Friday, December 30, 2011

Jacob and Ava, The Scrap book

This is one of my "Friday Flash Fiction" stories written for, and appearing at A fine site for writers, and for readers.

The old man Jacob sat in his rocking chair, older than dirt he thought, the both of them.

It was that week between Christmas, with all the familying whirlwinds, and New Year's Eve. It was hard to get excited about New Year's, having seen so many of them come and go. It was hard to get excited about much of anything these days. He couldn't do much anymore, felt he hadn't done nearly enough for most of his life, and now his times of doing seemed to be mostly over.

He thought about this year, and all that had happened in the world and in his life. There were so many bad things happening in the world. There were good things too. It seemed like nothing was as clear-cut, as black and white as it used to be, for him or for most other people. Nothing was certain any more, and worse, life no longer seemed to hold the hope, the magic, that it once had.

Jacob went over and over his life in his mind, remembering when he was young and thought he knew it all. He had run out of tears years ago, for all that was lost or had never been because he was such a fool. As much as he had thought he'd known, he had known nothing, not even how much he was loved, until it seemed too late.

His daughter Ava, bless her heart, had called him the other day. If he had still been able to jump he might have jumped right out of his skin. He still hated the sound of a telephone, even now, when it rang so seldom.

She wanted to come over and go through his old photos with him, build a scrap-book, she said.

He reminded her that he could no longer see very well. What would be the point?

She said it would give them something to do together, something that she hoped they'd enjoy. She would build the scrapbook for him, all he had to do was tell her about the pictures.

He thought seeing all those old photos, thinking on those times now would probably hurt as much as they'd help, remind him of chances lost, possibilities died on the vine. But still, he did want to see them again, and to show them to her to remind them both his life had not always been as it was now.

Besides, he didn't have the heart to tell her no. He suspected she was afraid he might die anytime now, and wanted to have something better to remind her of his life than the scattered pictures he kept in worn out boxes.

When she came over she seemed to have enough stuff with her to build a world he thought. Boxes and boxes and portfolios of fancy papers. Tools and gadgets and bottles also came in the door and just kept coming. When he asked her why so much she said she brought it all so she'd be sure to have "just the right stuff".

And as they labored over each page he realized she did, in every case, have just the right stuff. Not only did she build up each page of multiple layers of different kinds of paper and fabric, she added other things.

For the pictures of the beach she found sand and shells, drift wood and dried seaweed, even scents in bottles for that "finishing touch".

For the forest pictures oak leaves and pine needles, a tuft of deer fur, the smell of old trees, and finally one single pinion, the silent flight feather of a great horned owl.

For the pictures of them together she had tiny bits of fabric one or another had worn, a piece of a toy, a ticket stub from a favorite event. Ava always found just the right, no - perfect, the perfect thing to finish off each page, to seal the power of the best, most important memories of his life .

Rather than taking an afternoon as he'd originally thought, it wound up taking the entirety of the week to finish the project. Some evenings she'd stop and fix him something to eat before continuing on her own, till long after he'd fallen asleep in his chair. He'd wake to find her curled up on the sofa under one of her mother's old afghans before the fire, and he could have sworn he saw a faint shimmer, he imagined like a magic faery dust, about her hair and shoulders.

Even as she worked through this with him Ava watched his remaining strength fading, day after day, though his mood seemed to actually get better. She was sure she saw a little of the old twinkle come back to his eyes.

He was napping in his chair as she finally finished the last page. She carried the thick book, practically a tome. over to him and placed it on his lap. Gently she roused him. "Dad, here it is. I'm going to go straighten up around the house a bit, you have a look, see what you think", and she was off in the other rooms.

Ava hoped he would find it as magical as she knew it had turned out to be. She imagined him in his chair slowly turning each page, discovering not only his own memories of each event, but also perhaps a new sense of the presence of the places, people, and things. She knew there was more depth to each story than either of them had been aware of. They had captured not just his impressions, but the essences of each moment, each day, that would make them new for him again.

As she puttered around the old house she began to feel him in there. It was a talent she had always had, to feel what he and a few others felt. Tired. She felt tired, and wondering if it was her tiredness or his, she went back in to check on him. "You okay, Dad? Do you like it?"

"It's marvelous, just marvelous, Honey" and he smiled at her, really smiled, as she hadn't seen in many years.

"I'm so glad you like it, Dad. I'll just be in the other room if you need me."

The book would sustain him. The book would hold him, as in a loved one's warm embrace, until the end of days.

When Ava returned to the room sometime later she found the book in his chair where he'd sat with it as he and the book became one.

She cradled it close to her heart as she gazed at the still glowing embers in the fireplace he had built so many years ago. "Happy New Year's, Dad."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Being Here, Being There.

I've been thinking about airplanes. I've been dreaming about both my family back in Kansas and my family here with me. A lot. I've been feeling guilty for not being financially able to go back for Christmas. Nothing to be done to help that now. The truth is, I haven't been back in over two years. It all gets to be a complicated set of thoughts and feelings. This weighs on me heavily this time of year.

There is a shape, a taste in the mind, a physical feeling that goes along with some emotions. These are some of those. Both curious and lovely as well as both painful and pleasant, these sensations of mind and body and soul.

It's about those strongest of family ties. It's about memories. It's about hopes and fears and all those years bridging time and space between childhood and now, on into the future too, as perhaps no other season or holiday does.

Curious because it taps into and touches on thoughts and ideas about time and space. These things are always present, and somewhat of a quandary to me.

Sure I understand distance and I understand basic concepts of time. But really deep down inside, where something about those tickle something in my mind, I know there are mysteries involved.

Here is here and there is there. Now is now and Then was then. That's all there is to it, right? Except it's really
not all there is to it. Not in the deep places of the heart and mind. Here and now are constantly permeated by there and then. Sometimes I even think by there and now, but that's purely imagination, right? How could I possibly be remembering there, now when I'm here now?

That is some of the lovely part of it, that memories of back home and times with my folks and my brothers are things I carry with me always. To feel, to see, and to taste and hear and smell.
I keep the best times close to the center, and when I want or they want, they come back to the fore. I remember a lot. Sometimes I believe I remember everything. I recall the good and the bad, happy and sad and all points in between. But not really. Not fully. Not like one feels the moment at hand because well, that was then and this is now.

And that's part of where the pain comes in, yearning as they say, to bring back those moments to their completeness of experience. The pain is knowing that those can never be fully seen and heard and felt in this time, with this mind.

But I am tremendously thankful and happy to have the memories I do have, however imperfect or incomplete, to carry me back to there and to then.

I am not alone here. I have my family here as well, the "new" family, the one I've brought with me and the one I helped build here. I do revel in the times and the moments we have here as well. I know that some day my current here and now will be another "there and then". And so I try, as best I can, to soak it all in to build the memories I will have of this later, knowing that my recollections will again be imperfect, incomplete.

Here is my point: Pay Attention. Soak it all in, consciously, mindfully, purposely.

The more you do so, the better you will recall later I think. Why would I think that? Because that has been my experience. When I tell my self to do those things, to pay attention and remember, I find later that I do remember better. Sometimes it happens on it's own. I hear myself thinking "I will remember this moment for the rest of my life" and so far mostly I think I have.

