Dank and dreary

CandleWhy is it when the weather turns dank and dreary so does the mind? As I age into what I believe to be some of the best years of my life, and am experiencing one of the truly best years of my life, I do understand, now, how the lack of sunshine and the amount of stressful events – both good and bad – can effect ones psyche. For years I taught such theories knowing they exist, but it takes experiencing stress reactions to present a broader empathetic consternation with the “feelings.” In other words, one can get downright ugly. That’s how I felt last night – remarkably, after a wonderful week – and I have tinges of the same foreboding this morning. Yes it is still raining and yes it is dark out, but beyond the obvious, this feels deeper. There seems to be a rift in me I can’t explain. Perhaps it’s the quandary of the unknown. While my manuscripts are being reviewed, I feel powerless over my life. I am writing a new novel, I am carrying on in the positive with meetings and movements of advancement, but this cycle of bad neurotransmitter release won’t go away. In her guidance and counseling, my wife has experienced this many times in the past and has taught me to sit with the feelings and see where they take me. Not to the extreme of the dark side, but to explore and contemplate. In my roustabout past, tents went up and covered many an emotion with some reaction of  behavior I often would come to regret; TomLakeSuperior2016however, that was before I had found writing and rediscovered my arts. Writing is certainly something that begins to shake the brain chemicals. Exercise does as well, but that has worked less the last couple of weeks. Painting seems to etch me from the lowest points to a new map of discovery through color and texture, but it is the written word that wins. Lastly, I also feel emotions around me to an extent I know now is earthshaking. I do mean that literally. I know all my life I have felt energy and auras of people close and far, but in my retirement and examination of self, these sensory perceptions have become much more visible on the horizon. In this discussion, I’m not sure if it’s the mood of the community and country, or if it’s some related, impending happening. Whatever the case, the new novel, “Jesus Walked Down My Alley” has been an appropriate vehicle to parlay that negativity into something that is weaving its way through plot and character to explain what I’m experiencing in the world around me. I shall work through the day to see a blue sky above the clouds and enlighten my spirit. Until that occurs, I shall write.NewStudio2

Mourning Before Death: The Penny

ArlingtonOntheRail03032016Over the last 5 years, I’ve spent thousands of hours researching and writing “The Penny,” and while it continues in review, there is sad news: “Frank,” who in real life is my father-in-law, Henry “Bud” Harper, is dying; so, I am officially mourning before death. He is under the care of hospice and his family, and my emotions ebb and flow throughout the day as I wrestle with reactions to his impending death. Bud is quiet and lying in a hospital bed in his living room, and I wonder what traverses his mind. What may make him grimace or smile? What parade of scenes and portfolio of memories gravitate from the synapses as one closes out 92 years? He is at home with memorable scents, with memorable voices around him, and the aura of comfort surrounded by a familiar four walls. His family visits. They chat and watch while reminiscing through travels and travails of life around the world with their Air Force Colonel father. Next to him, I imaginePenny there’s a picture of Penny, his wife of 59 years, who held court whenever she was in the room. And she’s there with him, now. Nestled in his thoughts, she glances up from the pool table at the Red Dragon in Kansas City. She laughs loudly behind a babuska and sunglasses while driving with no windshield through France and Germany. There are tears when she reviews her grave-site at Andersonville prior to her death. Then there is her lifeless body next to him when she passed in her sleep some 9 years ago. He wishes the same. The alarm clock he’s set for years won’t go off one morning and he’ll know he’s passed next to Penny. The children will carry forth both spirits, and the life of Bud and Penny Harper will never be forgotten for generations to come. Through some of the most difficult and ever-changing times of history, they persevered to raise a family that exists in love and togetherness. My grief will extend and my love of “The Penny” will grow stronger. I only hope the world will come to know the story. Peace, Bud. It’s been an absolute pleasure.Dad_Christine

