January 1, 2018 § 1 Comment
The borders between the years are meaningless from a “things are bound to change” point of view. Luck and Chance and Fate don’t care what the date is, be it Monday or January or 2018. There’s absolutely no reason why anything should suddenly get better.
But we stick up a new calendar and turn the page, and we sigh in relief that we survived the past 12 months. We hope for a better dozen to come.
I began to see the vague outline of this year around the beginning of December. I know this will be a year of hard work. Boards need pulling up and earth needs moving and what last year broke still needs to be fixed. Root causes need to be uprooted to allow for new growth.
With luck and perseverance and a little help from others, 2018 will be a year of repair, of redirection, of rebuilding. Changing the landscape. Making improvements that are long, long overdue.
I’m going to try to shape it into a productive year. Apart from the pulling and hauling, I want to start creating again. My litany every January First is always “read more and finish writing the book.” This year, it’s “start reading again and finish writing a book.”
My nightstand staggers beneath an epic to-read pile, and a few unfinished manuscripts wait for me to finish writing them. Lately, one story in particular has been tugging at my sleeve. I’ll take a look at it soon to see if the book in my memory is as good as the one I put onto the hard drive.
I’ve slowly started eating better (shut up, I hear you laughing at the leftover charcuterie I ate for breakfast; I said “slowly”). I’ve begun moving more. Hitting the elliptical machine, doing pushups, trying to de-flab this aging body. That, too, will be part of the pulling and hauling this year.
What the year ahead looks like other than that, I don’t know. I’m going to try to fully enjoy the good times while they last, and endure the bad times with patience and kindness. I’m going to try to not worry about what’s to come until it gets here. I won’t always succeed, but I’ll keep trying.
I hope you will, too, and that together we shape something beautiful.
November 23, 2017 § 1 Comment
The Plymouth colonists boarded the Mayflower for an ill-planned journey to a land in which they had no idea how to survive. Half of them died in the first year, and the other half would have died, too, had it not been for the friendship of this land’s indigenous people. The Abenaki. The Pawtuxet. The Wampanoag.
And especially Squanto, who’d had a terrible history with white people: he’d been taken into captivity by an English sea captain, sold into slavery, escaped, and made his way back to his home as part of an exploratory expedition.
And yet, offered his friendship to the Pilgrims. Taught them how to survive.
That’s why I see Thanksgiving as a celebration of friendship.
Richard Bach once wrote, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
I’ve quoted that often and I’ll quote it again, because I believe it.
I’m thankful for the family of friends I’ve gathered around me. Whether we’re linked through blood or shared passions or work or any of the other myriad ways people come into our lives, I’m thankful for you.
I’m thankful for the love I have in my life.
I’m thankful for the support I’ve been given, and the second chances, and the friendships that haven’t broken even when I’ve been distant or angry or terrible or all of the above.
I’m thankful for the forgiveness I’ve been shown, even when I’ve been unforgivable.
I’m thankful for those who’ve shown me how to survive, each time I’ve stumbled into a new land for which I was woefully unprepared.
I’m thankful for more than I know how to put into words.
If I had a TARDIS or a DeLorean that could travel through time, I’d visit every one of you today and hug you until our eyes leaked. Because I am thankful for you.
We may talk every day, or we may only exchange a few words now and then. We may see each other often; we may not have seen each other for years. Maybe we’ve drifted apart. Maybe we’ve only talked once, for a few minutes. Maybe we’re just “Facebook friends.”
Regardless, I am thankful for you. I am thankful to have you in my life.
October 24, 2017 § 3 Comments
Dad. Ethyl. Tiffie. Bardi. And now Lisa.
Too many toasts to too many lost this year.
Lisa Kaminski liked to help. She didn’t know me until a friend introduced us; I’d just been laid off and was panicking, and our mutual friend thought she could help me network.
And she did. We didn’t just exchange emails; we met for coffee several times and went to networking events, where she introduced me to people she knew.
She didn’t just help me, either. She volunteered and joined groups and helped so many others. Her light shone brightly in this world, and it’s tempting to say the world is darker for her absence, but it is not.
It is brighter, because she shared her light with so many others, and now we shine with it, too.
Thank you, Lisa.
It would be easy to sink into the clutches of grief after loss upon loss, but I’ve been reminded several times today that life is what you make of it. Lisa Kaminski made a great life, and touched others.
I haven’t been nearly as good at it as Lisa, but I try to help as best I can. Because I’m inspired by the givers and the helpers, the ones who glow brightly against the darkness of this world.
Whether you give a few dollars a month to charities, or donate blood, or care for kitties at a shelter, or knit blankets for them, or even just reach out to a friend who is struggling, you help — and that inspires others to help. That inspires me.
Aw, hell, I’ve doddered off the path again, and it’s too late in the night to go back and find it.
So here’s a toast to those whose light has gone out, but have left the world brighter nonetheless.
October 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
It’s a photography term, meaning the hour just after sunrise or before sunset, where the light across the landscape turns everything varying shades of gold.
