Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Servant

He had served for many generations .

He had served as was his nature, without hesitation, with complete dedication.

He always gave the best that was in him and he never lost sight of his mission.

To serve. To serve the boy, the youth, the adult that was put under his care and protection.

And when his man died, he wept in grief; and then, mostly in joy, helped him on his way.

The cry of a new born baby always announced his next mission. His baby, his mission.

He stood by, never seen, rarely acknowledged, always firm in his protection.

He was true to his nature, he could but do otherwise. Always respectful. He could, and did, protect as long as his protection was accepted. No matter what.

At first he thought the best times were the early days before adulthood. Then he realized he always loved his mission, his man.

He met fellow servers. Some were joyous and seemed to shine. Others were sad, a shadow of the light they used to be. But they all unfailingly gave there utmost. It was in their nature.

One day when his latest charge, a boy named Nicholas, was still quite young, he felt his light begin to fade.

He didn't understand. The child was special so it couldn't be. There was something so pure within this child, so simple, so full of love that the protector felt protected.

He talked with the child, and perhaps more importantly, the child talked with him.

As he felt his light fading, he knew he had to leave. He had to go quickly before he went completely dark.

He was torn between his sense of obedience and his mission to serve and protect.

As the boy got into bed and said his prayers, the servant felt his light shine for a brief moment with greater force.

The child was smiling at him as he said "Goodnight".

"Goodnight, Nicholas" he whispered back.

The child turned over on his side and hugged his teddy bear.

As the night drew on, the servant felt weaker, as if he was being pulled upward and away.

He struggled desperately, and as he did he drew closer to the boy. With his finger he touched the teddy's forehead.

When he was next aware, he was dazzled by His presence. He forgot where he came from, where he was going and melted into a state so blissful it cannot be described.

Once in a while a vague memory flashed by. Each time he tried to catch it, but failed.

He then noticed as he recovered his light, that he was incomplete. He looked around and realized he had permission. After all, he was free and could choose.

His light was strong, stronger than it had ever been. His mind was clear, his heart was full. Or nearly full.

The servant looked down and with a sense of joy realized he looked upon the boy who was asleep.

The child lay on his side with his arm around his teddy. The teddy was looking up at the servant, with a smile on his face. They looked at each other for a moment and then the teddy wrapped his arms a little closer round the boy and smiled mouthing a silent "Thank You".

That night the child dreamed. He dreamed of being a boy living the greatest adventure of all time. And the marvel of it all was that he had the most fantastic thing one could hope for.

He had two friends. His Teddy walking by him, and his other friend. A friend with shining light and bright wings.

His Angel Friend.

His Guardian Angel.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Too many teachers say that.

It is frustrating. Adults say that sort of thing to make kids shut up.

The first time someone said that to me, I flushed in embarrassment while the other kids laughed at me.

Have you noticed, most jokes make fun of someone. People laugh at ... not with ...

My second thought was “Poor cat”.

I tried to imagine a cat hearing a noise. As he goes to investigate, his curiosity aroused, he finds the granddad of all rats (with a curious resemblance to my teacher). He overpowers the cat, squashes him, humiliates him, and then eats him.

The image of the frightened cat, hissing, hair on end and the smug look on the rat’s face followed me around.

Curiosity has probably been the driving force behind human development. If we didn't become extinct can you imagine how boring life would be?

A life without “why” would also be a life without “because”. Without questions, “how”, “what”, “when”, who”.

Aside from an absense of journalists, we would be very dull indeed.

I always saw this cat been eaten and surrounded by a group of smaller rats laughing away, as if it were the greatest joke of all time.

Then one day I saw the cat, who heard a noise, investigate and come upon Grand Rat. He froze. His hair stood on end. He hissed.

Grand Rat puffed up into a monstrous being.

The cat knew he was done for so he attacked, slashing with his claws.

Grand Rat deflated as rancid air flushed out of him, making him grow smaller and smaller. Pathetic Rat could no longer hold his head up.

The cat walks tall with a smirk on his face.

“Curiosity killed the cat!” he said to me.

“And satisfaction brought him back” I shouted.

The giggles were aimed at the teacher.

There was a price to pay.

But I walk with a smirk on my face.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Path With A Heart

I dreamed time was a train passing by while I stood on a platform. I tried to catch it but it zoomed by. Yesterday was gone.

As I looked back another one was coming. It passed me by again.

I realized I hadn't bought a ticket. I was there for a free ride.

The man behind the ticket counter looked familiar. He smiled as if he knew me. I asked for a ticket; he asked me where I was going.

I turned away as as the tracks rattled. A new one approaching. It didn't stop.

The ticket man waited patiently. I looked into his eyes and became lost within. I was falling inside them, through a screen with moving pictures of trains I had lost and trains I had caught going nowhere.

He pulled me out and told me not to stay there - the past was gone.

He showed me a map of stations. They had peculiar names, "Future Bliss", and "Wrong Turning", and "Empty Space".

