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original artwork by victoria hardy

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Joy's Dream


Joy's Dream 
 a short story



Joy screamed. 

“What is it this time?”  Michael sat up in the bed, punching the pillows under his head, and pulling her into his arms.  “The mall? The duck pond? The corner?”

“No,” she wiped the sweat from her brow, tears from her cheeks, and pushed her hair back allowing him to embrace her, “a place I don’t know.”

“Same dream?” he pulled her close, smoothing her hair out of the growth on his face.

She nodded.  “Pow!  Right in the back of the head.” 

“Joy, it’s just a dream,” he soothed, his eyes drooping because he had another ten-hour day ahead of him. 

“Just a dream,” she nodded, “the fifth time in five days.  But it’s just a dream,” her voice grew rough and demanding.

“What do you want me to do?” he sat up straighter, loosening his hold on her.  “What am I supposed to do about it?  I have to work tomorrow, ten hour shifts, remember?”

“Yeah, I know.”  She slid out of his arms and across the bed, making herself as small as she could, and gripped her pillow to her chest.  “It’s just a dream.”

“It’s just a dream, Joy,” he muttered, falling back into sleep. 

“Just a dream,” she repeated softly, her eyes refusing to stay open.

*

“Someone is looking for Phillip K. Dick – do you know that person or are they just fucking with me?”

Joy lifted her head and her mind from the dream she’d been experiencing for a week.  “You don’t know Phillip K. Dick?  Why did they give you a job in a book store?”

“Cuz I’m cute?” Emily said, her eyes wide and glanced down at the expanse of thigh highlighted in the carefully frayed skirt. 

“Who is looking for Dick?”  Joy pulled herself up from the floor where’d she been unloading Dungeons and Dragons game pieces and books. 

Emily pointed, and Joy saw the man standing beside the counter.  He was tall, wearing a hat, and embraced by a long leather coat.  “Do you think you could put these on the shelves?” she asked.

Emily looked down at the box, and then at the hose covering her legs and giving a hint of color.  “I don’t want to tear my Leggs – they cost like three bucks.” 

“Well, squat or kneel or whatever you have to do, the stock needs to be put out!”  Joy said.

Emily sighed, and reached down in the box, shaking her head.

Joy wiped the knees of her pants and went to meet the customer.  “Hi,” she smiled.  “Yes, we have Phillip K. Dick in fiction.  The boss wanted to put him in science fiction, but I insisted that he wasn’t fabricating anything,” she chuckled, and glanced back over her shoulder. 

The man, under his hat, smiled. 

Joy glanced up at the lights over their heads, wondering if they weren’t strong enough to light his features, or if it was just the hat on his head that left his face in darkness.  She led him to the D’s in the fiction area.  “Here is all we have of Phillip K. Dick, we also have a cross reference with titles in case what you were looking for was misplaced.”  She smiled up at a face she couldn’t see clearly. 

“It’s not a dream,” he said softly.

“Excuse me,” she managed as her knees and bowels grew weak.

“It’s not a dream,” he repeated. 

“I’m sorry …” she began, but her knees gave out and she found herself on the floor, in the opposite direction, and staring at Belva Plain novels.

“Joy!  Joy!  What the hell?  Where have you been?  There is a line and we need help!  Are you napping?  I’m going to tell Robert.”  Emily stood over her shaking her head, the knees of her hose covered legs unmarred. 

“What time is it?”  Joy sat up. 

“Damn near closing, where in the hell have you been?” Emily put her hands on her waist.

Joy stood, using the bookshelf as balance, and straightening the books as a cover as she tried to regain her senses.  “I’ve been working, Emily.”

“Yeah, on the floor.  That makes sense.” 

“Did you put the Dungeons and Dragons material on the shelf?” she asked, gaining strength. 

“I don’t understand that stuff, I told you that!  What the crap is all that shit about?” Emily took a step back.

“So you left the box on the floor?”

“Customers came in,” Emily defended.

“Well, maybe I’ll talk to Robert,” Joy said, finally finding the strength from her feet, and facing the tall college student in the carefully frayed skirt. 

“Don’t do that,” Emily begged, soft tears beginning in the corners of her eyes. 

Joy smiled without heart or feeling.  “How ‘bout we keep this to ourselves?”

