There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
Yes. I have the right word, osmosis. Bookish osmosis brings words, ideas, sentences into the heart and mind, from books, held close (my theory). I am nudged in my psyche and my passion, when I think of writers who may have experienced bookish osmosis: Annie Proulx, Anton Chekov, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, Daniel Silva, Maya Angelou, Tim Cahill, John le Carre, CS Lewis, William Blake, Brad Thor, Douglas Adams, Nelson Demille, Craig Johnson, Vince Flynn … and Keith Richards; George Orwell; Anthony Burgess (see photos, below).
My “book-eyes” are bigger than the hours of the day. My desire for good books, transcendent characters, kick-ass plots, great stories, goes beyond what is realistic. And that, my fellow bloggers, is why I am holding out for bookish osmosis.
I woke up this morning, a good place to start. In my goings, my comings, my interactions, I am asked that profound question that has been lurking close by, since the dinosaurs: “How are you doing today?”
Me: “How ‘you doin’?”
Others: “I’m doin’ good. How you doin’?” (Just like the commercial, with a New York accent – “How You Doin’? I’m Doin’ Good. How You Doin’?”)
Me: “Well, I woke up, this morning. That suggested that it was going to be a good day.”
I have a theory: most people know, that on some level, it is good to wake up. Not everyone wakes up. This morning, when sleep slipped away, I thought of my grieving. Anyone who has (miraculously) read any of my posts might know that my dad finished up his race (a metaphor for his life), last year, 2016, June. The grieving process has, seemingly,not been, successful. Some say that this kind of loss involves a lengthy process, longer than a year and four months. And yet, I’ve been on the other side of the forest from joy, from victory, from strength, from my dreams … Get the picture? The weariness of grief shows up in more ways than one: the darkness, the sadness, lack of motivation, the loss of dreams. Evenings, the fatigue may hit like a freight train. I don’t think this is as simple as I would like it to be. Is your grieving over? To think, that there is more life, a different life, just over the horizon. That is a good thought. Some of you have already reached that point. Don’t stop: I’m right behind you.
Not far from East Texas, even less distance from the Arkansas border, my first birthday happened in a little town, a little home, a little hospital. Quite a shindig, that first birthday. Late night, or early morning, it was dark out. A doctor, some nurses, Mom was there, Dad was in the waiting room. On the outskirts of that little town, logging trucks growled up and down a four-lane Louisiana State highway, east and west, in front of our rural, heavily wooded, place. Our little town’s “downtown” lay three miles west. What was east of us, down that road … I knew nothing about. I asked my dad, once.
“The only people I know who go down that way are these logging trucks you see going back and forth. It’s not a place where you want to go. In fact, I do not want you to go down there … at all.”
I never asked again. This was the “small town” South. Everyone knew your business, to a point; the same “small-town” South where secrets were part of the fabric, an old fabric, passed down through many generations, secrets that would never die. Since my pre-adolescent years, curiosity about the land east of us would not fade, like the secrets. While researching one of my favorite topics, “Fire Towers” / “Watch Towers”, I experienced an unexpected dose of irony, a powerful metaphor. I found out about a fire tower near the little town where I grew up, just east of our home, down that elusive highway, leading into an elusive place. A topographical map showed the symbol for a fire tower there, surrounded by forest, like other fire towers; yet, no picture. It bothered me that I couldn’t find a picture of the fire tower in my little town. I imagined a fire tower, in the midst of a dense wilderness, with a nameless, faceless, man looking out for miles in all directions. And yet, I could not see this fire tower hidden from me. It bothered me that I have not been able to find other pictures of the place where I grew up: the store (the only store in town that sold clothes, and a number of other categories of goods); the drug store; the barber shop; the original library; the cotton gin, the Legion Hall, the grocery store. Instead I found articles of sad things that have happened, and continue to happen. I still refuse to give up my town, but … I must do exactly that. It is no longer there. Yes, it is on the map. It goes by the same name. But it is not the same place. My little home town has died. Some places, you just can’t get to. Some mysteries remain mysteries. Some stories are not meant to be finished. We have our own stories, each playing an intricate role in our larger story, and we are called to live out that story, not the stories of others. We have our grieving that shows up in different ways: the loss of a friend, or a family member; the loss or “home”; the loss of community that we once had with certain, special, individuals. And with this reality, another, more powerful reality stands strong in the present: we transcend that pain, our pain, our loss. We have vision, passion, creativity for beauty and meaning that must overwhelm that past. There is joy in the present; there is joy in tomorrow; there is joy in the future. I am immensely thankful for that.
