It’s always pleasing when a recommendation (direct or otherwise) from a friend results in a rewarding experience. About two weeks ago, Fergiemoto commented on my Salt Lake City Seagull post and mentioned that you can see LOTS of sea-gulls on the causeway that leads from the mainland to Antelope Island out in the Great Salt Lake. As I have lived in the Salt Lake area for just over a year and had not yet ventured out to visit the lake up-close and personal, let alone traveled the 40 miles north of the city to visit Antelope Island, it seemed like a good time to do so. It was a rather chilly and windy February morning and afternoon, and while there were plenty of birds flying about and resting in the lake’s water, I have to admit that I didn’t take particular notice of the gulls…there were too many other things that captured my attention and begged for me to stop the truck and take their pictures. Anyway…thank you, Fergiemoto, for your recommendation. It was a wonderful day-adventure. 🙂
Antelope Island is about 15 miles long and 4.5 miles wide and is the largest of the six or eight or more islands that exist in the Great Salt Lake. This photo was taken on the road that lies on the eastern side of the island and leads out to a farm/ranch near the north end of the island that was originally established in the late 1800’s. Even though the island is smack-dab in the middle of a lake that has greater salinity than the oceans, there are more than 40 fresh-water springs on this eastern side of the island that serve as water sources for the natural and imported wild-life. Aside from the prong-horn antelope, from which the island gets its name, there is also a herd of more than 600 imported buffalo, or American Bison, that roam freely over the island. There are also long-horned sheep, mule-deer, bob-cats, coyotes, and many ducks, gulls, other water-birds, and raptors. The state-park literature also reports that Bald-Eagles frequent the island during their seasonal migrations.
We didn’t spot this antelope until we were actually leaving the island. As I got out of the truck to take the photos, I heard him making some barking-type sound…almost like he was calling to his friends to come back. A cyclist who had also stopped to look at the antelope and listen to his calls said that this particular antelope was a male, as only males have the black cheek markings and a bit of a mane that runs down the middle of the neck.
I think it’s remarkable that we could be on an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake and see buffalo resting in the tall and winter-dried grasses.
The boys were eager to get out of the truck and climb the rocks…having fun with their own little adventures and seemingly mindless of the chilling wind. There was a bit of haze on the lake…maybe an inversion layer of vehicle particle emissions…or salt dust carried in with the winds from the desert south and west of the lake. Those are the Wasatch Mountains in the background.
I’ve seen these deer in the mountains of Colorado and in the mountains and canyons of Utah and Arizona…but on an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake? Yep…
When I mentioned in my earlier post, Mass and Form, about trying to get a good profile shot of the bison/buffalo, this is the closest and best that I could get. He kept moving in circles away from me….
Everyone had a nice time driving and walking about the island…even my 3yo grand-daughter. This last photo was taken near the farm/ranch on the north end of the island. You can see that the winter grass has been mown beyond the fence.
In my last post, I mentioned that the boys and I were going to visit City Creek Canyon this weekend…and we did. It was one week earlier than my solo excursion there last year and much of the vibrance, and many of the leaves, have already left the trees…not all of it and them…it was still incredibly beautiful. My little one and his brother/nephew loved the hike and the stream and the leaves…and simply being outside in the middle of their natural world…together.
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?
Several years ago, a friend asked me to write something about my thoughts and feelings pertaining to the transition from employee to supervisor within our workplace, from 9-1-1 operator and dispatcher to Radio Supervisor. When contemplating the paper, I thought I would discuss the relationships with my immediate co-workers, the relationships with peer supervisors from other shifts, the relationship with my supervisor, the aspects of the performance of my job that my supervisor evaluated, the relationships that I had with my employees and the employees of other supervisors, both on my shift and other shifts, and related to and intertwined with all of the above, the political nature of written communication, things said and/or not said, actual and implied or perceived intent, and the ever-present need to actually consider and weigh one’s reaction to any other word, intent, omission, look, possibility, idea, etc..
After discussing the changes in relationships and interactions with all of the people in the workplace, and when considering those changes, there was also the immediately personal aspect to look at – my evaluation of myself inside myself, the changes in my thought processes that included moving from a solitary person to one of community and all that it entailed, i.e., what I lost and gained, etc. And then more – my thoughts of the bureau, the department, the officers, the citizens; my responsibilities to my co-workers, my employees, my boss, the department, the citizens; how my perspective of liability had changed or remained the same; my dedication to the job; my thoughts of other people’s dedication to the job; my sense of belonging and not belonging; it was just a job, a means to a nice paycheck that provided for my family and the commitment I had to making sure I deserved what the city gave me for compensation; and then my occasional thoughts of demoting, or other thoughts of trying for another promotion where I would supervise my then co-worker supervisors.
All of that processing of my transition within that particular workplace got my mind going in similar yet unassociated areas and caused me to wonder about the different and many transitions that one undergoes in a lifetime – which I then applied to myself and the many aspects and experiences of my own existence that have led me from one place to another, both literally and figuratively. My mind went in directions ranging from being an innocent in every sense of the word and passing into and through the stages of gaining knowledge that removed the innocence and replaced it with experiences that changed me forever, even if only in the slightest ways. My thoughts wandered, then and now – if I’m going to have this current and up-to-date, down the trails of my childhood turning into adolescence and adulthood; the paths that led me from the Air Force to the health department, from the health department to the police department, and from there to my present workplace in another health department in an altogether different state and locale; from carelessness to concern, or selfishness to awareness; the journey from being a solitary person, as I mentioned earlier, to one who out of necessity or yearning became one of community with a participatory audience, be it large or small; the change from being a young father with little children to being an older father with young and older children; from being a Believer to being a non-believer or disbeliever…and…. So I wondered at change and transition.
