Hell on Earth

All settled in with my B, PB, AB, AP sandwich (OK, that was tricky I know; Butter, Peanut Butter, Apple Butter, Apricot Preserves on multi-grain bread…vanilla bean ice cream on the side with dark French Roast coffee, freshly pressed); yesterday the 18 year old puppy got a glowing report from the vet after her annual check-up; the weed garden is starting to come alive, it is a great day…but…

I was thumbing through my book of questions:  How do you achieve world peace?, What must you learn from a blind, mute fool?  When does a person (it was originally written, “a man”, please forgive if I miss a word correction, I mean never to offend or in any way seem sexist, racist or any of the other “ists”) have all that they may have in this world and be in Hell?

This last question was one of the easiest to answer, I was 12.

A little history, when I lived with my grandparents, my mother’s parents, I was just past toddler, well into obnoxious and just shy of school; I lived with them during my second, third and fourth years.  Mom and Grampy were from well educated, in every sense talented, very strict German, Dutch, French stock.  The first book that Mom and I read together was “King Arthur and The Knights of The Round Table (there were no pictures).  The second book were addressed was “The Prince” by Machiavelli; Mom wanted to be sure I understood what was happening in the King Arthur piece (I was approaching four, like two weeks after my third birthday).

For my fourth birthday, Grampy (a man that had once had great wealth, he retained many fine things, but demonstrated his coping with poverty but slicing pot roast so thin you could read the news through it) gave me my first book; “Bulfinch’s Mythology” which I devoured.

The story may be Roman or Greek and as I remember it may not be word for word, but…I think you might understand what it says.

Vaicott (not the name in the original story, but will do) spent his best days mocking the gods, on his worst days he cursed them, he always denied them and would beat his servants for praying to them.

As age and illness attacked Vaicott dragging him closer and closer to his end he yelled to his children, his servants, to the world: “You see, pain and pox, age and anguish are all about me.  Should I throw pence or gold at statue or priest to have your gods heal me or am I fated like all to die and rot.”  Vaicott laughed, laughed his miserable chackle until he slept.

His children, his servants and indeed most of the world, with heads lowered walked away from his house.

When Vaicott awoke from his slumber he found himself in Paradise; the gods and goddesses greeted and embraced him.  They talked to a younger healthier man, a man that could drink in the beauty, the indescribable splendor that was this world.

He knew the embrace of a goddess, with passion…ecstasy beyond his wildest imaginings, he broke bread that the merest crumb would sate any hunger, wine that was indeed, ambrosia.

He looked up from the table a figure emerged from a splendid light, the figure became clear as all the lesser gods bowed and backed away.  Vaicott saw this god of gods extend his hand and place it on it on his shoulder, “Vaicott, you shall have anything you desire, wealth, health, any woman or man you desire, anything but death and not here.”

Vaicott awoke in his own bed, he was young, healthy, Kings and Princes bowed to him.  Praise seemed to come from swine, the finest food tasted like dung, nothing on this earth could give him pleasure; the gods had condemned him to Hell, Hell on earth.

 

I don’t know if I am spending a brief moment in Paradise, but my sandwich is, was terrific, coffee stimulating and this time we’ve spent together truly grand.

Never, never mock the gods they just may bless you…for a while.

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Who/What Am I Today

The daily question: What am I going to do tomorrow.  How stupid is that?

0500, the SWMBO is showering, preparing for another day in the “orifice”.  The kids ; fed, moderately played with, walked and soon to be neglected for the balance of the day as I sneak away…to meditate…to meditate on the question: should I continue my studies to become a meditation instructor?  How stupid is that?

My turn to prepare for the outside world; the donning of the distractions; ornate rings on either hand (two for the right one for the left), several bracelets, leather and wood, outlandish socks, poly-chrome shoes, stylish cane and always a hat.  Always an odd old bird, but few see the tremors, the twisting and jerks, or so I like to think.  Like a four year old that makes himself invisible…by covering his eyes. How stupid is that?

This morning its take the octogenaria to the hospital, more tests…still no answers

I’ll wait ’til tomorrow to answer all my questions.  Really, just how stupid is that?

Illustration: Calligraphy-Zen Art by Qiao Sen

CalligImage

The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 3

“My eyes were closed tight, hands behind my back and by my reckoning; I jumped, maybe 6 inches high, over a twig.  That was about a minute ago.  I was waiting to land.  I slowly peeked at where I was going to end up; and through my now opened eyes, I looked at all the stars…where a hall was supposed to be.

