Shining Star

image source:uww.edu

image source:uww.edu

I read somewhere that scientists equate the universe to the ticking of a big clock whose mechanism is losing energy, winding down to a stop.  They give it complex explanations of thermodynamics, entropy and kinetic energy, but essentially, the universe began with a fixed amount of energy and in every second of the millennia, that energy is being used and will not be refueled.  So, the stars are burning out, giving off their heat as they become unavailable energy and the universe will go dark and cold and dead.

You and I, we’re finite, begun by the creative power of the sperm fertilizing the egg and once planted, all factors being correct, the little seed grows until it must burst forth from the womb, then nurtured and cared for, the little life grows into adulthood.  We’re refueled to some degree along the way by sleep and food but there is a point at which our life’s clock begins its winding down and the once smooth skin in its blush of youth and beauty ever moves on to a yellow/grayish pallor, deeply lined and creased, our bones and muscles achy and creaky, our organs losing their ability to function and in the end, we lie in the coffin inert, powerless, done, finished, gone.

Some things about the way we grow and then wind down seem a little bizarre, I mean really, why would a creator make your eyes at birth about 2/3rds their adult size and have them stop growing sometime in your late teens or early twenties, but make your ears and nose so that they just keep on and keep on growing?  Now that’s weird, right?  I mean you’ve seen those old people with really big noses and ears, haven’t you?  Like, how attractive is that?  And what about all that old people ear and nose hair that somebody should trim?  Creepy.  Maybe that’s just God’s sense of humor.

We have all this wound up energy in the beginning and we take in sustenance and the growth is fueled into muscles and strength and we’re taught to harness that power.  People once believed one should harness their resources to create beauty, build great buildings or expansion bridges or city infrastructures or rockets that fly out into space or develop the technology to live on the bottom of the ocean; and all these great advances took energy and creativity and hard work and had to be funded at great expense by someone who had worked hard to create immense wealth.

At least at one time that was the goal.  Now, I’m not so sure.  We seem more takers than givers these days.  The wound up energy that believed we could dominate nature and could create great societies, could build a tower of babble, could reach the moon, could triumph over all disease and inequality and oppression; is that energy gone?  Expended to never return?

You might not think so when you look around.  I mean, nearly everyone you see has the latest technology in their ear bud, at their fingertips with ipads, ipods, iphones.  We’ve all got cell phone chargers and microwaves and cars that could go fast were it not for traffic.  We’ve got what we need to thrive in a modern world, right?  To make that world better, agreed?  I wonder.

image source:WilliamWilberforce.the marginalized.com

image source:WilliamWilberforce.the marginalized.com

And what did William Wilberforce have in the late 1780’s until his death in 1832 to use to fight against human slavery?  Consider this, packaged toilet paper wasn’t even available until about twenty-five years after he died.  I’m not sure I could conquer the world without toilet paper.  How about you?  That didn’t stop Wilberforce.  He had that life force, the wound up energy we’re all born with and he harnessed it until his force ran out at age 74.  Perhaps more to the point was not when he lived and what advantages or disadvantages he lived with, but that he had a purpose, a goal, a great driving force that told him it was wrong for one person to own another person as a slave.  Not that his convictions were easy.  He came up against a huge money-making machine that fought long and hard to keep its power and control, but eventually, the rightness of his cause won out and on his death-bed, his bill to end slavery in the British Empire was passed.  It became effective throughout the empire about a year after he died.  Talk about energy living on, the purpose of Wilberforce’s beliefs lives on today.

image source:scienceblogs

image source:scienceblogs

Without a great purpose, what’s the point of my life’s energy?  I will go dark at some point.  You will go dark.  Maybe the burning out stars are a clue.  They light up the sky; their very existence means at one point their energy began and they fulfilled their purpose.  Are we not the same?  Created with a life force?  The challenge is to find my purpose, do my creating, change my world as I go along.  Take the risk to search for meaning, for reason to be.  Become the Wilberforce in my part of the universe.  Be that shining star.

