Monday, May 20, 2019

"I Hope We Meet Again"

Jim Johnson is a tall man of slender build, white hair, and clear grey eyes. In all the years that I have known him, I have never known him to frown or be anything but positive. He is not the relentlessly upbeat person that causes instant loathing in an old cynic like me, but rather a calm and pleasant demeanor that even I cannot fault. He is a native son of Seymour, a small hamlet in southeastern Indiana that one passes on the way to Louisville and other parts south. Yet, ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet him on a project just outside of town.

Now, I won't bore you with the technicalities of my job, but rather give you this synopsis. If a client wishes to impact an area with wetlands or streams, then said client must do mitigation. In other words, if you bulldoze a wetland or stream, you have to put it back somewhere else. Mitigation is exceedingly expensive and the permitting process would make a Vogon proud (if such a thing were possible). You must also know that very few people outside the industry understand any of this.



Thus, approximately eleven years ago, I was contracted to permit, install, and maintain a mitigation site for the local Economic Development Corporation. Permits take a long time to obtain (six to twelve months, typically) and it didn't take long for the process to become contentious. Enter Jim Johnson. A successful business man in his own right, he understood the basics behind any permitting process. He was able to bridge the gap between local obstinance and my Escher-esque explanations of the permitting process. I do not doubt that, without his help, the project would have never been completed.

It has been ten years now since the mitigation was installed and at least five years since last I visited the site. Last week, I decided to return to obtain some pictures for propaganda purposes. I called Jim and asked if he would meet me at the site. He rolled up in his black F150 smiling as ever waving a bottle of water at me as I parked.

"I kinda figured you'd be thirsty after walking around out there." he said tossing me the bottle.



That's the kind of man that he is. We talked for awhile about the site and how their lawyers had not been able to get closure from the regulators. I smiled and nodded as he talked knowing that they would never get there with their approach. Jim knew it, as well. The site had performed well over the years, and we walked about a little talking about this tree, that shrub, and that group of flowering things over there. Afterwards, I took him to lunch as all good marketing people should do. We talked about his farm and his grandkids. He gave me a brief history of the railroad presence in town and how it was named after John Seymour - the man that built the east/west rail line.



And then it was time to go. We walked out of the dinner and said our goodbyes. As he was walking away, he waved and said, "I hope we meet again."

I paused then, watching Jim gingerly pick his way across the tracks to his truck parked near the town square. Jim is 77 years old now and though I know the EDC would choose me to do any ecology work for them, it is not likely that this sleepy little town will progress much farther than it has. I stood there next to my truck listening to the carillon bells in the Presbyterian Church ring out "Nearer my God to thee."   I realized that it was likely that I would never see my friend again.



Monday, May 6, 2019

Book Value in todays Culture

What is the value of a book in today’s culture?

I find myself now and then thinking what it might be like to write and publish a book.  

Who doesn’t? 

Holding a book in your hand. Your book that you spent months, maybe years working through.  Completed in you hand and staring back at you.  Your title, your name.  It’s a very proud accolade to have under your belt.  

Then I start questioning. 

Stumble down never-ending thoughts. 

Who would read it?  
Why should I even consider publishing a traditional book?
After all, how many books are already out in the world?
And really, will having that accolade of being a published writer mean something? Or will it just be an ego boost for myself? 

Within the last year, three different people that I grew up with have written and published a book.

Two out of the three didn’t surprise me at all.  The third person was a complete surprise--that came out of left field.  

But good for them, I found myself saying as I scrolled through their Facebook posts.  Each of them posted a picture of themselves holding their published hard copy.  A few open boxes at their feet, filled with their new book along with a big smile on their faces.

It must be an exciting feeling.  

Then what?
What happens to those books? 
How many get sold?
How many actually get read?
How many end up on some bookshelves or nightstand?  
A reader noting to him or herself that it’ll be their next book to read.  But do they?

Today’s culture almost makes a book an antique.  Something special that isn’t necessarily understood or fully appreciated.

At the same time, the culture will put someone on a pedestal for writing whatever book or numbers of books. Almost as if, because they have written a book, some how they are more important and more all knowing.  

To prove this: Listen to the news when they are interviewing whatever guest about whatever topic.  The guest has usually written a book about the topic, which, yes, is a good resource.  But the guest somehow becomes displayed as the all-knowing person about whatever topic the new is reporting.  

And really the common viewer or listener of that news story won’t have a clue to who this guest is/was. Nor will they care.  But they will take his/her word because they wrote a book, right?

Another cultural phenomena regarding books or publishing a book: Should you be famous or should something happen to you that puts you into a momentary spotlight of fame. 

Your story isn’t true until you have written a book about your story.  

Most of the time those kinds of writers/stories are ghost written.  But yet the “Author” takes full credit for putting in the time to write that book.  That book will get purchased as a Christmas gift to your parents or grandparents. Only to be set on a shelf or nightstand for a while before getting put into the goodwill box.

It amazes me how many politicians have autobiographies…Just a thought.

