What the Trees Taught Me 1 0f 4
Writings by Sha’Ra On WindWalker
(in collaboration with Sha’Tara EarthStar)
Copyright (©) 2017 Cocoons to Butterflies Publishing
Published by: Cocoons to Butterflies Publishing
Chilliwack, B.C. Canada
Cover pictures by: Deniz Ongar
All pictures found on FreeImages.com
Space Picture: ESA/Hubble
Next Series: Voice in the Mist
I hope you enjoy these writings. Feedback is welcome.
These books represent a varied collection of remarkable “outside the box” thinking (and subsequently, writing).
If you are one of those trammeled and importuned by strong beliefs that won’t let go, this could be your chance to break free. I’m not asking you to believe what is written therein—I can’t say I believe all of it myself—but it makes for an interesting “other than” perspective. Reading these books can be compared to painting by numbers. You have this standard picture outline and between lines are colour numbers. You match the numbers to the colours and eventually you have a painting. It’s not great art, of course, and everybody knows that but it gives you the impression that you did it yourself. We all know that is how the System operates. It gives us a number of colours and our life is laid out and numbered, from cradle to the grave. There isn’t much we can do about it, it seems. It’s the System.
Ah, but there is something we can do about it. We can ignore the numbers. Use random colours and mix them. If “3” is green, we do pink on one of the “3” sections and arbitrarily use orange on the next, and so on. Pretty soon the System doesn’t know us anymore and guess what? We discover what real freedom can be. It begins by breaking the rules; by daring to violate those imposed beliefs. Here’s one for you: Did man ever land on the moon? Of course they did, you will say. You saw it on TV, or you saw the videos and read the reports and documentaries, right? Ok, fine. But that is not the point since landing on the moon or not did nothing to change the way people interact with each other. So the point? The point is to paint a different colour on the “moon landing” section of your life’s canvas. A “fake moon landing” colour. Now really go into this idea. Break the template here, convince yourself it was all faked in some studio, for whatever political reason. Then proceed to prove to yourself that it was so. Study this bit of history; look at the clues. What happens in the end? In the end you realize it doesn’t matter at all whether they landed on the moon or not. What matters is, you dared question it.
The material in here questions “taken for granted” ideas, sometimes seriously, sometimes with humour.
You know, it’s hard to think these days, when everything is handed to us via TV and the Internet. Everything tells us how to think, and does so in the blink of an eye. We don’t have to wait for the President’s state of the union speech, or the preacher’s rant on a given Sunday. We Google!
Can a mind atrophy? You bet. Look into these booklets and think about thinking.
Blacks and Whites in conflict,
racial tension boiling over
into the streets they go to prove
who is right and who is wrong.
Is anything ever accomplished
by all this violence
beyond demonstrating ignorance?
No one is better: that has never been the point!
all are equal, sharing a planet
as one group soul in nature.
On an old blackboard
White and Black exist together
in peaceful, productive harmony,
providing contrast without which
no communication would appear,
is it possible to learn
from such simple examples?
will you see the light
in the morning?
(Chronicles of the WindWalkers)
“And they shall be endowed with great intelligence
And turn it ever to evil deeds even to turning light to darkness.
And they shall be given a home but will not understand
And so shall they destroy the gentle fabric of it.
And they shall be clothed and fed but turn on their benefactor
And so shall they tear her apart.
And they shall have children born of Earth matter;
of wind and rain; of earth and fire,
And shall make them children of the damned.
So it was prophesied long ago to the Spirit of Gaia
before she set out to give life
And in tears she wandered in the darkness,
afraid to face the light,
afraid of the life she carried.
Yet it came to pass that she found a place in the sun,
And gave birth in pain and sorrow
To a life that would proliferate wildly,
Turn upon itself and eat itself unto death.
City people come in varying degrees
of educated ignorance.
In some cities, they are cowed
by their religions and governments:
they walk hunched over, drab grey, silent,
women covered head to toe.
In others – mine, for example
They try to outdo themselves
in ardent acts of displayed stupidity -
whether pedestrians or drivers:
seems to me they’re all auditioning
for some bit part
in a beer commercial:
they yell insults at one-another,
sometimes arguing and fighting.
Vehicles are equipped
with the latest noise-making gadgetry
and failing that,
the 50’s mindset takes over
and tires squeal – and tires burn:
stupid is as stupid does.
And where do these bad actors
learn their anti-social behaviour?
From TV of course -
but the best performance
was learned and earned
at the local high school.
Now don’t get me started
on the subject of cost
for all this “educated ignorance”!
A story is told of a man
who realized one day his life had no meaning.
He was going on in years, entering retirement
and all he saw of himself seemed meaningless.
So he took a vow that before he died
he was going to put meaning in the remainder of his life.
He walked snowy, stormy paths in the Himalayas
and talked at length with Buddhist monks;
He went to Rome and got an audience with the Pope.
He met shamans and teachers and elders,
spent several seasons with Australian aborigines.
He studied and pondered, cloistered in a monastery;
read tome upon tome of Christian history and philosophy.
He studied the life of Gandhi and Mother Teresa,
read biographies on Nelson Mandela
and Martin Luther King Jr.
And he observed people in far away towns and villages;
crossed Africa and trekked through the Middle East.
He encountered wars and famines and strange customs.
He ate foods that made him sick, drank polluted water
and tried an endless number of rituals.
Eventually all his retirement money ran out
and he found himself back in his own town,
on his own street, in his own home – alone.
Thought a fool, by all,
including himself, and none the wiser.
Then he had a dream one night:
He was reading a simple novel, in his den by the fire
when he saw a word he didn’t know the meaning of
so he reached for his dictionary… and he got it!
Meaning! Right there, in his dictionary
where it had been all along…
“Meaning: that which is intended to be, or actually is,
expressed or indicated.”
That simple. In a dictionary. Meaning of life?
What life is. It has no other meaning!
No one finds meaning by searching for it.
What is, is all the meaning there can be.
No one can fill a cup already full;
if one does not like the contents thereof,
one must empty the cup, wash it, and refill it.
But life does not allow such a luxury
for the cup of life comes without possibility
of a refill.
An old adage:
absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Now let’s add this corollary:
“all power tends to the absolute.”
To a large extent human societies
are on an endless quest for justice.
This must mean, for honest government:
can there ever be such a thing?
The answer is a resounding “no!”
Government is a power collective.
Power collectives can only work
when powered by their mind slaves,
Once a people believe
in duly constituted authorities -
be these God, Government or Money-
these can literally get away with murder:
murder of individuals, of society,
of the environment.
Where there are secrets
and secret societies or groupings
shenanigans must be going on
or what would be the point of such an exercise?
What government does not operate in secret?
Democracies have proven no better in this
than other forms of authoritarian power.
A “government” can only remain in power
as long as it possesses something
a competitive collective does not have.
There is but one way for humans
to finally have “honest” government:
to become honest themselves,
individually self empowered,
and rid themselves forever
of their authoritarian leeches.
So often, we wonder about ‘love’
I mean, of the romantic kind,
and in this meditation I thought I heard
Tara reply to my whirling thoughts:
“Do you not realize that in man’s world,
a woman’s body is always for sale or trade?
that she has learned to please a man
she receives something in return?
See why romantic relationships
resemble the spirit of Christmas
thrown out with the dying tree
after the lights have been stripped off,
string by string…
True love demands nothing in return,
does not prefer one over the other,
is free to flow from all to all!
If you ever hope to experience the power of
have no expectation but what is offered
in the sacred moment you share with the other.
Freely allow for the unexpected
to manifest itself.
You, my friend, will certainly like it!
And she may find herself free enough
in your love to feel the same.”
Child, woman, lover, mother, (goddess)!
you guided me through years of doubt,
protected me from sorrow
nursed me thru illness.
When I was cold
you opened your arms
and held me to your breast.
