The Luxury of 85 Percent

A very short post today. Not a day for long reads, as most of my energy was spent elsewhere. Sleeping, mainly. It’s exhausting trying to do nothing while expected to do everything. This isolated, mandated, stay-at-home unproductive shifting around the house drains my ever-loving energy. With that in mind, consider the following brief, Nobel committee submission:

Did some thinkin’ today. What else other than “thinkin” is there to do, right?

This is a peaceful, little, calm discussion.

The pandemic of 1917-1919 took 675,000 US lives, according to the CDC’s own numbers. Based upon the estimated population at the time of 104 Million, that number is 0.65%. There are no stats as to what % of those deaths resulted from pre-existing conditions, so let’s assume all of them were directly related to the pandemic.

We are at 325 Million in 2020. With the above % as a base line, we should expect 2.1 Million deaths. Obviously, current projections (models) don’t even come close. We are, hopefully, not going to be even 15% of that number.

The difference is not only information, but also the speed at which our understanding and knowledge travels. Seems so ordinary, everyday to us.

We can differ significantly about who did what, where this went, and what happened when – all good for our national dialogue. Let’s, also, never forget the 85% margin of grace we enjoy that the folks of 100 years ago never had. Our luxury of advanced technology and medical science is a gift.

Let’s not abuse it by arguing too much.

Thank You Interview

New experience yesterday. The walk-about kind blogs are designed to talk-about. I guess.

This writing thing is still new to me. I’m baffled beyond amazed at how much fun the journey has been so far. Over 115 entries into this Imagineer’s Workshop of ideas and counting … with no barriers in front of me that I can see. 🤞 As a man with limited knowledge of grammar, a few ideas on how life should be, and an unpredictable sleep/wake cycle, I’m enjoying every solitary keystroke from my PA Keystone state of mind.

We are not having a normal winter here. One minor snowfall dusting and a few below normal, ice-scrapey days are scant entries in the diaries of expectant winter lovers. Ice melt sellers, snow blower repair shop owners and plow drivers rest easy inside local donut shops eagerly sipping coffee … waiting. Weather forecasters, climate experts, global warming alarmists, environmentalists, … everyone on social media, earth humans in general all wondering why West-Central Pennsylvania is having a mild winter. Me, too.

Yesterday was my “Me, too” movement. The simple act of moving my left leg out of the car onto the pavement of the radio station’s space in which I chose to park gave me pause. I, also, was wondering why the warmth of the sun felt so unseasonably pleasing on my nervous face. Or, why I didn’t remember walking across the slightly windy parking lot at all when I sat down in the lobby. The papers I prepared had little wind damage, nor did my black checkered sport coat, so all was well as I sat momentarily next to my good friend, Donna. And waited.

This was a radio interview to introduce a business venture/partnership between my Doug’s DAWGS concession thing and ArtsAltoona. In addition to this, the hour-long show also highlighted my music and blogging interests as well as a personal dive into the deep end of my family history swimming pool. Donna is the President of ArtsAltoona and was my support, friend, and compatriot in the process. A true, honest-to-greatness asset in our community and someone I am so honored to call a friend.

“The 11th Hour With Doug Herendeen” began as I would have expected since I listen to his show almost every day. The perspective inside his small, padded studio is quite different. He’s a real person, first of all – not just a voice. We had to sort out who was Doug #1 and Doug #2, get the microphones in order, and calm my nerves a bit. Bottled water at the ready, buttons knobs and switches lit and prepped, commercials done, …. the “on air” bulb lit up outside our small wooden door and words started to push up through the large satellite dishes …. into the invisible universe they went.

I enjoyed every moment. Every word. Every sputtering syllable (even though I believe I am a good public speaker). The creaky floors of our local radio station speak for the many who have walked upon those boards – delivering a message they believed to be important to them. Yesterday, Donna and I were honored to be counted among them.

As I left Donna behind to discuss other matters, the same sun I felt an hour before still appeared in noon glory through the front windows behind the leather, worn chair I sat in a short time ago. It was still unseasonably warm. Even more so … being high noon, and a little after twelve which meant I was due for a really nice lunch. A lot more relaxed, getting back in my car required much less movement and reason to question my anxiety. The uncertainty of underperforming, or not doing my best, had passed. I was going to be o.k.

