A Leaf

A Leaf

by

Russell Loyola Sullivan

Autumn

A small buckled leaf

It skates across the deck

Bits of green still cling

Perhaps it is early to the fall

There’s a crackling dryness from the sound it makes as it moves

The brisk wind that carries it tells only of winter

The chipmunks know the truth of it

Or again it might have been the nuts that tipped them off

And so we take the time to tell each other

I know the drill but seem less inclined to join in all the preparation

Perhaps I do know more than I could tell

I merely pause and hope it might slow down for me

Before a long repose might find its rightful place to claim its time

You don’t think of such happenings in spring or summer

It’s our way to believe that things will not die when growth should be in favor

Yet that too my time has though me to be weary of

Still you best not be out of kilter with the ways of nature

Like having your dinner for breakfast

Or your breakfast for dinner

Such nonsense that even a child might see though the silliness

A shiver to the wind

That’s my acceptance

I enjoin the coolness

Anticipate the hoar frost to come

Smoke upon the ponds

Stillness as even the trees return to slumber

I will find them there

We might find each other

Let me see all your colors in full bloom

Let me feel the wind upon my face

Let me smell the lingering decay

Let me lay with you in sweet repose

Let me awake one more time

Where we might do it all again

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Going into the Darkness

oil-lampIt’s one of my favorite times of year, when the light gives way to the darkness. Growing up in Brent’s Cove, Newfoundland, without electricity, cars, or TV, it was even more profound. As children we were in bed by eight o’clock, nine at the latest in the summer, and with that one-half hour special time in Newfoundland, the light easily lasted until nine or so during those summer months.

As winter clocked in, and the hands moved back, the darkness would sweep in at four. On went the oil lamps and maybe a Tilley lamp for its extra brightness. For children that meant we were up even after the lights went on, a novelty, a feeling of being a bit adult.

Of course the only light in the cove would be those lamps, and they barely cast a glow more than a few feet out the windows. Such a rare occasion where clouds had gone missing, the view of looking up in a crisp autumn sky allowed a few of the stars that would put Disney World to shame.

The kitchen would be where we all gathered: supper, schoolwork, prayers, the radio, even bedtime stories were told in the kitchen. All the other rooms would be chilly if not cold, as the only heat was the kitchen stove, and the only other room to get any heat was the funnel room directly above, from the hot smoke as its moved up the funnel and out through the roof. There was an oil stove in the back of the house, but that was only lit on the coldest of days. Each of us had a hot water bottle to be tossed under the sheets a few minutes before bed time.

All of the windows were single pane, and Jack Frost left many a painting on them as the kitchen fire died down. But while the fire lasted, the yellow light of the kitchen bathed us all in its glow, and the wood stove drove back the whistle of the winds attempting to creep in.

Curtains were drawn, even though there were no neighbors so close as to even need curtains; yet, it meant the family was tucked in and cozy, as we indeed where.

And so I love going into the darkness, even to this day. Yes, it also holds the holidays and the holy days, the celebration, the sharing, the merriment that is so special to that time of year.

This time of year reminds me that we are indeed the sum of our experience, the places we have been, the people we have known, and the choices we have made. Going into the darkness is a time to reflect on what our life has meant.

I looked out this morning, my dished done, my coffee made by six, ready to slide the door open and allow the dogs to wander about as I enjoy my first few sips. The darkness stopped me. Yes, it was an overcast day, and so it had snuck up on me. It gave me pause to think what this dark season might offer.

I asked the universe for a favor. Please allow everyone to at least once find serenity and peace as they go forth into the darkness.

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Retribution

He walked past a barroom. Barrooms used to be a place where he could find escape and solace; not so much for the wine and beer, rather it offered the chatter of the living and the lively, even if the reality of the situation might in fact be different. And the lighting was always to his liking, dark woods and plenty of shadow where yellow light ate up the spaces in-between the solid and the ethereal: the atmosphere which gave no care to daylight and what it might want. Here was where the nighttime kept its vigil, no matter the time of day.

Cat for Friday 13th

That was all before a greater darkness found a way inside his already lost soul, darkness so deep and penetrating that silence would be a resounding clamor of unbearable screaming in comparison. It would be easy to blame it on a world gone mad with its insatiable greed, gluttonous consumption, immeasurable waste, venomous hate, and its blind devotion to an absurd self diagnosis on the value of self. It might be easier still to assess no blame, but to allow that what had unfolded must unfold. It was the nature of things.

