Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Night Calls

I was getting sick and tired of seeing the same pictures…of going to the same sites.  It was after 11:30 PM and I was alone in my hotel room.  My wife Paula was in Walla Walla visiting her parents while I attended the conference.  Often, she would travel with me but this trip brought us within an hour of her folk’s place.  A part of me wished she that was here with me now.  But another part was glad to have this alone time, this time to surf the internet in search of images…not knowing what I was searching for or aware of the power drawing me there.

The room was quiet except for the clicking of the mouse and the tapping of the keys as I’d enter another URL into the navigation bar and the incessant grinding of the air conditioner by the windows.  An ocean scene was hanging from the wall of the otherwise bare room.  A second queen-sized bed had my briefcase haphazardly tossed on it.   Several pair of Docker’s slacks and golf shirts hung in the small closet space.  Occasionally the sound of the elevator doors opening could be heard, following by the laughter or conversation of  travelers making their way back to their rooms or out into the night.

I closed the top of my laptop and went in to the bathroom.  As I stood there relieving myself, I stared at the image in the mirror staring back.  It was the body of a man aging.  Grey hair was beginning to replace the dark, black curls that capped my head only fifteen years before.  Even the thick eyebrows and mustache were showing signs of a lighter color encroaching into the once dark hairs.  The smile that seemed to rarely crease the face was absent tonight, as it had been frequently in the past few years.  There appeared to be some dimming of the sparkle in the deep, blue eyes. 

The firm chest of the former coach, built through hours of work in the weight room with is players had begun shifting, the pecs beginning to sag a bit.  The definition in the arms had become camouflaged with a thin layer of body fat.  The belly had also been caught up in the avalanche of former muscle that was morphing into something completely unwanted.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of water flushing as I absent-mindedly pushed the lever on the side of the toilet.  I took one last look in the mirror as I turned the light off and went back into the hotel room and began to put my clothes on.  Unsure of where I was going…or even why, I pulled the locked door closed behind me and walked down the second floor hallway of the Best Western.  I took the stairs and stepped out into the warm, August night air. 

It was still about 80 degrees in city of Richland, Washington.  Located in the high desert of central Washington, the temperature had reached triple digits earlier in the day.  The parking lot was quiet and many of the parking spaces on this back-side lot were empty.  I walked across the lot to my Jeep Grand Cherokee and slid behind the wheel.  Starting the engine, I checked my bearings and pulled out of my space heading across the lot to the main street that passed in front of the hotel.  I turned right and entered the mostly empty roadway.  A mid-week night, there wasn’t much traffic.  Most people were home in bed or watching Lettermen, getting ready for the next workday.  I followed the street to the first main intersection and turned left.  Though not completely familiar with Richland, I knew some of the major streets on this northwestern end of the city.  I drove east without really caring where I would end up.  I’d turn down streets randomly, feeling drawn by a power but not know what I was seeking.  Careful not to get too far off a familiar street, I drove the streets of quiet neighborhoods, silently passing the dark houses of sleeping occupants.  Houses like the one I lived in with my wife of 14 years. 

Time passed…thirty minutes, then forty-five.  I found myself back in the parking lot.  Time wasted.  Nothing found.  My mind still unsettled.  An emptiness deep within that I couldn’t seem to fill.  I sat in the car staring out the windshield.  As I opened the door, the music of Nsync was cut off mid- song.  The parking lot was dotted with fewer empty spaces as the occupants had returned during my sojourn.  I made my way back to the entry door and slid my keycard in to unlock the heavy glass door and took the stairs back to my room.  The clunk of ice falling interrupted my thoughts as I walked down the hall to my room.  As I twisted the deadbolt and turned and entered the room, the laptop lay there…calling to me.  A quick glance at the floor and my decision was made.  The room quiet save for the tapping of fingers on the keyboard.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Under the Bridge

The blue summer sky was dotted here and there with white fluffy clouds as the warm breeze bent the tall grass along the creek.  There were few sounds audible…the occasional car or truck passing by on the highway to Canada a few hundred feet away.  The soft trickling of the water in the creek as it passed over the larger boulders who dared to stick their heads above the moving stream.  Robins sang their summer songs in the tree and a lonely crow flew overhead…crying at no one in particular.  It was a scene as peaceful and serene as an artist could wish for to paint a portrait of a summer day.

But there was more going on here…things that you couldn’t easily see.  An old bridge crossed over the creek on the northern edge of the dairy farm.  The decking made up of old timbers wedged into the soil on either side of the moving water.  Underneath the bridge, the air was cool, almost cold.  The air was still…filled with the odor of moist soil and decomposing plants that couldn’t find the nourishment they needed to live in that dark space.  The embankments were made of soil, tapering slowing down to the edge of the stream where the transformed into rocks and pebbles.  It was darkest near the top where the bridge deck buried itself under surface of the ground.

