Disaster Work in Amerikkka

The current protests that have erupted across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd seemingly had far reaching affects. When I saw the film footage of George’s death I was, like most everyone, sickened by what I saw. Unfortunately, I had inclination we would find ourselves in this situation eventually.

Let me explain, back in April 1992, I was stationed in Camp Pendleton, California when the Rodney King riots broke out. We were deployed to help bring the situation under control. At the time most of us on base hadn’t seen the footage of Rodney’s beating by the police—the internet didn’t exist back then—as we were focused on our training, taking the peace of our nation for granted.  We climbed aboard the duce and half’s somewhat blind to the situation. That was a hard position to be in not knowing what was going on. I remember we sat in the back of those trucks asking each other questions; Are we actually going to war in L.A.? Are we going to fight our own countrymen?

I was a medic and under direct orders by my superiors to do as I was told. So, all of us had no choice in the matter, it didn’t matter what side of the issue we were on, if we even knew what the situation was, we had our orders. As a Marine Corpsman (medic) I can justify my duty as one that provides medical assistance when needed. I was thankful, I wasn’t there to shoot anyone, I was there to patch up anyone and everyone. The thing that kept going through my mind was, why were the U.S. Marines being sent to U.S. city? I didn’t think it was possible for the U.S. military to be used against its own country. I thought for sure it was going to be the end of our world as we knew it. I was young, inexperienced in the ways of politics and I only knew that I was to follow my orders.

Fortunately, my unit didn’t have to hurt anyone, and I was able to patch up a few people before it was all over and we went back to base. But what I took away from that experience was the atmosphere where nothing got accomplished and I figured we would revisit the situation at a later date. The civilians didn’t feel like they were heard by our government. And we, or at least I, felt like I had been awakened with the realization that we, as a country, could go to war with ourselves and that scared me. Later, when I did see the footage of Rodney being beat, I was shocked that it had happened. I couldn’t figure out why the cops weren’t arrested straight away for their brutality. Why did tour leaders let this get so far out of hand that the Marines we deployed? It seemed like common sense to retrain the police and for our communities to work on society as whole. I had no idea that injustices like this were happening. (I do understand now this is part of my privilege as a white person.)

Fast forward to 2016, I was deployed for disaster work due to severe flooding in Texas and Louisiana. I live in Nevada and have lived most all of my life in the North Western United States.  Before 2016 I didn’t realize that southern hate groups and especially the Klu Klux Klan, were growing and becoming an upcoming voice for our country.

When I arrived in Huston, Texas as a disaster volunteer I was relocated to Beaumont, Texas for a about a week and then up to Jasper, Texas for another week. My job was to drive out to the rural areas and map the periphery of the disaster while performing wellness checks on people. As a volunteer, I never once thought of my work as anything other than helping people; it never crossed my mind that victims of the flood would have a problem with outsiders. Like I said I’m from Nevada, and my partner on the job at that time was from Syracuse, New York—both white men.

Once we arrived in Jasper, Texas it did not take long before my partner and I ran into trouble. We had noticed that many of the properties had white crosses in the yards, rebel flags, and another flag that is white with blue field in the upper corner with a red cross. We came to learn later that those are symbols of white supremacy. The later flag is what is known as a Christian flag, but it’s been adopted by the KKK as well.

When we saw these symbols, we naively felt little concern; we inaccurately guessed the crosses represented a Christian family. However, we quickly learned crosses can also represent white supremacy for many.

We came to a property where the signage was very racist along the driveway. Signs that were warnings for non-whites not dare come to this home. As a working partner of a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is helping people, we are taught not to distinguish who gets our assistance. Even if a person is a flag waving racist, we offer them the same assistance to them as we do their neighbors. My partner and I are white, so we figured we could knock on the door without any harm. I knocked and then heard a commotion in the house, it sounded like people leaving out the backdoor. I heard someone fumbling with the lock on the front door, and eventually the door opened to a big man coming out on the porch.

