I saw Superman walk down my hallway today and he didn’t and doesn’t care what you think about him. He was a white-boy with dread-locked hair that’s long enough to tuck behind his ears and he smelled like the stink and rot of unwashed bodies in tight and closed places. I’ve smelled his kith and kin in hovels bare and small. I’ve sat and listened to their stories of life and things passed-by and wondered at their truth and then found that it didn’t matter, those things and they, well…they became true in the telling. And today, as he shuffled past me in his coke-bottle glasses with scratches and old and yellowed tint from age and sun and wear, the arms hooked over ears with huge and fearsome gauges stuck in the lobes causing holes that would be large as a ring on my thumb, he shuffled past in that mess and whatnot with torn jeans and ravaged converses as he huddled his face into the small baby of two months or less and whispered his whiskered and loving words into his tiny self. He whispered kind nothings and stink and I didn’t smell his breath, but neither did the baby as he lay there cuddled and warm against that chest in the torn and fake-leather jacket and was loved by him in all that it meant to him. That baby there was cherished in those moments where he existed in my life and Superman had him and rocked his world…and I hope he remembers that love when life comes on him hard and rough as it sometimes will…I hope he remembers that his Daddy loved him, then.
***This is a Favorite Re-post from October, 2010.
I sat inside the steel and glass monstrosity and watched the people walking past. Everyone was going somewhere. They were returning or leaving and found themselves all there, as I did, waiting or having waited. We were dressed in our fineries, or not; we were in a hurry, or not. Our faces held an eagerness or impatience with too little time, or we were in a set and staid complacency, as we had surrendered ourselves to wait. Patience was no longer needed. We just were and our time would come as it had for the rest.
I looked out through the large windows and beyond the technology that was in the foreground, beyond and beyond the miles between here/there and the object of my gaze.
A few hours earlier, I was out and among the mountains and streams, walking down earthen pathways that were wet with life and rich and gray and sandy and mulched and fine, and trees of every and sundry sort shaded my walking and allowed, too, the sun to shine on my pathway, to illuminate the great undergrowth and broad leaves and needles, nettle-like weeds of slight and fine stalk and stem and little branches and huge, fallen and leaning and upright in their rotting and decay.
Life was full and birds drifted and alighted sometimes and not, and the stream/river crashed over rocks and boulders and ran into side pools in their clean-ness, the large mess of aquamarine and clear and green and blue and white in its rushing and crashing in tons and gallons and my heart and soul wanted to stand there and stay there forever, being fed as they were with a food or nourishment so strange and beautiful and foreign to my desert-living self.
The greens were rich and lush beyond the holding of our dreams and the air was fresh with some kind of natural perfume, a fragrance wrought in the heady blooms of wildflowers and shrubs that found their anchors or homes in shaded caves and coves beneath large and tall pines and firs and oaks and cottonwoods and aspens.
I don’t know if I had ever seen streams or rivers running down the sides of mountains before that day, but I had now, or then, on that day, twice even, in their similar crevices or ravines among the rocks and tree-lined and covered mountain, a green sheet or blanket of trees covering that rich and fertile whatever with those ribbons of white and clean ice-cold foaming and bubbling tide that crashed over hundreds of yards from their beginnings in the craggy heights above.
If this land were to be my home, would all of this cause me to be happy? Would it continue to nourish my soul when I was pressed and oppressed by life and money and the nothingness of work?
Would all of this add meaning to my temporal existence and make-up for areas that I felt were lacking? Would I be fulfilled, or would it make me want to escape that much more? Would its nearness make me yearn to leave hearth and home to be among the boulders and trees and rivers and deer and snakes and squirrels?
Would I crave their company more than others’? Would I be drawn inside and away from those in my surround, seeking the company of myself over them – seeking the company of myself and away over them? Or would they seek this hideaway from the everyday and nourish their arid souls here, too? Would they treasure this natural sanctuary as I would and want to be in its raging stillness as I would and be so comforted in their awe and treasure it beyond words, taking refuge, as I would, in its splendor and remove?
I hope they would….
This is a Favorite Re-post from July, 2010…written after a visit to Salt Lake for a job interview in preparation for our eventual move to the area. The words are from exactly two years ago today…and the photographs are from two days ago…. Thank you for visiting and for sharing in the natural beauty of my “new” home….
Several weeks ago, I shared a post about a pedestrian bridge that’s about a mile and a half from our house. I suppose the essay focused more on despair and hope than it did on the bridge itself, but it also touched on the view from up on the bridge and how one might gain perspective or even peace in such an unlikely place. Anyway, I returned to the bridge this evening to take pictures of the view so that I might share them and maybe offer something tangible to go along with the words in the writing. If you’d like to read the essay, click on the words The Pedestrian Bridge and they will take you to it. If not, I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures by themselves.
Not real pretty to look at, but it serves its purpose.
Mt. Olympus from the side…like a plate standing on its edge.
It looks like the freeway leads right into the canyon, but it actually heads to the left and skirts the Wasatch range…kind of a peacefully distracting view on the way home from work at the end of the day.
This is the view just to the right of the last picture…incredible mountains.
Looking through the fence, the thing that keeps us safe up there, provides a boundary somehow…but one that we can see through, obviously, so that we can still measure our lives and problems against something a bit more permanent, something of a grander scale that might offer perspective to whatever is happening in our day-to-day.
Looking to the west, we find the Oquirrh Mountains, not as majestic or awe-inspiring as the Wasatch range, but still beautiful in the right light. It’s not in the picture, but off to the right of this mountain chain, viewed from the proper height, one can see the Great Salt Lake.
Can you imagine looking out your back window at all of that? Amazing….
Utahns really like their flags…they’re everywhere, it seems.
Bells Canyon’s Peaks…there’s a beautiful waterfall up in this canyon, you can see photos of it in some of my other posts.
Classic view of the Wasatch range…there was still snow on the peaks and in those veins when I visited Salt Lake last July.
I wandered out of my neighborhood proper this evening for my regular walk, out of the familiar realm and into another, past the new-ish houses that line and dot the area and into the older parts, the more ancient, if that is not too exaggerated of a word for the homes and hearths that rest and belong in this other area. I walked past houses with fireplaces lit and burning and the myriad smells of different woods burned and smoking and was cast back into my childhood with the smoky meat and sausages of German towns and cobbled streets and gutters, wood-burning stoves lit and burning and casting their familiar aromas into those long-ago icy nights, snowflakes falling past slated roofs and through the beams of yellowed street lights. I was there in moments and out again as I beheld the gorgeous and modern houses that lined other streets, an elementary school with the shining SUVs and minivans leaving the parking lot with raised and lifted and monstrously-tired trucks as they left the evening conferences or whatever, pulled out of the parking lot and made their way and ways to their various houses…anyway, down those dimly lit roads that went to those other neighborhoods, not mine, but away.
I walked those miles and then, and came to the cemented ribbons of commerce and travel, that freeway beltway that circles the town and valley. On this side is the neighborhood, on the other are the stores and restaurants filled with people spending their time and money doing whatever it is they’re doing, shopping and eating and being and not wondering at what I was doing out there on the middle of the pedestrian-bridge those twenty-some and thirty feet above the freeway looking down at the passing cars and trucks and minivans, some of which might have just left the evening’s activities at a local elementary school, some of which might be passing homeward, so late, from their working days, or heading back, or to work as I stood there and looked at them passing so. My gloved hands slid their fingers through the chain link arched fence that covered the bridge and hung loosely there as those semi trucks and full and midsized pickup trucks and whatnot sped along.
I wondered at peace and how it could be found there, wondered if it was there, not just there to be found, but could it be there, suspended so high above those cemented passageways, four and six lanes heading their separate ways, four and six lanes times east and west, so eight and twelve lanes in their coming and going. Would it be possible to sit there above the traffic, suspended there above those passing vehicles and people, and have the hum of tires and motors become a relaxing and whitened noise that might calm a troubled soul? Standing there in that odd place, that suspended place that caused my steady soul to wonder at the fastness of the cement pillars and pilings, the metal rods that must be deep inside those cemented somethings, and the architectural skills and engineering genius that must have been utilized to allow for sway and movement and the natural jostling of wind and the shifting of potential liquefaction of the substrate and the contracting and expanding of freezing and warming concrete in their seasons and other things…it did wonder, my steady soul.