And then a friend of mine sent me a link to another article about a man who tossed caution to the wind and left his steady and secure job that paid well, but wasn’t fulfilling, and bought a boat and started a charter business and sailing school…and changed his life. He left the security for something he loved, something that spoke to or moved his “soul” or the core of his being. And I thought of transitions again and still. I thought of how I have done something similar to the guy who “quit” his former job and bought a boat so he could pursue his dreams, however unsteady they might have been. I thought of pursuing a simpler life, one less complicated, without and within, one that was rewarding and fulfilling and wrought with a different and compelling potential that didn’t exist in another place, for me and mine, anyway. I thought of how making that change will cause other transitions to occur within me as so many transitions and changes were occurring outwardly in my life.
Yes, I’ve only been there for a few weeks, but I actually look forward to going to work in the morning. I also look forward to waking and seeing that big beautiful mountain down at the end of my street, knowing that at the end of my work week, or even some afternoon after work, I will be out there driving or hiking among its hills and valleys, listening to its streams trickling or rumbling over its rocks, and hearing its scolding squirrels and singing birds touching the otherwise quiet and clean forest air. No…the monetary rewards won’t be there at work; I’m not going to be rich or even “well-to-do” after working there…but then I don’t have dreams of making millions. I’m looking for peace that lives within.
So the other day, when I was in the turn-lane to merge into the lane of traffic that was going to take me out and into Mill Creek Canyon, I suddenly saw and heard, racing toward me, three police cars in a line with their lights and sirens going full blast, “Code-3,” with a fourth one coming a minute or so later, flying so fast that they shook my truck in their passing. In my mind, and in my memory that has formed over the past eleven years, that many cops heading in the same direction, so close together, with lights and sirens screaming and blaring, could only mean one thing…someone got shot…some police officer got shot and the others were driving there as quickly as they could so they could render aid and catch the bad-guy. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest.
The view of the big beautiful mountain in front of me was suddenly absent as my former life and concerns came crashing and screaming into my very real and present and different life. I almost went back to my apartment to await the news flash on the television. But, I didn’t. I did, however, ask the mountain “Why?” and then sat there for another half-minute or so before venturing out into the traffic on the road that would take me away from my immediate concern and anxiety and out into the green embrace of that lush and welcoming “other world” that exists a few miles down the road from the everyday. I did watch the news that night, which I normally don’t do…and…regarding all the cops in a line with their lights and sirens and my imagined tragedy that struck or befell those brothers in blue…nothing. It was a “Big Fat Numba-Three.”
And today, with the “new employee” orientation that touched on emergency preparedness and the talk of 800MHz radios and interoperability and incident command and chain-of-command and what if our cell-phones won’t work and the radio towers are down and they’ve got two new fancy trucks with mobile antennas for the radios and stored rations and a cache of this and a cache of that and a 72-hour kit and we need to get help to those in need and 9-1-1 will be out of business and so will we and…and…what does all of this have to do with gonorrhea?
So…I am still somewhere in-between the past and the present, the “used-to-be” and the “is.”
My ears are still ringing and my head is still buzzing or humming from the road-wind and travel and my arms and legs can still feel the pulling and turning and little bumps in the roadway that have embedded themselves into the corporeal memory of my day and afternoon. We have traveled, I and me, from the south to here again and have resumed the new habits and routine that have become mine in these last days and week. I have returned to here from there, from my home and home to this place of preparation and waiting. The long road and miles took me back to that place that has been mine and ours for these many years, that place of rest and sanctuary from the world and its assailing us and me. I have found myself here again after being there for only a couple days and my mind is still there as these keys type and start and stop and wonder at the words as they come and go and form and don’t and retype themselves as the clothes tumble in the dryer and I wonder at who’s sleeping and not. I wonder at who has cried today and not. I wonder at the quiet here and the eyes in the pictures and the empty pillow and the couch that used to be there in our bedroom and is now here in my living room. It’s tall and large and greenish golden brown and fit in that first and intended place and is now huge in its occupying of space and then. It looks like it belongs somewhere else as I think of tomorrow and the people who will be in mine and the other people’s tomorrows in which I will not be in substance and form.
Words came to me in the turning of the wheels and the passing of the wind and sahuaros and stands of shoulder-high sunflowers in their patchiness and grounded and monster junipers with their blue-berried cones all jumping and a-gaggle in their hodge-podge placement and positioning on the hills and passing landscape with the prickled-pears and cow-tongued cacti that clung neatly and a-jumbled along the side of the carven hillsides that bound and bordered that twisting ribbon of concrete and asphalt for those many miles from there to here. Those many miles that spoke in sundry tongues and painted images with their palate of words and thoughts that fled in happenstance at and in their impermanence, their scattered thoughts and round again and between glimpses at the guardrail and the mountains that command in their presence, Do come and stay and make anew that home and home and prepare the way for those to follow like the earlier pioneers who made their trails and forded streams and were the first and first as they went away.
I pondered the thought of this not being home yet and the gentle pressing of keys that told of hating the place where lonely lives, that ghosted realm of things and people gone from where they used to be, gone from where they’ve always been and not within reach or touch or the distance of a cross-room glance, but gone…and it lives alone there and waits the knocking door, the familiar step, the simple look, and the…rolling tears and the empty chair.
