The Grateful Living

You know who you are.

Her Chair

Her Chair

Over the years you all made it possible for us to have a home. You provided honest work and fair pay. You helped me warm our mobile through the winter nights and cool it through the summer days. We had adequate food and clothing. Our animal companions were cared for.

You cut and carried firewood, cleaned our home, care-taked, replaced roofing, repaired vehicles, loaned equipment, made donations, provided transportation, and took risks.

You spoke up, reached out, reached in your pockets, made time, made loans, respected, trusted, prayed from many faiths, encouraged, and shared your talents and resources.

You were with us through twenty-five years of medical appointments, expenses, hospitalizations, chronic pain and suffering, life-threatening events, ambulance rides, and finally my beloved Carol’s beautiful passing last fall.

You have given me countless gifts of worldly and other-worldly value.

You held me when I wept in sorrow and joined me in tears of joy.

I am humbled.

I am blessed.

I sing, hike, laugh, and love where I can.

I continue my sacred work.

*

For all of this,

I thank all of you.

The Grateful Living,

Jeffery

Wild Man – Part 4 – Reflections

bigfoot 5

THE FINAL CHAPTER of Wild Man

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I stand and look into the bathroom mirror and see, really see, the old man I have become. It is not an easy look, but it is what it is. Growing old is not for sissies.

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I find solace in the notion, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” This poor body had three decades of driving too fast on bumpy roads and neglect in changing the oil. I have paid a price for the commitments and sacrifices I made. I can see and feel the costs.

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The big question is “Was it worth it?”

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The answer is, “Yes it was.”

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Let me tell you a story.  Lately I have seen the primitive man from my dream.

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Just the other day I was walking across the Post Office parking lot. In the wall of windows I had a curious moment. I saw an elderly man walking somewhat stooped from lower-back pain, his arms dangling loose and swinging as he walked. From a distance he looked like Bigfoot striding through a mountain meadow, all but waving at the camera.

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It was my reflection of course.

*

As I sit at my desk in silence, the storm rocks my Holiday Rambler with a supernatural rhythm. I find myself reaching, without knowing why, for a journal I made entries in ten years ago. I open and browse thoughts and reminders of a decade ago.

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I wrote . . .

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The good news?

Angels are real.

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The bad news?

They are wildly out-numbered.

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“Not an optimistic day,” I thought as I turned the page.

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Then before my brain cells could hold hands and form the next thought, my left hand nearly slapped my ear off.

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It was that sound I heard while I prayed on the spirit trail in the storm.

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Mosquito was back. And it was in my house.

*

Now this is funny to me, because I am a long-time student of Native, or indigenous, cultures. The ones I am familiar with see nature as a sacred place of beauty, learning, and sustenance. All of life is part of creation and each life has something to teach us.

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The cougar teaches something different than the eagle. The trees, or standing-people, teach us something different than the rivers. The winged-people teach different lessons than the crawling-people. I have had the privilege of knowing some remarkable people walking the Red Road, learning and sharing their lives.

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So what does mosquito have to teach me?

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I searched for information and found an old southeastern Alaskan Tlingit legend. In this story there was, long ago, a giant that found humans to be a tasty food, just loved our blood and organs, hmm, mmm, good!  The hero of the story killed the giant, and to prevent its coming back to life, cut up the giant into tiny pieces. Each of the pieces transformed into a mosquito.

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My apologies to the Tlingit people for the rough summary.

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Clearly not the kind of legend easily put to music.

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I  have two takes on this legend, and I could be way off.  First.  It is a lesson in humility.  It reminds us two-leggeds what it feels like to not be at the top of the food chain, and we ought to keep it in mind when dealing with other creatures.

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Second.  The story tells us that there is a force in the universe that can devour human beings.  Nothing personal.  That is just what this force does.  The only control we have is in helping people stay out of its way and in the manner in which we deal with its aftermath.

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There are a lot of ways to read the story, and it would take a team of tribal elders to understand more of its history and significance. Some of the rewards in legends is in the discussion and learning possibilities.

*

With that search for meaning intention, I decided to take a little time to reflect on that pesky mosquito and see if it has some qualities I could learn from. Here is what I came up with. You can add more.

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Say what you will, mosquito has a very effective voice.

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As small as it is, it can incite instant human response. The instant one hears mosquito near the ear, a part of the human brain kicks in that goes back to our relatives that learned to walk upright. There is something primal and hilarious in knowing that Neanderthals batted mosquitoes the same way you and I do.

