The Day I Almost Died

This is a short story that came to me this morning, and I decided to include it as today’s blog post. It is a bit grim but not so grim. Eventually, I would like to publish a few of my short stories in an anthology. I hope you enjoy this one.

It was a sunny day; I saw it cloudy. The silence was too loud inside my head. The stillness, a cloak for the raging waters of my soul. I glanced outside my window. The trees moved to the gentle breeze as a dance of death began inside my head. I could hear the deaf sound of loneliness; it had become my lullaby. Isolation became the clothes I wore daily. I searched the empty corridors of my heart over and over; I found nothing. It had morphed into an empty shell of despair, a chamber of hollow beats. There, I found nothing that would justify the next heartbeat.

A chilling breeze danced nearby; Death awaited. I could feel her mutable presence begging me to speed up the process. I was ready. How did it get to this moment? Did it matter? I didn’t require an answer. An answer made things complex. I heard the doorbell. I ignored it. It rang a second time, and a third, until it became noise. I placed the gun next to an empty picture frame. Somehow, I never got to place a picture in it. I counted twelve steps to the door. I opened it. I didn’t bother to bolt it anymore. I had no cares. I forced a smile. It almost hurt at the corners of my mouth. No one was at the other side to return my crooked smile. I looked around; no one was there. I stepped out on the front porch. No one was there.

I saw a splash of red fluttering to my left. A cardinal perched on the Forsythia bush surely made a nice contrast to the bright yellow buds. How did I never noticed that before? Something scurried up the old cedar tree. It was a squirrel, then came another, and they chased each other up and down the old cedar.

“That old cedar must have seen so much,” I mumbled.

I sat on the front steps. A crow marched unpretentiously on the horizon. It almost shimmered as the sun hit its feathers. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. How long had it been? A busy party of little brown birds scattered throughout the ground looking for food. A reddish wasp rested atop a chair, as if thawing from a frost or waking from a dream, its wings resting downward. The sun’s warmth felt good on my skin. Everywhere I looked I saw signs of life. Life was everywhere; I could see it if I cared to see it. I felt something fuzzy rubbing my leg in a rhythm.

“Where did you come from, lil’ fellow?”

The disheveled black kitten was skin and bones; I could count its ribs. It kept rubbing against my leg, and I could hear a faint purr becoming louder. It was so tiny. I picked it up and it nuzzled against my arm, then it nestled. I sat out there for a while. The kitten fell asleep in my arms, and I observed the rhythm of life around me.

“What am I going to do with you lil’ fellow? It looks like you will be needing me for a while, at least until you fatten and grow up a bit more.”

The crow restled with a worm until it came out of the ground. The squirrels moved on to another tree.

“What should I name you? Hum, let me think. Aha, you shall be called Rigor, but we’ll leave the mortis out; how is that?”

Rigor became my inseparable friend for the next 15 years. To all, he was a black cat; to me, he was life, and a constant reminder. During that time, I never found out who rang the doorbell.

The Story of Your Life

Photo by Maria Diaz

I believe we are open books, living stories. I believe that there is a book (the book of life) with our story and name in it, and we are free to fulfill that story or not (free will). Sometimes, it feels as if we are on track, everything goes so well and things flow accordingly. At other times, it feels as if every step we take is met by a struggle, a stumble, or a road block. Sometimes, it may feel as if one cannot move at all. Life block, I call it, similar to writer’s block.

The flow of life may not be smooth at times, but it is always constant. From the minute we open our eyes in the morning (or at night) we are making choices/decisions. From what to wear, eat for breakfast, or even if we will get up at all, get to work … to more complicated choices such as career, marriage, and many other issues. Every time we take a step forward (or backward) by deciding, whichever that might be, we are writing the story of our lives. However, it is not only about “me” because those choices/decisions cross over to other people’s lives. I may think that I am living “my life” but my story is intertwined with the story of others. It is happening right now, as I write this post. Someone out there will read it eventually, and will think about these words – our stories have crossed. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 Could not have said it better.

As writers, we love to make up stories; its is the air we breathe. However, the most important story we’ll ever write is our own.

When Reality Does Not Match Idyllic Expectations

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Crow on a foggy morning Photo by M.A.D.

The shiny crow

One nature’s note

The lovely sound

Of Autumn’s song.