Isn’t that what we want at the end of all the noise and confusion? We want to be o.k.. Things may not seem normal – like the weather – but somehow we manage. Yes, it’s hard and we ask why a lot, …. Why am I wondering if I’m going to say the right words, on the spot, live, with a large fluffy mic and untold numbers of strangers listening? Does it really matter? In my goofy past mid-years, am I still concerned what others think? Why, yes. Yes I am. If you were me, you’d be feeling the same, I’m quite sure. That’s ok, too. If you think you’re alone, you’re not.

Thank You for allowing me this space to tell you about my new experience yesterday. Next time I visit my friend, Doug, at the radio station, maybe you can join me. We’ll sip a bottle of water together in the lobby and maybe, just maybe, catch glimpse of a snowflake sledding down a seasonal breeze of arctic cold. Until then, live in unpredicability. There’s magic in the unknown.

Elfin Words

Writers, authors, novelists, poets, and bloggers – not an all-inclusive list of humans putting words together in some recognizable form, but a start. I have a close relative who belongs in this group, although he won’t ever admit it. Stubborn older crumblecorn of a guy, he is. One short story of twenty-five pages gives him forever status into our imagineer’s workshop.

It is an Elfin tale written during a time of loss and reflection. He traveled a zig-zaggy path with a co-author, trading paragraphs with a friend, back and forth over the internet three blocks away from each other. It was word therapy – the best kind, when tears and meals at an empty table no longer worked. If for no other cause, an expression of his grief unable to be shown over the casket of his wife who recently left his side, forever.

A project of love? Perhaps. He’ll never admit to Beatrice’s true identity. He wrote of her wanting true love as she stood singing on the balcony. Recent suitors to the castle never quite measuring up to her royal standards, she remained singularly focused on her love yet to be discovered.

Pacing, singing, … our fair Princess tuned out into the woods a song so pretty, and invitingly rich, no gentleman could ever deny his heart’s insistence. When, at once, through the mist came a friesian horse so bold … upon which sat a unseen suitor with a baritone song that pierced her longing heart…..

I’ll leave it at that. She fell for him. Not off the balcony mind you, … that would have been a ridiculous story line. Ya know, Beatrice hurting herself, some guy having to take care of her non-life threatening injuries while tending to his whatevers. Above is my two paragraph summary of Beatrice’s beginning journey into her exploration of true love – as written and imagined by my older wrinklefuss relative and his dear friend in their fantastical tale, “Elfin Irving, A Scottish Fable”

Over two dozen pages, they walk Beatrice through mist-laden bogs, literally, as she treads upon lessons theretofore mist (😂 love puns!) As a Princess, she didn’t know true love, I guess. We aren’t privey to her past years in the tale, but can only assume it was a life of foot massages, long hair brushing sessions in front of a full-length mirror while humming a wispy little tune, and grapes … plenty of grapes. We are to understand there lived a wonderful father and mother, i.e. Sir King and Lady Queen. Family life after a hard day’s work around the castle must have been pretty normal – for a fictitious family frolicking fancifully about.

I can’t disclose how the fable ends…not because you’ll ever read one of the 15 copies in existence. I can’t, due to the fact I’m a bit confused myself. Pretty sure I know, just not 100%. It’s been roughly two weeks since I read the heavy, tan parchment paper it is so elegantly printed upon and my memory has been committed to other matters. Mainly, did I shower yesterday, or not?

Overall point being, Beatrice aside, I’m really quite proud of my shufflescooter author who, along with his good friend, wrote such a tale. My dad.

He found a way to write about fantasy – which is a world so uncommon to his everyday. Very infrequently did he engage the monster, dragon-filled, playful fancy side of our childhood playtimes. Work – and only work – occupied his time. So common for the everyday man struggling to meet the demands of a three-child, one income household in the 70’s. Mom played. Dad worked. Three kids scruffled to-and-fro blopping and fropping with toys that made noise.

We transitioned into more expensive toys, spouses of our own, and lives apart from what we knew as kids. Dad pretty much stayed the same. For that matter, so did mom. Dad, the serious worker. Mom, the goofy gamer. Then she died.

