Ain’t got grease enough, for this squeaky wheel

The repetitive ear piercing screech was driving me crazy… as I was, well… driving. I had crossed the Rockies and found my way to the most northwest corner of Colorado, when the squeaking really set in.

I had cruised through some canyons on the east side of the mountains, my car ran smooth. I crested the Trail Ridge Road and motored across the high plains, all was good. By the time I found myself waay out by Crag and Maybell, I began a loong drive on dusty gravel ‘highways’ toward Utah.

I followed the directions that some locals and my big paper atlas were suggesting I take. No one else seemed to be using this same route. I was bouncing along on red clay and potholes, all through open range grazing areas and desert bluffs. The scenery was awesome. The constant whining squeak from the front wheels of my truck, was not.

I clearly remember wanting to drive with all my windows down and the stereo off. I wanted to soak up the views and just enjoy as much of this outdoors as possible. I wanted so badly to love the first real steps away from my known universe on my cross-country roadtrip. I was dying to be in perfect harmony with the moment.

BUT I was not.

This darn squeak had me annoyed, and worried. I was in a rugged area, far from any town or other motorists. The screeching sound did break into the brief silence, over and over and over again. I wished it away, but that did not work. I truly wondered if there was something wrong with the my car and something was about to break off. It sounded really bad.

I remember driving for hours, wanting the journey to be perfect, and hating the noise simultaneously. Eventually, I made my way through the corner of Utah. The sounds continued. I drove fast across I-80 in Wyoming, and all seemed okay. As soon as I slowed down though, the creaking squawk was back.

A nice guy at a mechanic shop lifted up the front of my truck. We shook the wheels real hard, there was very little or no play. I wasn’t hearing the shredding of the metal from there, Thank God. I was hearing a classic brake dust squeak, that just wouldn’t quit.

I tried the carwash, over and over. I may have tried a can of stop squeak too. Anyway this annoying noise was messing me up, and diverting my attention away from enjoying the roadtrip of my lifetime, waay back in 2010.

I drove that car from Princeton, Kansas, waaay out west. I drove to the Oregon coast, down the 1 highway in California almost all the way south, then back home. The squeaking wheels did not break off the car, and leave me stranded, or send me careening off of some remote cliff in the desert or volcanic mountain.

The vehicle, my 2001 Isuzu Trooper, performed like a champ.

In the moment though, I did not know the whole story. I couldn’t see the entire trip from beginning to end. I only could experience one moment at a time. That was quite nerve-racking for me. This annoying sound, sailing into my ears, second after second, minute after minute and hour after hour, began to send me into insanity.

I worried alot about it then. I kept driving and eventually it was all okay. Those scary feelings in my gut, did not leave nearly the impression on my memory, that the beautiful vista views did though. I can smell that ocean breeze. I can clearly remember the salty fog and grey-orange sunset of northern California… The squeaky wheel now, is just an anecdote from an awesome adventure.

I wonder what I worry about today? I wonder what twists up my guts in silent panic, that is really no big deal, in the really big picture? I wonder what squeaky wheels grab my attention, and divert my eyes from the magical moments right in front of my face today?

I remember that quote, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

Well, I have sweated it, and yet we seem to be allowed to carry on anyway. I know my enjoyment of the evening I rumbled into Utah on a dusty red-rock backroad, was hindered by my worry over the squeaky wheel.

What a fantastic trip. Squeaky wheel and all. I would do it all over again right now, given half a chance. I wonder though, if I would be able to let all the small stuff float through my consciousness and truly enjoy the ride?

Probably sorta kinda 🙂

And It again would be totally worth it.



Aaron Nichols

Taking my shots

Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Ahh Ahh! Ouch!!

Hey, that doesn’t really hurt at all!

I clearly remember a gang of cousins hanging around a little construction project in the driveway at my Uncle Stan’s farm in Rantoul Kansas, when I was about third-grade age. He was building something, maybe a rabbit hutch or a chicken coop. I remember it was a box-shaped thing, made of wood and wire netting.

He had a pneumatic staple gun. He was tacking the wire cloth to the wooden frames. While we were watching, he pointed the gun right at me and let ‘er rip!

Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink! Pppshhhhhttttt-tink!

I probably screamed, or almost cried. I was terrified I remember in that moment. “Ahh Ahh! Ouch!!” I might have exclaimed. I remember thinking I would look down and see blood, or we would have to go to the hospital to have the staples removed. I probably was even mad and shocked that my beloved uncle would do something as sinister as shooting his little nephew with that loud and dangerous staple gun!

