Monday, May 28, 2012

One Step Up

Anais Nin

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.
Anais Nin

Anais Nin

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish it’s source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings. — Anais Nin

An engraving of a flying fish from the 1686 book "Historia Piscium."

Source: via Mike on Pinterest

Why I Am A Hermit

Memorial Day 2012

Today is Memorial Day and a lot of people will have a day off and many of them will stop to consider the well earned praise of heroes. We all have someone we admire in uniform from some war in the past or perhaps one of our recent wars, someone whose bravery is an example of living humanity and courage. We should do this. We should pause in our lives to consider the efforts of individuals who through selfless action saved others or perhaps even kept those who opposed us from advancing in some way.
 I have heard that this current generation is bereft of these sorts of people but I say there are many in uniform who give lie to this false belief, and that the young men and women we have in uniform at this very moment are some of the very best, ever. The post 9-11 American military is proof we are still capable of bravery, of courage under fire, of exemplary grace under pressure, and of dedication to the ideas and ideals that have always made this country strong.
This Memorial Day, when you think of Midway, Omaha Beach, or Yorktown, or Iwa Jima, or Khe Sanh, or Inchon, or Antietam, please take a moment to consider Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember Baghdad and Fallujah, Remember Kandahar and the  Korengal Valley.

These are the men and women who are our heroes today. There are our heroes now.

Politics have divided this country on partisan lines and please allow me to remind you that the men and women in uniform and their actions, their courage and their blood are the only reasons you can express an opinion. Without such people this country would not have been born and it would have not survived, many times over. So regardless of how you feel about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember the men and women in uniform, some of which will not come home, others who will not come home whole, serve you. They serve all of us no matter what political beliefs we hold.

The three thousandth casualty of the war in Afghanistan, and that include all coalition forces, died last week. We do not own bravery, courage, or sacrifice in this mission and this too, we should remember on this day. We are not alone. We never have been. But the world does look to us for leadership and only politically have we been lacking.

On this day stop to remember Greg “Pappy” Boyington who was a drinker, a fighter, a flyer, but most of all a Marine, who was sent to die and went to kill, and came back again. Remember one person, one man or woman in the military that you think embodies what a hero is, or should be. But please do not forget this generation. Do not forget that right now, at this very moment, some young person from America is far away from home, and perhaps fighting for their very lives.

Remember the heroes. Remember this generation. They are one in the same.

Take Care,

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Creek Walker: The Long Run

I went up a spell in the dark red water of the creek out beyond my property, even if it was way too cold to be out in the water. Time was, before white people came here hundreds of years ago, folk lived here without heat or houses or fear of the weather very much, or they wouldn’t have been here at all. I walk barefoot muchly, and my feet don’t hurt me like the aliments some people I know with office jobs and nice lawns. I can walk a couple of miles north, cross over the timber company’s land, and catch the South branch of the creek I call the Long Run. Creeks are made up of a lot of smaller braches of water running along the same line of drain, and most of them head for other lines of water, much like people seem to head towards other people. When it gets too much, when the things in my head can’t be still I walk the Long Run and even though it takes me under two bridges that are too near people I walk it anyway, but always at night. 
Starlight is powerful thing when it’s the only thing, and I can see it glinting off the water. There’s roots and snags and rocks and things but my feet are like the fingers of those people who can type in the dark or without looking down at the typewriter. I know this sounds to you a bit odd, like the accent of someone who speaks the same language from a faraway place, but my feet feel the notched path the water has made for me. There’s a deep spot I don’t want to wade into about a mile into the walk, and it’s marked by an old tree stump just before I get there. It’s a stump from a Cypress long since cut from above and undercut from below, both saw and water taking away from it, yet there it sits like a toad without legs catching what it can. My feet know this stump in the black of night, and I know to skirt right of it, closer to the edge of the creek than I like to be, but I don’t want to get any wetter tonight. It’s hard to walk on nights like these but it is harder not to. I miss a turn here or there, get into deeper water or bramble, but the stars don’t like to me, even when my feet might.
Did this back in July and a thick snake slipped into the water with me. Didn’t mean any harm, and most of them don’t anyway. But this one stayed at my heel that night and followed me a bit. It stayed back away from me, didn’t crowd me or stalk me like one or two I’ve seen do, but it might have wanted to know what a human was doing out in the water and the dark. I scared up a frog that might have gone away unnoticed or unseen but the snake grabbed it and it cried out in the night and then the sound was gone. I listened to the frog’s body twitching in the water, and then I hear the sound of the snake eating the frog headfirst. There was a sliver of a moon up high, and in the shadows I could see the snake, thick and black like, and it was bigger than I had thought when I heard it, or it was bigger because I saw it, one of the two. I waited until the snake was done swallowing the frog and waited to see where it would go. We were there together for a while, me and the snake, and finally it glided over to the edge of the creek and I listened to the sound of it crawling up the black and into the dark. Snake that big has some heat to it, and I know if I get bit this far out it isn’t going to be a good night.  But then maybe it will, if you get the meaning.