Some really old books seem naturally to be considered valuable or more important culturally. That whole antique thing again.  

It looks old so it must be important or valuable.  Better hold onto it and put it on your bookshelves.  I’ll read it at some point…

I know I know.  The glass is half empty.  But then again I see some truth to my post.  Why else is there a chain of stores across the country called Half Price Books?

The last chance to make a buck on a book that has been sitting on a shelf too. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Demons of Writing

I'm going to use another writing prompt from Jack Heffron's book, The Writer's Idea Book.  In Chapter 2, Heffron describes the "Enemies of Creativity" for writers, and one sounds so familiar that I may nickname my alternative self, "The Judge."
He appears when we feel guilty about spending time writing.  Would our families be better served if we were with them instead of shut behind doors with "Do not disturb" signs warning intruders to stay away?...
How selfish of us to demand this time to indulge pointless fantasies of publication.  How silly to be working through yet another draft of the memoir, dredging through events that took place twenty years ago.  This is the voice of The Judge.... 
My husband and I were just talking about how our parents never took time off, and we learned this work ethic, this sacrificial, never-ceasing approach to work, from the older generation.  This is good, and I am proud of my work ethic.

But when I want to sit in front of my computer for an hour, I can think of ten, perhaps fifty other chores that I should be doing.  In fact, to get a productive hour of writing done, I really need a day to get chores done before I can write for an hour.

This weekend, I had to clean the house, clean the car, wash the rugs, do the laundry, call family, and reconsider the lawn (it's been raining, so this was stricken from the list), before I could even pause to write this blog.

Jack Heffron offers two prompts for these negative thoughts:
PROMPT: Write about your need for a creative life or simply your need to write.  Why do you do it?  What needs are fulfilled through it?  Call your essay "Why I Write."...
PROMPT: Write a character description or a poem about a person based on you, one struggling to create some type of art but who is bound by family obligations.  When you finish, ask yourself how you feel about this person.  Are you sympathetic to his struggle?  Then ask yourself if you extend such sympathy to yourself. 
And, where do we go from here?



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

'Line. Line!' and Other Lines such as 'Dioecious Tells Monoecious to Die but Monoecious Grows an Intersex Branch Anyhoo'




LINE. LINE!







“Dioecious Tells Monoecious to Die; but Monoecious Grows an Intersex Branch Any-hoo”


Holly’s prickly leaves scratched and clawed the River Birch branch in the gusts of a roiling storm. His seed spread by the wind before his bank was washed clean, and he was satisfied as his branch remained rigid and exposed in the collapsing storm. Where his seed would go, he did not know, only that a fruiting Holly would receive his gifts, and naturally so.


The tremendous rain drowned River Birch’s catkin dangling from the thin branch he shared with River Birch’s flower and sadly leaving the flower’s thirst unquenched. River Birch, robbed of potential fruit, hoped to spend the summer preparing for branches anew and sprout enough green diamond-shaped leaves that sung in the wind to meet the sun’s blessing and grow a trunk strong with bark that peeled in elegant patterns.


Holly’s sharp leaves still scratched and clawed the River Birch branch in the gusts of the parting storm. Holly thought over the fate of the River Birch and felt the need to say:


“I cannot tell if you are male or female. This disturbs me, for I should know. How exactly - where exactly does your seed sow?


“Your gender should be separate. Your gender should be manifest. Oh! How disturbing your kind are not so obvious!


“I produce seed for an opposite sex, and I do so with ease. Thus, I am most proper. Thus, I am most pleased.”


River Birch failed to untangle from the Holly whose leaves sliced into the bark and dug in only deeper. Holly had more to say:


“I think you should kill yourself. Let your root run dry. Do not sprout leaves that sing -- just shrivel up and die. Do not take pleasure in sun at all, or grow your trunk bent and tall. Why shed your skin in such elegant patches and waste God's time making abnormal branches?

River Birch felt the rainwater evaporate from the upper branches most closest to the clearing sky. If only River Birch could have been planted near the black oaks or that lovely Willow who so pleasantly dips her branches over the pond. Holly felt the need to say more:


“We do not need your kind to thrive. We detest you’re even alive! We have no use for things like you...demented, unnatural, and most confused.

"Listen here: We either eject our seed for wind to carry or expose our branch to bare red berry. We dare not do both -- quite the contrary! -- do understand, you little fairy?”


River Birch’s branches finally broke free from Holly’s scarring claws sending many catkin to the mud below the canopy. A sad thing for certain, yet River Birch thought of the word: soon.

Soon, River Birch will catch the warmth of a peeking sun and roots will drink the filtered, cold rainwater. Soon, bark will dry and peel in elegant patterns on an ever taller trunk stretching and bending and twisting wherever the sun so blessed. Soon, small diamond-shaped leaves will sing in the breeze, and new catkin and catkin flower will find themselves blossomed along thin brown branches old and gray branches somewhat old and, soon, bright green branches sprouting anew.

Due to scraggly growth, bothersome scratchy leaves, detestable and poorly metered and downright forced poetry: Holly soon died by weedicide.



