A Memory: The Silence of Darkness

A Memory: The Silence of Darkness

It was a cold northeastern Pennsylvania night. I don’t recall the day of the week, or even the year, but the season was tucked into that idiom wrongly called, the dead of winter. There’s nothing dead about it.

I was in my teens and still living with my parents. It was late night and snow had covered the ground one day in the early nineteen-sixties. While night, the reflections from the snow allowed me to see everything, although it looked like a blue-tinted black and white photograph.

While all years of my life were important, those teen years are prominent memories. I still recall how I felt then, but now it’s hard to describe. I’ll never feel like that again. The wonderful adjectives of youth applied to me: vital, vigorous, and energetic; yet so did lazy, horny, rebellious, and impulsive. I would not say pensive or thoughtful. Yet, there was that one night.

 

As I walked through deep snow above my ankles, a powdery white mattress was laid out around me in all directions. The white snow was tinted cobalt blue by the moon-lit night sky. None of the snow was marked by footsteps or car tires. The blanket was pristine. The cemetery across the street was a charming and peaceful sight. I loved the sight of the snow, the reflection of street lights with a wintery halo, the contrast of red brick buildings with lines of white where snow landed. Even boarded-up windows seemed fitting to this natural artistic sight. What I saw made me feel good. I was happy, but thoughtful about what I saw.

If anyone saw me, they might assume I was lonely. I was not. Never. While my teen years presented me with daily challenges, feeling lonely wasn’t one of them. Even back then, I treasured my alone time. I have searched for more nights like that one, but I will never discover such a night again. Nature’s art is often so fleeting.

I may have been troubled by any one of the issues I thought life changing. Today, I recall few of those traumatic teeny-bopper problems. But, I can still visualize the night. While I have long since been free of my adolescent burdens, I remember. I didn’t feel cold. I felt both my pending freedom and a connectedness to my surrounding, to the night, and to the silence. And to the darkness, the light, the snow, and a sweet silence only night offers.

I was wearing plain old brown leather oxford shoes and white socks. My pants were a bit too short and much too snug: a style of the times. Adults thought my hair too long. It was a little greasy, and it hung down to cover part of my face. I didn’t wear a hat. My outer layer was a hand-me-down, black, Navy-surplus pea coat – unbuttoned and hanging open. The collar was up.

As I picture that night, I feel my experience. That not-to-be-forgotten night was like a photograph taken with my eyes and ears, sensed with my tongue’s taste buds. I could smell the clean crisp aroma of the night air. It is imprinted in my memory: a serene moment, fifty-some years ago. A semi-normal teenager, I realized that something remarkable was happening around me. I liked it and I wanted to share it with you.

The day’s white powder parted like a soft curtain as my feet gently led me forward. Sidewalks, streets, and any surfaces open to the sky were topped with the blueish flakes. No cars passed. The plows would not be out until early next morning.

Months before this night, trees had lost their leaves. Now, white fluff-covered bare branches stretched skyward like arms reaching to catch descending flakes. Evergreens bore much thicker and fuller sparkling white coats over their needles, a weight they endured with their strong, flexible, down-sloping boughs. I sensed a soft chill as a gentle breeze brushed the powder from trees onto me.

As snow clouds passed, I saw the clear night sky of spiritual proportions. A nearly-full moon illuminated the earth with light reflected upward by snow. Even with the light in the sky, billions of stars floated above me, while below them the sheen of fresh powder glistened. I was so young, yet I intuited the unimaginable enormity of what was around me. I could sense the sheer winter-night beauty of it all. I felt comfort in that notable moment. The night and the silence were etching a memory no artist or photographer could duplicate.

The silence was purposeful and reasoned. A quiet so intense the night air was a sharp penetrating stillness that muted other sounds. All was perfectly still. No movement, not even a hush. It was an absolute quiet: a silence so powerful I imagined intense peacefulness within me.

I stopped. Didn’t move for a long time. I listened for sounds of anything, silent sounds. I heard nothing but silence itself. Very still, breathing shallow, listening intently to what was the most peaceful moment of my life as my personal Sounds of Silence came from nature. I was with my friend Darkness, where I felt destined to be. I experienced sensual pleasure in the absolute beauty of that cold winter night.