Emily nodded.  “We still need help at the counter.” 

“On my way,” Joy expelled, feeling heat soaring through her body and leaving drops of sweat on her forehead. She took a deep breath, expelled it and took another.  The sweat dried and she went to the counter, checking out the customers, taking their money, and their custom orders for odd out of print books. 

She sent Emily away, and her other co-workers, and pulled the gate down that blocked their store from the rest of the mall and extracted the tills.  She hit the key that ran out the printout for the days work, she turned out the lights and carried the tills and printout to the back room to settle the day’s work.

She sat in the small room, figuring the numbers, filling out the deposit slip, and sliding the money in a bag with the slip.  She locked the small package in the safe, checked the lights again, and let herself out into the catacombs behind the stores.  She followed the familiar path to the door, and the parking lot outside, and pushed the door open. 

“Gotcha,” a man said, his arm a band of steel across her chest, the cold hollow point of a gun barrel on the back of her head. 

“What do you want?  I have nothing, maybe 20 bucks in my purse, the bookstore money is in the safe, and I don’t have the combination,” Joy reasoned. 

“I got what I want.” He laughed and the gun fired. 

*

Joy screamed. 

“Again?”  Michael sat up in bed and didn’t even bother trying to sooth her.  “It’s been months, Joy.  Months!  How long are we going to do this?”

She rolled over on her side of the bed, trying to make herself smaller than was possible, and ran her hand over the back of her head.  “How much longer?” she repeated softly, staring at the wall.





Friday, August 07, 2015

Jeremy's New Game


Jeremy's New Game 
 a short story


Erica knocked on the door.  “You still in there?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Jeremy answered softly.

“Is everything okay?”

“It’s good, I’m good.  I could use some food and something to drink.”

“Let me unload the groceries and I’ll cook you something.”  Erica turned back to the bags on the counter, pulling free a bottle of juice.  “I’m going to roll this to you, is that okay?”

“Yeah, I think that’s alright,” he responded, his voice weak. 

She pulled the keys off the hook outside the door, and unlocked it.  The chain above ensured it wouldn’t open very far and she pushed the small plastic jug through the opening.  “Are you there?”

“Yeah, yes!  Just roll it in the direction of my voice,” he said, his voice growing louder as he saw the bottle in her hand. 

“Jeremy, can’t I see?”  She held the jug in her hand like an offering, not dropping and rolling it.

“No!  Absolutely not!  Just give me the freaking fluid, Erica!”  he barked, his voice gravely.

She wiped her tears away with one hand, while the hand through the door dropped the bottle.  She heard it hit the floor and she heard the chains inside jingle and then contract in a sharp metallic sound.

“Damn it!” Jeremy cried out. 

“Let me help you,” Erica sobbed.

“No!  You stay out there, I may be able to reach it with my foot.”

She heard the chains vibrate as she imagined he was reaching out his legs and trying to grab the bottle with his toes.  “Jeremy!  This is not fair.  Let me see!”

“No!  Absolutely not!”

She leaned against the door hoping that her weight would break the chain on the inside and that if she leaned hard enough she’d simply fall into the room and end the chaos. 

“Push another one through,” he demanded, his voice growing rougher.  “And aim better this time.” 

“I only have two more,” she said, lifting her weight from the door and going back to the counter to grab another bottle.

“So you’re just going to leave me in here to die?” he demanded, his voice somewhere between a growl and the strange beeps of a computer program. 

“I’m trying to help, idiot, but you won’t let me see.”  She pushed the bottle in her hand through the door again.

“You wouldn’t understand,” his voice grew deeper and seemed to come from the walls.

“What do I not understand?” she screamed and tossed the bottle in the direction she knew he was chained. 

She heard the plastic open as he broke the top, and then she heard the fluid pour on the floor.  “Why are you wasting it?” she demanded.

“I’m not!” his voice fading away and suddenly appearing all around her from the walls. “I’m not!” he insisted again.

Erica pulled herself from the door, and looked around the room as the walls shifted and descended into 0s and 1s.

“I’m not!” Jeremy declared again, his voice everywhere in the small house.  “Nothing went to waste,” he said as the walls turned blue and more numbers, dots and slashes appeared in the white paint.

