My Mom is A Hero of Mine

I don’t have any men heroes (I think I’m changing that notion as my sons grow older, but that’s another story). My dad died when I was nine, and after that I took little interest in what men had to say. If the latter comment is connected to the first I have not found a way to break that link.

My mom is a hero of mine. She has passed, a few years ago, at the age of 97, perhaps a year or two longer than she should have stayed, but until then she lived a full life that any “demi-god” would be proud of—I believe ‘heros’ means just that, demi-god.

She became a teacher with only a high-school education, and when barely a young-woman, left her home and family to teach in various Newfoundland communities; gone for nine, ten months at a time, she went among strangers, lived with one of those families, and instructed their children on a day-to-day basis; she was a missionary of sorts in those days of no roads, cars, television, or electricity.

She met by dad in Brent’s Cove, and somewhere in her early thirties they married, and even then she moved away for a year to take a teaching position in another community, before returning to Brent’s Cove to settle in. Her first two children died at a very young age – the cost of being so isolated from hospitals, though one of them died in a hospital where he had gone to be treated for a bad case of eczema, a strange mystery death that is now lost to the times.

I was given last rites by the local priest, but miraculously (now painful for the rest of the world?) began to breathe again, and somehow made it this far.

Long before I judged her a hero (heroine does not seem appropriate, that word denotes the premise of a Wonder Woman movie) she had done what most women could not in that time period—go her own way, and do her own thing.

She had but a short time with my dad before he died; she saw no reason for us to remain in the small fishing community (that’s a story in itself that begs to her heroism, but I would rather leave it buried) after his death,  and so we moved the big city, St.John’s, an incredible move for baymen(women)—a widow and two children. She found a teaching position; you should have seen how bad the pay was then for women as compared to now(yes, uphill both ways).  She took in ‘boarders’ to bridge the need-versus-have gap, taught school, and hobbled about on her one-good foot (Yes, another story) to ensure my sister and I where educated, clothed and cared-for.

We stayed in St. John’s for five years, and mom decided she would head-off to Montreal as the teaching job in St. John’s was not enough to sustain us. In Montreal she found an apartment, a teaching job, and there we settled in. She was mid-forties by then. The world was evolving quickly in the sixties, more women in the work place, the Cuban crisis, hippies, and changing times. Her school required better teaching qualifications.

So, she worked all day, bused it down to McGill at night, came back, corrected papers for the next day of classes where she taught, and woke up early to take another bus to her students. This she did for years as she earned her degree from McGill University.

She was forced to retire early(yet another story; demi-gods have lots of stories) and spent a good deal of the rest of her life traveling, always alone, always made friends, and always laughed at the wonderful times the traveling provided.

She was a self-made woman, one of a hearty crowd that sprung forth form the early settlers in Newfoundland.

Happy hero’s day, Mom!

 

She hid her strength behind a smiling face

Her noble nature sat on equal with everyone

Never looking down

No manner of jealousy or envy made her look up

She was who she was

Nothing more nothing less

A true creature of the planet

Who followed her own path

Yet making sure that others were not left behind

The Flame

What makes a fire go out? You would imagine lack of fuel. And that might be so with actual fires, thought they do get doused now and again with a reversing wind or a trouncing rainstorm, and of course there are mixtures in canisters that do more effectively what a covering pan over a unwanted flame could accomplish.

 But those are not the fires which interest me at the moment. The spark of life, what makes that want to continue? What makes it want to go out? Here again there are certain easy answers: old age, pain, great loss, illness, a myriad of other conditions that come with the living process.

I happened on an article of a 104 year-old man celebrating his birthday. His birthday wish was that he could die. He seemed healthy, smiling, and in full-charge of his faculties; though yes I am making a grand list of assumptions from the short article on the matter. He was a scientist who was now planning to go to a country which allowed the ending of one’s life. His position was that he had lived too long, twenty years longer than he should in his estimation. So, for him at least, mid-eighties marked the termination point.

I have lived with folks who have stayed-on long past their true living points, dementia having set in, any interest in anything long gone, including any sense of who they were. I was happy for them when they finally made the transition, a transition long and hurt-full for them, that had nothing to do with what they might have wanted should their reasoning be intact.

Yet, it perplexes me to fathom where the breaking point comes between choosing life and being allowed to die. I have a view, but it is deeply rooted in my spiritual beliefs, and would not impart any objective value to such a decision.

Instead I offer something else. Life is about doing, learning, exploring. It is about eating, drinking, celebrating. It is about pain, losing, strife. It is about winning the beginning to each new day. Take away parts of this and the flame grows dimmer, to when all else is gone, and where even if food and water be in abundance as fuel, the flame will snuff itself out, thought the body continues on with its fuel consumption.