This may not work for you. I'm sure it doesn't always work for me. Sometimes there's just too much going on to be able to grasp it all.

As I go through this holiday season with my family here I know I will be split in two. I'll be trying to find my balance between living and experiencing these moments here and now and reaching through time and space to be with my family there and then, perhaps even there and now.

My wish for you all is that you have the best of times, make the best of memories, with whom ever you can this season.

And oh yeah, take more pictures.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Andy's Room

A Crack in the world
He woke up. It was still dark. Off to the side he could just see the light around the top and one side of the door. He was probably three or maybe four, but he had no sense of that now. His big brother was there. Andy pointed to the crack in the ceiling. It bothered him. What was it? What did it mean? Dan said that was the ghost crack, the crack to The Other Side. If he wasn’t very quiet the ghosts would know he was there. Andy wasn’t sure if his brother went back to his own big bed, or if he left the room. He could do that, just leave the room. Dan didn’t have bars on his bed like Andy had on his.  

In the dark from his bed he could just make out the crack in the ceiling. He stared at it – hard. He looked away fast. Had he seen it move? Couldn’t be, it was just a crack. A crack couldn’t do anything could it? He looked to his stuffed bunny, there beside him. Pulled it closer, buried his face in it. After a long time he looked at the ceiling. It had seemed to move just a little he thought. He pulled the covers up over his head. He wanted to call out for Mommy, Daddy, someone, anyone to come get him, come turn on the light. But he could make no sound. Not. A. Sound.   

After another long time nothing had come and gotten him yet. He pulled the covers down away from his eyes just enough, just barely enough, to see out through the wooden bars of his bed into the dark beside him. Nothing was there. He pulled the covers up over his head again. It seemed cold when he uncovered his head. Were Ghosts cold? 

He slowly pulled the covers down again. He did not look right at the crack in the ceiling. He somehow thought that maybe it only moved, only opened when you looked at it. Was that right, or did it only move if you stopped looking at it? If that was true he hadn’t looked at it for a long time and maybe it was way big open now. He looked. It hadn’t moved. He looked harder. It moved. It didn’t. Did. Didn’t. He covered his head up again. If it got him, he would stay gotten for a really long time, maybe forever. He wasn’t sure either, what forever was, but sensed it meant for real and for keeps and maybe even past then. 
He pulled the covers down again. He was sure the crack had gotten wider, deeper, and blacker inside. He looked away and then back. It was the same as when he first looked at it. But there, off to the side, where the ceiling met the wall, now he saw a spider web. Spider webs meant spiders.. A Spider! It wasn’t. It was. Wasn’t. Was. He covered his head with the blanket again. Did spiders only move when you were looking or when you weren’t looking? 

That reminded him he hadn’t been watching the crack. He had to know, even if looking meant it would move while he watched. He looked. It was wider. It wasn’t. It was. It grew wider and wider still; began to open downward into the room. It was really dark inside, but he could tell something was moving. He could feel it coming to get him. He pulled the covers up over his head. He thought sure there was something, something mean and angry and hungry in the room with him now.  

At that moment he was sure it would be bad. It would hurt and hurt and be scary and sad and hurt some more, for longer than anything ever and there was no one to help him because he could not move or make a sound. 
Andy woke up. It was lighter in his room now. The side of his bed was down, like when Mommy came to get him. But Mommy wasn’t there. His gaze shot up to the ceiling. The crack, little more than a squiggly line on the ceiling. It was the same as it had always been. His brother Dan’s bed was gone. The funny cactus lamp was gone. The rug was gone. The bookshelf that held his Little Golden books and Dan’s big books was gone. Everything in the room, except his bed, was gone. He stood there in his pajamas looking for a long time at the floor where the rug should be. It was covered with a thick dust. 

He had to find Dan, he had to find Mommy, or maybe even Daddy for this! He ran into the hall,down to the first place the steps stopped, to the front window. There were no curtains on the window. The window was covered in dust. He rubbed the dust away with his hand and wiped his hand on his Roy Rogers pajamas. When he stood on his tip-toes and looked out the window he could see his parents’ car out in front of the house in the street below. There were people in the car. 

 He ran, almost stumbling down the rest of the stairs, suddenly knew that the living room downstairs was bare of furniture, that the whole house was empty of everything except fort maybe ghosts. He got to the front door. Pulled with all his might on the big wooden door, and again, and more frantically still and finally got it open. He couldn’t open the screen door. He banged and banged on the door, trying to get the people to see him, to hear him. They were going away. They couldn’t hear him and they didn’t see him. 

The car slowly pulled away from the curb and drove away. He sat down on the floor and cried. And cried harder. And cried some more.  

Andy woke up. It was too dark where he was. There was a crack of light in the floor. He needed what was on the other side. He pushed the crack open, slowly, quietly. There was something alive sleeping in the room below.
And Andy was hungry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anything Can Happen - If I Say It Can

Todays post is also found as a guest post at

When he woke up Andy had a horrible headache centered in the back of his head, just behind and below his ears. It didn’t help that The Ring of his tinnitus was louder than ever. Somehow it made him think of a futuristic time bomb in his head, ramping up to vaporize his brain. He wondered if it would all be internal or if there would actually be grey matter on the walls after. In addition, it was time to write his guest post for, and make up for lost time on his #NaNoWriMo piece.

And so he wrote: Anything can happen if I say it can.

I recently read a fine post on this same site Let’s Talk About Your Premise, by Jason Black. It dealt with the idea that one’s audience will accept one major suspension of disbelief. The author described this as the writer’s “Freebie”. That really resonated with me. I think it bears revisiting in perhaps a little different voice because well, he made a lotta sense and I know how much trouble some of us have with that. I think that it could be said as well of life in general. He went on further to say that once you have established your freebie, any consequent fantastic concepts would generally be accepted IF they follow the internal logic of the first unbelievable premise. “Sure there can be a wyvern, I already told you, there is magic in this world”.

The other day, while lounging half asleep – OK so I was writing, but lounging half asleep sounded better… While lounging half asleep with the tv on, because I was too lazy to turn it off, I overheard parts of an episode of Vegas. Apparently Tom Selleck, I don’t know his character’s name, had just bought the Montecello, the casino around which the show is built. He was in a period of adjustment, of shaking things up, as it were, and he took as his mantra the phrase “Anything can happen”. I really liked that. It made perfect sense(and yet I still got it). Normally, out here in the sometimes foggy, sometimes windblown poo-storm reality of the Hinter Lands of perception, I would be hard pressed to believe that anything could really happen. For instance, I’m now fifty three years old, vaguely self employed, but stifled work–wise by chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I find it unbelievable that I could yet wind up a yuppie, being neither young nor a “professional”. Similarly I find it hard to believe that I could actually become an Olympic power lifter, brain surgeon, professional skate boarder, or a successful financial investments broker. But on this episode of Vegas, I could believe it.

“Everyone bring one suitcase to the lobby for a raffle. Someone is getting on a plane for a mystery two day trip to somewhere waaaay more exotic than Vegas”. “Here, passers-by, have some truck keys. Instead of giving away one Maserati, I’m giving away one hundred new pickup trucks”. Very believable because it is Las Vegas, he owns a Casino, he can do that. And more than that, it’s believable because we know we’re dealing with make believe. It’s a Story. Someone wrote a Story. Wait a minute; I think that was important, well, at least to me, currently in the persona of Writer Man, able to write about leaping tall buildings in a single bound! It was a story made up by a writer, and the audience all, hopefully, understood that.

