Reflections Part One

As we all do on the last day of each year, we reflect back on our past year. For me, I generally remember the good. I sometimes remind myself how lucky I am to be still alive and have the ability to breath clean air.

There are famous people that I would consider important in my life. Some of these people have influenced me through their songs, their writings or perhaps their acting.  One of my favorites would have been 72 years old today.  John Denver, an incredible voice, and a storyteller, preached through his music straight to my heart.  His music would play a genuine part of the rest of my story.

Years ago while living in Kamloops, British Columbia, it is hard to pick an actual date but it was the middle 1970’s.  John Denver was very popular.  I listened to all of his songs and it gave me peace as a young married man. Those were confusing times for me.  I was a husband but still trying to grow up and be a man.  I heard the call of the wild many years before.  Living in the large city of Kamloops would not fulfill whatever was digging at my thoughts which in turn motivated me.  I was lucky to have a wife that had the same spirit as I did.

One of our motivations was to move further north into the Canadian wilderness, build a log cabin and live off the land. We spent many hours dreaming and talking with friends about that lifestyle adventure.  Looking back now, this sounds almost ridiculous.  We did not anticipate it would be dangerous or deadly if we just dropped out and with no experience did it.

One winter with friends we went to Blue River, British Columbia for a long weekend. Someone suggested we hike back into the bush and meet this cool person and his family living off the grid.  That sounded like an excellent idea. Given our earnest desires to do the same thing and being adventurous, we parked the car on the side of the road and waded through knee-high snow for close to a mile.  We came to a clearing and found the homestead cabin, it was round.

Now this cabin was not just a log cabin in the woods this was a Yurt.  A Yurt is a Mongolian-influenced round tent usually built out of skins or felt for the nomads of Central Asia.  The history dates back to around three-thousand years ago. So this construction is of ancient origin.  Well our never-before-met friend living in Blue River, British Columbia was about to get a knock on his door.

We knocked and the door.  The door opened to a man wearing dark wool pants held up with suspenders and a checked flannel shirt filled the doorway.  He had long hair and a stringy beard. I cannot remember his name after all these years. So with that in mind, I shall call him Adam and his wife shall be called Eve.  Eve was tall and wore a patterned wool dress.  Her hair flowed past her shoulders and she had it tied in a ponytail.  With our first introductions, I got the impression both of them were highly intelligent.

We were invited into their home, the Yurt.  I remember how kind they were and they both seemed to be happy to have unannounced company.  The Yurt I would guess was about twenty-five feet across.  That means about nearly 980 square feet of living space.  A wood heater in the center of the Yurt with the stove pipe through the peak of the roof made it warm and comfortable.

After introductions and handshakes, Adam put a pot on the stove to make tea. We visited for quite a while.  Two things stand out to me about that experience. The Yurt was made out of wood, not skins or felt like a thousand years ago.  Adam cut down logs and made lumber on an Alaska Sawmill.  Which is a chainsaw apparatus that rips logs into rough lumber.  It generally is operated by one or two people.  Adam built this Yurt by hand.  The other thing I noticed, he had an old truck a four-wheel drive with a plow on the front to move the snow out of the way to get to the main road.  All of this was impressive and us being drawn into this kind of lifestyle enjoyed the time we spent there even though we were unannounced.  What came next was, even more impressive.  I will save that for next week.

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My First Christmas Memory

Christmas Eve is here. I go back into my memory banks as far back as I can go.  I remember some years better than others.  My first memory of Christmas Eve is the one I will share with you.

The year was 1957 and we lived at the northern edge of the Ukiah Valley called Mill Creek Road.  Our house was rented I’m sure.  I being only three years old had no idea what our finances were nor any knowledge of mortgages or in those days handshake deals as contracts.

In my life, the Christmas Tree was up and decorated for a few days before Christmas.  I would watch each evening as the colored lights were plugged in .  The tinsel collected the colors making the tree more spectacular.  I covered every inch of that tree with my eyes.  The bulbs, the lights and the best of all.  I closed my eyes and breathed the smell of Christmas.

Under the tree were many treasures wrapped in decorative paper adding the excitement of one little boy.  All day I would play outside, and then inside to be close to the tree checking for any changes.  Then my mother would send me back outside.  Like a revolving door, this happened most of the day.  I wanted that day to end so I could take my bath and go to bed.  To add to the excitement my mother mentioned many times throughout the day that Santa Clause was coming tonight.  I did not need to be reminded it was all I could think about.  Maybe it gave her a little bit of pleasure stringing me along.  She loved my little sister and I and it gave her a way out of reality.  Her existence on that day to create something special for us masked the heartache and sometimes fear she lived with.

This time, in my life there was a lot of strife and conflict between my parents.  I remember those horrible times.  But this one day, excitement trumped all the uneasiness I felt at that young age.

Before I went to sleep, my mother poured a glass of milk and three chocolate-chip cookies on a plate.  She said, “Santa when he finished at our house, will need a snack so he could carry on to other waiting children’s homes.”  I believed her hook line and sinker.  I never doubted that Santa Claus indeed was coming that night.

