One of my blog friends wrote a fun piece about “peeping”, where you drive around when the foliage changes and take in the gorgeous colors and drying air of autumn. In the high Colorado Rockies where I was reared, the only ones you heard use the term peeping were transplanted yankees working or studying at the local college, famous for taking students who couldn’t get into a better college.
We had ‘turning’ season where the groves of quacking aspen would all turn golden yellow at the same moment. The exact time was a combination of dryness, shortening of days and cooler temperatures. Aborealists say it has more to do with the available daylight than it does with the temperature, so some years the first frost came too soon, and the turning was disappointing. The leaves would turn brown and fall. But in other years, it was mystical. You could hear the soft applause of leave as the morning winds would rattle the leaves, and a hushed peace would settle on the land.
In rare years, hunting season would arrive at the same time, and so many of us equated the turning with hunting. In later years, the ever-wise legislators decided that hunters and tourists was not a good mix, and moved deer season a bit further into the year. But then, there weren’t so many tourists and one could stake out a good hunting ground quite easily.
The last time I went deer hunting was one of those magical years when walking into an aspen glad was like walking into gold. I found a small meadow where I could sit on a rock outcropping and observe the entire meadow, and silently huddled into a small ball for warmth, and waited as the sun climbed rose. Then he silently appeared. A six-point buck.
I smoothly raised the 30-06 to eye height, found him in the reticule of the scope, and picked a spot just back from the shoulder blade, and fired. The buck gave a hop, then stopped, and I debated taking another shot, but he didn’t move for a long time. Then he laid down and rolled over. I rose, oddly shaking with excitement and stiffness from sitting still, and cautiously approached him, using the barrel to poke at his eyelid. It was a clean kill.
I stood there in the golden glade, letting the adrenalin dissipate before starting to prepare him, and a question arose in my mind. “Why did you do this?” The bucks lifeless eye seemed to stare at me for that eternity.
“Great kill!” Orrie shouted as he broke through the underbrush. He had heard the shot and came to help me dress the buck out, and we got started on it. But the gold had vanished from the woods, the clapping hands were silent. It was just a meadow in the woods and the magic was gone. It never came back for me, and I see the accusing eye of that buck in my dreams.
I am not against hunting. If my family needed food and I needed to kill to get it, I could, and I would. Without hesitation. But I knew this buck was a senseless kill. I didn’t need the meat. At that time, I didn’t even own a freezer. As it turned out, I never tasted the meat of that buck. I gave it all away, sold the rifle, and left the country for city life.
Today when I look at a picture of a golden glade, the numinous feel is gone. I killed the unicorn.
I have read several friends blogs recently who are lamenting the sad state of eligible mates in the world today. The more interesting reads were from the feminine side of the conflict. I am glad I am not in the dating game anymore. I think I would fail miserably as every girls dream date. In fact, I don’t think I would make it as any girls dream date. Suave is not my middle name and a lass looking for a LTR would only consent to a continued relationship if she was in abject terror at being alone. I am like the last potato in the grocery bin when it comes to desirability.
I started listing the criticisms as they cropped up
1st fail. I drive up to the neutral meeting spot in a mommy van with peeling paint on the hood.
2nd fail. Black socks, chino’s, brown shoes, stretch belt, blue polo shirt and straw cowboy hat.
3rd fail. I would either try for a full hug, or resort to a firm conventioneer’s handshake.
4th fail. I would be afraid of even the most casual glance toward her bosom and would compensate for that by staring into her eyes, never letting my gaze drop below the nose stud while trying to hide my disgust with things fastened into snot. A lip ring would immediately cause retching at the thought of kissing someone with one.
5th fail. I would open the door for her, treating her like a subhuman that totally lacked the facility to operate doorlatches without the help of an overbearing male who stomps on a women’s soul … *huff* *huff* *huff*
6th fail. I would either be clingy as all hell or so insufferably aloof that the world would appear to revolve around me. I have no neutral gears.
… Unfortunately, I don’t have time to compile an exhaustive list of my undesirable qualities. It would be a long one. I guess I’ll just have to keep the woman I’ve got.
