Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adrift In Their Own Shoes


They speak in the night from faraway places riding the breezy air currents over hundreds of miles sharing deep feelings rooted in loneliness. He walks each day as he did decades ago wandering through familiar routines not unlike the many who surround him. Suit and tie with polished shoes stepping along those same sidewalks and standing upon the everyday stark subway platforms carrying the typical briefcase full of papers defending the requests of highly billed clients who pay the bills.

He wakes up in a lonely bed pretending that life has meaning and purpose. He ponders on a future time when the age of 80 stands before him, in the illumination of the early morning mirror above its companion sink reflecting upon the perceived image of the man looking back at him.

Upon dressing, does he feel satisfied with the nightly decision that finds him in his own lonely bed, as his wife sleeps in hers across the threshold at the end of the second floor hallway?

His muse far away stays in her big house nestled on a quiet small town street just outside a busy metropolitan city wondering what can bring purpose to her life as the long, painful year, since her husband’s death moves her further away from that life altering experience. Hoping that her all-surround, comforting piles of books would fly her away from the hollow feeling entangled inside her body, she stares out the many windows offering opportunities to think carefully beyond those boldly large bare trees just outside her reach, and their dropped foliage, which have fallen to the ground, as they prepare themselves for the cold winds of winter. She bends down grabbing the handles lifting the glass frames up allowing the smells of the outside air blended with odors from the wet and rotting piles of oak and maple leaves lining the curb, which have yet to be taken away. She leans into entrainment.

She turns to hold her small handheld device that sends words across the divide to another stranger also playing the game. She knows she will die, too, but wonders why it is taking so long. Her dog patiently waits by the door.

Living for others, and not herself, appears to be her passage. Her loneliness drapes around her neck like a tightly wrapped silk scarf, which her girlfriend might see as fashion instead of a crying call for deep connections with like-minded souls.

In his office, he drifts among the clouds floating outside his 15th floor window. One forms a sculpted face that stares into his eyes as he imagined it was waiting to learn what was holding him back before floating on to the next soul. He is scared of being adrift. Everything had been extremely predictable for decades, but what he thought was certain had begun to seriously unravel. He has been taking responsibility for others who have disappointed him and now standing alone weighting down his tired arms were the over stuffed bags of the others in his life.

He thought he was doing what he was supposed to but then realized he had been hiding his own truth from what he needed.

She thinks of him as a dream when awake. She is not in the moment, but in a pattern of what-ifs. What if the two were naked together in a warm pool of water, all alone, touching and floating and rubbing close. She climbed upon his back holding him tightly across his narrow chest with her legs buoyant behind her like a mermaid’s tail. He walked them around the pool her head nestled in the crease of his neck below the right ear as she transcended into the deep secrets within his brain as they came seeping out in the form of loving feelings and joy, along with deeply suppressed anxieties and fears. They flowed out like steam from a boiling kettle sitting on a stove filling the room with wet mist.

How they would be together stirs all around her mind interfering with her daily plans? She must begin to live in the moment and leave predictions to fortune-teller gypsies with colorful dresses and bountiful necklaces holding Tarot cards, while cradling her hand and following its deeply grooved lifeline embedded in her palm gently tracing it with the tip of her index finger. Would the gypsy tell her that her train had gone off the track? Would she then ask the fortune-teller just how that could be? The gypsy woman would stare deep into her eyes and far into the other side; from that which came from a distant past, the answer would come pouring out of the woman seeking answers like a frothing waterfall during spring thaw flowing rapidly and splashing around all the rocks and boulders that define the curvature of the river at its base.

The gypsy woman might tell her to stop living for others and live for her heart. She could emphasize that the time is now, since taking care of others has ended for her. She might whisper in her ear “Take care of yourself. Make life real. It is not a dream.” She might tell her to remove the fence engulfing her. Step outside of it. Light the fuse and let it burn. Don’t wait. So much is unpredictable. Let life unfold like a Chinese paper fan that when closed shows nothing, but once opened it reveals a genuinely intricate scene that lies inconspicuously hidden away until spread apart.