My world changed.

I’m not going to claim dad’s world screeched to a massive halt and he fell to his knees in a rapturous, redemptive emotional u-turn the moment mom died. We walked out of the hospital numb. All of us. The rest of 2012 – the nine months since March 19th of that year – was a blur. Our playful gamer was gone. Fantasy and fun seemed lost. A world that dad never wanted to experience with her, anyway. Or, so it seemed.

He wrote a tale. It will be his only one I’m sure. It has to be. It is a story he could never write until love was worth searching for in a fantasy – not in a present reality. The unattainable … the lessons learned, finally, when perfection among all suitors arrives upon a stallion.

When all the hard work is proven worthwhile, yet years too late for one who passed. Not too late for those of us still grieving who finally decided to pick up this little gem and read it all the way through … seven years later!

So an awesome “tip of my hat” respectful nod to my father who has turned a corner into the imagineer’s workshop this one time. To feel his connection to mom – albeit probably not Beatrice’s identity as he would definite her – is my soul’s interpretation of the Elfin Irving. As the reader into my dad’s tipping hand, I reserve the right to see mom’s heart shining forth – singing wonderfully across the forested glen from a balcony of expanding, heart-gleaming tunes.

Two loving parents. One gone.. another here. Two very different transitions seven years ago. A single story written in fictitious form that, in it’s few dozen pages, tells a story of love beyond the pages. A personal story this son is glad to finally know. It may be just my silly interpretation, or not. I don’t really mind either way. The older klankmuster of a guy is my dad who shares a past with me that was kinda rough at times.

His fault? My fault? Don’t care. He’s my surviving parent, standing in the “not an all-inclusive list of humans putting words together in some recognizable form” group with me. So glad to have him here by my side.

For mom and dad, the final words from “…. A Scottish Fable”

“For after all, they both owed their love to all the little people in the world” The End

Urge to Purge

Up for consideration is the great American urge to purge. The greatest past-time activity of adults with a few extra minutes and specific, idealistic thoughts about how things should be. Is this a new thing? Or, can we just define “new” as the latest iteration of already existing behaviors and notions? Maybe “Nothing new under the sun” is the answer, idiomatically accredited to the book of Ecclesiastes.

As assumed, it isn’t every one. Some sit in their boats with thankful hands free in the air. “Whatever is, is, and there’s no reason to fret about it”, according to reasoning in their boats not-a-rockin’. Others, anticipating purge-atory word-wobbling, white knuckle the sides of the very boats in which they sit … spouting thesis and assumptions. Two very different ways. Should be easier to live the former, in my opinion, but I’m seeing the latter more and more.

The urge to purge. Spouting about things by creating mountainous geysers of presuppositions upon molehills of misinformation. This is what is being done. Over and over ….. and over. I see it in Facebook strings, other social media sites, national media, print, local chatter, and online articles. Some responsible journalism sprinkled in, to be sure, but much ado about nothing otherwise.

Today’s purge wasn’t going to be such, however. Stepping aside and allowing the words of should be to pass me by, I planned a different kind for myself – one requiring physical effort and mental memory cleansing:

A STORAGE UNIT / GARAGE / HOUSE / SHED Clean-Out !!

Two ladies came quickly at the precise time scheduled, 15-foot cargo trailer in tow. First stop? A two car storage garage where years of not-so-stackable, leaning cardboard boxes of all shapes bend into corners and crevasses. The near final resting place of my grandparents’ china patterns, old records, tools, rusty advertising signs, and Tupperware bins full of cards, comics, and collectibles. Three adults in a garage, moving stuff – not seen in years – into a trailer … along with little memories, one at a time. Necessary purging. Absolutely awesome.

Contractually, the two nice ladies helping me aren’t finished. We are about 50% done with the project (the house stuff remains and storage has some items yet to be removed). They are organizers who sell clean-out inventory and split proceeds 50/50 with their clients. I love the plan, mainly because the idea of yard-saleing all the porcelain, pipes, perfume, pottery, pillows, pens, and packrattery defies everything I believe about what to do with my spare time.