We all as writers get one freebie suspension of disbelief, however that one freebie might – might just be capable of containing myriad smaller suspensions of disbelief because we’re making up stories, written down by we, the writers.

My wish for my eternal freebie – I’m a writer. This is a story. Anything can happen, if I say it can. Okay, here’s where I make what I think is an important modification to that. In order to make that work, I may occasionally have to step back and give the readers a little background, a little “this world” history or theory about how and why this thing that would totally tweek the reader’s melon in “real” life is totally doable. Ya gotta have a little mercy, or a little sense of authorial self-preservation. Let’s face it if one story is just too chock full of “unbelievable weirdness”, unsupported by any internal logic or plausible back story, the reading public is not likely to want to partake of, or worse pay for, any more. Then we might have to go get yet another real job to support our caffeine and chocolate habits and we certainly do not want that.

Reminder to self: You may have to explain, like Piers Anthony, how it comes to be that there are two parallel worlds, one of technology, the other of magic(See the Blue Adept Series, I really loved that). Besides, it’s just fun to say or to think “Blue Adept”. That could mean all kinds of erotically charged things. Or not. Anything CAN happen.

That’s where my head is at, this mid NaNoWriMo morning. How many of us #amwriting folks are doing NaNo, and how is that going? What kinds of things are we making happen?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Elements of Writing(But probably not the ones you're thinking of)

This was originally posted at You should visit there.

Joni Mitchell had it right.

“Great. What the Hell are you on about now, John?”

Bear with me. You know how my mind has to come at things sideways. You don’t? Um, perhaps you might want go take a quick break, get a beverage, smoke if you got ‘em, come back prepared to think all random abstract up in here.

You back? Great.

When you were learning about writing, about how to tell a story, there were I’m sure, lessons about elements of writing, elements of story. Do I know them? Some, but not the same. Sure-sure beginning, middle, end – plot, character – conflict, resolution … and yeah, some of those others I can’t easily bring to the surface. But I didn’t learn them in any real organized way as I should have. Misspent youth, too much fun,“OH, Shiny!", whatever. For me, a lot of this is happening as we go, studying when I can, gathering to mind other lessons and observations learned in the last fifty or so years and making them relate to this craft of showing, of telling, and hopefully of relating.

This is Bad. I don’t know what I’m doing in any formulaic, quantifiable way. Not in any way that’s easy for me to discuss, and especially not discuss intelligently as I’m doing it. I have to come at things a little differently. Think of it as the Pantsing Mind(i.e.- flying by the seat of the pants)

This is Good. I know from observation that all the world seems to crave the different, the unusual. Is that not what keeps advertising agencies, research and development departments, and all kinds of creatives going? Different – I got. (That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.)

“Artifice… Brutality… and Innocence – Artifice and Innocence” – Joni Mitchell, The Three Great StimulantsDog Eat Dog, 1985 – track number three.

Yes Joni had it right. Those are three great stimulants “for the exhausted ones”. And they will serve us well in the showing and the telling.

The artifice comes in as a necessary quality of crafting our words. A matter of choosing which and where and how we put them down. “Say me something clever, he begged.” Yes, yes we want our characters and our stories to seem to have grown “organically” from some greater or different nature, but let’s face it, a lot of it comes from carefully choosing, endless times of thinking, crafting, revising, editing.

Brutality may be actually brutal or it may come symbolically as an element of drama, trouble,“Danger, Will Robinson!”, conflict, something to add some spice to the mix. If you think of brutal in the sense of "from the brute", is not all human conflict on some level brutal in it’s most condensed essence?

Innocence provides the necessary balance to brutality. An animal which is by nature innocent of human malice may act in a way that seems brutal, but is it really? If so then they’re much as we, being capable of innocence and brutality within the same shell. Innocence may only be a relative position to the circumstance of the story or to a conflicting element or character of the story. Or the innocent element may truly be innocent, blameless, guileless and without a shred of meanness in it’s whole being. Next time you’re reading a story you love, look for artifice, brutality and innocence. See if they’re not there in some form.

How about some different elements?

A long time ago it occurred to me that there are certain aspects, objective as may be, that all good Rock ‘N’ Roll seems to have in common. Those are what I call Tooth, Edge, and Snap. No, they don’t necessarily correspond to artifice, brutality, and innocence but sometimes may.

Tooth is that element of nature, “red in fang and claw” as they say. Something to bite down on the beat with, the part that speaks to the monkey brain, gives us the primal in your gut sensation. It’s the “NnnnGar!” in the song.

Edge, though similar to tooth, is not the same. Edge is that part of good Rock ‘N’ Roll that literally puts you on the edge of your seat. It’s the electric Zzzzzap!, the sparkling shiny bit of tingly stuff in the sound.

Snap? Think of snap as the crispness, the bounce–back, the rock in Rock ‘N” Roll. It’s the actual snap in the beat and in the phrasing of notes.

“Okay John, enough about yer heathin Rocky-rolly, we’re here to be on about writing!” Well, of course we are.

It’s the same thing.

Yes, that’s right, I said a good piece of writing is much the same, has much the same feel, the same taste as a good piece of music generally, and rock sometimes specifically. Well, it does.

So, there then are some of the elements of writing that I think of, strive for, listen for. And even though I’m pretty sure you won’t have run across them in any of your normal writing studies I hope perhaps they will give you something to think about.

Now if you haven’t already, please go watch and listen to Joni Mitchell and friends, including pretty much all of Herbie Hancock’s band performing The Three Great Stimulants, which carries it’s own jazzy versions of tooth, edge and snap.

Are there any unusual or unorthodox elements you know of or look to create in your writing? I’d love to hear about them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Game, Passages, and ...

My son, seven, got his first serious game machine, a hand-me-down PS2, last weekend. If That isn't a sentence rife with potential for several different blog posts and probably a short story or three, well, I just don't know if a person, no wait - a parent could call themselves a writer.

It brings up parenting issues about values, socioeconomics, Rites of Passage, (I promise I'll stop using capitalization for emphasis soon, I'm coming off of it gradually, because quitting cold turkey would be Traumatic)

Where was I? Right then - PS2 - 7yo(autistic spectrum remember) - Rites of Passage now - value judgments and socioeconomic implications and traumas to be dealt with later - got it.

As I mentioned in Monday's post, nice neighbor dropped off his old PlayStation 2 last weekend, and of course A-Boy was thrilled, just thrrrrilllled I tell you! My first thought was "And so it begins". My second thought was along the lines of perhaps now he'll be more likely to be content on his own a bit and not be requiring direct, active attention seemingly all the time. I know, I'm a horrible parent. Sometimes, even when my child is awake and around, I just want to concentrate on something not involving him, or his repetitive large/fast movements and sounds. Something like reading or writing or even, Heaven forbid, watching a movie and actually hearing all the dialog. There, I said it, send me to horrible parent Hell.

