Category Archives: Storytelling

Torrent

The Torrent can take many forms.  It can be the day-to-day grind.  It can be the Mitote (MIH-TO-TAY)* in our minds.  It can be the loss of a loved one, or the betrayal by a loved one.  It may be an overall feeling of being lost.

Or it may be an actual physical event, with spiritual ramifications.  Such is this story from many circles of the sun ago.

***

The water was rising faster than we could climb on the smooth granite boulders that lined the steep gorge we had descended.  Just one of the many hundreds of tributaries feeding the Colorado River below.

We had only seconds.  And if we failed to get out of this gulch, we were destined to be mixed with the other rocks and sediments that eternally grind and cut this steep channel.  Only we wouldn’t be the grinder, we’d be cut and smashed to pieces in the grinder.  Only our remains would reach the water course some half a mile below.

My brother and I were soaked from the abrupt downpour and my hiking boots were slipping on the polished stone.  The quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende of the granite, now wet, were glistening as if they’d been given a coat of mineral oil.  Beautiful, yet deadly in this situation.  I hung on as best I could.

There wasn’t enough of a ledge to get around the last boulder I was clinging to.  Safety was just out of reach.  I was frozen, and the water was now completely over my feet.  I yelled back to my brother, who was perched behind me frantically yelling at me to move on . . .

***

The day had started out uneventful.

My brother and I were hiking the Grand Canyon for the second time.  Like the first time, we had chosen the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim because there were water stations about a mile and half apart part before you got to the Indian Garden campsite.  That meant less weight to carry and better hydration.

Of course, we wouldn’t be camping at Indian Garden.

The bottom of the canyon would be about 20 degrees hotter than the rim’s 91 degrees, and that arid draft around us evaporated our perspiration so fast that we didn’t even appear to sweat.  Our clothes were as dry as our mouths, and we lost more fluid with each exhalation.  The water stations were a must.

Unlike the first time, where we had planned and prepared for a month prior to the descent, this was a spur-of-the-moment adventure.  We were traveling light, over-confident.  We knew what we were doing, or so we thought.

Joining the only 1% of the visitors that actually traverse into the canyon, hiking there is essentially mountain climbing in reverse.  Steep switchbacks down can appear to provide an easy stroll, but you must remember, you’re going to have to make that rugged climb back out.  On our first trip, we made two-thirds of the climb out at night when it was coolest.  Slept on the trail for a couple of hours and pushed the rest of the way out at dawn.

But just going down is tough enough.  You better have the right gear.  On the first trip, I was wearing steel-toed boots.  A big mistake as my toes were crammed over and over again into those leather-covered steel plates on that sloping gradient.   Fortunately, I had brought a first aid kit on that trek and my blisters were padded for the climb out.

The “developed mule trail” had about an inch or two of powered dirt above the hard surface and if you stepped on a loose rock hidden in that dirt it was like stepping on marbles.  Better learn to keep your balance quick.

An omen perhaps this trip, they had just helicoptered a woman out who had been bucked from a mule and hit her head against the rock wall where the trail had been cut by miners a century ago.  Had she gone the other way it would have been over a cliff to the switchback below.  She was taken by mule further down to a landing zone as that was faster than trying to pack out.

Mule trains have the right of way.  If you’re hiking and one comes upon you, you have to move to the edge of the precipice.  They get the inside lane.  And you hold still as you wouldn’t want to have a mule startle and bump into you, sending you over the edge.

While it’s about a mile straight down on a plumb line from the rim to the Colorado at the bottom, it’s 7.8 miles of winding trail to get to the river.  We would bed-down the first night a little past Indian Garden at a place we discovered on our first hike – some 5 miles or so down and then off the trail.  Some Native American ruins on the back side of a low mountain peak protruding up from that part of the canyon’s varying elevations.

Terraced floors.  Each one lower, another step back in time.  Isolated peaks at different elevations created from the differential erosion as veins from the watershed spread out like a spider’s web before cutting through and finally exposing the bottom surface from a billion years ago.

Respect.  That’s what you better have before taking on this challenge.  That’s what you better have before entering sacred native grounds.   Places where our ancestors lived in harmony with Mother Earth.  What they built seems to be a simple design, but it’s one of perfection.  Semi-circular stone masonry in front of cave-like depressions in the mountain.  Shaded from the sun in daylight, remaining cool.  And with the surrounding rock and the walls heated by the sun all day long, you have radiant heat throughout the night.

We offered our respects upon entering.  Never lifted a stone.  Left without leaving a trace of our passage in the morning.  You pay homage to the spirits or maybe they’ll decide to keep you.

Maybe we weren’t respectful enough.  Maybe we were just too arrogant.

We had intended to head straight down for the river once we returned to the trail.  But we spied something out of place in a wadi.   A normally dry water course.  There was a sparkle in the distance and we were intrigued.

Off trail again, but this time walking down a dry ravine bed, we saw a trickle of ground water emerging.  It carried for a short distance widening out and then dropped over a crag.   Just below that rock face, about twenty feet down, was a carved-out basin.   A natural stone bath tub about four feet deep to receive that shower of water from above.  Water that fanned out into an opaque curtain of white.

We were hot and covered in trail dust and that clear blue pool at the bottom of that thin wall of water sure looked inviting.  We would have to climb down some massive granite boulders to get to that level, but that was doable with our light gear.