And the images of faces known and voices left behind, those Sunday mornings of yesterday and what they held and laughter and friends and none await me yet and the past is full and the present bare and the mountains beckon me and tell me that they will be my first friend here, as I think of my first friend there and my last one, too, and note the passing of time that was short and the leaving soon…and here we are, wondering at what tomorrow will bring.
“Goodbye brothers! You were a good crowd. As good a crowd as ever fisted with wild cries the beating canvas with a heavy foresail; or tossing aloft, invisible in the night, gave back yell for yell to a westerly gale.” – Joseph Conrad
“Here lies my past. Goodbye I have kissed it; Thank you kids. I wouldn’t have missed it.” – Ogden Nash
“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” – Robert Southey
“Can miles truly separate you from friends…. If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there? – Richard Bach
“Not to understand a treasure’s worth till time has stole away the slightest good, is cause of half the poverty we feel, and makes the world the wilderness it is.” – William Cowper
“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.” – George Eliot
“The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.” – Nicholas Sparks
“You and I will meet again – when we’re least expecting it – one day in some far off place – I will recognize your face – I can’t say goodbye my friend – for you and I will meet again.” – Tom Petty
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” – Flavia Weedn
“As contraries are known by contraries, so is the delight of presence best known by the torments of absence.” – Alcibiades
“Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire.” – Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld
“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Theodor Seuss Geisel
“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the parting sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” – Washington Irving
“If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden.” – Claudia Ghandi
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard to do.” – Carol Sobieski & Thomas Meehan
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin
“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves unfaithful or treacherous, is his dog…. When all other friends desert, he remains.” – George Graham West
“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.” – Mark Twain
“A friend can tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself.” – Proverb
“A friend is one who knows you and likes you anyway.” – Proverb
“Love demands infinitely less than friendship.” – George Jean Nathan
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” – Alice Walker
“The friendship that can cease has never been real.” – St. Jerome
“Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” – Kahlil Gibran
“A friend is, as it were, a second self.” – Cicero
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible. Friendship needs a certain parallelism of life, a community of thought, a rivalry of aim.” – Henry Brooks Adams
“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” – Aristotle
“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” – James Boswell
“The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?” – Henry David Thoreau
How do you know that you’re loved? What tangible something can you label as being a sign or indication that someone loves you? Or is it not tangible? It’s a feeling, right? Is it that knowing or sensing what the other feels for you? Is it the comprehending of their appreciation, your importance, their need for you, what you know in your homecoming, what you sense in your going-away, or their homecoming or their going away? Is it real? How enduring is it? What things or events or forgetting or betrayals can damage that love beyond all repair or healing? How temporal is it? How can one/we say it will last forever? Will it be the same in its enduring? How will it change with the passing of days and months and years? How will the love of today resemble the love that you/one had a decade or more ago? What trials actually make it stronger or weaker? What little ‘nothings’ or ‘somethings’ will make it stronger? How does it fade when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it grow when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it stay the same or remain constant when there are no trials or challenges to it? How do celebrations make it stronger? How does participating in others’ love make yours stronger? How does participating in a second love make your primary love stronger or weaker? How does loving your spouse make your love for your children stronger? How does your parents’ display of love make your own love stronger, both as a spouse and as a parent? Does an atheist sense and feel love the same way as someone who believes in God, or a god? Does an atheist sense or feel love more on a gut or human level and a believer more on a supernatural level? Does a Christian experience love the same was a Muslim does, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Jew, or a believer of any other religion or belief-system? If a Christian and an atheist fall in love with each other, does the Christian love the atheist more than the atheist loves the Christian? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker than the loves that you would experience if God didn’t/doesn’t exist? How does the possibility of suffering in Hell make one’s love for God stronger? How do you actually ‘love’ a god who threatens you with an eternity of suffering in Hell if you choose not to believe in and ‘love’ him/her/it? How do we choose to believe or love? We can decide to be ‘committed’ to someone or something, but how do we decide to actually ‘love’ someone or something? Doesn’t love either happen or it doesn’t? If one has a poor relationship with one’s parents, or father in particular, how does that really affect one’s ability or willingness to accept and love a potential heavenly father? How do you know when your parents love you? How can you tell that your mother, mom, mommy, or ma loves you? How can you tell that your father, dad, daddy, papa, or pa loves you? And your siblings, how can you feel their love? If you’ve been estranged or moderately distant from your siblings for the majority or entirety of your adult life, do you really still love them? Do they really still love you? You don’t know each other, so how can you say that you ‘love’ each other? Does having a shared set of parents and childhood mean that you’re ‘supposed’ to love each other? What does it mean if you don’t ‘feel’ that love? Is the love you might/do feel from your siblings different than the love you might/do feel from your best friend? Is the love you feel from your siblings different than the love you feel from your best female or male friend, when you’re a male, or when you’re a female? Do you feel love differently when you’re a guy or a girl? Isn’t infatuation really the same as love? Can love grow out of infatuation if it’s not the same thing? Can love grow out of hate? Is there really, or actually a fine line between love and hate? Are they actually so closely related emotionally? Do you feel love differently when you’re a man or a woman? Do you feel your mom’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your father’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your mom’s love more than you feel your dad’s? When you’re an adult, do you still feel the love