There was a Yankee come down and bought up some timber land to make a hunting plantation but he picked the wrong year to do it and the stock market sank its fangs into his operation but deep. He lost money on the land before he pushed over the first stump and he went from looking for a place to play to having to find a way to make it work.  He dug him a good sized lake, and I found out when the water from the Long Run ran dry. I walked through the mud and dying creek critters until I found where he had dammed the creek up and turned it into his lake to fill it. No man butts head with money less’n he had more money, and I knew I wouldn’t call the law to him and get it done at all. Creek dried and died so he could have a place to raise catfish, but a year later a tropical storm brewed in from the Atlantic and I went to visit him that night. No snakes or coons or anything else walks in a storm, and I ought not to have, but I had to set some things right again. He had turned the creek back, but he built a gate so as to steal water from the creek as he had a mind to, and I turned that gate open, and gave him all the water he ever thought about having that night. I went over to where his spillway was and I closed that, too. His land filled up, flooded out, and when his spillway went it took out a quarter of a mile of that state road with it, and washed out around the bridge down a bit. The State people came in with some Federal bridge people, and I heard all this, I didn’t actually see it, but they say they made him pay for the damage to the road and the bridge and slapped on him pretty hard with a fine, too. The Yankee lasted another few months and then he just started stopping coming down to take care of the place. I put a fish trap in his lake and I ate well for a while, and so did the snake.

You sit there in a car wondering about work or you talk on the phone and just a couple feet away someone doing the same thing comes at you as fast as you go at them, and you pass, and never think about it. Kill you deader than snake biting you, it will, but you don’t think that other person might try to kill you, do you? That’s me and these snakes. We pass each other in our own road and we don’t try to kill each other. I fished my trap out of the lake and I wondered of the fish that got imported here miss where they are from, but I have to get home before light.


Somethings always wrong

Another day I call and never speak
And you would say nothing's changed at all
And I can't feel much hope for anything
If I won't be there to catch you if you fall

Again                    (we fail…)
It seems we meet (…to meet and mend)
In the spaces       (The spaces safe…)
In between           (…between intent)
We always say    (We say too much…)
It won't be long   (…and long been gone)
But something's always wrong

Another game of putting things aside
As if we'll come back to them some time
A brace of hope a pride of innocence
And you would say something has gone wrong

Again                                     (we fail)
It seems we meet                   (to make amends)
In the spaces                          (And find our way)
In between                             (between intents)
We always say                       ( and looking back)
It won't be long                      (not moving on)
But something's always wrong

Again                    (we fail…)
It seems we meet (…to meet and mend)
In the spaces       (The spaces safe…)
In between           (…between intent)
We always say    (We say too much…)
It won't be long   (…and long been gone)
But something's always wrong

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bonnie and the Old Farm House