A Day in the Studio

NewStudio2My days are most often filled with calm and contentment especially when it’s a day in the studio. The colors around Little Traverse Bay have been at a peak, and even while the gale winds of November arrive early and blow waves fifty feet into the air at the break-wall, the leaves on shore hang on for one more photo; for one more long lusty glare into the ebb of fall and incoming tide of winter. I went out on that very break-wall and stood for several minutes to feel the force of the wind and the drenching waves. So very exhilarating. My view from the studio is the same. I can watch the waves from a distance and write till my heart’s content before wandering home to make cocktails for the parlor and make dinner for the evening. The wind and the waves provide a reminder of Nature’s power; of the minuscule pieces of dust that we are within the ever-expanding Universe, and when in the studio, or at home, I feel grateful to be a part of it all. I worked on chapters of the new novel, today; helped a friend find a poem for a deceased father, and put finishing touches on the weekly blogs I write for various  groups. Today I sat in my blue leather pub chair with my feet up on the ottoman and did two crossword puzzles, and caught up on the local news. I don’t have internet – on purpose – so as not to get distracted, and I listen to classical music from WCMU on my little transistor radio. No joy is greater than to be in the confines of that studio knowing my time is my time. I would say I’m a lucky man, and I feel that way, but I also know what I’ve gone through in my life to be where I am. Living an authentic life with having everything I need within walking distance rounds out the promenade of a daily routine. A day in the studio is a divine reverence to a lost soul that was found again, and a thirsty mind with a place to quench the soul.PetoskeyBreakwallWindy

Serendipity

book-pileMost everyone I have met in my writing career has come to me by way of serendipity. That is to say, I started a writing career on my own, with no mentor, no history, and no connections, and at each turn have found someone who leads me around the next blind corner. That same magic seems to be happening again. Currently I am in Iowa City –  the only city in the United States given the title of “City of Literature” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – and the 9th annual Iowa City Book Festival is underway. Of course this is also the home of the famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop. While here, I am still awaiting word on two novels I have under review and have started a third, and the impetus to write seems to be circulating through the aura that surrounds my waking moments. The connectivity in the air around literature is exhilarating to say the least. And as a current theme to past writings, of late, the connectivity to my being here is on the fringes of the unbelievable. In short, I would not be here if it weren’t for Penny McFadden – the person whom The Penny is written about. It is her niece that is getting married in Iowa City! I wasn’t going to attend any of the conference gatherings, but Christine pushed me into a discomfort zone of listening to authors, editors, and publishers, once more, tell the horror stories of getting published on the big stage. But the serendipity took over, and I woke my brain to acceptance. The divergent path taken to arrive here has been too many years in the making to let my ego and sensitivities get in the way; thus I shall attend a full line-up tomorrow. Until then, I ply my craft in a new book entitled: “Jesus Walked Down My Alley.” No hints, but it’s a sequel to my latest, “Moving Tables,” and continues the tales of Frank Flannigan and his restaurant in Brow Point, Michigan. You never know where life takes you, so make sure your eyes and ears are open to let your brain soak it all in.endupinmynovelbutton

Writing from the heart

2008DpennyWriting from the heart has become a persistent method for me. In my journalism, in my blogs, and in my novels, writing what I know and feel is a joy. The task of learning the craft of writing, while difficult, and the evolution of the results has provided evidence to me that both soulfulness and mindfulness work, not only in my personal life, but when reporting and formulating stories. In “The Penny,” I am able to tell the story of individuals (including my wife and me), while at the same time learning more about life and more about where my soul is directed. Writing from the heart allows me to look into me – sometimes through other people. When writing characters, there are real people represented and not just in their own personality, but in how they relate to me or effect the world around me. I take that very seriously. I also make sure people are okay with that prospect and often have them read their parts and/or make comment for change. I have found that I am much more in-tune with my community, in rhythm with Nature, and most importantly, able to provide a connection between many. I write often about that last statement, but only after sending off another novel to the Universe, and enjoying the company of hundreds over the last month, did I really want to put those thoughts into words. Ethereal, tangential, and abstract? Perhaps. But I am sincere in my feelings. Writing from the heart is a proven method of many an author, many a poet, and for actors, acting from the heart is what makes great actors great. Sure, we all sometimes take a breath and work our way through scenes of the day that aren’t always authentic, but writing from the heart allows me to practice authenticity. If you pick up a pen and practice, maybe in a journal, or on a keyboard sending a note, let your heart and soul direct the way. Watch how connections to the world around you spring forth. Don’t be afraid. Jump into the fray and feel the warmth.endupinmynovelbutton