that you might have felt as a child from your parents as strongly as you did when you where younger? How do your adult experiences as a parent affect the love that you remember feeling for your parents when you were a child? How do your adult feelings of love for your parents affect the love that you have for your young or adult children? Do we dare love our in-laws in the same way or more than our own parents? Is it ever okay to identify more with them than with our own parents, or is that a betrayal? If we think we love our in-laws more than we love our own parents, does that say more about ourselves or about our parents? What if we can’t stand our spouse’s parents? What if we can’t imagine how they could possibly love their parents? How do you measure the love that your spouse says they have for their parents against the strength of love that they say they have for you? How do we claim to ‘love’ people when we don’t really like them? How can we say that we actually love someone when we don’t like them? How can we not like someone when we say that we actually love them? Is it even possible to love someone if we don’t like them? Is love like belief? Do we love the idea of love without actually loving the way some people believe in belief without actually believing? Is it possible to love someone without them knowing that we love them? Or, can we love them without letting them know? Is it possible to be loved or to feel loved without knowing who’s actually loving you? Rather, do we feel or know it if someone loves us but leaves no outward indication of that love? Does love leave a mark or a track somehow? Is there some type of electromagnetically-spiritually-staticky-kind-of-powersurge-kind-of-chemical-something-or-other that one can sense or know when in the presence of someone who loves them? When we ‘feel’ that someone loves us, what are we actually feeling? Is it love or desire or lust or infatuation or like or compassion or similarity or dependency or co-dependency or co-survivorship or co-spirituality or oneness? Is it possible to be co-spiritual or ‘one’ with someone and not love them or be loved by them? Can you share ‘soul-mate’ status with someone and not love them or be loved by them? If you love your same-gendered soul-mate does that mean you’re gay? Do gay people love as intensely or as deeply as straight people? If you’re straight and come to love a person who is gay, does that make you gay, too? Isn’t it possible to want someone so strongly, or intensely, physically that we think we love them? Or isn’t it possible to be so intensely wanted by someone physically that we think they love us? If someone treats us like shit, how can we still love them? If someone kills, abuses, or treats our child or children poorly, how can we still love them? How can we even like them? Does a parent who leaves with their children to prevent/stop physical or emotional abuse of themselves and/or their children by their spouse/partner love their children more than the parent who doesn’t leave to prevent/stop the same abuse by their spouse/partner? Will the children of the parent who left with them love more strongly than the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? Will the children of the parent who left with them love their parent more strongly than do the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? If we were abused or neglected as children and missed-out on something like ‘true-parental-love,’ is our measure of any kind of love ever accurate following our childhoods, or will it only be experienced in the extremes? Do foster children love the same way biological children love? Does a foster child who gets adopted feel love the same way a biological child feels love? Does a foster child who ages-out (turns 18yo) of the system without having been adopted understand love the same way another foster child does who did get adopted? Will the love of the aged-out foster child be as strong or as enduring as it would have been if they had been adopted at some time? Do the adoptive parents love the adopted child the same way they love their biological children? Do adopted children love their adoptive parents more than their adoptive parents’ biological children love them? Do people who cannot reproduce biologically and adopt children love their adopted children the same way parents do who were able to biologically reproduce? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they love one of their children more or less than they love another or the rest of their children? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they like one of their children more or less than they like another or the rest of their children? If we had a crappy childhood, but had a dog or cat that we loved and felt loved by, will that pet-love be a reliable or appropriate measure to compare other non-pet loves to if and when they occur? If we had a relationship that started with both of us ‘loving’ the other and things went sour along the line somewhere and our love came to nothing or came to be something so far removed from what we had at first understood to be love, how does that tainted ‘love’ effect any subsequent loves that we might come to know? Will the subsequent love be more real or pure than the first one was, even though, at its inception, that other love was understood to be real and pure? Do we measure our friends’ love for us against what we know of love as a child or as a sibling? When there are social power differentials between the people in a relationship, does one actually love the other more? Does the lesser-powered person love the higher-powered person more than the reverse? Is this like a child-parent love, but twisted somehow into whatever it is? Does a preacher love his congregation more than the members of his congregation love him? Does a child love a teacher more than the teacher loves the child? Does a priest love God more than his God loves him? Does God love Satan and his fallen angels? Do Satan and his fallen angels actually love anybody? Can an evil person love other people? Can an evil person feel love from another person? Do the answers to these two questions depend on the definition of this particular ‘evil’ and the context in which it exists? Did Hitler actually love anybody? Did he sense Eva Braun’s love for him? Did she actually ‘love’ him? Did she know everything about him and still love him? Did the serial-killer ‘Son of Sam’ actually love someone? Did he sense anyone’s love for him? While a psychopath doesn’t or can’t empathize with others, are they capable of sensing love for themselves? Did Adam love Eve even though he didn’t get to choose her? Did Eve love Adam even though she was formed or brought to substance from one of his ribs…and didn’t get to choose him as her mate? Did Adam and Eve still love Cain after he killed his brother, Abel? Did Cain and Abel love their wives the same way Adam loved their mother, Eve? (Don’t ask me where Cain and Abel got their wives; that’s another essay.) Did Adam and Eve love God, even after he had them chased out of the Garden of Eden? When our babies look at us while they’re nursing or being fed a bottle, can we know their love for us when we’re looking into their eyes? Are they capable of loving us or knowing that we love them…or is this pre-verbal state or place where love actually begins and is undefined and is pure and has no measure? If Abraham really loved his son, how could he put him on the altar and be prepared to sacrifice him for God? Is it right to love God more than we love our