There’s a medical definition for it, too:
- the first hour after the occurrence of a traumatic injury, considered the most critical for successful emergency treatment.
I caught the golden hour (in the photographic sense) this morning. Normally, I’m in the shower at that time, waiting for the hot spray to restore the blood flow to my brain. This morning, I woke an hour before the alarm and couldn’t get back to sleep, so … golden hour.
There’s construction across the street from the office, a steel skeleton of a building at this point; its silver bones gleamed pink gold. Passing cars winked bright orange flashes as their windows caught the rising sun. Every pale curb and post glowed rosy.
For a moment, the only sound was the soft gurgle of the coffeemaker as I watched the world dance in the dawn of the new day.
Nothing deep, today. Just a reminder that every new day is filled with golden hours.
(Photo Credit: Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=267594)
October 17, 2017 § Leave a comment
It’s colder here. After summer temperatures lingered into last weekend, autumn has finally arrived. I woke up chilled beneath two blankets, and had to warm the bathroom with the space heater before I was willing to crawl out of my robe.
Time for long pants and thick socks and extra blankets on the bed. Cuddling close, stealing warmth from others and giving it in return. Chilly hands and ghostly breath.
Last year about this time, I said that I’m a summer creature. Not myself in any other season. I had no idea then how true that was. No idea that even in summer, this year, I would not be myself.
Now the year shows its gray. The path ahead is shorter than the path behind. But it still has teeth and claws, and strength enough to do more damage. I don’t expect it to go quietly into the lengthening night.
The sun will spend fewer hours in the sky from here on out. It’s the moon’s turn to dominate, and the stars. I’m strangely comfortable with that, this year. I welcome it.
Right now, the clouds have cleared. The sun shines bright and strong, even though there’s still a chill in the air. But summer’s childish play is over. Autumn’s toil begins: mulch the leaves, stack wood for the fires, get out the down blankets and the thick sweaters.
Do the work needed. Keep doing it.
Time to welcome the moon.
October 11, 2017 § Leave a comment
Getting this in just under the wire, as a reminder for you and for myself.
Mines run deep and dark, and it only takes one fall for your lamp to break, and you are lost.
Don’t despair; know the exit is waiting to be found, and keep moving.
Voices call for you. Maybe they’re your friends’ voices, maybe they’re strangers. But listen, and crawl toward them.
It may be a long crawl. You may be cut and bleeding and raw. But the voices are calling you back to the surface.
Follow them into the light.
September 13, 2017 § 7 Comments
What’s left of Hurricane Irma lingers over southern Ohio, weeping her gray tears. It’s fitting weather; just past midnight, I learned that my friend Bardi had died.
I laid awake for another hour or so, walking the dark paths one walks when discovering such news late at night. Remembering Bardi, reflecting on his life and his death. Sad and angry by turns, and wondering if I’m on the same path. He got laid off and lost his health insurance and got sick and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it killed him.
If I lose my job, that could easily be me. It could be you.
Bardi’s family is planning a wake in true Irish style, as well they should. His son said anyone who attempts to make it maudlin will be shown the door. In that vein, I’ll keep this small remembrance on the sunny side of the lane.
I won’t claim to know him well, but I knew him a while. We met in the mid-90s, when we both joined in a Star Trek fan club. We met again, years later, drawn together by NaNoWriMo and Firefly and a mutual love of Irish music. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t remember him at first, but he remembered me.
I knew him by a few names — Timothy J. P. O’Riley and Taedgh O’Riley — but I and most who knew him called him Bardi. Short for Bardiphouka, his nom de net.
The thing I think of first when I think of Bardi is his writing. He could write a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo easily, and often wrote double the word count. I think one year, he wrote two novels in that month.
Every April, he did APAD — A Poem A Day — on his blog. Once, he told me he had a fan club in France, and they bought him an iPad in appreciation for his poetry. An iPad for APAD.
He also wrote songs and made music. I remember sitting in his den as he played a song he wrote for my friend Annie, plucking it out on an acoustic guitar, singing. He was particularly proud of a song he wrote called “Topper Takes a Toe.” (I think that’s the name of it; regrettably, I never got the chance to hear it.)
Bardi was that rare kind of individual you simply can’t capture in a nutshell. Quiet, kind, an eternal romantic. A gentleman in an age where gentlemen are scarce. He loved unusual hats and unusual turns of phrase. He liked to make people laugh. He gave because he enjoyed giving.
For my 50th birthday this year, Bardi posted this on Facebook:
Today is Random Acts of Kindness day. Also Dave Borcherding’s birthday. Which in a way was a random act of kindness to all who have come to know him.
It was possibly the nicest thing anyone said about me on my birthday.
2017 has been a bastard of a year, to the point that I’m constantly bracing for the next loss. Nevertheless, losing Bardi was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s been one hell of a gut punch.
Goodbye, my friend. I hope you’re dancing a jig with a beautiful lass on Fiddler’s Green. I didn’t see you nearly enough, and I am the poorer for that. And the world is poorer for no longer having you in it.
Bardi with our friend Brooke, New Year’s Eve 2012. (Photo Credit: Steve Blanzaco)