The sun rose behind high scud that is hopefully bringing moisture laden bands of rain to the parched land, and the light woke me from sound slumber. Stagger into the kitchen and flip the switch on the coffee maker that Snookums carefully prepared the night before, and then down the hall to the studio to open the blinds for Kippur da Budgie and put on Shabbat music to start the day.
As I have often said, I would prefer absolute silence until Mr. Brain wakes, but the bird needs noise. The happier the music, the happier the bird. Yours truly isn’t so chipper, however, and I tune the music out and idly flip through the evenings postings.
Thanks to the internet, I have many friends on the opposite side of the world in Australia, Philippines, Singapore and now Japan who are ending their day and preparing for slumber, and friends in Europe and Africa that have half a day in already, and their comments and posts get answered at this time.
And the writing muse has returned, but as usual, the beginning output is not very deep nor well crafted, so it gets written, then deleted. I am not one to save my work once it has served whatever purpose it was crafted for.
And these days my thoughts aren’t on a vigorous hero who saves the world and a couple of distressed damsels in the process, but rather unraveling a mysterious thread of creation that knits seemingly disparate events into a cohesive whole.
There is an ancient writing called In the Beginning that has consumed me the last many years. It truly is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, and doesn’t yield its truths to casual reading.
Slowly one begins to see that one imperative that impels all mankind, the one inclination that thwarts him and the one fate that awaits him. The preacher got it right when he labeled life vain. But in all that is a hope. A higher calling, if you will.
But the preacher concluded with: “So be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or even knows anything.”
But the evening thoughts turned morose
And loosened the hidden rage
There was no crying “Mama!” there
So by the secluded river he died alone
Enjolras is a fictional character in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables”. A revolutionary who clearly sees the evil of the times, and who charismatically calls the people to man the barricades against a repressive government.
Of course, the young are drawn to him, never having been exposed to war and believing in something larger than themselves. There was much evil in 1836 France, just as there is in America today. Secret cabals ruled against the royalty and the people then just as they do today. I am surrounded by Enjolras’s, all warning me about the danger about us, of being stripped of liberty and made into tools of the oppressors, and if I will just join them at the barricades, we can slip the tightening noose of the oppressor.
And they aren’t lying to me. From the beginning of time there were oppressors. Nimrods who seem to grasp the reins of government and enslaving man with effortless ease and putting them to work building grand towers of confusion where they rule over them. And from time to time Enjolras’s have arisen and called men to battle, only to die at the hands of the enemy after their comrades deserted them.
But once in a great while, they do succeed despite their meager numbers. But always at a great cost of lives and human suffering, and great civilizations are born, only to succumb to even more clever and subtle Nimrods building their towers with the carcasses of patriots.
Look, Enjolras. I took up arms, and I fought. Now I just want to go into my dotage without the sounds of cannons in my ears. OK?
So how does one take a jilted ex-hippie who left unrequited love on the commune up in the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico to becoming a mercenary, and later the spiritual leader and husband to a Middle Eastern convent that he and his merry band of mercs rescued and moved to Texas?
At this stage of the tale, the hero made his goodbyes, and flew off in his little sport plane with Fido, a stray mongrel with strong herding instincts. Fido will be left at a pet sanctuary for older dogs since Joe wasn’t sure that he would be well taken care of at the commune, and the plane will be sold at an auction in San Antonio to provide Joe with airfare to the Middle East, where he will join his war buddy mercenary in protecting petroleum interests in Northern Iran.
I wrote a little piece to help me get Joe on his way, Are you going away with no word of farewell? and to flesh out Joe a little clearer in my mind. Joe is a warrior who becomes a peacenik who returns to being a warrior. In the course of his warring, he ends up rescuing the nuns of a convent that had been raided by terrorists. Joe and his buddy enlisted the help of some very wealthy Canadians and Americans, and got the convent moved to safety in the US.
The nuns were very angry with the Church that abandoned them, and rejected its authority. They felt that Joe was a warrior monk who was sent by God to rescue them, and so he was rightly the spiritual intermediary of their convent. A type of priest to them, if you will.