“Hello,” I said and explained what organization we were with, even though we were both dressed in vests that obviously expressed who we were. “We are doing a wellness check on you, your family and your neighbors. Have you been affected by the flood and if so, how can we help?”

He looked at me, then to my partner and his face turned red and his eyes narrowed as he turned back to me. “We don’t want no damn Yankees helping us. We can get along just fine without you!”

He was visibly angry with us. The disdain this guy had for Americans living in the North was unbelievable. My partner who was seventy-two at the time said, “Yankee? I haven’t heard that term used toward someone since the seventh grade. You folks still use that term?”

That was when I saw a man about hundred yards off in the backyard pointing a rifle at us from behind a tree. I looked at the big man and said as I pointed at the red cross on my chest, “This is not a target. We are only here to offer assistance. If that is problem, then we will go.”

The big man waved a hand and the man behind the tree dropped his aim and walked calmly back to the house through the backdoor. He then told us it was better if we left and that we should tell everyone from FEMA to the Salvation Army not to come to his house. For safety reasons my partner and I went out of our way to inform everyone we could about that area. It was common for us to run into people like that in the Beaumont /Jasper area. Understand that in this area they still bury the dead according to color. I was told that ‘It’s just the custom down here in the south not to mix whites with the non-white in the grave yard.’

At another point during this disaster deployment, I was working with a FEMA officer who was headed up to Jasper from Beaumont to work at the joint operations site up there. I told him about the hostility I had experienced up there and shared my concern as he was a man of color. His reply sent shivers down my spine. He told me that when he arrived at the disaster he was assigned in Jasper where he had been warned by FEMA in the Dallas office about the intolerance in this area. The night he arrived, he was pulled over by the police. He identified himself as a FEMA officer, by holding up his badge. The police took his badge and tossed it across the street and told him they didn’t recognize his authority and because of his color he wasn’t welcome in Jasper. They told him “Remember what happened to James Byrd? If you know what is best for you, you’d leave town.” James Byrd Jr was black man that was lynched in Jasper in 1998 and drug though town behind a pickup truck. The pride these white supremist have for such a horrid act still makes me ill.

My FEMA friend told me that after the police left, he got out his vehicle, retrieved his badge, got back in his vehicle and left town. Once outside of town he pulled over. He said he was shaking and crying all at once. His tears were out of frustration that he couldn’t depend on the local law enforcement for backup and cooperation. But in truth, he told me that he was scared for his life. Even though he had a gun on his hip, he was frightened and intimidated by the local cops. “I shouldn’t feel that way in my profession,” he said, “I can’t believe that in 2016 we are still dealing with this racists bullshit!” This time he was going to Jasper with four other FEMA officers to continue working the disaster. Prior to going back to Jasper, he had filed a complaint about the police department, so he felt confident his trip would be different from that last experience. Our paths never crossed again, so I don’t know the outcome of the FEMA officer. It is my hope that he didn’t have any other troubles.

If you recall, 2016 was an election year. In these towns it was not uncommon to see yard signs that read “We have endured a minority president we will not endure a woman present.” Or, “If Hillary gets in, we go to our guns!” When I got home, I told my wife, “I had no idea how much hate was out there until this deployment. I fear a civil war in our near future.” At first, she thought I was exaggerating until other people that were deployed with me confirmed what I had witnessed. I have been on other deployments since 2016 where racism has become an issue.

For insistence, when I was deployed to the Virgin Islands in 2017 during three Category 5 hurricanes, I witnessed how different a disaster is handled when racism is involved. People that held high government positions made policies not to help the people of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico because the population wasn’t white or considered American. Because I was no longer the young, sheltered man I once was, I, along with others saw the racism clearly when it came to the lack of urgency or help being deployed to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. The U.S. Government purposely delayed resources and material relief to the islands, and let the Jones Act waiver lapse, slowing shipping that brought aid to a trickle making recovery efforts very difficult. Yet, the U.S. Government vowed to stand with Texas and Florida every single day to help them restore and recover. While Puerto Rico and St. Croix are U.S. territories, yet because their skin color is different, we treat them different in recovery efforts. 