Actually there was no pain at all when the staples hit me. I don’t think they even stuck to my naked chest. (His three step-sons and I had probably spent that day playing the pond) The staples did hit me, but literally almost nothing happened…

All my emotional reaction and shock, was for naught. Actually it was probably worth a good laugh to see my face reel back in horror, for that one split second 🙂

I thought about that moment, probably 25 years after it happened, this week. I remember mainly being disturbed, and confused with wonder…

See, before the moment that my uncle shot his little air-stapler at me, I was quite sure that his handheld tool was capable of blasting deadly force if aimed at a human… I was sure that pointing it in any direction but into the project’s wooden frame, was just plain dangerous and wrong. I was probably scared to even get near that air-gun, since it was an ‘adult’ tool and not for kids to be touching in any way shape or form. The moment that the jokester Uncle Stan, shot it at me, a whole world of preconceived ideas shattered as the little tinny staple bounced off of me and landed without a sound in the gravel below.

I expected a shot of lead from a .357 Mag, and instead it was a loosely tossed paperclip.


Throughout my life, I can recall times when paradigms have shifted for me. This little story is just one of many. It does however describe the same event occurring over and over. I have a concrete reinforced box in my brain about how a certain thing, or person or event, ‘should’ be. Then something comes along and completely obliterates that rock-solid mental construct instantly.

Interesting isn’t it. Something that can seem so absolutely true in one moment, can become absolutely false in the next. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t happen in a one-hundred-eighty-degree fashion. Sometimes the black or the white of our mind, can instantly transform to grey.

I guess it is a good thing, that I don’t still today, hold each and every idea dearly that my third-grade self did. I am sure that the evolution and the growth of each of our lives, requires us to step from one lily pad of knowledge and understanding to the next, leaving the old one behind.

I do however wonder, if the next new shift in my own consciousness is a lasting extended foundational concept for me to build on, or if it is fleeting as well?

I can get lost, experiencing one new epiphany after another. I can shed and release old idea after old idea, until eventually I have lost track of my bearings. I seem to swim in unchartered waters. Are there sharks there? Am I finally reaching shore again? Is the ‘forward’ progress even a projection at all? Maybe a backslide feels like momentum in the mental tide of the day.

We have a new little life coming to us soon. I know that we will want to impart ideas on the new fresh mind. We will probably want to instill caution and tease the baby’s curiosity. We will want this mini little person to think like we think. But is that a good thing?

I don’t know. I have forever been unfolding new versions of understanding since I entered this space we call Earth. I suppose our little one will too. Sometimes I decide that journey is treacherous and exhausting. I cringe and reel back, or lash out in anger, when confronted with these moments. I have heard though, that some individuals are energized and excited with the adventure of taking on challenges in life. Whether mental or spiritual or physical, there are those who love the thrill of pushing their own limits, finding new freedoms within the movement of transition itself.

Often I live the worm’s existence. Wanting to inch along, wanting to hide from sunshine, I want to creep unchanged through the same dirt today, as I did the day before.

Wish me luck, as I am continually shot at, and I continually cry out. I want to learn to love those moments. Finding the love and truth and fun of life, outside the ideas of what I have believed so far to be absolutely true. I want to know those thrills from the driver’s seat, and not the rumble seat. I hope too that by sharing these words, that someone out there can relate, and learn again, that our human experiences are more alike than they are different.

Maybe you too, thought that danger and death was at hand, and really it is not. Maybe there is a lighthearted joy behind it all. Maybe you will find a love that always wants to keep you and hold you and never let anything harm you, even when it seems to be happening all around. The love of Jesus Christ is like that. At least for now, that seems to be what I know.

With Love,


Aaron Nichols

The Masters

I love to watch a master. Don’t you? When you see someone perform and you just completely get the harmony between their person and their craft, it is amazing.

I watched my favorite band play live last night. Play they did! I have been watching The Band of Heathens play live since 2010. They sound better and better every time I see them. They are true musicians. They have written their songs. They each play multiple instruments with excellence. Their extended jams, harmonies, teamwork and energy are pure joy to hear and to see.

These guys have been honing their craft and right now it is RAZOR sharp!

And so is yours. And so is mine. And so is my neighbor’s down the street.


I so appreciated the effort and practice that the Ed and Gordy and Trevor and Richard and Scott have cultivated in their lives together. It is true art, to behold. I have a feeling though, that these same guys wouldn’t rock as hard or as smooth on their guitar or drums or harmonica or piano, if they did it as a hobby. If any of these same amazing musicians had decided to live a ‘balanced’ life, or more normal life, they just wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Thank goodness that they have chosen to ride around the country for months at a time, together in a van pulling a little trailer. I’m so appreciative that they spend time away from their families and bounce from city to city, just playing gig after gig after gig. Year after year, every time they come around they seem to be even better than before.

I’m sure that I am also getting better at my chosen paths in life. I am repeating cycles over and over and over. Surely, I am learning as I go, making corrections, and become more instinctively in tune with my practices… Hmmm….