When I was sad
you spoke much wisdom
and laughter entered our home.
I’ve thought about this
through the years,
wondering who you really were,
who could so easily move
the parts of the me
I tried to keep hidden from the rest,
who could change my moods,
who re-directed my desires
and brought me a world
filled with wonder and love.
I suppose its quite possible
to exist not believing
the gods guide and love us.
I suppose its quite possible
to believe we do it all ourselves.
Had I never known you
perhaps I may have concluded
I was the one who steered my ship
and made it all happen.
Now I’ve seen the goddess in you
I can’t believe that all along
you thought you were just
a man’s wife!
Life is seldom ‘steady as she goes’
but we stumble, sometimes in woes:
we all do things regrettable
and remember, Oh how we remember
the things we wish we’d never done!
But when we choose to know those things;
when we kneel and call them by their name
and we gently pick them up,
and carry them with us
as children dressed in miserable rags
as a reminder that life moves onward,
like children, they will change,
the pain they caused
won’t matter in the end.
Their legacy must be, can only be
the obtaining of deeper character
because we loved enough
to carry and hold the un-loveable
about the one we refer to as self.
you gave me life
in my time
now in my prime
you give me hope
in your now
you give me sun
in water to swim
my naked body
on and laugh
at passing gulls
you give me love
for all that surrounds
my time in libra
universal free soul
There is a place one can reach where "once is all it takes" regarding thoughts and motions. Whatever one thinks, whatever one does, there is no need to repeat any of it. Sentient knowledge is permanently retained. Eat once - that's it; done - throw away the dishes! Fall in love once, that's it -- no need or desire to try that again. Have sex once, that's it -- won't get better. Sleep once - for as long as you want -- then never have to do that again. Get sick once and that's it -- just get well and carry on. Do something incredibly stupid, like watching TV or going to a hockey game -- that's it. No need to waste time doing that again. Get married, get divorced - done. Buy a house, sell a house - done.
“Was that fun or what!”
Say something – anything – everybody hears and everybody knows what you mean. No need to repeat it; no need to scream and shout, no need to write it down in a book. The knowledge garnered in the one thought, the one act, is permanent for the individual and likely in an even more evolved level, that knowledge instantly becomes the property of everyone else. So you can do one thing and everybody “knows” what that is. This frees the rest to do their own thing. No one does anything anyone else is doing because it’s already been done for everyone.
Nothing repeats. Nothing to recycle. Nothing wasted. This brings me to the “addiction” problem. If the “once is all it takes” concept was possible here (keeping in mind that only the word impossible is impossible – that nothing is impossible) there would be no debilitating sicknesses and no addictions. Once one had tasted alcohol, even to the point of getting drunk, one would have no desire to taste it again. Same with any other drug. Even the “death” addiction would not exist because everyone is just too busy doing new things to think about ending anything. Everything would “end” on its own through the mind taking everything experienced along into every new experience. Like a lane flows into a road, a road into a street and a street into a freeway. Ever expanding and never questioning the knowledge and awareness one would swim in.
Nothing getting tired, nothing wearing out. One would just go... and go... and go, ever forward -- no matter what "forward" means, for it would be forever changing in every possible way.
Imagine, if you can, what your personal life would be like if you never had to, or felt the need to, repeat anything. Imagine what you could do if you weren't stuck on the treadmill of repetitive thought patterns and motions? Imagine the energy you would have if you weren't spending 99.9% of your life repeating the same things, most of those not very enlightening because they have already been done my millions and billions of individuals, for hundreds of thousands of years, and have lost their original meaning.
My concept of infinity: never repeat yourself. Always tackle something new, keeping in mind that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
What? You thought I was going to serve a neat little closed system to indulge short-sighted fantasies in? Hasn’t there been enough of that in this “here” and until “now”?
There are no punishments or rewards in reality – only consequences. Subconsciously most Earthians have garnered enough knowledge to realize that, but such an awareness leaves great discomfort of mind. Seems then that no one is “in charge,” keeping tabs on it all for some just and proper final judgment where the bad guys (that’s all those not of my belief system!) finally get their just payback.
But that’s how it is. More: all of what is, is the result of an accretion of consequences from the beginning, the sum total of all intersections of events, each intersection being a consequence of the convergence of two or more acts.
In this, there is no karma either. Once the act is done and gone; once it has intersected with another, that’s it: part of the big picture. It cannot be removed. The being who dies with a lot of “karma” is simply caught in the delusion caused by the constant brainwashing (programming) of the planetary god’s soul implant. Another word for that is guilt.
How can anyone even contemplate something as ridiculous as “karma” in the classic sense when we know the law that says, “for every action there is an opposite and immediate reaction”? So, what you have is not some karmic payback concept but constant cosmic adaptation to forced change.
When one awakens to greater concepts of reality one’s quest for understanding intensifies. This means probing the past to see what was and using that information to create a plausible explanation for “now” and plotting a likely future. How one awakens, of course is by reaching beyond all the “tried and true” simplistic concepts once considered enough and appropriate. To jump in the way of the tornado of higher consciousness to be swept away by it and find new realities to study and perhaps inhabit… to dare go beyond a simplistic, childish belief in the powers of the Wizard of Oz. Isn’t that what Dorothy and her misfit friends learned?
The demand of life is that one always goes “where no one has gone before” for anything less is an insult to the offer of the process. Hence why people on Earth are miserable, spiritually lost, and easily manipulated to their greatest detriment as individuals and as groups. They do not dare move outside the perimeters given them by their “gods” – their “Powers”. These divine taboos then become social strictures which logically lead to violent conflict between groups. That translates as oppression, state sanctioned murder, bloodshed.
It always translates as an innocent child being sacrificed to the cause of the greater collective evil. How many times does that child die a violent death on that sacrificial altar? Over thirty thousand times each day. Cool, huh? Pure genius, and how cheap it is to keep the sacred status quo.
I found out about him from some research I was doing, trying to piece together what happens to old people who end up living alone in rural areas, particularly in the central prairies-forgotten on homesteads of farms long ago fallen through the cracks of commercial viability. He’d shown up on police records-a man looking for his wife in the city. According to the records she had a daughter at the time. His name is Peter Breckman. Further inquiries revealed nothing else but that he’d returned to his farm in Saskatchewan, north of the Saskatchewan River, somewhere to the north-west of Prince Albert.
I was hooked. I asked my editor for some long overdue vacation time. There was no argument. With several awards, including the Canadian Association of Journalists Award, and a possible Pulitzer for a book I’m writing based on my work in investigative reporting (including a stint in jail for not revealing a source) I was not to be argued with on that point. The House wanted me happy and of course, working.
“You’re going to drive all the way into central Saskatchewan in October? You’ve never driven outside Ontario, all on paved highways, except those two trips we took to Chicago, and I did most of the driving. Why don’t you fly to Regina, take a bus north, rent a real four by four when you get to Prince Albert and give yourself time to explore the country, you know, before you’re buried under the snow or die in a blizzard while listening to Leonard Cohen? Come on, give yourself time to flush out your quarry, and regale us with another of your tear-jerking prize winning stories of people down on their luck who somehow manage to see themselves through it all. Look, if it’s money you need, or an advance, we’ll be happy to give it to you, Reed.”
Even in heels I have to look up to see his round face. I notice his hairline is receding more and more and there’s graying at the temples. We, none of us are getting younger, hah! “I know Edward. But I don’t need money; I need time alone to think.”
“Suit yourself, I know when my arguments are wasted. But stay in touch will you? Call, or email once a day-promise?”
I took a very deep breath, studied the genuinely concerned look on his face. “No promises Edward, not ever-remember? That’s why as long as we were together you were always free to be with anyone else also. I commit only to my work. This time is for me – alone. I’ll call if something warrants it. If something happens, someone will call, I’ll make sure of that. I’ll carry a note in a pocket so when they find my frozen body under a snow drift by a clump of waxberry bushes, they can contact you on your cell.”