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And in this corner…….

image:alsplumbing

image:alsplumbing

The hot water faucet in Mother’s bathroom sink has been dripping for weeks.  Other urgent projects have filled my days and pushed this one aside, not that I can ever forget it.  The water bill reminds me as does Mother at least once a day.  But now, house clean, out of town guests come and gone, I can concentrate on this task.

Best to start by looking at an online video of how to repair a leaking faucet that appears simple enough, so I find pliers and head to the bathroom.  Getting it apart is not as simple as the video appears but after several trips back and forth to get additional tools, another look at the video, tries of various washers from a box of assorted items to repair leaky faucets, I finally get the whole thing back together.  It’s no longer dripping; now it runs a constant small stream.  My determination to be fiscally responsible and frugal has been met with failure.  My frustration at being thwarted is at the boiling point.  I will not give up.  I will get satisfaction from overcoming the obstacles of a ninety year old house.

 “Mother, I’ve turned the hot water off under your bathroom sink,” pliers, wrench, screwdrivers and rubber gloves fill my hands.

“How will I wash my face and teeth before I go to bed?”  She stops stirring the pot of Great White Northern Beans and stares at me.

“I’ll go to Home Depot tomorrow but until then, I can turn it back on for you.”  I dump all the tools back in the small catch-all box under the kitchen sink.

One of the art experts on “Antiques Roadshow” is talking about a platinum and diamond bracelet and Mother forgets the turned-off hot water in her bathroom.

I staggered out of bed earlier today to take a pill and remembered Mother’s faucet but when I opened the cabinet to turn the valve off, I realized the faucet wasn’t dripping.  She must have turned it off after I went to bed.  Hours later, I’m engrossed in an online discussion with other writers over pieces we’ve each submitted when I hear a faint sound.  High pitched, like a child.  I listen hard.  Is that my name?

“Vicky.  Vicky.”

I jump up and hurry from the office, through the kitchen, then the dining room and into the hall towards Mother’s closed bathroom door.  The closer I get, I can tell it’s her calling me.  “Vicky. Vicky.”  It sounds almost a wailing, like a small child calling for a parent.

I expect the worst as I throw open the bathroom door.  Mother is half sitting-half lying on the floor, her feet tangled in the pink bathroom rug, the sink cabinet doors open, the hot water faucet running just as it was yesterday.

“Did you fall?”  I reach down to help her steady into a sitting position.

“No.  I was trying to turn off the water.  I tried to bend down, but I couldn’t reach under the sink and now I can’t get up.”  She keeps struggling, trying to get her feet under her.

“Ok.  Breathe deeply.  Sit still until I can get a small stool to put under your bum.”  We’ve been here before.  Once she’s down, she has no strength in her legs and arms to get herself up and I can’t lift her, so she has to come up in stages.

She’s finally up and with a snack and some Royal Jelly nutrient to calm her nerves, she has stopped shaking.

“I can’t believe that wore me out so badly.”

“No more getting down anywhere, Mother.”  I clean out the faucet aerator on her sink, which was going to be her next project, if she had been able to unscrew it from the faucet.

My frustration does battle with my determination.  I will persevere.  I will conquer the tasks that need doing in this old house.  I will emerge triumphant.  I don’t have the skills or the right tools, but I will not be defeated.

“For who knows but what you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14) comes to mind; a statement from Mordecai to his niece Esther, as he reminded her that she might have to die in order to stand up for doing the right thing.  I doubt it will be that serious, but then, moving beyond frustrations and limitations can be a type of death; the type that leads to freedom and satisfaction at a job achieved and well done.  If only I can hang on that long, which of course I will for it is God who is at work within me, so as to will and to work for His good pleasure  (Ph 2:3).  So take that, frustration.

DESIGN

image:google images

image:google images

“You said you had this worked out,” Wilson threw the bolt tight against the door and lurched around on his one good leg, dragging the other mangled stump behind him.

Billy was making trails through the dirt as he pulled a heavy wooden workbench across the concrete floor.

“I did.  It was.  I mean, you saw the plan,”

With a final shove the workbench was up against the door.