children? Is it right to follow the rules that our church has established, to love our church, more than we love our children? If our church tells us to stop ‘fellowshipping’ with our child because they no longer believe the things that the church teaches, should we choose our church over our child? Does love allow us to dis-fellowship our children, or should this be a sign that we should dis-fellowship our church from ourselves because we love our children more? Would God’s love for Himself demand that we turn our backs on the children we love if they no longer love or believe in Him? Does God still love a person who was brought-up in the church and got ‘saved’ when he/she was a child, and then reaffirmed his/her love for God and rededicated himself/herself to God and his service when he/she was an adult and then slowly came to doubt and no longer believe in God and His word, but instead believes that the notion of God/god is a myth, does God, if He really does exist, still love that person? And does God, if He exists, love that person as much as He loves a person who never questioned or doubted His existence, but lived and ‘loved’ Him faithfully? Do Christian parents love their Christian children more or less or the same as they love their atheist children? If we perceive that we are loved by a certain person, but that person doesn’t actually love us, are we still loved because we perceive or feel that we are loved by them? And if someone actually does love us but we perceive that they don’t, are we still loved? Does a person who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which wasn’t horrible, love the person as much as someone else who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which was horrible? Does a serial-killer’s mom love her serial-killer son as much as another mom loves her son who isn’t a serial killer? Should a serial-killer’s mom still love him? Should anybody still love him? Does he deserve love? Given that people often don’t get what they deserve and just as often get things that they don’t deserve, should the serial-killer be loved? Should/does Jesus still love the serial-killer? Should God forgive the serial-killer? Should/does Jesus still love people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Should God forgive that person who murdered his girlfriend’s children? Was Jesus’ blood shed to wash-away the sins of serial-killers and people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Really? Is that the ultimate in love, to be God/Jesus and have your blood shed, or to give your life to wash-away the sins of people who have done absolutely horrible and disgusting things and that if they believe in you and the cleansing power of your love, they will be forgiven and join you and the other believers in your eternal heaven or paradise? Really? Does the horrible sinner who has a lot to be forgiven love God more than the average sinner who has only an average amount of sin to be forgiven? And does that super-sinner then know or sense a greater love from God than the average sinner? Does God love the super-sinner more than He loves the average sinner, given that He’s forgiven/forgiving more of the super-sinner’s transgressions? Does God love the prodigal more than He loves the one who never left? If you fell in love with someone forty years ago and then split apart and married someone else, and that someone else died or left you somehow and you reconnected again with that first someone with whom you had fallen in love and fell in love again, would this second ‘being in love’ be as strong as it was those forty years ago? Would this second time really even be falling in love, or would it be falling in love with the totality of the memory of having earlier fallen in love? Does a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, experience a different intensity of love than he did before he went to war? Do the children of a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, love him/her as intensely as children love their soldier parent who didn’t go to war or aren’t soldiers? Do prostitutes love their children less than people who are not prostitutes love their children? Do prostitutes who later get married experience a different intensity of love than do people who were never prostitutes and get married? Does marrying someone mean that you love them more than if you didn’t marry them but lived with them for the rest of your life? Do parents of an only-child love their child more than parents who have multiple children? Does an only-child love his/her parents with a greater intensity than do children from multiple-child families? Does an only-child love his friends more or less intensely than do children from multiple-child families? Does an adult who was an only-child love his children any differently than a parent does who came from a multiple-child family? Do only-children feel cheated by their parents from experiencing sibling-love? Do single-sons feel cheated by their parents from experiencing true brotherly love, or do single-daughters feel cheated from experiencing true sisterly love? Is love the same to me as it is to you? Does my feeling of love feel the same as your feeling of love? Can I know love the same way that you can know love? Will or does the list of questions about love ever end?
I thought of you yesterday morning, whoever you are or used to be who now lives in perpetuity as a roadside reminder of a life lived and lost and wondered at and then; I passed the place where your blood was spilled and your heart stopped beating and your present became your forever past and your future became something that neither you nor I will ever know; it is something that your loved ones and intimates can or would or might imagine when they recall you and your dreams and your possibilities and the things that made you You and then; it won’t go beyond their thoughts and mine; you died there on an Sunday morning when you were on your way to church, they’ve said, you and your four buddies or friends and brothers; five of you left your shattered bodies in a mangle of twisted metal and broken glass and churned asphalt and concrete and cross-walk tape in and through the intersection that crosses the spillway and canal where people drive and walk and ride their bicycles past and wonder at your name and date of birth and date of death and the candles that sit there for you and your friends, lit as markers in the night and fading glimmers of souls in an April morning sunrise; those people see the Easter bunnies and Valentines’ hearts and Christmas garlands that your living family and friends attach and leave on the fence and railing that line the canal and floodway; they saw, back then, those few and several years ago when you left them and us, the five candles lit and maintained for nine days after your death that were surrounded by stuffed animals and cards and pictures and flowers that those loved ones left in their loving of and for you, those tangible and sundry things that spoke to the rest of us and you about their love and the things they wish they had said to you before that Sunday morning; we are reminded, in passing-by as passers-by, that you had and have birthdays that are remembered with tears and a drive to the bridge that is caddy-corner from a burger shop and across the street from a flower store and we see the blurry pictures of you and the lighted candles and poster-notes that you were and are loved by the people who made those pretty signs that tell us they do as we drive-by to here and there and so.