It wondered, too, at the darkness that must reside, I would say live, but that would seem to involve an effort to do so, to live, that is, but to reside could be equated to existing and that, it would seem, might not take too much effort…but I wondered, anyway, at the darkness that must reside in the hearts of other people, in their souls maybe, such seemingly impenetrable blackness that would cause them to join me on this midair walkway and look for ways to violate and pass-through the chain-link and then hurl themselves onto those concrete ribbons and under all of those passing vehicles that I mentioned and didn’t, just above in those earlier lines.
My mind wandered back, too, to an earlier life and an earlier occupation that was occupied, was occupied, indeed, so to speak, with concerns, with others’ concerns and our own concerns, mine and my co-workers, with those troubled souls and darkened hearts that found themselves up on those suspended places over the rushing traffic. I wondered how they could have come to that place in their lives, and so near their deaths, that they sought the heights so they could soar up and out from their own inner depths and fly and fall into a light that meant release from so many torments. I wondered what happened to that last loved one or friend, the last one of either, whose patience ran out, whose loving words finally failed that other one on the pedestrian-bridge. Were they scorned by lover or friend, by their oldest child or youngest child or their mate of one or two years, of two or three decades, or was it failing health or lost dreams or used-to-be’s? What did they lose…to find themselves there? It could be anything, I suppose…or everything, too. Their equilibrium, purpose, drive, meaning, orientation, world-view, or whatever…they might suddenly be in a place where nothing makes sense, where things aren’t where they used to be, where even the light is different than it’s supposed to be in their world, or in the place in their world that they used to occupy, maybe. Maybe if their shoes were on my feet, maybe, I might understand more than I do or can, maybe I would understand what it’s like to be them, if I could understand such a thing, but I don’t know. I didn’t walk in their steps, didn’t share their heartbeats, didn’t lay my head on a pillow next to theirs at night, maybe, or didn’t lose what they lost, or suffer the abuses from monsters’ hands like they did, or might have…I didn’t feel those things, maybe I didn’t, so I can only try to understand, as I might.
So, I wondered about all of that and some, and more, as I stood there and listened to those tires and motors speed away from beyond and beneath me as I looked eastward in the darkened night and beheld the lighted forms of the mountains sitting there and understood and knew that they offered perspective to some people’s lives, but not others, that some problems are bigger even than mountains, or seem to be, and therefore are, and that comfort and peace might only come to some at the end of a brief flight from a pedestrian-bridge. Not my personal choice, mind you, and nothing that I condone…but I do understand…in as much as I am able.
The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City was built from blocks of white granite that were “mined” from a “quarry” near the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon, just south and east of the city. When I imagined what a quarry might be, I pictured a huge hole in the ground, or at least a huge scar on the rocky side of a mountain. The blocks for the temple were actually carved out of boulders that fell from the mountainside in the canyon. I’m not advertising for the Mormons or the beautiful architectural feat of their showcase temple, I am, however, sharing the natural beauty of the place where this people gently obtained what they needed to build it.
You can see a boulder in the very bottom and center of the picture that came from the mountain above.
It’s probably easier to see the size of the boulders that were used from this picture than the last one.
Frozen waterfall from the snowmelt on the side of the mountain. There’s not normally a stream there, so I imagine it’s just from the melting snow on a few warmer days.
This is the snowy canyon at the base of the mountains. The creekbed/streambed is in there somewhere…not running now, but frozen and diverted further up the canyon.
It’s crazy what the fog does when it freezes on the branches and poles…beautiful crazy….
Took this at the end of the hike…heading toward early afternoon and the winter sun was just creeping over this part of the Wasatch range…beautiful.
Go Sun Devils!
Yesterday morning, on my drive home from the store where I had just purchased the week’s food and other household supplies, I was looking at the neighborhoods I passed and at the smoke and steam coming from roof-top chimneys and vent pipes. I also caught sight, through and beyond the clouds, of parts and pieces of the white and enormous mountains that line our eastern horizon. It was and is still amazing and weird and wonderful to find myself in this place in the middle hours of this last day of the year, in a place so new and strange and removed from where I was last year. As I drove those snow-lined streets back to our neighborhood proper, I happened to notice a mile-marker sign that was posted along the road. It said “Mile 11.” Now, I am familiar with state highways and roads that leave their freeway confines and become or pass along the same route as a city street, like US Highway 60 in Arizona that becomes or passes-along on Grand Avenue, bisecting the Valley of the Sun to take travelers on their way to Wickenburg or beyond, and I know of US Highway 89 that takes us from Flagstaff to Page, and to Kanab and Panguitch, and then marks a parallel course to I-15 as it leads north to Provo and Salt Lake, eventually becoming State Street that runs the central length of our city, but I was not familiar with any such state route or US highway that had turned into 700 East as it made its course through the city.
Seeing the sign made me wonder about the eleven miles that had passed on the other side of that mile marker and how many other miles existed in the opposite and other direction, whatever and whichever way that actually was. It struck me as odd, too, and maybe allegorical even, in the processing of what yesterday was and what today is in the marking of time in a year and this present time or era or segment of my life and my family’s lives in this time of crazy and dramatic change. We’ve come to this station and place in our lives, taken such drastic steps to find ourselves in a new state and locale, and work and living and natural environment and our heads and hearts and sometimes emotions are spinning and wondering and looking for something familiar to grasp and hold-on to as we attempt to regain our balance and direction. And here we are then, eleven miles from somewhere, remembering and thinking about the past and wondering about the future, holding-on to each other, leaning against one another in our little relocated family, awaiting the arrival of others and missing those who won’t or cannot join us…and our friends, of course, we remember and miss them too, those precious ones who, even from outside the circle of our family and intimates, loved us and brought us joy and companionship for the past twenty years and more.
So it’s not only us, but you, too, and then, who on this first day of a new year are eleven miles from somewhere. Where are you going, what are you doing, how are you, and we, too, going to measure this year when it’s gone, like we’ve done to the one that is just passed and passing?
The notes dropped softly into the quiet air of the darkened room, falling easily like thick snowflakes on a wintry and wood-smokey night. They slid sometimes in icy wonder up the scales and tinkled down again and pattered along the floor like a baby’s footsteps as he’s learning to walk, all wobbly-legged and unsure, patting his bare toes in sprinkled notes and laughs of fancy and then. They remind the man of a music box that used to sit on the shelf in other babies’ rooms in days and nights of a past that is thin and fleeting. Cars and cars pass and the furnace clicks on and a smell of warm dust and human dander swirls against the cold walls as another tune steps from the stereo and moves him further along and into the night. The muted lights from something moving on the quiet television that glow through his closed eyelids make him wonder for a second why it’s on, but then it doesn’t matter…as the notes keep rising and falling like a tiny heartbeat. A tiny heartbeat that is just below the other notes and endures with its tender strength and doesn’t go away even when the music ends, that one little note that lay underneath and within and kept on with its steady, un-fading ping ping ping ping, and then, that heartbeat. There is an Indian running swiftly in tinkling notes of raindrops and teardrops of gentle cadence, a rushing of golden tango-notes like freckles falling on a fair and tender face, and a person dining alone in a happy sadness that isn’t sad, with a movement and sway that comforts and soothes in its quietude. They are notes in their touching caress and the passing of the minutes and hours of a night that lure the man into a wakeful sleep where his heart beats slow and calm and there is nothing else, just the song.
It’s amazing sometimes, how we can be affected by the people who come into our lives, and vice versa. Whether they or we are there for years or months, days, or even moments, the interactions and actions can leave a permanent mark that is felt and known, sometimes only by the bearer, for the rest of our/their lives. People have studied the human attachment and socialization processes for years, and in an objective sense, we can all understand and relate to the academic ponderings and writings that filled lectures and library shelves over the span of curious and inquiring time. We can perceive that we begin to learn to be a human and a social person within the boundaries of our homes. We understand, too, that we continue that learning when we step outside of our homes and have those first interactions with other kids or adults out on the front porch step…and down the sidewalk that leads to the park or the neighbor’s house…and then further down the sidewalk and street toward our first school experience…and it goes from there. The people in our surround begin to touch our lives, sometimes good, hopefully most-times good, and sometimes not-so-good…and many times not necessarily either, just touched. Just enough of an imprint or lesson was left behind, or maybe just an impression, a feeling, or even a suspicion, is left in our memories, and that represents the “touch” that was theirs, or ours, on us or them, me or you.
