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A frigid and gray dawn today as another polar express roars through Texas. Snooks get the day off from her food bank volunteering, and I made up a big batch of beef stew for the freezer. I like my beef stew on these kinds of days, and all we need to do is drop a chunk from the freezer into the crock pot, and a hearty dinner is ready by evening.
Chili was always a good choice for days like this, but as geezerhood and senility slowly settled in, chili became too aggressive for our delicate constitutions. I don’t know what’s next. Beef flavored Pablum, perhaps.
Peace and serenity have returned to my world now that I have disconnected from the active news feeds on facebook. I still read the news from RSS news feeds, but since most of them don’t have any way to respond to the item, I don’t get worked up trying to refute every asinine headline from the press, and that has left me with a bit more time to spend writing and meditating.
<delete rant on scientific activism>
And so this Tuesday morning unfolds. Two cups to get me going, and maybe some more if I pick up on the thread of a new idea fomenting in my mind , and begin translating it into English.
A chilly but sunny dawn for us this morning, but supposedly getting warmer later in the day. That will give me time to finish the electric fence in my ongoing battle to keep Tic, my wandering aussie mix, contained in his own yard. He is a climber, not a jumper, so just making the fence taller won’t work for him. I am going to have to lock the door and put my headphones on when I turn it on, though. I am not tough enough to let him learn the hard way …
I had hoped that with the freezing weather, the allergens would die off, but no such luck. I am choking and coughing up a storm this morning despite the frigid weather … maybe it is time to look to other causes.
And the morning stretches into midmorning. Must fix Snooks breakfast. It didn’t take her long to get used to me cooking on weekends. But there still is a few sips left in the coffeepot, and I need to take care of that first.
So how does one take a jilted ex-hippie who left unrequited love on the commune up in the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico to becoming a mercenary, and later the spiritual leader and husband to a Middle Eastern convent that he and his merry band of mercs rescued and moved to Texas?
At this stage of the tale, the hero made his goodbyes, and flew off in his little sport plane with Fido, a stray mongrel with strong herding instincts. Fido will be left at a pet sanctuary for older dogs since Joe wasn’t sure that he would be well taken care of at the commune, and the plane will be sold at an auction in San Antonio to provide Joe with airfare to the Middle East, where he will join his war buddy mercenary in protecting petroleum interests in Northern Iran.
I wrote a little piece to help me get Joe on his way, Are you going away with no word of farewell? and to flesh out Joe a little clearer in my mind. Joe is a warrior who becomes a peacenik who returns to being a warrior. In the course of his warring, he ends up rescuing the nuns of a convent that had been raided by terrorists. Joe and his buddy enlisted the help of some very wealthy Canadians and Americans, and got the convent moved to safety in the US.
The nuns were very angry with the Church that abandoned them, and rejected its authority. They felt that Joe was a warrior monk who was sent by God to rescue them, and so he was rightly the spiritual intermediary of their convent. A type of priest to them, if you will.
The only problem was that they didn’t tell Joe of his elevation. At least right away.
And why am I telling you all this? Because this tale will never make it out of the first edit, and will never be submitted to a publisher, and I want to complete one tale in my lifetime. So I am vamping you, dear reader. I’ll apologize in advance for the subterfuge.
Unrequited love themes have settled in on me during these dreary winter doldrums. I am thinking that perhaps they are the key that unlocks the trigger to my winter desolation. One theme is the hero who plugs away at a steadily declining hippie commune, and wakes up one day to discover that he is the only one who isn’t getting laid. But being that he is a plugger, he finishes up the incomplete projects, makes his goodbyes, and rides off into the sunset. Or in one version, soars off in his bush plane.
I just hate the dreary sadness that settles in on me, yet I seem to delight in wallowing in it. December is bad, but by January and through February it really gets to be heavy sledding. I have made a few efforts to describe the Satanic heaviness, but finally gave it up. If you haven’t been there, you wouldn’t know. Attributing spiritual forces as the cause if it seems to make more sense to me than trying to make some sort of psychological sense out of it.
