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A Winter’s Tale

I’m going out on that “proverbial limb” and say that for those of us who grew up where winter was a welcome season; those rollicking, frolicking times were priceless. Now, as a member of the “old school” generation, the memories of sledding down a hill, snowball fights, building snowmen, and just over-the-top happiness of romping around out “in it!” – hopefully rolls around in your heart and mind as it does mine: like hot chocolate and your mom’s deep warm hugs. I think this is especially true if you lived in a small town, or in a place where there were parks nearby or other spaces where enough openness would let a kid enjoy getting lost in the sheer beauty of being a child in the wintertime. At times, I am overcome by the feelings of joy reliving and relishing the pleasures of my “winters of innocence” given to me by the happenstance of where I lived as a child; where wintertime was  wonderful and deliciously magical.

In my teenage years, though, living in the “big” city and big life changes forced me to share my idyllic memories of winter with darker ones; along with a great many other childish outlooks. I was lucky because the major city that played an oversize role in my early adulthood offered up some beautiful winter scenes.  Make no mistake, though, wintertime in that overcrowded, noisy, rough and tumble place was harsh, unforgiving and damned cruel in many respects. In fact, during a particular bad year, the cold, snow, and ice literally drove me to proclaim to my family one January night (during a period when the temperature hadn’t risen about -30 degrees – factoring in the wind chill for 32 days), that I was not going to spend another winter in that (expletive) town! I was leaving before the next winter came – with or without them. You can imagine how they reacted to my threat: they completely ignored me. Can’t say I blamed them; I was cold, tired, and irritable. Years later, I would learn that I was suffering from some syndrome (which I can’t name) that scientist say affects some folk living in places where there is lack of sunshine during the winter. Lucky me.  Ironically, as life will assuredly do, a few years later in the early spring, it tossed my family a curve ball, then a slider, and finally a fastball high and inside that left us taking a called third strike (we are “major” league baseball fans): we had to find another place to live before the coming winter or a family member would never see another spring.

It has been said that one should be careful what you wish for; or proclaim what you will or will not ever do. Life taught me that harsh lesson during that fateful Spring and Summer of agonizing and frenzied road trips trying to find a suitable “home” that would assure my family’s long term survival. Eventually, we ended up in a place of unimaginable beauty and warmth; with any resemblance of winter miles and miles away, and thousands of feet in the air in the form of snowcapped mountains. We are surrounded by them and they are breathtaking.

Unfortunately, I brought with me to our tranquil paradise one winter’s memory borne of deceit, hatred and murderous intent. It was inflicted upon me by a relative because I knew of his low-down dirty secret that happened many years ago from that small town where winter for me was a childhood rainbow. It was a scandalous act of betrayal between brothers and sisters. As a child, I did not understand why it was happening, but I knew it was wrong. Years later, I realized that weakness, booze, jealousy – perhaps even a bit of “forbidden fruit”  may have played a role in this sordid tale for the offending sister.  As for the brother in this mess, he was just an evil dog out to conquer every woman walking; who got hurt was of no concern to him. His pleasure, needs, his “notches” on a bedpost signified his self-worth. He lived his life that way until the day he died; leaving a path of hell and hurt in his wake. He was rotten to his core.  As an adult, a gut feeling made me conclude that deep-down his younger brother perhaps suspected the illicit affair; but was too weak and therefore powerless to respond. He also truly loved my aunt. This for me made the treachery even more profound.

Sad to say, in my teen years during another terrible winter, I was forced to live under that Judas’ roof. My “other” aunt gave him no choice ( I was alone in that big city).  But the apparent compromise left me sleeping in an unheated, uninsulated basement next to a badly broken window where the snow and ice seeped in around the rags I stuffed in it, and the bitter Artic wind whipped my mind and body quite literally nearly to death. No matter how many coats, rugs, curtains – whatever else I could bind to use as blankets to try and stay warm – it was never enough. That SOB threatened to throw me out in the street if I moved anything – anything – in that basement; particularly that bed nestled next to that busted window.  As you might have imagined, I became ill – coming down with a severe case of pneumonia. I am here to tell you that my spirit was not broken, and the hatred between us grew even deeper and more pronounced.