One emotional hang-up still to be resolved is my mom’s jewelry box. It sits silently on a table and will remain there until I decide something … a something as of yet undefined. This is one of the stuffs unpurgable…and they are the should be’s in life: memories so deep and meaningful never to be purged. We have them collecting tiny, tucked-away particles in our brains, attics, closets, and storage garages.

This simple box was not to be my unpurgable today, but it ended up being so. I knew it was there among the leaning. I understood the risks inherent among the inherited boxes saved and stored. It opened my memories when I gently peeked the padded cream colored top and saw her faux beads, rings, earrings, necklaces, key ring full of keys, and all the shiny, glittery glam inside that really wasn’t her … but knowing her hands graced the very top of that box was enough memory for me. She was there with me. All the memories of my life with her before she died, in that moment. This moment I never need to have purged from my life as I stood in the midst of obsolete objects.

Old grills, tables, and vases melted moments into hours as we pushed forward. Their tow along creaked as bigger, heavier picture frames and boxes were pushed into place toward the back end, behind buckets and bins filled with trinkets, toys, and tawdry towels. In the top spaces where only skinny folks dare go, we swifted thin paper goods – posters, pretty pictures, pastelled prints – to lessen the burden of tomorrow’s haul.

Tomorrow will arrive with expectations just as today did. I hope to have this project done by the day’s end when my friends pull away – towing a trailer full of purged non-words away. Stuff taken for the enjoyment of others. I may see a financial return from the sales, well… I most likely will due to the area where I live. It’ll be nice to have some money in return, however, walking out of a garage today … and by extension tomorrow… knowing I had the urge to purge, is the better feel good feeling.

I’ll take tonight to think about mom’s jewelry box. Maybe jump over to Facebook and check out some opinions about this-and-thats. So many have purging to do these days. Taking into consideration all they have to say, I still contend my purge today is the better way to go.

Good Deeds, Indeed

Not about me at all. Three circles in a very familiar logo.

Again, today isn’t about me. Let’s consider three different meanings for the circles:

  1. ACCEPTANCE: Being open to do any kind act at any time.
  2. MORALITY: Doing the right thing when called upon by a moment.
  3. GRATEFULNESS: Accepting an outcome, but expecting none.

The other day I found a packet of insurance papers / registration cards resting comfortably on the sidewalk outside a local restaurant. It was immediately obvious this fell out of a car previously parked in the space I just – not so graciously – nudged a fresh set of tire marks on the curb. No harm done. I must humbly say if there existed annual awards for parallel parking, I’d have many dinners in my honor. That day, however, was a beautiful, sunny, seasonably-off, distractable-weatherish confundery, so I can be excused for not paying as much attention as necessary. Skid marks and a few mph’s extra aside, the cutting in and angle was only a degree or two off, anyway, and the back tire of my inexhaustable Honda spend only mere seconds atop an already cracked curb. So, again, no harm done … except to maybe my ego.

The packet I saw almost immediately, face up, slightly soiled, as if to say, “I’ve been through something, but not here”. Names, address, policy number, … all the pertinent information I’m quite sure the owner didn’t want to be in the hands of a stranger – who I was at the time. Fortunately, the sticker – with three circles in a very familiar logo – had above them a name. An agency owner. A friend. A wonderful coincidence.

A chance for the owners to take a deep breath they didn’t know they could take at the time – IF they even knew this packet was missing. I knew it was, but couldn’t really do anything about it at the time being a weekend with my friend’s agency closed at the time. My purpose for being in town, anyway, wasn’t to claim a lost insurance packet runaway. I wanted a three-egg veggie omelet and iced-tea from the black-and-white awning cafe on the corner 1/2 block down … where folks were already gathered around heavy black iron tables enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Umbrellas up, kids laughing, brunch plates full, piled high with fruit, toasts-a-plenty, veggies and bacon club sandwiches as I made my way down the sidewalk.