Well that has not been the case. It turns out that playing video games is just not as fun by one's self. I've been captured and drug upstairs to the room with the thing. I have been forced to play video games. And occasionally, just occasionally, it's been OK. More than Ok. Other times, not so much. Not surprisingly, I suck at pretty much any video game that involves speed and control. Yeah, all of them. But it's not about me, right? Right.

About A-Boy and the Game console, I see that it's a modern rite of passage. Even if his is a second hand less than current example of the game maker's art and alchemy. He's a big boy now. He has his own game machine. He can invite his friends over to play and have something they know, something that makes him part of the group.

Getting the training wheels off his bike was a rite of passage that I could recognize, could remember and relate to from my own childhood. That one has been around for many years, a well known passage I'm sure recognized world over. It's almost as integral a part of growing up human as walking is.

This video game as rite of passage thing though, I've got no reference for that. Never been a video game guy and when I was A-Boy's age they hadn't invented Pong, and no one new who Atari was. Yes, I'm that old. And here's another one coming up, his own phone. No, I'm not buying a seven year old a cell phone, but I anticipate that it won't be very many more years before a cell phone will be a practical necessity for him. Will his first phone be a smart phone? Or, perhaps it will be one of the emerging pad/phone/game/video production hybrids that are pretty much here or right around the corner, waiting for a release date. How would I know, I'm a dinosaur!

So what have I learned here? Um....Oh, I know! Pick me! Pick me! What I've learned on a real, visceral level, that I only could have theorized before on a rational, hypothetical level, is that our children will have, are having, an often very different set of Rites of Passage than we had. And I''ve learned that not only will I not have had some of those experiences as a child, I can't even partake in the activities, the languages, or the mindsets involved in them now. That makes me kind of sad, but it's not like the same thing didn't happen to our parents. First-time things we did, not realizing they even were rites of passage, became those for us, and our parents may not have even known it, let alone been able to witness and partake in them.

I realize that many of you probably already experienced this. But it was a "Wow, look at that weird thing happening" moment for me, so of course I had to write about it.

So, have you noticed any important rites of passage your children or their children have had that are part of the new?

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Just Not Right

Aaron likes his routines. Unless it's a "cool" surprise, like when our neighbors gave Aaron their old PlayStation II complete with, well, pretty much everything(including two game guitars - TWO!) Yup, to Aaron that was a very cool surprise, a definitely ok break in routine.

We're sharing one car in our house now. One died so now there's just the one to share, and yes, I know how Blessed we are to have even one relatively nice, safe, legal, comfy Subaru Outback (love the Outback - it's name is Yoshi).

This means a not cool shift of routine for him. We have to get him out of bed and into the car at five-thirty am in order to get Ginny to work by six. Then he can come back home and snooze for a half hour or so before he really starts his day, but I'm afraid by then the damage is done.

Now remember that Aaron is high-functioning autistic. Most of the time he seems like a pretty normal(and bright of course) seven year old, if perhaps a little emotionally young. Think seven and a half, going on four and a half or five emotionally. Add to that mix an autistically expect-able rigidity of mindset regarding things like routines, what's ok and right, and what's decidedly Not Ok or "Just Not Right". This makes the crack of dawn disruption of routine a potentially big deal.

Today was our third day of the new thing, hopefully soon to be for him, routine. Fine. Got Ginny to work, him to school, me off to my Dr. appointment across town. I got home about eleven am, just in time to get a "Come to the school NOW" message from his school Principal. It was his first big Melt Down of the school year, now in it's third or fourth week. We did have enough foresight to have our intro to Aaron show and tell meeting with his new teacher less than two weeks ago, so the melt down chair tossing session should not have come as a total surprise to her. Except - we're talking a TOTAL five star no-verbal communication, kicking, snarling, throwing chairs to the floor kind of a Big Ole' No Reasoning With Him Aaron Melt Down. It was a "Room Clearing Event" as they say. That means that what Aaron was doing in the class room caused his teacher to get everybody else the Hell out of the room in a big damn hurry for safety's sake. Not good. Big. Not. Good.

I got there a half hour after his classroom antics, fifteen minutes after the phone call, to find him in the Principal's office, at least sitting unrestrained while the Principal attempted to get him to talk to her. I tried to get him to talk to me. That was a no go on either account. Principal and I had our necessary chat around him(she at least, has seen similar from him before) and I carried him(it's just safer all around that way) out to the car.

Got him home, sent him stomping up to his room, where he screamed incoherently at me for ten minutes before crashing out on his bed. An hour later I got him up, he, still not talking. Two hours later over a peanut butter sandwich I finally got him back to talking again enough to ascertain that there was some issue with his reading worksheet paper which frustrated him. A Lot. (somewhat of an understatement, that.)

When these things happen the not talking at all for a couple or three hours is probably the most frustrating and scariest part for me. Well ok, after I've determined that neither he, nor anyone else, or any expensive school property has sustained significant damage.

There's that irrational little voice in the back of my mind that thinks "What if he's crossed some new threshold?" What if today is the day that will be remembered as "...and he never spoke again"? That would be highly unlikely from everything I've been able to find out from reading, from talking to other parents, and to more than a few professionals of various levels and experience. I mean, normally this kid can not shut up for more than five seconds. Maybe six.

Still, every time he Melts Down Big Time and goes non-verbal, the fear is there.

Later on after picking Ginny up from work, he seemed to flow back into his average evening of being a basically normal seven year old. After his almost favorite dinner of waffles and bacon we went and played some Guitar Hero. He kicked my ass about half the time. Hey, it was only my second time to have ever played, and besides, he needed to win at something today, ok?

Was the real issue behind his melt-down the disruption of his three or four week old routine? We will probably never know. It's just the biggest thing to have changed around him recently, and we know that can be kind of a trigger set up for problems.

OK, so it could be a weird reaction to having been given the neighbor's old PlayStation this last weekend, but he's not really playing violent stuff. He's playing football, bike racing, Guitar hero- OK, one Fantastic Four game(rated E for Everyone). Somehow, I'm not buying that as the fuse, just from my observations of him.

I'm more inclined to believe his emotional stamina or fortitude was compromised by having to get up an hour earlier than his normal six-thirty. And then, something was "Just not right, It's gonna be ALL MESSED UP!" That can definitely be a trigger for him. It's like if this one thing, especially if it's about his performance on something he is insecure about doesn't work, The Entire World will End!(at least for him).

Now he's bedded down all safe and secure. he's very recently been happily playing with some small thing, talking non-stop to Ginny, watching Dancing With the Stars(hey don't judge, now). and he's been as happy as a proverbial clam. Everything in his world restored to equilibrium, to ok, to just fine and dandy.

Until next time.