Sunday, April 7, 2019

Don Ricardo de Codicia And the Yellow Line

In the annals of my corporate life, there are many things which would strike an outsider as odd. There are stories that would make you laugh and those that would make you despair for the fate of humanity. There are even some tales that make the reader and narrator scratch their heads in wonder. What follows is of the latter category. It is the tale of Don Ricardo de Codicia and the Yellow Line.



Don Ricardo is one of the great and good in our little corporate village - a veritable founder of the town , if you will. He is a tall man with little hair and of narrow waist, though his personality more than makes up for his lack of follicular activity. This is due in large part to his ego, which shares a gravity constant with Jupiter. Not prone to humility, Don Ricardo revels in leading tours of prospectives through the building touting this or that wonderful aspect of our little world. He enjoys the uninterrupted attention and the opportunity or dazzle the uninitiated with his knowledge of the inner workings of our craft. The fact that those inner workings, as narrated by him, change in scope and nature depending on whom he is leading about does not bother him, though it is amusing to the rest of us.

There is one thing however, that the Don will not tolerate in the least. One must never place anything beyond the yellow line. You see, within the deeper parts of our little village there are three bays each with its own automatic garage door. These doors are how we, the villagers, move our goods and tools in and out. One is blocked due to lack of storage options and the other is used copiously by all who reside in the hamlet. But the last one, dear readers, this last bay is for Don Ricardo only. This area is bordered on three sides by a bright yellow line painted on the floor. Where the line came from, no one knows but there it rests defining that area which shall not be used.



The Don guards this area with the tenacity of a peacock defending its hen. Should some unwary or unknowing serf be so unlucky as to attempt to store an item there for lack of a better space, the Don swoops in the scuttle the item away all the while clucking discontent at any near enough to hear. Now, it is not that he himself keeps anything in this area either. No, this is an area that he has designated for himself and must be kept clear “just in case”. The event that this space would or could possibly be used for has not been defined, but woe unto the lackey that places anything across that yellow line.

So we, the poor village folk, watch as Don Ricardo parades through stopping only long enough to chastise whomever is unlucky enough to be at hand to go and sweep out his area (yes, we are expected to keep it clean for him) before sauntering off trailing his audience. Those of us left in his wake grumble not so quietly as we push our brooms across the floor beyond the yellow line.





Sunday, March 17, 2019

Melting Sunflower Tears



March.  Oh, you miserable month.  

The only positive you bring is Alek’s birthday.   

And yes.  The great event of St. Patrick’s Day rests in the middle of the month.  How can we forget? 

That day in March when anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them has the right to partake, and should partake, in gorging themselves in alcohol and corned beef brisket.  
The glorious corned beef brisket with potatoes carrots and cabbage.  It seems like the brisket doesn’t last long when served.  You’re lucky to get a second helping of the beef.  
Now the cabbage and potatoes… there’s always enough to go around 3 times.  We all know the brisket is the star in the meal.  And everyone wants more and will fight over the last bit of corned beef.

Outside of these few events, the month of March really sucks. 

March is full of anxiety.  

The weather can’t make up its mind.  

Yesterday, here in Central Indiana it was sunny with a high of 60 degrees.  The wind was a tad chilly, but it was gentle.  The warmth of the sun had a refreshing feeling against our sickly pale, vitamin D deprived skin.  

It felt nice.  

People were out and about walking their mammal pets.  

Migratory birds were making their presence known by their various calls.  

It was a nice day.  

A day to say, “Hey, the cold winter is almost over.  I can feel spring in the air.”

This morning, it was snowing.  

It was a short-lived snow shower.  It did a good job of giving a good ground cover.  Like maybe we might see a few inches by the afternoon.  

But just as quickly as the snow started, it stopped. And within an hour after the snow stopped, the snow was gone.  

Melted into the muck’n mud of the brown barren countryside landscape that winter brings us in central Indiana.  By mid-afternoon the sun was trying to show its face.  It was warm enough to get outside to play, or accomplish whatever outside with just a light jacket.  

New River West Virginia,
Ndyakanoff Photography
Oh, March.  You tease us. 

You give the crops and gardens hope of warmer days to come. The tiniest signs of spring show up with the smallest of green sprouts trying to come out to show us the beauty of life.  

You give us hope of no longer seeing bleak brown farmlands and gardens but lush green vegetation.  

Warm days and long summer nights to come. 


Oh, March you tease us with the signs of what’s to come. And then you shut us down.  You blast us with another cold reminder that winter is still here.

And for that, I thank you.  

I thank you for delaying the coming season.  The season full of beautiful colors and warm days with blue skies.   The season where you wake up warm and comfort.  You look forward to letting the sun kiss you all over.   You look forward to going out and doing adventures outside. 

But when you do go out you become paralyzed.  Paralyzed by the humidity that the spring and summer proudly brings.  The humidity that can melt you down to a pile of goo the moment you step out in it.  Humidity that is always there no matter the time of day, sucking the life out of you. 