When we continue to read those journal articles, psychology books, sociology books, or whatever, and then compare their essential content to our lives, the subjective part of our studies, we notice that there are, indeed, similarities between the texts and “real” life. We comprehend the depth of impression and effect when we look at the patterns of family and work-life that repeat themselves from generation to generation. Our experiences are full of knowing people whose fathers and grandfathers were physicians or mechanics or plumbers or academics or military men or police officers…just as they are, those people we know – or their mothers and grandmothers were physicians or nurses or teachers or professors or seamstresses or military women, just as they are, those people we know. We notice the same movements or gestures or uses of words and phrases, or even similar postures or habits of a family member, or ourselves, returning home from their or our workday as they stand there in the kitchen eating from a bag of chips just like their father did. We know, too, that some of our friends or co-workers, or clients, or family members, or other people with whom we are familiar, also have substance abuse or violence problems just like their parents did, their father or their mother and alone or together, those pairings of influence that leave a permanent mark, a dent, a troubled soul, a perpetuating something that wasn’t good when it started and hasn’t been good since it’s been passed along and along. People never learned to listen or care or nurture, or they were suffocating and rigid and unbending and unforgiving…or they weren’t…and they weren’t. Sometimes people learn the most and best how to love from their families, their moms and dads, their brothers and sisters, grandparents, and then. And sometimes they learn to love from other people who come in and touch their lives, other people who come in and accept them for who they are, love them for and with their faults…and encourage them to grow and look inside and outside, to see how their own actions are affecting others and others, and eyes open and open over time and see and learn, and still err, but learn and learn and strive and try and hope and work and love and watch and enjoy and cherish and endure and love…and get tired and fed-up and say “screw it” and so…and they still love and cherish and endure and hope…. And sometimes love comes late, or it becomes known late, but it is still love, and can still touch us the right way, so that we can still pass it along, and along.
Sometimes those touches that come to us are not good, but they turn to good when we recognize them and remold them and twist them and apply them as lessons in what not to do, or what not to allow, or tolerate, or what not to be; they become things that we specifically do not want to repeat from one generation unto another, from home to workplace to home and mine and yours and another.
And then sometimes, sometimes, regardless of the lesson, regardless of the example, regardless of the impression, or whatever, we do things or other people do things that go so strikingly against the examples and lessons and intentional impressions, that we and you and the other observers are left scratching our and your heads, thinking “What the…?” And then what of the examples, what of the lessons, what of the conversations and explanations and illustrations and demonstrated failures and successes, and hopes and yearnings, and shared strivings and conquerings of indefatigable foes and odds…what happens to all of that when a person or that person or some people or those people choose to go and do or be something so different or choose or pursue something so unlikely, or whatever…what then? What then? Where is that touch? What happened to that touch to sour it so, to corrupt it unto repugnance and scorn? “Who freaking touched your life after I did or we did, to turn you so?” we wonder to ourselves and then. Or the righteous mother looks at her unrepentant and atheistic child and wonders where her touch went, wonders at the child’s soul and eternity, as the child doesn’t wonder at hers. Or the touch is horrible and malevolent and wrong and that touched-one becomes or remains pure and upright and motivated and enduring and patient and tolerant and the most empathetic and understanding and…how did that happen, from a wrong touch and impression and example and…? In the end, after all the analyzing and hypothesizing and considering the bad and what must have been there, somewhere, as good, it just did.
How did your life become as it is? How did you or I, you and I, become as we did? Those people in our lives touched us in little ways and big and their touch and impressions are still with us. Someone touched a second-grader’s heart and caused that little one to want to grow-up and help others, someone else touched another second-grader’s heart and caused that little one to seek solitude in the hills and the woods, someone else touched another second-grader’s heart and caused that child to want to fly planes or study bacteria or write music or stories or make jewelry or build cathedrals or shape metal into cars or design hospitals or cure cancers or find new stars or…to shampoo dogs or plow fields or sail ships or paint pictures or…because they were touched so.
How did we affect someone’s life today or yesterday or last year or then…how did you and I?
I set out early and found that the sun was already risen and over the far ridge by the time I got out onto the trail. Although I had passed the trail-head probably half a dozen times or more, I had never been this particular way before. A steep path and rocks and scrub oak with their tiny, shiny acorns greeted me and caused me to wonder at the endurance that I had only a few weeks ago when I could and would play racquetball for three hours at a time. The intense climbing soon had my lungs and legs burning as I continued up the trail. Above and beyond me, the foothills and mountains rose in their way, causing a beautiful backdrop of scenery for my hike.
By the time I seriously needed a breather and had reached a relatively flat stretch in the trail, I came across and older man who was also catching his breath and admiring the view. We greeted each other cheerfully and commented on the hike and the scenery. He asked me how far I was going and I responded that I didn’t know yet. I’d never been on the trail before, I told him, so I was just going to walk until I needed to come back. We stood there for another five minutes or so as he told me the names of the reservoirs I would encounter on the trail, which way to turn if I wanted to go to such and such a place, etc. After another couple of minutes of talking about the area and the trail, he introduced himself to me by name and said it was nice to meet me…on a hike out on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Welcome to Utah.
We parted ways and I continued on my morning hike. I soon found the first reservoir the man had mentioned and took the easternmost trail that skirted the lake and was up against the gaining mountain. I sloshed through the soggy, rich black earth and new grass and then found the dirt and rocky trail that led off and into the forested heights onto and along the mountain.
As I marched up and down the trails and looked at the hills and mountains around me, always searching for a good spot for a photo, I thought about my life and family and choices and preparations and how I would share with my Little One how to find the words to describe his feelings when he was alone or amazed or overwhelmed by whatever life was bringing him.
I thought about perspective and problems and turmoil and how the squirrels left behind a pile of shredded leaves and husks after they got the seeds out of a pine-cone. I pondered the folding of the mountains into cups and ridges and rocky slabbed sides on their ever reaching heights. I thought about pleasures in life that remain and don’t, about what today is and has been in the past several years, and about what the future holds for me and my family. I thought of those words again that I’d share with my Little One that come from the core of our being and know pain and suffering and joy like the heights of these mountains, of a close communing with the heart of a loved one, and the peace that comes sometimes when looking out over mountain ranges that help define perspective.
And then I remembered the words of a friend of mine when he said, “Climb a beautiful mountain for me.” Here you are, Sir Byron. And thank you.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you might remember the posts Daydream, To go Away, The Remove, The Stuff of Life and…maybe not. I suppose it doesn’t matter, either you’ve read them or you haven’t, either you know me or you don’t, and that probably doesn’t matter either. Run, run, run away….
Life is moving hard and fast in the direction of great change. I am on the brink of leaving what I have known for ten and twenty years and starting all over again somewhere else, returning to a slightly familiar place where I will no longer be a visitor and returning to an occupation that I have once loved and hope to fully embrace again. I will not be a novice this time around, but things will be so different and in such a different place that my experience will only be a foundation for new learning.
The excitement of the past few weeks and the anticipation they held have been tucked under the emotional costs that I will soon pay for making the change. Rather, the excitement has been tucked under the “realization” or “coming to fullness” in acknowledging that cost, naming the faces that I will be leaving behind for good. Yes, I will be leaving my spouse and children for a time, but I will see them at intervals over the next few months, and the expectation is only that we’ll be separated for six months at most…but given the realities of life as I leave a part of it behind me and the circuits in which the loved ones travel, there is a strong likelihood that the six months will become only three or four and we will be joined again in our family fullness. The others, though, the friends and co-workers who have become special over the past years will likely be left behind in those worlds of our collective past where we existed together. Sure, we’ll see each other on Facebook and in occasional or seasonal emails and cards, but the truth and reality of life will probably dictate that we are going to exist more as memories than participants in our continuing lives. That is what the past tells me, anyway, those other laps around the proverbial block.
