Category Archives: Stories

Co-authoring Adventures

ANNOUNCINGAuthor photos and more 016

2 pm / Saturday,

January 31st, 2015

Jeffery Kirkendall will speak

at the Peregrine Book Company

In Prescott, Arizona

 

Five writers present their adventures collaborating with a spouse, friend or sibling.  Hear the struggles, conflicts and laughter that each writer experience on the journey to complete a book.  One has to do with developing a transatlantic friendship.  Another is a coming of age experience.

The other authors share about soul-mates finding one another and sibling harmony.  These story tellers reveal how in co-authorship their stories and poetry exceeded what one could have accomplished alone

TO LEARN MORE CLICK HERE.

 

Jamming with Chet Atkins

(excerpt from upcoming novel Grace and Dreamer by Jeffery Kirkendall,  — also author of Without Consent and Indians & Aliens)

*

Jack and his grandson Joshua jammed with Chet Atkins in Nashville. It was on the grassy

The Man
The Man

banks of what migrating Europeans named the Cumberland River. It was near a place where, in ancient times, herds of bison congregated to replenish themselves at a salt-lick. It was near a village that was the birthplace of the mother of the Shawnee prophet Tecumseh.

Near that same place, on that same river, over two centuries later, just down the asphalt street from the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry, guitar worshipers gathered en-mass at Riverfront Park, in tribes one might say.

At that time in their life, Jack and Grace lived on the edge of a small Tennessee town with two stop-signs and a broken traffic signal. Lightning killed the traffic signal. No one complained or missed it, and it was never repaired.

During those eight years, Jack worked his job during the day and evenings and wrote songs late at night, in the middle of the night, and on weekends before dawn. Some of Jack’s songs seemed important, and provocative to Grace and their family and friends, but the established music community judged them “non-commercial,” or “not exactly what we’re looking for right now.”

Jack and Grace had a single-wide Jack’s family helped them buy. It was on two acres and surrounded by forest on three sides. There was a spring on the hill out back, and it fed a stream that went for miles winding through dense forest and sparse habitation.

Over the ensuing years, Jack and Grace often reflected on their life in Tennessee. As they looked back from old age, it was clear to them that those times and those places were sacred in significance.

The greatest joy of Jack and Grace’s time in those guitar years was when school let out, and Joshua came to visit for his summer vacation. He was a boy, longing to be a teenager, and his grandparents took him fishing, canoeing, visiting friends, to county fairs, and Civil War battlefields.

Joshua loved their English Tick Hound named Shiloh. Joshua loved riding his Uncle Redhorse’s horse, and teasing his Aunt Fawn. Joshua held in reverence the backgammon board his uncle gave him and the stones of the medicine wheel his Grandpa Jack had taught him to use.

During their Tennessee summers, the family food supply was abundant with red ripe Ripley tomatoes, deep green sweetly-red “black-diamond” watermelons, and buttered ears of corn as fine as frog hair. An old farmer friend sold freshly-slaughtered and barbequed chickens. Heavenly meals my friends. Heavenly meals.

It was warm, but not muggy. A light breeze. Jack picked up Joshua from the Nashville airport and explained they were going to the river. Josh thought it sounded great. That’s how they came to be walking a Nashville alley towards River Front Park, a buzzing bee-hive, river-bank crowd of string musicians of every faith, little faith, and no faith at all.

Josh whispered to Grandpa Jack that they were either hundreds of guitar players or hundreds of gangsters. He pointed out that everybody carried a dark case which could conceal a weapon. A coincidence I am sure, but after college, Joshua entered the police academy.

Men and women, young and old and in between, of every color and race, of every degree of musical proficiency, and a few eccentric souls strumming tunes which existed only in their unique musician minds.

On that historic afternoon, maybe a thousand guitar pickers gathered to play one song baby! . . “Heartbreak Hotel,” with the man who did the original guitar work for Elvis himself.

The jam would last an hour-and-a-half, and make Nashville the world record holder for the greatest number of guitars playing one song for the longest period of time.