We are All Connected

e-pluribus-unumOver the month, I’ve been editing and rewriting my next novel, “The Penny,” and I’ve come to believe, even more, that we are all connected. In “The Penny,” there is a thread of two lives that stream together over many years, and as their lives intertwine, the connectedness of life around them comes to light. I believe under our current circumstances within the borders of the United States, we have lost all connection to each other. For some reason, and with some diabolical force among us, we’ve lost the vision that when we act as one, positive reactions occur. People feel cared for, resilient, and work toward a common good. That has all but vanished. What’s worse is a feeling, no, a premonition, I keep waking-up to that until something horrible happens, we won’t shake this dismantling of our humanness. Yes, humanness. Essentially at this moment in time we are animals roaming for the protection of some and looking for the food of evil that stokes the next hunt. Pack animals become territorial and kill those not invited. We have become this. We have become so unconnected that humankind threatens itself from not only blowing up each other, but blowing up the environment of Mother Earth so that a few more dollars can be squeezed into the white viral corpuscles of the ruling class. The balderdash that we will prosper with more jobs and more economic growth only facilitates the evil we have become. How about some responsible social capitalism where those who can prosper more than others do, but the rest of society actually sees and feels the benefit? There will always be great minds that take society forward. There will always be worker bees, and there will always be drones to ward off attack, but shouldn’t they all work together for the good of the whole? Why is it that the most primitive of insects can pull this off? The more advanced we become the less connected. The less loving and compassionate. Waking to a nightmare of loosing touch with my fellow-man scares the hell out of me, but I’m watching it happen as soon as I step into the streets and crowds. I can feel the nothingness as I pass by people not smiling, not saying hello, and afraid of what is going on in their neighbor’s thoughts. My pleadings can only see the daylight of civility through the written word and my actions around my own town. Perhaps you can practice where you live. I suspect life would become easier and less pressured. But please, don’t measure the comfort by amounts of money. If we do, the cycle begins anew. And if you bring religion into the fray, do so with the compassion for everyone and not just people like you. We’re all different and that is the best part of our humanness.

TaylorHortonCreek

The Loss of Civility

QIn our little corner of the world, vacationers flock by the thousands growing our tiny hamlet from about 6,000 people in the winter to around 50,000 in the peak of the summer – but why the loss of civility? Those are just the folks returning to resorts and vacation homes. That doesn’t count the daily flow of people twisting necks to look at Lake Michigan and parking throughout the evening to watch the million dollar sunsets we’re so famous for. I believe every year, in some form or fashion, I comment on how people don’t vacation the way they used to. I’ve bored you enough with people being “wired,” but the swearing at teenage servers, howling at bartenders, spitting vitriol at hotel staff and retail operators has gone way too far. If your drunk, go home quietly or stay home and drink. If you complain about the food and service everywhere you go, stay home and cook. If you have ten dogs on a leash, don’t be surprised if facilities can’t handle the load – especially around people eating. If you have 13 people and don’t make reservations, don’t yell at the person on the other end of your voice trail when you can’t be seated. Don’t call seventeen year old young ladies bitches. Don’t spit booze at them when your yelling. I could go on and on. If your on vacation, lose the schedule; take off the watch; and for god’s sake, be nice to people. If you wonder why teens and young adults won’t fill some of these jobs, you only have to look into the mirror and see the reason why.

The Waiting Game

DomViolPictureSo, I have one book in review and another in edit, thus I play the waiting game. I am encouraged and delighted that my work has found its way to people who would like to absorb the words and understand the person behind the construction. I am reveling in the fact that one of the editors suggested I have done well with the craft of writing. All of that being said, it’s still the waiting game. In the mean time, I write for various publications and have meandered into another book outline. I also have become a people watcher again. Through airports, restaurants, and various areas where people congregate, I watch as people don’t talk. I watch as people parade around with a phone like they’re robots directed by electricity. I fully admit that through the years I’ve commented very pedantically on the subject, but I really do believe it’s getting worse. While I bide my time with hobbies, writing and gardening, I swear to the Universe that others stare into a phone as if their life depended on it. They walk down the sidewalk staring at it. They drive staring at it. They sit in a crowd and stare rather than converse or look around at the scenery. Who are they? Kids, parents, grandparents, you name it. I really notice these behaviors most in airports. Now I suggest that their reading on a phone is much like a book or newspaper, but with the ear buds connected and the Facebook pages being thumbed and the emails being read and the instant messages being sent, I say it’s more than a book or newspaper. It’s being wired. The waiting game has been removed from most people, and instant connections only assist in taking away thoughtfulness and calm. While nervous and anxious to have my latest two books awaiting someone else’s decisions, I will certainly respect that wait and make use of the time. But I will also enjoy not being wired into instant whatever. I like to be engaged in conversation – even during my most misanthropic days – and I thoroughly enjoy perusing my surroundings and the environs I attend. Maybe for one day, a person could try to live without the blasted phone; maybe for one day the person could read and look up to smile and see the sky; maybe…nope. They’re gone.

