From what I can remember of my childhood, I always had that place. That place where everything could come to a stop, and I could be. Admittedly, that was not easy with an overly protective mother and pain-in-the-neck little brother. Still, I could find solitude for a time when needed.
One of my favorite places was my front yard at night as a teenager. We lived in a semi-rural area, and I had a great telescope. Everyone, except my dog, knew to let me be on a cloudless night. I had better things to do than watch television, play some silly game or plan an adventure that would never get past my mom.
Each major change in my life changed my place of solitude. The setting was often similar, a dark place on a cloudless night, but what made it my place of solitude changed. Today, when possible, I still spend time watching the night sky.
I use a different toy to help with skywatching today. My DSLR camera makes the telescope of my youth seem prehistoric. Of course, the advancements in optics are somewhat overshadowed by the fact many of my former places of solitude no longer exist or are no longer accessible to me.
The worst loss was the location pictured on the right. Day or night, this was a place of solitude, contemplation, prayer, or simply being. Even the occasional intrusions by family friends or others who live along the Guadalupe River could not destroy the feeling one had sitting alongside the slow-moving water. The plants waved in the breeze, the wildlife foraged, and the sun or moon made its passage across the sky.
I no longer have the privilege of sitting along that stretch of river. Still, I have the memories of what it felt like, and that is where I often go today when I need a moment of peace and solitude, my memories.
Time travel is a fantasy, a reality, and a potentially fantastical reality. As a diehard science fiction fan in my youth, I have considered the possibility and challenge from many angles. For example, would I want to travel to see the baby Jesus? If so, what year would I set on my flux capacitor?
According to some sources, “most scholars assume a date of birth between 6 BC and 4 BC.” Well, do I set my device for 6.1 BC and pack enough survival gear to live a couple of years in that era? Or, do I go back and plan short jumps forward until I hit the right time, hoping, of course, I am somewhere near Him at the time.
How about a less lofty dream. Perhaps, I want to witness Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. If I were traveling back from today, I would need to travel in high-quality protective gear to avoid the possibility of spreading COVID among the crowd or bringing a version of some other disease back with me. If something went wrong, my visit might cause an epidemic that made the Black Plague look like a high school prank.
So what, you say? Those people are all dead anyway. True, but for each person present that day who contracted a life-ending disease from me, dozens, possibly hundreds of their ancestors never existed. You and I may never have been born, nor many of our friends and family. And, don’t think those of you who live on other continents would escape the potential disaster. Diseases effect different people differently, and some might have made it to your part of the Earth.
The reality is this. We are all time-travelers. We simply travel forward one nano-second at a time. If we travel long enough we will see some fantastic developments, or if we travel for a short time at the right time, we may see something so fantastic to us, we think it cannot be real.
Another reality is this. We can travel back in time by reading the writings of those who lived in the time in question. We can travel back in time by visiting museums and historic locations. We can study archeology, or at least read about it. There are plenty of ways to travel back in time without a Time Machine or Flux Capacitor.
On the other hand, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to choose a year, I’d probably pick 1996. The last time the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl. That’s a piece of history hard to imagine today.
According to my family, the picture to the right was my first photo. Of course, I was five or six at the time the picture was taken. I have no memory of taking it. What I have is a note on the back that reads, Eric’s first photo.
However, the photo was meaningful to many within the family because it represented a time when Mom and Dad’s marriage seemed to be working; I’m not certain the marriage was ever one of the storybook sorts, but it looked that way for years.
To me, the picture represented a period of relative normalcy. A period of time when my parents were loving, caring, and family-oriented. As time went on, the loving couple became untrusting and manipulative.
Dad was a photographer, so other pictures exist. Some were fun, some were interesting, some were of his models or young women putting together a portfolio of some sort. Some were pets we outlived, and others of what passed for friends in our world, as well as some of the grandparents and great-grandparents.
Still, this one stands out because I was the guy behind the camera, probably just pushing a button. Still, I captured this image.
No, the title is not a quote from someone. It is my semi-sarcastic way of saying most of us have our favorite quote of the moment, of the month, of our lives, or that we can remember. The other side of that coin is a quote about what? So, I’ll share a little story about my favorite quotation of the moment.
The quote is made by Jack Nicholson’s character in a Few Good Men. The quote was made while the character was being cross-examined in a military-court. Tom Cruise’s character said he wanted the truth, and Nicholson’s response was loud, angry and condesceding, “You can’t handle the truth!”
There have always been those who thought they were the only ones who could handle the truth. The rest of us were too timid, too dumb, or too untrustworthy. Today the situation has been complicated by the advent of social media, and increased use and misuse of that medium of digital communication.