He smirked and that was done. We kissed goodbye as two people who had been married for many years would. The romance, if there ever was any, and it was more House’s gossip than reality, was long gone between us. We were business partners and that suited me fine.
The next morning I finished packing my CRV and I headed west from Toronto, hitting the number 1 highway until I was about a hundred klicks from the city and then switching to service roads and secondary highways. I waited until the landscape became utterly unfamiliar to allow myself to relax. The land began to flatten and the roads became margin lines on the edges of graph paper, or so I imagined it would look from the air. Here and there, small rivers or dry ravines with denuded clumps of aspen, cottonwoods or willows, graciously offered a break in the scenery and let me pass, lost to their own concerns. Eventually I got around to putting a Leonard Cohen CD in the drive and I turned the volume almost as high as it would go, rolling down the side window and letting my feelings have their way and flow on the breeze. I literally flew as there didn’t seem to be any speed limits, or if there were, they weren’t posted.
Somehow it was all very fitting for as I listened to my all time favorite Canadian poet and singer my mind began to form the outline of the story I was going away to dig up and write. Yeah, I guess you could say that I am an archeologist of sorts, digging up stories of ghosts not yet dead and giving them one more moment of light before the final darkness drives them away for good. Ok, so I’ve read too much gothic fiction, but I like it.
As I drove along and played with the words of the songs, mixing my own with them, I became convinced that whatever I found out there would not only change my life, but give me a greater awareness of myself. Here, in this endless land called the Prairies I would lose the City that had formed the city girl and this Changing Woman. Here I would find another me, one more real than this one. That was what I was after. The story was to be the frame around my new face, and I didn’t care whether the world was ever going to see that face.
I eased off on the accelerator and stopped more often, choosing my overnight stops carefully, frequenting restaurants that catered to the locals, mostly farm people. I did not hide myself and attracted quite a few hopefuls. I asked questions and they told me their stories which I surreptitiously recorded for the main story. I needed background material as I knew nothing of this land or its people. Which is a good thing actually as I had no preconceived ideas about any of it, except for the questionable I had gathered from the CBC, McLean’s and the National Film Board. I had done my desk research but now I was in it for the show-down, so to speak.
I took five days to reach Prince Albert. This is what they have to say about this town of 35,000 people: Prince Albert is the 3rd largest City in Saskatchewan. Located in the broad valley of the North Saskatchewan River near the geographical center of the province where the agricultural prairie of the south and the rich forest belt of the north meet. Much of Prince Albert is built on the sloping south bank of the North Saskatchewan River while the north bank provides a spectacular view of mixed forest, typical of northern Saskatchewan.
I set up my ‘office’ in a hotel and began to inquire as to the whereabouts of Mr. Breckman. The police were the most helpful. They cross-checked their old files with up-dated information and found me an address. I didn’t tell them who I was and they didn’t ask why I wanted to know. These people still trust strangers here and I was somewhat surprised but said nothing. Soon enough, I thought, soon enough when they will become suspicious and closed like those of us in the big cities.
After two days of Prince Albert, I checked out but indicated I could be back, and drove across the North Saskatchewan river and headed north, then west into what seemed to me terribly empty lands with modern machinery parked in the fields and huge ‘farmsteads’ of barns, storage sheds, silos and modest homes holding up the grey sky and keeping a vigil over thousands of flat, empty acres of cleared land. I passed a church with its front door gaping open, its steeple fallen down and a couple of weathered sheets of plywood nailed over the hole caused by the fallen construct. Well, I thought, at least now the door is open to all, at any time, even if there is only dank mildew and darkness inside. Beats religion anyhow. I know Leonard would have a poem and a song to write about this place. His words would be gentler than mine, no doubt.
I hit the dirt roads and eventually serpented my way down into a deep ravine and snaked up the other side, thankful that the road was dry as I had heard tales of prairie gumbo and I did not relish the thought of being stuck at the bottom of this twisty, steep and not too well kept road. As I crested and leveled upon the flats again I saw my destination. A clump of blue spruce and some ramshackle buildings with a broken and falling picket fence that had once been painted white, along the road. Slowly, I turned into the rutted driveway, sides and center of the drive overgrown with coarse horsehair grasses and dandelions, a few still blooming. My car being narrower than the normal, if rare, traffic that had formed this road, I had to use my four-wheel drive and some skill to not be thrown sideways. I was to learn later that the best thing to do when driving over a deeply rutted road is to straddle the ruts and create a new set in between. I am a city girl. There are things you have to grow up with; that cannot be learned overnight, or even by observation. Sometimes you have to accept your own ignorance, knowing that if the foot was in the other shoe, you’d be the one explaining and demonstrating the rules of the game.
Reaching what seemed like the end of the driveway, I turned off the engine and peered around without getting out. I had seen some sad places along the way here, but this was the saddest imaginable. There was an old Dodge van parked in front of a grey, sway-backed shack with a peeling tar paper roof. The van had once been white but now was a mixed shade of green algae or mold and accumulated wind-blown dirt. A weed with small, shriveled purple flowers grew from the windshield gasket. It had a jack supporting the front struts and the driver side front wheel was gone. All the others were flat and the tires were sun-baked and weather cracked. From a broken window of the side doors a dog of indistinct lineage, age or gender stared at me without making a sound. It looked strange until I noticed it only had one eye. It seemed to be trying to smell me and I judged its remaining eyesight was not too good. Safe to get out of the CRV? I thought it was, but I was careful to open the door wide first, then put one leg on the ground, then slide slowly from the seat to stand beside the car, ready to jump back in at a moment’s notice. The dog left the window and disappeared. I waited and I heard it jump out of the old vehicle, heard a whimpering then it limped around the front and came slowly towards me. It wagged its tail slowly, as if putting too much speed on it would detach it. It approached me and sniffed, then just stood there until I bent down gingerly and petted it lightly on the head and behind the ears. I don’t like dogs or pets in general and this was wild country. I didn’t know if Mr. Breckman was even home, but likely he would be. Obviously his supplies were brought in by someone as there was nothing around that was drivable.
The dog whined a bit and I felt sorry for the old thing but didn’t know what to do. I walked to the shack, up the two creaky steps of loose boards and knocked on the door. There was a shuffling inside and some indistinct words that may have been ‘Wait, I’m comin’ and in a few moments the door creaked open. I saw an old man, old beyond his physical years I could tell. A man who knew anguish and much suffering. I introduced myself as Reed, a reporter for the House.
“I’m Pete” he answered. “I’m sorry about the state of this place but I don’t get around to doing much anymore. My back just won’t let me. Please come in if you care to and we can sit at the table. Then you can tell me why you’re here.”
We sat at a dusty table, on two old wooden chairs that certainly pre-dated my time. A naked light bulb dangled from two twisted black and white wires that came from a hole in a yellowed drywall ceiling. I was facing the man as he sat squinting at me, holding his head in his hands.
“Mr. Breckman” I began, but he waved me to stop.
“Please miss, call me Pete, or Peter, but forget the mister. I’m no mister, just an old man waiting for nothing to happen.”
An interesting ‘tournure’ of words, I thought. But before I plunged into my spiel I found myself wondering if I could do something for this ‘old man’ before me, or for the dog.
“Your dog, Pete, seems to be in great pain, and I think it’s very hungry.”
“Who, Bean? She’s a great hunter, she doesn’t go hungry.”
“Pete, I watched her. She can hardly move anymore and she’s starving, for food and affection. Something should be done for her.”
“Ah, yes, I forgot. She’s old and she don’t complain any. There’s some chow stuff in the cupboard under the sink, I think. D’you think you could get some to her, and some water too?”