The only problem was that they didn’t tell Joe of his elevation. At least right away.
And why am I telling you all this? Because this tale will never make it out of the first edit, and will never be submitted to a publisher, and I want to complete one tale in my lifetime. So I am vamping you, dear reader. I’ll apologize in advance for the subterfuge.
Unrequited love themes have settled in on me during these dreary winter doldrums. I am thinking that perhaps they are the key that unlocks the trigger to my winter desolation. One theme is the hero who plugs away at a steadily declining hippie commune, and wakes up one day to discover that he is the only one who isn’t getting laid. But being that he is a plugger, he finishes up the incomplete projects, makes his goodbyes, and rides off into the sunset. Or in one version, soars off in his bush plane.
I just hate the dreary sadness that settles in on me, yet I seem to delight in wallowing in it. December is bad, but by January and through February it really gets to be heavy sledding. I have made a few efforts to describe the Satanic heaviness, but finally gave it up. If you haven’t been there, you wouldn’t know. Attributing spiritual forces as the cause if it seems to make more sense to me than trying to make some sort of psychological sense out of it.
Eventually, I succumb and let myself sink into the pit. It is easier than fighting it off. It is relentless.
So, I may write. Or I may not. I may go on facebook. Or I may not. If not, I’ll see you in Spring …
This is a prelude to a more complete work I am doing. Dialogue is a weak point in my writing, and in addition to introducing the lead character, it will give me some much-needed practice in dialogue. I am not sharing this on facebook or my writing page.
Joe rolled out of his sleeping bag and went into the kitchen to start the coffee like he had at least a thousand mornings before in the years he had lived on the commune. But it was a long way from a real commune now. Only five of the many original commune dwellers were left. Most left the first couple of years because they had somewhere to return to, just leaving those who had nowhere else to go to carry on with the vision.
There wasn’t much of a vision left. The hard work of a subsistence farm had worked most of the idealism out of them. But Joe had persisted in upgrading the communes infrastructure, and had mostly done it on his own. Not that the others were unwilling, but they were city folk, hardly suited to the self-discipline it required.
The other two men were musicians, and were able to supplement the farms cash box from time to time, but it was hardly a consistent income. Joe had his veterans benefits and disability pay, and handled most of the commune’s financial dealings. A few weeks back he made the last payment on the mortgage, and held a quiet mortgage burning ceremony in the firepit out back. The others never even knew there was a mortgage, and were not even curious as to how they had a place to live all these years.
But it didn’t matter to Joe. He financed the spread, bought, repaired and sold the cars, mended fences, watered gardens and tended the goats without complaining. He was reasonably happy, and the others needed his rigid sense of responsibility.
But it was time to go. He hadn’t talked about it to the others, but the revelation came to him six months ago after both the announced their pregnancy at the same time. But they weren’t impregnated by Joe. They were Alex’s and Paul’s. Where before they had practiced free love, the sex now became exclusive, though it wasn’t deliberate on the women’s part. They just didn’t go out of their way to comfort Joe.
Joe accepted that at face value. They weren’t his babies. There would be no passing along his heritage to the children. They wouldn’t be taught the sacred name. They would not be taught about their grandpa or great grandpa. Their heritage would be whatever Alex and Paul shared with them. It was no longer the five of them, it was now two families, and one odd ball named Joe.
Still, Joe wanted to complete the vision they originally had of a same home to raise children in. The house was a well-built log house with three equal sized bedrooms, and a large kitchen/dining/living area. Joe had quietly been modernizing it, and now it had heat, lights, water and sewer, though what was now his bedroom was in the process of becoming a bathroom. In fact, he had made the final connections to the drains a few days ago, and covered up the trenches. Last night was his last night of sleeping in it. He had cleaned up the mess, put flowers on the vanity and towels in the towel racks. He wanted to surprise the women this morning before he made the announcement that he was leaving.
The coffee maker gave up one last wheeze, signifying that the coffee was ready. Pouring himself a cup, Joe went back to his former bedroom, rolled up the sleeping bag, and quietly removed the plywood panels that covered the bathtub, and carried them outside to the lumber pile. He had hidden the tub, and everyone just thought it was his bed.