I thought of you again this morning, whoever you used to be and are and felt compelled to go again to that familiar roadside and street corner and look more closely at what has been left behind for you and your buddies or friends and brothers in this Christmas and New Year’s season and found those tangible and sundry somethings that mean you were and are in the thoughts of someone and various somebodies, as there were three separate remembrances to you and them and then, three shrines or tributes in holiday wishes across the street from that flower shop and tattoo shop and nail shop and liquor store and sports-grill and Catholic bookstore…that same flower shop that has the barrel of pink flamingos outside the front door where they sell roses for nine dollars and ninety-nine cents a dozen with crumbling horse-apples in their gravel landscaping and I wondered about you with the cars driving past my back and the cement barrier that separated them from me and you…as I sat there on my heels in the crisp January air with the winter sun shining brightly on me and the angels that were zip-tied to the railing, looking down at your sidewalk with haloes and wings and painted wooden saddened faces with their backs to the concrete spillway and their wings pointed to a sometimey-heaven in my cloudless sky with their wind-blown burgundy and antiqued gowns and then…down the walk from your place is an old bag from the burger shop and a blue-labeled beer can and several discarded butts from smoking drivers in their passing and waiting for their interminable lights to change and allow them on their ways as you sit there or hover in your wondering wandering and visiting of things passed to you and past…across the street is a bus-stop sign advertising a gun-show on some future or passed date and you don’t and won’t care as I sat there amidst the cars’ breezes and tire-hum and noted the red and silver candy-cane garland and red velvet Christmas ribbons with shiny silver-glittered snowflakes and flowers…five ribbons and snowflakes and two white ceramic sad, baby angel votive candle holders with burned-out nubs and wicks melted into their opaque waste and remnant paraffin that collected dust and grains of sand and brake-dust and tire-flashing and memories of speeding thoughts of the passersby in their passing-by…the cement barrier is sending its earnest cold through my sweatshirt and shirt and into my skin as the passing-car-rumble echos into my body and I heard again the dispatcher telling me that it looks like four are gone with two ejected and two crushed and one transported by Fire, who later died, and the other driver is ok I think and the kids are all 15 to 21 years-old and so, or maybe I disremember it that way, and your blood is gone in the years and wind and no longer warm or cold as the burger bag stirs in the other vehicles’ passing and passing and the sun is still shining on my January day as the dry-cleaning hangs in the back seat of my truck with its plastic bag reflecting the sun at me from across the street and the blue ink from my pen won’t write on the yellow crayon that my little one spent on this notepad as I’m trying to record my thoughts of your sidewalk and bridge railing and the cello music in my brain soothes my brain as I write your names on these waxen lines…and I thought you were five boys and young men and understand and know or perceive today that you were and are Eddie and Jazmin and Chris and Brenna and Esmeralda because they wished you all a Merry Xmas by name and said that you or we or I should Believe, as their signs and poster said, the poster covered with bright and spirited Christmas wrapping paper and blue lights…like a present…again, zip-tied to the railing…and there is a single plastic and silk rose with red and white petals that is attached to its own red ribbon-bow from one living person to one gone…and Christmas is passed and another year has begun in moments like the moments of your passing…another tick and tock in the life of the clock and sand that softly whispers in the glass, dropping and falling into a pile or stack of sandy moments and gone…as the poinsettia plant is crisp and watered and beautiful in its roadside red-foil wrapping and so….and I do wonder in my father-mind at the emptiness and sadness around your families’ Christmas trees and dinner tables this year and past, and wonder how their wounds have healed from having their hearts so crushed those days and years ago and I hope that they are okay, but don’t know how they could be, as I thought of you today, whoever you used to be and are….
We look at the calendar today and know or understand that we are at the end of another year, the end of another demarcated segment of the passing of time, the end of an illusion of something that we have created to guide or note the passing of our lives, and others’. It is the end of a period, a mini-eon, a turning of the earth on its axis around its star, an exhaustion of common moments and days and weeks and months that share our contrived labels.
I took-down our Christmas tree and the other decorations yesterday, marking the official (?) end of the holiday in our household. Our home is now as bare of this seasonal celebration as it was the day before it started. The Christmas CD’s have been returned to their storage place, the strings of lights and garlands and hand-chosen hand-made and picked-just-for-you ornaments and stockings and wreath and ceramic hand-made Christmas tree with the birds as lights resting in the branches and the little teddy-bears that were crocheted and stuffed into the red plastic cups that were also stuffed into the also crocheted stocking boot things, one for each child of Yesterday’s Christmases, all packed back into their storage crates and returned to the garage where they will sit and wait for the end of the non-Christmas season when they will be resurrected, brought back to their temporal lives out of hiding or hibernation or nothingness to once again adorn, decorate, and symbolically remind us of their importance or taken-for-granted-ness that they do as only they can do. Many of our neighbors still have their Christmas lights up and lit and making the outsides of their homes sparkle in the afterglow of that esteemed-as-blessed day that is now part of the past. I think they look lonely, somehow. They are pretty in their own way, of course, but they shine for something that has passed and is past…something that has ended…and something that will be back in the cycle of time, like most things.
The football season is in its final weeks; the playoffs will commence very soon and then end in that glorious display of something that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes good, and sometimes not worth near anything that has been spent on it…not even the moments we took out of our lives to observe it or think about it. I remember watching the final game of this year’s World Series, the one that put the 27th notch on the victory belt of the New York Yankees, the one that kind of seemed like another ho-hum moment in sports history…all those grown and pin-striped men bouncing on the infield in a big group-hug of arms around each other or raised with fists or fingers up and triumphant, jumping up and down in unison with plastic smiles of perceived wonderfulness and greatness…the entire image of which somehow reminds me of a dog humping someone’s leg. Anyway, that was the end of the baseball season, the end of summer…the end of the other team’s dream, their fans’ dreams…of something.