I am sharing these experiences to help shed light for my fellow white Americans on the very real racism that I have witnessed firsthand. As I said, after my deployment in 2016 to rural Texas, it became very apparent that my experience foretold of what would happen in the future. George Floyd has exposed what some of us have been talking about for a while now, racism in America and I am glad that the protests over his murder show no signs of quieting down. In fact, quite the opposite with the ripple effect for justice of others killed at the hands of racism has erupted. I hope that people keep going until there is real change.

What is happening is painfully familiar to the Rodney King riots. For people like James Byrd Jr. their injustices need to be addressed. It is my hope and prayer that we as a society come to learn the value of our fellow person no matter their color, creed, religion, gender / non-gender or choice of partner. I understand that being white telling my point of view might stir up emotions of resentment by some, but please understand that I’m attempting to educate my white counterparts. My experiences are authentic and have provided me with an avenue to empathize with my fellow human no matter what color their skin is, and it is my hope that this little story helps others to see the there is still much work to be done to become an anti-racist society.

A Push for Peace

As a storyteller, I write about experiences that have moved me: most of my novels are many stories weaved together to make one. My goal as a writer is to challenge my readers to think about something they may have not considered before. Today, this is part of my experience with the Black Lives Movement (BLM). I have been behind The Black Lives Matter movement for a few years. Colin Kaepernick was the person who introduced it to me when he played at the University of Northern Nevada (UNR) in Reno where I live. My wife and I went to all of the home games and loved to watch him create magic out on the field. A person couldn’t help but love the kid both on and off the field. He was approachable, kind and sensible. My impression was that Colin had his finger on the pulse of everyone and everything he came into contact with. Watching him grow into a great man of principle has been a pleasure. I remember when he got picked up by the San Francisco 49ers—my wife and I were so excited. We knew he was going to be special; we just didn’t know how special. When he started taking a knee and the NFL world grew concerned, I figured if he was taking a knee he was prompting me to learn something. That is when I came to learn about BLM.

Within all of the criticism of Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee his biggest critics overlooked what he was doing behind the scenes to help others. As I learned from watching his college years, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t just talk the talk, he takes risks (BIG RISKS) and takes action. I knew one day the world would wake up and see what he has been trying to tell us all these years. I quit watching football because of the unfair treatment of Colin. For me, I saw how corrupt and racist the NFL is as an organization, especially the owners of the teams.  

As our country comes to terms with its racism, I see people that are special like Colin Kaepernick who rise to the occasion. Throughout the demonstrations in Minneapolis over the murder of George Floyd, I met an incredibly special person that has been working for change in his community for a long time.

The first time I saw Trey Pollard he was standing between the riot police and demonstrators. Trey was attempting to keep the peace. This was the first day of the most recent demonstrations for BLM and the situation was volatile, tensions were high to say the least. In my opinion, Trey put himself on the line to protect the police as they were outnumbered by the crowd of demonstrators. He was asking everyone to stay cool, no looting, no violence. I thought to myself, “now there is a guy that is determined to help his community.” Later, I met and spoke to Trey, I learned that he had been handing out water and masks (remember COVID19?) to the demonstrators and police. He was also organizing platforms so people could voice their grief and frustration without any violence from the crowd. As the demonstrations grew, I heard Trey and his team talking to people to remind them to stay six feet apart because of the contagion. Again, I reached out to Trey and let him know how much I admired him, that I supported his efforts, and I would help in any way I could for the movement.

Writing this is one way I am working to spread the word and bring awareness for people like Trey and his organization called WE Push For Peace. WE Push For Peace is a non-profit organization in north Minneapolis that has one goal: make real change that is felt on the street.