I saw silence in the stillness as nothing moved. The world had stopped. I tasted tranquility as the clear, dry night-air slid over my tongue. As the still coolness flowed into my nose with its chilled crisp fragrance, I smelled a fresh aroma only nature could provide to a young mind open to such images. I have aged. But, this memory remains set in the mind of a teenage boy.

Slowly, I started to walk a bit farther. Then stopped again. I knew this was exceptional. Then I walked more, and I stopped again. I do not recall walking away or going home. The memory leaves me standing there, taking it in.

I didn’t know that this memory would be discovered and retrieved by my muse over half a century later. Said she, “Up now, Lad. And write in yer book, before ‘tis lost again in the disorganized gaps of your mind.”

If you have no time for the video now, please come back to watch it. It’s worth it.

Live in the present, but look both ways,
to the past for who you were, and to the future for who you’ll be.
Mind the gaps, but fill in where you can.

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Am I Too Old?

I see my reality very differently

Am I too old?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel young?
am I too old to run and hide?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to want to know?
am I too old to love someone?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to feel you near?
am I too old to call you babe?
am I too old to care?

How old is old enough?
am I too old to dance with you?
am I too old to share your passion?
am I too old to care?

I am not yet old enough,
so dance me to end of time.
Still I see the fairies dance,
for your love is always mine.

by bill reynolds 7/5/2017

To live long and prosper, look both ways and mind the gaps.

Forever Young!

Z – Zymurgy Blessings (NaPoWriMo #30)

Zymurgy (zy-mur-gy; zī mәr jē) is chemistry that deals with the fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing), There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s a fancy word for something we didn’t know we had a fancy word for. In words like this, experts, specialists, and aficionados find each other.

 

 ***

A toast to the Grog
By Bill Reynolds

Hold your drink high as we all salute,
Stand proud and tall as you toast our success.
Long we have toiled to blog the last dribble,
To the craft of zymurgy, my final tribute.

To the blessings of grog from the art of the craft,
I brought you my twaddle, the sweet and the daft,
With creative support of that spirited guest,
I sent you my poems, the poor and the best.

From the wine to the beer,
The ferment and brew,
The stout and the red
Went straight to my head.

My thanks to my readers,
Both critics and lovers,
And for the crafters of zymurgy to brew,
Grateful to all, I am thanking you too.

***

Wine to the left, beer on the right,
Look both ways and have a great night.
Of the gaps be mindful, it’s been so delightful.

L – Limerick (NaPoWriMo #14)

A limerick consists of five lines. Lines one, two, and five have 3 beats each and rhyme. Lines three and four have 2 beats and rhyme. Referred to as light verse (or vers de société) by Lewis Turco, limericks tend to be light, humorous, and often bawdy or dirty.

 ***

The first “poem” I recall hearing was a bawdy limerick my father told me. I don’t recall my age. I heard it once and never forgot. It was a shocker, although Dad often used such language around me.

There was a young lady from Freeling
Who had a funny feeling
She laid on her back
And tickled her crack
And pissed all over the ceiling

***

I wrote this one in class about a Creative Writing teacher.

There once was a lady from North Bend
In teaching us to write, she had no end
She had a great thought
We fit and we fought
Until our writing was well penned

Well, the class thought it was funny.

 ***

Some wee dribble of self-pique from the old flapdoodle.

There was an old-fart named Bill
Who was also a bit of a pill
Until he met her
The rest is a blur
And now he conforms to her will

It’s all about me, ya know.

***

Many of us follow this lass. So, a bit of a gentile and friendly jab. Click on her name to link to her blog.

There once was a blogger named joey
And she loved to tell us her story
She speaks of the mister
Like he is her sister
Instead of her very first quarry

Do ya think I’ll hear about that one?

***

I had to take shot at someone, or male pride, in general.

There once was a man from south Brooklyn
Who thought his self too good lookin’
It happened one day
His thing wouldn’t play
Now he’s no master Al Pushkin

Dirty is funny, right?

***

Mind the gaps on top of it all
Look both ways: eye on the ball
   But watch for the fart
   That is really a shart
And you’ll have no reason to bawl

(Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I wrote them all, except the first one, and I assume full responsibility for the content of my limericks.)

