Into the Darkness

snow stormLanding was but one of his concerns. The second winter storm of the year had come riding in on the cold artic air some hours ago. The whiteness filled the skies as darkness fell upon the land. Those trees of summer, slight against weight, had long ago dropped their leaves in anticipation of such a happening; only the stoic evergreens stood tall and straight, boughs flush and thick, well insulated against the storm.

The first of the snows skated across the ice along with the bone chilling wind, and clumps of snow piled against one side of the huge lake, doing all it could to clime the banks and move further into shore. As the storm grew in intensity, small islands of snow mounds formed on parts of the frozen vastness, and now refused to move at all. This was the darkest time of year, and the coldest.

Of course, he saw none of this below. He found himself in the midst of the swirling storm but a short time ago. No GPS. Why bother now after all these years—full speed ahead to a destination that required his attention. Plus, he knew enough that the danger was slight, if impossible to predict. Most people would be home, warm and safe, tucked in their beds. Besides, his worrying about place and circumstance would be nothing more than a distraction. He had to do what he had to do.

He also knew enough, that getting there was a certainty of sorts. He had never failed before; and sometimes he even wondered if the travel had anything to do with him at all. It was not like he was alone, though there be no one else to talk to at the moment. Still, the mission required a team. He might be the one responsible to find an entryway; but not unlike a car race where the driver looks to be the only necessity, all the preparation, the skilled maintenance as they drove the race said much about the need for a multitude of people. So it was with him.

He was lost in the reverie of the moment when a jolt grabbed his senses. He brushed the snow from his brow and peered out to where he might be. He concluded the jolt had not been loud enough for anyone inside to hear, and he stepped lightly into the new fallen snow. A smile spread out across his face. He had much to do tonight. He always found it a good sign that his first job involved his traditional approach.

He took the sack and dropped down. It never failed to amaze him that for all his girth he was as agile as a mouse stealing through a maze of rafters. He barely touched the sides as he landed on his feet. No time to look around. He took the cookie from the plate, emptied the sack beneath the tree, and as quick as Jack Flash on a hot stove he sprang back up the chimney and jumped onto the sled.

He was on a mission to steal all the sadness from the world and spread joy and the holiness of giving to all. The red light of the lead reindeer shone through the swirling snows. The old man lifted up his head and bellowed, “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas to all.”

Sun rise, sun set

TitanicI was asked, at first what appeared an innocuous question: who do I write for?

My slippery lips blurted out, “readers, of course.” We both smiled as we both recognized that was not an answer. So, I had to admit that while I knew who my writing (The Druid and the Flower) might appeal to, I had not begun the project with an audience in mind. I knew what I wanted to write about. I have a never ending love for fantasy novels, some epic, some single stories.

I am a great fan of happy endings. Sure, there has to be conflict along the way. There must also be loss, learning, and growth. Characters must be less than perfect, and the story should show that good and bad is often not a matter of ‘black and white.’ I was not a fan of the Titanic movie. I mean ‘come on,’ an unsinkable ship slamming into an iceberg, and the main character drowns (sorry for the spoiler). What kind of ‘made-up’ story is that? Unbelievable, right?

Life offers lots of joy; and it also offers its share of sorrow. I am a firm believer that when you want to escape, there is no need to escape into more sorrow. Heroes should sustain. Yes, in life heroes have come to represent those who die. But, the heroes of legion were heroes because they fought and survived. With few exceptions we all love stories where they lived happily ever after; not because that is ‘real life,’ more because we like to cheer the winner of the race, the one who scores the goal. I would think we take little solace in one who loses; perhaps the antihero, but there again we are conflicted.

So, who do I write for? Anyone who wants to own a few precious hours in a special place with folks who must struggle to attain some goal. The words should tell more than a story. They should offer humor and pathos, twists and turns, vistas of place and circumstance. Love must be central. If you ever sit and raise your head to a sunrise then I write for you. If you ever sit and sip your favorite beverage as the sun sets then I write for you; for those who live life to the fullest in between the rising and the setting of the sun, I write for you.

Black Oak

me_as_a_raven_night

Black Oak
By
Russell Loyola Sullivan

There’s a Black Oak bending low outside my window
There’s a stone bridge on the river I can’t cross
There’s a road between two walls that’s going nowhere
There’s a place inside my head where I get lost

So I’m waiting for the raven in the darkness
I can feel him close his keen eyes out of sight
  That Black Oak gives him thirty places to hide
He won’t leave until I pay the price tonight

The wind begins to moan in the old Black Oak
To cover up the flutter of his wings
And a Gray wolf howls into a moonless sky
He knows the way to what the raven brings

No use weighing the giving and the taking
No going back to burn a yesterday
I got lost looking for tomorrow
Nowhere to go nothing more to say

Barnes & Noble

cats_kittens_reading_books_03I love books.