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As I reflect on mosquito and my life of writing and telling stories, some comparisons might be made.

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My stories sometimes bite. The narrative sometimes requires a little blood-letting. The messages can sometimes cause a psychological itch that demands to be scratched. The images described may be uncomfortable or provocative, but this  eventually goes away.

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It may be that my writing efforts will be no more popular that the tiny voice of a lone mosquito. And maybe that is not all bad. According to Smithsonian Magazine, scientists report that romantic mosquitoes harmonize their whining wing beats. Hey, for the right mosquitoes, that buzzy whisper in our ears is a seriously hot love song.

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Maybe mosquito reminds us that we each have a love song to sing.

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And maybe we should all be careful about getting slapped.

*

I remember learning of an upper-Ohio River tribe that was renowned for being invisible in the forest, a kind of Zen and the art of camouflage, being one with the environment.

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A few weeks later, I prayed to have such an invisibility.  I had a twenty-minute dangerous mission of mercy for a boy and his mother.  It was crowded, no one bumped me, spoke to me, or looked me in the eyes.  As far as I could tell, the prayer worked.  I remember to this day the crunchy, nutty sound of countless empty nine-millimeter shell casings under my footsteps like gravel on a rural road.

*

I have lived a richly weird life, a life of scientific study, learning, failing, moral dilemmas, religions, philosophy, music, literature, writing, singing, suffering, artistry, relationships, loneliness, good works, evil deeds, confrontation, intervention, risk, fear, courage, psychology, epistemology, cultural anthropology, food, dance, travel, law, women, men, saving children, marriage, birth, death, grief, discovery, disgust, enemies, angels, warriors, wimps, rumor-mongers, revenge-seekers,

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and a few . .

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true . . .

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blue

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disciples of good faiths.

*

I cannot say if Yeti or Bigfoot exist in what we call the physical world. What I know is that I dreamed of this unusual being and looked into his eyes.  He is a wild man that lives in a remote place in nature, can blend into whatever his natural surroundings, and only reveals himself to people who are open to seeing.

.bigfoot 4

I believe that I know that wild man,

and I shall  continue to embrace him . . .

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for he

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is me.

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* THE END *

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Thank you for reading the four-part Wild Man series.

Feel free to click the Comment button below.

To learn more about the Tlingit people, click here.

Wild Man – Part 3 – Prayer Place

lightning 1

Even in the dark I could see it.  On previous wanderings I had crossed this game trail with multiple antelope tracks walking south.   On the nearby plateau I discovered their bedding area.  This was a good place to pray, and I knew from experience that unusual things could happen here.

* * *

On my last dawn walk I was approaching this area.  I remember looking ahead into the rising sun.  I could see the silhouettes of a man, woman, and dog.  I could see they were coming my direction.

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As they got closer, the dog stopped, focused on me, then left behind her two-legged friends and came at a full run.  As I stopped and prepared for this greeting, the four-legged came into visual clarity.  To my profound surprise,  I recognized that she was a Bernese Mountain Dog and could have been a litter-mate to my last dog Gracie who died a year past.

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I was impossibly smiling at the “coincidence” of the moment and shared memories of my late best friend with these fellow travelers.  I said goodbye to Sadie, and they continued their trek towards civilization.

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It was on that same morning walk that I first prayed at the antelope trail.  On that day, sitting cross-legged on this now-nightly spot,  after lengthy time in silence, after staring into the rising sun with my eyes closed, I began to return to my physical surroundings.

I said my closure of gratitude and slowly opened my eyes.  I first focused on the swaying grasslands reaching to the mountains.  As I did, I was gently startled by something out of place.  Nearly a mile away, a silver dot moved erratically.

My slowly waking brain curiously watched and began to question itself.  What is that?  Looks like the bottom of a shiny metal can, but it seems to move with the wind.  Yes, it’s light on the wind.  Before the words came to me I was grabbing my hat, glasses were on my face.  I was sure I knew what it was, and I was going after it.

I walked quickly at an angle out in front of its path of travel.  I could then plainly see it was an aluminum foil party balloon.  (This is the point in the story when having read Indians & Aliens would help one appreciate the magnitude of this “coincidence.”)  I was miles from civilization in miles of open prairie, and I was chasing a party balloon, and I was having more fun than a kid kicking around barefoot in a sandy creek.