Jack and Joshua were there with Jack’s two guitars. He had a classically-aged and country-played Martin D-28 that Bob Dylan would envy. Joshua played Jack’s back-up, a respectable knock-off of a Martin. Chet played a Gretsch 6120, but Jack knew Chet would approve of his Martin, just as Stradivarius would approve of Steinway.

The hillside was, as Julie Andrews might have sung, “alive with the sound of music.” Highly-regarded musical artists took turns walking out onto the floating stage on that Cumberland River. Each led the guitar-worshipers on the hill rising up before them.

Somewhere late in that sustained joyful sound, the man himself, Chet Atkins, took the stage and played as only a spiritual master and musical devotee’ could play. Jack strummed and watched and listened to Chet and remembered hearing Mr. Atkins on the radio and phonograph records when he was a boy. He was awed by the virtuoso’s talent.

Jack’s father was a gifted musician, and Jack loved guitars. As he listened to Chet Atkins play that day, it sounded of effortless beauty and fingers that live for the soul. At Joshua’s age, Jack had fantasies of playing the guitar in such a fashion. But while Jack had the passion and imagination, he did not have the gifts for playing at such a level.

That day it did not matter. That day, Jack had the gift of a guitar jam with his grandson Joshua and the legendary Chet Atkins. Somehow, somewhere, some decades back, he must have dreamed this scene, because it felt like some mysterious circle, he could never have before imagined, was complete.

Jack looked at Joshua, and Josh looked back questioningly.

“You having a good time?” Grandpa Jack asked.

Joshua smiled and said he was.

“Me too.” Jack replied and then continued in his most respectful Elvis voice,

Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell,

down at the end of Lonely Street, at the Heartbreak Hotel.

I’m so lonely baby, I’m so lonely, . . I could cry.

Author Jeffery Kirkendall
Author Jeffery Kirkendall

Joshua joined in.

So did Chet.

*

Hear Heartbreak Hotel solo guitar by Chet Atkins

*

 

 

Marriage-Decision-Vision

(excerpt from the forthcoming novel Grace and Dreamer by Jeffery Kirkendall)

Jack was considering asking Grace to marry him.

Photo by Winged Photography
Photo by Winged Photography

During this time of great contemplation, he was driving his truck to the cabin he and Grace were staying in for a couple of weeks of writing. On a little-traveled two-lane blacktop, among the springtime Ponderosa pines, he was startled by a large hawk flying dangerously close in front of him. He put the brakes on and watched as the bird soared up onto a nearby hill and landed at the top of a bare dead tree.

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Jack pulled off the road, and stopped. The hawk was beckoning to him. He deftly eased out of the truck, walked over and slipped through a fence, and then he strode towards the crest of the hill and the old tree and the great bird. As he came close to the bird’s perch, his winged brother tilted his head for a last look, nodded, and lifted off to the east.

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Jack stood still in the light breeze and scanned the valley below, much as the winged one had appeared to do. Then before him he noticed a distinct depression in the earth. It was long and narrow and strangely looked just the size for a human to lay in. Jack had read of an Indian that went on a vision quest, fasting for days while lying in just such a hole on top of a hill. So Jack laid down in the earth.

As he laid there and looked about, he thought the soft natural bed was deliberately located on the hill so that someone lying in it was positioned in an offertory fashion before the sky above and earth below.  So he closed his eyes and opened himself up to a prayer, asking God to guide him in his important life decision.

He was suddenly taken with the image and sense of an old man standing still before him, a man who appeared peaceful and carried a staff. He looked at Jack until Jack realized he had just asked in his prayer, “Should I marry Grace?”  The old man had come with lightning  response.

The old man made a slight gesture with his staff, and Jack had an amazing vision of many attractive and sensual women surrounding him in a public venue.  They showered him with attention and adulation for his many worldly accomplishments. Jack felt some of the  sensations of that vision as it lingered, and then instantly it was gone.

Before him again was the old man. Jack understood him to say. . .

or you can marry this woman and live a life of greatness.

The vision vanished.  The gentle sounds of the birds in the meadow returned.
Alone on the hill, lying in the grass and sunshine and a gentle breeze, Jack sat up and looked across the valley.

He knew . . .

It was true.

*

*

Wild Man – Part 4 – Reflections

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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.

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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 *******