“STARS, they were all around me; in front of, in back of me…” the Major turned to his left, tilted his head up, then down, spun left, then right,”…they were on top of, all around me, they were even under me, stars and nothing else.  What happened to the hall, the hall that was on the other side of the twig?

“What happened to my clothes, in the light of a gazillion stars I could see that I was no longer wearing my 49s sweat shirt and jeans anymore.  The pants I was wearing were of a of a woolen type, a deep brown like the wet bark of a tree, a ruffled front shirt with lace sleeves the color of morning fog, braces of the deepest purple, a coat the color of a deep water lake collar rising up to my ears sleeves rolled back and draping to mid-thigh.  I felt a little chill around my ankles and saw…the sneakers, an olive green with orange laces and no socks.

“It was then that I noticed the hat.  A scarlet hat of felt, yards and yards of felt.  Something was tickling my right ear, like a bug buzzing to close; I went to brush it away and discovered it was a feather.  The hat seemed to be growing feathers, long feathers, short feathers, straight feathers, bent feathers, when would it stop?  I reached to the top of the hat; it stopped.

“I was standing, floating; spinning it was hard to tell in that space.  There were explosions of colors going on all around me, colors I could never have imagined.  Then colors collapsed on themselves, and music was in the colors, thousands of beautiful songs played at my ear.  I was somewhere between the beginning and the end, here and there…and then I knew something else…I WAS FALLING!”

The Major grabbed the brim of the hat and with a look of panic on his face.

“From out of nowhere, there were clouds and water and very solid ground below me (I was sure it was below me this time) and  I was going to die.

“The wind was tearing at me as I fell faster and faster, it pulled most of the feathers from my oversized hat.  I twisted the hat on tighter…and I slowed down, I tilted the hat right, and I turned right, with the hat over my right ear, the few remaining feathers flopping in the breeze, I was floating (again).  Floating over a land that was nestled in the warmest corner of the calmest sea (and I had seen them all during my rapid decent).

“There were fields, filled with every kind of flower imaginable; there were patches of the deepest red, blues and green bunched tightly together; colors that in the breeze looked like waves on the sea.  It was a splendid, enormous, impossible patchwork quilt.”

The Major extended his arm, with his hand open he gestured in a wave like fashion from corner to corner of the field he was in.

“laid upon the ground for a giant’s picnic.

“The splendor that was flowery field was dwarfed by the forest bordering it.  Populated by trees of stupendous proportions, with bases bigger than houses, trunks and branches rising so high above they separated the clouds like foam on the shore wraps around a stone.

With a look of delight and voice almost a whisper, he said:

“Why this could have been a model for the Garden of Paradise.”

“It was then that I noticed that I was once more falling, not as far or as fast, but FALLING.  In great haste I twisted my hat, tried pulling it over both ears and then my eyes and was just about to scream…when I stopped, I landed.”

“’It took you long enough…just had to gawk.’ Charly said.  ‘Pull that thing off your eyes and lets us take a stroll.’

“’Well, Master Quickstep, what do you see?’

The Major tilted his head up as he spoke, shifting his gaze as if talking to a much taller person.

The Major stood silent for a moment, he slowly turned his head from left to right, his mouth opened his eyes grew wide as he said,

“Beautiful…colors, flowers, trees and grasses…beauty…sir”

“’Charly,’

The Major’s head tilted up and left,

‘Come, into the Wood.’ The Major said in a voice deep and pleasant.

“As small as Charly was he moved very very quickly and it was a struggle to keep up and as I started to break into a run, he stopped, turned and faced me, fists on hips he looked at me.  I was going to run him over or if by some miracle I could stop my feet from moving I was going to fall face first into the mossy ground or on top of Charly.  My olive green sneakers (with the orange laces) held their ground as if glued to the forest floor, my woolen trousers grew ridged and it was the very purple braces that kept me from flying out of those same trousers as I waved back and forth like slinky on an incline.

“’Are you always this slow?  Why ever do they call you, ‘Quickstep?’  Charly stood in a one of the scattered shafts of light that made their way thru the dense canopy above.  Charly gestured toward the ground around him, as if on cue a breeze shifted the trees and the pin points of light danced through the forest.  ‘What do you see?’ he asked.

The dancing lights showed the brilliant greens of the ferns, the tans and greys of clusters of mushrooms, discarded branches and leaves, a rabbit, squirrel and the damp moss floor.  I mentioned all that I saw, overwhelmed by the balance, the perfection of it all.

“Charly laughed more of a chuckle as he led us, (at a more leisurely pace) from the heart of the Great Wood back into the sunlight.  ‘Take that thing off your ears and listen.’”