I was transformed in wonder.  I could see like a child.  Forgetting myself, I began to jog, and then I began to run like an antelope in an easy stride. (The “coincidence” is again connected to Indians & Aliens.)  I was gaining on my prize, lost sight of it, ran, ran, ran, and then caught a glimpse of it as I climbed the incline.  Then, in a breath, ready to reach and touch the balloon, the spirit winds shifted.  Coming up from behind me in a burst, the balloon was whipped away and carried three-hundred feet into the air.

I watched it go higher and farther away, flying north quickly, it was gone from my feeble vision and pitiful grasp.  I slowed to a trot, then a fast walk, and then I stood still and laughed with tears in my eyes.  I was sure that a Holy force and my late wife Carol were behind it all, that I was blessed, touched on the shoulder, and reminded of a great truth I would come to form into words.

I know I laughed with delight that it was somehow an answered prayer.

* * *

On that place where I prayed that morning, I prepared to pray at night.

I eased myself down and sat cross-legged in a ring of Chino grass.  I placed a tobacco offering on the earth in front of me and I faced the wind.  Rain trying to turn to ice formed needles stabbing my face.  My hair blew loosely behind my shoulders.  Thunder and lightning exploded before me.

I sat at the foot of a dark earthly stage.

I began to speak in my prayerful manner.

“Thank you spirits of the grasslands for hearing my prayers, carrying them to the spirit winds, to the nation of clouds, and Creator.”

“You know me. I am a small man, a mere two-legged, a dreamer. I come to you again, to sit before you and learn to become a better man. Once again, I seek the greatest good for the greatest number. Guide me. Show me the way Great Spirit.”

The winds came in bursts and the rain sporadic. Rumbling thunder from beyond the mountains. Distant bolts of lightning back-lighting the mountainous clouds.

“Send me a message. What work am I to do?  Is this wild man part of it?”

My mind blank, I drifted in and out of the sensations of whipping winds and random rain.

Then I heard something nearly-foreign near my ear.

I sat perfectly still and listened.

Amidst the cacophony of wind all around me, a tiny and fragile sound was unmistakable.

“But it shouldn’t be here. Miles to water. Mile-high desert conditions.”

“Could it be a mosquito?”

My left hand took a swipe at it.

I sat still. It came back, trying to get into my ear.

It buzzed. I swiped. It came back. I swiped.

Forgetting my prayer, I focused on the mosquito. Then I stood up swiping. The storm began to quickly intensify. I swiped some more. The rain came harder. Bigger drops. More force.

I stopped my antics and hurriedly closed my prayer.  I turned towards the village and began to make my way back in the dark.  I confess I felt some element of fear that I had overstayed my time with the growing storm.

The wind was directly behind me and pushed me with each stride towards where I had started my walk. Large, heavy rain drops hit me in the back of the head like a giant hand drumming its fingers on my noggin out of boredom.

I was ashamed that I lost my prayerful time to something as insignificant as a mosquito.

I walked briskly, and because my shoulders ached, I shrugged them up and down and around in circles. I swayed my hips back and forth to loosen them up, and I then concentrated on walking safely on the path. The longer I walked, the more exhilarating the journey. The wind at my back encouraged me. My body relaxed, and I felt lighter.

I smiled and chuckled out loud. Upon reaching the gate, I turned and leaned back against the fence line, both arms up on the top rail. I looked back to where I had just come from.

“Thank you! I am blessed this day!

Thank you! But what does mosquito teach me?

And what about this wild man?!”

There were answers.

I just did not know what they were . . .

yet.

*

Wild Man – Part 2 – Spirit Trail

Spirit Trail.  I arrived at sunset, locked the truck, placed a small flashlight in Setting prairie  sunmy pocket, and hooked my water bottle on my braided leather belt. Across the grasslands Mingus mountain rose up to an imposing cumulus cloud bank.  Lightning crackled and broke the length of the range.

Folklore names the full moon of July the thunder moon, and thunder rolled from the far mountains to the meadow in which I stood.  In the nearly extinguished light, the land trembled.  I could see from the flatland where I stood to the first distant rise in the trail.  That was where it seemed the curtain of storm was drawn across the landscape.

The only lightning in the area was over the mountains miles away. I was drawn to this place on this night, the phase of the moon, and the threatening conditions. I passed through the gate and began my journey.

The lights of the village behind me, the rising full moon before me was totally eclipsed by the thunderheads. I wondered if the batteries would last for the return trip.

I walked as I had become accustomed to walking in the wild lands, by talking out loud to whoever listens in such places.

“What do I do next? I have a landslide list of stuff to do every day.  I have people I love who need help. I have strangers who need help.  How do I do it? Huh? I’m going crazy over here trying to take care of some people’s needs, people suffering for no good reason!  How do I do it?  I need some some direction!”