On the way down, I foreshadowed what was about to happen.

As we hugged the rock, I noticed how smoothly worn these boulders were.  A millennium’s worth of rapid water carrying stones and sediment had polished these surfaces smooth.  And in the distance, maybe a week away, was a spotting of clouds.  I remarked to my brother that if it rained and those boulders were wet, we’d be screwed.  Too slippery to navigate, we’d be trapped below.  And the gorge would fill and sweep everything out of it.

What we didn’t understand then about this desert weather, was that spotting of a few clouds were actually major thunderheads.  And those storms were not a week away, more like an hour.

Having succeeded in reaching the pool, we stripped down.  I pulled a bar of soap from my half-pack and we thoroughly enjoyed a nice bath.  A good thirty minutes or so passed, but then I felt the first rain drops.  Realizing my observation had turned into a prediction, I yelled at my brother to MOVE!  He was puzzled by my outcry at first but then he realized it too.

We dressed, packed up our gear and were scrambling in mere minutes.  But it was still too late.

Later we would call these storms “thunder-boomers,” but to the residents who knew the region these were monsoon rains.  Intense cloudbursts that may rain one or two inches of water over several square miles in a matter of minutes.

The desert sand that is baked hard like concrete cannot soak up water quickly.  There is little vegetation to help.  So a dry waterbed can become a raging torrent, sometimes creating a wall of water ten to thirty feet high.  In just minutes.  As it turns out, more people drown in this desert than die of thirst.

We didn’t face a wall of water, but we were about to be overtaken by a rising torrent.  Raging water.  Water forced into a narrow and deep gorge.  The power and speed of which we had never witnessed.  The same ancient forces that carved this masterpiece of a canyon were now threatening to end our lives.

***

. . . I yelled back to my brother than I couldn’t move any further.  Thinking quickly, and realizing we had no traction with our hiking boots, my brother took his off, handed me all of his gear and his boots.  His hands and bare feet now like that of a frog, he could cling to that slick, wet surface, and he climbed around me and that final boulder.  He was safely out of the path of the rising, rushing water.

He then took his belt off and threw one end to me.  I gabbed tight with one hand, wrapped that belt around my wrist while clutching our gear with the other hand and draping my brother’s boots around my shoulders.  I took that leap of faith and my brother swung me around that final boulder.  Both of us sitting now, safely out of the gorge, and gasping for breath, we gave thanks for having survived.

We asked for forgiveness for any offense, and we knew we had to leave the canyon as fast as we could.   So it wouldn’t keep us.

As we sat there breathing a sigh of relief, we looked back up to the not-so-distant trail.  A small crowd of people had gathered and were watching us from afar.  We just sort of looked at each other dazed as they now tuned away and walked off.  I guess the show was over.  No one had offered help or stayed around to see if we were injured.  It’s not that we were anyone else’s responsibility.  We had made the decision and took the risk. Knowingly or not.  It was just an odd feeling of us having been their momentary spectacle that was weird.

There was no longer any idea of continuing down to the river.  It was time to begin the hike out.  We just knew it.  That five plus mile climb lay before us.  My brother called cadence as we walked, and we not only made it out, we passed other hikers on the trail with a rejuvenated energy.  We were young men then.

And I still wouldn’t trade the experience.

It is said that humans resist life.  That the greatest fear is risking living.  One may take many breaths, but never have lived.  To be caged or restrained or hide is not life.

I’ve learned.  I’ve returned.  I’ve hiked.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve given thanks each and every day.

I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice.  To pay attention to a greater sense of awareness.  A spiritual radar.   And I’ve never felt so alive knowing every moment is to be lived.  Every heartbeat cherished.  Every love is the love of a lifetime . . .

For you never know when the spirits may keep you.

*****

* The “Mitote” is the word used by the ancient Toltecs to describe the fog in one’s mind.  The human mind is essentially in a state similar to “a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other.”  It is basically part of the illusion produced from our domestication.  It can prevent us from discovering who we really are.

Photo: This photo is of a portion of a river in the northwest, but it is a reasonable depiction of the conditions we were facing that day.

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

I awoke for my usual start to the day, at sunrise.  But the sun doesn’t exactly rise in San Diego.  It’s a bit disorienting.  That thick haze.  You think it might rain, but it burns off around ten in the morning.  That mix of smog and humidity.  Then you can see the sun.

By the time I could see the sun, I had been at the zoo for almost two hours.

I have always loved going to the Zoo.  And the San Diego Zoo has been on my bucket list for a while.  It’s definitely worth the visit.

It’s really more than a zoo – it’s multiple zoos and it’s a botanical garden in its own right.

You have to admit there is a bit of irony in the concept of a zoo.  People, who are animals, are placing other animals into captivity to view them, enjoy them, and protect them from annihilation by the human animals that put them there.  There are some animals that are extinct in the world now and only exist in zoos being run by other animals.  Us animals.

Humans seem to want to divorce themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Without truly understanding the animals they put in cages, humans may pass judgment believing their relatives are inferior, have limited brain capacity, and have no spirits.

I, and obviously many others, would disagree with those presumptions.  Most of us are probably happy that we’ve recognized our destructive abilities and are at least trying to preserve these beautiful spirits.

