often unleashed when, quite reasonably, one of us asks for a spoon at dinner, or is offered a glass of water from Grandma, but, that aside, the joke is SPOT ON.  The only version I, or any of my siblings or cousins, have ever known of my grandparents is the one that simply provides.  Almost never scolding (that’s left to the parents), and certainly no significant help provided BY us FOR them.  They are retired.  They read newspapers, check box scores, and show up to everything early.  

The unending fountains of giving that they have all become is a testament to their character, surely, but it is NOT the whole story, and I don't want it to be.

I've heard hearsay that Grandma Boyle grew up on a farm whilst terrified of cows (it's genetic) and somehow was a fantastic amateur speed skater...  What?
Grandad McCarley got drafted into World War II, arrived just as the fighting was ending, and naturally took up a motorcycle tour of Europe. HUH!?

These people have stories.  Those two fun facts alone open my brain up to all of the depth in them I haven't seen, simply because I have only known one version.
They have stories and those stories need finding out and they need telling.

And that's what I aim to do.

Armed with the thoughtful assistance of many friends and the thoughtful + financial assistance of my family, I will be conducting interviews on all shapes and sizes of people to uncover the stories behind Alice Hannah, Ben McCarley, Mary Reynolds, and Don Boyle. The stars of the show will of course be the four grandparents themselves.  I want to know each version of each, so that I and all of their loved ones may love them more fully and accurately.  I also hope more than anything that this will be a gift to them, a switching of the roles for the first time ever.  Please hit me with your thoughts and advice, as I have never conducted interviews or wielded the necessary equipment. Really, the only part of this I have done before is a blog for a trip to Nicaragua, which is why everything you're reading is ca$h.

In all seriousness, thanks for reading.  Stay in touch.  Stay tuned.