I nodded and complied. It was simple and heartwarming. The dog was grateful to me and that was a first. And so was the man I’ll now call ‘Pete’ for clarity. I had some supplies in my car so without asking I brought in some fresh food and made us sandwiches. Pete stared at me as I worked at the counter, wiping it as best I could first. I was surprised to find running water, though not hot, at the taps and found a dish cloth that looked reasonably clean to wipe a few items of cutlery. Then I brought out a couple of cans of Canada Dry ginger ale and we ate in silence. I watched him eat. He was definitely enjoying his sandwich and I felt gratified. My heart was not just going out to the old man, but racing to him. I wondered why I was so taken and accounted it to the emptiness of the place, being tired from my traveling and a degree of nervousness I was working to overcome. My watch said it was already after 14:00 hours and the nearest hotel I knew of was almost two hundred klicks back the way I came. I’d be driving back through unfamiliar country dirt roads with no signs, re-crossing those horrid ravines and if it rained, or sleeted as it seemed wont to do, I’d be in serious trouble unless I overcame my natural reticence of asking for help and pulled into one of those modern farms. Surely, I said to myself, I can’t sleep here.
He had finished his sandwich, mine being half-eaten and he turned on the light. To my surprise I saw a set of battered blueprints which I’d earlier taken as some kind of tablecloth. He sighed, leaned his head in his hands again and stared at the drawings. I saw tears welling up in his eyes, reflected by the light.
“Ahhh!” he groaned. Then he looked up at me again and apologized. “So sorry miss, but you have no idea how much your presence is hurting me. You look like her.”
“I’m sorry Pete. So sorry. You mean I remind you of your wife?”
“My wife, yes, my pretty little Sally. My life. Yes, you do remind me and I suppose I’m an old fool who never made the effort to get over his love for one woman. I only knew Sally, no one else. We grew up around here and kind of became attached to each other. She had a bad home life and ran away to our place many times. Finally at sixteen, and me eighteen I couldn’t stand it that she’d be abused at home, so I went over there, threatened her old man and took her away. We married in the church and lived with my parents for a short while, then we moved here. Kids didn’t stay with their parents in our day, you had to make your own way in life. There’s a quarter section here, not something you can live on you know, but you add on and add on and eventually you have a real farm. It’s tough, those first few years but that’s why you do it young, when you have plenty of stamina and you know everything and you know you’re going to get what you’re after. If you have a good woman behind you, it’s even more of a sure thing. Sally was a good woman miss. A very good woman, make no mistake. But I think deep down she wanted more than life had given her and it didn’t look like we were going to hit the good times soon. Ours was going to be a life-long struggle which eventually would be for our kids. We’d see the results of our hard work in them. That’s what I saw at any rate. And I think that’s what she saw too, and she wasn’t as accepting of it as I was.”
He stopped talking and looked at me again. He took another deep breath and stared at the blueprints. I could see stains, cracked folds and rips in them. How long, I wondered, had it been since he brought them out of wherever and put them on the table to look into his past? For I had no doubt they were linked to his life with Sally. How to ask?
“I noticed a set of footings to the side of this house out there. Are these the plans for what was to be a new farm house?”
“You are sharp, miss.” It was my turn to wave him to stop.
“Please call me Reed. That’s what everyone calls me.”
“Oh yeah, Reed, that’s what you said. What’s your full name?”
“My name is Jones, Reed Jones.”
“OK Reed Jones.” He pronounced it heavily and deliberately, each syllable as if he was driving them with a sledge hammer. “I should thank you for the fresh sandwich. That was good food. You’re much taller than Sally was, an’ your hair is longer and darker than hers was, and o’ course you’re much older, but seeing you at the counter there, preparing the food, well, no woman’s done that here since she left. I’m sorry.”
“That’s OK. I won’t patronize you by saying I understand, but I can feel some of it. I’m an empath-makes me stay one step ahead of the competition in my field, and the competition is fierce. But I’m determined to be the best at what I do, whatever it takes to get there. Look, if you’re tired or you want to stop, I can come back tomorrow and we can go on, or finish then.”
“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue. I feel much better when I talk to you about that time. It’s like something clears up and I can see through it for the first time.”
“Well, I was thinking about the drive back to my hotel. It’ll take me over two hours if I don’t run into rain, or sleet or whatever you call it here.”
“You looked at the sky when you went out, didn’t you?”
“What do you make of it?”
“Well, it’s uniformly grey and the clouds seem a bit low. But there’s no storm that I can see, or sense.”
“Well, let me tell you. In about an hour it’s going to start to rain. Then the rain will begin to freeze. The first coulee you hit, you’re dead stuck at the bottom, no way out until you’re towed with a tractor. Gets pretty cold out there, even for us who’ve lived here all our lives. I don’t think you want to get out on that road this evening. Besides, it’s October. It’ll be pitch black in half an hour and I’d bet you’re more used to driving with street lights.”
“Yeah, driving in the dark with only headlights to go by is weird.” I hesitated. “I brought a sleeping bag and a comforter. I could sleep here, maybe, somewhere.” And I looked around hoping for that suitable ‘somewhere’ to manifest.
“Let me show you something, Reed.” He got up and led me from the kitchen down a short hallway. A closed door I knew hid a bathroom, I could smell it. He opened the next door and reaching up, pulled on a string, turning on a light bulb also hanging from the ceiling. I was amazed. The bedroom had a clean, fully made double bed in it and the walls were painted white. A crucifix hung over the headboard and a bible was on its shelf. One small closet and a set of drawers completed the room. He opened the closet and there were a few dresses and a couple of what were called ‘maxi’ coats, terribly out of style as were the two pairs of small shoes on the floor. I smelled the mothballs that must have been in the pockets of the garments. “After she left I moved out and kept it as ‘ours’. This is all I’ve got left of her. I got rid of the pictures, they were too painful to look at. But this, I thought, was OK. It was an invitation for her to come back. Then it just became a shrine. I come here to pray. I read from that Bible, the only thing she insisted on bringing with her when I took her away from her folks. But I don’t find any consolation in it. I’m not of those who believe they re-encounter loved ones in heaven. If she didn’t want to be with me in this life, what would have changed her mind that she’d want anything to do with me in the next? I don’t know the rules there, but I don’t think I’d be able to court her all over and make her fall in love with me for the rest of time. I’ve thought about that a lot. It doesn’t add up.
“Anyway, if you want, you can have this room. Just leave everything the way it is, if you can. If you must move something, please let me know. I want everything back the same after you leave. I know I keep the house a bit chilly but I’ll make sure there’s a good fire in the stove tonight.”
I agreed to staying the night and we returned to the kitchen table to talk. I wanted to hear the details of his story, why Sally left, how she left, alone or with someone?”
“Except for her folk, mainly her dad and her oldest brother who were what you’d call assholes, the people around here are quite open and trusting. We don’t think bad of any stranger until they give us cause. So after we’d been here three years and eight months, May came around and spring was in full when a government surveyor came by. He offered us some money if we’d put him up. We had the extra room then behind the house-kind of collapsed now-and he said it’d be fine. We certainly could use the extra money. He’d come back after each day out surveying and putting those steel markers at the corners of each section. He had bundles of those in the back of his government pickup truck.
He talked to Sally a great deal; I was too tired to talk much, after the field work and the chores. But Sally couldn’t get enough of his stories, and she looked through all his magazines. He gave her a transistor radio and she was happy to be able to hear what all was going on while she worked around the house. I never paid much attention to it all. Up here, a man’s married, no one bothers his wife. She’s safe with any stranger. And women know to stay with their men, that’s our way. You don’t worry they’d ever leave for another man. That’s city stuff, Hollywood stuff, not what real people do.