Erica screamed.  She used all her weight to push open the door, popping the chain, and falling into the room.  The chains he had used to secure himself held nothing, and all she found in the place where her boyfriend had attached himself to the furnace were his clothes, an empty juice bottle, and a hand held video game he’d bought three days earlier. 

“I’m here,” the walls echoed, suddenly blue.  “I’m right here, Erica.” 

She grabbed her head, squirreling up into the fetal position for a couple seconds before she felt the numbers reaching into her mind.  Somehow she found the energy to stand, and she ran onto the street screaming,  “He’s in the walls!  He’s in the numbers!” 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

On Being A Writer

On Being A Writer 



Being a book writer is a strange thing. I don’t plot and plan or write outlines, for me it is puking – one long puke until the story is done. It’s not what the world would call healthy, and trust me when I say it takes as much as it gives. It is amazing when I see the finished product, but going through the process feels like being jailed and tortured. I can’t sleep, I can’t enjoy other things, and my mind is constantly on whether or not I used the right word or the proper comma in any given sentence. I dream in Word and write in my sleep.

When it is done and finished I feel wasted, often times looking at the scales in horror and seeing the pounds I’ve gained as I sat in front of the keyboard making all the things right.

In the last year, I’ve written and published two novels – it wasn’t my plan or a considered decision, it was simply what happened. I am pleased to say that I also planted plants, made some quilts, and kept most of our little family (and garden) alive – RIP Dum Dum, my chicken.

I have admired writers since I could read, but I wonder if they suffer as I have – I figure many did, and that leads me to believe I’m in good company. So now that The Thing in Lucy Doyle is out in the world - I’ll clean the house, get on the elliptical trainer, and try to get my body, house, and mind back in shape, while almost fearing the next inspiration.

I am married to a musician who writes songs for himself, and gets paid for writing songs for others, and he often comments that he writes something that lasts a few minutes, while I enrapture the reader for hours. Thankfully, he is an understanding man as I get caught on a wave that takes me off to far places and I am lucky if I land on my feet.

The Thing In Lucy Doyle kicked my butt. It’s a good book. I suppose many writers feel my angst, as we don’t know from where the ideas come, from where those characters are hatched, or where the drama and humor develops. Sometimes I feel as though things work through me, much in the same way I have with plants and animals. I call that God, but I know what an unpopular belief that is these days.

Some would call it talent, which I hesitate to, since most of my English teachers clarified to me how dumb and inept I was - until I reached my senior year and met Carol Holland (the new book is dedicated to her). She taught a Speech and Drama (she also taught English and Journalism) class that I took, just wanting to fill the electives and get the hell out of schooling. She pointed out to me how the class would grow quiet when I stepped to the podium to give my speech, preordained week by week by her parameters. She would often ask what I was working on, and if she could read it. And she told me many times how she couldn’t wait for an autographed book written by me. She passed away a couple years after I left school, and many years before I finally accepted I was supposed to write things.

So I guess I am a writer - I only know that because I have written and sold things, and have gathered a few good reviews from people I don’t know. I imagine writers are much like cave dwellers, rarely coming into the attention of others – except for the words. I wish I could be Stephen King with a huge gate outside, illustrated in wrought iron spiders; or Dean Koontz, living on a mountain in California with his golden retrievers; or Hemingway on an incredible piece of land in the Keys with too many cats to count; but I am Vicki, living in the ghetto and throwing up novels as they hit me. Sometimes they pay for themselves; sometimes they simply pay the light or water bill.

I will keep writing - although I figure I will never be able to afford King’s gate, Koontz’s retrievers, or Hemingway’s cats. I will listen to the thing that pours through me and needs a voice, I will lift up those characters who jump in my mind at the worst times, and I will listen to them speak as I type desperately trying to hear every word. I will hold my head high as those who haven’t read my books tell me I am beneath them, simply because I don’t have a college degree or they have no faith in God.

Some things are simply good. Sometimes love comes without reason, and as a woman I always struggle with those who don’t understand loss. As I writer, I am dismayed by those who want the ultimate experience without having done the work to understand it fully.

So here I sit, a storm brewing outside, the thunder rolling. Here I sit, writing this blog, knowing I need to get the chickens to bed, and cook dinner for me and my guy, and feed the inside critters, but yet feeling a bit beat up.