The end of dreaming, our sleep, with waking, facing our lives in their cycles of beginnings and endings, startings and stoppings, commencements and completions…the joy of picking-up a new book and opening it, smelling and feeling the smoothness of its pages and sensing the tiny and barely perceptible ridge of each line of script, and noting the crispness of the binding, the essence of its newness, unread, untraveled, untried, unfelt, and unlived…and a few hours or days or weeks later, when we have finished it, turned the last page and come to the end of the last thought and image of the last sentence of the last paragraph and that final period of the book, we set it aside, return it to the shelf where it was waiting for us those hours or days or weeks ago, beckoning to us for a visit, a journey, a co-existence and a shared life. Its pages are now familiar to us, some marked, some words underlined, some pages dog-eared or crumpled, maybe spotted with a fingerprint or drop of coffee, the story read, felt, and lived, and our lives are different. We have another perspective, another view of another’s view, another experience or life lived from within those pages…and it’s over.
Our children’s Christmas vacation, or winter break, will soon be over, our staff assignments and current work rotation will also end soon, the computers at work and home will mark the hour and date with a final ‘2009;’ we will open and post our new calendars with that ‘2010’ on our kitchen and bathroom walls, work walls, desks, partitions, and may open new journals, pocket and purse-sized weekly or monthly calendars…and make errors on our checks, payroll forms, and the other assorted papers in our lives where we leave our dated signatures to mark the significance of our passing.
While the actual physical substance of matter can neither be created nor destroyed and we understand that it only changes form with its constituent parts and components being rearranged in other forms, we do measure the end of physical items or objects as they move through our lives in their insignificant and momentous states. It is nothing, to us in our everyday lives, to finish a bottle of laundry detergent, a bar of soap, a package of napkins, a roll of toilet-paper, a package of frozen taquitos, a box of cereal, a tank of gas, a ream of paper, a package of razor-blades, a box of dog biscuits, a carton of eggs, a bottle of soda or can of beer, a package of CDs, or a cartridge for the plug-in air freshener…but it does mean something to note the end of a life, a relationship, or other significant existence. In this year that has almost passed, our friends and family members and pets have died, sometimes unexpectedly in tragedy, sometimes after long illnesses, sometimes in almost expected circumstances as they were young soldiers fighting in old men’s wars, and sometimes they passed when they were two months or eight months along and had yet to draw a breath of their own….
Sometimes the things that end are not lives but significant relationships or things or measures of accomplishments or adornments of our lives or homes that come to their expected or unexpected ends. The cottonwood tree that has been the symbolic guardian and watchful eye of our backyard and family events, celebrations, pool-parties, hushed conversations and confessions, and carefree afternoons and evenings is nigh unto death as its top half to two-thirds has withered and died after 17 years. That once beautiful mass of trunk and leaf and branch that would bend sideways in monsoon storms and was so tall that it could be seen from several streets away and housed numerous birds and bugs and offered dense shade in the summer and a golden wash and blanket of leaves to the yard in the fall and winter has passed into its own December…where it awaits its executioner on some unknown and approaching date…and my in-laws’ garage and workshop and hangar passed into a charred and skeletal nothingness on a fiery desert evening that consumed hand-made airplanes and a life-time’s accumulation of tools and lived dreams and celebrated accomplishments…and friendships and relationships and reputations were marred and lost over misunderstandings, deceptions, ill-spoken words, rekindled affirmations of differences in philosophies and world-views, too-personal revelations and fear, self-disclosures meant to validate and encourage that shook foundations of confidence and intimacy with the past.
These things and people and situations have gone away from us in their familiar and everyday forms, but they still exist in our minds and as substance that we might not readily perceive or recognize. Our loved-ones and accomplishments live in our memories and in the pictures on our walls, the stories we tell across the fire-pit in the backyard, around the dining-room table, or in the living and remembering ‘living’ and ‘family’ rooms of our gentle homes…they become the standards against which we measure love and closeness and commitment and desire, the benchmarks for future accomplishments and lived-dreams, the substance for the stories that we have to tell so that we can live and endure our sometimes harsh and un-tender lives. The cottonwood will continue to nourish the grass and other shrubs and bushes in the yard, as well as whatever tree we plant in its stead, as its monstrous roots decompose and reform in their mineral elements as nutrients and sustenance and the other stuff of life.
Some things end and some things continue on their circuits, cycles, repetitions, re-happenings, and re-constitutions…hopes and dreams that expired can be grieved and mourned and reborn…lives and relationships hurt or lost can be gleaned-from and cherished with lessons learned and priorities re-evaluated and commitments recommitted and memories relived in the expanse of eternity in the retellings and re-livings and the passing-on of his mother’s eyes to his baby boy…and it’s another moment and another day and another year that we celebrate and another opportunity to do those things that we didn’t do in the many yesterdays of the past year, to accomplish those minor and major goals and dreams that populate our sleeping and waking moments…and to tell those we love that we love them…that we love them…and we go on….
Innocence smiles large as the boys rescue The Cube and ride their motorized scooter and roller-blades about the cul-de-sac, announcing to me in passing that they are on their way to destroy Megatron. Hood up on his sweatshirt jacket, my little one is on the roller-blades and moves awkwardly about, wheel-walking, not rolling, strange dance of plastic and clatter rushing off to secure some imagined zone.
The December sky is gray with fat and heavy clouds; an occasional breeze or gust of wind ripples the overgrown palm fronds and the garbage truck is making its Tuesday afternoon rounds in the neighborhood a couple streets in the distance. My grandson is on the motorized scooter and is wearing orange, star-shaped sunglasses to shield him against the glare of battle in his efforts to defeat the Transformers’ foes. My little one’s enthusiasm for the game is waning as a little trio of afternoon walkers enter and make a circuit of the cul-de-sac – a young mother-girl pushing her baby in a stroller as grandmother walks with her Down’s Syndrome old-man of a son in a straw cowboy hat who marvels at the Samoyed who is sticking his nose and white head through the hole at the bottom of the neighbor’s backyard wall. The cling-cling of the bicycle bell and the metallic crash as the bike crunches into the sidewalk and the garbage truck is still a few streets away.