***

Faces in the Mirror

What would it be like today, if I could see all the faces that you have reflected? You only reflect me the way I look today, older and very different than when we first saw each other. I don’t recall that day, because it was almost 70 years in the past. Before that, you had reflected many other faces for as many reasons.

Since before I was born, you always had your place in our home, on the west wall of our dining room. There, you were centered on the wall, above the old sideboard buffet, which was also a permanent fixture. As anyone walked past you going to, or returning from, the kitchen; you reflected their profile. Before leaving home, we all stopped and faced you for your final review and blessing as we took one last look. Mom and Dad used you to check the look of their hats reflected in your glass.

Since your total viewing area is only one foot by a yard wide, you never revealed much about us below the neck and shoulders. Yet, you remained our primary, go-to mirror even after several full-length mirrors were installed. I recall the day my brother stood staring at you when he pontificated, “You know, Billy, you’re only as good as you look.” I never agreed with him. Did you? I suspect that how people look is important to you. It’s your purpose.

Every year, on Palm Sunday, someone would change out the palm frond strip hung prominently across the top of your frame, where it would remain for the year. That was sort of the family way of dressing you up for Easter Sunday. It was always the same.

The only time you, or any of those items around you, were moved, it was for painting walls or changes to the floor coverings. But you, the mirror, and below you, the side board, were always restored to your rightful, prominent places. Mom and Dad did not change furniture often, but they never booted you from your space.

How many photographs, cards, messages, and notes were stuffed between the edges of your glass and your frame? What did they say? Were they important?

You are in old pictures from my grandfather’s house (the one my mother grew up in), taken long before my birth, showing you along with two side sconces, both long gone. I never met any of my grandparents, but you did. I’m sure my Mom’s father looked at his reflection in your glass. Maybe her mother, too. I can envision him holding his young daughter up for you to see. Who else saw themselves, and the reflection of others, in your glass?

Beginning in the 1920s or 30s, every member of my family must have looked at you. When did you come into being? Every friend who ever visited our house saw their reflection, and probably that of others, when they looked at you.

You have survived the Great Depression, the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy years, World War II (and possibly WWI), several rough moves, and whatever untold disasters that occurred during your 44 years in my parents’ home. For the past twenty-five years, you’ve been undamaged by my hauling you from one end of the country to the other.

Your ornate frame has a few nicks and scratches revealing hints that the wood beneath your gilded frame’s lamination is red. The corners of your frame are secured with two wooden dowels each, all attesting to the creativity and craftsmanship of an earlier time, when some master mirror maker worked magic.

While you’re a handsome and distinguished antique, it’s not you the mirror that provides the mystery and intrigue. It is the many thousands of faces that underwent self-examination as you watched, the hundreds of times a tie or hat was straightened with your approval, or when an Easter Bonnet was set to one side, and then given an approving nod.

Oh, mirror on my wall, holding the history of thousands of changing faces within your glass panes, do you remember their smiles and their tears. What do you remember? What secrets do you hold? Will you show me those reflections so that I may see whose lives you’ve shared? I recall with fondness and sometimes sadness, the pictures in my memory of the many times I stood nearby, and watched, as others used you to reflect a special moment in time. Show me their faces today, so that we might name the names.

When you look in a mirror, wonder.
Who else has looked this way? Who will?
Look! But, look both ways, and mind your gap.

I Want My Tribe

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

“War feels better than peace.”

tribe1That’s what it says. Not that war is better. It feels better. To put comments like that into context and perspective, you should read the book.

Tribe put me in touch with a part of myself that wants something which I haven’t had in long time–the feeling of belonging to a tribe. When I had it, it was temporary. I’ve lost my tribe, and I feel the void.

I don’t want to think we have a dystopian or apocalyptic world. But I realize that conflict and evil are pervasive in human nature. Also, all nature holds danger, evil threats, and risks to our survival. It has always been so and there is little sign of relief.

Junger’s book is supposed to be about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and American combat veterans returning to our normal and civilized society. It is about that, but there’s more to it. While vets are the focused subjects of the book, they are examples he uses to make an ultimate point about human nature and American society. I suspect that is why the book is so popular.

