Vandalization & Taggery, I’m Spraying Public Property, Again

I spray graffiti and vandalize the community property. Luckily, you have the free will choice to observe my graffiti or not. It is however, applied for graffiti’s purpose. I wasn’t really clear on the difference between graffiti and artwork, but I was shown that contrast recently. Noticing a distinction is the first step to change.

Another travel show was playing on my kitchen TV, while a made a mid-morning breakfast this week. I’m sure my antennae was tuned into the (crystal clear) KCPT channel Create. Someone was visiting a European country, they were diving deep into the local culture. At this point in the show, they were highlighting a local street artist.

The expansive murals decorated bland brick walls. The splashes of muted colors enhanced the public spaces. The figures of beautifully modern women, men and children acted out simple dramas and human moment stories in stylized brush strokes. The artist was using her skills to relate the real and raw emotions of human life.  Her style is so compelling and fresh, you felt the essence of each character and instantly understood their sadness, their bliss or their peaceful contentment.

In the interview process, the artist talked about how she preferred to paint and enhance the forgotten and dilapidated structures in a broken downtown area. When not working on large scales in public areas, she chose found objects and rusty old junk, to paint with her masterful civilian stories. She spent time explaining her disdain for choosing a new blank white canvas, as her medium. She wanted to take something that was perceived as trash, and turn it into treasure. Her artwork wanted to live in surprising places. It was finding it’s way onto oxidized old electrical panels or the inside of a drawer of an old desk. Her studio and gallery didn’t have easels or rectangles of painted sketches hung neatly on the wall.

The show host asked her about graffiti. They questioned her ‘street art’, in comparison with the local common graffiti art. She showed how, her canvas was a brick wall, just like the taggers and vandals. She showed how they both drew things in public places for the random passerby to see and experience. She showed how each artist had a unique style. She also showed exactly why hers was quite different.

Graffiti in the sense she was explaining is a simple thing. Although colorful and flashy, the design is one basic thing. It is a signature. She was comparing how her artwork may have been signed somewhere, but the content itself was a story. The pictures she creates are compelling and reflective. They are snippets of our human condition brushed artistically with her specifically compassionate and poignant point of view. A can of spray in the hands of a graffiti artist, merely writes their own name.

The video showed several versions of true graffiti. I had never looked at it that way before. Their spray-painted words had fluid spirit, distinct technique and panache. The signatures were brashly tagged in conspicuous spots. They emblazoned their own mark on the community and no one else could claim otherwise. Their name says it all!

So what is this blog? What is this weekly thing I sit down and bang out? Early and ahead of my day, or at the very tail end, spent and exhausted, just to slam something up on the screen? Using poor English and making up my own rules as I go. Sometimes making up words too.

For the most part, it’s Graffiti, through and through. I just want to tag the internet with my own signature. I want to see that picture of just my face, on my own facebook wall, attached to a story that I wrote about me. Ha! So sadly true. Sure, I’ve developed some style. I have constructed and completed tales of intricate nature, about the status of my own inner thoughts. I have made some kind of signature here, in almost 5 full years of writing.

True artwork is more than that. True artwork is a channel. The creator and greater consciousness than we can truly fathom, can work through an artist, the hands and fingers tell God’s story, not our own. A few tiny moments in this blogging journey have felt that way to me. The words just appear up on this endlessly expanding digital journal. I have noticed afterward, the complete blankness of my own mind and the fluid rush of energy, that actually did all the typing, almost without any of my intervention.

I am glad this artist pointed out the contrast. I am happy that she spoke a truth. Sometimes we forget to see the difference when God is behind our work, and when it is solely designed to enhance our own experience of the ego. We want that recognition for ourselves. We want to hear how great we are. We want our signature to be the focus, not God’s divine handiwork. We want to be noticed… At least I do.

So again this week, I tagg and spray. I swish and swoosh all over this screen and you get to read another signature story of me, that I have created to tell about me. Maybe though, someday, I can graduate and switch focus. Maybe the words will swing in their aim. Maybe they will open up and expand, being that channel and wide open high speed cable for transcendent truth… authentic art itself.

Until then, bear with me. I am still learning, still growing and practicing, still trying once again to let God know that I am here, and willing, if it be God’s will that I am used for God’s purposes…

With Sincere Love,

Aaron Nichols

Say My Name!