That’s what novel writing does to you, or at least to me – it kicks my butt. But I know it is worth it - it’s worth every second to see Lucy Doyle, or Roxy Moon Stone, or Abbey, or Emma, or all the others to have their time to tell their tale.

Writers – we’re a mess. Not like musicians or doctors or soldiers who get their time in the spotlight, or at least in the flames, blood, or applause. Writers – we hide in the dark, throwing out words hoping someone will not just see us, but grasp our words, and understand them.



As always, keep seeking and keep trying.





Monday, July 27, 2015

A Bit of The Thing Inside Lucy Doyle


As I’m going over the new book, I find the character of Mrs. Simmons to be my favorite.  She always has a story to tell, a way to take the darkest events and make them both clear and somehow beautiful.  Here’s a snippet - as I get closer to the end of the project and a new novel nearly completed:  



“I don’t think any of us truly knows what sanity feels like.”  Michael chuckled.  “Not really, not with all the things we’ve seen.  Do you know what I call sanity?”  He looked around the room, all eyes on him.  “Mrs. Simmons’ cooking - the sanest and best thing I’ve ever encountered.”  They laughed as Mrs. Simmons scooped soup into bowls.

“Awww, Michael, you are the best.”  She set a bowl in front of him and squeezed his shoulder.  “Did I ever tell y’all about my Aunt Alma?”  She distributed the bowls, checked on the pot pie in the oven, and sat down at the counter.  “Now they said Aunt Alma was crazy, or maybe it was senility setting in too early.  I can say she didn’t always operate with a full deck, but she was my father’s little sister and I loved her.  I remember once Daddy took my sister to Washington, D.C., a big trip with her government class for a couple days, and left me with her.  He called several times, I guess feeling guilty that he couldn’t be both my mother and father.  Anyway, there I am with Aunt Alma.  The day starts with grits and eggs, and then Aunt Alma pulled a wheelbarrow out from under the porch.  ‘We need to go to town,’ she said.”  Mrs. Simmons laughed. 

“Now I had been in town with my father many times, of course, although he never pushed a wheelbarrow through the streets, but I followed Aunt Alma as she picked up odds and ends from the trash set out on the curb.  I had thought we were going through town to maybe do some shopping or have a soda in the drug store, like it was when my Daddy took me to town, but Aunt Alma had a different agenda, a different picture she was painting in her head.”  Mrs. Simmons tasted the soup, studying it on her tongue as only good cooks understood, and nodded, deeming it good. 

“Aunt Alma’s trek through town took us beside the river, where she hitched up her skirt and waded into the water, pulling things out of the muck.  I sat on the bank, wanting to join her in the water, but hearing all the cautions in my head that Daddy had spoken of nails, leeches, drowning, and polio, so I just watched, knowing that she was crazy as a loon, but intrigued and loving her anyway.  She pulled an old metal bicycle wheel out of the water as though it was made of solid gold and carried it to the shore, rinsing away the dirt and decaying rubber.  She placed it in the wheelbarrow with reverence, as though it was the Holy Grail, and not just a bent piece of metal.  She walked back in the water, washing off her hands, and reached down in the muck again, pulling free a metal pipe about three feet long.  ‘ Glory be!’ she declared, and turned to me.  ‘You are a lucky piece, little Ruth, maybe even a Godsend.’  She rinsed the pipe in the water, whistling a tune I remembered from church, an old spiritual about being beside the river.”

“As I went down in the river to pray, studying about that good ole way,” Lucy sang, and then stopped herself, laughing.  “I have no idea where that came from.”

“That was the song,” Mrs. Simmons beamed at her.  “Yep, that was the song. Anyway, Aunt Alma put that pipe in the wheelbarrow, still humming.”  Mrs. Simmons chuckled and shook her head.  “And then she took a rag from her satchel, wiping off the water and mud from her legs.  Maybe she wasn’t as crazy as people said.  She got cleaned up, but didn’t put her ‘city’ shoes on again until she had walked through the woods barefoot and stepped onto the concrete of the road.  She pushed that wheelbarrow through town as though it was the finest car, or a carriage that held royalty, and she parked it in front of the drug store where we stepped inside and had lunch.  I was at the age where I had almost put away the fairy tales of youth, and was entering the realities of life, but I sat at that booth, and I wanted to believe every story she had ever told.