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas was to head down to Barnes & Noble early one morning, have a coffee and a tasty tidbit while browsing through a few books. The store itself was a source of incredible delight: books, books, and more books. The table at the entrance held the latest releases; I would save that for last. And of course they had each section named for what it held; fiction, self-help, poetry, history, et al. I knew my sections, and as time would allow only so much, I spent my meager half day or so in only those sections, venturing to other sections only when some display pulled me there like the ringmaster at the circus beckoning all to the big tent.

I like hardcover books. Sit in a chair, study the jacket, and then turn the big cover, like opening up the double cellar doors on a new found treasure—turn the first blank page, onwards, pass the acknowledgements and the table of contents, and there I was consumed in a new world; “It all began when wit and circumstance collided with common sense and fate…”

I found the transition difficult from print to digital. All new things take time to adjust to. Now, I give up the feel and the appeal for the multitude of possibilities. There are blogs, reviews, promotion sites, book groups, TV shows, and a myriad of places to sample opinions of “good reads.” Even better, it is possible to find a book, crack it open on line and get a good feel for the book before purchasing; all in a few minutes.

I do all my searching on my PC, and then send my choice off to my Kindle. What I lose in the wonder and delight of being totally engulfed by shelves of books, I make up for in the ability to widen my search, investigate what is inside with internet tools allowing me to cover a hundred times what I ever could do in Barnes & Noble.

Which brings me to why I wrote this. I received in the mail today my first copy of “The Druid and the Flower.” Yes, a shameless plug for my recently released book. I have been working some ten months to make it a book I can be proud of. And I am. It conjured up that wonderful feeling of entering Barnes & Noble on some crisp Saturday morning, and just for the heck of it, going straight to the “new release” table; and there in the center, a new release by one of my favorite authors. Not that I should have a compulsion to covet my own work; rather, there was a familiar expectation, an understanding that I knew somehow what was inside was a wonderful journey into adventure, intrigue, danger, love, growth, and resolve.

We were all meant to be told stories.

Response

Canada flag
I was thinking of the young Canadian soldier who was killed this week.

I know all too well that should he be my brother or sister, my daughter or son, I would very much want to kill the perpetrators. I might even react the same should I witness someone needlessly killing one of my pets—my Great Dane or my Rat Terrier. I believe it is a normal reaction to such violence. As I move out from the relationship with the person who has suffered the tragedy, my emotional reaction changes. That is not to say that I condone violence on everyone else, rather the emotional response now turns to a rational and reasoned reaction to what has happened.

I believe it is safe to assume that most rational people abhor violence. We might hear that a young man was killed by drug dealers in some downtown ghetto. It flashes in our mind that the world contains much evil, but I would bet that most people will move on with their day without an emotional reaction that calls for tracking down the culprits and killing them for what they have done.

It is a tragedy of our age that many people have mental illnesses that sometimes easily sway any hope of rational behavior out the proverbial window. I may be neglectful in how I connect the dots, but even the latest killing of the soldier points to a young man perhaps preordained by his mental condition to await a trigger for his violence. Such triggers are readily available with all the news of kill and be killed. I repeat again I do NOT know the facts of this case, but I greatly believe in the cause and effect of how a disquieted mind can be stirred to violence.

I also worry on some level about the people’s reaction. There is no direct connection that the deceased has with most people but they are stirred to the emotional level of those close connected to the deceased. Most media grieves and stirs the emotional level so we all feel like we have lost a brother or a sister, or a son or a daughter. We no longer react with a rational and though out understanding of what has transpired, rather we react like we should expect his/her family to react.

I accept and understand the reaction of the family. Everyone else should react with condolences and sympathy but save their emotion response for what is truly theirs. As the probability of such tragedy becomes more and more possible, we need a dialogue of how to react in a way that does not make some sad soul lost in their own mind look like a monstrous purveyor of evil and tragedy, an antihero of sort, by all the attention, which can only spawn more of the same.

Such events are a feeding frenzy for the media, when in fact it is a private terrible happening for the families and close friends, no more, no less than any such terrible event which happens each and every day.

Birches

birches_on_sunnydayPoetry is for women.

Well, there was a time before when poetry was for men too, as it is again. The word ‘poetry’ gets a bad rap in how it is aligned with…Roses are red, violets are purple, etc.” And of course, if someone calls it poetry, then I suppose it IS poetry. Some of the problem stems from the all-encompassing nature of the word ‘poetry’; I doubt a book with only three words would be called a novel, or a song….oh wait a minute, “The tide is high and I’m moving on…”

…and poetry is supposed to conjure up sweet things, like, write a poem to a sweetheart. Well, I assure you I could whip up a poem to an old sweetheart, and perhaps they to me, that would make a shiny tin roof, sitting in the hot sun on a sweltering august afternoon, go cold as ice.