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A Writer’s Journey

A week to go before April 15th, and what was I doing at 6 am, this morning? Yup, having a coffee and thinking about writing. I wasn’t sure of the year so I looked back at my files on my laptop: draft after draft going back to where it started for me—April 2010.

There it was: evidence that I have a propensity to gear up for the next project as I see the one I’m currently working on, winding down.

I remember that moment. I was sitting having a coffee, early in the morning, and it hit me that I should write a book; no idea why. Yes, I am a prolific reader, always have been, with interests that go from Fantasy, to Spiritual, to the science of the Cosmos.

I had no idea, at the time, as to what I would write about, but within days I was starting my mornings with my two fingers tapping on my keyboard, and it wasn’t long before sentences stretched into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.

Then the hard work began. My words did not measure up to what I expected from the many books I had read. So I searched-out teachers and books on craft. I went through an editor or two. I sent letters to publishers, jumped into beta groups, explored the world of self-publishing along with its necessary cover designing, and the various marketing requirements that tagged along with the brave new world of self-publishing.

I’ll skip the next few years and jump to the last four. In the last four years I have rewritten my first and second books, changed editors, covers, and completed the series with a third book.

I learned along the way that writing is a science and an art. More importantly, the art is useless without the science, the craft. You get the craft from practice and by leaning on the shoulders of those who have made the journey before you. Learning the craft is key.

April, 2018, eight years of writing and rewriting. The Druid and the Flower, Ashima, and the conclusion, Riddle of the Keep, have made it to Amazon, and even as stand-alone stories they give me pause to be proud; the three encapsulate a journey that mankind might take, and  they represent my optimistic view that most folks are good and that our world with find a way to sustain itself.

My fourth book – I should say our, as my son it part of that process, is well on its way, and should be completed by year’s end.

So, what’s all this about? Ok, a little bit of marketing for myself, but more-so a brief moment for me to reminisce, as this morning the sun was shining, the coffee tasted great and I was thinking about how much I love to write.

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Two Windows

Scented oils, lavender among them,

the breeze from the screened door offers a ride.

Out-there can find no mercy from the wind,

The winds of change I mean:

Ill winds that blow only scurrilous defamation 

In thunderous heaps beyond reason.

Yes, the lavender is soothing, perhaps a touch of grape;

It mixes well with the smell of smoke from the fireplace.

It’s safe here for awhile

Should I not turn on what is happening.




So many windows in this noble house,

Built to be so, close to the ground where it’s easy to see.

Windows to the world used to be few and guarded;

Much was done to protect what was let in and let out.

That has all gone, even the walls are windows, now.

The world has become a glass bottom boat.

I glimpse outside; the chipmunks prepare for winter.

The leaves fall gently.

I know what to expect of my winter.

The other is more difficult to frame.




I must leave here soon,

But not before the oils have had their way with me.

When institutions outlive their usefulness there must be change,

From the hunter to the grower, from technology to humanity.

And none go easy, the fight is always fierce,

Last gasps of desperation from a broken system.

Perhaps a sip of brandy, a junk of wood to the fire

The light is dimming outside,

Soon it will be time to sleep.

Not so for the turmoil to come.

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Leaving

I walk behind them as they keep their nose to ground,
One following the other, a sniff, a leg cocked in the air.
They mark what is theirs to mark,
Especially should some new scent linger there.
I can tell when something new comes to bear.
No, I have no ability like these two, not nearly so,
However, they tell me much when they longer pause,
And insist on greater inspection before we go.

 

Maybe I should do the same,
And perhaps I do without noticing the mark I’ve made.
I sometimes wonder about things I’ve left behind
But it’s mixed up with the price I’ve paid.
I tear pictures up inside my head
And toss out softer things that like to cling.
I cannot take the pull of future against past;
Either one has only sorrow left to bring.

 

The dogs do it better, marking what is theirs I mean.
What they truly love has no need for such marking:
The house, the den, the dish, the human, the toy,
It is part of what they are, no different from their barking.
I would not care to guess what taking that away means;
How they cope with change is their mystery.
In each new place, you’ll find them once again
Creating a brand new history

 

My fear is in not finding something better.
What I have shines so bright I scarce expect more.
Yet the time calls for moving on to something new,
Some place I have not been before.
And then, there is the greater need to leave
That looms closer with each footstep that I take.
I tell my dogs it’s time that we go home.
They care not for the silly entendre I might make.