I calmed a bit as I walked.

“Could you send me a sign?  How about a spirit animal with a message of wisdom and great abundance?  Or a burning bush maybe?”

Having been face-to-face with unexpected  animals in the wild, I had momentary second thoughts, . . especially when recalling the creature from my dreams.  That is what brought me here.  The dream of the wild man crept around the periphery of my thoughts..

To shake off the fears and doubts I moved in to my usual hiking ritual, . . talking myself through the Serenity Prayer. Some times it requires verbal wrestling to get through it.

“Higher Power, God, Goddess, Creator, Great Spirit, Yahweh, whatever Your Name, you know who you are.  You know who I am.  I hope I have my bases covered.”

“Please grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change.”

Walk, walk, think, walk.

“I mean if it works out that you can help me with this, I would be grateful!”

Walk, walk.

“I tend to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, and my shoulders hurt, and I need a rest.”

Walk, walk, think.

“Also, please grant me the courage to change the things I can change in the world. Yeah a double dose of courage for that. I have learned some things that can help victims of terrible crimes against humanity. Well you know.”

Walk, walk, think, walk.

“It is no surprise to you of course, I want to share what I have learned in a way that helps those innocents who suffer for the sins of others. , etc. etc. You get my drift.  You been there from the beginning!”

“You know sometimes I think nobody wants to hear what I have to say! Can you help with that? If so, I would greatly appreciate it.”

Walk, think, walk, think, walk.

“Also, please help me with the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot change. I don’t want to hit my head against a wall or spin my wheels or waste anybody’s time, most importantly my own.  I am a grandfather! I’m getting old.  I should be retired and writing my memoirs.”

Walk, walk, walk.

In the darkness quietly, my voice became more relaxed and reverent.

“Hey, you’re an infinite being of infinite understanding. I’m counting on you havin’ an infinite sense of humor.”

Walk, walk.

“Sorry about the whining.”

Walk, walk, walk.

“You know my heart.”

Walk, walk, walk, walk.

The sun well-set and well-behind me.

Lightning crackled above the mountains ahead.

Thunder and moon hid

behind mountains

of darkly curious clouds.

I stopped thinking

walked silently

to

the storm.

 

*

Wild Man – Part 1

In my dream I was traveling north in a car on a brightly lit day. The landscape was Prairie photomiles of gently rolling prairie flush with wheat-colored grasses waist-deep for a standing adult. As I passed near a low hill with an exposed rock outcropping, I saw something move.

An animal was crouching in the grass in front of the rocks. I would not have noticed it, but for the fact that whatever it was had moved sideways and then disappeared. I was moving quickly and so I fixed my sight on this strange phenomenon. Then it stood up, and I could see something larger than a man move on two legs.

I was stunned. It was an ape-like creature covered in hair the same color as the grasses. The streaks in the creature’s coloring provided perfect camouflage, near invisibility. It looked at me with peaceful purpose as if to say, “See me.”

The next thing I knew I had driven past the outcropping, and I was on the other side of the hill from the creature. I was stopped, out of my vehicle, up against something, trying to back up, wanting another look.  It was quickly getting dark, and I was afraid of knowing what I had seen . I was also keenly aware at that moment that I had seen this creature before, and I tried to dismiss it as my imagination.

I woke and sat up.  My brain was working as smartly as it could to understand what I had seen.  I knew the land in my dream.  I had hiked and prayed there twice.

The creature reminded me of a yeti-type of being.  I have heard brief descriptions by indigenous people of such an inter-dimensional figure as a kind of nature spirit or wild man, or wild woman.

Is it possible that there is a life-form in this local treeless landscape that is selectively visible to human beings? Is it there for those it allows to see?

I was unsettled.

I knew I had to search for the truth.

The next night,

a full moon.

Alone.

 

******* COMING SOON - Spirit Trail – Part 2 *******

Born to be Wild!

I stepped from my 32′ Holiday Rambler and stood at the top of the steps to greet Fondathe dawn. Drips from the night’s smattering of rain fell on my neck. The sky was overcast, ominous. Monsoon thunderheads hung in the atmosphere like sleeping giants.

As I continued to wake, I considered the route I might ride to my coffee appointment. I descended to the patio while pinching into my front pocket a friend’s Harley-Davidson gloves.

I was thinking, “Yep, it’s still there.”  I had covered the motorcycle with a tarp the night before. “Yep, there’s still a motorcycle under that tarp.”