“Now, Aunt Alma was still attractive woman.  Her hair,” Mrs. Simmons touched her own, “was like mine, but had never been cut and ended in the middle of her back, the weight of it all straightening the curls.  She was slim, unlike me.”  She patted her belly.  “And you know what I saw?  Everyone watched her as though she had an answer they could never hear; they admired her, but they had to hate her, you know?  They had to talk about her because if they didn’t just push her down and away, they may see something in their own lives that they didn’t like.”  Mrs. Simmons stood slowly, picking up the bowls, and carrying them to the sink, checking on the pot pie.  “Aunt Alma and I had a nice lunch,” she leaned against the counter, looking above them and back into the past, “and when she stood up from the booth and paid the bill it was as though the whole room paused, watching her in fear, jealousy, and reverence.  I followed my aunt out of the drug store as though I was a princess following my queen.  We finished our lap through town and headed home, sharing turns holding the wheelbarrow as we walked.  We didn’t talk, because Aunt Alma didn’t talk a lot, and most of the words she said tended to be over the heads of the people she was attempting to communicate with.  When she pushed the wheelbarrow in the yard, she took me by the hand.  ‘You go cook. I’ve left the instructions on the counter, and after dinner I have a surprise for you.  Don’t look out the windows!”  She laughed mysteriously, pushing the wheelbarrow around the house. 

“I ran in the house, excited, still a child who understood miracles happened more often than not.  I walked into the kitchen anxious to read the note and continue the adventure, and the phone rang.  It was my dad, who had gotten a call from someone in town that I was in danger.  I assured him that I was safe, almost hating him for taking the magic away, and finally, assured that I was not near death, he let me go.  I approached the counter where I could see her instructions, battling the conflicting sides of myself, the child who knew miracles happened every moment of every day, and the young adult who had to accept that fairy tales didn’t actually exist.”  She pulled heavy bowls from the cabinets, setting them on the table in front of them, but not actually fully present.  

“Finally, fighting all I knew or thought I knew, and my father’s worries that were always present in my mind, I approached the counter and read her note.  The instructions were simple, but she had drawn them out in a treasure map.”  Mrs. Simmons chuckled as she folded paper towels into dinner napkins.  “She outlined the steps from the stove to the refrigerator and the heavy pot I was to place in the oven.  I followed her instructions, slowly regaining the excitement of youth, of magic and miracles, and then followed the map to my bedroom, where the note insisted I clean it.”  She laughed.  “I did as the note dictated, making the bed, dusting the dresser, and before I was done, she called to me from the back door. ‘Ready?’”

“I jumped.  I was ready for a miracle, or at least a path between the two worlds of belief and death.  ‘Yes, ma’am, I am.’  ‘Take off your shoes, and come to the back door,’ she ordered.  I did as she said, almost tripping over my feet to get my shoes off and ran to the door.  She waited, taking my hand as I descended down the stairs, and I once again felt like a princess, following my queen, as she showed me what she had built in my name.  I stood there for a moment trying to understand not only what I was seeing, but also how she did it.  It seems the pipe and wheel she had found in the river that day were the final pieces, and I watched as water came out of the pipe, pouring onto the wheel, which spun heartily, sending the water into a river that Aunt Alma had made.”  Mrs. Simmons moved away from the table, opening the oven, and pulling out the heavy pot pie. 

“The banks were quartz rock, and they reflected the sun low in the sky, lining the bottom of a pool she said was safe for me - no nails, no leeches, and no polio.  The water spilled out of the wading pool, over a dam made of quartz and bricks she had picked up in her travels, and cut three ways: one path set off into the pines, the other into her garden filled with flowers and a few vegetables, and the third deep path, carrying the most water into a wonderland of small buildings set beside tree trunks, with colorful doors nailed into their roots.  She had taken the smallest things, bending or cutting them, to make our town square, but instead of the road that divided the town in reality, she left a gentle stream, with more rocks lining the bottom, safe for feet.”  Mrs. Simmons carried the heavy pot to the table, and began scooping out their meals with an old metal spoon.