The pain in the right hand had all but dissipated. Ice did that to pain. One would expect that warmth would be best, as warmth was what the soul best fed on. Maybe the body craved cold in derision of what the soul might want. A smile spread across his face. This was as close as he would ever come to being a philosopher. He shook his hand and moved the fingers. Good enough for what he needed to do.

He passed another barroom and turned down a dimly lit street towards the docks. He could smell the smoke and stale beer from this one; this bar did not follow the rules. What he was looking for did not follow the rules. It would appear he was in the right place.

Retribution would not change what he had left behind. There was no going back to that place: green eyes, as emerald green as a southern ocean, with a smile that … that would be no more. His fault in her death was what had claimed the last piece of him. No matter that all of his planning, all of his ability, all of his cunning, all of his efforts would not have changed the outcome. And that alone lay all the blame upon him.

He would join her if the gods had not blocked such a reasonable and doable escape. More than join her he would have made a grand exit and let the world see what retribution should really look like. He would have given them a display to equal the burial of Pompeii, and then end himself.

It was years before he even knew they had a daughter, a daughter who did not know about him. That didn’t matter. The dark past that had so engulfed him and the woman he had loved so dearly now came to seek the last link of the two of them. He could not let that happen.

No lights now.  No sounds. A pale moon rising above the hills on the other side of the harbor gave all the light he needed. He found a place to sit where the devil himself would not be able to find him, and there he waited. Minutes turned to hours, and midnight had him stand and shake off the stillness. The lights appeared. He knew who she was: the Star Sampler. Four decks high, four captains who would sail her round the clock. She wouldn’t dock here. He knew that. She would sit at a pier full of light where men and women would scurry to serve who sat below deck.

He boarded the small dingy and started the motor, an almost silent motor. He hit the shadow aft of the huge vessel, and was onboard even before she cut her engines and commenced sliding into the dock.

What happened next was planned and carried out to precision. He slipped back into his dingy and pulled back into the shadows even before any alarm was sounded. The six of them where here for a meeting on how to best find and capture his daughter. Her skills had been touted over every media facility. A girl with special ability. A girl that would change the world for the better.

He knew better. She was no longer available for appearances. The six who came to plan how they would claim her would miss their first meeting. The one who had ordained the meeting was next, but that needed a different outcome. He shook his hand. It appeared he still needed more ice: perhaps the bar with the stale beer and smoke.

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I Love Violence

                     From the early days of black and white TV where cowboys shot each other all the time, to the iconic cool of Cool Hand Luke, the machine guns of Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, on to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, I was fixed to the screen. Many books I have read contain violence: Dune Trilogy, the Wheel of Time series, the works of Terry Brooks, also Terry Goodkind, the Godfather, et al.

Violence 3 - PixabyI won’t pursue any possible connection between TV, movies, and book violence, to reality. I’ll leave that to the experts. Our society, no matter where you might look has a background of violence, fear, and a struggle for survival. The bedtime stories we tell our children are often laced with darkness and fear. Our heroes are most times men and women who had fought, probably killed—thought portrayed as self-defense—and survived.

Of course that is the story of our past, and it might someday be muted by voices screaming for an end to violence, but, I deeply believe, we have some ways to go before such stories are forgotten. Mankind must first make a shift in its view of what path humanity must take, and then truly embrace a great change. And I even believe such change is happening, even on a global scale. I get that we are bombarded by violence from all over the world; the media splashes it in our faces with the force of Niagara Falls while we stand at the bottom looking up. Yet, I also believe there is a groundswell of change, folks who are looking for connection, compassion, a better way to live. That is not to say it will all happen tomorrow. Far from it; we have a long way to go. It is a mistake to take the changes that have happened in technology and make the assumption that the psyche of human kind should turn on the same cycle. It is a long way back to when the troglodyte when looking for a new cave; it will be a long time before we have cast off the shell of that fear and violence that marked our survival and evolution.

Does that mean that we should stop making violence the focal point of our entertainment? No! Why? Because it’s not going away soon. I read somewhere along the way that the best way to change an organization is to join it and change it from the inside. This is one of those instances where such action might ring true.