“Can we go in now?”
“Don’t you want to play two-player on the Nintendo?” he says, as he kneels in the rocks and examines a pigeon feather, “Don’t you want to?”
“No, not really.”
“Dad, can we go inside in 15 minutes?”
He likes to orient things and events and know when they are going to happen. It helps him predict his world. He’s happier and less anxious that way. It settles his mind as the blanket of gray clouds part and roll into white balls with gray bottoms and a mini-bike just ripped and popped down the street behind us, throwing angry and irritating ripples and waves through the neighborhood air.
“How long has it been, Dad?”
I’m reading my new book, The Good Soldiers, between glances up and into the cul-de-sac and at the Transformer warrior-children and vehicles entering for deliveries or exiting for errands and whatnot.
“How much longer?”
“The post is loose on the scooter, Grandpa,” as he sucks the winter snot back into his nose and as the little one, his uncle, my youngest, talks to his dog through the side-yard gate….
“Hi Wilson,” sing-song, puppy-talk, baby-talk, talking-to-my-dog-through-the-gate-talk, sing-song “Hi buddy!”
Crunching gravel, walking scuffing, scraping, and dragging shoes through the landscaping stones. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! A piece of gravel rock on the basketball pole. Ping! Ping! Ping!
“How much longer, Papa? How mucho longa?”
I’m on page 27…For now, no one touched the tape dispenser. Eventually, Cummings would begin swatting flies just hard enough to stun them, stick them to a piece of tape, and drop them alive into his trash can, which would be something that did have an effect. “I hate flies,” he would say each time he did this. What?
“Is it time yet?”
Did you park your bike and scoot it all the way over so Mom can open her door after she’s parked the car?
“Are you done Blakie? Hey!”
“Do you want to go in now?”
Cling! Cling! Cling! “Beep beep!”
“There’s a warning.”
“There’s a warning.”
What kind of warning?
“There was a rain drop.”
And the garbage truck is getting nearer and the little one is dragging his toes across the driveway and he’s got a Kool-aid moustache as he grins at me and says “What?”
“How many more minutes? Dad?” as he stands on the apache-red boulder rock in his one-legged pose with his arms raised like a stork’s wings…from The Karate Kid…and a game of chicken in the roadway as my grandson comes at him on the motorized scooter…and repeated “Yaaaaah!” screams and “How much longer?” asked with a Pink Panther French accent this time.
“Hhow mush longherre?”
“Ok……Blakie!! It’s time to go in!”
This Sunday morning, today, a simple morning, I was just sitting there reading something on the computer or studying the board to make the proper chess move and a friend walked in and gave me a Bavarian crème donut…and the smell was rich and beyond my morning grasp of words…rich sugary and warm with chocolate icing and then…wrapped in waxed paper and held with simple paper towels from the work kitchen dispenser…and it was so simple…so real…an emotion and a donut…if there had only been freshly perked coffee and a crisp wind blowing through the door and scattered yellow and orange and gold leaves lying about…but our winter spring is here and there was nothing to be had as such…eighty or so degrees on a middle-ish November day and our desert sun shone bright and fair…phones rang and people laughed and officers went running to their hot calls and chasing people who bailed-out of stolen vehicles and we heard their emotion and shortness of breath and heard the other people in the background as other officers and people were there to watch and help and one was at gun-point and hold your traffic and the radio was quiet…. And they were only seconds not minutes that passed and it was code-four, one in custody and the room was loud again as they tossed the Sunday paper to each other to search the ads and watch cartoons and it was Sponge-Bob and his friends and someone changed the channel quickly past the man in the robe beseeching someone and others to look to the highest for redemption and the news replaced him and it was boring too, so they turned it to Sports Center or some other random thing and they dispatched their trespassing calls, got officers going for the suicide and later told me about the five year-old in a wheel-chair that had been missing for over an hour…his 15 year-old sister left him out front talking with a friend and came back an hour later to find him gone and nobody knew where he was and called 9-1-1…what is your emergency…and popcorn was popped and yogurt eaten as people came and went and an American officer with a Baltic name and accent asked for an ear-piece for his radio and there’s none to be had today and so…and I met with the two remaining trainees and congratulated them on their successes and wished them more as they left my charge and passed-along to the next phase…they work almost alone now but still need a guide and a listener as they ask about emergencies and say with somber voices “9-1-1, where is the emergency?” They’re young and new and liking their jobs and want to help and have open and eager minds and they can see the seriousness in our eyes and know our voices are confident as they are still trying theirs on for size and it’s getting easier and thank you and I’ll try to wake when the alarm goes off from now on and no I don’t want to be fired…and can I stay late to make-up the missed time…the morning and afternoon passed and it was one-something and then three and we left the fortress-like building and entered our cars and began our journeys home or wherever our journeys would go and we became our citizen selves and then…the cat won’t eat her food because it’s a day old and she wants a new can and the kids are over and having fun on the trampoline and I don’t know if I want Taco Bell again…seems like common fare…common like not unusual, not like ‘common.’ The day is now passed and past and the evening is upon us and our teams won and lost and we had a little success with the right kind of DVD thingamabob and tomorrow is going to be busy again and I’d love some Bailey’s thank you…and that donut was so sweet this morning…the outer cake was slightly crisp and soft and I could smell the sugar and crème and chocolate and had to lick the last bit off my fingers as it was too good to just wipe off and throw away…and thank you my friend…for a great way to start a Sunday at work.