Why you must do it now

Why you must do it now

Reading an essay about the legendary rebel Malcolm Reynolds, a thought occurs to me about war and rebellion and human nature.

“I must write about that,” I says to myself, I says, “after I finish reading.”

But when I finish reading, the insight eludes me like the plot of a memorable dream. I scan through the essay again, hoping the words will re-ignite my imagination, but the thought is gone.

Next time, I guess, I’ll leave pen and paper nearby.

But I always have pen and a pad in my shirt pocket.

Next time, I guess, I’ll stop and pull out the pen and paper.

Stop what you’re doing and memorialize that random thought, else it returns to wherever it came from.

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What makes a watershed day

US Post Office Little Falls NJ

I still remember riding my bike past the post office on my way home Nov. 22, 1963.

Over the course of millenia, certain days have established themselves as watershed moments in history. Everything that came before that day is different than everything that came after – more or less. We wake up in one world and go to sleep in a different one.

Nov. 22, 1963, is one of those days. I was 10 years old, and it’s the second day of my life that I remember precisely right down to the date. It was a cold but sunny day, and Mrs. Kearns wasn’t in front of her fifth-grade class at Little Falls, New Jersey, School No. 1. We had a substitute teacher – a very old substitute teacher. She was very nice, but she was … old. We kind of spent the day yanking her chain.

Somewhere around 1:30, the principal, Mr. Laux, stepped into the classroom, which was very unusual. He looked very grim, and he told us that the president had been fatally shot that afternoon in Dallas, Texas.

That was when it became interesting that the substitute teacher was very old. After the news sank in, she started talking about another sunny day back when she was a little girl. She remembered walking past the train station in her hometown when a man started shouting over by the water tower by the tracks, where the steam engines were refilled with water.

The guy was shouting, “President McKinley has been shot!”

It has occurred to me that we are all walking, talking time machines. On Nov. 22, 1963, I encountered a time machine that took me back to a sunny day in September 1901 – and now that story has reached forward 116 years and into your head.

President John Kennedy was not the only historic man who died that November day in 1963. Aldous Huxley, the great philosopher and novelist who gave us “Brave New World,” died in Los Angeles at the age of 69. And C.S. Lewis, chronicler of Narnia and author of many other great fiction and nonfiction books, died in Oxford, England, one week before his 65th birthday.

Nov. 22, 1963, would be a momentous day even if all that happened were these three prominent deaths. But it became one of those watershed days – when the world turned course completely – because of something that happened that day that was not as sad.

You see, on Nov. 22, 1963, in the United Kingdom, a record album was released … called “With The Beatles.” It was reworked into “Meet The Beatles” for U.S. audiences, and it became the portal that introduced most Americans to those game-changing musicians.

All these incidents combined make the date a watershed. Before and after Nov. 22, 1963, are wholly different worlds.

The miracle of this instant

Willow.jpg

One hundred years from now – perhaps even five years or (heaven forbid) one year from now, this beautiful furry beast will be gone.

But she is alive and well now, and beautiful now, and so I stroke her fur and hug her and know that this unique and special life is passing through, now, in this instant.

And she can only be fully known and appreciated now.

Right. Now.

So I stop everything and hug her.

Quiet speaks louder than words

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Sometimes it’s best to sit in quiet – not even listening, or waiting for God or the universe to speak, just sitting quietly.

And, more often than not, from the quiet comes an answer.

Not “the” answer. Just “an” answer.

Someone wise once said, when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

When you do know where you’re going, you’ll discover that many roads lead that way.

Pick one and head for your destination.

When I tap my inner Bradbury

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I am not coy and make no apologies about the influence of Ray Bradbury on my writing. Obviously I am no Bradbury, but he is the kind of writer I aspire to be. His phrases sing, his joy and enthusiasm are infectious, and at his best he transports me to another place.

When I tap my inner Bradbury, I fly across fields – tramp through ravines and deep woods – jump on rickety old summer porches that creak underfoot but are somehow rock solid – I launch into space feeling the pressure of G-forces, or I watch with hands clenched tight to chain link as the rocket sparkles into the night with a roar – I land on a distant shore and plant the flag of Tomorrowland – I hear the whisper of the long dead (or recently dead) just beyond my range of hearing – I jam with words as my notes and the pen as my musical instrument, a symphony of syllables, a ballad old as life – a butterfly’s wings beat down a lighthouse thousands of miles and millions of years away.

Do I still know who you are today, after I go back in time and comb my hair the other way on a certain day? Does yesterday happen if I change the day before?

Turn around, turn around, turn around and it’s 60 years later, and who would ever guess this is what would have become of that child? Flash and it’s 50 years later, and the stories I was reading on paper are up on the big screen. Boom and it’s 40 years later, and the arrogant young man finally understands why he was alone for so long.

Thirty years gone and the colleagues have been scattered but still love those times and each other. Twenty years ago I was in this same place, not knowing how much better it would become after a few wrong steps. Ten years ago I knew I would do what I was doing forever, never guessing exactly when forever would arrive.

And now, here and now, sitting in a place called Crossroads, I stare into the blue sky and look around at the trees, and hear the traffic of cars and trucks not far away on their way to myriad destinations, and I feel a spark of fear over what may come next – but it turns into a grin.

Life – it’s life that comes next. Where there’s life there’s hope, Samwise Gamgee once said – a statement that has resonated and buoyed me through the years.

To see the world in three dimensions

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My eyes needed to be trained to work together, and so depth perception was a revelation to me when I discovered it almost five decades into this journey. My glasses are equipped to remind my eyes to cooperate, but sometimes I have to concentrate to open up the world.

One recent morning greeted by sunrise and a wonderful tapestry of clouds, I strained to try to figure out which clouds were closer to me and which further away, and slowly they opened from a two-dimensional painting to their three-dimensional reality, and the Maker’s artistry was revealed to me in all its glory.

Bonus: When I cast my eyes earthward again, I saw the land surrounding us in its fullness as well – the space across the fields with its flower beds (and the flowers themselves) and the trees in their proper spacing. Having worked to open up the skies, my eyes were fully cooperating and I saw the everyday sight even more clearly than normal.

My recalcitrant eyes might be seen as a disability or a disorder to some, but to overcome the problem and to see the world in a new and vibrant way is a gift of hard-to-describe enormity. The world is big and wide, I always knew – but deep, too. I perceive that now!

A bridge at Crossroads

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When you are sad – for there will come a time when you are sad – remember a time you were so happy you wished this moment would last forever – because it does last forever as long as you remember.

When you are afraid – for there will come a time when you are afraid – remember a time when you felt so safe and comfortable you knew nothing could shake your world.

When you are lost – for there will come a time when you are lost – remember a time when you found a place that you never thought you’d reach and surprised yourself that you had it in you.

We are crossing a bridge from here to there, and while the here and there are surely important, what matters most is the view from the bridge.