A week or so ago I went to dinner with two old and dear friends from a previous time in my life. The occasion for the dinner was to have one last get-together before I launched out into that other city and state that will likely be my home until I am no more. We had a nice couple of hours together, eating chips and enchiladas and drinking beer while we shared new stories from our lives since we parted and recounted memories from our time together. And when the evening was done and we all drove away in our different directions to our separate sides of town, it struck me that we had already parted. We had already made that divide of hearts and emotions and this new parting wasn’t sad, which at first struck me as sad in itself, but then just left me feeling a little empty somehow, like maybe anticlimactic, or post-climactic, if that’s an appropriate word. In truth, I guess that’s what it was. We had already parted; we had really already said goodbye. We had shed our tears eleven years earlier when I had first left them in our common workplace and had gone on to my new one. Even though we met probably half a dozen times or more in these past years, the hurt of the leaving had already been felt, we have already mourned; it’s done already…and it’s time for that whole experience to happen again with another group of people…another group of friends. We are cutting the cords, the ties that have bound us to each other for these past and passing years. I suppose I am cutting the cords and ties. It is my action, again, that is doing this, and then goodbye…. You have peopled my world, tugged on my heart, and will now live on in my memories and occasional contacts. I miss you already.
In that solitude there will be quiet and pain and the tinkling of only one spoon in the cup, one plate on the table, and only one head on the pillow. Shared voices will be found only on the telephone or in the crisp letters that travel through space and time and appear on a computer screen in an email at home and back and on the tiny text page of the phone. The nuances of expression will be gone and nobody else will wake with my stirring. The sounds of breathing will be my own and the thoughts abounding will all sound familiar.
And I am here and finally and up in the great northern place to which I have been yearning for all these months and weeks and days. I found myself here yesterday afternoon after only four hours’ sleep and about ten hours driving and the wind was blowing and the sky clouded with the salt plumes from the northern part of the landed city. I was hungry and tired and actually worn-out with what I had just done and I wondered what the hell I had actually done. I wondered if things were a mistake and I hadn’t even started the adventure. I’ll correct that…I have begun the adventure, as I have left family and friends and have stepped into the great and wide unknown that is up Here.
The wind has ceased in its craziness and is now just a strong breeze. The morning was quite chilly as I waited for the guy to arrive and connect the cable and internet services. I had the door open in waiting for him, along with the windows to create a cross-breeze that would do better at cooling the apartment than the central air-conditioning. And the day is now in its winding-down stages, coming to an end with only the evening remaining. My “house” is now as furnished as it needs to be to sustain me for these months, minus a chair-side table to hold my drink or remote, but otherwise, operational and looking something like a home, as it is known in the common sense.
I am feeling further out of sorts in my new surroundings. “Discombobulated” is a good word, I think. I know where I am, know why I am here, know where everyone else in my family is, and know when they will be joining me, but even with the familiar things in my little apartment home, the great outside is so different, the apartment is different, there are no pets, no kids, no wife, no backyard and no pool, and no police radio echoing in the background of my mind as I sit here in my late Sunday afternoon. I am feeling disjointed and un-centered…out of whack, out of sorts, half a bubble off plumb (in my life orientation, not my sanity), and maybe even like a ship without a rudder. I think that might speak to more serious problems than I really have going for me at the time, but it almost fits. I feel off. My bride told me that I should go for a drive or a hike to remind myself of the wonderful things that are here for me despite the aloneness I mentioned to her when we wrote each other earlier. So I did that…I went for a drive…down to Smith’s…where I had been so off kilter earlier that I left part of my groceries and other items there when I walked out of the store. I kept going, afterward, of course…drove southward down State Avenue to its end…some two or three towns south of my current home…my home away from home, my new home in transition from my old home…the home that I will call mine until my family gets up here in a few or several months…and then.
And later…I am in that strange and other place now and have left behind those I love and hold dear in different ways. It is a strange place and kind to my previous desert-dwelling soul, with morning kisses of chilly and promising breezes. My new home is only temporary, but it is and shall be my lodging and launching point as I head out into the wild beyond that shall nourish and sustain me until loved ones arrive in their time. There are familiar things here in this new and quiet place: my chair and music and pots and pans, the loving faces on the wall that have followed me and smile into my eyes as they will.
The quiet here is familiar, yet new and thick; there are no voices in the place, no cats to meow; only my thoughts populate these several walls. I should allow here that there are now voices and sounds, however, but they belong to people I haven’t met or seen; they only walk past my opened windows and talk as they get into the vehicles with the slamming doors and drive away to places I don’t know. The footsteps and sounds of a bath above me are from strangers, too. They are not of my children or kin and they exist as sounds only in this new world of my making.
Tomorrow will dawn and direct and urge me into another familiar unknown place and occupation. It will present new strangers to me and introduce new worlds that are waiting to be born. Time in its marching, plodding, and shuffling-along will open other doors, reveal new or different pathways, and bring experiences and lessons and stories of different shapes and hues.
This is where you’ll find me….
Remember the road less traveled…?
And the bridge to your future…?
I have found my bridge….
What’s in your back-yard?
That most precious friend of mine said that she felt like she was a centipede…like some little shit of a kid had captured her and was slowly pulling her legs off, one at a time.
Her life was crazy and she was being pulled a hundred different ways and her sanity and resolve were leaking out of the hundred little holes in her life. Work pulled and sucked the life from her soul on so many fronts that it was almost like fighting that mythological serpent, Hydra – she takes care of one project or chore and another five or six rear their ugly heads and demand that much more of her.
Family life is great, but also draining, consuming, and pulling her this way and that and running her hither and yon…and it is only going to get worse or more complicated in the next several weeks and months to come. This child needs this, another child needs that, and yet another child or two needs yet other things and it feels like the well is going to run dry.
Is there really a limit to how much we can care or love or do or control or provide or accomplish or resolve or fix or…? Does a heart have limits? There is probably a breaking point somewhere, but it’s probably not too defined…and if it were to be defined, the one defining it would have to allow for all the mitigating circumstances or conditions that would effect that breaking point and redefine it, or readjust it, or move it further down the timeline…or closer.
I suppose in attempting to handle the Hydra that is our lives, we can attempt to prioritize the demands and handle them in order of importance, or even in respect or regard to whether or not there is even anything that can be done about them…whatever they are. Yes, there is probably that breaking point out there somewhere, but there’s also a point or a place in which you have to let go of some of the things that are bothering or consuming you…the things that you really can’t control. Sometimes you have to prepare as best as you can and then go with the flow; ride the waves and try to steer yourself when you can…and just hang on when you can’t.
In the age-old conversation about work and life, are you one of those lucky or fortunate ones who stumbled upon or pursued and captured the job that drives your passions, or is driven by your passions? Did you have that childhood dream become a reality, and now, in your adulthood, you wake each day and can’t wait to get to your job because you just absolutely love it…because it so fulfills you, rewards you, or gives you the satisfaction at the end of the day in knowing that you participated in something that was so much bigger than yourself, or that you touched at least one life in a way that will be felt positively by that one life for their life’s duration? Or did you wake in the night and rise to embrace your creative dream and not stop until you were famished and your strength gone as you beheld the object of your creation and were able to say “Yes, I did that, I made that, I created that…and the world, or my own corner of it anyway, is all the better because I did so”? Is that you? Is that me? Or are we in the middle of a muddle where we just get up everyday and go to our jobs, walk the walk, go through the motions and maybe even have moments where we actually care about what we’re doing, maybe only to be rewarded every other Friday with a few more bones, or many more bones in our checking account? Or worse, are you in a job or place that you can’t stand, but you’re too numbed by your personally dissociated indifference to do anything about it? Is your job killing your sense of who you are or want to be? Have you resigned yourself to the daily grind and live only for the paydays that finance your weekends and postponed or neglected dreams? How do you live then? How do you do that? How do you surrender yourself so completely to someone else’s bidding? For the money only? Are we whores, then, when we resign ourselves to such a life, sacrificing our bodies, health, our minds, dreams, or our very souls, for that paycheck? What would we trade or willingly sacrifice, to have a job that we love, so that it is no longer work, but actively living and flourishing in ourselves and our dreams as we participate in that “making a living?” What would we sacrifice so that we don’t have to surrender…and what do we become if we don’t?
I sat inside the steel and glass monstrosity and watched the people walking past. Everyone was going somewhere. They were returning or leaving and found themselves all there, as I did, waiting or having waited. We were dressed in our fineries, or not; we were in a hurry, or not. Our faces held an eagerness or impatience with too little time, or we were in a set and staid complacency, as we had surrendered ourselves to wait. Patience was no longer needed. We just were and our time would come as it had for the rest.