Suddenly, the gypsy woman with arms undulating in opposite syncopation,
head swaying in circles, while her long red mane of thick wavy waist-long hair floating behind in an intoxicating, trance-like manner, would slowly raise her arms then lower them in front of the other woman’s face and say to her, “The best roads taken are those that are filled with uncertainty.”

She has that prospect buried inside of her self. He has much more work to do before that fan can fully open wide and a new unencumbered navigable road be revealed. He will need to button his own undoing. (1015 words)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Long Ride


The headlights faintly shined upon the pitch black roadway as he stared out the large tinted window five rows back from the front door. The tires whirled a steady drone down Interstate 77 toward Charleston, West Virginia. Reflective mirror images flashed black upon the riders as they drifted into impermanent and restless sleep.

Brief stops dotted the long, scenic trip through the quiet downtown streets of Marietta, Ohio with its quaint architecture that led them into desolate Parkersburg as Tuesday turned into Wednesday.

On the opposite side of the four lane, which turned into a two lane, then transitioned into an unknown Main Street, before rolling back onto the next four lane were buses, trucks and cars coming toward him, beginning as miniscule beams that grew into large ghostly headlights. In an instant, the Greyhound was in the same dimensional plane of each oncoming vehicle before exiting, leaving behind two disappearing red tail lights fading into the milky, dreamy, and wet fog coated darkening night.

The smell of the coach was that of a thousand mysterious and unknown lives fused into the vinyl seat covers, the rubber of the aisle mats, and the metal and plastic materials that formed into the old, tarnished interior skin throughout the worn insides of the cavernous vehicle.

He entered into, and then exited billions upon billions of moments in time all occupying specific spots on Earth, where people built towns, villages and cities lined with streets, sidewalks, alleys, lanes, churches, schools, and shops. And, as the bus passed into, and then drove away from the nearby spaces filled by strangers watching it from the outside, they, too, were also doing the same fleeting thing. We were all coming and going simultaneously.

The road ahead was hard to see as the street lamps illuminated the moving fog. He rode into Charleston silently without awakening a soul. Front porch lamps lit unintentional welcomes; then were left behind without anyone knowing. Lighted plastic signs on banks or gas stations guarded closed and locked doors.

The road suddenly turned into the early morning darkness as he moved away from the last place toward the next one. “Freedom Homes” and “84 Lumber” billboards became the new gateway with old blackened steel and vine covered railroad trestles arching above the highway entrance ramp routing him on, then off paving the way to his subsequent destination. This never ending series of “to’s and from’s” led him to his final destination where he would continue to enter and exit from newly experienced places occupying a particular time before moving on toward the next.

Time became noticeably linear passing from a single moment into another single moment like a long string of beads being place upon an endless thread. As one bead was placed upon the thread, a bead was left behind no longer in the present, but now realized as being left in the past just as a new one was dropped onto it.

The old moment enriching and impacting the next formed an endlessly expanding picture layered by lifelong fluid droplets of time. 

A single overhead light shined upon a mother and sleeping child sitting across the aisle within the cavernous body of the motor coach. He, and the others, traveled in single file behind other motorists entering and exiting the same spots before separating from the anonymous line of travelers.

He left Bluefield, West Virginia and the small drop-off station then chased a hazy crested moon back onto Interstate 77 South lighting the opening to a mile long mountain tunnel leaving where he had just been only to be greeted, on the other side, by a sign identifying where he was headed. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stories of Lost Days

by jphoto

 In the far dark corners of the room lie deep, old, private stories. The place with its sterile feeling had pictures of grandchildren displayed upon the on windowsill, and, in the center was one framed with braided metal threads, standing vertical, shot in black and white tones of his deceased wife of 42 years taken dozens of years ago arms around each other young and beginning life.

Today he is dying slowly at 86 left in a nursing home by his daughter who rarely visits. Sharing the other bed in the room is a 92 year old also dying slowly sitting in a wheelchair facing a lit wall with nothing to see as oxygen flows into his nose through tiny tubes, sustaining his life, wrapped around his ears to keep it all in place.