*Image from We Push For Peace’s Website*

Trey tells me that he dedicates his time working to take the community away from violence and focus on making a difference, especially for kids. He has joined his efforts with other community activists, youth workers, and other volunteers who have a shared goal to bring peace to everyone. “No one should be afraid to walk down a sidewalk in Minneapolis,” they told me. It is a heartfelt pleasure to see people that are motivated by change rather than power and money. People like Trey and his volunteers dedicated to changing the lives of others are the heroes of this time.

When George Floyd was killed and the community took to the streets, Trey and his crew hit the streets too. They were out there not only bringing awareness to what was going on but helping both the police and the community. As I said, I believe they put themselves in the danger zone in order to help others. A huge, humbled shout out to Trey and his team – STAY SAFE MY FRIENDS AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

I’m going to leave a link to WE Push For Peace and if you are one for those people who are wondering how to help our country during these hard times, go to the link and donate to WE Push For Peace. Your money will not be wasted in their hands. These are very capable people that are actively working in the community to make a difference on the streets.

Lastly, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and donated to WE Push For Peace as have members of my team. To me, this shows the ripple effect of Trey’s kindness, courage, and dedication. If you would also like to give or get involved, please see below for more information. Donate and know that your money is going to the cause without a doubt. https://www.wepushforpeace.com/

Donations can be made via 

  • Cash App to $wepushforpeace
  • Venmo to @Wepushforpeace-Pollard
  • Venmo to @Wepushforpeace-Pollard
  • Zelle to We Push For Peace

If you would like a tax receipt: 

Please put your email address in the memo on Cash App or Venmo.  We Push For Peace would like to be able to send you a receipt for your generous donation.  Or you may email  your name/address to wepushforpeace@gmailcom and a tax receipt will be sent to you. 

Disaster Preparedness: Practical Tips to be Prepared for Emergencies

I have volunteered in disaster work for several years now and having some experience with disasters I am frequently asked, “How should I prepare for a disaster?”. Since this is a common question, I thought I would put out a simple list down to help people.

Get Educated

Before the list, I think a big part of disaster preparedness is education. I advise you to take the time to learn how to save a life. You can go online a find a First Aid, CPR, and AED (automated external defibrillator) course near you. Personally, I’ve been able to save lives with CPR and first aid. I now teach these courses in my area and I know for a fact they will help you in an emergency to save a life. These courses are not difficult and will build your confidence on how to react and what do when a disaster strikes. Here is a link to The American Red Cross https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class, but you can go to the American Heart Association or there is plethora of others available. Find one that works for you and your schedule.

One of the things I have learned from being assigned to a disaster team is that the people we find in that are victims of a disaster are usually near their house or near their car.

Make an Emergency / Disaster Preparedness First Aid Kit

DIY emergency and disaster preparedness first aid kit

Knowing that people are often near their vehicles, I tell people to outfit their car with a comprehensive first aid kit to include at least:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 gauze roll bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 gauze roll bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury / non-glass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

Supplement it with: liquid Benadryl, chewable aspirin, Pedialyte (1 package or 1 liquid), sanitary napkins for big wounds, clotting powder or corn starch, super glue (yes it’s good for wound care), sterile eyewash, burn cream with pain relief, sturdy tweezers and scissors.

Put a blanket in your car. When someone has suffered trauma, whether it be physical or psychological, wrapping a blanket around the victim helps them to feel safe. In disaster preparedness, being able to provide comfort is important and a blanket can do just that.

At least two bottles of water. A person can ration and stretch-out the consumption of water to help them to stay hydrated until help comes.

Some non-perishable food. A general list of non-perishable foods can include:

  • Beef Jerky.
  • Granola Bars.
  • Dried Pasta (ramen noodles, macaroni, spaghetti, etc.)
  • Trail Mix (especially the nuts)
  • Canned Foods (meats, vegetables, fruits, soups)

What Else to Expect in a Disaster

When we find people in disasters, they don’t realize how broad the devastation of a disaster usually is. Meaning they had an impression that they would be rescued quickly, yet in reality they were stranded for weeks. In working with my disaster team, we have come across people who’ve been stranded near their car for weeks and if they only had had some water and food in their vehicles their time waiting to be rescued would’ve been much easier.