So go on March.  Please continue to hold back the inevitable.  Blast us with just a few more weeks of cold.  I am in no hurry to get into the humid months to come.  I do not want to be like the sunflower in the picture below.  Engrossed in magnificent green all around.  Admiring beautiful flowers and a magical monarch.  At the same time, peddles melting away by the Indiana humidity.  

This Alaskan loves the summers for all that it brings but the humidity.  
Soon, I will be just like the melting sunflower.   




Sunday, March 3, 2019

The New White Board

Once again, I'm writing about my new office.  Having a space and a supportive husband make for amazing improvements in my writing life.  

Now, I just need a little more time and structure.

A few months ago, I told my husband I wanted a white board for my office.  He put it up a month or so ago:


I'm only 5,000 words into this new beast, but I'm enjoying it.  The rough background and inspiration are the craziness of work politics and Graham Greene's Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party. 

Anyway, this is the ramblings of my latest, crazy idea.  The top part of the white board outlines characters, setting, and conflicts.  The bottom part snakes through the main plot parts, starting with,



And, of course, here is the ending:


Not to give the ending away, but, yes, someone will go postal.  And, yes, I'm thrilled about who this character is--I look forward to writing this character's downfall.

I fully recognize that prewriting and outlining and mapping are not for everyone.  On the other hand, I have enjoyed mapping out this project in a short amount of time, seeing who these characters can be, and pushing this plot further than reality or Greene could push this.

So here I go again, on a fun journey through fiction that helps me laugh at reality....



Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Trammel Net

Anteros

You have beckoned me to your throne, for Oizys called upon you -- though I should not have allowed her to do so. Please refrain from retrieving Aphrodite’s scales. I ask only to sit on that oak stump within the gates of your mountain sanctuary -- where gardens of sleeping hyacinth meet the trail, and silver bees in their hives dream of purple and rose -- so that I can share my case of love, unrequited.

Who is this warrior sleeping near my stump? Is he a God? For, as with you, the reposed soldier is too magnificent to look upon but a brief glance of the eye. But, I think I know who he is, for his lyre is set by his side and his laurels have slipped from his head. He is Apollo, and he is not sleeping -- only lost in his memories. His tears seed your sanctuary with hyacinth, and he draws his fingers along your clay in unrecognizable symbols.

Shall I stay, Anteros? I will not take too much of your time.

I am an old man in spirit, though I am much younger by age. I do not know what face greets you, but I was once a handsome man. My trade is the sea; and the sea ages men quicker than those of the land. Yet, if I may be so bold, will you permit me to think my face is still desirable and pleasant?

I feed the agoras of mortals. I catch sardine and, if the land dweller wishes, octopus and larger fish, too. When I cast my net in the midnight hours, I do so alone, unless I have the rare chance of spending it in good company. I am often lonely, as you are aware. So, I give sacrifice to Poseidon and give fair sacrifice to you.

As I cast and draw my net into the shoals, I can often see the torches along the trail that leads mortals and Gods to your sanctuary. It winds and rises and disappears behind shadowed valleys, and I have gazed upon it for so many years that I can see its path with my eyes closed. I never thought that I would take to this very path, until my heart was stolen by ---. I must not mention his name. You, no doubt, know him, for he is the one I have accused of squandering. I am sure Oizys has revealed all to you.

Yet, Anteros...before you weigh his worth, hear me out.

It is true that Eros had found me some months ago, though Pheme sent rumor that Eros regretted his careless sting. I had taken my fish to the agora, collected my due, and I hurried to get back to the shore where I have more solid footing on the sea than I do the land. One of the many sons of Petraeus, the Elder, whom I still cannot say his name; he admitted many days later that he had been following me that particular morning and had done so several times prior when I sold my catches. He had boarded my vessel, and he waited for me in my tent.

Bold. Handsome. Smiling. His shoulders broad like Atlas’s. He was thoughtful, and his promises fulfilled in the hours of our binding. I had never been so blessed! Many nights I stayed in the port awaiting his nightly arrival, failing my duty to agora and depleting my trust in Poseidon for fear that I might miss my new love’s visitations -- or that I might drown in a gale.

I happily -- and greedily -- traded Poseidon’s salt for this man’s sea. Never had I been so intoxicated!

And, most pleasantly, my new love faithfully committed his passion and, when he could not make some nights, confirmed those miserable absences so that I would not fear the worst. Yet, he warned me; never could I search and find him; never could I visit his home.

I agreed. I understood. As you must know, however committed he was to me, my man adored his wife and his children and he would never stray from his duties to them.

So, now you ask me, Anteros, what was I to him? May I have a moment to give this some thought?

Anteros

I was a ghost that came to life with his beckoning. I was the sea that he could traverse without fear of drowning. I was an isle he could escape to under the veil of night. I was the man he could never have in his own bed, yet the man he could always discover in mine. Until….

He ceased to come to my vessel. He no longer sought my company. Without warning. Without cause. I feared he had drowned at the docks. I called out for him between the other vessels and over the rocks and among the drunken men and their women who gathered near the shore. I waited another close of day. He came no more.