I have never seen a child fail to smile at some point during a visit to see the wondrous animals at the zoo.

Our society has been changing though.  When I was growing up, we were taught a sense of community first.  Then we were encouraged to develop our individuality.  Today that’s reversed and the concept of community may not be emphasized at all.

So I witnessed a big transition at this visit to the Zoo.  What were people taking pictures of – themselves.  Oh yeah, they might put an animal or two in the background, but the central idea appears to be wanting to document the humans’ existence at a particular place or time.  It is not “Look at the beautiful Giraffe!”  It is “Hey, look at me!  See what I’m doing.  I’m at the zoo.  The Giraffe proves it.”

Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but that seems to be a lot of what I witnessed in terms of the human animal at the zoo.   I could challenge many of the animals with cameras to show me a picture of just the animals.  Many would meet that challenge.  Others, perhaps not.

I saw an incredible amount of self-absorption and technological absorption out there.  It’s not healthy.  Many didn’t know how to react when a friendly stranger would say hi, or agree with a comment they made admiring the rhino.  They would stare at me in shock because they had actually been spoken too.  Maybe if I had texted 🙂

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying these folks are bad.  I just may have a few different priorities or a different orientation, and I think it would help pull people together to have a broad concept of  community – including all of the animal community.

To have a community bond, we must communicate.  Look each other in the eye and not be afraid to speak.  To share.

That’s just a little food for thought as I weave in the theme of contrasts.  And we’ll come back to that theme in a different context in another chapter.

For now, I’m going to post a gallery of pictures.  I’m not in any of them 🙂

Not every pic is crystal clear.  The animals didn’t always face me or pose for me. Sometimes I moved the camera.  One technique I tried to use when possible was blurring out bars and cages and fences.  It doesn’t always work though.

I included the Guam Kingfisher, even though the cage blurred the pic.  Because it’s extinct in the wild, this may be the only way to see it.

I hope there are a few you enjoy.

 

 

 

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

It was time to come down out the high-desert mountains and head back to “civilization.”  So, what should one do along the way?  Why be a tourist of course.

For months I had lived in an amazing little oasis, hiked in beautiful spaces, and found peace being on my own and in the company of a few very special people and very special wild animals.  Simply put, Nature.  But it was time to move on and prepare a winter base.

I picked a few target sites and turned this into a bit of a winding path.  West, Northwest, Plains, Midwest.  I knew I would be encountering volumes of people, but there are many good ones out there.  What I saw, quite by accident, was some very interesting behavior.  The blacks and whites and the grays of social discourse.  And the rainbows of course.

One place I always wanted to visit was the San Diego Zoo.  I headed west through Yuma, Arizona – a hot, stifling, industrial and farming zone.  The contrasts there are incredible.

Bleached, beige sand with ribbons of blue water.

It was 108 degrees, surrounded by barren desert that normally receives a little over three inches of rain annually, and yet there was lush farming.  All because of a 53-mile system of irrigation canals that divert water from the Colorado river.

Not a place I would want to stay.

I was a little apprehensive as I headed into California.   A small-town boy, I had images of massive, intertwining freeway systems choked with a bazillion cars bellowing out vast amounts of toxic fumes.  Road rage nightmares.  Dirty inner-city avenues.  Muggings in poorly-lit alleyways . . .

I was packing my 9 mm.*

But I also had the contrasting images of deep blue ocean waters, sailboats at sunset, deep green valleys in the shadows of rolling mountains.  Heavy forests.  And palm trees, contrasting the desert scrub I’d become accustomed to.

And all of those visions did indeed come into view as I entered parts of the Cleveland National Forest.  The Pine Creek Wilderness.  Then the busy highways of San Diego.  And then, the Bay.

A couple of differences.  The forested areas seemed to me to be very dry, ripe for those California wildfires.  A layer of brown smog filled the air.  But the traffic was comparable to that of St. Louis – a mess, but not as much of a mess as I had anticipated.  I reached my destination in the center of the city without incident.

It was a cute rehab of an old stately home divided into condos.  The neighborhood was picture perfect.  Palm trees swayed among gingerbread homes on terraced streets.  Local businesses within walking distance perfumed the air with taste-bud delicacies.  Jazz resonated from three blocks down while neighbors across the boulevard gathered for a barbecue.

I divided my short days to visiting the Zoo, hiking around Cabrillo National Monument, strolling through the Museums of Art and Natural History at Balboa Park, and relaxing on a sunset sailboat ride in the bay.

The Zoo was nothing short of amazing.  I spent 10 hours there, Urban Hiking some 7 miles of Caged and packaged wilderness.

And it turns out, I was a bit of an attraction myself.  I looked out of place.  Wearing long pants and hiking boots.  My Aussie-style, wide-brimmed, bush hat.  Still shaking off a bit of desert sand and dust with each marching stride.

I was surrounded by short pants, pastel Becker-style T-shirts, retro bowling shirts, sun dresses, bikini tops, and sandals.  Designer everything.  Several people looked me up and down, and when their eyes reached my boots they visibly laughed out loud.

I was an outsider in a city where multicultural diversity thrived.  Many tourists blended in, but me, not so much.

But I was fine with that.

***

Next Chapter of “Contrasts” – The Zoo.