“If we do our part with disaster preparedness for the unlikely and unthinkable, our chances for survival increase exponentially. “

If I’ve learned anything from working disasters is that they are happening more frequently and are almost everywhere these days. If we do our part with disaster preparedness for the unlikely and unthinkable, our chances for survival increase exponentially.  This is a small and doable list. Be kind to yourself and your family. Properly outfit your vehicles. All of my vehicles have a backpack that contains the items listed above. It doesn’t take up much room and are easily accessible. My lists come from the Red Cross for whom I volunteer, but you find other sources online with other lists that are equally as good. Find the one that works for you in your climate, environment, and local hazards.

If you have questions regarding disaster preparedness feel free to reach out to me with questions. I’m happy to help!

Christmastime 2013

Standing in a parking lot while my girlfriend is doing some Christmas shopping, I find myself taking inventory of Christmases past. Into my mind fly memories of snow, cold, and cheer. Standing here watching these internal movies, I find that each recollection has its own sweetness or bitterness. To revisit these memories is like walking away from this reality and going back to what was once present and familiar.

On this December night all the other Christmas nights of my life come alive again. Twenty-thirteen has been an eventful year, full of excitement both good and bad. This year is now almost completely gone, and I’m feeling hopeful about 2014. What will it bring me? It stretches before me in imagination like some great vision, a vision filled with awe of the unfamiliar. I see a year that can be friendly or unkind or a combination thereof. But I don’t fret or dread it. I welcome it. If anything is consistent in life, of course, it’s change, and I see that 2014 will be a year of change.

Thinking about Decembers past, I focus on the friendships that warm me like cozy fires kindled by family members and friends of yesterday. As I stand here in the parking lot, quietly reminiscing, I hear the echoes of those voices that in earlier days meant a lot to me. I hear the voices of friends and family members who have passed on from this world. When I close my eyes, I can see their smiles, hear their voices. And I smile. I also think about those living whom I’ve not seen in a long time, and to them I offer a wish of good health and fortune for the holiday season and the coming year. I understand that the pathways of my past have brought me to this point in my life, and I release a breath of gratitude. I’m thankful to have known some truly special people in my time.

And so it is now the Christmas season of 2013. These nights, the stores are filled with anxious and aggressive shoppers pushing, and grabbing up merchandise. Selfishly, uncompromisingly, they are going about the holiday with little thought about the infant laid in a manger or the shining angels that appeared to the shepherds or the miraculous star that took its station in the sky. It’s a story that all Christians are familiar with, the one that deals simply with the goodness of the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the story of God’s gift of charity to mankind. Deeper than the pushing, shoving and shopping I can see that Christmas glows in the faces around me in their friendly smiles. I see good people hugging their families and friends.

Somewhere I hear “Peace on Earth and good will toward men,” which is an optimistic prayer that wars and rivalries may vex the nation no more, not only on Christmas, but the whole year ’round.

The 25th of December is a great day. It’s a day that many look forward to with hope and gratitude. In the Good Book, we find Isaiah standing on the peaks of prophecy, looking across ruined empires and seeing a new star rise above the horizon. Further in the past, before events recorded in the Bible, we find the pagans whose deities filled the heavens and who rejoiced in the harvest festival from December 17th to January 3rd. In the midst of their merrymaking came December 25th and the ceremony honoring the birth of Mithra. For me, no matter the belief, winter is the season to make merry and be grateful for what we have.