Their lives filled with past worlds quietly held inside unless asked. Like a juke box loaded with single song records, their voices can tell stories of a lost time forgotten by many, while never shared by some held deep within the soul boxed and compressed pushed under piles of lost thoughts. A press of a button spins the tale.

Both men get dialysis twice a week, eat in their room because the dining hall is too discomforting. One lies in bed watching television, the other sits staring into nowhere. On his bedside tray is a partially filled snack bag, along with cups of water with lids, his urinal, and candy bars.

The conversation contained a hoping desire to return home, which appeared to be a losing dream. A return home would require more than what the one living there now could provide. The older man’s elderly wife doesn’t have the strength to lift her frail life partner who is unable to stand alone. The other man’s daughter appears to not want to be the sole caregiver to her own father who might find himself lost in the apartment hallway after stepping outside his cocooned space drifting further away from what would be most familiar.

Stories flowed from both as the three of us sat closely talking of the old days that formed their lives. The Second War had one in the Pacific as a fighter pilot’s tail gunner, and the other rode a Liberty ship as a Merchant Marine sailing from the Pacific to the Atlantic harboring in Australia, along side Chinese cargo vessels, roaming Sydney’s streets dancing the evening in the nightclubs far from the vast battlefield theaters. While docked in Italy, a German bomber attacked his ship exploding chards of metal breaking his legs, ultimately sending him home after 4 years at sea and war.

The older man returning from his tour unharmed went back to his hometown to design, and build valves for the rest of his working life. The younger man moved about the upper Midwest in search of a place to settle. Detroit lured him to a Dodge Motor Company auto plant close to his hometown in Ohio. Later, he found himself in Pittsburgh building electric heating elements for 40 years. At a big band dance, unable to artfully move his legs due to his injuries, he met his lifelong dream partner. As the dance ended, he drove her home knowing that he would never be without her.

Today both men alone in their rooms, after decades of setting suns, and as the sky changes from daylight to darkness, listen to the carts of food, bedding, medications being pushed up and down the halls. A smiling face enters their tiny space with a package of cookies for each and a word of encouragement.

We sit together talking as if huddled around a kitchen table sharing stories of our lives. Throughout the short 90 minute visit, both men smiling, joyful, and happy to be briefly cared for by a visitor.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Bag


I have been carrying around a bag of mine for a long time without ever a thought of putting it down for good, a final resting place, maybe for someone else to find and use. That would mean once placed in that spot, it would remain until gone—one way or another. This bag and I have journeyed for years. It has been filled with parts of my life ranging from hats and gloves in winter so as to avoid losing them from a shallow coat pocket when having dinner with a friend in a darkened restaurant, and then walking out leaving them behind for some stranger to pick up, or for depositing folders, mail, and papers that are moved from place to place.

Dropping a very comfortable hat can become very upsetting especially if snug and well worn, or one of two gloves making the other half unusable forever.

A cozy hat is not easy to find. It can take a while before one softens and conforms to the head. A great hat is not unlike a well aged pair of shoes, especially hiking boots, which must navigate the roughest of terrain for hours at a time, while protecting one’s feet wherever they venture.

Hats lying on the ground are there all winter. Some are filthy having been ignored or unnoticed for days, or even weeks. A hat lost by a walker deciding to remove it from his, or her head, then stuffing it into a pocket, finds later that somewhere along the journey, it fell without a sound onto the ground being left behind with the footprint in the snow. I might imagine that person, upon finding this out overcome with sadness, since many being found are very nice ones. Often, they are woolen or fleece pullover hats, and not caps. Caps don’t fit in a coat’s front pocket.

A single lost glove dropped upon a sidewalk or trail draws your gaze. This one rolled up glove quietly dislodged from a hand warming pocket leaves the owner upset having lost only one, when two would be better, with the remaining and only lonely one deemed useless and destined for the garbage.