Photo: San Diego Cityscape at night.

*Don’t worry, I had trained and had my permit for it.  Besides, one can’t travel alone these days without considering some form of self-protection.  Highway robbery has never died out.

Sunset Sail - 5

Monsoons and Mountains

I’ll be gearing up soon.  Time to cut roots, pick another dot on the map, and drive.  As the time dwindles in my current resting place, urgency grows to take in all the sights and sounds possible in this oasis.

I study maps and locate a pristine spot that holds great promise.  A place where perennial streams meander through desert canyons.  A place bursting with life.  But I discover you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Such are many places here.  Primitive roads where only a bulldozer has preceded you.  Signs warn that you’re driving at your own risk, and being out of cell range you want to be sure that car is up to the task.  It could take a day or more to hike out if stranded and returning with a tow truck may even be difficult depending on where and how you get trapped.

Forty years ago, I off-roaded in an old 1970 Plymouth Satellite.  It did ok for the most part.  I knocked the muffler off once and a while bottoming out, but I’d just reattach it and move on.

It would have been quite the sight, if anyone had been there, to see me driving that car right through the middle of forests, across open grasslands, or over rocky flats.  In search of the mythical Escalante.

Freedom then was being surrounded by Ponderosa Pine with fifty cents in my pocket, half a tank of gas, and some food to cook over an open fire.  Most probably food I had caught that day after making the proper offerings.

But the world has changed and I’m outfitted quite a bit differently now.  I’m driving a Prius with about 8 inches of ground clearance.  Smooth ride on the highways, but cautious trolling on the back roads.  I’ve had to turn around many times where the rains have washed out gullies big enough to swallow this car.

With one destination scratched from the list, I search out another.  It’s not far away from the original target and promises a good hike through the mountains.  Unusual mountains.  They look like some giant had fun rearranging and piling boulders to the sky in very unnatural configurations.  I wonder what this terrain must look like from the Eagle’s point of view.

How did this mountain range form?  Was it volcanic?  Was it upheaval?  Metamorphic stone smoothen by the rains and bleached by the sun over millennium.

I have good road most of the way, but the last five miles are primitive washboard.  I creep along at 10 miles an hour.  Any faster and the Prius shakes violently.  I bridge cattle guards in this open range country and cross four low-water washes.  They dip gently enough to cross, and a few inches of water reflects the recent rains.  If it rains again, they’ll fill rapidly.  Flash flooding is common during this season.

It is the Monsoons.

As I reach the base of the mountains, I discover the road is gated.  This segment of national parkland is “closed for the season.”  The sign doesn’t say what season, but I’m here and so I park on the road.

I check my gear, settle my backpack.  Essential to fit it correctly to avoid strained shoulders, neck or back.  But as I head towards the trail dark clouds start rolling in.  They appeared so distant on the horizon only moments before.  What appeared to be days away now envelops the area.

The temperature drops rapidly from the 80s to the 60s.  And as the rain drops begin to fall, I scramble back to the car.  This is not a time to hesitate.  I have to make it past those low-water crossings and can’t speed to do it.

As I splash through the first one, I glance back and the sight is amazing.  The mountains have virtually vanished in the veil of heavy rain.  Like a magic trick of monstrous proportions, the Monsoon rains have made the mountains disappear.

Chochise Stronghold 5

No time to gaze, I creep back the way I came and I’m grateful to make it across the last wash intact.  Now I can pause and reflect.  Marvel at what I’m witnessing.  But I can’t pause for too long.  Time to finish finding my way back to that paved road.

Once back on solid ground, and with hiking out of the question, it’s time to pick a new destination.  The rain forces me east, and I find an old historic town with the navigator.  The navigator wants to save me time, but I choose the backroads.

As I streak out on that gray ribbon and back into the warm sunshine, I notice I’m in a valley, a flat plain between 4 different mountain ranges.  The Monsoons blanket the north and the west, and I’m treated to a wonderful display of wrap-around lightening from the Thunderbeings.

This dessert grassland has been brought to life with water.  Water that hides in underground streams.  I’m driving through orchards, and pecan farms.  Corn fields and pistachio trees.

Vineyards and wineries dot the horizon.  The soil here perfect for developing the favor and sugar the grapes need for their fermentation.

Hawks ride on the trusses of the center-point irrigation systems that pull water from the buried aquifer.  The perfect vantage point for any prey attracted by both the water and cultivation.

I pass a gin factory and a bean plantation.  A cattle feedlot appears, surrounded by planted pines – an attempt to hide the final forced growth before the trip to the slaughterhouse.

Dust Devils spring up in the cultivated fields.  Mini tornados spawned by the Monsoon winds not far behind.

Herded out of the mountains, I find myself in an almost two centuries old town.  I park on the street next to the railroad tracks and soon a freight train rumbles through town.

First stop, a cowboy museum.  Not where I expected to be, but the storm brought me here so I explore the town the same way I explore the mountain trails.  I walk the streets and feel where my body is pulled.

Of all things, I find a bar of old-fashioned lye soap to purchase.  Something suggested to me to avoid modern soaps and detergents to which I now have chemical reactions to.  I didn’t know where I might find some, and wasn’t looking for it today.  But here it is.