Recently, I had an image in my mind, a man … many years compiled; white hair, weathered face, eyes that drew you into his stories, his life, seasoned in his silence. A man who did not speak, just so he could hear himself. I searched for the picture of a man who fit the image I was contemplating. The drawing below, of a man’s face, brought to the surface, something allegorical.
Grady. Late seventies. A jovial man with a thankful spirit, in an assisted living-type of context. I met Grady in a sports bar a number of years ago. The stool next to him was open. I didn’t ask, I claimed the place along the bar. He wore a surfer-style t-shirt (it could have been him on the board riding a wave), thick white hair, large forearms; he had the marked and worn hands of a carpenter, with a nice collection of scars from building houses. Grady was drinking coffee.
I asked, ‘”Why would a fella come to a sports bar and drink coffee?”
The man set his coffee down and looked at me with a strong poker face. Sizing me up, he said, “Big TV’s to watch sports. I get to talk to pretty women.”
I saw the mischief in his blue eyes, a contagious grin. I asked him what his wife thinks about such tomfoolery.
‘There are no big TVs in my home, and only one good-looking gal to talk to. Belle. She is my wife. And she understands such matters.”
I sat with Grady at the sports bar once, or twice, monthly, Wednesday evenings. He said I had a higher calling than to hang out in sports bars. I told Grady “Maybe you also have a higher calling than hanging out in sports bars.” Grady stared up into the heavens for a bit, before slowly nodding: “This may be true.”
Belle passed in ’91. I attended Belle’s funeral, sat with Grady, with an unexplainable sense that Belle was there, also, sitting with Grady. Soon after, Grady moved to where he is now, an upscale assisted living set up. I hang out with Grady, on Wednesday’s. Grady has not changed a bit since we met; I was heckling him about drinking coffee in a sports bar. He is the same big-boned man, somewhere above the six-foot mark, a strong smile and a weathered gentleness. Grady will shift from regular sentences into multiple phrases; eyes focused on a place, a thought, beyond our here-and-now. I think about what he is saying; I look for a pattern, or patterns; and I am able to follow him. He has a sharp mind.
“Vision … you get it, don’t lose it …’
Belle’s love … “
Friend … priceless …”
Recently, I asked, “How goes the battle, Grady?”
“It goes, my young friend, continues on many fronts. Sometimes well, sometimes not.” “Example?”
“(Pause) We have these debates that come up, some of the men, here. We encourage each other. At times, someone will get a bit heated. That happened yesterday (pause). I’m learning more about appreciating that … tension … in community. Over many years, I have found myself worried about losing a friend, if I say the wrong thing, or if I don’t do what people want me to do. I do not need to fear the tension, the conflict. These are good men, and we have the freedom to be real and to speak freely. It’s alright if we see things differently. Yes. They are good men, like you.”
I still need to dig a bit deeper with this allegory, to get the big idea, Based on what I have, so far, I think this allegory is about our gravitation towards authentic relationship; the inner substance of redemptive desire to understand each other, respectively; the potential committment to stick with a relationship for the long haul, versus fading away to move on, to the next “thing”, the next friend. I hope that you have enjoyed this allegorical place I have gone to.