 

We start to dream when we are children. We imagine fantastic worlds, magical places, dream  of toys, and in general, anything seems possible and attainable. As we grow up, we learn that things are not always as we imagined or hoped. We learn disappointment when we don’t get the toy we expected, or pain and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Other children learn these lessons on a more somber note, the death of a parent or friend, hunger, or abuse. Every person experiences life in a different way at a different level. However, we manage to keep on dreaming throughout adulthood, and many, up to the time of death.

We have idyllic expectations in life, and many times we are lucky enough to live many of those dreams. Sometimes what we have imagined, what we have carefully crafted in our minds, does not match the accomplished/realized dream. It is a total let down, another disappointment in life, and almost as if we never learned those childhood lessons. It is the theme of many stories. Writers experience disappointment when books do not sell as well as expected or hoped. In anything in life there are ups and downs, and those are necessary for growth, to take us to the next level through a natural flow. It is called living.

When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia (USA), I moved from the city to the country. I had idyllic expectations of what country living would be like, romanticized ideas as well – green pastures, grazing cows, rolling hills, fresh air, cozy winters … I can go on and on. Little did I know that the first year I would encounter a cloud of migrating lady bugs look-alike japanese beetles in our area, landing everywhere and looking for shelter before winter. These would arrive in waves throughout the day for weeks. At the same time, a large amount of alien bugs (alien to me that is) known as stink bugs was trying to do the same, look for shelter before winter. Autumn, my favorite time of the year had turned into a nightmare. I was not used to these insects nor was I used to these clouds in number, or any other type, as I had lived pretty much insect free for most of my life, being bugged by an ocassional spider or a lonely wasp. Mosquitoes were my only nuisance as I lived near the water. I was afraid to go outside during the “arrivals” and soon I learned to time their peak hours. Luckily their presence lasted less than a month, that is, until next season. Winter became my favorite time of the year. Cold weather meant no bugs. Spring became a bug fest as well, and for the first time I realized that there were so many, oh so many, insects I had never seen. Never did I experience so many types of wasps flying at once. Soon my closest neighbors became used to my screaming fits, and the occasional sight of a mad woman running through the field being followed by a giant wasp.

The idyllic expectations about country living gave way to reality. I told my friend that living in the country seemed to be more work than living in the city. Awareness became important as well. The other day I was heading out the back door to pick up my mail, and as I stepped down only two steps, a leaping deer crossed in front of me followed by another one, a very close call. Farm dogs were running after them, and being terrified, they were flying for their lives. I was so lucky; one more step and there would have been an unfortunate encounter with nature. I have seen the damage deer can cause to cars. On another occasion what I thought was a piece of black rubber left behind was a black snake.

The point to all this rambling is that at one point, when reality does not match idyllic expectations, we get to decide how we are going to set our focus, and that will determine the degree of “happiness or disappointment” as well as our next step in life. Do we focus on the less  than perfect image or do we start seeing the rest of the picture? So many other beautiful and interesting things can be found in it. I am starting to enjoy Autumn once more. Every day I see something different, from colorful and weird mushrooms to even four-leaf clovers. I have found four so far.

I always try to relate every blog post to the topic of writing. Maybe books are not selling as expected, and you are thinking about quitting writing, even when you love it so much. You are a story-teller and writing is like the air you breathe. Maybe you can adjust your focus away from profitability or recognition, and see the beauty in finding words to tell a story that has been sleeping in your imagination. The story that will be shared with the world, whether it makes you money or not. After all, if you love telling stories so much, and these stories have become alive inside the pages of a book, it only takes one reader to make them real. The purpose has been met. When reality does not match idyllic expectations move your eyes away and place them back on another spot.

 

Let’s Talk About Love

If I was to answer the question – What is the meaning of life? – I would answer it with one word, Love. Love is a main theme in my novels. I truly think that we are here to practice love, experience love, see love, give love, and eventually, become Love; all to be closer to our Creator. When I think about this, each one of us is a Love story in this universe. I think that animals and all nature exist as a portal to Love, so we don’t feel so removed from it. To truly love is not easy, but it is our deepest nature. Although some people might describe me as a loving person, in general, I think love doesn’t come easy to me. I’m a bit reserved and I don’t trust easily. I sincerely admire people who do, and seem to be heartily open to anyone. Some people seem to love so easily. I have to admit that through the years, after experiencing life – backstabbing, lies, people trying to use me, and seeing how humans turn against each other for the most frivolous and materialistic reasons, my trust diminished and my love is cautious.