Next stop, an antique store.  Now the Monsoon catches up with my retreat and as the high winds blow and torrential rain pours, I take my time in this shelter of shiny objects.  Glassware, military medals, old clothing, hats and rocks and minerals.

The proprietor turns out to be a Cheyanne Indian and she gifts me with a beautiful feather.

The symbolism associated with feathers refers to ascension and spiritual evolution.  A flight to other realms, Shamanic Journeying to gain knowledge.  Feathers also represent the Thunderbeings, along with the power of the wind.  Both clearly present today.

Feathers are also used ceremonially, fanning the smoke from sacred tobacco, sage, sweet grass and cedar.  A way to carry prayers to the heavens.

The proprietor and I talk and trade stories of life as historic figures might have traded coffee and sugar for furs.  It never ceases to amaze me how we meet kindred spirits on our paths.  In the middle of nowhere.  Some 1500 miles away from where I call home and a hundred miles away from where I’m currently based, my soul recognizes a familiar soul.  Had we walked together before, a different time and place perhaps.  Had I gifted her with a power object in that past life time, a gift now returned?

As we talk, she shows me many treasures in her shop.  I elect to add one to my collection.  A piece of rutilated quartz.  Quartz with inclusions of Titanium Dioxide – golden filaments.  This stone has also been called as the “Venus Hair Stone.”  It is said to be an energy amplifier to aid meditation and intuition.  To help free one from the feelings of suffocation or strangulation.  It is also said to connect the physical and spiritual realms and to aid in bringing out one’s true spirit.  It is an illuminator for the soul.  An interesting mirror image as the heavens touch the earth with life-giving water and electrical charges.

I am gifted again with a medicine bag for the stone.

The rain, thunder and lightening now paused, I give my thanks and say my goodbyes.  I make one final stop.  The retail shop of one of the local wineries.  A glass of wine to top off the day’s unplanned adventures.  As it turns out, the store’s owner, the only person in the shop, is a displaced mid-westerner from my home area.  So, we remanence of familiar times and places we walked before our consciousnesses had connected in this distant town of less than a thousand households.

What are the odds of any of these encounters?  These gifts – all cleansing, physical and spiritual connections, healing and growth.

Such is life in free-flow.  Chance occurrences.  Chance connections.  Compelling feelings to head into the mountains, to drive to an ancient town, to walk inside certain buildings, to converse with complete strangers whom we’ve seem to have known for lifetimes.

But is anything truly by chance?

The storm cloaks the mountains I sought, chases me out of that remote natural world to a place with spiritual gifts, kind words, and communion.

It was a good day.

***

Photos: All captured in the moment.  Below, a couple of shots before the rains.

Chochise Stronghold 7

Chochise Stronghold 8

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on September 12, 2018, under the title “Surrender Control & Let The Wind Take You To A New Adventure.”

The Spin a Story Challenge

I am excited to be nominated by my friend and excellent blogger Ray NotBradbury for the Spin a Story Challenge.  Ray notes that: “It is also called ‘the wheel’ (the original name) and have been used even by Benjamin Franklin.”

The Rules:

1. Pick any book, newspaper, or magazine.
2. Choose 3 random words (best if with your eyes closed).
3. Create a story by using those 3 words or combinations of words.  Give the name to your story, poem, flash fiction – if you like (not obligatory).
4. The style and the genre of the writing – any.
5. Pingback to my post (any post), so I can read and comment.
6. Nominate up to 5 blogs.  Have fun!

I’m excited, but definitely challenged because I usually write non-fiction.  In fact, fiction is something I’ve always wanted to try, and I give fiction writers great credit.  It’s hard for me to imagine inventing characters and themes and locations and describing them with excellent detail like that.

So to pick the words, I grabbed three magazines I have and pulled a phrase from each of them to use.  I might as well as been blindfolded because I made my choices without my reading glasses on and by flipping through the pages and pointing randomly.

The Words:

“In the community” – from the state bar journal.
“Families at morgues” – from Life magazine – the issue on dogs.
“Was almost immediate” – from Preservation – a magazine about preserving and restoring historical buildings.

The Story:

Wine anyone?

The sun had already set and twilight had faded into darkness by the time they arrived. She was nervously pacing back and forth.  After all, she was a pillar in the community. How could this have happened?

Jennifer Longbow was born and raised in this tiny sea-side village.  It didn’t take long to become a big fish in this small pond.  But it might only take an instant to be dethroned. Especially when that instant involved . . .

“Jennifer!” “Are you alright?” Called out Sam.  The maid had let him and the entourage in.  Sam Elliot was the town sheriff.  He had graduated high school with Jennifer.  Their classmates now filled all of the “prominent” positions in this seedy backwater.  The county seat of nowhere land.

Yes, the mayor, minister, sheriff, judge, physician and coroner, and the district attorney all had last names that never seemed to change.  A half-dozen families that passed titles and control from generation to generation for the past 90 some odd years.

The “super-six” also locked-up the city council.  This was more of an aristocracy than anything resembling a democracy.  The “Council” was more like the “Star Chamber,” deciding the fate of anyone within the town’s borders.

Jennifer’s family owned the lumber mill, grocery store, hardware store, and the only restaurant in town.  Most of the land to start with for that matter.  They owned it all, and the Council was beholding to the Longbows.  With their wealth and ability to share it, the Longbows owned the Council too.