I probably am doing this same daily reinforcement of activity, but I know that I have not completely and fully committed myself to one specific profession. The boys in the band, play a few different instruments, but they don’t seem to be trying to do anything but music. They don’t seem to share time between a 9-5 job, or every weekend at the lake. They don’t seem to attend every family event that a young Dad could do. They are giving up certain things to stay focused on the music. Sacrifice is part of their commitment.

I am sure I sacrifice too. In an opposite way, I sacrifice all my musical talents and them dwindle and die, while I choose to not play a guitar every day. I sacrifice landscapes and portraits and scenes of brilliant color, every day that I don’t pick up a paintbrush and oils. I sacrifice too, and so do you. I choose, what I choose, and that leaves certain things out.

Yes, I do think we are mastering our craft. In ways it is amazing to watch all of us perform our daily tasks. The musicians of the BoH, give me particular joy to watch, but so does a performance on sunday morning at church. The energy that is stirred in me, is almost perfectly mirrored by the mastery of the musician.

I have become the most adept and amazing artist of my own version of life, that is unique to the whole of the universe. You are too. You are the only one, who is doing the exact version of YOU right now. You are rocking it, hardcore! You have your 10,000 hours of practical experience and it shows. Whatever you are being and doing and committed to, you have made this all manifest from a constant stream of choices.

Wow, I wonder what would happen, if I someday decided to drop certain activities and lead a less ‘balanced’ lifestyle. What if I just chose one of my ‘things’ instead of the array of ‘things’ that I now give my precious attention to.

One of our team members at the restaurant the other day told me that her boss has an eight to ten dollar per minute value on his time in their dental office. Nice, I would bet that some other folks out there are creating on an even higher level than that. What if I thought that the value of my time could be represented in these kind of numbers? Where would I spend it? Where would I drop certain time wasting and sucking activities. Where would I decide to hone and practice and re-work the work over again, until I had mastered it?

I love watching Masters perform their passion, their true love and the thing that they have devoted their lives to… I’m betting that it feels even better to be that Master, to dance momentarily an the exact natural rhythm, bordering on perfection, and knowing all you want to do is keep playing that same tune.

I do scatter and squander and spray my attention. I am master of that it seems 🙂 I again sit here, late at night and also sacrifice sleep, to do this writing thing. Someday it may seem like I planned it that way. All part of the process of mastery 🙂


Until Next Week, God Bless You 🙂

Aaron Nichols

Don’t just do

I was cutting up a chunk of partially frozen meat a few weeks ago. I had to push really hard to force my knife blade all the way down through it. I remember choking up on the handle really far. In fact my index finger was curled across the back ridge of the stainless steel. It had scooted up past the fat round white plastic handle. I carved and sawed my way through, until the meat was diced. And inside my latex glove, I had worn a hole in my hand.

When I took off the glove, it looked real red and raw. I had been so vigorously slicing that I didn’t care about the little pointed pain in my fingy. That index finger was just scraping back and forth across the square edge of the back of my knife. I got the job done, but I injured myself in the process.

That little wound became a nagging and painful problem for the next week and half. The soreness hung around. The location was constantly being hit and beat up. I was in no real kind of dangerous pain, but It was annoying for sure.

The following week, again I was cutting a similar chunk of meat. Maybe this one wasn’t as firm, but I wanted to be sure and not hurt myself like I had the week before. I paid more attention to my grip on the knife. I was attentive to little hotspots that I could feel working on certain little pressure points in my hand. I did better that time, but still managed to cut a new blister in the gripping area of my right hand.

Finally this week, I really backed off of vigorous knifing techniques. I slowed down. I was deliberate and methodical. I moved my hand to many different positions and didn’t hardly stick with one for more than a stroke or two. I am pretty sure, this week, I won’t have even one blister to monitor, or work around in my hand. It has been a month since it was healed all over…

My hand is an easy place to notice excessive wear. It tells me quickly when I have hurt it. It remains in a state of painfulness and tenderness, that only fades slightly each day. The restoration is not immediate. It takes awhile to recover from a simple little surface level skin abrasion….

I wonder what other parts of my life are just like this. I wonder what other areas are wounded and need to be worked around for awhile till they heal. I am thinking that I still repeated my mistakes, even when I intended not to.

Today, it took as much conscious effort to protect the health of my hand, as it did, to complete the job, the task on the board in front of me.

Self preservation and accomplishing my goal, needed equal amounts of my attention and focus.

I just noticed this fact today. I noticed lots of them. I want to remind myself sometimes of the truths being shown to me in every little detail of life.

“How some things work, is how all things work.” I remember coach Steve Chandler saying. When I wonder if that statement is true, I find that yes, it seems to be.

Until next week, stay weird my friends.


Aaron Nichols