nathan stryker

independent artist and web programmer

Author Archives: nstryker


spontaneous

everyone knows it when She enters the room
the train of Her dress and all are consumed
Her presence is felt and the people rejoice
worship pours out like there wasn’t a choice

returning to a dormant project

the goal of the next album by my band was to keep it simple and finish it fast. we’re long past the second goal, but now that i’ve returned to it and finished the guitars in three days, i’m still holding to the second philosophy. so when i forgot the mic stands at home, that wasn’t going to stop me from going off schedule by having to return and get them.

church picnic games and the potential sin of mass appeal

popularity is never the goal. not because i shun what is popular, not directly at least, but because the easiest path toward achieving popularity is to strip away every element that could offend. this done to any measure will create bland art that affects no one outside of the most shallow forms. since bland art holds no appeal to me, i find myself rejecting popular things. of course, an art piece with the goal of un-popularity can become so universally offensive, it becomes similarly numbing.

when lisa and i were asked to do the church picnic games, i wanted to create a set of games that would engage with every individual, while pushing them into new interactions. oddly enough, the activities came easily. the difficulty was in getting every individual to participate, even though we called out specific persons and gave them a personal invitation to join in the fun. i felt like i needed oprah there to tell everyone to say yes to life.

so after the participants congratulated us on a great set of games, the secret of creating a challenge with mass appeal still eludes us.

an intro journey

squirrel nut zippers stand out for some many reasons, but one of their hallmarks is the extended intro. most bands treat the intro of a song as just a quick setup before we get to the first verse, which is really just the setup for the chorus. snz will take an extended trip through several different sections that set up the theme and mode of the song without actually playing anything from the first verse. when that first verse finally comes around, it grabs you because you haven’t heard it before; then when the chorus hits, it grabs you because you have.

in my most recent attempt at that kind of journey, i’m playing progression similar to the verse first, then the exact progression that appears in the bridge. this will hopefully make the chorus the biggest surprise, even though it’s progression is probably the most obvious.

(intro 1)
| C | F C |
| C | Dm G |
| F G | C Em |
| F G | F G C |
| G | Gm |

(intro 2/bridge)
| F C |
| G Dm |
| F C |
| Dm F C |

(verse)
| C | F C |
| C | G |
| C | F Am |
| Am | G C |

(chorus)
| F | G C |
| F | G C |
| Am G | C F |
| F C | G C |

(bridge)
(verse)
(chorus)
(intro 1)

new song

i’ve got a backlog of songs i wrote while finishing the guitar because i didn’t want to take creative focus away. here’s the first one i finished.

coffee is for closers

i did it. i began working on this guitar in december and while it’s far from perfect, it’s done and it sounds great! this isn’t just an achievement in terms of my first ever guitar finishing/woodworking project, although it is that. it’s also the first time in a long time that i’ve actually completed a long term project. from albums to podcasts to comics, i’ve continually dropped projects before they were fully realized, and while they’re filed under a “someday” category in my mind, practically speaking even if i were to pick them up again, it would really be a new project. starting something and regularly advancing it toward a clear finish is something that was far from my identity. nathan isn’t a closer.

but here we are. i began this guitar, worked on it regularly and consistently, and it’s done! “unable to finish long-term projects” is no longer a part of my identity, at least not wholly, and i don’t need to be limited in my vision by what i can reasonably do.

one coffee please!

progress

i don’t know if screwing on the machine heads counts as art — for that matter, i’m not entirely certain that guitar building falls under my definition — but at least i made some progress that didn’t involve painting and sanding.

transition

yes, i love my life
and look forward to heaven
but that middle part…

pushing

there are moments of extreme tension in the creative process: when a brush stroke goes astray and the painting seems to be ruined. the thing i saw in my head is no longer possible and i’m fearful that the whole thing may be a wash. but i can’t just give up! who would i be then? a quitter. so i press on, expanding my consciousness and pushing what was there in incorporate the stray. not stopping at the point where is seems okay, but lifting it to the point of being completely essential…nearly paramount to the piece. that’s what training is for, to whisper in your ear when everything goes wrong, “happy accidents.”