I looked out through the large windows and beyond the technology that was in the foreground, beyond and beyond the miles between here/there and the object of my gaze. A few hours earlier, I was out and among the mountains and streams, walking down earthen pathways that were wet with life and rich and gray and sandy and mulched and fine, and trees of every and sundry sort shaded my walking and allowed, too, the sun to shine on my pathway, to illuminate the great undergrowth and broad leaves and needles, nettle-like weeds of slight and fine stalk and stem and little branches and huge, fallen and leaning and upright in their rotting and decay. Life was full and birds drifted and alighted sometimes and not, and the stream/river crashed over rocks and boulders and ran into side pools in their clean-ness, the large mess of aquamarine and clear and green and blue and white in its rushing and crashing in tons and gallons and my heart and soul wanted to stand there and stay there forever, being fed as they were with a food or nourishment so strange and beautiful and foreign to my desert-living self. The greens were rich and lush beyond the holding of our dreams and the air was fresh with some kind of natural perfume, a fragrance wrought in the heady blooms of wildflowers and shrubs that found their anchors or homes in shaded caves and coves beneath large and tall pines and firs and oaks and cottonwoods and aspens. I don’t know if I had ever seen streams or rivers running down the sides of mountains before that day, but I had now, or then, on that day, twice even, in their similar crevices or ravines among the rocks and tree-lined and covered mountain, a green sheet or blanket of trees covering that rich and fertile whatever with those ribbons of white and clean ice-cold foaming and bubbling tide that crashed over hundreds of yards from their beginnings in the craggy heights above.
If this land were to be my home, would all of this cause me to be happy? Would it continue to nourish my soul when I was pressed and oppressed by life and money and the nothingness of work? Would all of this add meaning to my temporal existence and make-up for areas that I felt were lacking? Would I be fulfilled, or would it make me want to escape that much more? Would its nearness make me yearn to leave hearth and home to be among the boulders and trees and rivers and deer and snakes and squirrels? Would I crave their company more than others’? Would I be drawn inside and away from those in my surround, seeking the company of myself over them – seeking the company of myself and away over them? Or would they seek this hideaway from the everyday and nourish their arid souls here, too? Would they treasure this natural sanctuary as I would and want to be in its raging stillness as I would and be so comforted in their awe and treasure it beyond words, taking refuge, as I would, in its splendor and remove? I hope they would….
To go away on a whim, to escape from the everyday, to be in your day-dream, that other place…
To go down those hidden pathways…
To cross those challenging bridges…
To find that place deep inside…
To free yourself from the turmoil within…
And then to look to that far horizon where you find your oft and distant dreams…
I wonder what kind of day it would have been if it didn’t start with reading about a five year-old who died in her sleep…if I didn’t have to wonder if it was just a biological failing of her body, given that she was on a feeding-tube and had serious medical issues to begin with…or if maybe the caretaker, parent, mom, or whomever, had used a pillow during the child’s sleep to make sure she didn’t wake again. The fire department transported her, with a police car following…and then the officer stood-by to relay the status update to his sergeant…so we would know if they needed to roll homicide detectives…just in case. I wonder what kind of day it would have been if the next notification I received wasn’t that some adult child found their parent dead in their bedroom with their body wedged between the bed and the night-stand…or if another message that I received hadn’t told me about the dead body that the city’s building inspector found when he was making a visit to one of the apartment complexes in town…or that one of the fire department’s truck-crews was on its way to the grocery store to buy their shift’s food for the day and found a dead body laying somewhere…just laying there, out in the freaking middle of the day on a sidewalk or in the greenbelt between the lanes of traffic…or if the dispatcher hadn’t needed to tell me that an officer was assaulted by some guy he had pulled-over for blowing through a school zone….
I wonder what kind of day it would have been if another dispatcher hadn’t told me that there was a “real” unknown-trouble hot call being worked on the central tactical frequency…the caller, of which, had reported that he found a Navigator in the parking lot that had blood all over the driver-side door and steering wheel and seat. Oh yeah, and about an hour ago he had seen a 50-some year-old white guy walking behind the buildings carrying a bloody bed comforter. What kind of day would it have been if we didn’t end-up finding that 50-some year-old white guy with seven bullet holes in his chest…and then sent officers to the Navigator’s registered-owner’s house in another city to talk with the man’s wife…to check on her and then ask about her shot husband…. “He left for work a couple hours ago…maybe a little later than usual…yeah, he works around such-and-such an area.” The officers thanked her for her time and then made some phone calls back to our dispatcher and patrol supervisors. A little while later, the officers went back to the man’s house and asked his wife if they could come in and take a look around. “Sure…come on in.” They found blood and…. What kind of day would it have been, if when the medical center called the woman to come down to identify her husband’s body…it hadn’t taken her two hours to get down there…to learn that her husband had been shot seven times and taken two bullets directly in the heart…and then managed to drive from his home in that other city to his work-place in the middle of our city…what kind of day would it have been?
When a different neighboring city’s dispatchers called us and asked that we check a certain vehicle leaving their city and coming into our city with four or five people inside who didn’t want to be inside, but were being driven against their will out and around and wherever…and we broadcast the information and an officer thought he was behind the vehicle and many more officers arrived to watch and follow and help when and how they could…and somehow that vehicle turned in front of or behind and into an alley or neighborhood and parked in some dark invisible place and we lost them and didn’t know where they could be…but those four or five people had dark skin and said they had been kidnapped…what kind of day would it have been if that hadn’t happened?
Later that afternoon, what kind of day would it have been if we hadn’t come across a drop-house, a den or lair of human coyotes who steal and smuggle and rape and kill and extort and abuse people who trusted them to bring them to a better life across a river and imaginary boundary that exists on maps and in minds…and officers set an inner and outer perimeter to catch all of the fleeing coyotes when they ran…and we caught four bad-guys and rescued four good guys and gals and called ICE to come and get “their” people….
And what kind of day would it have been if a caller hadn’t found that little two year-old wandering the street in his diaper and striped tennis-shoes…hadn’t called us and said “Please come get this baby…yes, I’ll stay here until you get here, I couldn’t just drive by and not stop”…like so many people do sometimes.
What kind of day would it have been if the young man hadn’t called to tell us that his friend was going to kill himself…had a gun and was going to do it…and was going to leave the apartment door unlocked for us…what kind of day would it have been if he hadn’t refused to come out of the apartment when we got there…if he would have just come out on his own…but no, we had to call it a barricade and call-out the dogs and the SWAT guys and restrict the channel so the dispatcher didn’t have to work any other traffic…just listen to me…to us, as we work this mess…all for a guy who wanted to die, but was too chicken or too undecided to do it after telling everyone that he was going to…and we set-up our police camp and command-post outside his door and around the corner and pretended that there was a real boogey-man inside who was a threat to himself and others and we were coming to protect the “others” from him in case he decided not to hurt himself, but them. What kind of day would it have been if we had packed our shit and just walked and driven away from that guy who didn’t want to come out…?
What kind of day would it have been if the mom or dad or aunt or grown cousin of that little diaper and tennis-shoe clad two year-old had come looking for him so we didn’t have to place him with Child Protective Services…if they had even noticed he was gone?
What kind of day would it have been if that other neighbor hadn’t called us to tell us that a woman was chasing her eight year-old son through the apartment complex holding a knife in one hand and a belt in the other…running and yelling “Get back here, you little shit-head…I’m gonna beat yo ass!” What kind of day would it have been? “I don’t think she’s right in the head,” the caller told the 9-1-1 operator. She had left her one year-old and six year-old kids in the apartment as she ran and chased her older son. An officer cleared after a bit and asked that we roll the counselor/crisis-team van from the fire department to take care of the other kids.
And what kind of day would it have been if there weren’t constant and insistent messages flashing on my computer screen all fucking day long about police needing to come to this school and that, this hospital and that hospital or this aunt’s house or grandmother’s house or CPS worker’s office to take this report and that report about some loved one or trusted one or some stranger or some assistant coach hitting or bruising or fondling or fucking some child who was just going about their days and lives trying to be a kid over the weekend or last week and he’s still got bruises…and the 16 year-old girl woke-up this morning and she was naked and groggy and it was burning and hurting between her legs and she doesn’t know what happened or how she got where she was and she just called her mom and she called us…and the Spanish-speaking father called us to say that his 14 year-old son was walking home from the store and a truck full of Mexicans had pulled-over and grabbed him into the truck and then stole his cell phone and wallet and had beat him and touched him “down there” and…what kind of day would it have been if another dad hadn’t called to report that he found text-messages on his 17 year-old son’s cell phone talking about how he was having sex with the dad’s 26 year-old girlfriend…what kind of day would it have been?