“I stood there, fighting the two sides of myself; one part of me wanting to call her crazy, and the other side just loving her beyond reason.  She had made this place for me, taking the worries of my father as serious and real, and wanting to give me a world where kids were safe.  She gave me the whole town as a wading pool, created from the pieces she found along the road.”  Mrs. Simmons carried the heavy pot back to the stove, and sat with them at the table.  “Aunt Alma.  Her feet in both worlds and still taking time to ensure I could see the beauty and feel the magic.” 

“They took her away to the state hospital after that, and I only got to see her one more time before …” Mrs. Simmons bit her cheeks, “ before I guess she went back to the river.  I’ll never forget that weekend, though, my feet in the water and feeling safe.”   She paused and realized she’d held the group’s attention for too long.  “We should say a prayer.”

“I think we did just did.”  Michael wiped his eyes. 

“Yes,” Danny and Lucy said at the same time and glanced at each other over the table. 

“Literally the best prayer I’ve ever heard.”  Pam held up her water glass in the air.  The others raised their glasses as Mrs. Simmons stared down in her bowl, fighting tears over losing a wonderful woman who she never had the time to love as much as was deserved.  A single tear escaped, falling into the steaming bowl.

“To Aunt Alma,” Mrs. Simmons held her glass in the air.  “Amen!”  She smiled. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Disgusted


 Disgusted


We are so easily offended now, and at nearly fifty years in this life, and in this country, I am astounded at our divisions.  I suppose I must admit I am a bit na├»ve, and trust me when I say that I am laughing – you know that crazy laugh that the mentally and creatively deprived share among themselves that make the “normal” folks afraid. 

I naively thought we were a nation of like-minded people, no matter the country that brought each of us to these shores - no matter our religious views or lack of them.  Now I find that if I treat my fellow Americans like I would treat anyone, I am racist or homophobic.  If I don’t see skin color or sexuality, the colleges are now teaching that is also racist or homophobic, and if I do see skin color or sexuality, I am still a racist or homophobic. 

I am a person.  I am a living, breathing example of humanity.  I am a God fearing, God loving, and sometimes a God cursing individual who struggles under the weight of loss, like most of us. 

This division among adults is not the natural way of children, but we crush the children’s ideas as we push agendas.  Children don’t see skin color or sexuality or divisions, they just know the monster is in the closet and under the bed, and that God is good because he made the butterflies, dragonflies, and lightning bugs.

My mother asked me the other day if I was depressed after reading my most recent blog posts.  No, I’m not depressed.  What I am is disgusted.  Here we are in the greatest country, fighting among ourselves in this day and age about the silliest things.  It feels like the bullies are running our country and instigating wars. 

I know who I am.  I am a woman, overweight, nearly fifty, and have a clubfoot - sometimes I dance, sometimes I limp.  I love all children, not giving favors over the tone of their skin or ethnicities, and I love all people.  I am a Christian, but I respect all other religions or lack of religion.

It’s a big world, folks, and if we tear this nation down, or at least watch it be torn down and burn without speaking we are literally the only ones who suffer.  I don’t know why this message is so hard to hear.

I am tired of the battles of the social agendas.  We’re just folks and if we continue to battle our neighbors we're going to see or participate in genocides.  Is that what we want?  Do you want to kill your neighbor?  And how did we lose the simple truths? 

People attack me for trying not to lose the Confederate Flag, but I am trying to retain history before it is lost again, and then quickly repeated.  Look at the genocides in other countries.  Look at Sudan; I know that is not in the forefront of American minds, although millions were killed. 

I mention Sudan because I met a friend named Both right after my son passed away.  He was a recent refugee in Maine.  And he told me how they were raping and killing millions of people.  He was grateful to be a “lost boy” who found his way to America.  He explained that his name was Both because he was one of a surviving twin.  He was Both to me because he reminded me of my son - he was like my passed away child, but he was also not - he was Both.  And he mentioned many times how his mother would appreciate my attention and understanding of his trials.

After hearing the tales Both shared with me - how his mother was a Christian, and had barely survived the genocide (and the rapes), lived in a dangerous refugee camp, and then sent her only son off to walk the deserts to salvation - to America! …  I’m so disappointed in how we are fighting now.  