 

tribe3

Maybe we are not what we think we are. Are we as peace-loving as we claim to be? We’ve certainly done much to create a peaceful society in America and other countries around the world, with varying degrees of success–mostly minor or the opposite of what we intended to do.

tribe7

My favorite sentence in the book is just two words: “And yet.” (p. 109)

We crave peace, comfort, safety, pleasure, privacy, and independence. And yet, when we look at the history of human behavior under dangerous and stressful situations, something strange often happens to us. We are healthier and apparently (oddly?) happier—less depressed, when under stress. It should be the opposite, right?

I’ll not say more about the phenomenon because I don’t want to play spoiler. I want you to read the book. But, don’t use my library. There are now 184+ waits to read it. The word is out.

This book spoke to me. It’s my inner voice. Maybe I’m in denial. While I’m not overtly competitive and I’m so-so on some sports (I prefer playing to watching); I enjoy tension, drama, and mystery more than I like to admit. I have a love-hate relationship with fear and stress. I want them, and I don’t. WTF?

And yet.

tribe2

That voice is saying something. I know what it’s telling me. I know exactly what Junger is talking about—and I agree.

I avoid trouble. I want peace and love in the world. But I am a realist (in my mind, anyway). I enjoy conflict. While I’m unlikely to start trouble, when it’s forced on me, I’m in.

tribe5I despise fighting. I don’t enjoy pain or suffering, especially my own. But when I fight, I don’t want to stop. Something is deep inside me crying for more. Where’s my tribe?

When conflict is forced on me, I feel a change (a charge?) in my being–I feel strangely better. Got a tribe to protect and feed? I’m your man.

Consider the tribe concept in dealing with a crisis. We are all fighting for survival. We need each other. Your struggle is my struggle. We can share everything and overcome adversity for the good the tribe.

My personal paradox is that I’m an introvert and I enjoy my alone time. I value my privacy and a good night’s sleep as much as anyone. But I find the concept of a tribe fascinating, intriguing, and alluring—the challenge. The fight! Combat!

tribe10

Our survival didn’t just happen. When you consider natural human strength, we’re easy prey in the animal kingdom. While we’re most vulnerable alone and we need protection, there’s something comforting and rewarding about the danger out there and what the tribe does for us.

Read the book.

When you find your tribe,
join them and cherish them. But, look both ways.

Yesterday

Yesterday

yesterday6Ten years ago, I lost one of my best friends from my childhood. Today, I received a phone call telling me that I have now lost the other. A few weeks ago I was tasked with a writing assignment to provide an essay on what I long for. You can see it blogged under “Nostalgia and Longing.” Reading my blog, you can glimpse my view of humanity and the world. Seldom do I live at any time but the present moment.

yesterday2But today, I want to think about the past. Not in a regretful way, but in an “I remember” way that might allow my brain to be the tool of a child’s mind again.
I want to remember friends and our time together when we did things without much regard for the good or the bad. There was no judgment or guilt. The important part that I recall is that we did those things together. That is what a childhood friendship is all about; an unconditional acceptance of us as is. Blood brothers we were – literally.

yesterday3I know that I cannot go back to that time, and I’m not sure that I would want to. But I want to have those memories until I have no memories. I would like to again feel the freedom, the special bond, and the unquestioned certainty that we would all live forever. I want to think about my future and talk about how much better it will all be. I want free and unlimited amounts of candy and ice cream. We didn’t have that, but when we took over, well, you know, right? I want to know that next year, I will be allowed to stay out after it gets dark, to drive a car (legally), to date girls (with everyone knowing).

Today, I want to cry over the loss of my friends and I want to smile in their memory. I want to think about their faults that I never saw or didn’t care about, as they dismissed mine. Indeed, I miss Jimmy and I miss Jack, but the one is miss most is Billy the Kid — me.

What do I remember most? In our late teens Jack made his belief and faith in me clear. Few people had faith in me when I was a teenager, and I don’t blame them. More than my parents, more than any teacher or any other person, he believed I could do what even I doubted.

yesterday4

I subsequently believed him and that was a significant turning point in my life.

I slightly changed the lyrics of Yesterday When I was Young to reflect how I feel today — Melancholyyesterday7

The game of life I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died,
The friends I made all seemed somehow to die away
And only I am left on stage to end the play.
Yesterday when I was young