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If I could find Jesus

I find myself thinking

Something evil is blocking the light

It’s not just a notion

Some darkness that comes in the night

                                                                            It’s out all around me

                                                                          It feeds on the left and the right

                                                                         There’s an upset in heaven

                                                                          And Jesus is losing the fight

                                                                    

                                                                   People are starving

                                                                    His children die every day

                                                                    The screams from my TV

                                                                        Tell me more pain’s on the way

                                                                  There’s terror next door

                                                                     Don’t care what you might say

                                                               Blow them to bits

                                                                    It’s time someone else had to pay

                                                             

                                                              I find myself thinking

                                                               Our mother is shaking in fear

                                                               Trampled green grass and flowers

                                                                The weight is too much to bear

                                                                 I weep as she suffers alone all alone

                                                                 And if only Jesus could see

                                                             He’d have all of us leave

                                                             Set paradise free

                                                              

                                                             My iphone just called me

                                                              My internet says don’t delay

                                                              Those pills on the table

                                                               Will help me forget yesterday

                                                            If I could find Jesus

                                                                 But I know something keeps him away

                                                             So I have a bad feeling

                                                                It’s just gonna be hell today

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Dad, I still miss you

This is my third attempt to write about Father’s day. Why write at all you might ask? Good question. And it deserves an answer.

Because I’m still not sure I’m any good at it, and I’m damn sure I made many mistakes in the process of being one—for a short spell, when I should have, not being one at all. So yes, I feel compelled to write about Father’s day.

My dad passed away when I was ten, and I have given few men any latitude when offering me guidance or direction. I have learned most things the hard way, including how to be a father.

Of course circumstance has a way of making decisions for us. No matter how wonderful the notion of “following your own path,” there are roads you are forced to take, rough roads that trip you and push you to your knees. Those roads don’t make fathers. They make you accept that much in life is beyond your control. To experience that little fact a time or two sucks.

I won’t for a moment make some excuse for anything I did or didn’t. I am now what formed me back then. I take full responsibly for the good and the bad.

So, ya, Fathers. I’ve been around long enough to meet all types: the true father, work-alcoholic, the alcoholic, the cheater, the beater, the lover, the child, the provider, the loser, and a myriad of other wonderful characterizations.

No, those tags are not boxes I put fathers in. They are notions shared by the family who knew them; people who for reasons of their own felt compelled to add those tags. A mother is either good or bad, mostly good. (I offer that not as a jealous observation of how well mothers are treated, a story for another piece of writing, rather that’s the way mothers get described)   Fathers tend to come with the tags depicted above.

I don’t believe any Father belongs in one of those boxes. We all make mistakes. We all stumble. Divorce and separation are not exactly a rare occurrence, yet it is probably the Father who will deal with one of those monikers.

So, my hat today is “off” to all those Fathers who have fallen from grace, to all those who have struggled and tried, who in the end never gave up, no matter the scars.

Happy Father’s Day!
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The Select Few

Brent’s Cove, Newfoundland. The place I was born, and then lived-in for ten years before moving to the big city, St. John’s. Childhood offers its own protection from the atrocities of life, but I think most people who lived in the cove felt safe. Even in St. John’s, where I spent by early teenage years, and Montreal where I went to University, and found my first “real” job, I was subjected to very little regarding the grievous affairs of the world. News of such events was given a scant ten or fifteen minutes on the six o’clock TV news, with maybe a few minutes extra on the eleven o’clock news. Anyone under thirty years of age scarcely listened to either.

That’s not to say we did not have world issues to contend with: The Cuban crisis, the Vietnam War, race issues, managed to find their way into our Canadian lives; even my university was the center of a race confrontation where the entire computer system was destroyed, education grinding to a halt for a week or so. Those were all troubling events, but the news surrounding the circumstances moved into the shadow as the days sped by. The reason for that was not our unconcern for what was happening to others; we returned to reacting to the stimulus of our day-to-day lives: the homes we lived in, the people we encountered, the streets we drove on, the sidewalks we walked on, the stores we visited, the workplace, the nightclubs. All else came as outside news and had but a tiny window and a wisp of time to capture our attention.

I mention this, as today we are all inundated with every grim and grizzly encounter that might take place on a planet with 7.5 billion people. I don’t believe we were meant to take on the impact of every depraved situation that a bloated planet of people might conjure up every few seconds. Yes, the speed of information being as it is, that is exactly what is happening—a vast network of interested parties pushing to claim your next second, and then sell you something: maybe an ideology, maybe the latest drug, or maybe, something more sinister, to riddle you with fear. I vote that the latter has a heavy set of interested parties. Fear is a powerful motivator, even if the most likely outcome of a sustained fear is a debilitating state of mind.