I never spoke a word to anyone about the sinful behavior of that aunt and uncle that summer of long ago in my small town. The brother and sister who were the victims died not knowing of the betrayal that was inflicted upon them by their siblings. These despicable excuses for a brother and sister have also gone to meet their maker. I have heard the statement, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” many times in my life; so I truly hope those two snakes-in-the-grass alley cats are feeling the heat of hell.

Winter in Chicago was always difficult for me. But there were some truly awesome times to enjoy the season. It was beautiful and breathless to see our neighborhood blanketed in the first snowfall of winter unmarked by footprints on the sidewalks or car tracks in the street.  Front lawn lanterns in every yard that lighted walkways added a shimmering glow to the beauty of it all. While inside our home, the warmth and love of my wife and children filled my heart and our hearth with the heat of the blazing summer sun.

In that long ago time, winter was not complete if you did not stroll through Grant Park along the lakefront near Buckingham Fountain. Or take drives on north Lake Shore Drive and South Shore Drive to marvel at Lake Michigan’s waves caught in midair; splashes frozen in time. If you were lucky enough to experience walking the Magnificent Mile – north Michigan Avenue (the Madison Avenue of Chicago), you were treated to a display of tiny clear lights that twinkled like a billion stars of Bethlehem. Your eyes were overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. Visiting State Street (called that “Great Street,” and no, I don’t know why) during the Christmas and New Year holidays was a  “rite of passage” with your children. The street and the department store displays and decorations were truly magical – some celebrated nationally like the Marshall Field’s where the crowds were 6, 8, as much as ten feet thick. Everyone trying to get a peek at these awesome fantasy displays.

Those sights and sounds always brought back memories of my small town upbringing and its wintertime treats of a joyous time being had by all the kids in the neighborhood. I must admit, years later – every now and then – that awful, dreadful winter spent huddled in that bed beneath that broken window creeps into my mind. It’s a cold, cruel memory -a winter’s tale fueled by treachery that has lasted far too long into the last seasons of my life.

 

Copyright (c) 2017. Roads, Paths, & Trails. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Testing, Testing, Testing.

In late Spring of 2016, I began compiling notes, books, articles and much more, to begin prepping for an 8-part examination that would be given over a 30-day period which would have (has now) taken place in January and February, 2017.

I survived the arduous ordeal and am now awaiting the results with more than a little apprehension. I expect I will not know the outcome until later this month or mid-to-late April.

During that crucial time period, sad to say, I had to neglect my Blog and my fellow Bloggers to the tune that I now have more than 250 unanswered comments (and counting) to sort through. I dare say, unfortunately, I will more than likely not get to all of them. Many will have required a comment in their “now and then,” so I must therefore ask for your apologies upfront. Please, please do not be offended. I was not being indifferent; studying and passing that exam was a 5-star priority for me.

Recently, I posted several items that I penned from an earlier life; trying to ease the tension wrought by studying statistics, statures, penalties, guidelines, codes, litigations, liabilities and other detailed and serious stuff, before I got back to the studies at hand. Some of you “liked” what you read and I am most appreciative ( I will acknowledge your kind words personally as well), as I catch up with my “regular” family of bloggers and what they have been doing in their lives. Thank you all for taking time to stop by my blog and commenting. It means a lot to me.

In the meantime, in between time, I am holding my breath and wheezing like a furnace bellow pushing hot air around; all the while gritting my teeth because I have at least 30 more days before “Passed/Failed” pops up next to name on that seriously important website.

Either way, I promise you will hear a wail of a noise. Stay tuned.

 

Copyright (c)  2017. Roads, Paths, & Trails. All Rights Reserved.

Star stuff and God dust

When you wish upon a star, are you praying to god or God? Is it from the heart or your mind that you hope for an answer? Are they one and the same in time?