“But one day I come home from the fields to do the chores and there’s no one in the house. The dishes are done and in the drying rack, but there’s no cooking. The table’s not set. I get worried thinking she went out and got herself hurt. I call her and I look everywhere. Then it occurred to me that Jean (that’s the surveyor) isn’t there either. Now I think maybe he’s taken her into the city and maybe she thought she’d be back in time, so didn’t bother with a note. I waited a bit, made a sandwich, although I wasn’t hungry. I milked the cows and fed the pigs, going through the usual chores, trying to figure out what had happened. Finally I took the old Chief and drove to Webster’s Corner. She’d been there, and left a note. I could tell the store keeper, Mr. Jameson, was very upset when he gave me the unsealed envelope. I guess Sally’d told him what she was doing. He’d tried to talk her out of it but she had gotten really angry and left. She’d gone off with the surveyor. I read her note. It was a terrible thing. I remember it, although I tore it up then, then burned it later.
Dear Pete, Thanks for taking care of me and taking me away from my folks. I never really loved you but I felt I owed you for helping me. So I didn’t know what to say when you proposed marriage. I really had no choice: either you, or them. You were nice to me. But that wasn’t the life I’d been dreaming about. Jean’s taking me to Toronto, or maybe Montreal, he speaks French and knows people there. I won’t be coming back. Find yourself a proper woman, Pete and forget about me. Take care of yourself, Sally.
“I didn’t know what to do then. I went to the police and tried to enlist their help to find her. The RCMP were very sympathetic but there wasn’t much they could do. Although Sally was a married woman, she had the right to leave. Legally, there was nothing they could do, except to try to find out for me where she’d gone, or was staying. They traced her in Toronto. I sold our four cows and the pigs for the money and went there to find her, sure I’d talk her into coming back; that she’d have seen through it by then. But that was already two years later, two years it took for the police to trace her from an employment bureau. By the time I got there she’d moved again. Again they traced her, in another part, where she’d worked in a hotel. But she quit before I got there. Three years now. I traced her again to a slaughter house. Four years. I took odd jobs, lived in low-rent areas and sent just enough money to my folks to pay the taxes on the land. Five years, and finally another break. She was working for the CN as janitorial help. I tried to locate her but that company was reluctant to help me. Not our policy, they said. So I had to hire a private detective. It was him who found out she’d had a baby. Not only that, but she did the one thing that made me stop looking for her: she’d abandoned her child in a department store. I don’t know how these people find these things out, but I believed him somehow. I suppose because I figured he knew it would mean the end of that job for him. He told me to go home, forget her, and get my life back. But all I heard was ‘get your wife back’ and isn’t it amazing how those two words are so much alike? He told me the little girl’s name was ‘Redemption’ – that was the tag they found in a pocket of her coat when they picked her up. Even the police could not find her after that: she must have planned it carefully. Maybe she knew by then I was after her and I’d take the child. Only I didn’t. She wasn’t my kid. I wanted my Sally, not some bastard kid by some hated surveyor I would have gladly killed at the time. I could have found the kid. She’d be in an orphanage. The police would know. I could lay some claim to her and adopt her, most likely. But I chose not to go that route and I came back home.
“But it was never the same again. If you’ve ever considered the meaning of the phrase, ‘a broken heart’ well, that’s what I mostly suffer from. Some people heal and some don’t. I suppose it’s like other diseases that strike people, it seems, at random. Cancer, heart attacks, that sort of thing. I love Sally, Reed. I know I always will. Even if there’s a heaven, I’ll love her there just as much even though I have no hope inside me that I’ll find her there either, as I mentioned to you before. It seems as if I’m under some strange spell that nothing can break. Do you know how many times I’ve thought that maybe it was because I just didn’t want to stop loving her; that I was in love with something I’d made up and all I had to do was just stop? Stop, then start again fresh. ‘Get a life’ as the young people say now. Yes, wouldn’t that be easy, simple? Just change my mind about that part.
“Fine, except it’s not in my mind, it’s in my heart. It’s in every aware part of me. I guess you could say that half of me is, or was, Sally. It was that good and great half of me that left me. How could I deal with that?”
He started sobbing heavily, and tears ran down his face unto the old blueprints. I walked over to stand behind him and I put my arms around him gently, then hesitantly I put my cheek against his stubbly one. I was surprised at my own feelings. I held him tighter and when he calmed down I asked him to tell me about the blueprints.
“Mr. Jameson had been an architect of sorts before he bought the store at Webster’s. He knew how to make blueprints and everybody knew this. Some of the richer folks around had hired him to draw buildings for them, and make blueprints of the plans. One day while talking, Sally and I laughingly said, ‘Let’s get Mr. Jameson to make us a set of blueprints for our new farm house!’ Well, it was something we could laugh over together-we’d been drinking dandelion wine she’d made and feeling silly-but she decided on her own to ask Jameson how much he’d charge us for a house plan. ‘I’d be honored to do it for you as a Christmas present’ he’d said. We were shocked, but we accepted. The plans arrived on Christmas day and we pored over them through that long winter. We were able to scrape just enough money from the sale of our pigs to pour our foundation for the new house.
My folks and her two younger brothers (they were the decent ones in that family) came to help. It was the happiest time of our life together. When we’d taken off the shiplap forms, pulled the nails and stacked the lumber, we sat in what would be the living room and we drank her wine with our help. She’d also made egg salad sandwiches and bowls of fresh vegetables from her garden. Simon, her youngest brother, brought his fiddle and we danced to his scratchy music but no one cared. It was the best of times.
“Give us two years,” I said to Sally, “and we’ll be raising the walls and maybe put the roof on. In five years we’ll have our new home. You’ll see.” And she smiled and sighed and kicked one foot against the other from behind as she always did when she wasn’t sure how to deal with a situation. So, she smiled again. That was her answer: we’ll see. But she meant more than that. She was becoming restless again. She’d always been restless as a kid but I thought it was because of her home life. I didn’t think-didn’t know, even-that such people remained restless all their lives. Join up with a loving partner and everything changes, right? You know Reed, us humans, we’re a naïve bunch. We don’t know anything about each other and yet we assume we know it all. And that’s where we go wrong. We should never assume we know what the other person is thinking, or thinking of doing, at any moment. All of us, we’re liked cocked guns just waiting for something to pull that trigger. Of course we have all sorts of safeties we could use to make others safe from ourselves, but of course, we don’t believe we are the dangerous ones, only the others are. Our downfall is thinking that we are either better, or worse, than others and living within that constant judgmental attitude.”
I watched his head droop lower and I felt I’d heard enough for one day. I too was dead tired. The house was cold and I wanted a hot bath, which I would not get, so I wanted to get inside my sleeping bag on top of the nice clean double bed, pull my comforter over my head and cry myself to sleep. Yes, me, tough Reed, the girl who survived the orphanage, was never adopted because she was too strong willed-was returned twice!-now feeling like crying over some vague thought, idea, wish, dream. I’d come all this way in my own way to find a story-no, to find myself, or rather, to find a me that would be more real than the one that was raised in that horrible orphanage and who clawed her way to the top of her profession simply because she kept burning her bridges as she moved forth. There had never been any turning back for Reed. Her life was lived from a one-way ticket to another. When she left the orphanage with the help of a visiting priest, she closed that door. When the affair with Edward cooled, it was over-the end, that’s all she wrote. Now here I am, all emotional over an old man and his rather pathetic story.
I’d been warned in college not to get involved with the people in my stories, or with my sources. It was just business and you used your feminine attributes to get into places no one else could get into, and to get the answers that made great copy. You bargained with the chips life handed you. A female body was a great asset if you knew how to use it without getting slammed. If you got caught, your career could be over in a day. Found out. Exposed. A slut, cheat and liar. Men could do it, of course, but women, while giving the impression they were doing it, could never afford the possibility they’d be caught actually doing it, not if they held any kind of professional status in a man’s world. And journalism is a man’s world, make no mistake about that. As is publication. It’s a man’s world because it is a money world.