I know now that the phrase “melting pot” is being banned from colleges, because somehow it’s offensive to someone, but that is America.  We accept folks from all countries, from all walks of life, from all ideologies. 

Why has freedom become breaking other things?  Why is freedom now destroying other people’s hope, heritage, monuments, and livelihoods?  

I want all folks to be free to live their lives – that literally is the glory of God and the basis on which America was founded.

We have an awesome country that accepts all folks.  In many countries gay people are killed.  In many countries women have their sexual organs removed.  In many countries Christians are killed.  In many countries women can’t let their hair be seen.  In many countries women are raped as a matter of course.  In many countries everything you do is seen as an offense …  Do we want to live in those countries? 

We need to get our druthers about us.  Let’s love our neighbors - let’s stand unified.  Let us be the Christian nation (love thy neighbor as thyself) I have heard repeatedly of late that we are not.  Looking at the world, it’s a safer place to be in the United States than living in the nations that kill gays, behead people, and circumcise women.

I’m not depressed, I’m agonized by the educated ignorance I see day after day.  We have a great nation, but truly folks, if we don’t get our stuff together we’re going to watch it fall.  And that is a very, very sad thing.


Love your neighbor and as always, keep seeking.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Night Swimming



Night Swimming 



I like night swimming, I always have.  Not swimming in a pool where you know you are safe, but in rivers and lakes - at night - when it’s dark, and you’re throwing caution to the wind.  Literally, since I was at an age to have my own car I’ve always kept towels, a bathing suit, and a change of clothes in the trunk in case I felt the need to run to the beach or lake and go swimming.  Last night was one of those nights.  There was a storm brewing, but when you need a swim, you just need to swim.

This week of political agendas and facebook friends deleting each other for their opinions, and my simple attempt to claim a piece of my heritage - knowing that if we erase the past we are seconds from repeating it - made me need water, lots and lots of water. 

I have been night swimming for thirty years of my life since I left the protection of my elders, and it’s a special thing to me.  If I go to the beach for an extended time I am in the water at night, out beyond the crashing waves, swimming and floating and looking at the moon and stars, with little to no fear of creatures eating me.  

Last night, after a week of chaos, I just had to go.  Damn the storm!  Luckily, I have a husband who doesn’t actually share my need for lots and lots of water, but understands that it is part of who I am.  We drove through storms and crazily fogged roads after days of one hundred degree temps and reached the lake.  There were a few cars in the lot by the dam.  Most had bikes and were racing each other on the highway over the dam, but there was no one in the water. 

The water level in our lake is very high right now, and the beach is now part of the lake, a gentle slope down to the depths.  The paths are mostly erased and one has to work hard over the rocks to reach the water.  I left the car, and my clothes on the rocks, and struggled to reach the water - not seeing the easier path, but that is another thing that defines me.  I sank into the water, striking out, floating, and sighing away the stress and the chaos that we now call normal. 

As I lay in the water, feeling the drops of rain on my face, and listening to the thunder roll, I finally felt some peace.  I looked around at the space I was in and realized I was the only person in the water, despite the cars in the parking lot and the boats in the distance.  And then I realized that in my thirty years of night swimming, outside of organized water and pools, I’ve always done it alone. 

I swam back to shore and sat with my husband on the rocks for a moment, expressing my realization of how folks didn’t swim in lakes and rivers at night, and how it emphasized I was different and alone in my difference.  Maybe I was a little melancholy because the battles this week showed me that I am very much alone. 

God is funny and weird and good, and last night I felt Him.  As soon as the words left my mouth about being the lone night swimmer a hoard of people appeared above us, trying to discern the rocky path to the water.   Eight or so folks were there to swim at night and I realized as much as I feel alone in this world a lot of times, I’m not alone, and that is the message I took with me.  We’re not all afraid to strike out into the water as the thunder rolls above and the skies are dark. 

As they came down on our tiny beach and enjoyed the water the sky began to clear and the stars and moon came out, and although I have no idea of who they were, or their trials in life, I knew they were like me.  I only caught one name and it was a toddler named Iris, and again I knew that God was showing me that I am not alone.  You see Iris is a song by the Goo Goo Dolls that both my son and I loved and often sang together in the car on our errands before he died, and I can never hear it without thinking of him.