One station called out to me. It was the right one. "A Path With a Heart".

The ticket man laughed, looking familiar, and said it was expensive and could I afford the price.

I looked into his eyes and was surprised. An older but happier me.

I nodded and began to climb in. He said "All aboard" and waved.

Time is on a train; the tracks are made of gold as I travel on a path with a heart.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Time To Be …

One year I visited a fishing village off the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Virtually unknown to tourists, few neighbors and a small local population.

It has a small natural harbor where the daily rendezvous with the sea takes place amongst the fishermen. Small boats carry nets, gallons of water and gas for the outboard motor. A crew of two, sometimes three.

I watch them leave in silence before dawn and again at sunset. At night a series of dots light the sea, a curious reflection of the sky above.

Sun burnt bodies with strong muscle bound arms and legs pull the boats on and off the beach, sliding over weather beaten logs.

Sea birds receive the boats on their daily trip once they clear the harbor.

I wonder about their conversation in between long spells of silence.

A quiet life, a hard life; lived in an ordinary way.

The crews are between fourteen and sixty – maybe more, maybe less; either way. Wrinkled eyes hold a steady look.

As I leave the harbor walking to the empty and seemingly eternal beach, I ask myself about their apparently subdued life, and admire their discipline and dedication. Day in day out.

But there is another side to this life, a side that strangers rarely see. A passionate side that flares up in a moment and then again disappears. I have the impression it is always there, smoldering beneath their outward calm.

I occasionally hear whispered rumors of tragedy and violence. Never more than a whisper. Life is lived and played under the shadow of a closed community. The outer world lives in ignorance of the village. Perhaps rightly so.

The highlight of their lives is reduced to the religious ceremonies surrounding family and village celebrations. Each boat, each house, each store has a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, lit candles at her feet and flowers decorating primitive altars.

At night the few lights of the village are turned on and groups of men slowly begin to gather and casually stroll beyond the main street – a street I naively think is the only one around.

The bars are opening. The largest, with the flashy lights and blaring music, attracts its first customers. It is run by an older man, with the helping hand of young apprentice fishermen and imported girls in scanty clothes. The owner a mystical being, never seen and far away.

The news is that the crew from a visiting shrimp trawler has arrived. Men prepare for a rowdy night. The upstairs rooms will click away all night.

Dark skins, colorful lights, loud music lamenting love’s betrayals, much beer and occasional rum. A fist or two and a knife is recklessly flashed in macho bravado. Then the steady hum of loud conversation that is briefly interrupted by laughter, by cursing and a new fight.

The mood settles down; orders for more beer which are delivered and drunk.

I stand by the bar, a teenager trying to look older and manly, as the captain of the shrimper engages me in conversation. A good trip, a good catch and time to unwind and celebrate with his worthless crew – a phrase belied by the parental looks he gives them. We exchange toast to our health, to love, to life and the sea - for she is a vain creature.

Another crew appears. Their’s has not been a good trip and tempers are on a short leash. Rivalary, built over many voyages. My friends’ pockets full of cash are a provocation.

The new captain comes up with eyes red from staring at the sea, seasoned with rum and smoke. He pushes through and stands next to me. I vainly try to ignore him but he places a strong hand on my shoulder and swings me round to face him. An even stronger hand moves me aside.

I always wondered what a real barroom brawl is like. Vague memories remain – a brief moment of fear, a surge of adrenalin and I am ready to take on the world. Fists start flying; mine quite useless as it glances of a chin. A couple of arms pick me up from behind and as I struggle the gentle voice of my friend, the second mate, tells me to relax. He carries me behind the bar and vaults over laughing as his feet crash into a face.

It last a few seconds; it lasts hours. Everyone is victorious and is willing to fight to prove it. The rivalry is buried under more beer. The new captain proclaims me a friend, pulls out a knife and slashes the palm of our hands which we clasp together. We are blood brothers.

A small fishing village, off the Pacific coast of Mexico. A quiet village.

A place to remember with brothers and friends never to be seen again.

Ordinary Things

Jumping out of bed and having a good stretch.

Kissing the one you love. A good strong hug from your kids. A phone call to your mother.

A nice long shower. A trip to the country. Following a butterfly. Watching a humming bird. A breeze across your face.

Watching and hearing a storm as you snuggle up in bed, covered up and in darkness.

A silly joke. A dinner out. A concert. A meal with friends.

A bug walking along the wall. Your dog wagging its tail.

Early at work. Doing all you planned. An early night with the family.

Prayer. Writing in your blog. Reading a poem.

Tripping over in the rush of life … and getting up again.

Making fun of yourself. Sharing. Feeding the cat. Playing cards with your kids. Losing.

Telling stories. Repeating the same stories. Your audience anticipating your jokes.

Taking a walk holding hands with your wife.

Being aware of every waking moment. Living each second completely. Going to sleep.

Doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well.