A few feet away, Wilson had eased himself down behind a metal rimmed, wooden barrel.

“Ok, genius, what’s your new plan?”

“My six shooter’s gone,” Billy said as he squatted down behind a half wall of an old stall.  “Just gotta find something we can use to defend ourselves.”

The sound, Wilson thought, was sort of like buzzing bees or the far-off low murmur of a gaggle of geese and it was coming closer; headed their way.  He pressed his hands up and down his mangled leg, taking stock of the damage.

“They don’t sound too reasonable.”  Why couldn’t he feel anything?

“Who don’t sound reasonable?”

Still squatting, Billy ran his hand along the wall to get his bearings.

Wilson could see the light begin to seep through the cracks in the walls of the old barn.  It gave shape to the unused farm tools stacked in the large, open area and made strange shadows as it bounced off wooden boxes and barrels.

The sounds, like a rustling of movement and a low chanting, were closer now.  They pressed up against the door then spread out sideways until the barn was surrounded.

As he left the corner and made his way slowly along the wall, Billy squinted, then opened his eyes wide, then tried squinting again.  He couldn’t see much and bumped into barrels and boxes, his hands moving jerkily, searching for some sort of weapon.

“That was my favorite six shooter.  It was the fall that made me lose it.”

“You ever heared a choir, Billy?”  Wilson slid down flat on the floor.  Perhaps that would stop the dizziness, and the light, and the sound.

“Maybe.  Back before I started riding rough.”

Wilson’s eyes almost hurt, the light was now so bright.  It glowed.  Or they glowed, Wilson wasn’t sure, but the light had faces, and hands that reached out to him.  Was he floating?

Billy stumbled as his foot hit against Wilson.  He hunkered down and patted what he thought was Wilson’s arm.

“Wilson, you hang on.  I’ll design a new plan to get us out of this.”

“There’s somebody else designing this, Billy.”

“Wilson.  Wilson, don’t you go leaving me.  Wilson?”

HOMECOMING

image:google:fineartamerica-semmick

image:google:fineartamerica-semmick

I hadn’t meant to stay so long.  Orders were clear: get in, gather the data, get out.  Unobserved, preferably.  No tampering with the timeline; no drawing attention to yourself.   I’d made other trips without incident and didn’t expect any this time, even if it was Paris, 1831.

I dove into the culture and studied the societal and political factors that would lead to the June, 1832 death of 800 insurgents.  Falling in love with Amélie was a surprise, but by June, 1832, we’d been living together for months and our child was nearly due.  Any thought of going back home had long left my mind.

I was confident I could protect her.  We would leave the city for the day.  It was her political student brother, Alain, that drew her to the streets that day to try to save him.  By the time I saw her face-down on the Rue du Bout du Monde, the city was in chaos.  I took a blow to the head and all went black.  I woke in our apartment to find Alain had survived and had dragged me off the streets.  We searched but never found her body.  In my desperation and grief I knew the only way I could save her was to go home.

Transport back to the Twenty-Fifth century was simple.  Activate my Travel Device and I would return, arriving the same day I left, February 15, 2415.  If not for the fact that it was DNA specific, I would have taken Amélie back with me long before.  Somehow I managed to appear coherent and convinced our project manager it was vital I return to Paris, 1832.  I tried two more times but no matter how I tried to alter the events of that week, Amélie died, her body never found.  My project manager was beginning to look at me strangely so when the assignment to study the Anasazi, 1275 A.D., Southwestern U.S. came up, I took it, hoping my nightmares of Amélie dying would fade with in the heat among the Anasazi.

It had been over two years, the memories of Paris getting dimmer, when I met Amy in the company cafeteria.  I’d been many places in time and she was fascinated by my history stories, though she never knew I was relating actual travel.  She was in Genealogical Research and only those of us in History Research time-traveled.  It was so easy to be with her.  It felt like coming home and I was able to finally put Paris, 1832, to rest.