Eventually, I succumb and let myself sink into the pit. It is easier than fighting it off. It is relentless.
So, I may write. Or I may not. I may go on facebook. Or I may not. If not, I’ll see you in Spring …
I wanted to write this New Years Day journal at daybreak, but coffee, breakfast, a couple of video games and a couple or three facebook flame wars quickly ate up the morning. So this gets started at the crack of noon, or perhaps a few minutes later.
New Years is always a puzzlement to me. Especially when my cosmic conscious friends start telling me what it portends. I don’t think Pope Gregory was all that prescient when he arbitrarily decided that the winter solstice was the beginning of the year. Turns out that he was a few days off on that calculation too, not to mention some four decades that he couldn’t figure out what to do with, and with the dash of a pen, just eliminated them.
One of my mystical friends was telling me what the numbers 2018 added up to, and how the alignment of certain planets and the moon was going to do to that vibration of the cosmos. I don’t want to mock my friend, but frankly, I can’t see how the selection of December 31st is going to impress the cosmos very much.
I can weakly admit that it is remotely possible that the cosmic streams and the pull of the moon on cerebral fluids would influence humanity, but a dimly remembered Pope’s declaration of the beginning of the New Year having any impact on the body and mind is a long stretch for me.
Those who know me know that I do have very strong religious convictions, and that I put an inordinate amount of faith in the ancient scribblings on parchment, paper and papyrus, and perhaps the faith in those scribblings would seem to be just as ridiculous to many as my friend’s musings about cosmic vibrations are to me. I am just as lost in defending my beliefs as my friend is in hers.
I try to not cast my pearls before unclean animals, though. I save the discussions and arguments for those who do understand those scribblings. Some of my scoffing friends sometimes read fragments out of those writings, and use them to mock believers, but I see no reason to give them the additional passages that debunks their understanding. Let ‘em scoff.
Faith is one of those odd things that you either have it, or you don’t. Even in my own experience, when faith is high in me, it seems like I have always had faith. And when it is low in me, it seems like I have never had faith. It is impossible for a man without faith to see the hands of God moved by faith. And a man of faith finds it incomprehensible that someone would not see those hands move.
One bitter January night in North Denver some five decades ago, I lay in my bed and asked myself if God was as insane as he seemed. Of course, that God was me, and since I was insane at the time, so was God. And if you have an insane God, you have real trouble. I don’t want to detail the follow-up from that questioning, it was intensely personal. But over the course of the following months I was changed, and so was the world around me.
I would like to tell you that I became a real sweetheart, sort of a mixture of Saint Francis and Moses, but no, I really didn’t turn into a nice guy. I did turn into a more peaceful one, however. But I merely had better manners.
Only with age have I developed any sort of pity for mankind and the terrible morass that has befallen him. It has taken me almost half a century to gain enough humility to ask what had happened to us. The answer hasn’t been a very comforting one, even with the promises we have been given. I look back at my early years of setting out on this path with a little embarrassment. Even from the miserable circumstances I was in, I swaggered in ignorant arrogance.
I am beginning to see that it is in age and infirmity that true wisdom and humility can come, if we let it. Not that I am presenting myself as any sort of paragon of wisdom and maturity. Follow me around on facebook, and you can see much of my old ignorant swaggering. My former pastor used to say that he didn’t put a religious bumper sticker on his truck because of the way he drove. Yeah. That is me. I am better off not wearing the robes of piety …
But still, old men dream dreams, and God reveals himself to them in a very unique way. Often in spite of themselves.
Happy New Year!
Spring follows winter … ‘til it doesn’t.
This is a prelude to a more complete work I am doing. Dialogue is a weak point in my writing, and in addition to introducing the lead character, it will give me some much-needed practice in dialogue. I am not sharing this on facebook or my writing page.
Joe rolled out of his sleeping bag and went into the kitchen to start the coffee like he had at least a thousand mornings before in the years he had lived on the commune. But it was a long way from a real commune now. Only five of the many original commune dwellers were left. Most left the first couple of years because they had somewhere to return to, just leaving those who had nowhere else to go to carry on with the vision.