I have no idea what would be an appropriate music selection for this. Sorry.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bob knew the path from the house up through the woods by heart. He could take it at a full run in pitch dark by feel without ever stumbling or hitting a snag.
At the top of the hill, in a clear swath that ran the width of the woods, were the sandstone places. Just there by where he made his fires he would often find one of the great horned owls sitting up in an oak that was part of the last “virgin woods” in the county. He liked it here. Quieter, safer, than back in town.
Bob never quite fit in back in town. In grade school he was the little guy with Clark Kent glasses, nose always in a book, didn’t even try at sports. Just too perfect a target to resist for some. Kind of kid had to take a different door out of school, a different route home every day, for fear he’d get beat up. Then that one day in gym he just lost it. Dove on the bigger kid, had him by the throat, purple and gasping on the floor before the other guys pulled Bob off. They mostly left him alone after that. But Bob was still angry.
Now days he did much of the same stuff his few high school friends did. He drove around in his V-Dub, listening to Rock N Roll, laughing and shouting, drinking and smoking, singing along to The Who and not quite getting it all and knowing he wasn’t. And he worried about everything and nothing. And he was still angry.
As much as he loved this place, these woods, he felt like he didn’t quite belong here either. It seemed that he hadn’t quite passed some test. Bob wondered if he would ever belong anywhere, indeed sometimes wondered if there was much point in bothering with any of it. And Bob was still angry.
Something seemed different today. There was an extra quiet to the woods, not just the normal thing. Something was missing, and something else was there. Most days during the hot Kansas summer the woods had their own sounds. Small animals coming and going, the breeze through the black jacks. Amazing how much noise a turtle could make trundling through the dead leaves.
Sitting by his fire, he tried to follow the old pipe way, praying with the pipe to the East, the West, the North, and the South. No one here to teach him those ways now. He’d have to muddle through as best he could on his own. He felt the smoke take him then. And he felt The Other too.
Bob had tried to put the fears, troubles, and the anger all out of his mind. Those kinds of feelings weren’t compatible with the smoke. He knew bad thoughts or bad feelings could let bad things in between the big spaces. He hoped that instead the smoke would give him some relief, let him forget, to just stare at the stars later on.
He saw that the fire had burnt low, didn’t bother to add to it. It was after all mid summer, the evening just a little cool up here on this low hill. As dark came on fully, he smoked the pipe again, this time with just a nod to the four directions. The smoke came on stronger now.
Bob felt the wind not just in the trees, but inside his head. He heard the calling of the owls, the singing of the coyotes. And then, something coming. Something BIG coming, and still coming … and then, stopping. Bob felt it there, just out of the light, watching and listening. He could feel its strength, feared its power. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew it could snuff him out in a second, if it chose.
All of his fears, all of his anger slammed down on him like a mighty wind, unstoppable and unrelenting. He lay back on the sandstone, not quite giving up hope, but no longer resisting. He let loose the feelings, let the thing take him where and how it would.
Gi lo Sa quo hi rode his pony slowly up the hill from the south. It had been another long day of traveling on his family’s annual excursion up north to trade. Late, it had already gone full dark. Ten days each direction it took, and the way grew wearisome some times. Lately, he had found himself feeling as though time were running out somehow. He had heard rumors about the new people coming from the east. So far away it was, but their conquest was mighty it was told. He had heard they were crazy, that they destroyed the land wherever they went. He wondered what would become of this place, if any would honor it later.
Coming to the top of the hill, just up from the living spring, he knew something was changed. Drawn by some new sense he broke off from the others and walked the pony a ways to the west. There, just this side of the trees he could see the glow of a camp fire it seemed. Cautious now, he got down, leaving his pony to knicker gently in question as he crept forward to see a figure there asleep by the fire. Closer still, this young man, no older than his own sons, was not of The People. The boy’s skin was too light, his clothes entirely strange, of no hide or weave he knew. This must be one of the new people. But why was he here all alone, no weapons, no pony, no food, not even a blanket. Gi lo Sa quo hi moved closer still, leaned down, drew back. He was not to touch, only to see, to know, and perhaps to offer some comfort to a lost spirit, adrift far from its rightful home. Reaching in his pouch, he drew out one feather, beaded along its quill, the story pattern of Great Horned Owl. He laid it down next to the strange apparition of things to come, made solid in this place of The Rock and The Spring, for him to see and know.
Awake now, Little Head Bob turned and looked around, stopped as he caught the light on the shiny beads on the ground below. He couldn’t think why they mattered. His brothers and sisters there on the branch roused and hooted softly, as his father flew in through the woods, breakfast in his strong talons. And he heard the wind in the trees.
Pink Floyd - Learning to Fly
note: Gi lo Sa quo hi is actually Cherokee for "Someone".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Geez, Sept almost gone.

Geez, where the Hell did September go?

I hadn't realized it'd been this long since I've appeared here. It seems that most of my last few posts have been crossovers of posts I've actually done for or the one for Moondustwriter's Blog . In other words, I've been either busy or neglectful. We'll go with busy, ok?

I have recently read one post from a friend about gaining or re-gaining some sense of balance in her life as a working professional mom, writer, human bean(spelling intentional - just for fun). And I have also read another post by a fairly accomplished writer about balance being overrated and how writers, especially new writers, need to forget balance and devote themselves more fully to gaining their craft.

Devotion and dedication are great things, and most of the writers, artists, musicians I know have to push the boundaries of the point of diminishing returns in order to move forward. That said, I have long maintained that in life generally Balance is the Key. I stand by that. Without some kind of healthy balance one will soon find themselves an overwhelmed less-than-healthy mess. Balance is not something one attains and can then forget about. It must be constantly reassessed and adjusted. At this point my balance scale is leaning too far away from time spent writing again. I need to fix that.

So here's the plan - I'm setting myself the goal to post SOMETHING on every Monday and every Friday, taking my que there from Quickmissive, as that seems to work pretty well for her as writer and for we, her friends a/o followers.

Bear with me. Or shall it be Bare with me? Ok, that could get a little disturbing so we'll just go with "Bear with me", mm'K? Anyhow, bear with me, I'm just not able to be brilliant on demand(why I got out of the graphic design program in college). So some of these posts, IF they are actually going to occur on a regular schedule are going to be....well, Not Brilliant. They may be all kinds of things, hopefully somewhat entertaining enough to satisfy some of us, and that will have to do. It's as much about the process as the product at this point in my writing.

I have still not been able to settle on any one given topic or specialty, which I understand may mean certain death or at least an interminable amount of time for this page to not quite flourish. Too bad, I'm just not that focused on one kind of thing.

Ding! (That signals a change of topic, a mental shifting of gears in my family, so it will here as well)

Funny how after all the toys the kid wants, gets, and forgets, he is still just as happy eating a snack in his "house" box. Recently re-diagnosed as high functioning Autistic, it's good to see him quietly enjoying using his imagination, which is not all that unusual for him, and having good "by himself time", which is unusual for him.

let's just consider this one a "check in", shall we?

What kind of things do you do to maintain your balance? Or is it even something you consciously have to think about at all? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning to Ride Einstein's Bicycle, a poem by my brother, Mr. G. Barnes

My Big Brother G. is a much better poet than I, and along with my brother Michael, one of my best mentors in all things regarding the arts. What follows is one of my favorites of his, written while he was the Director of Literary Art for the Utah Arts Counsel in 1985.

Learning to Ride Einstein’s Bicycle


Careening towards the camera,

mounted happily atop his bicycle,

dressed in his old man cardigan –

we’ve all seen the photograph.

Between unmanageable mustache

And the celebrated brow,

Albert Einstein’s look of glee,

eyes crinkling at the their corners.

He appears a little wobbly,

but in no danger. He could be pedaling now,

or coasting, or braking – we’ll never know.