“Uh, Pete? I’m sorry, but I’m dead tired. Could we continue this tomorrow morning? I notice there’s a bathroom next to my room. Is it OK for me to use it, or… do I have to use the outhouse I saw out there?”
“Oh, sorry about that. I didn’t think to ask you. Sure, use the bathroom. Everything works, but there’s no hot water. It’s not the cleanest place in the house, I’m sorry. If I’d known you were coming I would have cleaned up…”
“That’s OK, thanks. See you in the morning then? Say around eight?”
“Anytime. I’m up around six anyway, don’t need to sleep much. Today’s the most excitement I’ve had in years so maybe tonight I’ll sleep more. Good night.”
I watched him for a bit but he didn’t look up. So I went out to get my stuff. It was raining, cold sharp needles that hit the skin and felt as if they were drawing blood. I shivered, grabbed my bag, sleeping bag, comforter and ran back in the house. Pete was stoking-that’s what I think it’s called-the fire in the stove and putting more wood in. The smell of dry wood burning filled the house and I suddenly felt really warm, good, safe. ‘Thank you’ I said to no one in particular, but if I’d been pressed to say, I would have said, ‘to the goddess.’
Morning came, and the noise of a truck backing out of the driveway woke me up. It was clear and cold, I could tell. I dressed as warm as I could in my sweats, my coat and wool hat and after wishing Pete a good morning as he busied himself with a couple of shopping bags dropped by the door, walked outside to stretch. Everything was frozen, grey white, sparkling like fairy land. The first thing I did was slip off the steps and land painfully on my butt. But the beauty and freshness of the morning made me quickly forget my bruises. My car was covered in ice but I realized the sun would soon melt it off – seeing it’s a dark blue and would attract the heat. The dog was nowhere to be seen so I assumed (I know, bad idea) she was in the old van in some warm nest she’d made. The food was all gone but something made me look closer at the ground and I saw small animal tracks. So it had been taken by wild animals and I wondered what made such small tracks, and would not be afraid of the smell of a watch dog? Did they have raccoons up here?
I walked around the cement foundations, now half covered in drifted silt and weeds. How many years had it been since that dream had shattered? I did something unusual then: I reckoned it from my own age. I am thirty-two years old. Those foundations must be thirty-three years old, maybe thirty-four. According to the orphanage records I was born in 1975. So these foundations were laid by Pete and Sally in 1973. And that’s another thing that hit them: the Hippie era when young people suddenly left everything in search of something better than what they’d known, even if they had known the best life anyone had ever had on this world since history began. They were an unhappy lot, and moved as such a lot, as cattle perhaps, or lemmings, following some path, some will o’ the wisp, with no real purpose to look forward to. So they created a myth of peace and brotherhood, a mantra, a ‘mission statement’ and proceeded to screw it all up with drugs, irresponsibility and wanton lust. Then they woke up one day, the lot of them except those too far gone to wake up, or those few who still believed, and went back to Big Daddy and his Big Machine. Now they run the world and what a place they’ve made of it.
So Sally became a sort of Hippie. Probably experimented with drugs, perhaps even when she was pregnant, drank too much, lost her sense of personal value, dumped her own kid and disappeared. Was she still alive? Physically, maybe, but spiritually, mentally? Seems like whatever was done to her as a child had turned her into something a little less than human. Some would call it karma. I just call it sad, terribly sad. If such a person ever wanted to, could she redeem herself? How do you redeem yourself? I can’t answer that. Only if I get there and I have to make such a choice can I truthfully say, “I know.”
My shoes must be wrong for this world. Not only do I find it almost impossible to stand, my feet are now freezing, although I have an extra pair of socks on. I had to force my feet into these boots with those socks. Why am I cold? I’ve got more clothes on than I remember ever wearing at any one time. I walk towards the sunrise and stand at the abrupt edge of a deep ravine, or as Pete calls them, a coulee. I can’t hear any water running and it seems to me very strange that such deep clefts would not have rivers of water in them. A pungent smell comes from some bushes I disturbed in passing as the sun is just beginning to melt the ice from their branches. I see what I recognize as stinging nettles and foolishly avoid them thinking they would sting me. Frozen, and through all these clothes? Ah well, much to learn, and much that will never be learned due to more pressing matters. I must conclude my ‘interview’ with Pete today and start back. I don’t like this weather and I’m suddenly afraid of this land and the strange dirt roads my car was never designed to drive on. Edward was right. I should have rented a real prairie dirt road vehicle in Prince Albert. Stubborn. But I like my car: it’s personal, private, an extension of ‘me’ especially when I’m far from my own home.
I smell cooking and I suddenly realize I’m past hungry. I return to the house, being careful to stand relaxed on the icy steps. My boots slip but I manage to stay upright, grab the door handle and walk in. Immediately I hear eggs frying. And bacon. A steaming pot sits on the side of the stove and there’s a percolator chugging away on one of the burners, or covers or whatever. A real percolator! I lift the lid on the steaming pot and it’s porridge. I’ve never eaten porridge.
Pete is busy tending the eggs in a large cast iron frying pan. He seems to have dropped twenty years from his face since yesterday. ‘What’s the occasion, kind sir?’ I ask him, smiling my widest and most natural, unfeigned smile.
“You,” he replies, smiling in turn. He has a beautiful smile, a perceptibly familiar smile. Where have I seen that smile before? Somebody I know, know real well, but whom? Not Edward, not even close. That priest who “advised” me when I left the orphanage and got me my first job as a copy editor and helped me find an apartment? No, not him. Ah well, never mind. I’m starving.
“Can I help Pete?”
“We’ll need plates for the porridge and the bacon and eggs. We’ll need to slice some bread and toast it. There’s a couple of loaves in the fridge and a bread knife in the drawer to the right of the sink.”
I slice the bread and look for the toaster, feeling foolish. Probably some too obvious contraption I should know about. I see nothing, and no plugs above the counter either. “Sorry, where’s the toaster?”
For the first time he breaks out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“Your question. I’m currently using the toaster, but in a few seconds, as I move this frying pan over, you can have it.”
“The burners? You want me to just lay the slices of bread on the top of the stove?”
“Sure. I’ll tell you when to flip them.”
So we had a wonderful breakfast. I began to think that maybe that’s what he ate at every meal, or that maybe he only ate breakfast. No matter. I felt great after, drinking the strangest tasting, but hot and strong coffee from the percolator.
“Where’d this food come from, Pete?”
“I should have told you, I have a phone here. I called Webster’s and they brought some supplies. It’s been a very long time since I had company, Reed. I spent the night wondering how I could express my gratitude for listening to my story, and for staying over last night, so as not to cause me worry.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed, suddenly feeling very young, very childlike. “Well, thank you. I’m glad I stayed, I can’t imagine driving through this stuff.”
“Oh, the roads will be fine during the day except for the bottom of the coulees where the sun doesn’t shine in winter. If you’re careful to drive from side to side of the road and not on the icy tracks, you wouldn’t have any problems. Of course most people with those modern 4×4’s don’t know how to use ‘em properly and frequently end up in the ditch. Too much power to the wheels at the wrong time, in the wrong places. You have to feel the road, let it talk to you, tell you what you’re doing wrong. And you have to feel your car or truck as well. An empath should know that, hm?” He winked at me and I laughed. Then, in between mouthfuls and sips of scalding coffee, I began the questions again.
“So, you never ever thought to look up Sally’s child, not even out of curiosity?”
“Oh yes, many times. But what stopped me after my initial bout of anger was that she’d remind me of Sally every day. I’d be raising a part of her, but would never have her. I looked at my life, what it had become and after a few years I convinced myself that the girl was much better off in the city, among people she knew, surrounded by opportunities completely unavailable here. If I went to get her I’d just cause more harm and grief.”