Jennifer stood to inherit it all, if she could right herself with her father.  One night’s bad judgment, passion over logic, had left her with a child not suitable to be an heir.  Not in his eyes anyway.

But that might not matter now.  Her father had groomed her to be the ruthless business mogul he was.  To never let anyone stand in her way, not even him.  And now he laid a lifeless mass at the bottom of the wine cellar stairs.

“Not really Sam,” she finally answered, with no hint of emotion.

And now the Council was assembled.

The reaction was almost immediate.  “Clearly an accident,” said the doctor.  “Nothing for a grand jury here,” said the DA.  “There’s always reasonable doubt for the Longbows in my court,” said the Judge.  “God bless him,” said the minister.  “Business will continue as usual, right Jennifer?” Said the mayor, more of a statement than a question.

“Well, let’s get about our business,” said the sheriff. “But one thing Jennifer.”  “No more bodies for a while.”  “There’ve been too many families at morgues in this county lately.”

***

Well, I hope you like my first crack at fiction writing. I liked playing with this so much, I might have to keep doing this – I need the practice 😊

 

My Nominations:

Vibe a Little

Little Joy Affair

All About Fame

The Art of Trying

Geoff’s Short Stories

And I like what Ray said – anyone who wants to participate may.  Nominate yourself.  This is fun 😊

***

The Photo: A bottle of wine at an eclectic little shop somewhere in Oregon.  And “Sleight of Hand Cellars” kind of fits with the story 🙂

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Neural Roadmaps Revisited

Revisiting the past seems to cycle in our lives.  If not physically, mentally.  But it seems there are times when the physical odyssey is unavoidable.  It may even be unconscious at first.  We embark on a journey just to realize midway we are circling back in time. Perceptions have shifted, aged, but we are retracing routes gone by.  “Treading trodden trails,” as the saying goes.  Neural roadmaps.  Highways of memories.  Echoes of day dreams.

The roads might be slightly different.  And the faces we see this time around may be new to us, drawn together, in passing, by a transitional event.  In this case, it was my mother’s final breaths.

I saw the parallels as I was driving by the home where myself and my brothers grew up.  A small town now a burgeoning suburb of a major city.  When the family moved there, the population was around 250, plus a lot of corn fields.  When I left, there were little more than 2500 people.  It’s no longer a rural community and the population has passed 30,000.  The corn fields replaced with structures.  More boxes for storage, of categorized life.

My old home is now a dental office with the yard paved over.  A parking lot for tooth repair.  The vacant lot across the street, a playland of the imagination where mythic battles raged in the jungles of weeds, now a motor bank.  The majestic apricot tree on the corner by the park, gone.  Not even a seed to carry its memory of the sweet fruit it offered free for the taking.  The lake we fished in, fenced off, imprisoned.

The historic downtown, an outward reflection, a mimic of time, but the core has transformed.  The library is office space.  The hardware store, an art gallery.   The feed mill, a microbrewery.  The old school is torn down.  Time and places evaporated.

But all of my memories are intact.  The pleasure and the pain of growth.

Every summer this home was a launch point for the family reunions.  First with my dad’s family in Indiana, and then my mom’s in Michigan.  Those were times of active voices.  Of laughter and play.  The excitement of seeing cousins, of family card games, and mysterious old homes to explore.  Spiral staircases to dusty attics, and coal furnaces in the basements.  We mined for treasures.  And we found them in shiny objects unearthed, planted by the generation before.

And there were haylofts in old barns, where we leaped into the sky, hay piles lying beneath to break our fall.  Flying for instants that lasted forever.  A shirt was a cape, or a parachute.

An old hand pump still brought water from the earth.  A hidden aquifer of life.

An electric fence for horses, and a dare to feel its pulses.  Grab hold the wire and zap a brother with the other hand, before mom or dad would shoo us away.

Pulses, pulses, I feel my heart beating as I drive, wandering back in time, shuffling though images not matching the roadway.  Highway hypnosis.

I’m retracing that reunion route again, but this time, the nuclei of both families are gone, having passed on to the Blue Road of the Spirit.

My father passed in ’09, and after revisiting the ground where I was raised, I stop to pay my respects to him and my paternal ancestors.  He was buried in the family plot in the town where he grew up.  A few miles down the road is “Stearleyville,” or its shadow, founded by my great, great grandfather.  The reverse of my hometown.  The small village is gone, fully reverted to farmland.

The cemetery is filled with generations, back to the original immigrant couple.  Two stones eerily bear my own name.  One my grandfather, and one his second son that died as an infant – born on my same birthday, passed 30 years before my birth.

I remember my dad’s funeral.  Full military honors.  Steeped in tradition.

He taught me the meanings of honor, integrity, loyalty, strength of character, and hard work.

We talk in silence.  For a while.

Then it’s on to Michigan.  A small town on the border of Ohio. My mother also to be buried in a family plot.  Similar small town and farm family roots.  The memories of both homes blurred.

She’s outlived the rest of her family so we have a small ceremony.  A few cousins, whom I’m meeting for the first time.  It’s a nice service for a well-lived life of a good heart.

She taught me compassion, empathy, and self-sacrifice.

My parents’ bodies lay some 300 miles apart.  Their spirits united?  Their soul contracts complete?  And the particles of consciousness they helped bring into the world are scattered about the Midwest. Such is the stardust of which we’re composed.