Passing through those enjoying the company of their soon to be full friends, I settled into one of the back smaller tables for two, by myself, under a flat screen t.v. infrequently watched. This cafe, one seldom visited for common everyday, mundane news, finds itself a home for those less interested in national chatter. Personal stories and local heart warming trends trump all the international intrigue caught in the net of vanilla noise. It was the perfect place to sit, order a healthy omelet with only two out of three yokes, and slightly pat the packet I slipped in my left breast checkered sport coat pocket. “What to do until Monday?” I whispered under my breath as the couple very near at the table to my right quizzing looked over. “Oh,”, I leaned over, “I have a small decision to make … I have plenty to DO. I wasn’t trying to figure out my time until Monday.”. They had no response. Thinking back, that may have been twenty-three more words than necessary. My answer back to myself, eventually was … nothing. Do nothing.

And that’s what I did.

Today I stopped in to my friend’s agency and turned over the packet. This was after taking a few minutes yesterday searching through Facebook for the folks. Thinking maybe I could find them – address being only a few towns over – and then send the packet in the mail? Or, call them. Pretty much all the options were on the table, except the obvious one I already agreed upon with myself previously, alone, in a wonderful cafe. Relaxed and in control.

That’s the story. Nothing different from yours, perhaps. Except, maybe the tire marks. Well, c’mon now. Different time and place, but I KNOW you have done it, so fess up.

It is all the little stories like this, throughout our lives, that make a difference. Thankful, in a way, Mr and Mrs Anonymous parked in that space and left just in time for me to find it. I’m forever indebted to the invisible hands that lifted a slightly soiled packet out of their car and placed it comfortably on the sidewalk. Pleased I found, kept, and returned it.

Maybe still a stranger to my new friends a few towns away, but never to Acceptance, Morality, and Gratefulness. The three circles in a vary familiar logo that is our life. I saw them last week and had time to hold them in my hand for a few days.

Reminded that we should be open for moments to do the right thing, expecting nothing in return. Except it is never nothing. We always do get something back. I walked out of my friend’s agency feeling good. There was never a second thought of mis-using the information I had in my hands. That’s not how I roll. When her secretary told me they’d take care of it, a sense of completeness and “You did a good thing, my man” took over my day and will remain in the bucket of hours until the midnight of the clock spills into another day.

Again, today isn’t about me. It’s about three circles. Yes, small things. Feel goods. Good deeds, indeed, for all of us when we can.

Sofa, So Good

What is it about this almost complete silence? The 3 a.m. hush, save the once in a while furnace hum or swoosh of the blanket covering my feet, interrupted only by the light of a very early moon sleeping through slotted shades. It is a quitely mood. “Quitely” the best I have in my inventory of wonderful words to soften, even more, the mood of the moment. It is peaceful being here during this cold morning in February.

I didn’t find myself here, on this sofa, by chance. It’s by design … an unfortunate design of mis-alignment in spinal bone-age. Nothing too serious, just a small irritating annoyance. This sofa hugs my body better than a bed during times of hurty. And, of course, it is closer to a refrigerator full with humus, celery, and salad dressing (singular). Oh, wait. I believe there’s an apple in there as well.

We need these places. To think. Perhaps to meditate if so inclined. I need this space. Not necessarily to write about it, but to experience the quitely-ness within it. All of us do. For me, however, most times I do necessarily have to fill the time tapping words into the bright light breaking the darkness.

So many ideas and inspirations have blossomed from this early morning / late night recline. Time well spent healing a bad set of spine parts and exercising a brain wanting to show itself, and others, a pathway to the whys in life. Many unanswered, dusty writings sit in the queue awaiting the call. I revisit the casting couch to re-audition the wannabes every month and find them embracing the same attitudes … bitter, joyous, thankful, sarcastic, funny, etc… Not surprising since I’m the one responsible for their mood in the first place. Most will stay undiscovered, I’m glad to say. The editing process too involved and their agents too demanding.

This sofa. This couch of possibilities. Early morning writings in the queue and ones making the bright lights of fame among the stars. Parumph! (Oh, just for effect … that was the trash man disturbing the hush as he picked up the trash for the week).

There are the moments, undisturbed, when quitely opens up a door and in walks an undiscovered star in the making. A raw set of words jumbled on the floor in front of the casting couch. She weeps because life hasn’t been kind to her. A chance to be seen, to be heard, to once again be whole is all she wants. Her hand punches through the almost complete silence beside my sofa when I am here and open for auditions. As with all directors I assume, the mood has to be right and the lighting just so.