I write Fantasy. I have just finished my third book, and it ends the short series. Each book has a story of its own, and yes each one contains violence. But I was careful to not present violence in a gratuitous manner. I ensured that the consequences of violence where felt by the hero and the antagonist alike; I blurred the lines further where the hero might do bad, and the antagonist might do good. The story was of course the central purpose, yet I feel I give reason to pause for many readers who might sit and ponder about violence, while I hope they also find my stories entertaining and engaging.

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Romance

Lavender

I love my internet. I love my computer and my cell phone. But none of them have any soul, any ambiance, any spirit. Yes, I know that’s a lot to ask a cell phone, yet, a candle is very capable of delivering just that.

Our world, for all it offers, has become cold and distant; and of course I get the irony of global warming and overpopulation. We seem afraid to be romantic, as if being hard and distance will serve to protect us. I don’t mean fall in love romantic; there is lots of that, though I scarce use the word romantic.

I love fireplaces. They are of course inefficient for heating purposes, and I’ve seen many jammed shut with a stove poked in its innards, not a thing of beauty any more, not something I would have. I would rather cut three rooms from my house than go without a fireplace.

All lighting in a home should be yellow, so should the lightening in a business for that matter. It is so much more inviting and comfortable. Plus the shadows cast by yellow light give depth and texture to furniture and fixtures, pictures and paintings. No shadow is what deserts are all about; you can see forever there but there is nothing to look at.

Spirit and soul is much about smell. It doesn’t need to be aromatherapy.  Lavender oil is one of my favorites. Sandalwood and Jasmine mix well with other oils to create incredible fragrances. Citrus and mint have distinctive characteristics, while juniper and rosemary are subtle and know well how to infuse a room. And Eucalyptus is in a class all of its own. The combination and degree of subtly for these oils and herbs is endless; and the misters available to deliver the aromas to the surroundings are inexpensive yet extremely effective.

Everyone knows that the kitchen is the heart if the house. You can always tell if folks are enjoying each other’s company. If so they are in the kitchen. I firmly believe food being cooked receives the energy of those present, the more celebration, the greater the taste. Every kitchen should have candles. Once the food is ready for cooking, the lights should be dimmed and the candles allowed to dance in the heat and aromas from the preparation.

Music has no less a role to play in making a home romantic and soulful. It doesn’t need to resound off the walls; that’s a party, not a romantic setting. It does need to fit the mood of those gathered and reflect their level of excitement and participation.

We all know that a house is nothing but boards and knickknacks arranged in intricate boxes with doors and windows.

A home is a whole other matter.

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Show me the Money

 

nickle

Pic Courtesy public Domain

The message

As sure as an empty whiskey bottle brings on the dread of a long night, so does a high interest rate on your credit card hint at some possible financial reckoning. And for that reason alone I love credit cards. That high interest rate does not lie. It says you have a financial problem.

It is one of the things I look for when taking on a new client. Few other things tell me more about the state of their financial affairs.

The culprit

The reason for a financial crisis is often more difficult to diagnose than it is to identify, and often it is a challenge to reverse. Most folks experience that easy slide down the consumption slope. I call it that, as we are now a culture that exists on 100% consumption: from the bread we eat, the mortgage payment that goes on forever, the car(s) payment that renews itself every five years or so (I won’t even mention the car lease that squeezes the tiny bit of equity you might think you have in a car to where the search for dark matter is a greater possibility), clothes, utilities, so on and so on. And the slide down is easy as the advertising whisper in our ear that all is well and we deserve everything. It will all pay for itself somehow.

We no longer actually provide anything for ourselves other than money. We are totally dependent on others. Every paycheck has a list of creditors to appease, and a waiting list of items that must be purchased. Any new anomaly to that equation and the darkness of financial distress commences. Once inside its grasp it is easy to assume that borrowing and staying power will turn things around. But the slide continues. The odds are strong that once begun, the ride will not stop. How do I know? One, I’ve been there, done that. Two, for forty years I have witnessed the pattern with a litany of folks and circumstances.

The solution

First let me say that’s it’s not a good idea to try and dry your clothes when you are swimming as fast as you can to make it to the shore, and a shark is on your tail. So, stability is a mainstay to change. I know, an oxymoron of sorts. What I mean is that you need to have a plan, and part of that plan should include a job with some reasonable chance at its continuing. There are a few other factors but the steady job(s) has the biggest impact. And that’s it. You’re done. Congratulations!