There wasn’t much of a vision left. The hard work of a subsistence farm had worked most of the idealism out of them. But Joe had persisted in upgrading the communes infrastructure, and had mostly done it on his own. Not that the others were unwilling, but they were city folk, hardly suited to the self-discipline it required.
The other two men were musicians, and were able to supplement the farms cash box from time to time, but it was hardly a consistent income. Joe had his veterans benefits and disability pay, and handled most of the commune’s financial dealings. A few weeks back he made the last payment on the mortgage, and held a quiet mortgage burning ceremony in the firepit out back. The others never even knew there was a mortgage, and were not even curious as to how they had a place to live all these years.
But it didn’t matter to Joe. He financed the spread, bought, repaired and sold the cars, mended fences, watered gardens and tended the goats without complaining. He was reasonably happy, and the others needed his rigid sense of responsibility.
But it was time to go. He hadn’t talked about it to the others, but the revelation came to him six months ago after both the announced their pregnancy at the same time. But they weren’t impregnated by Joe. They were Alex’s and Paul’s. Where before they had practiced free love, the sex now became exclusive, though it wasn’t deliberate on the women’s part. They just didn’t go out of their way to comfort Joe.
Joe accepted that at face value. They weren’t his babies. There would be no passing along his heritage to the children. They wouldn’t be taught the sacred name. They would not be taught about their grandpa or great grandpa. Their heritage would be whatever Alex and Paul shared with them. It was no longer the five of them, it was now two families, and one odd ball named Joe.
Still, Joe wanted to complete the vision they originally had of a same home to raise children in. The house was a well-built log house with three equal sized bedrooms, and a large kitchen/dining/living area. Joe had quietly been modernizing it, and now it had heat, lights, water and sewer, though what was now his bedroom was in the process of becoming a bathroom. In fact, he had made the final connections to the drains a few days ago, and covered up the trenches. Last night was his last night of sleeping in it. He had cleaned up the mess, put flowers on the vanity and towels in the towel racks. He wanted to surprise the women this morning before he made the announcement that he was leaving.
The coffee maker gave up one last wheeze, signifying that the coffee was ready. Pouring himself a cup, Joe went back to his former bedroom, rolled up the sleeping bag, and quietly removed the plywood panels that covered the bathtub, and carried them outside to the lumber pile. He had hidden the tub, and everyone just thought it was his bed.
When he returned, Cindy had just come out of her and Alex’s bedroom, and was pouring her coffee. He figured Pam would be close behind. They were both morning people. Alex and Paul had a gig last night and didn’t get home until 4am, so Joe didn’t expect to see them until noon.
“Your sleeping bag is by the door.” Cindy remarked.
“Yeah, I needed to get it out of the bathroom.” Joe replied, keeping any hints out of his voice.
Pam came padding out of her bedroom and went straight to the coffee pot, mumbling a good morning as she passed by Cindy and Joe. They mumbled “morning” back at her, and waited until she got her coffee and sat down.
“You should look in the bathroom when you get a moment” Joe suggested to the two of them.
They both rose with their coffee cups in hand and went to the bathroom door.
“Joe! It’s beautiful!” Cindy exclaimed.
“No more outhouse!” Pam added.
“I didn’t even know there was a tub in here! I thought it was just your bed!” Cindy went on.
They wandered around the bathroom opening cabinets and turning on the faucets. It was a bit large for a bathroom. Joe had intended to build storage closets in some of the extra space, but that would now have to wait for someone else. Joe was finished.
“Where you going to sleep?” Pam asked.
Cindy suddenly stopped, and looked levelly at Joe, the realization suddenly coming to her. Joe wasn’t often driven by whims. When Joe put his hand to something, he had purpose, and she had seen the firming of his features when she announced that she was pregnant. But he seemed to throw himself into his projects, and it was too easy for Cindy to spend her time cuddled with Alex. She knew in the back of her mind that she was neglecting Joe, but thought in time it would work out.
Joe pretended that he didn’t notice her look, turned and walked back to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, leaving Cindy in the middle of the new bathroom to sort out the sudden flood of emotions that were washing over her.