It is so peaceful here. I know … it’s worth repeating. Fortunately, today is looking like a good day. Sofa, so good, right?

Find your sofa place. A place to audition the ideas and dreams you have for your life. A weary bone resting couch to ease the worries life rests upon your shoulders. Where can you blanket yourself to get warm? Where can you enjoy only a 3 a.m. hum and nothing else? Where is the moon for you and you alone?

Answers are not easy. Especially from a guy who doesn’t take his own advice 99% of the time. These sofa times are easy to write, harder to live. That’s why they’re special. If every day, not so much … I wouldn’t even be writing about them. So ….

… Time to enjoy the moments away from the bright light of stardom, or a cell phone…. and take in the welcoming peek of a moonlit morning through the shade … during a quitely nice early morning in February.

Imagineer’s Workshop

Life is about words, one after another, written from a imagineer’s workshop – a place where gerunds, infinitives, modifiers, and many other grammarian tools hang at the ready. An author’s toy box of elfin ideas. This place of unlimited beginnings, caressing story arcs, and heartfelt closures, stays silent to the outside, but is always vibrant in an eager writer’s mind. It is ever open to new, friendly faces tapping at the sides, wanting to play along, anxious to join the matrix of merriment that is this inner world of a writer’s silent joy.

As one of many solitary minds playing with words in such a literary toy box, day after day, I am fascinated by imagined ideas coming into reality within the lives of the living. When fantasized wonders become real in poems, short stories, long reads or letters – simply one word after another – eyes see loves redder, ears hear “I love you” more often, touch is goose-pimplier, and one white rose smells as heavenly as a dozen red. The charm of inexhaustible possibilities, woven into word tapestries, cordially blanket the reader’s time with endless preoccupation.

I never knew this to be so. A free flow of ideas inside one’s mind for the purposes of enlightenment, fulfillment, engagement, and whimsy? Notions such as these never inhabited the younger mind of this writer. Immediately purged were thoughts of gentlemanly handshakes between peaceful words and hope for better tomorrows as I navigated my way through confusing earlier times. Harmful words, contaminated missiles not always a direct hit but leaving craters on my soul, I would later understand to be out-of -context and grossly inappropriate. “Consider the source” and “Understand the why of the other” common themes among those considered great council at the time when I, a lost wanderer, sought a welcoming hand. An open gesture never to be offered at the time. Opportunities and words dying. Year after year.

That was the holding pattern leading up to graying templed-head, split-screened eyeglass “now” years as I embrace my potential last third … if actuary tables hold true. Words reappearing, now, in understanding the why of me after intense inner-study, introspection, talk therapy, and writing … lots and lots of writing. A much, much better place to offer my own hand to hold.

At present, I capture each moment with passionate words just like my younger self; However, the tears are soaked with joy and the words go forth to you … not to leave craters on your souls, but to build mountains of hope for your tomorrows.

Past experiences took time. Bad and good ones developed into memories … into words, one after another, written from a imagineer’s workshop. I’ve only just begun to rebuild after tearing down what was once a place of limits and harmful words. Please visit my ever expanding toy box of elfin ideas – this place of unlimited beginnings where words fly free among all that dream .

It Is Finished

I’m not a writer who assumes anything. I thought, at 3 a.m. I’d still be dreaming about a lovely blue and white middle-eastern vase in the process of being sold, but stolen by dice-yielding thieves. This was my dream story fifteen minutes ago before being rudely interrupted by a full bladder. I cannot assume anything … not a complete 6-8 hours sleep or solving the mystery of “who” absconded with the vase.

…And I won’t assume any faith life of a reader by posting the following:

The Bible says in John 19:30, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

I cite the above for three simple words in a quite elegant phrase, “It is finished”. Most times I like to show, not tell, when writing. In that sentence, alone, I broke one of the cardinal rules of good writing, I suspect: Show, don’t tell. But, hey, I never claimed to breathe the same air as any of the greats. I’m just a thumb pusher – sometimes finger clacker – who enjoys blogging and sharing my world with you. Today, January 27th, one day after, asks for less flowery words. I will answer so.