We top a slight rise on the way back through the woods and there’s an old farmhouse standing there and I can tell by looking it is old and it is solid. You don’t see the sort of craftsmanship in house building as there once was and I think it’s a shame. Time was when a house was built the people who were going to live there did most of the work and their family helped, and there was always a neighbor around to pitch in because that was the way it had always been. Houses were made of wood from the local trees and planed at a local sawmill. There might be someone who did the plumbing and the electrical work was nearly always farmed out, but each time to a local. 
            The steps to the house are missing, so I know the house has been looted to a degree, and that too is sad. Some of the window panes are broken and there was never much of a yard here. Someone has planted pines trees around the house, but not too close, and we stop to take in the sight of the house, unexpected as it is. Neither one of us speak, because that’s what we were doing, without saying anything about it. Sometimes a man and a woman can just walk and hold hands, and not speak, and the world be perfect for that walk. Holding hands with a woman is a simple thing, but it’s how relationships begin, you know. Your first contact with someone that might work out is usually holding hands with them, and it’s something everyone does with whoever they are with. You can hold hands and do a lot more than just stay in contact with who you’re with. How tightly you hold her hand, how she squeezes back, it all means something that only you two know. If you can argue with a woman and still hold her hand that means a lot. I don’t mean argue and squeeze the hell out her hand to hurt her, I mean if you can have a heated argument and still stay in touch you know it means something. Holding hands with a woman doesn’t mean a whole lot until it means everything.
            She wants to go in and I know her well enough to know this, so I go first, and I show off a bit by leaping up into the threshold from a cinderblock. She grins up at me and I pull her up easily. She isn’t a heavy woman at all, but she likes the idea of me lifting her up like that and she smiles at me. I pull her up close to me and she lets me kiss her but pulls away before the fire starts. She isn’t sure if this is a good place. She’s cautious about such things, but the blush lets me know she’s thinking about it, and the smile lets me know it’s okay if I think about it too. But she disengages from me, letting her hand slip away from mine, moving towards the old kitchen sink, and smiling up at me as if this sink brings back some memory.
            “My mama had a sink like this, Mike” she whispers to me, and she turns the handle but nothing comes out at all. She lets me put my arms around her but she also pushes back against me in a way that let me know she wants to explore the house, and look around. She turns and gives me a look, as if to ask if she’s going to have to say it aloud, or not, and I mention the cabinets might have mice in them, so she better let me open them.  She rolls her eyes and laughs because she isn’t afraid of such things the way some women might be, and before I can stop her she’s up on the counter and opening the cabinet doors. This isn’t a large woman at all, mind you, barely five feet tall and maybe ninety pounds soaking wet. I put a hand on her leg, to steady her and she knows this is why. She looks down and smiles, and I know that smile and I like it. She has the temper of a true redhead and I’ve learned that just because she’s allowed me to touch her before doesn’t mean it’s safe. When she’s angry she doesn’t want physical contact and it is a damn good way to start a fight to ignore this fact.
            “Got a tin cup in here for your coffee!” She beams at me now, having found a treasure for me. She hands the dusty artifact to me and it is a blue and white speckled coffee cup, dusty yet undented. She jumps down so I can catch her and I do, somewhat. The walls in the kitchen are painted white, with a water stain where the roof leaks, but the rest of the house has tongue in groove pine paneling, from the floor to the ceilings.  The ceilings are small versions of this craft, with boards running the length of the small rooms.  There’s a living room, and two bedroom, one to each side of the living room, and there is another room, even small, as if it was a large pantry, but there are no shelves.

I love the way this woman smells. We’ve walked for three hours, maybe more, and she’s sweaty. It’s not hot out yet but the warmth is still with us. She smells like a woman ought to smell, full of body scents, hair that has been tied back and wind swept,  and the smell of someone who has power, real power,  in that body. A woman’s scent tell you a thing or two about her, if she likes to hide it, or if she thinks everyone ought to let go a bit, and smell like people really smell. She can read my mind sometimes, I think, and she cuts her eyes at me, seeing if I’m listening to her explanation of what she thinks the room might have been, or if I’m lost again.

“It be easier on you if I stopped coming around?”  She asked suddenly.
“Yes.” I know better than to lie to this woman.
“You ever ask  I’ll leave.” She drops her eyes just a bit, but looks back up at me hard, and I know now I have to live with my words to her.  “I’m serious, Mike.”
“Stay” I say aloud.
“You could quit telling them ‘bout me.” And she begins to fade on me, and I hate it.
“Could I really?”

I woke up in darkness with Lucas sleeping beside me. I’ve shooed him off the bed now because it’s too warm, but I always wake up with him up here with me.  It’s dark, totally, dark, but I remember where the house was in the dream, and I wonder if anyone remembers it.

Take Care,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Search For Hell.

“I never believed in Hell until I was there, until I realized that was what this place was, and the idea of it all being a bad dream slipped away, and the idea of Hell replaced hope and it was as if someone had whispered into my ear that I was naked in public and I realized I was. I do not remember my name. I do not remember anything about the life I once lived, except the parts Hell wants to remember, and that is my Hell, to remember parts of my life that Hell wants me to remember and there are no other parts of my life.
There are greater criminals than I, and my name has been forgotten by history even if history ever knew me. I was the man who fired the first shot in World War Two. I was an artillery gunner, and Hell allows me, forces me, compels me to remember that day, that sweet and beautiful day, and the dawn rose to greet us.  I had made up my mind to fire first, before orders, and I watched as the officer got the order to fire and as he raised his hand I pulled the lanyard and the world died. Such a minor thing, to fire so soon, but all the other guns opened up right after I fired anyway, and the war began.  The officer cursed me, of course, I knew he would, but I also knew I had to do it. I had to make up for my sins in the past. Can you imagine? The first shot fired that killed fifty eight million human beings was in recompense of man guilty of throwing a rock over a decade before.