When finding a glove lying on the ground, hang it nearby in hopes the stranger will come happily upon it recognizing they have found their lost personal item. I imagine people hold out some hope as they scan their past steps wishing to stumble upon what had been lost. Finding what they lost is luck embraced.

Other people carry bags for similar reasons, yet for me I find it a convenience, as well as a necessity of life. A bag can be viewed as a form of baggage: an item to contain, or hold one’s personal baggage, or stuff depending on how it is viewed, or that which is owned, or just to carry the things one wants to give away to others.

I have many types of bags used as baggage, but this one is a special one, since I use it everyday.

I have not used it to hold my feelings, although it might be an interesting idea to do so. When feeling angry about something it could be used to transfer that emotion into the bag for examination or disposal later on. Or, how about opinions? The bag could be used to store opinions, since the bag has a few compartments that could hold such deeply personal items that are not made from tangible materials.

There might be a time when I have my bag, since I carry it everywhere, and find myself among a group of friends, some being nether-a-friend, where I could stash varying controversial opinions into it before sitting down. That way I might forestall an awkward situation from unfolding before those who were kindly invited along for a friendly dinner. No sense in breaking an egg on a clean white floor when you don’t have to.

There are people I know who freely give away their opinions when actually no one cares to hear them. They probably need to carry a bag with a couple extra compartments, as well.

Bags, or small packs, that go around one’s waist should be used by everyone. They could become just another everyday garment, such as pants, shirts, socks, or belts. A person could use those tight zippered compartments in a pinch to stuff small amounts of opinions, or emotions, since the pouches are limited in size and could keep one’s embarrassing words from spontaneously escaping, or exploding, from one’s mouth, or, if for nothing else, to hold a thin wallet and keys preventing them from entering the hands of another.

 Maybe there is a social need for carrying bags. So, let’s consider the wearing one a ballot referendum sometime soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paper Airplanes In Flight


Outside winter’s display window, a lamppost lit steady falling snow all through the setting nightfall and on toward dawn. A single street lamp casted shadows into his third floor apartment office room, as he sat staring out the double-paned glass hypnotized by the accumulating snow narrowly stacking upon the ledges and roofs, which were at eye level. The gently dancing crystalized flakes lit up like luminescent schools of miniature tropical fish swimming in a giant deep ocean fishbowl. 
His room was dark except for a single curved antique lamp with its fluted glass shaped shade pointing down toward his wicker wastebasket. The deflected light brought a mood to the room that he desired, since he wanted to curl up inside his pile of woolen blankets, then burrow deep in his well-worn brown corduroy stuffed easy chair, which was a hand-me-down from his grandmother after the estate was settled, to watch the night pass silently by.
Evening snows invite silence, and the body’s need to be securely wrapped up in warmth while mesmerized by nature’s frosty rain. If it were summer, he might have the windows open listening to the droplets tap upon the window glass, but the silent snow fell as quietly as clouds drifting across the night’s sky. The absence of its sound was mystifying. 
As a child, he spent time in his room folding paper airplanes into various designs sending them through the air toward hanging targets and wastebaskets. He would lay on his bed, pillows propped up against the corner wall tossing handmade paper airplanes at his simple hanging targets that hung from kite string taped upon the ceiling. Now an adult, this historical pastime continued. He folded them without looking, and often in the dark, feeling his way along the edges of the paper with delicate precision and skill. His fingers took their time caressing the corners of the specially chosen sheets, which were picked from the stacked trays storing the various grades offered to him.
His mind often needed distraction when it could not drop anxious and repetitive thoughts into the available mental depository in order to shrink each one into rubble suitable for discard knowing that this place inside his mind would gently disarm what were actually of minimal importance.
Tonight he folded airplanes using his lightest weighted paper and tossing them at each of his two hanging Alexander Calder mobiles purchased while at the Smithsonian museum last summer when visiting a friend in Washington, DC. He enjoyed spinning the mobiles in this way, which made him feel like he had stretched beyond the mundane and into the realm of skill, like arranging the colors on a Rubik’s Cube into desired patterns.
He had lingering and nagging thoughts. Ones that would wake him at 3 A.M. wanting immediate resolution, which stressed him because it was more than likely there was not one available that would drift him back into soothing sleep.  His dreams had him on long bus rides missing stops, whereby he would have to then ride another one back to where he should have gotten off. Other dreams had him in apartments or rooms he did not recognize uncertain of what to do next.
In order to return to calm, he would sit up in his dark bedroom, pick up one of his airplanes creasing it back into a single dimension, and then fan it open tossing it toward the illuminating hallway night light. On the floor by his nightstand were several paper airplanes idly waiting for flight parked in a small box.
This activity was meditative; no mantra, no teacher, no method, only the flight of paper airplanes. Watching them move silently through the bedroom air quieted his mind drawing him away from noisy thoughts as each one soared below blue ceiling tiles toward the dim light of the hallway, tapping into memories of his youth, in silence, once more.
After several minutes he lied back down and fell back into sleep, while outside the snow quickly piled high deadening all of the evening sounds. (591 words)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Gift