Yesterday. January 26th. International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This paragraph, alone, needing no more words.

Today’s post, as well, requiring fewer words than normal out of respect for well over 10 million heartbeats never given a chance.

Yesterday. January 26th. I opened my mailbox to find a small package from the U.K. . It came from special friends, Anna and Ian. They have been working closely with me, virtually hand-in-hand … (tirelessly through emails and check-ins)… to complete a large WW2 set of cards. The package yesterday was special. Four cards inside completed this set. It is finished* (I’ll explain the asterisk in a minute…)

Here are the numbers, boring as they may be: 2,544 cards. I started in 1977 through a subscription service when they arrived in packs of 24 one/week. Realizing only lately I was missing a few random cards and, unfortunately, a couple whole packs, the search was on…

… and ended yesterday. I’m short one or two extra items(*), but the base set of cards is done. Finished – with so much patience, care, and professionalism from my good friends in the U.K..

Yesterday. January 26th. A package arrived giving me closure – on a day our world remembered the worst crime against humanity. A package, ironically, having four cards allowing me to remember that very war where unspeakable evil was visited upon millions of undeserving, unknown friends.

My completed set isn’t valuable to anyone except me. Certainly it pales in comparison to the value of those precious lives long since extinguished in the service of degenerate, vile Nazi recreation.

I must assume, actually insist, we never allow this to happen again to a single person. EVER. AGAIN. No more additional Remembrance Days happening the same time I go to my post office box. No more hate. Let’s, together, lock arms across all races, nationalities, and genders … and speak aloud in a unified voice, “It is finished”.

Ever so grateful for the opportunity to share today, January 27th, with you.

Benevolence

CNN posted, back on September 17th, 2019, an article featuring James Anderson, a plumber in the British town of Burnley. Originally found on Facebook, the story gained momentum once folks found out James provided free plumbing services to a 91 yr old lady fighting leukemia. As the article, written by Dominic Rech, continued:

“The bill, initially shared on Facebook by the woman’s daughter, Christine Rowlands, was accompanied by the message: ‘No charge for this lady under any circumstances. We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible.’

Anderson insists that she will have “free plumbing for life.”

But this isn’t a first act of kindness for Anderson. Since turning his plumbing business into a community project for vulnerable people, he says he’s helped and assisted thousands of people.

That’s 2,389 people since March 2017 to be precise, he told CNN.”

“It got me thinking about other elderly and vulnerable people — we need to do something more to help the people who need it most,” Anderson said in a phone interview.

I would like to tip more than one hat to Mr. Anderson for his humanity in the midst of others’ likely struggle against time, disease, and isolation. Without Christine Rowlands, the world may never have known of the benevolent Mr. Anderson. I have a feeling this would have been ok with him. That’s how humble rolls….

…and how humility blossoms into a flower of benevolence as I walk along my path of ideas.

My usual posts flow from larger rivers of experiences. Some branch off into forests lush with words of humor or irony. Others calmly glide into reflecting ponds … allowing readers to sit quietly beside still waters following their memories in the ripples. Somewhere in the middle I find myself as the one wanting to skip stones in the pond, but also laugh with a Koala bear in the eucalyptus tree at the same time. A certain impossibility as one cannot occupy two spaces at the same time. So, I travel an imaginary trail almost daily – between these two wonderful worlds I have created for myself. Worlds that help me survive a challenging three dimensional reality at times devoid of benevolent gains.

The path is well worn between the two destinations, and the distance I must travel remains a constant companion – a partner with me in the exploration of ideas. Guides, of course, not necessary for I am ever so familiar with all the stops for souls and pauses for praises along the, sometimes, muddy and rocky way.

Terrain under my worn soles? Predictable. Time of travel? Not so much. Low hanging branches of unpredictable life events often slowing down the journey of my daily, expectant stride. Quicksand, disguised as necessary to-do lists, stealing precious time away from free thinking. Aging – something life requires as an alternative to death – relaxing my walk with aches unfamiliar in my youth. All of these part of a touch with tranquility as I walk. At times, though, I do find a log or two under large trees providing pause. Upon these felled friends I find respite, shade, and words…

…allowing me moments to sit on certain found mossy, aged pieces of timber … to look down and take notice, this time, of a small flower in bloom – a flower of benevolence.