I was standing on the roof the government building in Munich, helping my father repair a leak there. I have no idea what it was doing there, perhaps it was left over from some previous project, but there was a piece of stone, just about the size of an egg of a goose.  My friend Fredrick had come to help us, but my father turned him away, as Fredrick had arrived too late in the morning.  Too late! He arrived just after we did, but my father told him he was too late. I had watched him walk across the street, and because it was early the streets were nearly empty, but I shouted to him, just as I threw the rock. He was six stories below, and a good thirty meters away, easily he was, but he turned when he heard me shout, and he raised his hand to wave good bye to me, and the rock hit him on his head, killing him instantly.  I remembered how the rock had arced across the skyline and then dove down and I lost sight of it in the façade of the building across the street. I had no idea it had traveled so far until it hit, and when it hit, there was a split second delay. Fredrick began to fall and then I heard the sound.

When I pulled the lanyard there was a slight delay in that too, as the slack was taken up, and then there was the resistance to the pull and then the trigger released, slamming the breach back with thunder.  I remember the way it felt that time like the feeling a man has when a woman arches her back to allow him to undress her, or the feeling of a fish coming out of the water on a line, or the feeling of seeing a rock arc across the sky before that moment of realization.

I had fired hundreds of rounds before but never at a living target, never at a place where I knew there would be men waiting, watching, hoping the war that was coming did not start this morning, but they knew it was coming. Our scouts laid out the defenses and we mapped out our ranges and we practiced for weeks and weeks. There were even some models built of the bunkers and ditches, so antiquated and weak! Of course we fired our guns, and of course we moved our position forward again and again, and of course we won. We swept through Europe as if there was no force on earth that could stop us, and none did. Hell allows me that memory sometimes, that feeling of victory that feeling of exhilaration, right before the rock hits.

Without a word I flung myself down the stairs with abandon, nearly falling several times, I raced across the street where Fredrick lay dead, and by the time I could get there three or four people had discovered him. One pointed up at the building nearest to the body and proclaimed some piece of the architecture had failed and that was where the stone had come from. Then there was half a dozen people looking up at the roof of that building, and they sent someone to investigate as I cried over the murder of my friend.  I picked the rock up and stuffed it into my pocket, and kept in on my desk at home.

The war in Russia went poorly, and Hell allows me to remember the retreat, the capture of my guns, the cold winter nights waiting to die of exposure or the attack that would come at any moment, but I survived the war, for whatever reason. Hell allows me to remember some American, who looked much younger than I, clean, well fed, and angry, forcing us to work to save the prisoners from our works. Yet we had lost the war, and Hell allows that feeling to stay with me forever. I died not in battle or in glory but of old age in a defeated county still occupied by the invaders. And when I died, Hell I was sent to, and still in Hell I live, each and every day, forever.”

“And you have come here to tell me you have given up on the young man.” He said as he lolled on the bed. “Your face disguises your emotions poorly, I fear.”
“Other than the fact his father was born after the war, and he’s just twenty-seven, it isn’t possible for him to have those memories.” She sat down and stared at the information on her reader. “But it isn’t like you to send me out after a specific person and it be so stupidly wrong.”
“So the information must not be…stupidly wrong” he smiled at her and stretched.
She stood up, looked at the skyline of Atlanta from one of the widescreens on the wall and knew better to speak again. She silently counted down from one thousand and ignored the silence.
            “It didn’t take you three weeks to research his age,” he finally spoke, “and before you say it, there was nothing he knew that couldn’t be found on the internet.”  She waited. The sun was setting and the widescreen showed the view in real time. She wondered what he was trying to tell her, and why. She wondered why she didn’t walk out and go see that sunset in person, maybe find someplace to kick down a few drinks…
            “But he got some of the details wrong.” She said. She gave him that much. What harm could it do? “The units he claimed to have served in, the dates, he kept getting confused about a lot of the little stuff.”
            “He changed his story.” He said. “You ran him through a polygraph, the ordinary kind, and he passed no matter what story he told. “ He stood up, walked over to her side and sighed.
            “Yes.” She replied and she fought back the urge to step away from him. She relaxed her body and tried to keep counting.
            “No matter what story he tells, that is the story he believes to be true, yes?”
            “So I sent you to talk to someone who is insane.” He brushed against her as he turned to go back to the bed.
            “That seems to be the case.” She watched as the sun dipped below the horizon and wondered if anyone she knew was still speaking to her.
            “It would be much more simple if this were the truth.” He said from the bed. “But the truth is he is correct about each of his stories.”
“I’m going to get a drink, take a few days off, maybe hit the beach.” She said.
“Four what?”
“Four different stories.”  He said as she reached the door. “Check your interviews. He tells four different stories, precisely four. One of them is correct to an order of magnitude that the others are not, and if you were smart you would have realized his father was lying about his occupation.”
“What in the hell are you talking about?” She slid the card through the slot and the inner door hissed open.
“The truth is where I hid it.” He said, but she kept walking.