Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Entranced by the Snow

This morning, as I cleared the light cover of fluffy snow from my drive and walkway, I was able to enjoy the time with gently drifting snowflakes falling down around me. The air was cold, but it did little to distract my eyes from the beauty that surrounded me. Tree branches and evergreen needles had collected the flakes and the limbs drooped under the added weight. The dark green of the hemlocks were enhanced by the whiteness tipping their boughs. Bare and interlaced tree limbs turn to intricate lace patterns. While I shoveled, the sun began to brighten the clouds, but had not made an appearance from behind the overcast curtain, yet.

I went outside early this morning and the traffic on the roadway was light. Flakes of snow hissed softly as they made landings on the piles of snow and drifts around me. The serenity of the time alone was relaxing and although it was work, it was soon changed to pleasure. The only thing that kept me grounded was the coldness that reached inside of my gloves and nipped my fingers. The snow was light and I would only pause long enough to do slap of my hands against my thighs to warm them. Outside for less than hour, I was glad to get back inside to chase the tingling from my fingertips, holding them near the basement wood burner.

My son, Andrew, lives in Amarillo, Texas. The other day, they got eleven inches of snow overnight. He told his wife, Renee, that he enjoyed shoveling snow. If he is like me, it isn’t always that a person likes the exercise it is the time of quiet and solitude that a person enjoys. It is a time for reflection. The body is kept busy and the mind is free to explore.

As I shoveled and carried off the snow, my mind was free and began to create the following Haiku poem.

Clouds in small pieces

Fall as light, fluffy snowflakes

And drift on the wind.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Special Friend

When I bought a pair of skis, poles, and boots at a yard sale for $5.00, little did I know that I had access to a medal winning athlete. I met Sally at one of my writers meetings. She is a vigorous eighty year old woman who has competed in many of the Senior Olympics and brought home gold. A fit, top athlete in so many sports; bicycling, triathlon, swimming, skiing, and probably many more that I am forgetting. She has biked around the world, Europe, Asia, and many of the Islands.

Her long time husband and photographer passed away over a year ago and as a group, we have rallied around her for support. This Christmas, she invited her writer friends and a few close friends to a party. It seemed to be a turning point in her grieving. She had been very down and since the party, she is more like the woman that we knew while Chuck was alive.

Sally has written several books and is a fitness guru, while I am an inveterate couch potato. Sharing that I bought skis seemed to spark more interest from her and she gave me a few pointers. Even though she is going through several heath issues at present, she stopped at my house to drop off the photo and article that was in the Mt. Pleasant Journal that had been written about another writers group to which I belong. Our group has had seven authors published in the past year.
Sally told me to do another loop in my yard, pointing out things that would help me in my attempts to hold my own against the snow, my weight, and hypertension in my life. I am grateful for her help and her friendship.

P.S. she is an avid reader of my Tommy Two Shoes detective series. Thanks Sally.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Stilts and Skis

When we were kids, we tried to make skis, sleds, and stilts from scraps at out neighbor’s house. Pieces of wood, held together by straightened and reused nails, were the starting point for any project. The stilts were lengths of two by fours with smaller pieces as the foot rests. Bits of leather strapping helped the user to keep his feet on the perches.
The sleds were for the most part bobsled Frankenstein creations with automobile steering wheels and chrome strips fastened to wide board runners and a plank body. They were heavy and didn’t go very fast, but they were sleds that could be guided. It took several kids to pull the monster back up the hill for the next ride.
Skis were attempted once and they were an unmitigated failure. The wood was too thick and unyielding. Chrome strips did slide fairly well, but would bend and not support weight. On top of that, how were we going to keep them on our feet?
Now that I am grown, I bought a pair. I am still not adventurous enough to try downhill skiing, but purchased an entire ensemble of cross country skis, poles, and boots for $5.00 at a yard sale. Behind my home and across the road are fields, fairly level that would be my safe practice areas. I am sixty-five and bones are more easily broken.
Until yesterday, there hadn’t been enough snow to try them out. Bravely, I wore the boots down the stairs into the basement and gathered everything near the garage door, chair, skis, and poles. I had enough foresight to lift the garage door about six inches to allow me to approach it and open it with the tips of the skis passing under it.
Skis snapped in place, I lifted the door and emerged a novice and cautious. Skis made turning awkward, but I closed the door behind me. I was surprised to find the skis were less stable than I thought they would be. I could feel the gravel chunks making one of the skis tilt to one side. Poles in hand I scooted up the drive and into the wilds of my yard.
The snow was wet and occasionally stuck to the bottom of one ski or the other. Sometimes lifting and stepping and sometimes sliding along, I got comfortable with the feel of the boards strapped to my feet. The mail was in and I scooted across my yard and the next-door neighbor’s yard to the mailbox. All that greeted me were advertisements. I circled the posts that upheld the boxes and headed back to my house, ads wadded up in my back pocket.
I made one more circuit of my yard and put the old fire horse back into the barn. I hadn’t fallen, although there were several, “Whoops, that was slippery.” Safe inside I removed the gear and leaned them against the wall until the urge and snow drew me outside again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At the Point

Have you ever arrived at a point in life or a point in a task and you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Am I doing this task well enough, am I doing the job correctly, or have I become familiar and can’t tell the difference anymore?

Sometimes when I try to write the next stories in the Tommy Two Shoes series, I am concerned about the writing, not the plots. The plots are good, but am I being too wordy? Am I explaining and sharing my thoughts well enough for my readers?

I try to share what my characters are thinking, what they are seeing, and their emotions. My editor helps me to eliminate some of the extraneous thoughts, but occasionally, it shallows the person and lessens the emotional connection with the character. Oh, well, my editor doesn’t always have the last say. I don’t mind when it streamlines the story by eliminating unnecessary rabbit trails and cuts out the tangents that occur when I write.