I had to find him!

I went to the agora and asked the villagers where he lived. Some knew him -- and they did not find him a fair man of business -- yet told me where I might find his home. I lost my way wandering the unfamiliar streets, having not walked those streets since I was a child. I found his residence, and...confirmed his family. He, a wealthy merchant; yet. they did not know his business affairs; and sweetly, they asked if I wished to wait for his return. I did not take the offer.

Anteros

I was furious that he still lived!

I gave his youngest child with the most familiar eyes a coin and asked him to make sacrifice to you. He said that he would do so, and I hope you received it well. Yet, I swore to never set foot on land again beyond the length of port-to-agora. And, I swore I would someday seek your vengeance.

I hated Nyx and her false promises with each death of light. I seethed in my hatred, too; swore at the paucity of my net and its frequent shredding upon the rocks -- and I cursed the sea nymphs for their cruel jokes. Some nights ago, I prayed to Poseidon to capsize my lover’s vessel -- for I was sure he still visited the port for a richer one than mine. I feared to rest, for Oizys might haunt my sleep. And, this evening, when I thought to plummet into the depths where the nymphs circled my tired vessel and stole what little bounty I could catch, Pasithea wrapped her arms about my waste and begged me to seek my warm tent -- to leave my net frayed -- and escape the shivering rain and the gnashing teeth of nymphs about my vessel.

I did as she asked. Pasithea guided me into my bed where I agreed to take to the arms of Morpheus. Yet, as usual, Hypnos had yet to visit, for Poseidon still roamed too close and stirred the sea in his wake. And, as I feared, Oizys -- who searches for company when Hypnos fails to visit -- crashed onto my vessel and spilled into my tent -- and took to lie by my side. She shared my pillow, as she often does, and I heard her retelling the stories my lover and I once shared. Shen then sent me wandering -- and alone did she have me go -- through a labyrinth of what if and if only and what could have been.

Despite my attempts to rid her, Oizys remained in my bed and demanded me to look out my tent--for the evening sky will clear, she claimed-- and she was certain my plea will have finally been heard by you.

Anteros

Did you compel Selene to breach my tent then? For, it came unlatched. Did you have her cast her luminous net over my naked body and expose my loneliness? Did you then beckon me from my small and fruitless vessel to seek your justice in this affair?

I returned to port. I crossed the village where the fire smoke thinned in the late hour, and I took to the olive-ladened hills where your trail begins and, for the first time in my life, set foot onto a mountain’s spine. As the trail wound about the perimeter, each step a painful pull in my legs, I looked out over the village and onto the port where I could see my poor vessel tucked between far larger and richer vessels. Though I could never know, I was certain one of those vessels held my former lover and, soon, would receive his ballast of lies. I spat over the edge -- and I hurried up the trail to seek your justice!

Yet, where the trail stabbed into the mountain and the torches were nearly extinguished by shadows, I heard the thunder of water some steps ahead that gave me pause. I saw a young woman -- her skin pale, her eyes dripping blue, and her white robe yellowed and covered in mud. She hid like a frightened child behind cut stones Hephaestus had left abandoned from some nearby quarry. I asked the poor woman if she was lost.

She then repeated what I had asked her.

I knew the woman was actually a nymph; she was Echo, and she was addled in mourning. She came no closer to me, and I knew she would never leave the river, for it was her prison as well as her sanctuary. Suffice to say, Anteros; I passed Echo on my way to your throne and crossed two rivers – the one that is fed by the narrow meadows of your sanctuary, and the other that drains poor Echo of hers. For, she wept as Narcissus’s skeleton had long ago collapsed into a pile of white stone at the river’s bank, though she could never be free of him.

I left her hiding behind the refuse of old empires as I returned to your trail. I could hear her sobs grow weaker as she searched the riled waters for her Narcissus, and as I raced to your meadows to seek the punishment of my neglectful lover.

I found the rope bridge crossing Hephaestus’s quarries. The ropes were old and I questioned their strength, yet I could see your sanctuary clearly lit inside the meadow breach, and I urged myself to continue. As I neared the end of the bridge, I heard a terrible thunder to my right where a great cloud illuminated with dancing silver and gold stars cut a path through the pines and scraggly oaks, breaking limbs and pulling up their roots as it set aim towards me. The bridge now swung to and fro, and I clung to its ties and prayed for the thing to leave me be -- though the thundercloud now lingered above me.

Anteros

I saw a most unforgivable thing! A young man -- a boy? with golden hair looked down at me while clutched in the talons of a giant bird. The golden-haired boy-- his face so beautiful as to render anyone ugly -- had the look of tired melancholy as his captor flapped its wings to keep them afloat above me -- to show me its prized possession? The beautiful, sad boy reached down to me, as if to touch me or allow me to rescue him, but the bird then took off to the west where a waterfall could be heard, though not seen. Wearily, I continued on to the meadows, saddened and disgusted to have witnessed the abduction of Ganymede.