“No more outhouse!” Pam said again, and followed Joe out to help with breakfast.
Cindy hardly remembered following them out, nor putting a table cloth out, nor setting the table. He was a steadfast rock to her, and she couldn’t imagine life on the little farm without him attending to all the little details.
Pam and Joe happily bantered back and forth during breakfast, but all Cindy could see was Joe’s huge military duffle and sleeping bag laying by the door. Ever so often, Joe would look at her silently, but made no effort to draw her out.
They silently finished the meal, and working together, had things put away in quick order. Usually everyone went their own way after breakfast, but today, Joe said, “we got to talk”.
The women sat back down at the table, and Joe went over to his duffle bag and picked out a large thick manila envelope sitting at the top, and sat down at the table.
“It is time for me to go”.
“When are you leaving?”
“I am going into town tonight so that I can get the bus out in the morning.”
“So soon? Can’t you stay long enough for us to say goodbye?
“You know me. I am not for drawing things out. I have some things you need to know, though. In this envelope is the deed to the farm. It was in my name almost from the day we moved in here. The mortgage was paid off a couple of months back. I signed it in front of Rose Vigil, and she notarized my signature. That makes the deed a bearer deed. I want you and Pam to sign the deed in front of Rose, and transfer the property to you. I would prefer that neither Alex or Paul are on the deed. They don’t have to know, and I don’t see them getting curious about it anyway. Rose will tell you how to get the deed recorded.”
“We can still be a family, Joe.” Pam said. “Maybe you could just visit whoever you are going to see, and then come back home.”
Joe smiled at Pam, but didn’t reply. He loved her simplicity. She had no capacity for navel gazing, and she wouldn’t be aware of the subtle change in their relationship.
“I just thought that I would let you do what you wanted, you lost interest in me”
“Cindy. Let’s not go there, OK. You didn’t ‘let’ me do anything. In fact, I doubt that you thought of me at all. But honestly, that’s OK. I saw it coming and was prepared for it. In fact, I believe it is the natural consequence of things.”
“When we first started, there was about fifteen or sixteen of us, remember? But that first winter was the pits, and those who had somewhere to go, went there. Then there were ten or so. Then five. And finally, two couples and one spare male. I have finished what I started. The ranch is now a safe place for the women to have babies. I am not needed here, and it is time to go.”
Pam got up and started putting her goat milking gear together, moving in short jerky fits that showed her agitation.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I have a ticket for Austin, but I doubt that it is my sort of town. Maybe I’ll move on down to Mexico. I haven’t thought really that far ahead, though.”
“Will you write?”
“Probably not. I’ve never been much of one to carry mementos or visit old haunts.”
Pam gathered up her gear and went outside, but her hands were to full to close the door, and she didn’t even try in her frustration. She just didn’t want to deal with this, and like Joe, she found solace in simple labor. Joe got up and closed the door behind her.
“We could have a child later.”
Joe hadn’t thought it out that far, but he dismissed the idea almost as soon as Cindy mentioned it. Cindy had made a choice before conception, and there was always something going on that kept them physically apart. Joe doubted that she had any physical desire for him, and their free love mantra fell along with quite a few other utopian ideals that they drew up in their campus years. Cindy had chosen despite her polyandrous convictions, and Pam chose because … well, Pam chose.
“Do you honestly believe that would work?” asked Joe.
“It could. Let’s discuss it with Alex and Paul. They are as fond of you as I am. We really should work this out.” she replied.
The suggestion irritated Joe, but he kept the irritation to himself. He didn’t expect much in the way of opposition from Alex and Paul. While they did pitch in for harvest and heavy work, they had little concern for the day to day operation of the farm, and wouldn’t think his absence changed thinks much. They were wrong, of course, and would very quickly miss the continual maintenance chores Joe spent his days on.
“I need to put up the rest of the pears today.”
Joe got up and began sorting things in the duffle bag. He still had too much in the way of memorabilia and he needed to cut that back. Near the top was the pictures he had of the commune family in happier times, but he decided to remove the pictures from the frames to save space.