Family plots.  Family traditions.  Traditions I will not follow.  My ashes are to be released into the wind.  No name carved in stone.

I wonder, when I leave, what neural roadmaps my daughter’s memories will travel.  I hope that she too has flown wearing a magic cape.

***

 

Photo: I didn’t actually take this image, but it is an image of my brain from an MRI . . .

By the Numbers 2-2-5-11-3-2-2-2-2-1-3-5-4-4-4-8-27>12-2-6-13-1

Can you boil it all down to numbers?  A simple list to tell your fable.  Like a number on a military dog-tag that could identify your entire life.  In a way, maybe, but each item on the list involves multiple stories. And they will have to be told someday, if the fable is to survive . . .

2 Loving Parents

2 Siblings

5 College Scholarships

11 Years of College

3 College Degrees

2 Marriages

2 Ex-Wives

2 Successful Professional Careers

2 Stays in Jail

1 Beautiful Daughter

3 Colleges Taught In

5 Hospitals Worked In

4 State Government Positions

4 Wonderful Dogs

4 Tattoos

8 Foreign Countries

27 States

> 12 Jobs

2 Jobs Terminated

6 Near-Death Experiences

13 Soul Contracts

1 Twin Flame

 

And, I’ve probably left some things out . . .

 

***

 

The Photo: Love the way this pic came out. Firework with a one-minute exposure time. The exposure was set at a minute and the camera was aimed – the capture, I’m sure, was just a few seconds. But even a few seconds is long for a camera – just enough time to get the first part of the explosion 🙂

Dark Poetry

* This is a piece I posted on LinkedIn a couple of months back.  It seemed appropriate because the story originated there, but no reason not to share a bit a humor about social media here as we continue our Earthwalk . . .

***

Ok, so postings on LinkedIn sometimes careen off the finely paved highway of a career-oriented social media network. There are countless political posts, good morning photos, clichés and miscellaneous other postings by connections that are used to generate profile views, likes, or that serve as just plain attention getters. It simply comes with the territory. Leave expectations outside the door when you foray onto these pages, because there are also times where there is clearly a drunk driver behind the wheel with a stuck accelerator and no brakes rocketing towards that “bridge out” sign at 140 miles per hour.

This morning I was greeted with one of those uplifting messages designed to start everyone’s day off in a positive frame of mind, particularly if you were returning to work after the three-day holiday. The post was simple enough.

Post: “Peace Dances in the Heart of Every Human Being.”

Now there is an inspiring quote that picked my heart rate up a notch along with my morning cup of java. But it was one of the replies that really caught my attention.

Response: “I have not experienced this perspective. There are those who carry bloodlust and predatory darkness in their very beings as reflected in their actions, words and raptor-eyed huntings, or even seemingly random inactions. Their hunger walks life eternally through and with time.”

I didn’t quite expect to see the words “bloodlust,” and “predatory darkness” this early in the day. After all, the divide and conquer rhetoric of politicians was just beginning to generate the usual wave of hate-speech responses, name calling and tantrum throwing. I re-read the whole response, and I have to give this guy a little bit of credit. I mean “raptor-eyed huntings,” now that’s creative writing. And “Their hunger walks life eternally through and with time.” That’s poetic, not necessary uplifting, but definitely poetic.

I wondered if this guy wrote novels for a living, or, perish the thought, he was so cynically jaded as to make my own touch of cynicism seem bleak and dismal in comparison. Or maybe, this guy was just pitching a bit of sardonic, very, very sardonic, humor into that dance of the heart. I certainly hope this gentleman’s life is not so horrid as to have never experienced peace of mind, another heart’s love or the dance and laughter of life.

At any rate, a fine good morning to your sir; and may you dodge those raptor-eyed, blood-seeking demons eternally stalking you in the never-ending empty dark void that fills your soul  : – )

***

 

The Mythical Arrowhead

This piece was published under the title of “Found Your Arrowhead? Seek This Counsel In The Natural World,” in The Urban Howl on November 8, 2017.   I highly recommend you check out this wonderful online publication at http://theurbanhowl.com/.  I have since completed a more expansive version of this article.  If you would like to read it, let me know in a comment.

“Found Your Arrowhead? Seek This Counsel In The Natural World”

by Harold Stearley

Knowing, or believing, something exists doesn’t mean that you will find It, or that you should search for It.

As with many people I know, the past couple of years have been a time of great change, of searching, a call to become whole again. We have searched and found before, but we’ve lost pieces of our soul going through the grinder of daily existence in a world that values the material over the spiritual, that places labels over substance, illusion over reality.

My current search began with the “dissolving” of a marriage and the loss of a career by forces seemingly outside the realm of personal control. Or did I somehow manifest this destruction to force myself to rediscover my true nature? The answer to that question is now irrelevant to the path I walk.

The marriage hit a melting point when my wife evolved into an end-stage alcoholic and nothing could persuade her to seek treatment.

The career flame was extinguished as the result of internal office politics – I would not succumb to playing their corrupt games – outsiders and misfits are usually left outside, perhaps with a note begging for adoption.

So now what, where do I go from here?