I don’t always blog about foul-mouthed rap artists, or sweet and kind teachers like Mrs. Chaney, or even infant babies, but when I do, I blog about them all, at the same time 🙂

It always struck me as interesting, that the breakout hit song (rap) by both Snoop Doggy Dogg and then later Eminem, had quite similar titles and themes. Both artists were being produced by Dr. Dre, and I don’t think it was a coincidence, and the themes of their first big hits were carefully calculated.

In 1993, Snoop Dogg’s hit song was ‘Who I am (What’s My Name). Later in 1999, Eminem made his mark with his version called “My Name Is.” Both of these too catchy tunes were designed to do one important thing: Imprint the name of the artist into your brain. They wanted to introduce themselves and paint a picture of their personality and style, but most of all, they wanted you to get their name stuck in your head.

Right about the time that Snoop was releasing that first hit single, I was in middle school. A class that I was signed up for in 7th or 8th grade was called Quest. It was a unique class taught by Mrs. Chaney. I think it was designed to exercise the emotions as well as the mind. We did personality test type activities and life lesson stuff too. I remember being uncomfortable often, but in a healthy way. One thing I will never forget from that class is that Mrs. Chaney taught us that our own Name, is everyone’s favorite word to hear.

She stressed that hearing our own name was a magical experience. We crave it as humans. We want to hear it spoken by those we love, and in almost all areas of life. When combined with a compliment, experiencing our actual name spoken, converts almost any mood to a good one. She wanted us to make it a point to try and remember people’s names. She wanted us to see how it could set us apart to be the type of person who would extend that important and valuable courtesy to those around us. Merely referring to someone as bud, or pal, or champ or friend, doesn’t make any impact, like knowing and saying someone’s actual name.

I think Dr. Dre and Mrs. Chaney both understood the power of a name. They both saw it as vital to personal success. The rappers wanted to express themselves in most powerful way possible. Mrs. Chaney wanted us to be able to connect with others in the most powerful way possible.

Speaking of possibilities, it seems like they are endless, when it comes to options for choosing a name for a soon-to-arrive infant child. My wife and I have spent lots of time bouncing around names for our baby incubato, but haven’t arrived at hardly any, we both agree sound good to our ears. I am not going to blog here about actual options we’ve toyed with, for boy or for girl. I will only say that we haven’t gotten anything exactly nailed down, and this kiddo is almost here.

For me, this naming process has been the toughest part of the pregnancy so far. I think Lindsay may not say the same thing 🙂 This is a testament to her as well, she has handled the carrying of this child like a champ!

I did want to write tonight, about how the name we are given at birth, seems to be so important. I remember as a kid, at times, not liking my own name. I was told that it was a girls name. I remember thinking it didn’t sound very tough, when kids said things like that. Even then though, I did really like that it started with two of the letters ‘A’. I knew that at least alphabetically, I was always first in line 🙂

Later as an adult, I appreciated my name being a little bit unique. I appreciated it’s history and roots in the ancient world. I love that there is heritage and a story, that I can connect with, in the Bible. Lately though, through the power of the internet, a little clip has highlighted my name. Again I get to experience the schoolyard taunts when people call me Aye Aye Ron! (ha, superfunny for the 20hundreth time 🙂 )

Last week we met a guy at our childbirth class. His name was Brayt. He probably has to tell a little clarification story every time he meets anyone new. He has to mention something about how he was named, and his parents. To us, he said they were high 🙂

Anyway, this naming thing is nothing that I take lightly. Many people have told me that the name of their child, just showed up in a flash. They were instantly given the name and it came through clear as a bell.

For us, that hasn’t seemed to happen yet. I do hope it does. Either way, if we choose a solid name, with sturdy provenance and flexibilty, I know that she or he won’t necessarily use it anyways. When they want to become a hardcore gangster rapper, they will just pick something else to go by, like Calvin Broadus and Marshall Mathers did 🙂

A parent can hope can’t he 🙂

Until next week, take care.


Aaron Nichols

To go without, may be to get it anyways…

I slid my seldom-used oversized xtreme 5-day cooler into the back of our SUV last weekend, as one of the final items to pack for our camping trip. I did use a red and a blue bungee cord to keep it from shifting around. I was super surprised. I could see clearly through the truck to the front seats, we had a large tote with food in the backseat and our ‘CoolStuff’ bag, but not much else. The car was not crammed top-to-bottom front-to-back with all our crap!

I was able to pack TONS of gear and clothes and bedding and chairs into the pop-up camper hooked to the truck. WOW! I kinda forgot how sweeeet it is to have so much capacity to store gear in the clamped-down pop-up.

