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.

Two Tramps

AutumnI read again “Two tramps in mud time” —a poem by Robert Frost. He wrote it with a setting of spring time. I, for some odd reason, seek it out as the autumn leaves begin to fall.

I won’t try and interpret the poem—I would be wrong in any case. I often see things that were never intended; while others might think out of the box, I am nowhere near the box. Still, anyone reading the poem will get a sense of purpose versus desire and how they might come together. As well I always come away from the poem with a keen view of the vantage point from where I look at things has much to do with what I see—and I should be cautious to always remember and understand where others are perched went they share an opinion.

My main interest in the poem is chopping wood. Gathering wood for the winter is so in tune with nature. Animals that hibernate will look for a den; the nutty creatures of the world gather what they must. Spring’s purpose is to explode with growth and possibility; autumn demands we prepare to sustain. Chopping wood helps me go into that frame of mind. Yes, there will be holidays; but they too should remind us of thanking the good earth for its bounty, and as darkness creeps in we will ask the spirits to protect us through the long night.

The first row of wood is always the best, as it says ‘yes’ you will have fire; there will be warmth as the cold winds whirls around the chimney, and the heat and smoke rise to forbid entry. After the first row, there is a feeling of accomplishment—the rest will add to what was up to now a necessary task. I wonder if squirrels count their store in fashion?

Chopping wood conjures up what it must have been like when homes were heated entirely from wood; wood houses, piles like pyramids, axes ringing for days and weeks as they moved the cords of logs to what the long winter would require. Of course the smart ones were a year ahead of the cycle if dry wood was the goal—a whole different matter.

The chopping is much a form of meditation. The piece of wood is set to where the knot will not impede the split to come. The swing of the axe, one hand holds, the other slides along the handle with the arc of the blade. The wood and the axe are one; bring it down again on the heel of the axe, and let the wood do the work—the chunk of wood gives, and so it goes.

It is a good time to be outside and ponder what is to come; cycle into cycle, the more the hope that work will surrender to pleasure, and that pleasure might be one with the work. What other reason would we do what we must, unless we are doing what gives us pleasure?

We are all tramps in the mud unless we take up the axe for a different reason.

Some Days Just Suck

sad kiten Some days just suck.

All the bullshit about cease the day, enjoy the moment, grasp at your future. Some days you have trouble just wiping your ass. Well, I do anyway.

Those of you that read my stuff know I come packaged in a heap of optimism folded into an impossible ability to stay down. I remember Cool Hand Luke at the fight scene. Please don’t think for a moment I have such ability; my not staying down is in an air conditioned house against the heat, and a warm fire against the cold. But, I so admire his ability to get up no matter what. The other man kept hitting him, and Luke no matter what, would struggle to his feet and with arms limp at his side, take the next punch, and the next.

No, thank God I don’t live with that, but I do have miserable days. My thoughts wander to all the shit I might have avoided, to the emptiness of it all. Who the fuck would come inside this mind and tidy up? Not me, surely. Shame, disaster, remorse, more shame, childish things, manly things I should have avoided, paths left untraveled, I could go on and on.

Even when things are good, there is always a chance of calamity. Money can always test your resolve, a dishwasher refuses to wash, a fridge refused to cool, or on one of those special days a furnace gives up the ghost. Health is always there as a concern—your own of course, and should that be okay for the moment, there is always yours friends and family to be worried about.

Accidents of all sorts like to visit at the most inopportune times; animals keep you busy with more ailments than humans.

Most of these things we expect, and when they come we usually spit in the wind and take in on the cheek.

But some days are just plain old depressing. Maybe it’s due to a lull in the action, a time when the little demon of futility sneaks in to pester us. Nothing special is happening, but there is a pall of misery about the day, like a funeral is about to happen. Nothing to be done except endure and allow it to move through you and beyond.

Most days I know to keep a close watch on each moment as it unfolds, that is all I have to do. That is all any of us have to do. And that is not hopeless; it is the way of things. I remember the ways of rain. Sometimes gentle, sometimes it comes in torrents. Sometimes it teams up with the wind and kills what it can. But, then again it goes back to being gentle and cleansing, and is all about growth.
We can be no more than nature intended. It is feeble to believe we are Devine, and it is so much feeble to believe we are inept. It is merely the way of things.

Some days just suck.

The Lost Art of Reading

DogReadingSomeone gave me a book and approximately one week later I returned it as they happenstance where at my place. They were surprised if not taken aback that I had finished so quickly. I did not hurry through the book, in fact I had other pending projects so the book did not get the best of my time; plus I had my latest edition of Writer’s Digest to read, one of my songs needed tweaking, and I still do yet but another pass on The Druid and the Flower as I await the beta readers.

I am not at all bragging. I really, really have no understanding of how much other people read. I am always reading something or other. My wife is the same, usually about horses, dogs, all forms of natural medicine and host of other attractions that keeps her printer at a constant clip.

Neither of us watch sports, maybe that’s a game changer when it comes to reading. (Pun intended.)

I also read selected blogs, especially those constructed by other authors promoting themselves and their work. I never knew Flash Fiction existed some months ago, but my editor is a very capable Flash fiction writer, and I have become hooked. I follow a select few political commentators—as exciting as watching golf; but it lets me know which way the wind is blowing—the golf I mean.

I love words. I think everyone gets off where they read a clever line from Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, the immortal words of Yogi Berra, or a myriad of other clever people. There is something in us that loves a good story. There is so much bountiful information, with easy access, to enlighten any mind with new insight or give simple pleasure of a new world or idea. I hope dearly reading has not become a lost art to all the other media that so tickle the senses.