And those were just some of the things that happened in only eight hours of a single Monday at 9-1-1 and police dispatch…just one shift…in the fifth or sixth largest city in the country….
Swirling beneath the surface or deeply embedded within the spoken word is yet another meaning, an additional understanding or interpretation that is dependent upon the receiver’s frame of mind or point of reference in accepting that word. The paths that the person has traveled in his life will have an impact on the message’s content as well. Often, trusting that the speaker has the same state of mind or set of references that he does, the receiver will take the word for its surface value, not thinking to look into the current that carried the speaker into giving it…or not.
Those additional meanings could also exist because those spoken words were wrought in deception as a ruse, to mislead, to cover wrong-doings and hidden or veiled thoughts. They were presented to protect others or the self or bring unjust scrutiny where it is not needed, diverting inspection from where it is due. Gossip, lies, and rumors bred to undermine, to make others feel secure in their own estimation…to shake foundations and crumble established ways of thinking, perceptions, and values. Visible or imagined circumstances are mated with ill-conceived thoughts and a new ‘truth’ is born. It breathes with a life of its own, spread and passed-along as righteousness…contextual and circumstantial truths that reek in filth and deception until they are discovered and ripped apart with the knife of examination, eviscerated under the light of explanation and detail…but the damage is still done, the seed was planted and doubt has grown, sprouted and thriving in another life with its germinal droppings carried by the wind of conversation and whispered in hushed tones of ‘Have you heard?’
How many of our lives’ courses have been steered aside by a single phrase or the circumstantial pairing of words? What lashes across the back have been felt because of either ill-spoken words or ones that were found to be false? What taste of blood was brought to mouth because of an offense, a broken bone or ringing of ears caused by a violence that spews from hands evil with wrongdoing; might over weakness, forcefulness over fearfulness; the victims’ souls splayed open by the sharp tongue. How many lives and reputations in past and present have been sullied by murmured falsehoods and contrived deeds?
But words also nurture and bind and comfort and heal and uplift and encourage and inspire and lead many from sickness to health and from self-doubt to greatness and success…love-spoken words can be salves that heal our wounds and reveal truths that wash-away the scourge and disease of the bitter tongue…that fortify, that vanquish evil and doubt and failure…and stir to a greatness unimagined. And sometimes, too, these soothing and healing and uplifting and inspiring words are lies bound in sweet hope that they will be believed and acted-upon and taken to magnificent ends…causing the receiver to believe the words and dig into themselves to make them true because the speaker said they were true so they must be true and that makes them become true…and that lie has become truth…and then.
And other times the utterances become opiates that relax our diligence and dull our senses, calmly deceiving and betraying us with Delilah’s alluring promises before robbing us of our strength or resolve, seducing us, leading us into temptation and delivering us unto evil where we ransom our souls and happiness and futures and eternities for ideas and notions and feelings and…in other times and circumstances we escape with and through them, these words, into our fantasies and beliefs, conjuring imaginings and hopes, falling prey to our lusts and desires…whispered in sinful darkness they feed our longings…and we covet what we have not…we resolve to tell stories of deeds done and then, twisted mysteries that complicate and turn like worms in our guts when trying to remember what happened or not as we weave that tangled web. Their partial truths and half-lies stringing us along and telling us in bits what we need to know…in power and ruse against us, controlling and subordinating and enslaving or making us free, causing us to rise indifferent to blood and ties.
Skillfully spoken with temper and might, those spoken symbols can cause us to rise-up in defiance against our natural selves and believe ghastly things about others, to strike-out with deadly consequence or they can inspire us to love and nurture others at the cost of our own lives, can lead us to unbelievable heights and lengths to sacrifice ourselves and others for a cause, sometimes just and sometimes not and so…and someone said that someone said that He said “I am that I am.”
Between friends they are casual, words of comfort and ease, gentle conversation about anything or nothing, rambling and disjointed wonderings and plans and hopes and disappointments and promises to do better and live stronger and try instead of not…and they know the sacred and the secret, the hallowed and irreverent…jingling jangling juggling jumbling jabbering and tossing about in the mixing of anything and nothing and sometimes the learned stumble for a lack of the right one and the not-so-learned has it in picture form and simple and more beautiful and from the earth or the tugging inside the heart and in the hum of nature and in the tick and tock of the silent passing on the pendulum’s path and so…to speak in word form.
What aspect of our being hasn’t been touched by the spoken word? Is there a single step in this labyrinthine effort that is a stranger to the audible thoughts and contrivances of verbal communication? I dare to offer that near every color of life’s prism has been and is painted by and with every manner of uttering by the human tongue – those simple expulsions of breath, twisted and rolled, compressed and urged through the vocal cords, throat, teeth, and lips to become the shouts and screams and soothing whispers and encouragements or curses that propel us through our collective existence.
What do we really mean when we say ‘I hope so?’ Do we use the word ‘hope’ so casually that we have diminished its fullest meaning, or is it another one of those enigmatic things like love, that defy definition and measure, even though we find it clearly described in dictionaries? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb form of ‘hope’ as: “to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment; to have confidence; trust; to expect and desire.” We hope we make it to the gas station before we run out of gas; we hope we win the lottery in tonight’s drawing; we hope our sick dog is soon restored to full health; we hope we can keep our same days-off at work in our annual shift re-bid; we hope our adult children can be happy in their new relationships; we hope our kids’ chicken-pox sores heal before they have their school pictures taken; we hope our wives or husbands get their businesses up and running and that all the years of work and sacrifice pay-off and that our collective dreams finally come true; we hope so many other things that would make our temporal lives or circumstances however much better…we hope….
And then…a new cancer treatment gives hope to those suffering from likely terminal conditions where nothing else works; we hope that we can rescue victims instead of recovering bodies from the mine collapse or plane crash; we hope our co-worker and friend gets back to Kansas City before her father passes-away; collective prayer among believers and a favorite passage or two or ten from their holy text gives them hope when facing the end of their biological lives that they will continue to exist in the hereafter…even when there is no scientific or empirical evidence to even suggest that such places exist, be they heaven or hell or something in between or beyond; and we hope so many other things that are coming to a final or terminal end.
When we hope against hope, we are hoping for something even though there is little or no chance of our wish being fulfilled; we are hoping with little reason or justification. Yet, we hope…again, for that eternal resting place above and beyond the stars with our Savior and family members and other loved ones and pets (really, pets?)…we hope beyond hope that a lifetime of unhealthy living and destruction of our own bodies will be bettered by technology and medical ‘miracles’ and that our loved ones’ bodies will continue to persist against the abuses that they have wrought against themselves…and when they live or die – and ‘whether’ they live or die, it’s somehow seen as ‘God’s will’ regardless of our hopes. Well then, in that overly broad context, isn’t every single possible thing boiled-down to His will? That’s kind of lame when there’s no differentiation between what is/was His will and what is or wasn’t. It sounds rather like a cop-out or an easy resignation because either way it happens, you say that it’s His will. Why not just call it fate then…just give-up any connection with the Big Guy whatsoever…just bring it down to what it really is…shit happens…good happens…stuff happens…life just freaking happens, whether we surrounded ourselves with prayer or didn’t…stuff just happens, and depending on one’s mindset, I guess, we can give all the credit to a meddling God who isn’t too busy with all the shit that’s happening in the universe, actually in the millions of universes out there…really big stuff, like keeping all those planets and stars stuck up there in their orbits or stellar placements, preventing all the black-holes from vacuuming every damn thing into themselves, keeping the planets, in our lifetimes anyway, from continuing in their expansions away from their stars at an even faster pace that would cause our little speck of dirt and water from freezing its inhabitants to death…we can give all the credit to that meddling God for the things that He does and doesn’t do in our little insignificant lives…or…we can accept that we are just another organism that managed to survive and reproduce and evolve/change into something that could withstand the environmental pressures and struggles long enough to get to where we are today…and whose continued existence is dependent upon what miseries and poisons and precautions or preventions that we manage to bring to and upon ourselves. In the billions of years of the universe’s existence and in the lesser billions of years in which life has existed on our planet and in the millions to hundreds of thousands of years in which bi-pedal type homo species have existed, our lives as the general type and specific species that we have become isn’t squat compared to the numbers of species that have come and gone in the eons before us…we’re just another bug in a jar…but our arrogance causes us to devise such quantities of illogical hope for something so far beyond our biology…just face it…we’re bags of bones and dirt and minerals and star-dust…that’s probably the closest we’re going to get to heaven…it was in our celestial origins that our ‘stellar’ elements combined to ‘create’ life as it exists here on our floating, orbiting, chunk of rock and water…and still we hope; we hope against hope and ask God to hit the ‘pause’ button on the laws of the universe, that some believe He created/devised, so that He can answer our prayers and make the sun stand still (pre-Galilean understanding of the cosmos), make disease-ridden bodies suddenly free of pathogens and associated damage, and cure the addict’s arrested brain chemistry and change him/her into a mature contributing member of society, etc. We somehow hope against all the laws of nature that God will hear our prayers…that’s rather arrogant of us, isn’t it? Doesn’t that speak of a specialness or consideration that isn’t warranted by our measly human insignificance in the broader context of all of our universes’ lifetimes and existences, that we should hope for such things and that they be granted by our God above? While “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things” (according to Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption) that might help us endure some shitty circumstances, ‘hopefully’ temporal ones, shouldn’t we be more reasonable in our hopes? Shouldn’t we consider ourselves within the scope of our existence? I would hope so….