“Don’t you think that maybe that was selfish thinking on your part? That this girl needed a father of sorts in her life, especially knowing she had been abandoned by her own mother? How do you think that affects a child?”
“I don’t know Reed. I’m no psychologist. I’m a farmer with a grade nine education. I don’t know much about people. And in the state I’ve been in, I couldn’t even help myself.”
“Well there’s another point. This girl, maybe, being of Sally, she could have given you the love you never got from the mother. This girl could have been the necessary filler your heart needed. Don’t tell me you’ve never read of such things happening.”
“I don’t read much, but I have. I just don’t believe it. Just stories, Reed. Feel good stuff. Happy endings. Not for us, just for writers and those who for a moment believe their inventive trash.”
“I’m a writer, Pete. I’m going to write a story about our encounter and my trip here. Will you read my ‘inventive trash’?”
“Oh, so sorry… so sorry Reed. Please forgive me. My bitterness is quite used to have me for itself anytime, anywhere. I’ve never practiced the discipline of hiding my pain from others. Probably why there are no ‘others’ in my life anymore. I prefer to be alone so that I can give vent to my feelings without having to worry about the effect I’m having on others.”
“That’s all right. I’m a journalist, a reporter. I’ve got tough skin. I too was raised in difficult circumstances and I’m a survivor and over-comer. I could tell you some stories about my own upbringing in an orphanage. It was a priest who helped me get out of that life and find a job and a place to live. I suppose, depending on how you look at it, I got lucky. And have been ever since, if you discount the sleepless nights working on a computer and the loneliness.
“But lately I’ve been questioning that. I want something better than that animalistic instinct to survive and beat my competitor to the prey. I’ve been seriously thinking it’s time I became a different, a better, person. It will definitely hurt my career, maybe end it, but what’s left of my life I want to dedicate to me. To myself. I have a dream, a vision, of what I want to become. It frightens me, Pete. It frightens me because I’d be so alone in doing this. No one can really share in it. I see a great similarity between us. You changed after Sally left you. You dedicated yourself to nurturing your grief, to never let it ease or heal. You became your grief and it grew to control you and in turn, it became you. In it you have been intensely and utterly alone. You could not share that with anyone without hurting them. So you detached from all of them and kept only the suffering you. And wasted over thirty years of your life to date.
“I want the opposite, but just as intensely as you pursued your own dream of living in heart-mind agony and grief because you lost something that was never yours to start with.”
“Oh yeah? Hmmm.” Long pause. His voice lowers a bit: “You’ve thought about this a great deal I sense. How will you accomplish this dream of becoming better than yourself, of becoming a better person in your own eyes, assuming you intend to be extremely tough on yourself in this?”
“Yes I’ve thought about it a great deal. I’ve looked at the world from my journalist perspective. We’re taught and encouraged to dig deep into the human psyche, to look for reasons, causes and to make value-judgments about everything. We are supposed to be experts at uncovering what makes people do what they do. So that’s the method I used to look at myself; at my motives for everything I think, say and do. Who is the person behind it all? And I’ve decided that perhaps that person needed to be what she was for a time, but no more. She is past all that now. She’s too young to give up the idea of positive change and too old to play the games people play, of seduction, money and popularity. She’s at a crossroads that comes but a very few times in one lifetime. Choice. So she chooses change through self-empowerment. That means the tough reporter bitch makes herself vulnerable, exposes her soft underbelly to those who would beat her. She chooses the path of compassion. And hopes she is strong enough to accept the inevitable.”
“Doesn’t that make you a sort of fatalist? That doesn’t suit you, somehow.”
“I prefer to think of it as being pragmatic. I’ve seen some of the world, perhaps using my life as a microcosm of the macrocosm. I’m basically middle aged. I have enough past to be able to surmise, or hypothesize my future at least. I don’t want to live in the world I’ve come to know. So if I can’t just leave it for greener pastures provided by someone else, then I’ve got to create change right here. And there’s nothing else I can change but myself. That’s what the people who chase after leaders do not realize: that nothing changes until they, themselves, become that change. The change I propose to put myself through is going to cost me much. I have no problem accepting the fact of those costs, but can I pay my debts? Can I ‘take it’ to use the vernacular?”
He sighs deeply and stares straight into my eyes. “You’re goading me, aren’t you. You don’t mean any of this, you just want me to react, defend myself, or admit I’m a total failure and tell you I’m not sorry; that I choose to be where I am and I’m staying here, then to prove you are right, to ask you to leave and not write any story about me, but forget you were ever here. You are pushing me into some kind of admission.”
I stand up and pace across the small kitchen, careful to avoid several empty cardboard boxes and a stack of firewood partially blocking one side of the table. I’m feeling anger coming and I need to let it out carefully. I don’t want to use that sort of energy in an interview.
“You’re wrong Pete. Sure, I came here for a story, that’s what I do, write stories, do documentaries and spout off on talk shows. But primarily I am using this trip to find myself. You can help me. I see many similarities between us, our lives. We had it tough, both of us. But here’s the interesting difference. I chose to overcome my problems and rise above them. You chose to use yours as an excuse to cop out of life. Now, I don’t know. You show me courtesy and treat me as your guest. You order special groceries and cook for me. You let me sleep in your shrine, knowing that no matter how careful I am, my presence in it will forever desecrate a part of it and it will never be the same to you. You are taking chances with me, exposing vulnerable parts of yourself to me. Showing me the Pete who wished he could have a chance at life again. Why?”
“Good question Reed. I don’t know. You’re making me think back over things I’d stopped thinking about long ago. You’re making me look at my miserable life… and maybe, just maybe, to question my place in it. You’re making me think that maybe I can make the pain stop and I can change. You’re a witch, Reed. A very powerful witch. I’ve always been scared of witches, you know. They are unpredictable. Sally was a witch, that’s why she attracted men who abused her and grew bored with me because I let her be, happy to just love her, or as near to love as I knew how to give. I think witches have a death wish but have so much of life’s power they get stuck in places they grow to think of as prisons. A witch must have her broom, Reed, always ready to fly off to some place where no man can go to.
“Tell me about your priest.”
I have a sudden vision of my own mother riding on a big black broom, holding me in her arms until she finds a suitable place and dropping me to fall through black clouds, then down towards a city and into my own prison. I imagine she just wanted me to find my broom, learn to fly on my own, and leave my prison as she had done. Which I did, to a point. His question startles me. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Your priest who helped you leave the orphanage life and found you a job. What was in it for him?”
“Pete, that was the Nineties already! We were lovers! We met in the confessional. I’d been baptized Catholic and had to follow through on the rituals, or else. I had so much anger and hate then, I can’t believe it myself now. So I confessed stories I made up of erotic and terrible sins. I think my confessions turned him on.”
“So this priest seduced a young virgin from an orphanage, is that it?”
“You’d sooner find a virgin in a whorehouse than in that orphanage! Shit man, we were regularly ‘farmed out’ to certain people for ‘domestic labour training’ if you get my drift. But that came after the in-house fondling and other stuff. Women and men used us: we were nobody’s property, so we may as well be theirs. Father Logan, Bertrand Logan, was my out from that life. If it hadn’t been for him, I’m pretty sure I would have been sold to some pimp, oh, excuse me, an employer who had a very legitimate job for me. I’ve met some of my former mates on the streets, even did stories about them, but I never saw the point of taking it to the law, that’s not my thing. Probably some day, when it’s too late to do anybody any good-as if this sort of thing ever does-someone will spill the beans and a battery of lawyers will make a killing, as will the Media sharks and the courts. The orphanage will have to shell out some insurance money, maybe close down and re-open somewhere else as a new and improved institution. Some old man or woman who worked there will be dragged out of obscure retirement, put on display for the public to vent its outrage upon and die in jail. That’s it. Nothing will change for the victims of these systems, not until the systems themselves are destroyed.