Today’s trip had been tough, a week’s blizzard in 206 B.C. at the first section of the Great Wall of China in the Qin Dynasty had left me chilled to the bone.  I had just sunk down in my easy chair next to a roaring fire when Amy got home.

“Darling, how was your day?”  She called from the kitchen and went on before I could rouse myself. “I’m so excited.” she said.  Mimi meowed as Amy put out fresh food; water ran at the sink, a drawer opened, closed, ice tinkled in a glass.  The welcome sounds of home, especially after a tough travel trip.

“I just wish I had been able to find this before Mama died,” Amy hung her coat in the closet, “the missing link, my 7th great grandmother!  From there it was easy and I got back to 1832, Paris, to my 13th great grandmother, Amélie Gaubert.”

The truth was clear, even through tears; the tilt of her chin, her blond hair, wide smile, twinkling eyes; all so familiar; not identical, but a strong resemblance.  I had descendants generations older than me.

“She had a son, during the Paris insurrection of 1832.  She died giving birth so there’s no clue to the father.”  Amy crossed the room and lowered herself carefully onto my lap.  “Are you crying, darling?”

I wrapped my arms around her and our unborn son, “There’s nothing like coming home, to the ones you love; to family.”  I said, and kissed her.

[2nd Place Award, LinkedIn Writing Contest #15]

Mirror Life

image:andrewkavanagh

image:andrewkavanagh

The walls were taller than I could see and the ceiling, if it was a ceiling, seemed to be a far off galaxy.  Both behind and in front of me, the walls stretched on and on.  I walked along trying to make out what was on the walls, squinting, straining, but the view stayed blurry.  Light seemed to bounce off the walls, sometimes showing the path clearly and other times I could only faintly see where to take the next step.  I’d go slowly then, careful to not stumble, which seemed to work out ok as the path felt smooth and easy.

From time to time the wall was lit by bright lights and beautiful colors strong enough to light up the brier ditch between the walls and the path.  Then the light that bounced off would die and I was surrounded again by dusk.  Other times the light seemed garish and harsh and strangely, fell to darkness before that ditch could be seen.

Maybe to really see I’d need to get closer to the wall but that meant I’d have to leave the smooth, easy path and cross through the briers.

I wanted to see detail.  I needed to understand.  I yearned to know more about those walls.  Why did they sometimes glimmer and other times feel dangerous?  Maybe I could jump over the ditch.  I needed to go.  I was afraid to go.  I could get scratched, wounded, harmed in that brier patch.  But staying on the smooth, easy path was making me uneasy, making me feel cheated, lost, unfulfilled, and empty.  I had to go.  I couldn’t go.

Was that Mother’s voice?  Yes, now I could see her.  She was on the other side of the ditch.

“I need……” she said, but her voice trailed off in the breeze.

How could I stay where it was safe and easy when she needed help?  I would go.  As I left the center of the smooth path and got closer to the brier patch it was clear I couldn’t jump it.  I’d have to place my feet carefully.  Slowly, wincing at the sting when a brier would scratch, I made my way through, until Mother reached towards me and pulled on my arm and I forced my way through the edge of the patch.

My legs were scratched, a drop of blood here and there but I’d made it.  Finally, I was close enough to see.  This world was lined with mirrors, not walls.  As Mother stood in front of her mirror, there were brief piercings of light and every now and then flashes of colorful flowers and birds and music, but mostly clouds of sadness and fear and pain blocked the light.

I walked on and at the next mirror found Daddy.  His mirror reflected blue sky, high mountain peaks, beautiful valleys and the sound of heavenly choirs singing.  I could feel the joy and peace flowing from the mirror, swirling around Daddy.  He smiled.

I didn’t want to go on.  I would stay and bask in the light of his mirror.

“This is my mirror.  You have your own journey.”  He said.  “Only you can take it, but don’t forget what I taught you.”

Tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, yet excited for the adventure, I kept walking.  Each step I took drew me to other mirrors.  Friends, jobs, bosses, co-workers, family that kept multiplying, roommates, lovers; each had a mirror that was unique.  Years went by as I worked different jobs, lived in different places.  Sometimes there were dark clouds of pain and self-doubt in my mirror and from time to time a great light broke through and a celestial peace and joy swirled around me.  I learned I could not fashion my mirror for anyone else, nor could I force another’s mirror to reflect anything except the truth of their own choices.