The Major pulled the hat off of his ears and set it high on his brow so that it draped like a head dress and tilted his head as if listened to a distant voice,

“I listened and listened and then I began to hear them; all the voices, some were grumbling, some were unkind, some frantic and none were happy.

“All of the flowers seemed to be…well vain.  This is what I heard  ‘I have the true red’ said one red rose; and ‘Only I have grand stance’ said the iris.  Among each and every flower boasting of its splendor; there was unhappiness, for it seemed that flowers have the very softest of voices.  You doubt me, hold your ear as close as you might to any flower any flower you chose and tell me what you hear.

“So brag as they might, they couldn’t be heard by even their nearest of neighbors.

“Now they did have guests that stopped by I saw; the oh so busy bees, butterflies and the occasional aphid.

“The bees arrived in a flurry of rapid movements and even more rapid talk.  ‘The buzzzz queen said buzzzz buzz and buzz, gather-buzzz-ing buzz buzz, and buzz.  Good-buzzz.’ The poor soft spoken flowers couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“The butterflies arrived and sipped a cup of dew off the flower’s leaves and gracefully danced across the colorful flower petal and listened to all the poor vain flowers had to say about themselves.  And they listened and listened and listened…a never said a word.  One daffodil referred to it as ‘…talking to a rock.  It would be so nice if once they would agree with how beautiful I am.’

“When the aphids arrived and they often did; they never listened, rarely spoke, except to say, ‘Very tasty.’  A complement the poor flowers really didn’t relish.

I listened as a Wisteria vine, wrapped around the branch of monarch of a fir tree shouted as loud as it could; of all the woes of the flowers, into the tree’s ear.”

The Major pulled himself up as tall and straight as he could and in the most commanding voice he could muster.

“You think flowers have problems.”  The tree’s voice boomed over the top of all the meadow, through every path in the wood and out to the sea; “I stand as tall as a mountain and as strong and all I do is support a nest of birds, be a playground for a family of squirrels.  A waste, just a waste.” And the tree’s voice trailed off, his eyes closed and he seemed to drift off to sleep.  But the same lament was echoed by every other tree in the wood.  Then the trees once more stood tall, ridged and silent.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the wood.  It rustled a few leaves, had no voice of its own…and then I saw it clearly…a little dust devil.  As it twisted and darted its path through the deep wood; it was drawing ever closer to the sun lit meadow and it was carrying something, something very small.

The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 2

The Major walked to center stage and looking at his audience, more people than he would have imagined, his gaze fell on the eleven extraordinary people in the front row unconsciously bowing to them before he began.

In a voice with more bravado than uncertainty “Good afternoon all, I am Stephen P. Quickstep, simple teller of tales, at your service.” Well, I’m off to a start if not a good one, he thought.

Lowering his head he brought his right hand up to his chin, as if to stroke a beard or lost in thought.   Then in a wink, lifting his eyes to the gathering, “Do you believe Faeries, Pixies and Elves, you know the Dawn Folk?”  Before anyone could answer, with a wave of his hand as if brushing them aside, “No matter, most of the Dawn Folk that I have encountered don’t believe in people, they know we’re just tales they tell their children at night.”  Some of the audience chuckled.

“This story began with a knock on my door, a rather loud knock.  Expecting a person of considerable size to be calling, using the standard inverse ratio of sound to height…this sounded something like a battering ram) you can understand my surprise when before me was a very small man (with solid knuckles).  He stood about”…the Major stopped from indicating with his hand the height of his visitor; and drew on a more tangible reference.., “not much taller than the door knob.  The hair on his head and the hair of his beard were the color of flames and seemed to give off heat when you got too close to him.  His clothes seemed out of place, if not out of time.  But it was his smile that my eyes were drawn to first and in all the time that we would be together, that smile never faded, not for a moment.”

“It was in November that Charly (that was his I name I came to find out) came to visit.  Had it been December, I would have thought that Santa had sent a messenger, by way of an elf;  but this message wasn’t from Santa.”  The Major stood as if talking to someone on his right, he turned his head back to the listeners

“‘Stephen…’ Charly said.

“You know my name?’

…of course, Stephen P. (and I know about your grandfather’s quip) Quickstep.’

“How could you know about the P?  No one knows about the P?  I said in disbelief.

“‘Please, knowing names is easy…comes natural, but I know some things that you NEED to know…to set the record straight, as it were.  Histories…real ancient histories, histories that go so far back that they’re remembered only by the sun and the sea.’

“The sun and the sea you say…like in an adventure.  I was skeptical.