The subsequent attempts to limit, control or ban some content is understandable to a degree. Social media is beautiful way to share truth, half-truths, and lies. And each such action has increased the pressure of people in charge to get out truth. The question is whose truth, theirs, mine, yours or someone hiding behind titles, money and distance.
Whatever the truth, almost every Fact Check is skewed by those who publish it push their truth. If one knows how, it is easy to lie with facts and bits of the truth. Each time that happens the person twisting the information a certain way is yelling at all of us, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” That makes this the quotation to which I most closely relate today.
In Going Home Again, I talk about my childhood and the nomadic lives my family led for many years. By the time I graduated from high school, we had lived in at least fourteen different houses. Each was memorable in its own way, but the one that really made an impression was a little place in Lake Worth, Texas, where we lived during my seventh grade school year.
The place was nothing special. It was pretty much the standard size for a small family in those days. As I remember it, it looked a lot like it does in the picture above, which was taken in August 2021. In fact, it looked a lot like most of the houses we’d rented over the years. There was a difference, however.
The place was haunted. Okay, maybe not haunted in the movie sense, but there was definitely something strange about it. In some ways, it had the same weird noises and what have you as other frame houses in those days. There were the normal creaking floorboards, howling windows during a storm, and other phenomena people look for in a “haunted” house. Still, there were two things no one could ever explain.
When my brother and I slept in our mom and dad’s room, the first occurred. Dad worked odd hours and lots of nights in those days. Sometimes, we’d sleep with Mom when he was working late or overnight. That was always a cozy situation, as king-sized beds were not very common in our neck of the woods. Mom and my brother slept normally. Their heads near the headboard and feet toward the end of the bed.
I would sleep between them with my head at the foot of the bed. I slept face down, with my head hanging over the end of the mattress a lot of the time. As I was sleeping in this position, I would often be awakened by the feeling of someone’s hot breath on the back of my neck.
At first, I thought it was my brother pranking me, but he would have needed to be extremely stealthy or a ghost to move so quickly and quietly he could fool me and not wake our mom. Also, it could not have been a heating system or fan causing it, as this was in the 1950s. Central heat and air were not available.
Of course, we wrote the whole thing off as some sort of freak circumstance. Still, my brother and I started sleeping in our own beds, and things settled down to the normal eerie noises a 1950s frame home might make in the night. Then I had a visitor.
Dad was working late. Mom and my brother were in their beds, and I was sitting up trying to stay awake until Dad came home. I was in the living room watching what passed for late-night television in those days. Somewhere in the evening, but before the television stations signed off, the front door swung open.
I about came out my pajamas, not just the chair. I checked the door when I came into the room to watch television. It was closed tightly, though I did leave it unlocked, expecting my dad. However, no car pulled up in front of the house or in the driveway. No one knocked on the door or tapped the window to let me know they were coming in. The door just opened about halfway and stopped.
I looked at it for a moment waiting for Dad or someone to stick their head in and ask if they’d scared me. Instead, the door just remained open. There was no wind sound or anything else to explain why it opened.
Being the smart-aleck I was raised to be, I finally let my breath out in a huff and said, “Well! You could at least close the door!” Immediately, the door swung shut.
I jumped up. Went to the door, and it was firmly closed. Again there was no wind, no giggling friend with a string tied around a doorknob, or anything else. There was simply a door that apparently opened on its own and closed when I told it to.
To this day, I have not come up with a plausible explanation for that phenomenon.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and Pete Seger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” preach there is a time for everything. From a time to be born to a time to die, both the Holy Bible and the 1960s folk singer’s work make that point. And, they go on to list many things between the beginning and the end of one’s earthly existence.
The problem is they say nothing about a time to read. Few people, relatively speaking, talk about a time to read, bringing us to the writing prompt for today.
Throughout my life, I have been a voracious reader. Reading was my way of escaping reality for a short period and living in another world—usually, a world envisioned by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, or more recently, Card.
Unfortunately, adulthood and reality forced their way through the door of my literary safe room. Reading became a necessity for college, graduate school, career, and now writing. I still read, but what I read now is online and read to keep up with the debacle we call the modern world.
I have a stack of books near my desk I intend to read. However, there is no time for a journey into a mythical or fictional adventure just to get away. Rather I am reading on health issues, politics, current events, pandemics, activism, and the dark future generations yet to come may face.
So, the next book up on my list, if I find time to read it, Stretching, highlighting “stretches for smartphone users.” I cannot wait to read that advice.
All right! Fantasy land time! If I could have just one superpower, it would be the ability to fly. Sadly, my parents were humans, not aliens from the planet Krypton. “Up, up and away” is merely a line stolen from Superman. It is also limited to the times I feel silly, as my commercial airline flight leaves the ground.