And here I sit in your gardens seeking something that I did not first come to seek. Because of your kindness, you have offered to bathe me with your pity. Yet, Anteros; I would rather you hear my heart.

As had the Spartans deduced, the love between men can be commemorated in its devotion and sincerity, by its legends and anecdotes-- or, as in my case, on in the moments before it must end. I have discovered passion within the arms of treasured men wearing strange jewels and ornate metals of their faraway lands -- only to be stolen of my meager possessions or left adrift in foreign harbors. I have collapsed my tired head on many a layered chest -- only to be awakened by that beating drum against my ear and its inevitable spell to depart by Hybris, or by Dionysus’s libations, or by the war trumpets of Ares. I have been carried on waves stirred by men as they were rising to their greatness or were plummeting to their infamy -- only to grant yet another man his ceremony or commiseration.

Anteros

I realize more than ever, for Epimetheus must have followed me on the trail, that love is of many forms and colors...several magnitudes of dedication and layers of beauty -- if forever in legend it lives, or hideously unfair in it’s resolutions. The love that I need is neither Echo’s lonely worship of Narcissus, nor Zeus’s want and pillage of Ganymede. The love that I need is neither a binding resolution in another man's heart, nor is it Apollo’s sad longing and culpability.

I need only a love that cares to visit my small vessel and places me in the hands of Caerus.

I offer a bargain -- if a mortal could ever do. Please set your club back onto its mantle and dissolve this court. I ask that you allow Poseidon to determine judgement of men like me.

Set my lover free. Let Eros find him however He must do. I must allow the same. What love I am blessed or love I am cursed; whomever Eros has stricken or Tyche has set adrift by whim; whatever meager moments the Horae have arranged; whatever arrives with Gaea’s roaming fish -- such love may never return to me, though a new love may fill its void.

Anteros

I ask you to please refrain from avenging love lost at sea.

As Helios and his steeds arrive -- the colors of land are strange and plentiful! I kneel among your waking hyacinth as your humming silver bees now search purple and rose; where Apollo has ceased drawing in your clay and has fixed his laurel straight. Poseidon beckons me!

I pray to you, Anteros:

Grant me a vessel. Grant me the wind’s chill. Grant me Oizys -- for she knows me well. 
Grant Nyx to greet me at the close of day. Grant me Oceanus who will never drain. 
Grant me netting to cast the depths of men. Grant me Eros -- or torn netting to mend.

Dearest Anteros


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cats in the Cradle

Tonight, dear reader, I would like to relate to you a story of cats. You may read this story and think that perhaps I have over reacted a bit in the telling and that really there was not much to it in the end. However, I would beg the reader’s indulgence in remembering that I write fantasy novels by and large and as such have a rampant imagination. It is with that in mind that I ask that you to bear with me as I tell this tale.

It was on an early spring day last year about mid-March when I found myself at a lonely farmstead in southeastern Indiana. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is a landscape of steep hills and broad ravines. Springs are abundant there, welling up from fissures in the bedrock which is ever near the surface. Pasture land falls off readily to wooded streams that meander through the lowlands making their way eventually to Salt Creek. This particular property adhered to this bucolic archetype with rolling hills and a stream bending its oxbow through the lowest part of the land. It was my job to identify and delineate any and all wetlands on the site. I’ll not bore you with the details of my job, but suffice it to say that I finished right as the day was ending.



Trudging up the last hill on my way back to my truck, I paused to watch the sun dip below the tree line. Well, truth be told, I stopped because the wheezing of my breath had become louder than the squelching of my boots in the mud and the thought of passing out on that lonely hillside did not appeal to me. The chill wind that had harried me for most of the day faded away leaving only the song of early migratory birds ringing through the trees. I pulled down the hood of my sweatshirt and heard the lowing of the cattle in a distant pasture as the sky faded from rosy gold to pale yellow.



Once my breathing had settled from "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" to something akin to normal, I resumed my trek back to the truck. I had parked on a gravel road that led back to the hill above the oxbow facing towards the farmhouse and the silos. This road forked just before reaching the house with the wider lane going left between the house and the silos and barn. The other was narrow and ran behind the house to the right towards the road. I slumped into the cab, grimacing as my muscles protested every move I made. The tires crunched against the gravel as I pulled forward meaning to go through the wider left lane.

The farmhouse was small with white clapboard siding and green shutters at the windows much like most houses in the area that were part of working farms. It was obvious that no one was home, which I took no account of as most farmers have to supplement their work with second jobs. I rolled slowly past the fork in the road and up the gradual slope towards the house. The metal silos were just to the left  of me hiding the majority of the barn which was set back a bit. I could see the the barn doors were open, but again I thought nothing of it as this was not uncommon in the area.

It was then that I saw the cat.

There at the top of the rise came a small grey cat. It was little more than a kitten, really. It walked slowly out to the middle of the road and sat, curling its tail about its legs. What I remember most now is the yellow eyes. They were such a bright contrast to the smoke grey fur that you could not help but be drawn to them.

"Look at those eyes," I said as I rolled to a stop. "Come on, little one, get out of the way."