Eventually my journey led me back to Mother’s mirror.  Hers was now alone, as Daddy was gone.  She needed me, so I stayed.  The reflection of my mirror often clashed with hers.  Her mirror pulled at me, drew me into its gaze, threatened to drown me; its tug strong as it pulled against the force of my resistance.

No, I wouldn’t go.  I would not embrace her dark clouds.  I’d worked hard to rest in the truth of my mirror.  I’d learned the ceiling to this life was that unknown galaxy where the Creator of this world of mirrors waits for each of us.  I would keep my eyes on Him who is author and finisher of our faith.

Resolved, I faced that I could love her but I couldn’t fix her.  All I could do was let the light of my mirror shine and pray she would make the right choice.

Elastic Hands

image:123rf

image:123rf

The dishwasher swish-swashed through its wash cycle.  Still, the rainbird drank from full water pressure that spit out flowers and tweeting birds that flitted across the lawn.  Just as all the flowers had landed and the tweeting birds had found the high wire, it was the dishwasher’s turn to flush soapy water down the drain and take a long drink of fresh water that began the rinse and the feral cats ran to escape.

I hopped, one footed, diagonally across the kitchen tiles, counting the beats of the swish-swash, and avoiding the cracks in the timing of the rainbird.  One foot might work, but only if I had enough hands.

Mother asked for a bag of ice from the freezer in the garage.  Hand 1 gripped the key to the side garage door and reached towards the garage.

Mother can’t reach behind her toilet to clean the bathroom floor.  Hand 2 swiped the Lysol drenched sponge around the base of the toilet in the hall bathroom.

Mother has decided to work on some art and needs fine point, colored markers.  Hand 3 took the Visa card and headed for the corner Walgreens.

Mother will only drink purified, filtered, reverse osmosis water.  Hand 4 balanced the three empty, two gallon water bottles and left for the grocery store.

Mother’s scoliosis has twisted her back and made walking painful but she can walk enough to see that there are empty spots in the flower garden, so seeds and plants from Armstrong Garden Center at the ready, hand 5 digs holes in the garden soil.

Mother rests well at night, usually somewhere between eight and twelve hours.  The house is quiet and dark and it is the one time that I can block out her needs and try to rest.  That is I might rest if I could find a bed large enough for all these hands.  They get in the way, getting tangled under me when I turn from side to side in my sleep.  They remind me each day I’ll need to stretch.  In fact, I’m sure there’s something else that needs doing because this morning when I woke up, there was a sixth hand.  There had to be, or else how could I type this?

From Here to There

Sparkly flits and spurt bugs have run wild,
brandishing a trail of psyche inevitably.
Grapple hooks flat,
impenetrable brain’s surge
drain dense and sluggish,
once jaunty and fresh they swarmed and skirted until
today’s rest, their gray now flogged.

But despair not, the hot-cold soiree may seem wryly random
but does it not whelp a shine,
a flight with no observable track?
Is it not the grunge gate that purges and solidifies?

If there’s no tree identity,
no purpose basket,
no goal spire,
is not all refrain?
What gain where there’s jellies
easy slide?  The track stalls on the gum.

Will beyond the blue
spring and dance those ids?
Prick away the dung towels for fragile?

It hails: squish the eyes,
catch the spring;
beckons that later gateway,
to yearn and hold during
Terra’s slog air
that began tiny, white,
on its tattering to its end,
where wasted away to minuscule,
all the in between fluff and bluster
have erasure swap,
it’s begun its morph.

image: google images

image source: google images

The ether burst is bright,
unvarnished, yet savvy.
The flight arrived,
the exodus completed
at last deemed quit.

But, hark!  It’s not quit,
it’s just begun,
this time without the drag,
the sobriety chip,
the overweening searchlight.

Welkin punches no such tickets.