To do’s

Ok, ok, here’s the easy part. We’ve all heard the expression, “living within our means.” It’s right, and yet it does not tell a story that has any use. Are my means something that a ten dollar bill can take care of? Is it based on some average standard of living? Is it based on 80% of my paycheck, and the other 20% going to savings? And so you can easily conclude, living within your means is one of those expressions that nicely inscribes a concern, without providing any reasonable answer as to its parameters.

This blog would go on for some time should I expound on an entire plan. So, I will move to central methodology that will make that high interest rate credit card go away—funds. Yes, funds. No, not as funds is often used to depict money; rather as it was meant to mean …  a holding place for money that is to be used for a prescribed purpose.  You need to sit down and create a chart. If you have Excel, then all the better; if not, a notebook will be fine. With thought and a little looking back you will easily trace where all of your money goes: mortgage, car payment, food, clothes, eating out, vacation, credit card, savings, etc, etc..

When you are done you will then go back and mark each one as “set” “variable” “discretionary.” Next, you know when you get paid. Take each paycheck and deposit it into the fund such that there is enough there to meet the obligation when it becomes due. Each and every check will put something into each and every fund on a pro rata basis.

Yes, this will be a challenge at first. This is where you find out if your means can be satisfied by your paycheck. Some things might have to give. Maybe no eating-out for awhile, or maybe a second job, or maybe a bigger change—the house you are in is unaffordable.

The funds will tell you what is possible. It is simple and it works.

Are there other considerations? Yes, but I’ve seen the fund system change lives, take you away from being a slave to bills and the never ending spiral of worrying how to stretch a paycheck.

Is it magic? No, it’s a solution that’s based on logic and common sense. And it works.

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How to pick an author

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22414277

           Yes, I think it’s fair to ponder what the author of your book is made up of. Is he or she made up of the same things you are? It’s a relevant question. You look for certain expectations in a friend, a love mate, a roommate, a leader. Of course we entertain the possibility of the opposite to ourselves, but that is not so much a complete opposite as it is someone with different attributes and aspirations—we will not ever be happy sitting down to eat with someone who only enjoys devouring sewer rats, while we have a craving for chewing on ants dipped in honey. No, I did not ponder that distinction for very long.

Once I read a book, I draw conclusions as to what I have experienced, and I make a decision if I want to follow this author. Yes, the style of writing has much to do with it; as does the pace, the twists in plot, the development of characters and how they interact. But most important for me is the world that was created: the values, the morality, the love, the hate, the needs, the expectations, and the issues which define who they all are. I don’t want to be in a world where the depraved are the heroes. I don’t want to find myself crying for all the characters who have been tossed aside by the author’s pen just so I am forced to spew up some emotional loss that is planted to cover the failure of the plot to carry me along.

I get it that a good story involves loss, involves the possibility of total loss even. I don’t get it that the plot must end in dread and dire remorse. That’s not a story worth reading; that’s a tale too already fulfilled by the stress of real life and circumstance. I want a story to deliver a promise of a better future, a fuller life, a possibility for growth and redemption.

So, yes I write that way. My first book The Druid and the Flower is very much about love and growth, flawed heroes who must fight even greater odds. And I make sure the lines are blurred even as the obstacles increase. There is no better judge of character than the one who is under pressure. Nor do I spare the good to be saintly or the bad to be the spawn of the devil, for that is also a fallacy. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. In the end we must leave it to the gods to decide who in more worthy to dine with the Devine.

In my second book, Ashima, I go one step further. There I take the idea of parental love and lock it into what is more important, survival or freedom? I take the idea of lost and evil and move it to a place where it might be good, and I take power and love to the fire of impossibility where it must choose a path.

I have lived long enough to realize decisions are not always logical, and not all logical decisions are rational.

In my final book of the series, Dawn of Magic, I present a possibility that even now as a race we might have an ability to correct a most perplexing mistake: technology versus the spiritual, what is the best fit?

Come read the first two books. The last will be out in a few months; it is complete, awaiting the final edit. I give away nothing when I promise you that as an author I carry an optimistic outlook for mankind.

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