As you moved closer, you could hear sounds that didn’t fit with summer chorus of birds and traffic and moving water.  In the deep shadows at the top of the embankment, a young boy in tattered cut-off shorts and faded t-shirt was on his knees between the legs an older boy in his early teens.  There were muffled moans as the young boy tried not to gag as his head was held down in the teen’s crotch.  The damp, musky odor of the earthen slope filled the dark space as the boy’s body trembled and shook in the cold air.

Unseen by either of the boys stood a figure…transparent and ethereal behind the young teenager.  An evil smile hidden in the darkness creased the face of this once “most beautiful” of the angels.  Speaking to no one in particular, his laughed softly as he said “I have another one.”  If you could see him, the hatred in his eyes for all things living sparkled in his eyes.  His pride swelled as he considered that one more soul was starting down a path of death and destruction.

Suddenly the darkness surrounding the fallen angel in this supernatural space unseen by the boys was filled with a light.  Standing behind the young boy still on his knees stood a man, cloaked in white.  As tears slowly wound their way down His face, He looked up from the ground where the teenager continued to hold the boy between his legs.  His eyes flashed as He glared at the Enemy across from Him.  “This one is NOT yours!  He is mine.”  The Prince of Darkness turned and started to move away.  Suddenly he stopped and looked back at the boys…then at the Prince of Peace.  “Then this is war” he mumbled as he slunk back into the darkness.

Photo - Unknown Source


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Challenge

There’s probably nothing better than a couple hundred miles of empty freeway to allow my mind to reflect and process.  Well, maybe not so empty with the beginning of the Easter and Spring Break vacation travelers finding their way back home.  But in between the little old lady in the Ford Taurus who clearly hadn’t figured out how to operate her cruise control and continual need to use my windshield wash to clear away the road grime spraying up from the wet roadway, my mind did find some time to think about the weekend.

I’d spent the past four days with my Sister Deb and her husband Walt and highlight was attending a Christian Writer’s conference on Saturday.  I was hoping that it would provide the catalyst that I’ve so greatly needed to jump-start my writing again.  The presenters were outstanding and all seemed to chant a common mantra…one I didn’t really seem to want to hear.  “Write!  Write!  Write!”  That seems all well and good but the struggle that I’ve been facing…the obstacle that I can’t seem to find my way around or over or under has been what to write. 

I’ve felt a calling to write my book since I got out of prison.  My life is in many ways unique, but also in many ways like the lives of many people in our society that haven’t faced their life yet.  It’s a story that I think should be told as do some of the closest people in my life…most notably my companion at the conference, Deb.  But several of the presenters challenged us with the same question.  Why?

That one word rolled around in my head for the past 150 miles.  Why do I want to write this book?  Why should I write this book?  Why should I think that the story I could tell would be important enough for someone to pick up and read, let alone pay $15 or more to purchase it?  That question still challenges me.

I believe my struggle that I wrestle with is that I have two stories that are fighting to get out.  They are related with some common threads but I don’t believe they belong in the same story.  I’m not sure which one I’m supposed to write.

Even when I was in prison, before I was introduced to writing again by my Sister I felt called to write a book.  Deb asked me this weekend if I would have written a book if I hadn’t gone to prison.  I wasn’t sure of the answer when she asked it, but in reflection the answer is yes.  My ex-wife Paula has reminded me several times that I’ve always wanted to write a book after I retired from education.   I didn’t know what it would be about, but the desire has always been there. 

As Deb prepared a wonderful breakfast this morning of bacon and sausage, frittata and our Mom’s coffee cake, she made a statement that set me back and probably started the wheels turning on my drive home.  She said that is seemed like I had lost my passion to write.  The words actually stung like a sharp slap in the face.  Sometimes, slaps hurt.  But sometimes, they wake up you up.  This was a “wake up” slap.  I doubt that was Deb’s intent when she made the statement…really more of an observation than an accusation.  But it did have the effect of leading me into a time of reflection.  I DO love to write.  And I believe that it is one of the many gifts that God has given me.  I know that I’ve squandered some of His gifts.  Some, I’ve just simply never opened out of fear or shame; I’m not certain which.

The trip home didn’t end with a beautiful rainbow sneaking through the light mist of rain that was falling and miraculously answer my question about which story I am supposed to write.  But it did end with me at the keyboard…answering a calling that I know I’m intended to answer.  Finding myself facing a challenge in the only way that I know how.  I respond and meet it head on.