There have been a few times in my life when I went flying or experienced something akin to the feeling I think you’d have in flight. Some were very brief experiences in an airborne automobile or over the handlebars of a bicycle or motorcycle while racing. And, there were those times Uncle Sam paid me to jump out of an aircraft.
Maybe I have a touch of superpower as I walked away relatively unscathed from all of those incidents. Still, those were not the flying experiences I imagined as a kid, reading Superman comics or watching the original Superman television series.
Technically, today it is possible to have an experience closer to that of Superman or other superheroes with the ability to fly or glide through the air. However, I am way too old to risk my neck in a wingsuit or even one of the human-powered aircraft or human launched gliders.
No, I’ll need to continue to fly in my dreams. That is the only place these days I will be able to feel the rush of the wind in my face and the freedom I imagine the eagles and other birds experience as they soar over us and other earthbound critters.
My sense of irony was triggered when I read this daily challenge prompt:
I am currently working on a blog discussing accountability as it should apply to people passionate enough about a cause to become an activist. Now, I am challenged to write about something that may place me in that category, i.e., enthusiastic enough to be considered an activist. Oh well, what goes around comes around.
I am someone who seldom hesitates to wave the red flag. If you are not familiar with that term, here it means I’m the guy that says, “Whoa, cowboy! Do you have any idea how stupid and dangerous this could be?”
Some people might call me a spoilsport. I am quick to raise the red flag, parenthetically speaking, when I notice a potential problem that might spoil someone’s fun!
Of course, one is usually not born with this inclination. Certainly, people may learn fear early and become resistant to any strange or unfamiliar behavior. People like me know the value of thinking twice, or more, by surviving stupidity, ours or others, which could have turned out much worse than it did.
I am not certain this need on my part cost me any friends. It certainly kept me from being invited to take part in events I would have opposed due to the risks involved. If that is the price, I pay for trying to keep someone from risking their life or serious injury for a thrill, so be it.
I have the same attitude toward my professional and volunteer activities. I am never hesitant to point out potential problems when I see them. Occasionally that standard of conduct has created problems for me. After making such observations, I have found myself “no longer needed” in a few cases. Again, so be it.
My ethics and standards are more important than making a few extra bucks or overlooking a problem because someone thinks the ends justify the means.
Boy, this was a tough one. Assignments such as this are a real problem for over-analyzers like me. Thankfully, my subconscious works overtime while my conscious self tilts at windmills.
So, the day’s topic is life lessons that would benefit others. After two abortive tries, I remembered a lesson it took me years to learn. It was something I did not even know existed, the apology process.
First, let me acknowledge there are multiple opinions on this particular skill. A quick online search will find references on ways to apologize, ranging from a three-step process to seven distinct steps. All seem designed to achieve the same goal, but seven steps, really!
The process I learned and found quite effective was relatively simple. It was:
Ask the offended party what you can do to make amends
Ask for forgiveness
Forgiveness is not always a given, but you cannot do much else if your effort is sincere.
There are plenty of experts who would be happy to teach you their version of the apology process. All probably work to one degree or another. Of course, any form of sincere apology and offer to make amends will likely have a positive effect if the other party can accept it.
Okay, I did a throwback here and posted the prompt I am responding to.* One reason is related to the title. My first title for this piece was How Much Time Do You Have, but as the author of the darn thing, I am supposed to pick the poison.
You see, I have two problems here, my life and my ego. Okay, maybe three problems, since my writing skills are involved. Am I truly a writer?
For the record, I am not asking anyone to try to pump up or tear down my ego or self-image. Only time, readership, and my feelings on the matter count in the long run. So, after sorting through the myriad of challenges I’ve faced over the years, the poison I pick today is my talent as a writer.
The challenge for me, which I feel I have at least temporarily overcome, is first-person writing. With a decades-long background of writing for professional journals, academe, and several attempts at fiction, I hate using “I.” And that brings up the next challenge.
Since starting my attempt to develop an online presence reaching more readers and possibly producing income of some sort, my research has been daunting. Except for blogs or websites directly related to marketing products or services, many of the most successful blogs are about the blogger or people who share their stories or testimonies through the blog or website.
They may be travel-related, photography-related, physical challenge-related, spiritualism-related, or political. Still, the writers fill their work with personal stories, accomplishments, thoughts, etc. The pronouns used are predominately me, we, and I.
Between first-person writing and keeping the word count down, #bloganuary is quite a challenge for me. So far, I’m pretty happy with the results, but before I break my arm patting myself on the back, I want to see if I can make the month.
*Okay, chuckle time, at least from my warped sense of humor. Originally, the first sentence read, Okay, I did a throwback here and posted the prompt to which I am responding. My grammar checker flagged it as wordy and difficult to read, suggesting I change it to Okay, I did a throwback here and posted the prompt I am responding to. The grammar checker then flagged this version because the sentence ended in a preposition.