The next series of stories center about and around the time of Christmas holidays. It will open with an addition to the family. Then there will be stories of Tommy when he was still on the Pittsburgh police force as a part of the homicide squad. The recollections will fall under the titles of Christmas carols or songs.

The first story in the book will have the title of What Child is This if the position of the story meets with my editor. We collaborate as to wording, position of stories, and titles of each story. When it is finished, we hope that the final product is interesting and entertaining.

I will continue to write, hoping and praying that I can create something that is an enjoyable mystery with a touch of humor tossed in to prevent boredom.

Monday, January 19, 2015

To Curl or Not to Curl

On Face Book this morning, Deb, one of the women from Frick Hospital where I worked posted a photograph of her daughter with a permanent. The young girl didn’t look happy and her dad was chiding her. When I made my usual amusing comment, she messaged me and told me the story behind the photo.
Deb said that she had permanents since she was a little girl and thought although that her daughter’s hair was curly, it had more body and looked better with a perm. Her daughter hated it and fussed so, that the daughter’s dad had to step in to settle things.
We messaged back and forth. I shared that my wife Cindy, had baby fine hair and would convince herself that she needed a perm every so often. Her hair wouldn’t hold a perm and the smell lasted longer than the curls. Two days and no more curls, but the odor lasted for a week. Trying to sleep at night downwind from a chemical factory would have been no less toxic. My requests to never ever get another perm, but my pleas fell on deaf ears and about twice per year I would do the husbandly thing and curl up beside her as she slept.

I also shared with her that my dad forced me to get a crew cut twice in my life. One haircut happened when I was very young and didn’t know how ridiculous I looked and the other just before I went to Camp Conestoga Boy Scout Camp. I was older then and managed to cover my embarrassment with a knit stocking cap or my Boy Scout cap.
I was forced to wear a crew cut and it was the shortest of all. On arrival at boot camp for the United States Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Station, my head was shorn as short as the plush on a teddy bear. That is the feeling that I got when I rubbed my hand over my nearly bald pate. I have photos from that ordeal, but they are hidden on the book shelves at my home beneath my high school yearbooks.
Every once in a while, one of my kids will pull the photos out of their hiding place and show them to an unwary visitor just to embarrass me and to entertain the unfortunate guest.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Visiting a Widow
When my wife Cindy was alive and we went shopping together at Pechin’s we would buy some extra fruit for a friend who lived along the route home. We knew the woman before she lost her husband and would sometimes we would stop to visit for about half an hour.
I knew them as a child from the old clapboard, one room church in Clinton Pennsylvania. They were good friends with my dad and mom. As I grew from childhood, they became my friends as well. He was a thin man with a ready smile and she was a sweet woman who laughed easily.
Because they lived along the Springfield Pike, it became natural for us to stop when my wife and I saw them on their porch and from those visits, my wife and children grew to know them as well. We were always welcome and they seemed to enjoy our children. Our children became comfortable with them, almost as much as with their grandparents.
It was hard to explain when her husband died. We didn’t take them to the funeral home. We didn’t think it was appropriate for them and would have been a distraction to other mourners. It was difficult to stop at her home, but we needed for her to believe we hadn’t abandoned her. It was more awkward for my wife and me, but our children continued where they were before her husband’s death, climbing onto her lap and playing.
It slowly evolved for us to buy some extra fruit: a bunch of bananas and a container or two of whatever fruit that looked good. That might be a bag of apples, a tray of oranges or a container of pears or tangerines.
She never said that she needed the fruit, but was always thankful. Cindy and I knew that she could use it, because after her husband’s demise, she took on jobs cleaning other people’s homes and became a sitter for sick clients at night.
When we moved, we didn’t drive by her home nearly as often, but we would occasionally make the detour so we could visit. She slowly aged and her family moved her to the same nursing home as my dad. We could visit more often. She remembered and called me Tommy when I would stop and talk to her. She and my father are gone now, but their memories linger.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Day in the Sun

There are quiet days in the sun, fishing with my granddad Beck Sometimes it would be in a state park and sometimes it would be on one of the small pay lakes near his home. These times of solitude with him speak loudly from the recesses of my mind. Each day seemed to last forever, but in reality, passed in a flash leaving a bright memory, a spot like the flash of sunlight on a wavelet or the sheen of light on a fish as it splashed. Those instances have become frozen in time. A treasure that has been stored for use at anytime I want to see it.
When I retrieve each coin from my brain bank, I can feel the warmth of the summer’s day sunshine, tempered by a light breeze. Shadows of leave and clouds dance over me, sharing the joy of the moment. I relax on the bank with the soft lapping of the water at my feet. In the distance, I can hear red birds calling to one another. On the lake surface, a red and white bobber rises and falls with the waves’ movements. It all becomes hypnotic.
The coolness of the grass covered earth beneath me reaches through my jeans and shirt to caress my skin. I wait expectantly; the line on my pole is slack, stirred by the breeze.
On one side of me is my brother, Ken, with a line almost parallel to mine, his red hair shining coppery in the warming sunlight.
On the other side of me sits my grandfather Edson Thomas Beck, white hair glistening like snow on an aged mountain peak. His line cast a bit farther out into the pond. Even when the fish weren’t biting, it was a serene and peaceful.
These outings achieved what my grandfather intended. It was a time out from the routine. It was a time of sharing and bonding. It was a time of peace, even if I had to spend the afternoon with an irritating kid brother. Now, it has become a cherished memory.
It is strange how such an uneventful time in my life can etch so deeply, that it can be recalled over a half century later.