One easy way to fall out of love a bit at a time is to watch the news everyday. It truly discourages any hope and faith we might have left, as far as the human race. Sometimes, it feels as if “the bad guys are winning,” to put it in simple words. Sometimes, love feels far away; other times, I wake up feeling as if the whole world hurts inside me. On other days, I wake up feeling the deepest love towards this planet and the people in it. It is puzzling to me. However I might feel in a particular day, one thing is very clear to me, and that is that Love is all there is, the universal truth, language, and reason. That, in itself, is reason enough to understand a bit of my existence. Love might or might not come easy to me or you, but we know that it is the purest expression, and something to cherish as  well as to give away. If I could only say one prayer to my Creator it would be – Let me be love.

My next novel, which title I have not decide on yet, deals exclusively with the theme of love. I leave you with a few lines of poetry I wrote after thinking about this.

Where is the Love?

 

North, South, East, West

In search of love,

the Earth I swept.

*

Nothing I found, empty my quest

buried my heart,

deep in my chest.

*

To God I asked, feeling unrest

How can I love,

when there’s none left?

*

His voice I heard, Love in itself.

You did not see,

you only searched.

*

Didn’t you see Love everywhere?

Amongst the thorns, a flower bloomed

Asleep the seed under the moon?

*

For you, a bird sang,

the night gently cried,

diamonds for you, the morning dew.

*

The sun, the moon

the sea, the stars, 

and the beat of your heart.

*

The song of creation, man, woman, and child

The seed deeply grows,

in everyone’s heart.

*

The newly born

A mother’s smile,

The hungry eating from another’s hand.

*

The tired old man on his death-bed sang,

the homecoming song,

ready to depart.

*

A man and his wife rebuilding a life,

A pastor at dawn,

Praying for his flock.

*

Infinite prayers from Earth fly above,

night and day I receive this love.

If you care to see, my child, you will see only Love.

 

When Crows Sing

I love crows. There is something different and genuine about those birds, unpretentious almost. I love their song, a sound that many people dislike, calling it a screech. Some might view crows as pesky, noisy, and not very graceful, in comparison to other birds. I enjoy watching them and it seems that we have many around this area. The area is classified as a bird sanctuary which I didn’t know when I moved here. It is a happy coincidence because the area where I used to live before was also classified as such. I saw many different types of birds which I enjoyed immensely. One of my favorite paintings is Krahe, from a German artist named Rudi Hurzlmeir. It depicts a crow wearing boots and walking through a plowed field. I don’t own a copy of this painting yet but one day  I will order one online because every time I look at a picture of it I smile, and that is a good thing.

A crow’s song also makes me smile. I guess if we look for it we can find beauty everywhere. The adage – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – says it well. In challenging times, it is very difficult to find beauty, but sometimes, finding one thing that is beautiful amongst all the ugliness that might surround us in trying times is the only way to get through. In dark times, a tiny ray of sunlight filtering in might be the only thing to focus on, the only beautiful thing to get us through. Darkness can only give way to light. When the crow sings, it might offer one beautiful note.

The View From Where I Stand

This morning I was writing at my desk, located on the second floor of the old farmhouse where I live, and I happened to look outside the window; I needed to rest my eyes. I love the view of trees from that standpoint; it feels as if I am inside a tree house. If you are familiar with the layout of the very old farmhouses (over 108 years) the upstairs almost has that barn feeling, the very low ceiling and the continuous bedrooms separated by one entry way. When heading upstairs I immediately land on the first bedroom, no landing or hallway. I love that feature, although impractical. The view from where I stand offers me peace and serenity, and for that I’m grateful.

There was a time when the view wasn’t as serene, and I mean it metaphorically. It was a challenging time, the most challenging so far, and I knew it could break me or make me. The days felt longer than they were, but as with any trying time, the view started changing and things got better and better; it is the nature of the test. Although I might have not liked the view (of the situation) from where I stood, I knew that God had my hand, and it was all temporary. Looking back, I understand many things I did not see before, and I can understand the view at the time as well.

Many times, life puts in front of us a view that is not what we hope for nor what we want at the time, but believe me, there is always a reason. Even when we want to close our eyes, the best thing we can do is keep them wide open and observe the situation/the process. The more we see, the more we confront, the better it is, and the process moves along as it should. It is part of going through the many “views of life.” It is all temporary.