We come from star stuff say some wise folk. Others preach from dust we come and dust we go. Many wonder at the nature of life; so short does it shine – gathering within it time sublime while blind minds feast with no rhyme. Is there fire in the soul for both sights to please?

Out there, out there – in deep time somewhere – dare we dream of the journey of our beginning? Does that mean we start at the end; how should we compare? Will we know the peace of life that spills from within us? Shall we just bask in the dust sprinkles golden with truths many say we must.

When you wish upon a star, are you being real or trying to feel?  Is it from dreams hidden in your You;  sparking itself alive like mind-fire true. Glory! Star Stuff and God Dust – pray tell – it that you looking back from heaven upon yourself?  Or is it your heart telling you mind to get over itself and adjust.

 

“When your heart speaks, take good notes”  ——Unknown

 

Excerpt from “Rainbow Stories and Waterfall Men” – a collection of poems and prose.

 

Copyright(c) January, 2017. Roads, Paths and Trails. All Rights Reserved

Terrorism and the terror of terror

San Bernardino, California and the act of terrorism that shocked that city to its core, shocked me awake in a deeply personal way. I am totally pissed off!  My PERSONAL boots on the ground in the Middle East, pissed off! American military boots on the ground, pissed off!

However, greater minds than mine tell us that this is what extreme Jihadist want: a holy war that can be twisted and characterized as a clash of cultures – of civilizations. The “West,” (whatever that actually means) representing a 21st Century vision that has mankind headed toward a future that binds us together and promises to achieve untold greatness and advances in science, medicine, engineering and more; against an 8th Century mindset that seeks to potentially subjugate one-third of humanity to a non-future soaked in the blood of an ideology that threatens to cause World War III – Armageddon.

I will take my chances with an outlook that saves the world from the negative effects of climate change, and then sets our species on the journey toward a golden age of discovery and accomplishments into the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th Centuries and beyond: “Space – the final frontier.”

For those wedded to a “past” as a future – who am I to tell them that their vision of “life most wonderful” is wrong. But, to spill my blood because of their belief(s) is not a sacrifice I am willing to make.Furthermore, I will not for any reasons offer my values up for dismissal and devalued for the sake of some other culture’s narrow viewpoint and way of life. San Bernardino, California has surely prompted this vow and moved it to the forfront in the minds of many Americans.

Innocent people are dead before lives lived. Babies left without a parent. Families deprived of a mother or father, sister, brother; a life-long friend – the love of their life. Terror spread among the populace for illegitimate reasons. Terror launched against a city based on a religious viewpoint literally foreign to the vast majority of Americans.

This will backfire on those who seek to terrorize us for terror’s sake. Mark my words.

 

(C) 2015  Roads, Paths & Trails. All Rights Reserved

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Million-Dollar Question.”

My previous industry is not know for its diversity. Even more so when I broke into the ad agency business.  My original intent was to critique the industry from several directions: Castings and Content. But I had just experienced a very human encounter that hit extremely close to home, and so – I wrote about it; posted it- and the next thing I knew, response poured in….”liking” the story (which was true by the way) and my style.

I was hooked!

And now the “Million-Dollar Questions” is whether I can ever quit.

Copyright (R) 2015. Roads, Paths & Trails. All Rights Reserved.

FFfAW: Goddess Made Flesh

My fellow travellers, you need to follow this wonderful and gifted writer.

The Storyteller's Abode

This post if for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s picture was provided by Ady. The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. Here’s my entry.  I hope you like it.

Photo prompt - © PricelessJoy Photo prompt – © PricelessJoy

Goddess Made Flesh

Some days the longing to be reunited was all-consuming. His existence lacked vitality. Even the air felt thin. Grey. He lost himself in memories of when life had pulsed with youthful possibility, with May his shining light.

Her chiming laughter still echoed in his ears, a joyous trail to follow. She’d loved the wild places, the forests and hills; revelling in the chorus of birdsong, the caress of sunlight on her face. She’d always wondered how people could feel close to God enclosed within four walls. The towering trunks of mighty oaks were the pillars…

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