I have always had an affinity for poetry. It came from my mother, but it actually stems back to my father. He was little schooled, as compared to my Mom, who was a teacher. He worked the store and the salmon factory that were his Father’s; his indenture commencing at a very young age when school came second to having to make a living. But I remember, on occasion when he gathered in the store, late in the evening just before closing, with a few of his friends. I’m sure a beer or two was being consumed, but I remember best the poetry: The face on the Barroom floor, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Sea Fever, et al.

Grown men, fishermen, with calloused hands and lined faces well before their age, reciting poetry from memory. I have no idea if they recited the entire poem, but I do remember that each went on for some time, and all the others would listen.

My mom would recite bits of poetry now and again. She was a lover of Robert Frost, as I am today.

Poems are like old friends. Yes, old songs stick to you, you could say. But an old poem not only sticks to who and where you heard it, it gathers a myriad of events along the way and creates a small but detailed memory of special moments in your life, not just one.

With little searching I can now take a poem that attached itself to me back when I was a youth, and, rolling it forward, I can linger on a variety of moments when I read it again, or recited it from memory.

Just yesterday my son posted a picture of him cutting down trees, and I remembered the poem ‘Birches’ as it is among my favorites. It immediately casts me back to where Len and I would climb the birched and swing down. I found the poem later in life, and I remember when I was not among trees that poem came to produce them for me. I remember when I knew I would no longer climb trees, and found the words of the poem a sweet memory; and now it marks a time when I find my son as a man who knows trees.

Women have always known the way. We men should learn to ask for direction.

Campfires

author-RLSCampfires hold a special place in my heart.

I have a deep appreciation for all the elements. In Newfoundland, growing up we would place a propeller on a stick with a nail, climb the nearest hill, and the wind on any day would send it twirling until our hands shook. On a special windy day, with breakers sweeping over the huge rocks protecting the cove from the full force of the gale, and waves crashing against the wharfs, boats and shore, our ‘leather-wind-bats’ would spin until the nail was hot enough to cook a sculpin.

Montreal offered up wonderful rain storms. They would roll in over the St. Lawrence, flat terrain waiting to be drenched. Dark clouds bellowing, air climbing, perhaps to try and escape the rain; to no effect as the lightning flashed, thunder rolled and the torrents of rain pelted the streets, buildings, cars and trees. None of that gentle rain, the drops were fat with intent to drown everything, bouncing on everything it hit, wanting to penetrate and soak deep. Nor was it a ten minute rain like the ones you get on a sunny afternoon in Florida; no warning, sun, rain, puddles everywhere, minutes later it was as if nothing had ever happened. The Montreal rain storms went on for hours some times, lightning flashing, the rain lessening up to see if someone would venture out, and then more thunder and the drenching would resume.

I like snow best in the mountains—ski country thought it need not have a mass of people which might steal from its attempt to cover everything and keep the world quiet, if only for a short time. Snow storms have their own appeal, but thick cotton-eared flakes of snow magically prepared with exact combination of moisture and temperature, minus the wind, offers the greatest silence. So quiet, you can hear the silence in each snowflake, a landing so gentle against the ground it resembles the seed pod of the dandelion plant floating off as just kissed by a loving breeze. Everything is white, pristine like a new suit of clothes for that first Holy Communion when the soul knows not of sin.

Campfires, no matter where they might find time to warm the air, are good to all seasons and settings. There is a warmth to campfires that is so much more that the fuel being consumed. It has a soul of its own that has little to do with the hotness of its being. Campfires cool and calm the evening, bring friends to gather round, forming the circle which is eternal, backs to the darkness, resting, rejoicing that the day has offered up the night. Rings of smoke send off prayers into the sky; flames flicker and fade, shades of blue where intensity resides, the soft pale yellow where the flame lets go of what must be given in offering.

Campfires might well offer light.

A Novel Idea

Book A Novel IdeaWe all love words. Some of the most memorable movies owe deference to a few good lines of speech. The Untouchables with Sean Connery, many a Clint Eastwood movie, all the way back to the “…frankly, my dear, [Scarlett] I don’t give a damn”, all stick in our memories as wonderful lines of dialogue, exact, though perhaps unexpected, for the particular setting.

Movies and television shows can only do so much of that as the plot would quickly fall to pieces as slapstick of whose line is the best. So, movie makers know their value but are careful to use them wisely and sparsely.

Some movies are great for the scenery. I am convinced I know every mountain range in New Zealand after viewing the Lord of the Rings series. Many sci-fi movies get by on magnificent animated scenes that dazzle the eye and the intellect with the brilliance so bragged about by Timothy Leary and his experiments with mind altering substances.