For years I owned a pop-up camper. I used it all the time. At one point it was set-up at the lake at least once a month, for 24 straight months. Fun Times! Back then I would pull it with my big 3/4 ton crew cab heavy-duty pickup. I had a fiberglass shell on the truck’s bed too. I loaded stuff in the shell, in the camper, in the back seats. I had stuff everywhere! I used to haul lots of gear, for every trip to the lake!

In the last several years though, I have cut back, trimmed down and been enjoying my camping trips with my wife and dog, and a simple Columbia tent. After sleeping in that thing all over the western U.S. I became very fond of it. Lindsay and I have camped under the stars and on the air-mattress-covered ground in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado too. After leaving the pop-up at home and using our tent, we eventually decided to sell it.

It has been maybe three years since I had a camper like that. Back when I owned my Coleman Pioneer Chesapeake edition tent-trailer I thought I did need more room in it. I regularly wished I had something bigger and better. I just had that gnawing knowing that my little pop-up wasn’t good enough and I wanted an upgrade.

Funny then, that I actually went the other way and began to appreciate the company of my (then) future-wife and our simple tenting lifestyle instead of needing to just increase the cool-factor of our camper. We have been quite content in various conditions with that orange and blue tent.

Since she is now in the last trimester of her pregnancy, she finally asked that we find another way to camp than sleeping on the air mattress on the ground. 🙂 So when her brother and sister-in-law graciously allowed us to borrow their Palomino pop-up, we were super excited to have the extra room and air-conditioning for our long-weekend next a natural lake in Minnesota.

As we have been tent-camping for the last few years, I have gotten used to our system of cramming everything we need just into our car. One time we even fit all our gear, clothes, food, shelter, bedding and dog, into her 4-door pontiac car! Anyway, I loved finding room again in the pop-up to store our stuff. I was surprised and delighted that I had such a vast extra space on this latest trip. It was really really nice 🙂

Okay. I have done a lot of typing about camping gear and tents and trailers…. There is a point to all this.

I used to have something that I took for granted. I even was dissatisfied at times with it. Then I scaled back, pared down and lived more lightly for awhile. I began to appreciate that change. Then with this latest little vacation, I shifted again. I found new happiness in the things as they used to be.

Remember when I was saying that I used to want bigger and better and an upgrade from my old pop-up camper? Well now, I see that I would be quite happy again to have something just like I had before. I did need to let it go for awhile. I needed to distance myself from it. I needed to let go, and to try something stripped-down to the basics.

There is a parable that Wayne Dyer talks about it in his seminars. It is a tale about a man frustrated that his in-laws are living with him. He seeks out advice and a wise man advises him to bring his livestock into his house. Week after week, the exponentially increasing angry man visits the shaman. Again the shaman asks him to bring another outside animal into the home. Eventually, the man is completely outraged and distraught. His chaotic home is over-run with craziness! The wise-man then advises that he now, let all the animals back out of the house…

With the same exact situation the man had before, he is content. He can be happy now. He sees the circumstances in a brand-new context. He is relieved and refreshed, ready to move forward in love, knowing that things could really be much worse…

Where else in my life, can I use this lesson? I wonder where else I am tense and unhappy, wanting something to be different or better than it is right now. I wonder where else I can learn that just exactly what is, is exactly what I can be happy with, right here, right now.

I was thrilled to be camping last week. I would have liked our tent, but I did love using that borrowed pop-up camper. I enjoyed learning to master it’s little quirks. I had a great time with my wife and my dog, sleeping kinda under the stars. I didn’t need one thing to be better, it was just wholly good, just as it was. Good enough, that eventually we were ready to come home and enjoy own bed and shower with plenty of rushing hot water. It’s these little things that seem so good, when you’ve been away…

Returning… refreshed… thankful…


Aaron Nichols

PS: We are in the market for a pop-up camper again. PM or Text me if you know one for sale 🙂 Thanks!

We Love Lake Life

There are worse places to write my blog from. Sitting in my lawnchair, just outside a pop-up camper, with the crackling of several fires, the crazy buzz of this camping resort has died down. All around me are people, and kids, and dogs. They are packed in here, tight as sardines, each with a tent or trailer, coolers and kids toys. This is not our usual state park style campground, but the spectacle of it all, has been actually fun to watch.