As most kids after my bath, I was tucked into bed and reminded that I needed to go to sleep so Santa could come.  Like a million other children, I became determined not to fall asleep so I could perhaps get a peek at him.  That determination lasted no more than a few minutes and I was asleep.

Christmas morning early and I mean early my eyes popped open and without thinking I jumped out of bed and headed for the living room to inspect for any changes in presents under the tree.  In fact, there was a large box wrapped right in the front of the tree.  I knew it had to be from Santa because it was not there when I went to sleep.

In my next thought, I ran into the kitchen and there at the table was the same glass and plate that my mother had filled with milk and cookies.  The glass was empty and there were a few crumbs left on the plate.  That very moment was magical.  I stood there and I remember soaking in the thought that Santa Clause did, in fact, come to my house.  He left more presents and he did drink the milk and ate the cookies.  I reached up to touch the plate, but I could not.  I was in awe.

As I reflect back now as a senior citizen at that special time, that moment in my life helped shape me into what I am today.  The realization that someone special had visited my home gave me comfort and warmth.  In a home with a lot of confusion and violence at times that very moment I believed in something outside of my world.  Even today that is engrained in my soul and I am convinced this is one of the reasons I write.  My passion runs deep inside me to create magic and live for those moments that I write to slip into another magical place even if it only for a few minutes or hours.

Let’s Not Kid Ourselves-This Is Reality

I am sitting here on the weekend listening to the coffee pot gurgle and watching the sun come up.  The frost is slowly melting and I wait for the warmth of the sun to get here. For me, the first glass of water in the morning is like drinking cheap scotch.  There is a taste to the cold water that my body does not tolerate. This is why I sip at a glass of water and wait for the coffee pot to beep.

Coffee in the morning is like starter fluid to an engine.  It is a semi-bitter liquid that tastes excellent first thing in the morning.  I will admit I am hooked on coffee. I am not sure at this point in my life without my starter fluid I might not make the drive to work every day.

On work mornings, I have as many rituals as I can fit in my Nissan pickup cab.  The first thing I do is switch on the radio and listen to talk radio.  I will eventually wear out the buttons on my truck’s stirring wheel since I flip between stations at least once every mile or two.  I listen to National Public Radio, (NPR).  Always there is quick and precise reporting on a variety of subjects.  Each news topic is current and packed with details in the shortest amount of time.  It amazes me how much information I receive in literally a few seconds. It seems to me that NPR is closer to old school reporting where many of our modern news media is not.  The current news leans towards ratings that matter more than content.

I also listen to local talk radio as well as the NPR.  I find our local talk radio at times rivals NPR in their sensitive topics.  Other days it is a lot of babbling about some political parties which at that point I start pushing buttons on my steering wheel to find NPR again.

And when all else fails I find my “Oldies” music radio stations.  I love my 60’s and 70’s music.  I have to stop at Disco, though, cannot get through that era. I am finding it harder to find my music consistently as the “Oldies” now are the 90’s. Sheesh, where did the time go?

By the time arrive at work around 05:15 in the morning I am well caffeinated, well informed and at times while I do my mile walk before I start work I hum a tune.

A Bucket List Dream Now Is Checked Off

We made the three hour beautiful train ride through the English countryside from London to Liverpool to live the Magic Dream.   Here we are with tickets in hand to be taken away on a magic bus ride through Liverpool.

Liverpool Magic Bus

We boarded the bus and off we went to see the sites where John, Paul, George, and Ringo grew up.   We drove down Penny Lane and stopped at Strawberry Fields.   Yes, Strawberry Fields is a real place.  We heard many stories and saw many sights were the lads grew up and wrote about in their songs.   I had no idea how many of their songs have roots in their home in Liverpool.

Our bus driver and guide were fantastic.   We got off the bus at several locations and with respect walked through dingy alleys to see where George Harrison was born.   We walked to where Paul McCartney lived and where most of the collaboration between Lennon and McCartney took place.    We stopped at John Lennon’s home and Ringo Starr’s.

As a real Beatles fan, this was hallowed ground.   It became more emotional listening to the songs as we drove from place to place.  I listened to the words from a different perspective.  We drove down Penny Lane and the guide pointing out every place that is described in the song.

PENNY LANE

In Penny Lane, there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head, he’s had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mack in the pouring rain
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit
And meanwhile back

In Penny Lane, there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
Four of fish and finger pies in summer
Meanwhile back

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway

Penny Lane, the barber, shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
And the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit
And meanwhile back

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies.
Penny Lane!

Songwriters
 LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / McCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES
Published by
 Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

As a writer, we are taught to write what we know.   What is familiar to us.  That does not mean we are not to do extensive research but write about what is familiar and what is in our hearts and in our minds.   I found that on the Magical Mystery Tour while the stories were told and the music played and we all sang.  The Beatles, in fact, did write their music about what they knew and where they grew up.   Humble beginnings without a silver spoon this band changed music forever.

Oh yes and my son did predict that us “old people” would be singing while on the bus.   He also said that the tour is inspiring and well done.