On Purpose

Finding purpose seems to be a human purpose in itself. The quest that many times keeps us awake at night. What is my purpose in life? I used to ask myself that for so many years, and the answer seemed to elude me always. I engaged in many endeavors; pretty much, what I fancied at the time, I did. It was just a matter of doing it. I failed many times; I enjoyed many others, and so the tiny bits of happiness those endeavors brought. It seemed to me that once I was satisfied and “done” with something, I was on to something else. There was a sense of missing purpose in the back of my mind. Still is, but only at times. It presents itself as a question – am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? I remember telling someone who had been a teacher all her life, that I could not picture myself doing one thing for all my life. She told me, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Very wise woman.

It wasn’t until I read this biblical verse that things became more clear for me. I had read the same verse many times, and yet I never saw the connection until one day, when I was feeling a bit lost in my current at the time endeavor.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16)

What could be a bigger purpose than that? It doesn’t matter what I am doing at a particular time, as long as it serves that purpose. It is even bigger than I thought purpose could be for me. It is even intimidating, as filling those shoes is a quest in itself for such an imperfect me. When I read it, I understood that everything I do must cast a light that glorifies my creator. Wow, I thought; this is too big to even comprehend, and yet so simple and straight forward. It changed the way in which I view purpose now.

If you are searching for purpose, wherever you are in life, think about this verse. It will give meaning to it. Purpose won’t feel so far away or eluding you. I have written this verse on a card and placed it where I sit in the morning everyday, just so I don’t forget, because I tend to be an imperfect human who might forget her blessings at times. Someone who thinks that letting her light shine before men is challenging enough.

Elements of Transition

Transition – An instance or process of changing from one form, state, subject, or place to another. (American Heritage Dictionary

Life is full of periods of transition. From our conception until we die, we go through several stages during the evolution of our lives. We transition in decades, work, relationships, beliefs, likes and dislikes, appearance, and so on. It is so because we are alive. For some, there are transitional moments that present extreme challenges, and many times they come in the form of tragedy or sad news. These are defining moments. For some people, harder than for others. In any case, the outcome is defined during that process. I’ve been through many transitional moments, some easier than others, good and bad, and truthfully for the later, there were many times when I felt I didn’t know the answer, and as if I had run out of options, faithless, hopeless. I can look back at those transitional moments and see how many times the simple answer eluded me.

Pondering about these things, I was able to identify some elements or factors that might influence the duration and ease of the transition process. For the purpose of this post I will write referring to challenging and hard transitional times.

Time – Many times we feel that the catalyst to a transitional period could have not come at a worst time in our lives. We might think, why now? It is not fair. The nature of change is neither fair nor unfair; it just is. Our perception of timing is what labels it such; however, throughout the years, I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong time for change. God’s timing is perfect, even when we don’t understand it. Even when it may seem that our past actions/decisions might have caused or served as a catalyst for change. Time is human perception.

Money – Who on earth wouldn’t want a bit more of it? Unless you have taken a vow of poverty, money seems to be essential and necessary to live our lives, even if we have minimal expenses or few material desires. Money, whether in the shape of currency or any other form, seems to be necessary to propel forward. Many times, we feel that the lack of money prevents us from living our life and dreams. Although it is true that things flow easier when there is an abundance of money (at least in the perception of the material realm), lack of money should not define us. Money is a resource (as any other material instrument) to achieve something. However, during transition, we may feel that lack of money slows things down or even halts the process (hence the invention of credit). During this challenging period, it doesn’t occur to us that it is part of the transition, another piece to the puzzle, and not outside of it. Sometimes, in our most desperate moments money seems to have fallen from heaven at the right time.

Health/energy level – This concerns physical health as well as spiritual and mental health. When we feel good we have the disposition on taking on the world, but when we are not feeling 100% well, our perception of the situation changes. We feel that a situation is more difficult when we are not feeling well, are sick, or feel lost. The transition, whatever type, becomes insurmountable. Sometimes, we also experience a rush of energy to get us through, and it is only after we have gone through and looked back, that we can say, “I don’t know where from or how I got the strength to do _________ (fill the blank).

Past and new interests – Sometimes during transition, we undergo a self assessment that usually happens at the same time confusion/chaos sets in our minds. We start to discover that we have outgrown certain things, we have acquired other likes and dislikes, and other interests as well. The new you starts to emerge as part of the transition process. We have a glimpse of past and present, and even of what the future could be like. When we become clear of the things we don’t want anymore, but have been a constant in our lives, a series of emotions and feelings show up, making transition more or less difficult to deal with, however, necessary. The range of emotions/feelings seem to make things more complicated momentarily until we sort things out, discard what isn’t working, and decide, in order to move forward. There is no right or wrong length of time as it is part of the natural process of transition.

