A bit of fiction fun

Jack came running into the house, his cheeks all red from the cold wind and a long string of snot hanging from his nose. He threw his book bag onto the chair as he entered the front door, several books bouncing onto the floor. Shaking off his winter coat he wiped his nose on the sleeve of his shirt leaving a slimy, snail like trail along his forearm. “Ma” he yelled as he went into the kitchen, that was full of the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Looking around he saw the bakeware his mother used in the sink needing to be cleaned, the oven was off but still warm from being on. “Ma” he yelled again, “where are you?” Going to the door that lead to the basement, he looked down the darkened staircase, yelling down, “Ma, you down there?” There was no answer just the sound of water dripping from one of the pipes and the groaning of the furnace as it worked to keep the house warm. The old home they lived in always seemed to groan and creak, at night when he laid in bed he swore he could see a man in the ceiling. “Don’t be foolish,” his mother would tell him, “there’s nobody in the ceiling and your father and I are in the next room.”
Still, as he stopped to listen he could feel his own heart racing, “Ma,” he yelled again, he could feel the anxiety begin to take hold, a cold feeing in the pit of his stomach. He ran into his parents room, the shades were pulled down, it was dark and his eyes need to adjust as he reached out toward their bed. The bed was empty in a frantic moment he jumped up onto the bed only discovering the bedsheets and blankets in disarray. Instinctively he knew that his mother would never leave her bed in such a mess. Quickly he went into his own room, the floor was strewn with his toys, a coloring book he was working on lay on his small desk, surrounded by bits and pieces of colored crayons. His own bed was still a mess, the way he left it when he went off to school that morning. “I need to find her,” he could feel something rising up from his stomach that seemed to lodge in his throat, this time he screamed, “Ma!!” His voice echoing down the hallway. He raced out of his bedroom, down the hall and out of the back door into the cold, clear winter air. He saw the clothes out on the line, the arms of the shirts blowing in the slight breeze, their arms seemingly stretching out to grab him. His eyes grew wide as he retreated back into the house, the smell of the cookies now more nauseating than being desired.
His world seemed to spin all around, then he reached for the phone on the wall. Picking up the receiver he could hear voices on the other end, “Ma” he yelled into the phone, suddenly mans voice, clear and not recognizable, spoke, “Who’s on this phone?” All he could do was cry into the phone, “Where’s my mom? I need to talk to her, I’m scared.” “Jackie,” it was a woman’s voice, she sounded familiar but so distant, like she was at the end of a long tunnel, “Ma?” He cried out, then there was silence.

Final Class

          Last evening was my last Grub Street Jumpstart Your Writing class and for me it was a good class to take. I’ve always have said that I’m not a great or even marginally good writer, but this was an opportunity for me to test myself against other, much better writers. Good writing is work, it takes a bit more than just good imagination and a knowledge of words, it takes a sense of how to put those words together in prose that is accessible. Descriptions of places, people and events need to have color so that the reader can see, feel, hear and even smell what the author is conveying. Good writing is for all the senses and to do that takes a commitment to the craft and being aware of the pitfalls that we all face.            I now have several pieces that I have started in the class and there is some potential in what I have in them. Now that I have the time and space to do so, I can focus more on what I have already written and flesh out the stories. What I can’t do is allow myself to let my own natural procrastination set in where I fuss over every sentence or word, I just need to get down and write. Not everything will be polished and wonderful but at least it will be my writing with the hope that one day it will make some sense.

            Some of what I write will make it to this blog, it is after all why I started doing this. The only way to know how you are doing is to go ahead and throw yourself under the bus of critique, which can be hard at times. I’m not that great on self promoting, being a raging introvert, so I’m not setting out looking for praise or anything like that, I’m just going to write, out it out there and let the chips fall where they may. 

              Here’s a paragraph of something I started several weeks ago in the class. The prompt was to write about getting a second chance and so I created this character who will be given an opportunity for that elusive second chance. Where it goes from here, what twists and turns will occur, I have only the foggiest of ideas. In many ways it’s the character in the story that will drive the plot and that alone is what makes writing fun, the mystery that unfolds before ones eyes.
 In the dark corners of his memory he remembered a cartoon he watched as a kid. A turtle that seemed to always want something better but when he got into trouble or found out that his wishes were not what he wanted, all he needed to do was call on the Wizard. “Fizzle, frazzle, drazzle, drone, time for this one to come home” and soon this little turtle would find himself back safe and sound at home. If only that would happen to him as he sat there at his desk, staring at the computer screen in his Dilbert-esque cubicle world. Feeling stuck he could only sit there daydreaming about being elsewhere but he knew that was futile. Above him he could hear the low hum of the florescent lights casting a pale, surreal light on his desk that made the books and papers that littered his domain look ominous. Within his own soul, that is, if he believed he had a soul, felt shrunken becoming nothing more than a dead, lifeless weight deep within his chest. 