last cigarette

i still haven’t smoked my last cigarette
it sits in its pack in my glove compartment
and though i haven’t smoked in a generation
i guess it’s waiting for a special occasion

what are you looking for?

a few years ago, in an effort to purge all lies from my life, i felt i should actually assess myself when people greet me with, “how are you?” this led to me telling a lot of people i was tired or stressed. by breaking the social norm, i raised a flag in people’s minds that it was a cry for help. they’d quiz me further and find out i’m feeling about how most everyone is feeling. life has ups and downs and when we put a microscope on it, those downs look a lot bigger, while the ups tend to seem trivial. we take life’s positives for granted. i still try to be honest when people ask that question, i just try to be more gracious. when i’m generally good, i’m good.

all that to say i was putting a microscope on lisa’s health. i know the path to recovery won’t be a smooth and steady hill, but i stubbornly took every unexpected turn as a huge setback. by undercutting the progress we made with a negative outlook, i was living in fear, stress, and pessimism. i was looking around every corner for the next setback to get us. i was assuming we were sheep at the slaughter. but the only thing that’s going to die tonight is this grief beard.

“he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? it is God who justifies. who then is the one who condemns? no one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? as it is written:

“for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[psalm 44:22]

no, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. for i am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – romans 8:32-39

first

fear of blood
fear of hurting
fear of failing
fear i’ve failed

fear of blood
fear of same
fear of worse
fear of hope

fear of blood
fear i’m changing
into something
that’s afraid

afraid of blood
afraid i’ve failed
afraid i never
really did

doing more
doing absolutely more
absolutes abandon
me in fear

now i’m laid
laden hope
laden fear
laid in blood

one month of growth

i last shaved on june 19th. the next day, lisa went in for surgery. everything seemed smooth and after she came home, the kids and i took a mini-vacation to visit aaron while lisa recouped at her parents’ house. right after we got home, i drove my daughter to the airport late at night. one week had passed and there was no time to shave.

the next day we woke up late and had to rush to a follow up appointment. i didn’t shave or eat breakfast, lisa didn’t even get a shower. the appointment took an unexpected turn and she ended up being admitted to the hospital again for a blood clot caused by the surgery. again, my focus was on things other than grooming and i began to wonder if people were noticing my peach-fuzz scruff. she came home from the hospital on july 1st. after one day at home, she started gushing blood, and we rushed her to the emergency room. after dealing with an incompetent er doc for many hours, she was transferred and admitted to our hospital, returning to the very same room in which she has recouped post-op. on july 4th we watched the fireworks looking sideways out of the window in the hallway of the hospital. i hadn’t shaved in two weeks and because my beard only grows from the lower parts of my face/neck, it was looking a little gross.

on july 5th, both lisa and our daughter came home. i shaved the sides of my face and neck, but decided to keep the goatee, vowing not to shave it until lisa was fully restored to health. on july 9th she needed her blood drawn and due to a weird paperwork mixup, she needed to return to the hospital to have it done. we couldn’t even go a week without seeing this place! lisa went to see her primary care doc on july 11th to catch him up on what’s been going on. then on july 13th, she had another surgery follow up. once again, she was sent to the er! i couldn’t even bring myself to tell anyone because i was so devastated. thank God, the potential new blood clot ended up being a bruise. she left the er in a couple hours without being admitted.

today is july 19th, one month after shaving last. tomorrow is another post-surgery follow up and it will have been seven days without seeing a medical professional, matching her previous record immediately post-op. if she can manage to stay out of the hospital, that will be a first. i see these both as potential milestones indicating the first trust-worthy steps of recovery.

i’m not going to shave just yet though…on thursday she has an appointment with a specialist that will be managing her blood thinners to prevent further clots. after that, there’s potential to finally beat the previous record for avoiding medical professionals. it will be the first time we can look at a step in her recovery and not say, “well, we’ve been here before.” it will be the first sign of safety, and i may just celebrate that moment with a shave. who knows, i may even work on some art in the meantime…