I pulled forward a few more feet, but the cat showed no sign of moving. It merely sat there regarding me with an aloofness that only a cat can manage. I beeped the horn, but received even less reaction.

"Well, this won't do," I said as I put the truck in park and opened the door.

It was well into the gloaming of the day at this point, but there was enough light for me to see my surroundings. I walked forward towards my little grey friend making shooing noises in my best non threatening voice. The cat, of course, made no movement other than to settle down into a resting position. It blinked languidly at me as I drew near.

It was then that two other cats wandered into to my view from the house.

"Oh, more of you," I said watching a ragged black and white tom and a less ragged calico pad their way towards me.

At this point, my imagination took over with enthusiasm.

You know....this is the point in the story where things go bad.

"And I just got out of the truck..." I murmured to myself.

I turned to go back with the plot of every horror movie and book I had ever read or seen tumbling chaotically in my head. Bram Stoker's Dracula won out narrowly over Stephen King's Cujo leaving me with the thought of demonic cats stealing my breath and/or soul like the old folks used to claim.



"Counteth oneth, twoeth, threeth. Throweth," I whispered, chuckling at my own crazy.

I had gotten three steps into my strategic retreat when I stopped. The barn was in full view now. Both doors had been left open revealing the John Deere green of the machines inside. It was the cats that made me stop.

"What the hell?" I exclaimed.

I watched as dozens of cats in all shapes and sizes streamed from the open doors. Now, had it not been going onto dark and had I not been exhausted from slopping around in the mud all day, I might have welcomed the herd of cats trotting their way towards me. However, as it was, I was left with the overwhelming desire to leave. It was only when I felt the touch of the black and white tom against my leg that I bolted for the truck.



I backed up to the fork in such a rush that I nearly slid into the field. Turning hard, I aimed the truck towards the other lane behind the house. The dash alarm chimed to remind me to put on my seat belt, but I ignored it.

"Yes dear, I hear you," I said to the truck. "But I would rather not have my soul sucked out at the moment, thanks."

It was only when I was out on the main road that I stopped to buckle up. I paused, though, as I was reaching for my seat belt to look into the bed of the truck.

...Just when you think the guy is safe....

As I was driving away, I looked over to the drive between the house and the barn and found the little grey cat still perched at the top of the rise staring at me with those bright yellow eyes. 


 


Sunday, February 3, 2019

There is Water at the Bottom of the Ocean

The past few seasons or two, I have been trying to process composing a post like the one that follows below.  

Trying to get to the root of my processing thoughts has been challenging.    

After chewing on many, many thoughts and no final conclusion, I’ve decided to punch out some of these thoughts.  And really, I feel that is the conclusion to these thoughts that I’m about to punch out though the keyboard.  

It doesn’t really matter….

Many, many moons ago for a short time, I started attending a new start-up church, here in Indiana. This church was nothing special. Just another non-traditional Christian church, reaching out to the world.  

The pastor was nothing special either.  Though I enjoyed his messages, over all, I found them to be blah.  I felt his messages seemed more focused on his journey in life and what he was going though rather than what God wanted him to focus on.  

Maybe that’s why this particular church closed its doors a year or two after they opened.  A good friend of mine will remind me now and then, “If God’s not in it, then it wasn’t meant to be.”

This pastor would always end his messages with “So What”.  He even had a slide in his power point presentation in bold lettering, “SO WHAT.”  That was his wrap up time.  I found that I loved this part of this man’s message.  Not because it was his cue to show us that he was ending his message. No, it was because it showed his reality of humanity.  

“So what?” 

So what did you hear from what I just spoke about, is what he was asking on one level.  On a different level, it was his cry as to, So What does it matter if you heard me at all.   

It was the “so what” that stuck with me from my short time attending that church.  
I think it was the final “dot” that I needed to see/hear, to line up what both my parents told me throughout my up-bring.  

“So now what?” I can hear my mom ask with a side of sarcasm.  

“Now what are going to do with that?” my father would ask with a blank face.

After stewing on these moments from my past, I have been asking myself many questions.

What does it matter if I write this post?  What does it matter if I write a book? What does it matter if I take more beautiful photos? What does it matter if I toy with writing music?  What does it matter if I cook an amazing meal to enjoy with family or friends?  

What does it matter if I do creative things?  This is my thought in lining up the “dots” to my parents and this pastor from my past.

And no.  I am not looking for acknowledgment to my craft or art. Nor am I asking for the meaning of life. For those non-believers who may still be reading this post who may have pre-judged me or this post already,  I can hear you now. “Here we go again. Another Bible thumper asking for the meaning of life.”

How’s that for pre-judgment? 

No.  I’ve asked these questions to myself many times.  

Why do I do the creative things that I do? 

And selfishly I’ve come to accept the following.

It doesn’t matter.

It gives me joy.

And that’s all that should matter.

So, go on and continue to do your arts and express you creativeness.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense.  As long as it makes sense to you and gives you joy.