“‘Yup, you could say an adventure; but do you have the courage to go on that adventure?’  Charly waited a moment, ‘I got me a simple test of courage, right here.’  He reached into the outside right pocket of his forest green coat and pulled out a twig, a little twig with four small leaves clinging tightly to it.”  The Major squatted low and placed his hand in his pocket and slowly removed it holding a twig that was only seen in the mind’s eye.

“That’s your test, your test of courage?

‘Yup.’

“How does that work, this test, the twig will shiver and point at me if I’m worthy?

“‘Nope.’  He said as he bent over and placed the twig on the threshold of my front door, with his hand still on the twig, he looked up at me and said, ‘You’ll have to jump over the twig.  With your eyes closed.  Hands behind your back!  If you’ve the courage.’

“I quickly calculated my chance for serious bodily injury, they were close to nil.  I closed my eyes put my hands behind my back and jumped.”

Is he really writing a sermon?

I should never clean my attic; found another notebook.  It would seem that in the early 90’s, a collection of confused individuals took me seriously; enough so that they invited me to offer a homily (or three).  The strangest part of this is that they invited me back after the first time.

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” and although my dear Mom Moore would never approve, I’ve always gone with laughter as THE most joyful of noises.

I found my early notes for that first sermon…ready or not here it goes.

 

There once was a bright young turkey by the name of George.  George was raised on a ranch with about five hundred other turkeys (it was a turkey ranch).

Now the owners of this turkey ranch were good, I mean the very best Christian folk; they said grace over every meal, not just the “God is good, God is great, yeah God, let’s eat”, grace, they meant it.

There was a bible reading and discussion among the family every night and the children listened and asked questions and the adults listened to the children.  They held church each and every day.

And every day, George, the turkey, listened and he hoped that someone would ask the question he wanted to ask; sometimes they did and sometimes he just had to wait, and listen.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, just after the blessing of the meal that George let out a joyful AMEN (it sounded like ‘gobble gobble’ to the family); but, George knew, he knew what it was to believe, he was a Christian turkey.

He went back to the flock to share his new found faith; “Guys, guys…listen, we can fly!”  Bold opening.

“Uh, George, have you looked around, I mean looked real close…we’re turkeys you dumby.”

“I know, but if we believe, really believe, He will give us wings like eagles.”  George went on to tell them about love and grace and all the wonderful promises.  The flock walked away, laughing.  George that Christian turkey just smiled and kept on talking.

After a few days, two or three of the younger toms moved in George’s direction and asked a couple of questions, George answered and what he said made sense.  George invited them to church, hanging outside the kitchen window during Bible study.  Soon there were several ‘gobble gobbles’ as everything came together for a growing number of the flock.

Those birds close to George went out into the flock and shared all they had come to know.

The day had come, George stood before the flock and said, “Let us take up wings like eagles.”  Each and every turkey lifted their head and in a solemn tone, “Gobble gobble” rose up across the yard and five hundred turkeys began to fly.

It was a wonderment, all those butterballs soaring up into the clouds, darting about, laughing…until they got tired; then they landed and all walked home.

My questions to you are:  What kind of Christian turkey are you?  How soon are you going to quit and just walk home? Do you or do you not belong in the clouds, that truly is the way ‘home’.

Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Pray without ceasing and when all else fails, use words”

Pax

Defining My Writing

I have wanted to write since my early teens.  I thought I was passionate about writing; I may have been wrong.

Using a word over much tends to muddy the definition; I looked up the word Passion:

  1.  Strong feeling or emotion (singularly vague)
  2. The trait of being intensely emotional (drama queen?)
  3. Something that is desired intensely (I’ve many desires, not all good and it sounds like I am taking away rather than giving)
  4. An irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action (irrational…Webster read my stuff)
  5. A feeling of strong sexual desire (refer to #3)
  6. Any object of warm affection or devotion (I’d rather it be hot than warm)

French from Latin passio (suffering), passus (suffered), pati (suffer) (again, they’ve really read my stuff).

I have dropped passionate as a descriptor for writing (verb).  Instead, I find enthusiasm more appropriate.  It is defined thusly:

  1. A feeling of excitement (on the rare occasions I can successfully string two sentences together, I do get excited)
  2. Overflowing with eager enjoyment or approval (you know how you feel when you finish a piece and its almost good)
  3. A lively interest (if writing isn’t this, why write?)

From Middle French-enthousiasme, from Greek-enthousiasmos, “be inspired” from entheos, “inspired, possessed by a god” from en-“in” theos-“god”.

May you always be Enthusiastic about your writing and may the madness of your “possession” carry you to heights and wonders, as yet, unimaginable.