So as the world rages, deeper and deeper, calling accusations out to anyone, and ending friendships over opinions, I have night swimming.  I will continue to love all people no matter their color, sexual orientation, or opinions.  And last night with the thunder, lightning, and fog, I found that I was not alone as I swam in the dark.

As always, keep seeking and keep believing.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Save the Confederate Flag

Save the Confederate Flag

 
The Confederate Flag issue seems to be making me a little crazy, as well as everyone else I’ve listened to or read in the last days, and I know that it is a delicate issue.  I grew up in a world of soldiers - WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and my brother is now in Afghanistan.  I am a Daughter of the American Revolution, and my ancestors fought in the Civil War. 

To me the Confederate Flag is a symbol of rebellion, and despite how the history books have changed to fit the needs of the world, or at least guide the students to where their “thinking space” is in the acceptable place, I know that the flag was about rebellion. 

I got in a lot of trouble in sixth grade social studies when “Roots” came out because I challenged the teacher on several points – you see I spent my weekends in archives with my father chasing down history.  My history teacher didn’t even know what the archives were, but she knew Alex Haley would tell no lies.  My father was, among many other things, a genealogist and a historian, and he long complained about the records being changed before his eyes, and if it wasn’t old ladies with hidden fountain pens trying to make their family upper crust, or at least erase some shame in the old census books, it was the new retelling of history on a national TV network.  

I was not raised to be racist.  I was born in 1965 during the Civil Rights movement in Georgia.  My father insisted we treat all people equally, and as a man in power to hire others, he hired people of a skin color darker than our own and paid them well, if not better, than those of our own pink hue.  My ancestors not only fought in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, they also funded the first black college in NC.



I will feel no weight under what is happening in the world now.  The flag is rebellion, and trust me my ancestors were rebelling when they saw something other than skin.  My ancestors also fought side by side with people of a darker hue in the Civil War. 

The world is saying this flag caused the murder of nine people studying the Bible, but no one is addressing another murderer on too damned many pharmaceuticals (he was arrested a few months earlier for pharmaceuticals).  And no one is addressing that it was a church and it was Christians who were killed.

And now the world says I need to be ashamed of my heritage.  I wonder which part I should be ashamed of - the fact that my ancestors fought proudly to free us from European control, the fact that my ancestors worked diligently to lift the African Americans out of poverty, or that I have light eyes and hair?   

I feel no shame.  And although I never carried the stars and bars, I love my brothers and sisters who understand history and stand for it every day.  Maybe I have been lackadaisical as I grew up under the historian and I didn’t always listen as well as I should have, but I’m listening and reviewing now. 

I’m standing up for the Confederate Flag, call me any name you like, but it’s the South, it’s God, and it’s Rebellion, and I know where I came from, despite what colleges are teaching now.  My father was adamant about history when he was alive, and he often stated the importance of never forgetting where we had been, lest we do it again.

We are on the cusp of doing it again, if we erase all memories of what happened before then we are steps away from doing it again.  My father used to say it would only take three generations to change the thinking of a nation, and I am literally in shock seeing it happen in my face. 

This post originated from evidently not understanding the color wars rage on.  It hurt my feelings terribly that a friend of mine, his skin darker than mine, brought the race issue up yesterday.  I was shocked, I was hurt, and I was terribly dismayed.  I barely slept. 

Seems my father’s prophecies are coming true.  I won’t scoff because I also see things happening before they do.  And now I am remembering all those trips to cemeteries, sitting on the porches beside swamps with elderly black folks and eating catfish, or sitting in fine homes of white folks in the middle of dying cities and drinking tea while my father jotted notes in his notebook, or running the microfiche in libraries and archives, or taking machetes through the back forty of someone’s property to find the old family cemetery to scribble down names and dates.

The flag is rebellion and that is why the war is raging.  And hell, I might have to find my own flag.  Please don’t give in to the one world order, claim your culture, and my culture is just as important.  I love Southerners, I love New Englanders, I love Westerners, I love all folks who made their way here to make a life.  We have a great country and our differences are what make us great.  Once they take my flag, my culture, know that they are coming for yours as well.

As always, keep seeking.