He was still smarting from the suggestion that she would be willing to have his child after Alex’s child was born. She might as well have told him she would mercy fuck him just to keep him happy. It wasn’t about the baby. It was about the pairing off. The choosing. And the carelessness with his feelings. No, he was done here. It was time to move on.
He removed other items from the duffle bag, and giving each thing the flinty eye, he separated out more items. He didn’t need six changes of underwear. He wouldn’t need heavy wool sox nor earmuffs. One pair of leather gloves was sufficient. No obvious weapons. The tire-billy had to go.
Buy the time he had sorted through everything and repacked the duffle, Alex and Paul were up, and Cindy was setting out lunch for them. Leftover beans from last night, rewarmed cornbread, and pickled beets.
“Do you want lunch?” Cindy asked.
“Joe is leaving us tonight.” she went on.
“Huh? What’s wrong, Joe?” Alex asked.
“There is nothing wrong. Just that my feet are itching, and it is time to go.”
“Well, this is always home for you.” Paul said.
“Thanks. I do appreciate that.”
Cindy was hoping that Alex would talk Joe out of leaving, and was really irked with him not even trying. She explained how I planned on leaving this evening to be in town early for the bus, then got up from the table taking her uneaten dinner with her to put in the slop pail, and began tidying up. Pam hurriedly finished her bowl and got up to help Cindy.
“Cindy is really pissed at you! Not so sure but what you even managed to piss off Pam!” Paul said.
“Yeah. I can tell.” I replied
“Why don’t we just drive you to the bus station tomorrow?” Alex asked.
“It has been a long time since I was on the road. I just want to spend a little time working up to things. I’ll be OK, and it isn’t all that far.”
Joe decided that there wasn’t much point in hanging around longer, so he changed into his hiking boots and traveling hat, and started making his goodbyes. There were lots of tears, some more suggestions that this didn’t need to be permanent, some long hugs, and finally he set out down the road leaving his family behind. He had forgotten how free he felt going down the long road alone and picked up the stride, before making the obligatory final wave toward the house at the mailbox. He kept on until the house was out of sight.
There was a railroad track that paralleled the highway some distance off, and Joe cut across a field to walk along it. He didn’t want anyone offering him a ride, and he didn’t want the women to follow him in the car. The fall afternoon quickly faded to evening, and Joe moved off the tracks toward a copse of trees, and set up a simple camp for the night. Kindling a small fire, he heated a handful of parched corn to munch on before taking out his old briar pipe that he had stuffed with weed, and lit it.
The faces of Cindy, Pam, Alex and Paul appeared wraithlike several times in the reverie of the smoke, and Joe thought they called his name. But it was time to go, and when the cool of the fall evening broke the spell, He put my pipe in the small fire, and watched it burn. One does not travel with dope in their bags.
He was heartsick, but free …
Evening falls on Christmas day. The dishes are put away, the dogs given their evening treats, Snookums TV shows play in the living room, and I sit in my studio in that last hour of wind down before bedtime. Odd how the air feels different on this chilly holiday night. I am not such a big fan of Christmas for a whole host of reasons, but I am not antagonistic toward those who feel it is a special day.
But any day is a good day to stop and thank God for a Messiah, be he come or yet to come. I find no huge heresy in that idea. I normally observe it in a weeklong immersion in a DVD of Lord of the Rings, but for some reason, I just wasn’t up for it this year.
It is a time for me to ponder beginnings and roots. That imperious urge that sprang from God’s first command to man to be fruitful and fill the earth eases a wee bit with age. The urge to impregnate every unpregnant female fades to the background, and I can spend a bit more time examining that curiosity of God’s creation, man.
Half jackass, and half child of God, my old mentor used to say, and we are never sure which one is in charge at any given moment of time. I just hope in this last stretch of life that I don’t catch myself braying too often.
But too soon this magic moment will fade, and the world with its woes will rock merrily on its way toward Armageddon. May the year to come be a kind one for you, and the real peace on earth inhabit your soul.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night …