When he returned, Cindy had just come out of her and Alex’s bedroom, and was pouring her coffee. He figured Pam would be close behind. They were both morning people. Alex and Paul had a gig last night and didn’t get home until 4am, so Joe didn’t expect to see them until noon.
“Your sleeping bag is by the door.” Cindy remarked.
“Yeah, I needed to get it out of the bathroom.” Joe replied, keeping any hints out of his voice.
Pam came padding out of her bedroom and went straight to the coffee pot, mumbling a good morning as she passed by Cindy and Joe. They mumbled “morning” back at her, and waited until she got her coffee and sat down.
“You should look in the bathroom when you get a moment” Joe suggested to the two of them.
They both rose with their coffee cups in hand and went to the bathroom door.
“Joe! It’s beautiful!” Cindy exclaimed.
“No more outhouse!” Pam added.
“I didn’t even know there was a tub in here! I thought it was just your bed!” Cindy went on.
They wandered around the bathroom opening cabinets and turning on the faucets. It was a bit large for a bathroom. Joe had intended to build storage closets in some of the extra space, but that would now have to wait for someone else. Joe was finished.
“Where you going to sleep?” Pam asked.
Cindy suddenly stopped, and looked levelly at Joe, the realization suddenly coming to her. Joe wasn’t often driven by whims. When Joe put his hand to something, he had purpose, and she had seen the firming of his features when she announced that she was pregnant. But he seemed to throw himself into his projects, and it was too easy for Cindy to spend her time cuddled with Alex. She knew in the back of her mind that she was neglecting Joe, but thought in time it would work out.
Joe pretended that he didn’t notice her look, turned and walked back to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, leaving Cindy in the middle of the new bathroom to sort out the sudden flood of emotions that were washing over her.
“No more outhouse!” Pam said again, and followed Joe out to help with breakfast.
Cindy hardly remembered following them out, nor putting a table cloth out, nor setting the table. He was a steadfast rock to her, and she couldn’t imagine life on the little farm without him attending to all the little details.
Pam and Joe happily bantered back and forth during breakfast, but all Cindy could see was Joe’s huge military duffle and sleeping bag laying by the door. Ever so often, Joe would look at her silently, but made no effort to draw her out.
They silently finished the meal, and working together, had things put away in quick order. Usually everyone went their own way after breakfast, but today, Joe said, “we got to talk”.
The women sat back down at the table, and Joe went over to his duffle bag and picked out a large thick manila envelope sitting at the top, and sat down at the table.
“It is time for me to go”.
“When are you leaving?”
“I am going into town tonight so that I can get the bus out in the morning.”
“So soon? Can’t you stay long enough for us to say goodbye?
“You know me. I am not for drawing things out. I have some things you need to know, though. In this envelope is the deed to the farm. It was in my name almost from the day we moved in here. The mortgage was paid off a couple of months back. I signed it in front of Rose Vigil, and she notarized my signature. That makes the deed a bearer deed. I want you and Pam to sign the deed in front of Rose, and transfer the property to you. I would prefer that neither Alex or Paul are on the deed. They don’t have to know, and I don’t see them getting curious about it anyway. Rose will tell you how to get the deed recorded.”
“We can still be a family, Joe.” Pam said. “Maybe you could just visit whoever you are going to see, and then come back home.”
Joe smiled at Pam, but didn’t reply. He loved her simplicity. She had no capacity for navel gazing, and she wouldn’t be aware of the subtle change in their relationship.
“I just thought that I would let you do what you wanted, you lost interest in me”
“Cindy. Let’s not go there, OK. You didn’t ‘let’ me do anything. In fact, I doubt that you thought of me at all. But honestly, that’s OK. I saw it coming and was prepared for it. In fact, I believe it is the natural consequence of things.”
“When we first started, there was about fifteen or sixteen of us, remember? But that first winter was the pits, and those who had somewhere to go, went there. Then there were ten or so. Then five. And finally, two couples and one spare male. I have finished what I started. The ranch is now a safe place for the women to have babies. I am not needed here, and it is time to go.”