“What am I doing?” my brain exclaimed. “I’m sixty-two years old and haven’t ridden a motorcycle in thirty years!” The last one I was on I left at forty-five miles per hour, slammed my helmet into the rocks of a motocross trail in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. “Dodged a bullet that day,” I keenly observed to myself.

My Ford 4 X 4 pickup truck broke down, and a dear friend loaned me a motorcycle. As I looked the machine over in the daylight, I thought, “I’ve never ridden one of these before.  Wonder how it handles?“

Funny how new experiences remind us of old ones. Getting ready to ride reminded me of my high school buddy Digger and his Harley Sportster. Extended forks, low seat, the sound of the ratcheting kick starter, the engine roaring to life. Digger’s red beard in the wind. Hog heaven, some would call it. And we all agree, nothing else in the galaxy sounds like a Harley.

I pulled off the tarp, grabbed that baby by the handlebars, and sat down. I lingered in the moment, remembering Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, and Nancy Sinatra in the 1966 movie Wild Angels. I think it was my friend Rolls that had the sound track album back in the sixties, and I mean nineteen-sixties.

As small-town teenagers lusting after motorcycles, looking desperately for something to rebel against, and well, . . more than a passing interest in short skirts and tall boots, we boys used to huddle around the record player and listen to the opening sound track to the movie, feeling the unconscious rumble of something out of reach in our simple lives.

I put on the Harley gloves, and sat with both feet on the ground, straddling the unfamiliar and silent machine.  As I turned the key on, I called up the memory of that movie soundtrack.  I could hear the garage door opening, then the monster of torque being forced into life, its engine grabbing and gasping for air, ultimately blowing exploded gases out its tailpipes like a medieval fire-farting dragon. Sure the Harley shook, but so did the earth.

Pulling out of my driveway I could see Peter Fonda in his black leather jacket, his tinted teardrop glasses, his unkempt hair. I could hear the chopper on the album ease out of the garage and move to a two-lane blacktop.  Then shifting gears and animalistic internal-combustion bellowing.  In my personal vision this is where John Kay and Steppenwolf build the testosterone-fueled climax with their primal biker-rock-mantra  Born to Be Wild!

With all that coursing through my veins, I was on the empty back street of a small American town, the yards and mailboxes slipping by like last week’s memories. Two horses looked up, and a dog barked. A cat scurried to get out of my way, then paused to stare over its shoulder.

A young woman opposite me at the four-way-stop gave me a long look.  My scooter hummed more loudly as I accelerated passed her. I could feel her gaze as I pulled away and quickly pushed it to thirty-miles per hour.

I had to admit it felt weird having my feet and knees right there in front of me like I was a kid sitting at a school desk.  I had to resist the urge to use a clutch and shifter.  It was smooth, quiet, just turn the twist-grip and go.

From the Genuine Scooter Company, the Buddy model, a 4-stroke, 150cc wonder.  A preciously pretty machine.  A pleasant shade of green that could be easily hidden in a pea patch.  A big shiny headlight on the top of its steering column and fairing. My friend’s green woven grocery bag hung by its handles from a purse-hook above my bored and restless feet.

The rushing wind and sounds of nature were muted by the face shield and helmet, but I could feel the balmy breeze on my sun tanned and naked knees. No traffic. Damp pavement. I could not help smiling. I looked so cute, I was irresistible.

Upon arriving at my destination, I swaggered a bit as I put the scooter up on its stand and I took off my helmet. It was a beautiful ride and a beautiful gift from a beautiful person.

Friends, good friends, bring out the best in us don’t they?  Some great thinker once said you can count the number of true friends in a lifetime on one hand.  I think it was probably said by somebody in their  sixties, and I mean the age group not the decade.  It takes that long to be able to look back and see the forks-in-the-road of one’s life.

Reveling in old memories and new ironies, a faint and tickling spiritual chuckle rose up in me.  Some comedic corner of my brain was singing in John Kay’s whiskey-soaked gravelly voice,

“Born to be Mi . . i . .i . l d!buddy50_italia

Born to be

M . i . . i . . l d!”

 

Redbone Puppy Heals Woman

Joe & Shiloh in a barrel The following is an excerpt from Jeff’s novel scheduled for an autumn release. It is the sequel to Indians & Aliens and unexpected short stories. This second book of his Dreamer Series is titled Grace & Dreamer – extreme love stories.  Be aware, there is in this piece direct reference to brutal violence.  There is also a happy ending.

*

. . . During that pause, Buddy spoke up. “Do I remember you sayin’ that your wife has a fondness for Redbone Hounds?”