            

Another Milestone

Today is one of those milestone days in the wake of my accident and recovery. On this, the 133rd day I have been officially discharged from my physical therapy sessions. What this really means is that the PT folks have done all they can do and now it falls upon me to continue to work on getting my hip back to its pre-accident condition. Of course that means doing the daily routine of exercises designated to target the injured hip and get back to cycling. I also have to remind myself to rest and not overdue things as I continue to move toward recovery.
Of course, that’s the hardest part of this recovery thing, taking time to rest, not to push things beyond my limits. It’s definitely something that is not easy for me but if I really think about it, in the long run, it’s the right thing to do. Yet, as logical and great that all sounds, I’m still itching to get back into that daily pattern of cycling, whether it’s outside or indoors. It’s like a drug, the feeling I get from being outside, breathing in the fresh air enjoying the sights and sounds one can only experience while cycling. The sports gurus call this the rush of endorphins and other pleasure making hormones that cause this, I just say it’s the freedom I get while cycling. Out there, on the road with the wind in my face and the pavement beneath my wheels, I am on my own able to work out the the Gordian knots that populate my mind. Now that colder weather is in the forecast and snow begins to show itself on the Doppler radar, in the higher elevations, it does become a bit easier to take a rest day or two. It does kind of suck, but I have to consider the bigger picture rather than just a small slice of life. So for now, it’s riding three to four times a week, rest every other day, do my PT and by the time the crocus poke their little heads out of the ground I will be back to where I was before that fateful day.

Writing Class

 This Tuesday will mark my sixth and final writing class at Grub Street. It is a good point for me to sit back and reflect on what I have learned, not only about writing but about myself. I took the course entitled Jump Start Your Writing, which is designed to help one do just that, set a discipline to write. We’ve been given various prompts and exercises both fiction and nonfiction, and we then read some or all of what we have written to the class. It’s hard, especially for me, an introvert, to read ones stuff out loud. It feels like one of those dreams where you are naked and out there for all to see, my writing good, bad or indifferent is out there for all to hear and critique. I find it hard to do mainly because I don’t consider myself to be a great writer, not even a good one at that. I struggle with the words, what I see in my minds eye, the scenes, the conversations, everything that makes for good writing, seems stilted and flat when I write it all down.  As I look around at my fellow travelers on this writing journey I see several who are very good. As they sit there on a computer or using pen and paper, you can almost see the words flowing out of their heads and onto the screen or paper. Their stories paint a picture that draws one in immediately. In just a few sentences you are brought into a world that you want to know more about. I haven’t quite got there, at least I don’t feel that I’ve arrived at that place. I knew going into this that I wasn’t expecting to be the next Hemingway, so I never set my own goals too high but I had hoped to be able to put to text what I saw in the movies playing in my mind. 

 What I have discovered is that writing is hard work. It’s opening a dialogue with yourself and the characters that inhabit the deepest regions of imagination. Whether it is fiction, nonfiction or memoir, to write is to expose oneself in a very personal, and at times, intimate ways. Your, I should say, my thoughts are brought out into the light to be examined, dissected and dismantled, which can be a frightening experience. I read somewhere that hell for an introvert was to be in a place where all of ones inner thoughts were out for all to see and being exposed as the fraud we feel we are as people ridicule those thoughts. 

 The greater question right now for me is where do I go from here? There is that small voice deep inside the recesses of my mind that continually whispers that I should continue. That even though the road is long and filled with many mountains and valleys, I need to continue on this path. Like my calling to the ordained ministry, a calling filled with mystery that even now I have yet to decipher, this need to write is also a great mystery which I may never decipher. If anything, I hope to leave something of myself, a breadcrumb that may one day be followed by another who is also traveling down this same path. A small beacon of hope that leads one forward. 

130 Days

It has now been 130 days since I was struck down while out cycling, strange how time can pass so quickly while one is in the midst of crisis. Most of these past 130 days has been spent working on getting my hip back into some semblance of strength along with more endurance. It has gotten better but still, I’m nowhere near the place I was the day before the car door hit me and I’m getting the feeling that it will still take time to regain everything fully, if ever.  Today I had my visit with the orthopedic who performed the surgery and as far as he is concerned all looks well. The rods and nails are doing their job in helping the bone to heal, I now will have to just keep plugging away at the exercises I’ve been given, no matter how I feel. I did get in a couple of road rides this past week, nothing too excessive, no epic riding just yet. Then again, when talking about excessive its always in the eye of the beholder, my not being excessive cycling can be for someone else a huge undertaking. In this there is a lesson, for all of us in our lives take and do things based on our own abilities and gifts. We get overly sensitive or even jealous of another persons abilities not realizing that we all have that inner strength to tap into. I know, some will say that’s easy for me to say yet the reality have been those days when I woke up, hurting, unable to walk without any pain wondering if I would ever be able to ride my bike again. The night before I got my bike back from the shop and started thinking about riding again I was confronted by fear, that psychological barrier that I knew needed to overcome so that I could get out and do what I wanted. My greatest battle is against self, my own fears, doubts and also anger.