Just moments ago there was a screaming kid, their raspy voice slicing through darkness. It was a good wail. The sniffles followed and then more screams. In the adjacent campsite, just 20 feet away, another annoyed kiddo was yelling back, “Quiet down over there! We’re trying to sleep!” Funny I but true, everyone did want the little guy or girl to shut up 🙂

We have been enjoying Kamp Dels Resort, here in Waterville, Minnesota for the last several days. Roxy and Lindsay and I, like our roadtrips and campouts, and this is one more good one together. Since I sort of refuse to plan ahead, we found this place just last Saturday, and booked it last Sunday. A last minute decision, for an almost week long vacation.

Luckily my wife is game, and allowed my procrastinational sense of adventure to prevail again. She bailed us out, by finding this open campground and did all the navigation to get us here. I almost couldn’t even tell you on a map where we are. She did all that 🙂

This resort is 60 years old. It is very well operated, a family affair. The grounds are tidy, and everything is up to date. I am using the parks excellent strength wifi right now to type live online. There is a mini-golf here and basketball courts, a fishing pond and lots of playgrounds. They have planned activities several times a day. To top it all off, they have a fancy waterpark/pool combo and a petting zoo too.

This place provides tons of services, and appears to be a thriving profit-making business.

On our first whole day in Minnesota, we took a drive, around to the other side of Lake Sakatah, from where our camp is. The State Park is over there. We pulled in to the driveway, and as we moved forward, nature closed in behind us. The thick trees envelope the little drives down to the picnic area and boat un-loading ramp. We saw a couple narrow hiking and biking and snowmobile trails cutting across the road, and quickly disappearing into the brush. We turned around at one dead end and traveled back to visit the State Park campsites.

Several one-way loops were dotted with the most basic of campsites. There was a marker post and little clearing in the trees. Some spots had a couple large boulders to block a car from driving in too far. All of them had a fire ring, but little else. Lindsay and I have used these kind of primitive areas before. In Colorado, we stayed in Difficult Campground, outside of Aspen. It too was bare-bones, but with a breathtaking mountain view. I saw the thick forest of native trees, the spartan accommodations and was glad we chose the over-commercialized campground across the lake.

Two ways to camp. Two philosophies. Each on it’s own side of the lake. I have now enjoyed my experiences in both types of places. I wouldn’t want to always have to choose one or the other.

Here at Kamp Dels, the nature has been cleared away. A large tract of land has been opened up. It is mowed and has paved roads galore. There is power and water available every 25 feet it seems, for another RV to pull in, right up against our own.

Across the way, the trees are still king. Lots of underbrush and wildlife I assume. No alpacas or shetland ponies, but all the animals over there, don’t live in cages.

On the eve of our nation’s Independence Day, I am reminded that sometimes people have to make a stand for what they believe. I see that there are times to choose your philosophy and create your own future from those ideals. There is a family, who lives on this property, and the entrepreneurial spirit has unfolded into decades of service and improvement and family fun. Across the pond, someone, or some organization, has held dear to the preservation of their property, almost forcing visitors into forgetting the outside world and becoming part of the natural landscape itself.

I am glad today, that I don’t have to choose just one place to drag in a trailer and setup camp. I want to choose both, at different times, for different reasons.

I do know though, that each day I get the opportunity to curate and to cultivate my own personal landscape of philosophies and beliefs. I must believe today, for certain, that I want to spend my time with my wife. Just with her, and I guess, Roxy too. I must have made that my mission, to invest my energy into making time for our relationship to be enriched through visiting downtown Minneapolis together.

I must each day, decide what I want my own experience to look like. Do I want to clear cut and start fresh, do I want business, and service to others and maybe even profit, to be on my own agenda? Would I rather, let the natural world overgrow my day. Would I want to let the flowers and the trees and even the weeds too, be where I spend my time? Just letting nature take it’s course, trying not to tread to heavily upon it?

Today, I wanted to explore. I almost always want to explore. I love that my wife, is willing to do that with me. My navigatress on this beautiful journey, is so special in my heart 🙂

I just hope that this time next year, we can be camping again, with our new little person along for the ride. Hopefully we can still adventure and explore and pioneer, in the next stages to come. Maybe we can be the ones, wishing it wasn’t our baby, screaming with an alarmingly loud raspy little voice, cutting through the almost black darkness of the campground night.

Sounds fun to me 🙂 Like I said, there are much worse places to write my Independence Day blog from 🙂


Aaron Nichols