Small blue-purple petals, reaching to me through the crumbly dirt on the path yet to be trodden down, catch my eye as they bend their way upward. Sun setting on my backdrop provides the perfect glimpse into the pistil soul of this Prunella vulgaris, otherwise known as the self-heal plant. I recognize the outer beauty presented to me by the warmth of the sun. It’s shade, extending twice the distance back, exposes the depth to which grace and mercy runs deep down it’s core. Virgin, nutrient rich soil pays homage to this quiet dignity it has fostered among slightly decaying leaves strewn atop dew seldom gone.

Benevolence in the eyes of me, sitting between two dazzling imaginary places born from reflection and irony, exploring the warmth, humanism, compassion and grace of one man. One man, in a make-believe world, representing all of us in my visionary court of excellent endeavors. A man elected to inhabit a small blue-purple plant at the feet of us.

A substantial man, James Anderson, whose shadow extends far beyond the collective mossy logs we sit upon looking down, at times, upon flowers like him. Recognizing a giving of himself, whereas, we may have prejudged.

That moment we realize he broke the benevolence barrier we failed to see in ourselves and others in the past. Granted we are not plumbers, perhaps, but we are human beings capable of helping anyone in need within our area of expertise, neighborhood, or means. Humility in action, not pride inaction.

Once understanding our own ability to reach out to others, we can begin to inhale the fresh air filtered through knowledge, once not known, on our different journeys. Infinite passages almost guarantee we shall never cross unless our inspirations align. That’s ok. Knowing our way, together but apart, is the mystery of a two-dimensional space in a confusing three-dimensional world.

Know low branches, quicksand, and age will greet you along the way. As you travel between your dazzling imaginary places, find your benevolence in a small flower at your feet. Be it a person needing a smile, a hand, or a friend …. be that grace sitting on a mossy log admiring what could be.

Be a James Anderson for someone…. walk up to a 91 year old lady, lean over her frail frame, hand her a pretty blue-purple flower and whisper, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this …” Once done, rivers of benevolence will flow from you … carrying friends in crafts of imagined kindness to heartache in need of a flower.

Self-heal, Prunella-Vulgaris. James Anderson. Us.

Colors

When life is over, it is finished.  All the hoping and stressing ceases to be.  Time remains constant, however, for those we loved left behind.  They remain to despair or rejoice over our absence.
Before life was for us, all desires and tensions belonged to those alive.  They were joyous in their blessed accounts or despondent among gatherings of friends.
In between is us – our lifetimes.  These are overlapping spans of years blended on the corners of an artist’s imagination by passing experiences.  All the real dreams and disappointments mixed so tightly together we cannot escape the gallery of each other’s pains and pleasures.  Surprisingly beautiful are the dreadful times. Wonderfully elegant the magnificent moments.
In the trio of time – past, present, and future, – never forgotten are the colors of love. This is time best represented.
Since time is all you have, love yourself as no one can.  For this is a palette of colors representing self-compassion in your failures, tolerance of choices, and faith forward in dreams.
Take the empty canvas leaning on self-acceptance and begin to create a masterpiece that is your life on this day.  Some walking by will casually glance at your paint soaked hands and move on not understanding what they see. Those who do stop to consider your story and wonder about what inspires you are part of your world.  They are there. Truly seeing the colors. One with you at that moment. Give them an experience. Hand them a brush, perhaps, and let them mix in a few colors with you so they may be a now and a hope with you.
That small time with you is their time as well.  It is their present for you.
Love is the meaning in this time together… in all time, too.  Passing through today is more for others, not us.  When today is finished, all the wishing and worrying ceases to be.  Time remains constant when our brushes are cleaned for another day. Time, ever so steadfast, urges forward for those we colored.  They will despair or rejoice over our absence.
Have it be they rejoice, not despair. Love the colors. Love the painting they painted on their hearts while in your presence. In them, then, you’ll see the love you have for yourself … something that is timeless. Just like love itself.