Several weeks later, just as Zachary’s hope of finding a Tonka Truck began to grow very thin, he was visited by one of the angels. “Master Zachary,” he began, “Joseph has asked me to bring you to Heaven’s Gate. He said that he has news. You must come quickly!” Zachary jumped to his feet and started running in circles about the angel’s feet. “What did he say? What did he say? Did he find a Tonka Truck for me? Did he? Come on, you have to tell me!” Zachary’s frantic questioning did nothing but make the angel smile. “Let’s go,” said the angel, “take my hand, and follow me.” Grabbing the angel’s hand, and turning quickly to look behind him, nearly tripping himself with the effort, Zachary yelled, “Grandma Lois! Grandma Lois! Come on! Joseph found some Tonka Trucks! Yippee!”
So the angel, Zachary, and Grandma Lois made their way to Heaven’s Gate. Zachary was certain that they could get there quicker if they ran, but the angel reminded him that they needed to proceed at a slower pace so that Grandma Lois wouldn’t be left behind. “Well, can’t you carry us there? Can’t you just pick us up and get us there as quick as a thought?” “I can do that,” said the angel, “but we are only supposed to do that when going down to the Earth, or when we are responding to some kind of danger. Up here in Heaven, we angels are to walk like everyone else.”
Some moments later, the trio arrived at Heaven’s Gate. They found Joseph, as always, just sitting there, rocking back and forth in his favorite chair, humming a little tune. “You found them! You found them! Where are the Tonka Trucks?” said Zachary, as he ran up to Joseph. “How did you get them here? Did one of the angels bring them up from the Earth?” “Slow down there,” said Joseph, “hang on just a minute. I didn’t tell the angel that I found any of your trucks. I just asked him to tell you that I had some news.” With that, Zachary stopped his questions, and with a suddenly very sad face, he just stood there, silent, and unmoving. “What do you mean?” said the little boy, “You didn’t get any Tonka Trucks? That’s not the news?” “Well, in a way, it is,” replied the old saint; “I have found the secret that will allow you to find them for yourself.” Zachary was confused, but when Joseph turned to look at Grandma Lois, the kind woman had a big, beautiful smile on her face, for she, too, knew the secret. “Zachary,” Grandma Lois said, “come here. Come here and listen to Joseph. I know you have already looked in every possible place, but just listen to what your friend has to tell you. He is going to share the secret that we all come to learn after we have been in Heaven for a while. Joseph is going to help you figure it out, so be still, and listen.”
“Zachary,” said Joseph, “come here and sit with me. Climb up here on my lap and sit facing me. There. Now, lean forward and rest your head against mine, like this. We are going to take a little journey, right here, where we are sitting. We’re not actually going to leave, but we are going to go far, far away.” “I don’t know what you mean, Joseph. How can we go somewhere if we’re not going to leave your rocker, if we’re going to stay right here?” said Zachary. “Close your eyes and listen to me,” responded Joseph, “just close your eyes.” Suddenly, Zachary could see inside of Joseph’s mind. “Wow!” he said, “how did you do that?” “Sit still Little One. Lean your head against mine, now, and just sit still.” Again, Zachary was joined with Joseph inside the old man’s mind. He truly did feel that he was going on a journey. He felt almost like he was being carried about on a wing, nearly flying through his friend’s thoughts and consciousness. Zachary felt warm, and at peace. He saw images of Joseph’s life, old people, children, statues, masks, flowers, and an unending sky. His friend was a wonderful man, thought Zachary. He was amazed at all the sensations, emotions, and states of consciousness that were new and strange to his little mind.
After what seemed to be a very long time, Zachary’s feeling of flight stopped and he could see that he and Joseph were standing before a magnificent, ancient building. “Zachary,” the old man said, “we are here.” Looking toward the arch overhead, the little boy, with Joseph’s mind, read the graven inscription ‘hall of answers’ and understood it to mean – ‘Hall of Answers.’ “This, My Little Friend, is where I find the answers to fill all of the holes that Hope brings. It is in this place, that I find my peace.”
In his mind, Joseph took the little boy’s hand and led him up the stairs, through the immense, wooden door, and into the great Hall. Zachary stood in awe of the thousands of shelves, racks, and stands that contained the books of Joseph’s knowledge. The old sage began walking up one aisle, and then back down the next, searching the stacks and piles of monstrous notebooks and ledgers, hoping to find that one hidden something. “Ah! I remember where I put it,” said Joseph, “follow me!” Back to the far side of the building, up two flights of circular stairs, and back again to the middle of the Hall, but on the third floor, the old man led his companion to yet another remote corner of his mind, where they found in a toppled pile, several ancient, cracked, leather-bound manuscripts. “This is it,” said the old man, “this is where the answer lies.” Joseph dug to the bottom of the heap and extracted three small, red, leather-covered books. Their golden edges were dull with time, and in the dim light, Zachary could barely make out the embossed letters of their title – ‘The Contents of Heaven.’
“In each of us,” said Joseph, “there is a precious, secret place that tells us of Heaven. These little, red books tell of my Paradise. Now that you have made the journey with me, Zachary, you are prepared to take that same trek inside of your own, little self.” Joseph’s tiny friend just stood there, hugging the old man’s leg, softly crying to himself, being overcome with the emotion he felt for his wise friend. Then, slowly, Zachary began to smile with the youthful realization that he could now find the Tonka Trucks that he so dearly wanted. “Can we go now?” said Zachary. “We’re already there,” replied his old friend, “just open your eyes.”
Later that night, many hours after Grandma Lois had tucked Zachary into his bed, the unconscious self of Heaven’s little wanderer continued to search the far reaches of his mind, hoping to find his own, ‘Hall of Answers.’ Whether or not he actually found his own ‘Book of Heaven’ is unknown, but it is my understanding that, shortly before waking the next morning, Zachary dreamed that he had found his beloved Tonka Trucks.
Jumping from his feather comforter, Zachary awoke with the full excitement of his discovery. “I know where they are!” he shouted. “Grandma Lois, I know where they are!” Running out of their cottage and down the path through the Cottonwood forest, Zachary continued running, skipping, and hopping until he came to Heaven’s Gate. “Joseph, I know where they are! I know where to find the Tonka Trucks!” And on he went!
One day, not too long ago, a little boy died whose name was Zachary. I wish I could tell you that he passed quietly in his sleep, that his little soul just couldn’t stay here on Earth any longer and had to leave, to go back to that splendid Heaven from which the souls of all the little babies come to us. I cannot tell you this, for it did not happen so.
In recounting this tale of truth, I must confess that the little boy died from wounds he received at the hands of a horrible monster that attacked him over and over again. The details of his death are too sad to repeat here, but let me say that he felt no love at the time of his passing. Never more alone did Zachary feel than when his little soul finally left his battered form to begin its journey home.