Time moves forward, and it’s getting late. Soon the lights in the great shopping malls will go out and the empty stores will be left to the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Here where I live, the temperature is dropping, and I can see my breath now. I look up to the sparkling heavens. There’s the Milky Way in its powdery grandeur, there are stars and planets shining peacefully in their black spaces, and I think that in a few days, there will be one Christmas less between my grave and me. Not a dreadful thought, but a natural one.

I think of the year to come and I wonder if it’s possible for the people who hold high places in government to be the ones who lead us into the New Year properly. Could they cast us a new reality, one that is heaped high with happiness and the good for mankind? Is it even possible for mankind to live in balance on Mother Earth; to love and not hate, to live and not obliterate?

It would be nice to wake up at the end of this year and find that this Christmas had created a lovely, loving memory that will last the whole year. That’s what I wish.

May Your Spirit Grow!

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Ra Lynn LoneWalker

Eyes Of Sunday Morning

What goes on behind the scenes of my work is important to me because it inspires me to include the details of everyday life in the books I write. It’s the little moments we all experience that help us relate to one another. For me, the little details are the things that draw me into a book, movie, article and so on.

It’s the little things that are important. For instance, this morning (Sunday) my girlfriend and I left our house and went for a drive to Virginia City. When we got out of the car I could hear bells ringing from a nearby church. The night before I was lost in doubt. I couldn’t see myself in the future. I was afraid—there is a lot of power in doubt.

The day was sun-filled, with crystal-blue skies above. I looked at my girlfriend and smiled. She smiled back at me. I love to see her smile. She had no idea of the doubt that haunted me the night before.

I could see the church behind her, and behind that I saw the partly cloudy sky. I felt better. Faith had been restored. Although I’m not a Christian, I could see the symbolism in the beauty in front of me.

“I see you,” I said.

“I see you too,” she said.

Unbeknownst to her, in that fraction of time … in that tiny little moment her eyes, hazel and magnificent, not only saw me, they soothed me. We’ve been together for a few years now and without question love lives in our house. But this morning her eyes…

If you are a student of science, you’ve been told that Charles Darwin believed in and promoted evolution by natural selection. We are taught in school that we, the human race, crawled out of some evolutionary soup. His hypothesis has been taught as fact, rather than supposition, for some time now. What most of us were not taught is that Charles had doubts about his supposition. The eyes of every species are too complex, causing Charles to believe it would have taken divine intervention to create such a superb organ.

The first time I saw my girlfriend, long before we dated, I only glanced at her. I didn’t see the amazing woman I know today. But I remember the first time that I really saw her, really saw her, time slowed down for me. She was brushing her hair back around her ear with her hand. It was rude of me to stare as long as I did, we were only acquaintances at the time, but I did. I saw in her the woman I see today. But back then I thought there was no way she could live up to the dream I had of her. I remember that day well. She will tell you that back then she didn’t even notice me. I know she believes that, I also know her soul felt differently. Her soul was there. It was in her eyes smiling, calling me.

Charles couldn’t understand how the sclera, cornea, iris, optic nerves, and various other intricate components could have evolved at the same rate as the rest of our bodies. For a single organism to go from complete blindness in a pond of soup to developing a place that would become an eye that would eventually see light, recognize images, color and so on—well, there was just no way to explain it with science. The eye is elegant. It not only perceives, but it is a major portion of our identity. The color of our eyes, the shape of them—how well-rounded or curved they are—gives us a basic expression that the rest of the world interacts with. As humans, we look into another person’s eyes and we gain information. We get a feeling whether we can trust them or not.

This morning I felt my abdominal muscles tighten when she tilted her head to one side and said, “I see you too.” I saw the face of loveliness. She tells me she sees the next best-selling author. I smile when I hear this. Those are such kind words. But I understand how tough the literary world is. I have my doubts.

Charles had doubts too. He looked at the eye and realized that it was more likely to have been designed, moreover created, than to have evolved. There were times of doubt for Charles and the eye was one great cause. His wife Emma encouraged him to go on, the scientific community encouraged him to go on.