I could see the white knuckles as he clenched his fists tightly. Was he upset because of what happened to me, or was he thinking that maybe the same thing had happened to Sally’s daughter and he could have prevented it?
“But you asked about Bertrand? We met in my apartment on a regular basis for a while. Then he had second thoughts. He chose his vows over me. I’m no fool and I wasn’t surprised-angry, oh yes, but not surprised. He may have been a Catholic priest but he’s a man. There’d be other, younger girls to choose from if he kept his profession. Sure wish I’d a known I was a ‘powerful witch’ at the time. I’d have revved up that broom to the max and rammed it up his ass. I certainly was angry and very confused then. What was I, Pete? What purpose did I serve? Everybody else seemed to have it so together, from my point of view. I thought I couldn’t do anything right. But then I found out, through my job as a copy editor, that I could write, and I could listen to people and remember, maybe selectively, but remember, what they said. The rest, as they say, is history. My history.”
“I’m sorry, Reed.”
“Why?” Now I knew I was deliberately goading him.
“Because of Sally’s daughter; that girl who should have been ours, to be raised in a loving environment by us. Because I realize now I was so wrong not to go and get her and get us a new life.”
Suddenly he was old again and his head dropped in his hands. And just as suddenly I went to stand behind him and I hugged him. And when I bent my face down to rub against his, noting he had shaved and smelled better, I felt that electric shock go through me again. And I knew, without a doubt, as if I was seeing it happening in a docu-drama; as if someone else was explaining it to me. I knew because my name is Redemption. But more than that: I knew because I recognized the connection. This was not just some man who had been married to my mother. This was my father. She was dumped by the surveyor when he found out she had been pregnant by her husband before she left with him… and she had known it.
“I’m your daughter, dad. I’ve seen some of the records and it all fits. My real name is Redemption. I’ve come home. Let me in, please?”
A question haunts my mind:
Why is it OK for a soldier
to kill people
but not OK for a civilian
to do the same thing?
Civilian killers are called murderers
Because they kill the wrong people?
Soldiers are called heroes,
Is that because they kill the right people?
An interesting distinction –
completely lost on me.
Who determines who is the wrong victim
who is the right one?
It wouldn’t be (perish the thought)
our wonderful, moral, trustworthy
politicians now, would it?
Well, yes, that is who!
The very same liars and robbers
we elect time after time,
knowing that each time
the taxes will go up
and benefits come down;
the poor will become poorer
and the rich become the super rich.
Murder is murder however you slice it!
What is this thing we label ‘sorrow’ -
this bottomless pain of the heart
we feel at the worst of times?
Sorrow – emptiness – lostness -
here, nothing gives pleasure;
nothing satisfies; nothing -
only the endless ache,
no comfort, no place to hide.
What to do when sorrow
suddenly claims a piece of life?
Are we helpless?
Victims of circumstances
that only time can heal?
Ah, but is time such a great healer?
Observe: do the old get better?
No, time does not heal – time kills -
a bit faster in sorrow!
What to do, then?
Sorrow is a double-edged sword,
one edge jagged and rough,
that is the selfish sorrow -
the one that leaves a raw cut
which every little aggravation
one edge sharp and smooth:
this is the great Cosmic sorrow -
when one’s sorrow is all-sorrow,
no longer a burden, but a part of life
and this sorrow, if understood
becomes the stuff of joy.
Sorrow may slice through the heart:
we choose either the murderer’s blade
or the surgeon’s scalpel.
Waking from a gentle dream
I behold a strange world
spread out before my eyes
in ever-brightening hues.
I stretch my arms to the sky
and begin to dance freely
to the music of the stars;
the sun and moon join in
and following their laughter
I spin freely around the world.
From the distant horizon
A silhouette beckons
and I hear laughter
as the breeze teases her hair
and I walk to her lightly
heart beating, knowing:
my twin flame, lost companion
of times beyond time
encouraging my uncertain return…
She takes my hand in hers
and together, laughing, dancing
we step from planet to planet;
from galaxy to galaxy
and reaching what seems the end
are universes stretching out,
stepping stones for joyful feet
through pulsating space.
Transported by the joy of love
we make ourselves as one again
poised to enter our now time
while the children are asleep:
gently, I take her in my arms
and the fears, tears and years
are re-absorbed and vanish.
The lady dials 911-
panic: her apartment has burst into flame!
A recording answers with proper enunciation:
“Your call cannot be completed as dialed:
please check the number and dial again.”
She dials again: 911
“Overseas operator: can I help you?
“My house is burning!
“What country, please?
“Canada, of course: my house is burning!
“We have no such listing.
Please check your directory and try again.”
9,1,1: She dials again:
“911” came the Lily Tomlin reply,
“Can I help you?” snort, snort…
“Fire! My house is on fire!”
“Oh, would that be police, ambulance or fire?”
“My house is b…”
“Could you hold on a minute? The 649 draw is on!”
“But, my house is burning!”
“So? Talk to somebody who cares!”
Hang up, try again: 911
“Yes?” a booming Charlton Heston voice
“Can I help you?”
“My house is burning. Help!”
“I’m sorry, wrong number. This is Heaven.
If you want fire, dial S-A-T-A-N!
Standing on an old street corner
a poignant awakening
to hate and despair
Autumn suddenly slides into winter;
torn leaves and whipped rain
slash at grey concrete walls
(so many storeys high)
and water dripping endlessly
through rotten eave-troughs
runs down your naked body
under ragged, dirty summer clothes.
But just down the block
a commercial poster
jets you to Hawaii in style.
just an oyster
in a whirling
sea of stars;
in the maelstrom
of space: infinite.
as a grain of sand
one of the countless
on its seashore.
As its pounding sea
rolled over me
grinding and wearing
I entered the
How long now
have I been there?
not long, really
by our reckoning
is another irrelevance.
Time is not
what marks the difference
and I tell you
nor myself have
in the least.
“You’re a pain”
says the oyster.
“You’re choking me”
I answered back.
“Why don’t you
just get out?”
he says angrily
“I would, I would
Look what you’ve done:
I can no longer
looking at myself
I saw this ugly
where once had been
dainty little grain
of sand in water:
I regretted my move
why me? and not the
I looked again
and wondered at
I don’t know what
I have become but
I’m certainly no longer
a grain of sand!
Nothing left for it now
symbol of vitality,
symbol of life;
anchored in pasts
and possible futures
where I walked and walk,
not always alone—I hear
its voice echo softly
through the mind—I feel
its life energy healing
my soul deadened
by the city’s chaos:
I stand recharging
under its green protection
and I say, not proudly
“thank you, tree
and I hope you’ll still be
here, giving life
when I, or another child
needs you again.”
Trust is but attachment;
performance of duty
to please someone’s desires -
or should I say: expectations -
but what’s the legacy of trust?
Come the winds of change
and there’s the certain fall.
“In God we trust.”
so goes the saying.
But it’s plain to see
such trust gets one
in a hell of trouble
when the cash runs out!
Trust in God
so goes another
an excuse to oppress, kill and murder
all in the name of God:
yes, I know about that trust.
Then there’s that ultimate trust
for partners in a marriage
but it’s in faithfulness to vows;
dictated bondage meant to last
a whole life-time.
Freedom is for lovers
for it’s the opposite of trust.
When in the circle of love,
trust vanishes, no longer needed
as snow melts away
in Spring’s scented breath.
These books contain a form of free verse poetry, essays, short stories, thoughts, opinions based on observation, and some humour and imagination, engaging the heart as well as the mind. A critical look at many current issues intriguing and plaguing man. Spirituality, interaction with nature and environment, social changes, dwindling resources. Well worn issues now, indeed. But the poetry and other works in these books gives this subject a different perspective. I daresay that here we can find a "higher" vantage point from which to look at ourselves within the cosmos.