Search for God

StFrancisChurchIn my everyday search for God and a connection to this Earth, our Universe, flora, fauna, and mankind, I have become very aware of a subtle change in my approach to finding that serenity. I have found it less about a God like figure and more about the reality of what we know. I am not an atheist nor am I an agnostic, but I believe our God is a Universal force that remains a mystery. Perhaps that sounds confounding or maybe even more common, but what I’ve come to realize is a disconnection with my community. I am a Roman Catholic from birth and have done everything there is to do in the Church except become a priest. My father took great joy in his activities as decorator of the altar, Minister of the Eucharist, Usher, Mom & Dad Club president, you name it, he did it. So did I. He had a sense that life revolved around his religion. I stopped that feeling several years earlier the more I educated myself about the Church, its history, and the following now present within my community. I took special efforts to see through the ultra-conservative demonic racism and sexism I witnessed, and even tried to rationalize it away as learned behavior that should be forgiven, but the behaviors only worsened through the last several election cycles. There seemed to be a permission given to those who protect their sanctity and ideals by slaying other’s rights and beliefs. In some instances to the point of outright ridicule hoping to create a one, and only one, way of life devoid of any type of diversity. Along those lines traverse economic and acceptance principles that are so Darwinian it makes me shudder to wonder what side of the crest I fall within the minds of the new ultra-right religious. I feel more comfortable in the woods or on the water than I do a church. TahqaRiverKayakfishingI feel more connected to life and energy around me by actually being out and about instead of cloistered and huddled within a tight group of people who hate others. Hate is a strong word, but that tight group of people will claim they can accept anyone different, but they can’t. They make choices to avoid and cancel others out as if they don’t exist. Is their God, Savior, and religion that cruel? I know they believe it to be the “only way”, but how Christian is that to essentially not care if others exist or not? That may sound rather crass and harsh, but that is the feeling one gets, and I can say actually heard and witnessed, if one is an outsider. The arrogance and misanthropic attitude will be the underpinning toward the destruction of a way of life so many try so hard to keep bottled up. And, at least for the Catholic’s, the Vatican is richer than most nations while many die of starvation. The Church has continued rules and catechisms that have protected child rapists and sexual deviants within their own ranks for centuries – and have yet to change those rules or beliefs – yet wish to prosecute everyone for everything and throw away the key, including a belief, by many, in the death penalty. My ramblings may be just that to most, but I for one have grown more appreciative of my fellow human being and found a more depth of spirit outside my Catholic religion. I hope where ever you are in your search for serenity and tranquility, you find a similar space. I only hope that what ever path that is, acceptance and love become the most used words in your vocabulary.e-pluribus-unum

Biding time on a Thursday

Old studioWhile biding time on a Thursday afternoon in May, I wonder what life will be like come September. I’ve been quietly working behind the scenes of two blogs, continuing a couple of columns for local fare, and beginning today, I add a new weekly story. It won’t actually go into publication until Memorial Day week, but it pays to stay ahead. The biggest news is a new office in a historic downtown building. From that perch, I shall begin to work on the two novels in front of me. Both have gone through first edits and it’s time to move them up the queue. I never used to bide my time, but patience, I have learned, is a true virtue. In honing my writing acumen and experimenting with style and circumstance, I can honestly say I’m ready for the big show. Since my advanced degrees do not include an MFA, nor do I tout advanced journalism creds or best-selling national rag publications among the attributes of my CV, I needed to hoe the rocky road until it evened out. The office makes it official. I have loved the studio I created at home, but it’s gotten a little small and I wanted a view of Lake Michigan. Thanks to a good friend, June 1st will be the big move. I haven’t carried a computer or briefcase to an office in seven years. Doing so, I believe, will take me away from the daily machinations of home chores and worries I should be doing something else besides writing. It also helps that my writing is paying enough to make such a move. Instead of fits and starts from publishing through book signings and sales, income now outweighs expenses. Phew! Nothing of this sort could happen, however, without the wonderful assistance of a wonderful partner and son who has so sincerely helped me catapult into yet another career that allows enough flexibility to take care of everyone in my life. And it is to all of those people I shall devote the next several years of my life, making sure daily wants and lifelong desires don’t go without hope. As I’ve practiced for the last nine years, I shall continue paying forward the Universal blessings showered upon me. Biding time over. It’s time to write.