Many things might pass as we enter this new age of world instant communication and contact. Some would argue that if it is worth holding onto it will survive. But then I think about the food I eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced and handled. How water comes to us in bottles, pricier than the gas we buy. You can no more drink from a fresh stream of water, or chew on the new fallen snow, than you would eat two week old road kill. Lots of good things have gone their way, the most recent our freedom to make it through a scanner with our shoes on, safety is always a concern. We can no longer let a ten or twelve year old child walk to school by themselves, definitely not to the park. All doors are locked, guns loaded and waiting in some place where most likely they will be useless, but provide a wonderful opportunity for a misguided household incident.

Oh ya, reading. The chances are slim to none.

Two Pictures to Examine

family                                                  Fingernails, brittle and worn, thick with age, unable to retain the moisture. Here, so different, tiny specks of cover at the end of slender and graceful fingers, as fragile as the thin layer of frost on the first cool morning of autumn. Hair much the same on either, though the head that holds the dry brittle strands gives the appearance of the last few withered stalks of dusty wheat, missed by the blades that took the field, but for some odd reason left just a patch—maybe to tell what was once there.

          Here, those light silky wisps could easily dance about in the most gentle of breezes; and no matter how they fell, it would appear they had been combed by an angel—one who knew just the right way to make each curl stand out.

         The skin gives the most opposite view of what clearly could not be the same. There, more scales than a fish not yet prepared for cooking, but dead none-the-less. Small scars and bumps, little dots of brown, raised dry spots—an accumulation and abundance of God knows what it might have come from. The tiny waves are the most prominent; a game could be played where bringing the skin taut would appear smooth and shining like a newly frozen rink in winter, then letting go, it would revert back to its wavy self.

         Not  so here, all white and milky, even the smell would be fresh as newly rolled dough. It’s funny how the smell of a baby wrapped in a warm blanket after a bath could smell so wonderful. Not a ripple or a wrinkle, a pale smooth surface, flashes of pink where it should be, a soft downy batch of new fallen snow.

           Eyes are said to be the windows to the soul. But these have perhaps seen too much of the world. They sit in sockets surrounded by skin, lined and grizzled, cranky bits of hair sticking from the lashes at odd angles, the eyes themselves displaying signs of wear, muscles so used up that the eyes are unable to take in the world on their own.

            Here, the eyes are green. They look ready to jump out and take in the world, a brilliant dark green, centered inside a smooth white canvas to show off the sparkle.

             And what the two pictures cannot tell is they are both the same. For inside each is the same heart, the same soul. Neither moment is more precious than the other, neither moment is more urgent than the other. Each moment is but another capture of the one, different than the one before, but no more or less important; it might be so that some moments are more easily remembered because of time or circumstance.

              Two pictures can do nothing more than pick two moments in a life as compared to the two or three billion that is created assuming each second makes a new you.

The Great Sins

oak treeA lazy day indeed from this point on; I will do nothing other than lay and rest in shade and satisfaction.

Days before I could but languish in the knowledge that others rested in the shade of the old stand of trees, a cool drink at hand when needed, as I was forced to trek on. No food for days, until this last one, a kill finally; I ate what was needed and then ate some more, not knowing when again I could. I tore at strips of meat; what might have been a satisfying conclusion to those days before without nourishment now turned to a rage to consume as quickly as possible.

Still I wanted more, no longer to quench an appetite, rather, the feel of the kill, abundance, the possession, the power, and the lust of accomplishment.

Oh to have such opportunity at every turn, food when desired, drink when thirsty.

Alas, as leader I must protect my pride.

I step away that they too might eat.

I will of course confess the great sins I have committed here today, if but one in reverse order.

Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth.

The spiritual Atom

atom antI’m on one of those spurts where I ponder the universe.
Big bang. But not like a bomb that detonates; a bomb involves expansion over time. The big bank was expansion everywhere at once, the creation of space. How big? Don’t know – like a balloon we all move out together, and every point is the center. But it’s not like a balloon; more like the surface of a balloon without the space inside. Not really like that either, as that is one dimensional. Still if were able to cover the distance, and started our trip through the universe in a straight line, we would end up back where we started. Why? Silly me! Space is curved.

The final synopsis being that my feeble brain will never be able to truly comprehend it, no matter how much smarter I get from drinking scotch.
Then there is dark matter, which wasn’t enough to explain the expansion and especially the speeds at which outer stars travel so fast around their center – usually a black hole. So we now have dark energy that kicks their ass into motion – or maybe pulls then – or gives them chocolate to entice them to go faster.
And this is only our little universe – only 15 billion years old, a baby in the arms of infinity of other times, other universes.
I find such information euphoric even as it puts me on the verge of madness. I have neither the time nor the aptitude to grasp what the Einstein’s of the world know better. They too in all probability have their limit, and perhaps in a bow to some higher intellect, they experience a passing moment of envy.
I love science and it is not hard to see I have a special love for cosmology. Never took much science in high school, too busy with math, Latin, French, literature, and history. Carl Sagan hooked me and I have been enthralled since. I purchased a few courses on Einstein and his relativity theories; spent some time revisiting calculus, as in University I was busy trying to pick up a nurse or two from the school next door. I should have stuck with calculus, as I never bagged a nurse. (Yes, that is BAGGED)
The little I learn about cosmology coincides with the little I learn about spirituality. I won’t bore you with the details other than to say that in my young school years the atom was the smallest particle, period; and the Catholic Church was the last word on spirituality and god – full stop.
I have been lucky to live in an age where information and knowledge flow from many wonderful sources. Yes, you need to be careful of your sources and take all with a dose of skepticism.
I am a spiritual scientific student of the cosmos.
Damn, I feel good today.