Pam got up and started putting her goat milking gear together, moving in short jerky fits that showed her agitation.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I have a ticket for Austin, but I doubt that it is my sort of town. Maybe I’ll move on down to Mexico. I haven’t thought really that far ahead, though.”
“Will you write?”
“Probably not. I’ve never been much of one to carry mementos or visit old haunts.”
Pam gathered up her gear and went outside, but her hands were to full to close the door, and she didn’t even try in her frustration. She just didn’t want to deal with this, and like Joe, she found solace in simple labor. Joe got up and closed the door behind her.
“We could have a child later.”
Joe hadn’t thought it out that far, but he dismissed the idea almost as soon as Cindy mentioned it. Cindy had made a choice before conception, and there was always something going on that kept them physically apart. Joe doubted that she had any physical desire for him, and their free love mantra fell along with quite a few other utopian ideals that they drew up in their campus years. Cindy had chosen despite her polyandrous convictions, and Pam chose because … well, Pam chose.
“Do you honestly believe that would work?” asked Joe.
“It could. Let’s discuss it with Alex and Paul. They are as fond of you as I am. We really should work this out.” she replied.
The suggestion irritated Joe, but he kept the irritation to himself. He didn’t expect much in the way of opposition from Alex and Paul. While they did pitch in for harvest and heavy work, they had little concern for the day to day operation of the farm, and wouldn’t think his absence changed thinks much. They were wrong, of course, and would very quickly miss the continual maintenance chores Joe spent his days on.
“I need to put up the rest of the pears today.”
Joe got up and began sorting things in the duffle bag. He still had too much in the way of memorabilia and he needed to cut that back. Near the top was the pictures he had of the commune family in happier times, but he decided to remove the pictures from the frames to save space.
He was still smarting from the suggestion that she would be willing to have his child after Alex’s child was born. She might as well have told him she would mercy fuck him just to keep him happy. It wasn’t about the baby. It was about the pairing off. The choosing. And the carelessness with his feelings. No, he was done here. It was time to move on.
He removed other items from the duffle bag, and giving each thing the flinty eye, he separated out more items. He didn’t need six changes of underwear. He wouldn’t need heavy wool sox nor earmuffs. One pair of leather gloves was sufficient. No obvious weapons. The tire-billy had to go.
Buy the time he had sorted through everything and repacked the duffle, Alex and Paul were up, and Cindy was setting out lunch for them. Leftover beans from last night, rewarmed cornbread, and pickled beets.
“Do you want lunch?” Cindy asked.
“Joe is leaving us tonight.” she went on.
“Huh? What’s wrong, Joe?” Alex asked.
“There is nothing wrong. Just that my feet are itching, and it is time to go.”
“Well, this is always home for you.” Paul said.
“Thanks. I do appreciate that.”
Cindy was hoping that Alex would talk Joe out of leaving, and was really irked with him not even trying. She explained how I planned on leaving this evening to be in town early for the bus, then got up from the table taking her uneaten dinner with her to put in the slop pail, and began tidying up. Pam hurriedly finished her bowl and got up to help Cindy.
“Cindy is really pissed at you! Not so sure but what you even managed to piss off Pam!” Paul said.
“Yeah. I can tell.” I replied
“Why don’t we just drive you to the bus station tomorrow?” Alex asked.
“It has been a long time since I was on the road. I just want to spend a little time working up to things. I’ll be OK, and it isn’t all that far.”
Joe decided that there wasn’t much point in hanging around longer, so he changed into his hiking boots and traveling hat, and started making his goodbyes. There were lots of tears, some more suggestions that this didn’t need to be permanent, some long hugs, and finally he set out down the road leaving his family behind. He had forgotten how free he felt going down the long road alone and picked up the stride, before making the obligatory final wave toward the house at the mailbox. He kept on until the house was out of sight.
There was a railroad track that paralleled the highway some distance off, and Joe cut across a field to walk along it. He didn’t want anyone offering him a ride, and he didn’t want the women to follow him in the car. The fall afternoon quickly faded to evening, and Joe moved off the tracks toward a copse of trees, and set up a simple camp for the night. Kindling a small fire, he heated a handful of parched corn to munch on before taking out his old briar pipe that he had stuffed with weed, and lit it.