The title to this post is a lyric from a song.  Why did I choose this title?  It doesn’t matter.  The lyric gives me joy.  I feel it’s fitting considering the conversation of this post.   





I will give each of you a gold star for naming the song.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Let's Take the Long Way Home, Gail Caldwell

I have moved recently.  Only my husband can attest to the boxes I have emptied and stacked on bookshelves--many have gone to Goodwill, and many have ended up on funny piles stacked haphazardly by my reading chair and my bed.

These books are my "one chapter chance."

I have collected many books over the years, and as awful as I feel about this, I have started the "one chapter chance" rule.  If I can't get into the book after one chapter, I give it away.

This doesn't always work.  I'm fearfully stubborn, and I hate not finishing books, so I tell myself "one chapter chance."  Many books shouldn't have made it but continue to dog-ear where I leave off and start something else.  I finish many of these books after putting them down and picking them back up, losing the intended impact.

Anyway, one of these "one chapter chance" books is Let's Take the Long Way Home by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell.  It's a memoir.  I'm not too sweet on memoirs generally, but I've read a few that I have enjoyed.

This one was good.

Caldwell writes about her friendship and loss of Caroline Knapp, another successful writer.  The parts of the book that struck me were the parts when Caldwell spoke of herself or Caroline as a writer:
She was so quiet, so careful, and yet so fully present, and I found it a weightless liberation to be with someone whose intensity seemed to match and sometimes surpass my own.  Her hesitation was what tethered her sincerity: As much as Caroline revealed in her books, she was a deeply private person who moved into relationships with great deliberation.  I had known enough writers in my life, including myself, to recognize this trait: What made it to the page was never the whole story, but rather the writer's version of the story--a narrative with its creator in full control.
 I have felt this way about other writers and artists.  This friendship, this kindred of intensity, is what we share in writing.  Other artists understand; many others do not.

Thank you, to all of my writing friends, "whose intensity seemed to match and sometimes surpass my own."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Opportune

A note to self before you leave work,

As you walk to your car and pass by the 20-somethings leaving classes looking past you to a future with no physical obstacles and with no thoughts but for today...while students plan...

When you drive by Methodist Hospital and know the accomplished men and women fighting for another minute of life have earned it and all their breaths remaining and can't comprehend your ease...while patients heal...

As the sycamores along Illinois snap their bark exposing their white armor turning their backs to your miscalculations of time...while trees expand...

When you reach the canal that barely moves - yet moves - as you drain away the months and years...while the canal spills...

As you cut through Broad Ripple village and the revelers come to play yet hate your secured introversion as they glance at to your secured domestication...while the villagers masquerade...

When you take note the young and the old taking to the trail along Westfield are indifferent to your consistent stumble through life...while the individual extends....

As you reach your drive on up the perpetually green hill of ivy stretching away along the ground and up the pines to escape the disease of your fading...while you fade...

you have dog-eared all your opportunities.



Saturday, December 22, 2018

Folding Sheets

There are moments in a person’s life where reality dispels the illusions we build for ourselves and lay bare the basics of our lives. It is in these times that we discover the fundamental elements that make us who we are. It is the basic programming of our lives that remains when all else is stripped away. One such moment happened to me in the summer of 2017 when my mother was taken to hospital with sepsis.

She was there for ten days. We took turns - my sister, father, and I - sitting by her side as  the doctors struggled to diagnose her condition. It was only after the third day that they were able to ascertain that her bloodstream was infected with staphylococcus oralis, a bacterial infection likely obtained from an over zealous dental cleaning. During this time, and for some time after the antibiotics had started to work, she was delirious. The woman who had been my mother was no longer there, but rather replaced by this frail and gaunt soul in contest against Death. 

Yet, as I sat there watching her, there were signs that she was not completely lost to us. There was one constant during those early days even as she drifted in and out of lucidity. She kept folding her sheets. It wasn’t that she was merely turning them over in her hands, but rather taking measure of them with her hands and precisely folding as if to place them straight into the linen closest. The fact that she was lying on them didn’t seem to matter much at the time. She did this with her blankets and wash cloths as well, all the while tsk-ing and muttering at them when she couldn’t get them put right.

It was also during those early days before the diagnosis came through that she came perilously close to passing. I was alone with her as my sister and father were yet to arrive when she settled into a moment of clarity. Her eyes were watery, but clear as she clasped my hand as tightly as she could. She raised her free hand and rested it shakily on my cheek as she smiled sadly at me. 

“My boy,” she said weakly, patting my cheek with her trembling hand.

I cried then as I do now at the remembering of it.



But, this story has a happy ending of sorts. She survived the ordeal and has returned home, though a bit worse for wear. The Alzheimer’s that just begun to take hold prior to her illness is now much more pronounced. Yet, she remembers each of us though  she cannot say our names. Music still comes to her easily despite her losses, especially Christmas carols. Sentences may be beyond her reach now, but tonight as we were folding their laundry, I set Pandora to the “Fred Waring” Christmas channel and we sang Silent Night together word for word as we put the sheets in the linen closest.