Every year, December, one of my thoughts involves the Cajun Christmas story. Papa Noël heads to the homes in South Louisiana, Santa Claus heads to homes in North Louisiana (and beyond). No winter in South Louisiana, which means no reindeer, no sled. Papa Noël cruises down bayous and rivers in a boat, very similar to a kayak, known as a pirogue, pronounced as pe’-ro. Papa Noel’s pirogue (pe’-ro) gets around pulled by eight (8) alligators. Their names are:
For those of us who are familiar with Santa Claus (aka St. Nick), a common understanding is that this, somewhat chubby, giver of gifts shows up garbed in red winter wear. Papa Noël dresses differently, appropriately, in a combination of “long johns” and muskrat fur. Now, one must realize that the story line is accompanied by Cajun vocabulary, words, and expressions that some may not understand. The good news is a) you will still understand the story; and b) you will probably enjoy this Christmas tale. Among the different versions, I hope you use this link. Some of the accounts are inaccurate, and of lesser quality.
‘Couple of Oreos in the night after a disruptive dream. I could not quite remember the details. The Oreos were amazing. A son, undisputedly handsome with a good, a noble, heart, intelligent, awareness of his world sharper than a sword, gifted in a way that he did not ask for, bringing him intermittent sorrow, coexisting with joy, a sense of humor, robust imagination, warrior spirit. I had my share of wounds, lost at times in a world that moves much faster than I can grasp, my own creativity I cannot get to, I look for trails but they are unfairly elusive. I found myself grieving for a man who was and is a legend, who loved well, lived well, laughed well, my friend and my dad. But none of the dream was a dream. Reality has a great deal of mystery, at times.
I was walking with a woman, swirled in beauty with blonde hair and with unfathomable wisdom, a saint of a mother with the spunk to tell me when I was wrong, who married me in spite of me and my wounds and groaner jokes. Two younger ones looked up to me with love and respect, and I was confused by that: a daughter with eyes that can see into the depths of the journey, the hearts and souls of others; my son who creates so many things, his laughs radiate outward and inward toward others. I stood in Scotland at the castle Dunnotar, and at the Loch Ness hoping for a glimpse of Nessie, the Loch Ness “monster”. I walked along the ice road between McMurdo Station and Willy Field (camp) in Antarctica. I sat in the Christchurch Cathedral, putting together some pieces, there at the Christchurch Square. But the dream was not a dream. They are sparkling realities and memories I keep close.
Yesterday, Saturday the 24th, I wrote this post … but was unable to send it until today.
Today, I pushed something away, something of importance. Then I brought it back in, embraced it. A year ago, my Dad finished his race, crossing the line into the Place where most of us will go, when we are finished here, a place where we don’t suffer anymore, and we are joyous beyond our comprehension. I know that place as Heaven. It was the day my Dad died that I wrote a short tribute.https://t7danieldavis.wordpress.com/…/06/24/dad-man-a-trib…/
I have great confidence, he is happier than ever. No pain. I envision him sitting with countless individuals from the War, especially in the South Pacific, swapping stories of the good memories … only the good memories. *NOTE: my dad is not in this picture. But it reminds me of my dad, laughing.
Dad was a golfer. I get these images in my mind of beautiful fairways and greens, Dad hitting the ball well, avoiding the rough. The weather is good, not too hot, slight breeze, the sun peeking out from time to time.
It is good to remember: but what I remember, and how I remember, is important. Letting people, and my stuff, go as I put one foot in front of the other; as I make my efforts to love well, and grieve well; as I laugh when those wonderful opportunities come … These also important, along with remembering. I have taken a good look at different pieces of my life, over the past year, and one of those is my selfishness. Dad’s not suffering. So, maybe I am more concerned about myself. When someone I love goes, because it is his time to go, and because he wants to go, rewarded for his life with a place of unfathomable goodness …Shouldn’t I be happy for them? And I am. Truly I am. Yet, I am sad because there were signficant things that I wish I would have told him … things that I failed to tell him. I miss his presence, although his pain and his fatigue prevented him from actually being … fully … present. I write about all this, even though the man moved on a year ago, because I am trying to connect with my “here-and-now”: how his life affected me and impacts me on this day, in the night, in the mornings. I am considering what he taught me, that I can apply today, if I have the courage to do so. Lastly, I am considering the precious people who are in my life now … so that I can enjoy them, now … and love them, now.