“Yes,” Jack answered.

Then Buddy explained that his dog Big Joe had drug his doghouse across the back of their property to mate with their female, and they had an unexpected litter of puppies. He told Jack that if he brought Grace out in a couple weeks, he would give her the pick of the litter. He gave Jack their phone number and Jack wrote down the directions to finding their place.

Jack told Buddy that he would talk it over with Grace and see what she thought.

*

This was a big issue for Grace, and Jack knew it. Her beloved dog Napoleon was the Redbone Hound of her adolescence, a gift she cherished and found joy in during some of the hardest times of her life. She walked with that dog and talked with that dog and slept with that dog.  Her stepfather decapitated Napoleon in front of Grace with one swing of an axe . . to teach the girl a lesson.

Grace was not sure she could open the doors to that painful memory.
She was not sure she wanted a living, breathing daily reminder of her early life. Eventually she decided they could just go look at the puppies with no intention of picking one out. She figured they could not compare with the famous bloodline that her dog had come from. “I’ll know a good hound when I look them all over,” she said.

When they arrived at Buddy and June’s that day, Jack turned off the engine and was the first to speak. “Don’t be afraid to hear it.” “What? What did you say Honey?” “I said don’t be afraid to hear it.”

“Hear what?” she asked.

He replied, “Your own spirit voice. Don’t be afraid to hear your calling.”

“Oh,” she responded when she recognized what Jack meant. Even from the truck, she could see, “Yeah, they’re good looking dogs.”

“Well,” he went on, “take some time with them. See how it feels to you. If you want one, we’ll take one home. If not, that’s all right too. Really Hun, whatever feels right to you.”

Then Jack backed away and left her alone with the litter of six Redbone  puppies. At that moment, time went wild in her mind. It had been forty years since she last touched a hound like those. The smell took her back to the day she fell in love with Napoleon.

The moment was surreal, and she became lightheaded and had to steady herself by grabbing the corner of the puppy’s pen. New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.  Live free or die country was another lifetime ago. Suddenly it was like yesterday. Deep woods and French Canadian accents, dancing on wood floor houses that shook under the weight of people partying , long walks along the creeks, hiding under the fallen leaves to feel safe, fanciful images of racing the wind as she stared out the window on long train rides, beaches, clambakes, hurricanes, Central Park, Sheepshead Bay, The Brooklyn Dodgers, writers and artists, made men, prize fighters, limousines and staying alive.

Her mind reeled as she was in Tennessee, home of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, namesake of Tennessee Williams, home to young Cormac McCarthy. She lived an easy drive north of that place she read about as a girl in Junior High history class. She remembered a Civil War battlefield called Shiloh, and she thought it meant “place of peace.”

*

Jack passed the time with Buddy. “Jack I’ve loved my wife a little, loved my children a little, and well . . I’ve loved my dogs a lot.” He paused for Jack’s smile. “It’s been a good life over all.” Then he looked off towards the woods, like a man at peace, like the list of life decisions he had made was complete and satisfactory.

Jack looked down at the earth and kicked the dusty clay soil. “Yeah, Buddy. What else can we ask for?”

Just then Grace looked his way, and he decided it was time to join her. By the time he started in her direction, Buddy was walking with him quiet, the way two men do when they are comfortable with each other, like they know how the other thinks, and they respect each other. Grace was still staring at the puppies when the two men arrived next to her.

She excused herself, and the two men and June watched Grace make her way down to the back part of the property to meet Big Joe and Daisy, the momma of the brood. Grace talked with them a long time before slowly starting uphill to the people and pups of the present.

She was spinning with thoughts of her early years in Arizona. The rape ordered by Liam, the pregnancy, the bikers, card sharks, front men, hustlers, sisterhoods, battles fought, battles lost.

Growing up in New England sexually abused was her first lifetime. Her first marriage was her second lifetime. Children raised, children abused and children healing. Her sons and daughter struggling to find their ways in life. The church she found. The minister who inspired her. Her personal therapy. Divorced after twenty-five years. Two graduate degrees wile working her way through college. Clinical Director of a prestigious organization.

Then she met Jack.

As she strolled up the hill to the puppy pen where the others gathered, her mind caught up with real time and she gazed at the man of her third lifetime, her precious husband and partner. She walked up to him gracefully and put her arms around him. “I love you Jack Goodman.”

He put his arms around her. “I love you Gracie Ann.  What you gonna name that pup you were holdin’?”

“Rachel.”

“Perfect.”