Failures/history/life experiences – Our past, our previous experiences, the labels we carry with us, our baggage, our personal history, seem to show up very loud during transition. Although it seems to make things more complicated or chaotic, it always comes with bits and pieces of insight and enlightenment, which seem to be necessary to propel us forward. Even when we seem to have lost faith when our history shows up, there is a switch that presents itself as a choice – to listen or not. It is when we choose to listen that we move forward. When we shut our eyes at the images that represent our history or close our ears to the sounds of it we are preventing our own evolution.

State of mind/attitude – We cannot be in a constant state of happiness or positivity; it is not natural. However, one can choose how to react to the challenge that is presented. The mood, the thoughts, the will are up to oneself. Of all the above mentioned elements, I’ve found that state of mind is the second most important during transition because it will determine much of the others. Our perception during a challenging transitional period might be clouded, but our attitude and disposition determine how bright the light on the other side shines through.

Faith – The personal beliefs we carry with us will support us during this time of transition. Our spiritual beliefs are there to comfort and guide us during transition. Even when we think we have lost hope and faith, those beliefs will show up in different ways to light up the path, so we find comfort and secure our step. This one, to me, is the most important of all the above mentioned elements of transition, and the one that influences all the others. Even when attitude fails, faith is there to pick us up.

These elements of transition are the ones I have identified during my transitional moments. There is no particular order to these, whether one or more, or even all at once show up during a transitional period. As a writer, I believe that transitional moments in life enrich my writing and help me portray characters and story in a more substantial way.

 

 

A New Season

Seasons change, and so do people. It is part of our human nature. We change views, places, appearance, and sometimes, beliefs. To be human is to be in constant change, and whether we realize it or not, we are in constant movement along with the universe. It is so simple, yet so profound.

I have changed throughout the years. I am not the same person I was as a child, or as a teenager, or as a young adult. A combination of factors in living produces a new me until the time of death, as far as earth time living goes.

Going through the many seasons of life is necessary, if not essential to our spiritual growth, and our humanity as well. Many times we are hard on ourselves, for many reasons; whether we miss a goal, fail at something or think we did, forgetting our many efforts at trying, and dismissing the trial and error time as of neither value nor purpose. Instead we label ourselves as failures, hopeless, or whatever label seems appropriate to our restless mind at the time. We forget the road traveled, and erase all our footprints, many times wandering in our minds and souls, and feeling a void, spiritually lost. “Not all who wander are lost,” said Tolkien, and that rings true today as at any time.

Many times, we feel that our guts, efforts, experience, resources, our timing, and everything around us is misaligned and does not suffice to attain whatever we felt was important then. The whole universe has conspired against us, we think; when in reality we have been part of that same universe that we label as outside ourselves. “All I have is me!”  we scream in anger, despair, and disappointment. “Me” as a sole proprietor of this body and mind, with disregard of the universal bond that unites all. Our human nature blinds us, and many times renders us paralyzed, fearful, broken. The same human nature that we count on to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. We grab positive thinking books, one after the other, in an attempt to fix what is “wrong with me” and light up the skies once more. We don’t realize that the darkness we feel and label as an outside-in source that is there to harm us, is our dismissal of the light we carry in us. It is dark; I forgot to turn the light on.

It is a new season, full of labels, but a new season indeed. It is always a new season.

Outlook

OutlookA place where something can be viewed. The view seen. A point of view or attitude. Prospect, expectation. – American Heritage Dictionary

As the new year starts, many people have looked back and reviewed the past year, their dreams and goals, where they are now in life, what was, what is, and what will be, and have set new goals, and embraced a new start; it is the tradition. Starting the year with a new outlook is not a bad idea. It renews hope, and refreshes the spirit. The end-of-year rituals prepare us for a new beginning, and new expectations. From our place or point of view, we take in the view – what was, is, will be – and we embrace a new attitude in the new year. So many things to do, to act on, to live, and to observe – 365 days of wonder, of outlook, of being, and of will be, of life.

To live each day like the only day. Many of us have heard this adage. It is beautiful, deep, insightful. However, I ask myself, “how would I live my only day?” To answer this requires outlook – consideration of where I am, what I see, attitude, and even expectation on this “only day.” If it takes an only day to live like that, why not a lifetime? Why not?

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

My best wishes to you for 2018.