We greatly need to understand, believe, accept that we all still live in Brent’s Cove; but we just don’t know it. Now, I’m not so naïve that I accept putting on blinders and ignoring the rest of the world is a solution to anything. Rather, I am equally confident that focusing on your own neighborhood, your friends, your family will have the best possibility of keeping your town, city, or suburb safe and livable, and your mind uncluttered with the constant fear that is being promulgated by the excess of media. Realize, be aware, that when you tune-in you are being sold, set-up for some purpose. Expose yourself to only what you deem relevant and necessary, then tune-out and return to your Brent’s Cove.

So ends part one of my intention.

Part two has to do with  the Selected Few behind the curtain? Yes, they have been there since the commencement of the industrial age, and, in all likelihood, before that. Up until the Internet they knew we were not looking.

But the internet did come along.

From the radio, to the TV, to the Internet, it took less than a century to take the relative freedom and anonymity that folks had to live their own lives, and have them quickly become totally dependent on the system and the paycheck. That, my dear friend, was orchestrated to happen by the Selected Few. We were being corralled by advertising and marketing even as the Sears catalog sat in the outhouse so we could wipe our ass with it. The radio began the propaganda of the “good life;” the TV took over as best it could.

The Internet is the monster.

The big push came after the second world war, and by the time the eighties were upon us, it was quick becoming that two people were required to work to sustain a household: that a university education was a prerequisite for any type of well-paying job, that every family needed a big house, two cars. Soon enough the cost of an education, the cost of insurance, the cost of maintaining a household, was all too often a numbing day to day burden—the noose as tight as could be without total strangulation.

I won’t pretend I’m some well-informed economist. Nor will I for a moment believe that it is only in the past year or so that our world had become unhinged in leadership and direction. What I refer to above took time and planning. The game has been “afoot” for some time—the Selected Few behind the curtain pulling the strings and pushing us all to work longer and harder, spend more, expand, drink in the Kool-Aid of consumption.  Behind the curtain the same old game continued —the Selected Few—People of extreme privilege and power doing  whatever they feel needs to be done to extend that power and wealth.

The media took a pot shot at a few, mostly irrelevant fodder in the big machine; now and again a mighty figure might seem to fall—my favorite is Martha Stewart; of all the corruption she becomes one of the few hung out to shame—give me a break. WE, THE People were oblivious to it all.

The Internet changed that.

There were always a few on the people’s side who tried to warn the rest of us—a Ralph Nader of sorts. They were few and far-between with little access to mass media. That lack of access has ended. The many, many sins of humanity against humanity now hangs out in shame like a Monday morning wash hanging on a clothesline in some long ago era. Those who seek to stay hidden have less and less places to hide; their affiliations, their avarice, their power is being more and more exposed, and so they become more desperate.

Be careful. This is not a time to celebrate. The Selected Few who need to stay behind the curtain have adopted a new game. What they cannot take away, they will add to; they ensure we are fed on a minute-by- minute basis: fear and division.  Fear mongering, as the machinery of our broken institutions make their final gasp at serving the few—the citizens of Rome looking down upon the staged performance of its paid for and owned gladiators; but, no one dies here, it’s all about posturing, the misguiding presentation of cows humping cows, nothing more, nothing less.

The Internet is a monster of resurrection and doom. It can and will deliver one or the other. Let’s ensure it’s the outcome we desire.

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The Male Image

The right to use image – purchased

I have always been in touch with my feminine side, or so I used to think. I enjoy and work better with women than I do with men. I’m as sensitive as a humming bird attempting to stand still, but I purposefully carry along a few tortoise shells in case I need to protect myself; and I have been known on many occasions to drag myself back up even when my good friend, Whiskey, said he could be of no help.

I was lucky enough, in my earlier days, to be part of a very successful international firm in accounting, and for many years I followed the winding stairs to the top; even making it up a vast number of floors before an absurd notion overtook me: I hated it. Not the work. That was fine. It was the culture. Then it was mostly men. But the road to that final floor was clear. It was who you know, and who knew you. What you knew was at that point irrelevant, as it was assumed you were an expert or you would not have made it this far. It was all about jousting for the favor of the powers above who would invite you up that last set of steps. I could not do it, so I quit.

It’s a long way back to that time, and I am more than pleased that I had the wisdom to make that incredible decision. Yet, for some time I questioned what it was that was so to my dislike. My search for that answer took some time, but indeed I found it. Rather than share how I found that answer I would like to share two short anecdotes that I hope will give you the answer.