I am far from being out of the woods, there are still many miles to go both on the outward journey forward and the inner struggles against the demons of fear and doubt. The one thing that has kept me anchored against the tides has been the love I share with Janie and all that we have lived through. In everything we have not been swept away or lost in the mire but have been each other’s beacon in the storm. Life, well, it ain’t easy. None of us has ever been guaranteed a trouble free existence and I for one have had to drill a little deeper within to discover reserves that I didn’t know either I had or existed. I just finished reading the lesson from Job for this upcoming Sunday and in it God tells, Job to gird up his loins like a man, in other words stop the pity party and pick yourself up.

It is truly by grace that I am am where I am and without that hope the despair would soon swallow me into the darkest depths. I choose to reach out into the light, I choose to love, to rejoice and to enjoy each moment of each day, because one never knows what the future holds.

 

Stewardship

 A favorite poet of mine is Mary Oliver. Her poems evoke a sense of the natural world full of wonder and grace. In her poem, When Death Comes, about the inevitability of our mortality she ends the poem with this;            “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

 I believe that many of us have this sense of creating a life that has meaning, where we have not just simply lived but gave something more. There are dreams we all have, dreams that carry us forward into life. Some of these dreams may die or may have just changed as we grow and mature. I am not one for having the so-called “bucket list,” for me that removes the spontaneity of the every day life. By focusing only on certain items or tasks we miss the opportunities and people that lie right before us as we journey through life. 

 For Jane and I, stewardship is a reflection of not wanting to simply be mere visitors but being engaged with the world that surrounds us. We pledge because of our belief in the present and in the future, that our giving is a radical statement of faith. It is knowing deep within our own hearts and despite all evidence to the contrary that God in Jesus Christ is indeed doing a new thing, engaging in a new creation. It is a faith born out of hope and not despair, of seeing the joy and wonder rather than the focus on the dark and negative. 

 This past summer I learned about the power of love, gratitude and grace. The love of my wife, Jane, as she helped to nurse me as I recovered from the accident. The love of my family and friends who, not only visited, but helped to keep my own spirit up. The gratitude for all the care givers and those who helped me throughout my recovery, gratitude for the EMT’s, the doctors, nurses and physical therapists who never gave up and pushed me to get better. The grace of God, in giving me the hope and peace in the midst of the storm. The calm in the eye of the one who gives us life, love and wonder in all that we do in our world. 

 My hope and prayer is that our pledges will help Trinity to continue doing the good work that God has given us to accomplish. That we may continue serving at St. Luke’s/San Lucas, to supporting the food pantry here in Melrose, to keeping the doors open to our thrift shop as it serves the greater community, to continue providing our youth and children a place where they can grow in their spiritual lives and where all people are cared for and loved. 

 May God bless you all and I ask that you continue to pray for our community, the staff and all who give of their time and talent. 

Day 120.

 Today marks the 120th day since my accident. It has been a long road and there are still many miles ahead but progress is being made. After a summer of being laid up, learning how to get around first on crutches then a cane to finally being able to walk without assistance, I am now looking forward. Yet, in spite of the progress made I am still struggling with the fact that prior to June 5, I was in pretty good shape for a 63 year old man. The accident proved that I am indeed mortal and even as careful as I try to be stuff still happens. Since that day I developed a case of vertigo, and some kind of fungal infection on my elbow both of which have been cleared up with prescribed drugs. I’m definitely one who does not like taking anything, even now beginning to wean myself off of the Tylenol every six hours, to maybe once or twice a day. Yet, I’m still not where I want to be, and the deeper question, will I ever get back?  Not all is dark and bleak, although a couple of pieces I have written for my writing class are just that, to possibly be shared in later posts. A couple of weeks ago I started back at spinning classes and so far have done five of them. I was a bit nervous about standing up on the pedals, would the hip hold up and I’m happy to say that it did. Still, the 45-50 minute class does challenge my leg strength as well as my overall cycling health. The good news is even with the extended lay off, I don’t feel like I have to huge a mountain to climb, but just a lot of small hills. 

 My physical therapist also continues to challenge me with new exercises that force me to put pressure on the injured hip. The more I stress the hip the closer I get to fully healing the fracture. It’s always a blast going to therapy confident that I’ve mastered the last set of exercises only to be given a new set that shows me how far I still have to go, yeah. Yesterday I went out to purchase one of those exercise balls so that I can lay on the floor, put my legs up on this ball then raise my hips. The idea is not to let the ball roll around while my legs are up on it, which in turn places stress on my hip. Yes, it is excruciating but I am determined to have this one mastered before my next session. 

 Next week is the long Columbus Day weekend and it is my target weekend for actually getting on the road again. My bike, or I should say, bikes are in the shop. Parts from one being transferred to the other, the drivetrain is being upgraded and cleaned all being made ready for my first ride since June 5. Sure, I’m a bit nervous, who wouldn’t be, but to not get back out there would be allowing those demons to win out and that really isn’t an option. So forward I move, because really there is no other option, at least as I see it right now.