“Once you learn it, it never leaves you!”.

we can almost hear him squeal.

There is delight in the incongruity of the picture;

used to thinking of him bent over his desk,

or lecturing in front of a chalkboard

festooned with formulae, or even walking,

self-absorbed under his homely hat,

his hands pitched deep into the pockets

of his rumpled raincoat, he appears in this photo

so like a child perched there on his bicycle seat.


And on some shelf in Wichita, Kansas,

Einstein’s brain has been preserved

in a very scientific jar. During the years

I’ve known about this, I’ve often thought of it,

pictured it in my mind. The same questions

roll over and over, like bicycle wheels:

who did this? why Wichita, Kansas?

was Einstein consulted – did he suggest it, even?

In my imagination I hear someone raving

that technology will catch up to the great brain,

frozen while the decades run ahead.

Someone wants to learn if there’s any more in there

about E=MC2 or something, I expect.

And I remember reading that once a convolution

gets carved into a brain it never fades,

the new information stays. I like to think

that squads of doctors will find a way to thaw

Einstein’s brain. And I imagine that charged moment,

them in a circle, arrested, reverent

over what they are about to discover. But what they get

is a little gallery of photographs of young Albert

first learning how to ride his bicycle.

G. Barnes

20 February 85, Salt Lake City

Monday, August 22, 2011

Black Planet, Dark Matter, Creepy Writing

Today's post is a guest appearance over at my blogging home away from home . In which I use the word Stuff way more times than is actually allowed. Please click one more time to visit over there.

love John Ross

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#Amwriting - An Open Love Letter, in Four Movements

1st Movement: Questions in the Dark

Somewhere in 2010, I think: Browsing through Twitter, reading about writing, trying to catch up on a craft, on an art-form, a life - remembering some words - "So short the life, so long the Craft to learn" - William Morris. I follow one person, I follow another, through The Fog that is this life, this mind, and eventually somehow I stumble upon @Johannaharness and
#AmWriting. She wrote something I really liked, and I @replied her to the effect that although I wasn't a "real writer", only writing my little blog, that I appreciated that thing she said.

I didn't really expect a reply. I mean Real writers like someone who could write the Claire Morgaine stories wouldn't be responding to me right? Especially after having just read a scathing post by another writer about unless we "posers and wannabes" had paid our dues(to the degree that she had) we were "Fucking Well NOT writers!"

Oh.So.Wrong. Not only did Johanna respond, she admonished me to stop thinking that misguided way because "Blog Writers ARE writers".
And then she showed me
#AmWriting. (Que: Sun breaking through clouds)

I knew myself then, as I know myself now, vaguely, to be "much the same, but wholly Other", and my general theme is still often Sheryl Crow, On the Outside. A haunting t
une for a haunted mind.

2nd Movement: Awakening the Dream

Winter Two Thousand and Ten, early Two Thousand Eleven - I gradually fell in with the "wrong" crowd. You know, writers, musicians, artists and other Bohos of that general ilk. Yahoo! Now we're having FUN! Did a lot of therapy. Took a lot of pills. Gave up the masque of "normalcy" I'd been not so successfully sporting for so many years and started embracing the Madness and the Fog. Turns out I'm not Mad, yet, just "not like the other boys & girls", and we're all in the Fog sometimes, I just more than most perhaps.

And somewhere in there, through the kind and gentle guidance of Johanna and her band of literary Merry Pranksters within
#AmWriting and without, I've begun to develop a voice that I'm not ashamed of, that I'm comfortable having and being. I've come to learn that I'm less Other and more the Same than I thought. This through, dare I say it from within my badger hole, Sharing. Sharing real life stuff to a surprising depth. Being allowed in to know my new friends deal with many head and heart pains similar to mine.

A trust and sense of community and support have become part of that experience for me in a way I have not had craft-wise in many years. Getting in touch with the flow, as it were, learning to be comfortable with the joys and pains of being me, being we. To that end, "let us Pray" - Sarah Mclachlan, Witness

3rd Movement: Slammin' the thing, Hearing #TheRING

Here I am. All INFJ, Random abstract, Get Those Meds Balanced, Onward Through the Fog, Ta-Tonka Boy in the Sea Cave, Two a.m. Wow, "Love is the Drug for Me" - #AmWriting once again.

#Iam a Loon
Honeymoon in June
It's a thing
It's a thing
Can you hear #TheRING?
It's JUST a THING we use
All payin' our Dues.

Nobody get's out of This Place alive,
but what they must have learnt to strive
And Someone here be singin' The Blues

It's Johanna, Kristina, It's Kerry and Bill
It's Jack and Jill went up the Hill
It's a thing
It's a thing
Are you tellin' me
you can't hear #TheRING?

- And then I hear My #AmWriting theme: Stevie Windwood - Spencer Davis Group GIMME SOME LOVIN'(Every day) 1967

4th Movement: In this New Space.

I could spend all day reading all the great stuff on
#AmWriting. But I can't. I've got a lot of sifting to do, here in my head. I've fallen in with another "bad" crowd. The Poets, the #Haiku cookers and addicts of the #Twitterverse too numerous to name here, but I will say, much of the fault for the velocity of my decent in poetry lies with @Moondustwriter and @Coyotesings from over at @Onestopoetry .

As I write here from my comfy sofa, ancient and venerable laptop aboard the "we had a toddler" Ikea coffee table, I look across the room. There is a focal point, a centering place. I keep there bits and pieces, mementos of special times, significant objects and totems of power: the abacus I brought back from Hong Kong in 1976, the miniature book of original Edward Curtis Indian photos, my first Hard copy of a William Gibson book, A hand blown glass gee-gaw from Multnomah Falls, Bear Totem, Glass box of Cannon Beach, and there now at the front, from last April's #Tweetup at Powell's with my #AmWriting "Gang of Six", my County Line pin to go with my copy of Bill @bcmystery Cameron's last book of the same title - And my #AmWriting pin.

And now I'm like that guy in the old song by the Band, "and when they get to the end, he want's to start all over again".
The Band, Stage-fright, from Martin Scorsese's THE LAST WALTZ

A Very Happy Birthday to #Amwriting! The next stop on our tour is at the home of Linda Poitevin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Compass the Binnacle & the Three Legged Dog

Today's post, about writing whether I feel qualified or not, is a guest post done at the most kind invitation of my friend Johanna Harness. You can read it over at Amwriting. If you write, and you don't know, do yourself a treat & get over there. So much to see, so many fine writers and fine people. On twitter, my main online addiction, you can follow Johanna as @Johannaharness and @amwriting as well, you get it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stackin Rocks or How Twitter Changed my Life

Click on the title to go where this is posted -
I'm very happy to be part of the Amwriting community.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Thing about Aaron

Today my post for Autism Awareness Month is a guest post over at Leslie @moondustwriter Moon's blog. They tell me it's a poem. I guess I did steer it that way. The most big real thing I've written about in a while, I think. Also, It was meant to be an account of This is what it's like Just on the Edges of the Autistic Spectrum. P.S. I think the best book I still have ever read about autism is Elizabeth Moon's (no relation?) Fiction novel The Speed of Dark.

Thanks Leslie!