I was in the presence of a well-know dressage teacher (there with my wife who rides natural horsemanship there days) and he and I were at one end of the arena as a screaming match erupted among a few of the attendees. He turned his back on what was happening and came over to me. His words rang clear what was going on in the corporate world I had almost gotten lost in. “It’s okay, Russell. Let’s you and me chat. …That there is nothing more than cows humping cows.”

The next story has to do with a webinar I took some time ago. It was on spirit, soul, and how we are all in need of growth and change. Wonderful, thoughtful, and helps point the way back on the path if one is into that sort of thing. The two got into a discussion of a need for the feminine to take over the planet. The elder of the two, and perhaps the more seasoned in knowledge of what we males tend to project, was adamant; No, we are in need of the masculine. What we have witnessed thus far in our history is nothing more than ego driven, cruel, selfish, power hungry males taking what they can before they are consumed by their own fear. The masculine should be the nurturing, protective father. We need many more of those.
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How much do you pay for a high fructose corn syrup soda

If someone does not like what I write, that is their right. But then, move on.

And people should know they have not earned some special right to read a book for free, listen to music for free, watch a movie for free, or consume any other form of art, for free. It behooves me to comprehend how people look at artists. Just this morning I saw a post on Face book bemoaning why a band would want to be paid… they should be happy to have a place to showcase their music…Really?

I can only talk for myself. I am self-published. I will be the first to agree that my first book might not have earned the endorsement of Ernest Hemingway, and even the second and third might not be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. But, before someone trashes me as being without credentials, that I am tossing out worthless trash, and wasting their valuable money ($3.99) and time to read the book, let me give them my story.

I have enjoys the art of writing for most of my life. As a child I loved stories, and as soon as I could, I became an avid reader, and I am still one to this day. I have always loved poetry, and since my first infatuation with a long-ago beautiful young lady I have written poetry.

I never could spell, and hated to research in the local library, so it was not until the internet and Word that I became prolific at writing short stories, songs, and more poetry. Some five or six years ago I got the idea of writing a novel. Okay, I’m a gamer, even at my ripe age, and I love the Fantasy genre, from Terry Brooks to the great late Robert Jordan. So, it had to be fantasy.

I spent a year writing that first novel. I found an editor for $600 or so, a cover for $200 or so and off I went to self-publishing. A lot has happened since then: I wrote a second book, went to a lot of online courses on how-to-write ($1000 or so, in total); began writing a third book, purchased a lot of how-to-write books (between ten and twenty books)… from deep pov, who’s pov, head-hopping, hooks, plot, pace, character building, world building, et al. I also found a new editor who was excellent at his craft and a great teacher.

After all of that I went back and rewrote the first, paid an editor to once again make it less than a grammar catastrophe, rewrote the second book, once again had it edited, and finally, produced a third book. With new covers, reviews and the like I invested some $6,000 to $8,000; I’m afraid to compute an exact tally.

What I have ended up with is a three book series that has taken five years, lots of research, hard work and effort, not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses over and above those listed above, i.e. advertising, marketing, website, etc.. I am proud of what I have accomplished, and I believe the products I have created are worthy of being called art.

I have had some good reviews and I am pleased that a select few enjoy reading my book. But one review was bitter in its intent and lacking in its credibility. I did not attack it as I have learned that the few who write such shite do so with the expectation of stirring up the pot for their own benefit. Still I would like to say a few things:

My books sell for $3.99. Most people belong to some group or club; my bad review came from someone who managed to get the book for free, from someone else who had gotten it for free. Even at $3.99 how much ire do they believe they have bought, no matter how bad they might judge my book? A soda drink at some fountain made with high fructose corn syrup and laced with ice and water costs more. That drink is a health risk at best, and half gets tossed away in some garbage bin, along with the plastic mug that helps pollute the planet, yet no one ever complains about the waste of money. However my free book has in some way given a person the need to be outrages. Whatever.

I get lots of folks who, once they learn I have written a book, ask for a copy. They would love to read it, as if they are doing me some favor. Yes, I give away copies and usually make a request that they might add a review should they find the book to their liking. I can count on one hand how many folks follow through. And that’s fine. We have not signed a contract, after all. But, please, no one is doing me a favor. The thousands of hours I have put into these books are indeed my own choice. I have a day job, thank the gods, and I have a wonderful family and friends who support my efforts. I ask for no more. I write this not to complain, rather to clarify a few facts about writers. I don’t for a moment believe I am alone in what I have experienced.

So, where do I go from here? I will keep on writing. I read lots of other books, and I pay for each one I read. I listen to music and pay a monthly fee to do so. I recognize the hard work and effort that goes into art. And I do my best whenever I meet an artist to understand and recognize the efforts they have put forth.

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