Chris and Mirriam moved onto her grandmother’s farm in New Hampshire not far from the White Mountains where her great-grandfather hid out as the First World War broke out. He was a pacifist resisting conscription into the American army. As an immigrant from Austria, he resisted a forced return to spill blood on the soil he remembered as home (so dearly). He bought a large farm with family money he inherited prior to landing on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada. He and others made their way down to New Hampshire to work as a tree climbers and fellers for hire as lumber went for the war effort.

As a young child, he fearlessly climbed every tree he saw in the small village outside of Graz scaling to cloud entangling tree limbs. In New Hampshire, he steadily scaled and trimmed trees on the estates of the wealthy industrialists.

An elderly shipping magnate moved onto his summer estate escaping the Boston high society culture he found repellent. The interest in trees and arbor studies linked these two men together as spring is to summer. The elderly man told Merriam’s great-grandfather that he had an overgrown farm nearby that he no longer wanted and suggested he take it off his hands if he would care for it properly. “Of course,” was the answer; as it had been said.

The gift was 300 acres of old growth timber, scrub trees that over powered the farm fields, a largely solid two-storied 1880s fieldstone barn filled with rusting farm implements of the time, and a semi-burned down farmhouse.

Merriam’s mother, who inherited the land after her mother’s death, had not returned, nor anyone else, for10 years. The old fieldstone barn had been converted into a giant home by her great-grandfather, who became a skilled stonemason during his lifetime.

The old man cultivated and planted hundreds of seedlings, formed into orchestrated woodlands of pines, spruces, larches, oaks, maples, and trees from seeds gathered from other forests visited now nearing 100 years old. Inside some of the treed landscapes were stone benches, planters, organic sculptures, and walls as tall as 10 feet high laid in circular, curved, or just straight formations not seen unless one were to hike into that living wooded montage.

The young couple mesmerized by the wildness of the land with its densely canopied tree topped home filled with generational animal life roaming and flying felt the stronger heartbeat to the land. They unwrapped and uncovered great-grandfather’s handmade stone treasures, nestled within overgrown shrubs and tall trunks of trees; and, while doing so the stonemason’s medieval hideaway tower with its arched open windows, and iron railings, along with a wide flowing creek running around it and a stone moss covered bridge crossing it was revealed.

All paths were undetectable and overgrown mystifying their explorations. The two crossed the bridge, and found the entrance opening with a log staircase leading to the open circular room surrounded by its guardian woodland offering a view of the landscape from almost 20 feet above the loamy earth. The distant rolling landscape was visible from one arched lookout, or the dense forest from another. Each framed window offering views of a vibrant and pulsating natural world as its moist breath evolved and changed this enchanting place over decades.

More steps led to the rooftop parapet not unlike a castle’s turret. Carved into the wall surrounding the entire circumference read, “To my flesh and blood, finally arriving, to live, pray, and gaze in awe, I give you this place of peace-1926.”  It was here that their life found new love. (599 words)