Leslie Moon

Monday, April 18, 2011

I've been thinking some more(Yeah, some of us are incorrigible that way)

I was procrastinating, rebelling against actually writing. (I mean today, specifically, those other times don't count in this)

This is where it's gonna start to get weird, perhaps a little hard to follow, cause I thought of something else.

That's the first point, a given, if you will, in this little reality we're sharing on this screen/page between us. "Then, I thought of something else" may be a reoccurring break or apparent change in topic in this post.

Cause why, you may ask? Aw, go ahead, ask, please? Ok, cause even though I know readers are used to, and expect any thing dubbed "thinking" to be presented as one cohesive, preferably coherent bit, that's not how I think. Is that really how other people think? Amazing.

So I understand that, I really do. I try to do that for us here most of the time A) To get some real, understood communication done between our minds and B) because if it gets too convoluted(possibly like this) then readers will throw up their hands, shake their heads, perhaps mutter something like"Geez John, perhaps a little less Mental here?" and move on.

Despite that, this post is going to be...Ahem -

... STUFF."

That is after all, how we all experience things, isn't it?
Today, I tell it like it happened to me folks.
There really will be a point or two by the end, I promise.

"keep your arms legs inside the ride at all times please, until we come to a full and complete stop".

Reading about String Theory in physics again, warming up to searching about Leonard Susskind, the Plumber Physicist's theory about a holographic projection of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE(ok, what warrants all caps more than the ENTIRE UNIVERSE?) - Projected that is, on the inner(?) surface of, yes, the ENTIRE UNIVERSE itself. Everything that ever happened? All at once of course, or well, the Universe wouldn't be acting in that decidedly charmingly goofy way of doing/being exactly what you wouldn't expect it to be coming up with next.(Yes, supposedly there is, may be, an inner surface or membrane to the outside of the Universe. More mind warping theoretical stuff.)

And yes, it's kinda like that last paragraph that way.

So, everything that Was or Is or as they say, Yet Shall Be - has a twin holographic double, way out there, yes Virginia, Across the Universe.(remember, that's the ENTIRE UNIVERSE). Morgan Freeman says(yeah, he got this started) - "While we think we're all here, that this is all happening, here in this 3 dimentional reality, there's another reality - everything on the surface of the Universe out there " - But what are the other we out there, in the holographic projection version of reality, thinking about it?

At this point, I decided to go out on the patio and smoke a cigarette about all this. I usually go out, light up, and pace. And I look to the sky, always, to watch the world turn or the clouds blow, and think.

This time I sat down.

Well that was certainly different. "Really John, sitting down was different than standing? Imagine that." - aside - "It's gonna be one of Those days".

It was. Way - Different.

Just that little bit of difference in visual perspective made my yard, my world, more private, more quiet - closer to still. It became slower, and lower in it's intensity. That's a good thing for me. Less intensity in my perceptions is sometimes - a good thing.

Something moved. Ok, obviously about a ba-jillion things moved, all around and in and out of the whole scene. I mean Something. Moved.

Back inside, (how's that for some head-O-logical cliff-hanging-stuff for a break) Like -"Mean while, back at the ranch"

I step inside to this on X-finity Music - K.T. Tunstall, live, Come on Get it . from the Manchester Ritz 2010. I Wonder if Big Black Horse might have been written about that Black Gibson Dreadnaught she's playing in the video - never mind.

A nice break from physics & Head -O-Logics.

So, there's this Black Hole see, in the middle of our cozy little home galaxy - the Milky Way. As you would expect, there are things doing odd elliptical orbits around Mr. Black Hole, drawn in by his HuuuuGe Melon. Er, I mean Gravity - Yeah Gravity, that's it, Of course.

Some of these things, orbiting the hole, are stars. All kinds of Stars. They spin faster as their orbits loop closer to the hole. Of course they do. Do to. That's one way we know the Hole is there.

This all eventually, Mr. Freeman's distinguished baritone says, conveys to the Black Hole Information Paradox and the debate between Hawking and Leo Susskind. (they call him the Pumber-Physicist - but check out his creds on wiki).

Leo, as you may remember, brought us String theory, bless his heart. Really interesting, supports the Vibrating at Higher Frequencies thing, much to my delight.

As we get past Black hole in middle of Milky Way, (wonky star patterns in there, tell us so. No, really.), - past that, past string theory, To the Black Hole spraying, as it were, the reflection, and the sub-atomic-particle essence of EVERYTHING out Across the Universe, to it's very edge, it's very gravitational membrane, to where ALL THAT gets holographicly projected.

Now we're back to there's another exact analog of EVERYTHING that ever was, is, or will be, out there. Yup, WAY - the Hell & gone, beyond comprehend-able(or at least relate-able) distances.

Crunch a few brain cells up against that for a little while and see if things don't move.

Back at the ranch, I still have a couple of post owed about specific stuff, that didn't get done, but will. That brings us to the main point number TWO:

All the sudden, it snuck up on me, I've hit that point where I need to start keeping track of ALL MY IDEAS.

I haven't been in a creative state where that was an issue for many years. It's a quandry of retention, and of organization. But it's a quandry I am happy to feel. Again.

Thank God, I was afraid I might be gone.

And then I had a thought. No, really.

I sometimes tell myself that the Loud tinnitus, The Ring, which is with me always, is actually the long distance remnant of The Music of the Spheres. (just a little story I tell my self to amuse me)

Have I mentioned that my thought processes are decidedly Random Abstract. Perhaps I should have warned us. You're sharp, I bet you figured that out by now.

Remember, today you're getting it the way it comes to Me. It's about trying to relate My world, as it Really Is. Or is it as it only seems? How would I know?

Eventually, we get to the point of Morgan Freeman's Cosmological expounding, which is: Hawking was wrong about this, Susskind was right: A Black hole does not, in fact destroy or do away with the matter, the accumulated INFORMATION that goes in. INFORMATION IS NOT LOST. Perhaps. Not. Ever.

I will pause while we all think on that little tidbit. Yes, in this sense I think, at least for purposes of this, we are information also.

Now, what was it I was worried about before?

An additional thought: Those stars orbiting around the Black Hole make a pattern. It's exactly like the pattern made by sub-atomic particles orbiting the nucleus of an atom. It's that Microcosm, Macrocosm thing that we see as a repeated theme in both nature and human thought(which is, it has been argued, nature also).


Heres another musical interlude: Peter Gabriel, live, In Your Eyes.

I know, that's a long one(10 minutes), but I think it's worth seeing and hearing. Gets down to the nitty-gritty of what this relating stuff is Really all about. Well, I think so.

What was my point?

The universe is bigger and weirder than even we have imagined.

Sometimes, in the middle of all this random, Something Moves. In my head, in the Universe. Creativity is not dead. Information is not lost. Love(a type of information?) goes on.(Yes, it's a leap, but I'm going to make it head first. So sue me.)

There may yet be good reason for me, and for all of us, to Hope.

"Well, I think we've made excellent progress today, but it's about time to wrap this up".

more later...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thanks, Kerry, Stylish huh?

Of all the things I've been called in my life, Stylish., not so much.

Big surprise a couple of weeks ago when friend Kerry Schafer passed on the Stylish Blog Award to me and several others on her post over at .