The faces of Cindy, Pam, Alex and Paul appeared wraithlike several times in the reverie of the smoke, and Joe thought they called his name. But it was time to go, and when the cool of the fall evening broke the spell, He put my pipe in the small fire, and watched it burn. One does not travel with dope in their bags.
He was heartsick, but free …
I had about an hour to kill before Shabbat dinner, and I had updated my facebook pages, read the blogsites, checked the newsfeeds, adjusted the thermostat and had taken a little nap. I had not done any serious writing in awhile, and reflexively clicked on the word processor icon.
And there she was, casually sitting in the arm chair with her arms stretched along the back cushions, knees crossed ever so casually, looking like she had all the time in the world to listen to me.
“I saw you intently hunched over the keyboard, but no words were forthcoming. Do you care to talk about it?”
I think I knew where she was going with this, but I didn’t want to stick my neck out, and replied, “Keyboard? That wasn’t a keyboard. It is a controller for a sim.”
“Really? You were sure intent with it.”
I knew she had me, but I wasn’t going to act like I was unfaithful.
“It is just a game I’m playing.”
“You’ve been playing that ‘game’ for a week now, and you have hardly touched me.”
“It’s just a harmless simulation. A railroad simulation. I play a few games with the boys. Nothing serious.”
“Why don’t you just come out and admit it? You’ve found someone else.”
“It is just a fling. A toy. I don’t know what you are getting all upset about.”
“A fling? You have been out every night with your ‘toy’. You reek of diesel.”
“How can I reek of diesel, it is just a railroad simulation‽”
“You used to sit with me in the mornings while you drank your coffee. Some mornings stretched out into the entire day. But now, you spend your mornings with ‘it’.”
“I work the Bakersfield yard in the morning, getting trains ready for the other members. It is important to them, and I committed to it.”
“You used to be committed to me!”
I reached out to comfort her, saying, “Aw baby. I’ll never leave you. Things are just a little hectic now. I’ll be back with you in no time!”
“Don’t touch me!”
This wasn’t working. Maybe I should go on the offense, and gaslight[i] her. “Besides, you haven’t been all that responsive yourself lately! Maybe if you made yourself more attractive and tried to help with the flow of things, I would be spending all my time playing a computer simulation!”
“Oh! Now you are going to blame me for your roving eye! Oh no you don’t mister “engineer”. Well, from now on let’s just see how you get along without me!”
I should have felt bad about chipping on her, but all I could think about was now I have all the time I want to play on the sim.
gerund or present participle: gaslighting
- manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
“in the first episode, Karen Valentine is being gaslighted by her husband”
Sunday starts the first day of the week. Again. Just as it has from the time we first began counting the weeks. The sun set, the sun rose, and a silent click marks one more step until the last one. Everything’s time is numbered, and an eternal clock ticks of that number, no matter what its allotted time is measured in.
One day, I do believe that clock will make its last click for itself, just as it will make its last click for my allotted time. Some time ago, I actually heard that click. A solemn voice said, “We shall not pass this way again”. I think I know what that voice was referring to, but since it didn’t seem to be a message for anyone in particular, I stored up the voice and the accompanying vision.
Since then I have closely watched the seasons pass by with ever ever-increasing rhythm. World events began unfolding with that same increasing tempo. Political boundaries have expanded and retracted. Mighty kingdoms have arisen, only to fall again. Ancient kingdoms that disappeared have arisen, some even with their former names.
And a people have appeared that don’t remember the former times, nor the lessons they spawned, and they too will make the same tragic errors that their ancestors made, and they know it not. Mankind, with his mighty intellect has increased in knowledge, but grown weaker in his wisdom.
And I don’t have the power to say “Stop! Don’t you see where you are going? Is it that hard to discern?”
But to them, I am just a cranky old man who sits on his porch and remembers the old days. And they are right.
The bat kol continues to wake me night after night, with simple words packed with images and meanings that are unutterable, so I remain mute, except to tell you I heard the click of a clock that was marking the passing of time.