Plot is often minor in some movies. If present at all, it can certainly add to the effectiveness of drawing on your emotions and pulling you into the story for a few hours. We take the ride to escape for a short time, as well we should. Sometimes we are just entertained, sometimes we gain new and useful insight into other worlds, or as I mentioned at the outset we come away with a most memorable line of dialogue.

I love books so much more than movies, though I would be less than happy should only one or the other be available. The written word can take you anywhere, invite you to conjure up again and again settings even beyond the mountains of New Zealand, and without a quiver of redundancy or overuse, allow brilliant dialogue and description to flow with the force and magnificence of Niagara Falls.
Each sentence offers the possibility of being a precious gem of constructed beauty, a paragraph might conjure up a sculptured statue offering both creativity and brilliance, a chapter can toss you on a sea of peril, leave you safe upon a sandy beach, or better still, make you beg for the storm to abate when you reach the end of the chapter; and so you must go on to the next.

I find that reading something brings me closer. In a movie you see the mountain. In a book you experience the mountain as the author describes the dark step face of a mountain range, stretching into the clouds, and with a few words more, lets you feel the danger as he brings you up close to where the heroes slip hesitantly along the path…”slick ice and nowhere to hold on, the wind battered their bodies against the slippery face. They climbed along a few inches of steep trail that, should they fall, the sound of the scream would be lost well before the tumble on the searing rocks below.”

I find that novels invite you in. Like in a poem you are asked to provide your own interpretation. There is enough direction to move you along with the plot, but each reader will find a very personal path of circumstance and character, setting and emotion.

There is evidence in this brave new world that storytelling is hard-wired. Reading a story is not much different to the brain than actually experiencing what you are reading—yup, whiskey and women.

Rosebud

rosebud-imgStories on the radio, the view-master, sledding, catching sculpins.

I loved going for a ride in the skiff. My dad would bring along a treat and we would sit in the front and let the spray and the bouncing through the waves excite us beyond belief—better than any roller-coaster we had no knowledge off, more exhilarating than a wild dog sled ride, which we also cherished.

I miss ice-skating and roller skating, comics, the Hardy Boys.

A cold Pepsi after a ball game we played sometimes in the park, sometimes on the street—cars being a nuisance to our fun; first put the peanuts in the top and catch them as they fizzed out the opening; someone always called “drops”. We’d hang in the store until we were kicked out, but not before we purchased a Popsicle – orange my favorite.

The fish and chip shop was also a great place. There, pinball machines, you had to leave a quarter on the machine as a way to get in line—three games for a quarter. The fries were hot, a special kind of soggy, and begged for salt, gravy, and vinegar – that too had to be shared with who came along with you. Sometimes you shared the pinball as well, one flipper to each; harder to pass the ball but someone to blame when the game went by too quickly.

The first days of summer, after school was done, the first snow, and Christmas.

The first long kiss at a party where the night was still young and there was lots of time to try again. Holding hands on first dates, especially when she was the one who reached out. Sex changed all that, a little like finding out about Christmas, all the better as you could now get what you wanted sometimes, but something was lost, nonetheless.

Fireplaces, lots of beer, skiing.

There was a time when friends were everything. Routines, card games, dinners, vacations, parties, like a wild and free flock of birds. Find us here, now there, what’s new? Try this, hugs, come on let’s go out and have some fun. No cares, the child still in control, the adult slowly emerging but at a loss to embrace true purpose.

I remember work, dedication, stress, breaking things.

I don’t particularly blame the transition—necessary as such learning is. Such times come like the two sided coin; what waxes great on one side has not far to reach to the other side where disaster waits its turn. This time has little to do with what will be missed; rather it is the sculpting of your life. You remember where the chisel cut, where the hammer smashed, and should you be lucky enough, where a loving hand brushed the dust away.

Rain, snowy days, sunshine, fresh air, music, good books, dogs, saying goodbye, new beginnings, reaching out, so much more to do.

But people come first.

The Last Heartbeat

The Last Heartbeat

Let the light in one last time
No going back now
To where the sparrows sing among the boughs
Building nests beside ponds along the perimeter flush with spring rain
Fluttering, joining in nature’s theme of rebirth and beginning
Intent on life and creation.

                                                                                                                   A filtered light no less
What else could a window bring
DoveWhen far outside the woods moan against the storm to come
Wondering where the warmer days have gone
Colorless, pale against the full moon’s reflection of the other side
Hibernation, not yet dead.

Draw the curtain
Burial of all that must be
Seasons have no place where the spirit dwells alone
When one must leave the other
Eternal, not a cycle to move from light to darkness and back again
Final, the last beat of a heart.