Where do all of us go from a starting point of what we perceive is darkness and despair – a contraction of space and time? Do you start believing the crowd of voices in your head entrenched there from years of social “domestication,” the “mitote” as the Toltecs call it, telling you that you are not good enough, not beautiful enough, not smart enough, don’t make enough – the ever-gnawing feelings of inadequacy – the ever-present need to acquire more? More what?

Will all of the “shoulds” injected into your mind from the moment of your first breath predominate every step you take – fill every “rational” conscious thought? Will the search for a definition and identity of your ego be satiated by finding a new label?

Will another hollow paycheck somehow provide “meaning” to the fabricated definition of who you are? Will the ever-turning wheels in your mind condemn you to the prison of living in the past and in future projections, instead of experiencing the here and now?

Perhaps it’s time to awaken to the fact that the true journey is inward. Answers, awareness, enlightenment, and true happiness do not come from external sources.

My search began externally with looking for a new job, a new living location, perhaps a new partner. After a year of re-learning to live alone, of constant rejection of job applications, and upon finding defects with every possible living location I explored, I woke from my slumbers. I awakened to realize that I was enjoying, in the present moment, the things that had come to fill my time.

The daily ventures into nature, the meditation of motion and stillness, the re-connection with “reality.” The “real world” that surrounds us is filled with infinite riches and beauty, which most overlook. Like the caterpillar, I was transforming. I was repossessing what I had lost.

Upon achieving some balance, real magick begins to happen. New connections materialize. Some of these connections are there to show you that you’re on the right path, others to show you what to avoid. Your intuition is developed. Just like the mole who has sacrificed vision in return for all its other senses becoming heightened, you sacrifice illusion, a life style, possessions, sometimes even rationality, in exchange to feel and experience truth, to know in your heart what nourishes your soul.

False messages still come and can gain intensity; beckoning you to return to the land of illusion.

The bait to step back into that world of darkness and confusion can take many forms. In my case, I am presented with a job opportunity, which has now acquired a sense of oddness since the beginning of this walk when I spent hours seeking some job that was seemingly always beyond grasp. And, as I mechanically prepare for an interview, I ask, why now?

To contemplate this change in direction, a possible new path that could really be a return to an old one that no longer serves, I seek out counsel with the natural world.

It has never misled me or given me false promises. I hike. I find myself standing in a creek bed, surrounded by the sound and essence of moving water and by hundreds of thousands of pieces of limestone and chert. Chert is a very hard silicate-based, sedimentary stone that when struck forcefully enough and at the right angle produces conchoidal fractures with extremely sharp edges.

Most people know the variety of chert called flint that can give rise to fire – a powerful nature indeed – that of transformation, illumination, or destruction. Because of its fracturing qualities, chert was also the perfect stone for the Natives to craft arrow and spearheads and other cutting tools – sharp as a razor and stronger than steel.

I know as I stand here, contemplating and seeking guidance, that there is an Arrowhead among these stones.

Missouri Creek - Rocks

It is a given that rivers, streams and creeks are the best places to find them, where the earth has been eroded by the waters – the feminine universal womb, the source of all potentialities. Many treasures are revealed by the waters’ power to purify. And a natural curiosity, plus a desire to acquire such a power object, sparks the urge to hunt for it, to search it out, to discover its mystery. Being more intuitive now, however, I ask, what is the real message I’m receiving? And why did this imagery suddenly pop into my mind from nowhere? Time to consult the symbolism and ancient wisdom of the Earth.

The Arrowhead is said to represent the hunter and adventurer in each of us, as well as alertness, for it takes a good eye and strong arm to use a bow and arrow. It is also believed to indicate protection and courage and to signify direction, force, movement, and power.

Arrows pointed in opposite directions meant war, while a broken arrow meant peace, and crossed arrows meant friendship. Arrows are piecing, representing the masculine. The flight of arrows can symbolize the accent to the celestial. And an arrow, once let loose from the bow, results in consequences that cannot be undone, whether the arrow hits or misses its intended target.

As I stood there in that creek bed reflecting, I couldn’t help but notice the obvious. I was not moving in any direction. I was static. To stare and search for this Mythical Arrowhead amongst a million other stones, is not advancement down any path. The Arrowhead is not mythical in the sense of being a falsehood, it does exist. And, it is not some traditional story involving supernatural beings that somehow speaks to the psychology, or customs, or ideals of a society either. Rather, it serves as an allegory – not a cold definition but full of warmth in its meaning.

I could spend many hours being static in a search that produces no results, that hits no target, that creates little more than frustration. This speaks a little to the past years’ events. Or one might find the Arrowhead, secure it to the shaft and let it fly, it’s effects being unchangeable.

It may miss the intended mark and not fall on the path of enlightenment and happiness. But even if it hits the target aimed for, if that target is based on illusion and false “shoulds” that bring no spiritual advancement, then you’ve hit no target at all. You have to have both, a proper path or target, and you must lodge that arrow squarely in that target with a clean shot. So, if you’ve found the target, then, perhaps, it is truly worth the search to find the arrow to strike it.

But, the real message I believe I’m receiving is not to seek out something mythical with a false believe of attaining Bodhi in a place external to your soul. And once one realizes that, and takes the inward journey instead, then perhaps there is no reason to seek out the Arrowhead and all its power at all, perhaps we’ve already found it.

***

Arrowhead