Where were the guardian angels, you ask, who were supposed to protect his life while on this planet Earth? That, I do not know for sure, but I believe they were there, for I have been told that their powers were greatly diminished by the same evil that consumed the monster who took Zachary’s life. The angels’ remaining strength was used to take Zachary home to Heaven, where he is to this day.
We have heard since the olden days that the pearly gates of Heaven are guarded by gloriously fierce angels with bright, flaming swords, who are ready at an instant to slay any evil being who might try to enter there. This is just a story, we find out now, that was created by some old, gray men who don’t like children, puppies, and the morning sunshine. The truth, we know, is that Heaven does have a gate, but it is not adorned with pearls. It is, instead, an old wooden gate with one of the boards missing. Furthermore, it is surrounded by brightly flowered bushes and has a spring to help it close so none of Heaven’s puppies and babies get lost.
The returning souls are greeted by an older, soft-eyed gentleman who is rocking there in an even-older, cane rocking-chair. On an overturned garden bucket, setting nearby, the old gentleman, Joseph, has a big book, and a balance. “Let me see your heart,” he says to the approaching wanderer. “Let me see whether you’ve been good or bad in your life on Earth.” You see, this is how a soul is really measured for entrance into Heaven. If one has lived a life of goodness and sorrow, their hearts will be heavy with love and suffering. The scale will tip and release the latch to the old wooden gate, allowing it to open, welcoming the traveler home. If one has been mean in their life on Earth, and has felt no sorrow, their hearts will be empty and the scale will not move. Joseph will tell this errant soul to go back down that long, hot highway to Earth and live there, yet again. When they have learned how to be kind, and how to feel the sorrow that saddens other people’s lives, they may return to Heaven and have their hearts weighed again. “I will gladly let you in,” says Joseph, “when you have learned. Until then, you must spend your life on Earth.”
This is where we find Zachary, now, standing before Joseph with the weakened, tattered angels at his side. “Hello, Little One,” came Joseph’s soft voice, “What are you doing here so early? Are you sure it’s time for your arrival?” Zachary’s tear filled eyes gazed at Joseph with an extreme sadness and bewilderment. “Master,” said the closest angel, “our little friend has come home. He was sorely abused by the Evil One’s monster and it was only by the slightest chance that we all escaped. Please weigh his heart so that he can enter into his rest. You must know that his has been a long journey.”
Leaning back in his rocking-chair, Joseph closed his eyes, and with a slow sigh, finally said, “You are right, my faithful friend, let us delay no longer.” Sitting forward now, Joseph called to Zachary, “Come here Little One; tell me about your life. Let me see what kind of child you have been.” Zachary slowly walked up to the old man, and putting his tiny hand into Joseph’s, climbed up onto his lap and leaned back as if to fall asleep. With his head leaning against the gentle gate-keeper’s chest, Zachary began to cry, saying that he didn’t know what he had done wrong, but it must have been terrible to receive the punishment that he had. Joseph tried to sooth the little boy, softly humming a tune, and gently smoothing his tousled hair. “Let’s see what the book says about you, Zachary.” Joseph flipped through several pages of the mighty book, and at last came to the entry about little Zachary. “What it says here, Little One, is that you have done nothing wrong. You have committed no offense, and your heart is full of sadness and suffering. The short life you had lived was little more than strife, neglect, and abuse.” After a pause and a click of his tongue, Joseph stood-up with Zachary in his arms, and held him close. Standing thus, the love from his heart passed into the tiny, sad heart of Zachary. Then, slowly, as if he were coming to life, yet again, Zachary stirred, stretched, and raised his head to look into Joseph’s eyes. “You are safe now, my little friend. The struggles of your life are over. From this day forward, you shall live in paradise, no longer tormented by the Evil One.” A beautiful smile slowly spread across Zachary’s face, lighting Heaven’s entrance with a glow that it hasn’t seen for many lifetimes. “Welcome home,” said the kindly saint, “enter into your rest.”
With these events, Zachary began his new life in Paradise. You may think that his “life,” as we know it, was over once he had perished, but for this new resident of Heaven, he was still a little boy, and his life was just beginning. Zachary could now run, and jump, and swing to his little heart’s content. Day after day, this little wanderer ran throughout Heaven, playing as he had never played before. In his running about, though, Zachary was searching for something that he just couldn’t seem to find. No matter which expanse of Heaven he explored, he still came back a little disappointed, again not finding the secret thing for which he searched.
One day, after a particularly long romp through the fields and by-ways, Zachary returned to Heaven’s gate to talk to his old friend. “Hello, Little One, how are you today?” Without slowing down to provide an answer, Zachary climbed onto the old saint’s lap and blurted out his burning question – “Joseph, are there Tonka Trucks in Heaven? I’ve looked everywhere, and I can’t find any.” Somewhat surprised, and particularly amused, Joseph glanced around and replied, “Well, I don’t know Zachary, I’ve never looked for Tonka Trucks in Heaven.” With a dejected air, Zachary slumped back into Joseph’s chest and mumbled, “I don’t know what I’m going to do then, that was my favorite thing to play with down there.” Joseph just sat there, rocking back and forth, humming his little tune, waiting for what Zachary might say next. After several moments, and with a certain burst of excitement, Zachary nearly shouted – “Do you think you could get someone to bring some up here the next time they go down to Earth? Could one of the angels bring me one?” “I don’t know,” Joseph said, “we’ll see what we can do. It may take some time, and I can’t make any promises, but we’ll see.” This satisfied Zachary for now, so he hopped down from Joseph’s lap, said goodbye, and skipped away, looking for another game he might play.
A short while later, when Zachary was running through the palm groves, he happened upon a dog sitting in the middle of a flower garden. Crawling behind a bush, Zachary lay down and pretended to be spying on the dog. It was very fluffy with gray and tan hair, had pointy ears, a black snout, and a curled tail. Our little spy was starting to come out from behind the bush when he noticed that there were two cats sitting there as well. The smaller one, colored orange and white, was leaning against the larger cat, who was gray, orange, and white, as if she were her mother. While Zachary thought the bright pink flowers looked like a comfortable bed, and couldn’t blame the animals for lying in the flowers, he was wondering why the dog wasn’t chasing the cats up a tree, “or something like that,” he said aloud. “Because they are friends,” came a voice from behind one of the trees. “You can often see them sitting or walking around together.” Turning quickly, Zachary saw an older lady leaning against the tree. “What? Hey, where did you come from?” said Zachary, “I didn’t see you before.” Stepping forward from the tree now, the woman replied, “I said they are friends, so that’s why he isn’t chasing them around.” “Oh . . . but who are you?” “I’m sorry,” said the woman, “My name is Grandma Lois, and I am the keeper of Heaven’s pets and birds. I’ve been following you since you left Joseph at the gate. I had heard that you were up here, Zachary, and I’ve been looking for you for quite some time now.” Zachary turned around again, and looking more perplexed than he did before, peered behind the tree, then glanced at the dog and cats again, who were just sitting there, looking back at him, and smiling as if they were part of some secret joke. “But, how do you know my name, and why were you looking for me?” “Zachary, I know all about you,” said Grandma Lois, “because I have been watching my granddaughter down on the Earth. She knows all about you, too, Little One, and by watching her, I have come to know you.” Sensing Zachary’s growing unease, Grandma Lois tried to comfort him. “Come here Zachary and let me explain. When a loved one dies and comes up here to Heaven, they are able to watch their family and friends back on the Earth. And sometimes, when we see that they are having trouble, we are able to help them. Well, my granddaughter has been trying very hard to fight the Evil One, but sometimes she gets tired and I need to help her out.” By this time, the animals had come over to get some love from Zachary and Grandma Lois, so while Zachary was contemplating the things he was being told, he absently scratched the dog’s ears and petted the cats, alternating his gaze from the animals to his new friend. “Grandma Lois,” said Zachary, “can I help your granddaughter too? Would I be able to help her be strong and fight the monster that hurt me?” The old woman reached down, picked-up the little boy, and held him close to her breast. With great big tears spilling from her eyes, Grandma Lois softly whispered, “You already do, Zachary . . . you already do.” From that day forward, Grandma Lois and Zachary were the best of friends. Whenever you saw one, the other was not far away. To be continued….