Thanks much Kerry for including me in this.

I really appreciate it.

Love This Life, Onward Through the Fog - I've been doing it for a couple or so years now. It's growth in quality has been slow and steady I think. I come to be having to write fairly late in my life. Kerry, and a few others have been great help and great encouragement in that(So it's really partially her fault, as well as my talented poet brothers Michael & G. Barnes, Johanna Harness, Kristina Martin, &, &, & ...

Many of those folks can be found in the "Blogs I follow most" of my newly declared stylish Blog, or in the "Following" section of my @Barnestormjohn twitter profile.

That puts us at the end of the "...thank God, and Everybody and their dog" part. It's on to the meat of this thing(unless you're a vegetarian, and then we're on to the Tofurkey & Curried anything). As Kerry and Kristina before have done, we begin the thing -

It's time for me to observe the venerable rules, rites, lefts and traditions of this most auspicious award:

1. Thank the Stylish Blogger Award giver and link back to their blog. See above.

2. Share seven little known things about myself. O-kay...
  • I was born on Shakespeare's birthday, April 23rd, in the same year as were born Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Jamie Lee Curtis, 1958. Hmmmmm, 'splains a lot, huh?
  • I was engaged, but never married, three times - in kindergarten.
  • I had to take swim lessons three summers before I learned to breath while swimming(without choking).
  • On the Myers & Briggs Character/Temperament sorter I'm an INFX(cross over INFP&INFJ), along with roughly .5% of the general population. Yes, I'm a rare & special boomer child.
  • I have never been to a high school football game (Try not to hate me like I hate crowds).
  • Even though John Ross was a fairly famous Cherokee Chief, I was actually named after both Gramps - John Barnes and Ross Anderson, nothing to do with the Chief.
3. Pass the award on to other bloggers
  • Jaqueline Dick for her young but very impressive blog 1emeraldcity. Tweeting as @Fumanchucat, Jaqueline is a prolific and fine poet and essayist, part of the poetry/art gang over at OneStopPoetry(a gathering place for writers and visual artists). She teaches literature and Facilicates discussions of current events and writes. I especially like her micro poetry. Jaqueline is hilarious as well as having quite an astute sense of observation coupled with a fine affinity for words. Major Micro Poetry.
  • Aliki McElreath over at Family Education. I have enjoyed the keen mind, thoughtful and very real writing, and kind friendship of Aliki it seems forever, but I guess it's really just a few years now. She is a Creative Writing Professor in North Carolina, An honest and forth coming chronicler of the life, love and laments of a parent of two great children, one of whom happens to have Aspergers. She has been a help in my endeavors to deal with our own special son.
  • Jane Devin Over there, at Jane Devin .com, you"ll find the real life of a strong voiced writer, from the land of New Mexico. Researched laboriously over a long span of time and space. @Janedevin on twitter. She just finished writing a big first book. She writes killer Blog Posts also.
  • Crazy Sister from her Blog: Graze If You Want To, But Don't Eat Dirt. Cello player , Mom, Wife, Writer from Queensland, Australia. She writes things funny, about things, that it turns out, Are Funny. She can also talk in a serious way, though much of it's camouflaged by funny.
  • Givenya De Elba Sister, it turns out, of Crazy Sister. Her Blog: Killing a Fly with a Ukulele is Probably a Wrong Thing To Do is well worth a follow any time. Another Mom, Professional, Wife, Writer also from Queensland, Australia. It's a whole 'nother mirror world, just like and very different, from an American perspective. She characterizes her family, including the dog, by Toy Story characters. And, it works.
  • Karla Archer for Living the Life Fantastic. Not only is she a talented writer & designer, she and her husband Randy met online, on twitter. She and Randy own Archer Creative in Birmingham, AL. They have four great kids that figure prominently in her family posts and in her tweets, followable as @karlaArcher. She and @RandyArcher are bigo Huge Bham fans. And yes, since I wrote that Bham has been devastated, still finding bodies, lives lost or starting over. Do what You can, pease.

Monday, February 28, 2011

the room

Walking though the dark building, lit only by his flashlight, he thought he felt the air chill. Reaching into his vest of many pockets, Phil pulled out his antiquated BlackBerry and pushed the touch screen. No bars, nothing, not a trace of a signal. He'd find the circuit box somewhere before long. He strolled down one of the old hospital's many basement corridors, checking each room for the main power box. He came to the last door in the line. Oddly, he thought he saw a slight puff of dust blow out from under the door as he swung his light around. Almost like a breath and he wondered where that came from. It turned out not to be the power room. No circuit box in there. Which is not to say there were no boxes. As he panned the light around the crowded interior he saw shelves filled with what appeared to be squat dusty plastic boxes, black with some kind of paper labels, as well as older tin cans, some heavily corroded. He started as he heard a whisper, right behind his left ear. Nothing there. As he walked back out of the room, he could have sworn he heard the whisper again.

In the old hospital, down in the basement, in that room, nothing moved that you could tell, but that didn't mean nothing moved. Dust. And ashes. And, a whisper, as though of some long forgotten memory. Forgotten, but not truly gone. At first, for long decades, there was nothing of awareness. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, they began to remember, to feel, and feeling knew loss. They knew not what they had lost. But they whispered among themselves. They whispered confusion, and darkness, and light. They whispered of bygone days out in the sun, and then of endless times confined within. but within what.

Plans were underway for demolition to begin within a few months, after all the channels had been gone through, paperwork signed, bids taken, more paperwork, then more again.

The phone rang at the Institute for Studies of the Unseen. There was something perhaps of interest down in Salem. Could they come to the old State Hospital? Yes, the one where they made that famous movie. Well, It was no big deal, really, just that they were getting ready to tear it down. No, of course demolition was not ISU's thing, but there were the whisperings. In the Room of Forgotten Souls. Where they kept the cremated remains of patients from the last sixty years. Sure, they could come today, today would be great.

The emf meter went wild, even though the wires had already been stripped out, and not a watt of power in the place. Likewise the Sub and Ultra sonic recorders. Mary and her tech team had to have new apps written to sort it all out. Five thousand voices, all trying to say their names, or the names of living relatives, all at once. The ISU team had tried to bring in a medium to talk to the voices, get them to take turns speaking. They wouldn't shut up long enough to hear the happy medium, overjoyed as he was to be there, for the Great Speaking, as he called it.

Eventually, temporary employees were hired to make the thousands of calls. No one told them where the information they gave had really come from. "We found some old data hidden away". People came from all over the country, and some even from overseas. All came to claim their long lost crazy relatives' ashes. They made great conversation pieces for one's mantle. And if you were quiet, after your dinner guests had all gone home they would whisper, happily, of freedom and release.

Note: The Room of Forgotten Souls is a real place within the old Oregon State Hospital, in Salem Oregon, where the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was filmed.

kptv-fox12, in Portland recently did a story on the room, but that link has since been removed from their site.

This Oregon State site, does however have listings of the names of the "Cremains" for those who think they may have relatives there.

Photographer David Maisel has done a fine series of photos of some of the old Cremains cans in his collection Library of Dust. I did not include them in the story because I don't have rights to them. However, you can see them Here.

For further reading on the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, you can start with the Wiki here.