I too see the eye as created. I have no reservations that life was created by something greater than we are capable of understanding. My girlfriend encourages me. Her eyes speak … not in words but in a soft, universal dialect. The unspoken words are palpable with exquisite, loving emotion. I memorize the small moment.

“Why are looking at me like that?” she asks.

I turn my head. “It’s nothing. I just want to remember this moment. That’s all.”

I tell myself, I must never forget the eyes of Sunday morning.

Saturday Morning

Sometimes, just sometimes, the inspirational places are at home with the ones we love, more so than going off to discover some new place. That’s what this blog is about, my little home and living with the one I love. Trying to keep a balance of life, love and happiness is tricky. Take a moment and read this over. I think most people can relate to life moving too fast.
Life’s a rush.

“Come on Baby, it’s time to get up,” you say. “The alarm has called out and it’s time for us to get going.”
“I hate mornings,” I say.
It’s a crazy, fast-paced world with technology pushing the envelope of speed and we are swept up in its current. The rush is pulling you in that direction while I’m going the opposite way.

“I’ll miss you.” I say.
“I don’t want to leave,” you say.

But nothing can hold back the rush. Our calendar has ink all over it to help us keep it all in order. You’ve got to be in Lodi and I have a meeting in Denver, but we hope that we can share Saturday.

“Don’t forget, your mom’s coming for a visit,” you say.
“That’s right,” I say.

In the warmth of motherly love we smile at each other over our joy of seeing her on Saturday. So the weekend flies by and the alarm brings round another Monday.

“I hate Mondays,” I say.
“Hurry, I’ve got a conference call at eight,” you say.

The shower is a flash of water to wash the sleep from our eyes. I wonder how many words we share with other people and how many we don’t share with each other. Your call ends and quickly you run off to the dry cleaner’s to refresh your suitcase. The suitcase rolls on wheels to help things move faster. You roll it out to the car and I load it in the trunk. I stand in the driveway and wave good-bye. Alone, I turn and go back to work. Alone, you drive the many miles to your next appointment. I wonder if we are becoming immune to the loneliness. At night we talk through the diffusion of our cell phones. I hope it helps fill the gap between us. But we look forward to Saturday and the weekend.

“Remember, your daughter is flying in for a visit,” I say.
“That’s right,” you say.

With the thrill of family coming together we smile at each other over the conversation on Saturday. So the weekend flies by and the alarm brings round another Monday.

“Is it morning already?” you say.
“I’ve got to get going, I have a meeting with my book designer,” I say.

The shower jump-starts our bodies better than a cup of coffee and we are at it again. I watch you get dressed. You are beautiful. Through the stress of the coming week I know I will still be in love with you when the grind comes to an end. But I wonder if there is an end to the rush. I stand in the drive and wave good-bye as you rush to catch a flight to Phoenix. Alone, I turn and go back to work.

Time alone.

In the middle of the night I reach for you, waking from my sleep but your not there. The bed feels cold and empty. I lie awake drained but unable to go back to sleep. I can’t remember which city you are in, I only know you aren’t with me. In the dark of night I decide that I need to tell to you how I feel. I never thought I would complain about it like this, but I realize that I don’t like the rush anymore.

“It’s two in the morning,” you say. “Is everything all right?”
“I don’t like this anymore. We both have been working so hard that I’ve forgotten what it is we are working towards,” I say.

The cell phone doesn’t bring the comfort I had hoped it would. The room is still empty. The hotel room you’re in is cold you tell me. Your voice lets me know what needs to happen. I know what to say but it’s scary for me.

“I think it would be best if I spent some time alone to sort things out,” I say.
“You have plenty of time alone,” you say.

I hear it in your voice, the stress that lives between us. The grind has worn us down. You speak to your friends at work about problems you used to talk to me about. And I call up some old friends to see what they have been up to and if I can come along. I notice that we have been filling the empty spaces between us and it hurts me.

“What kind of time alone?” you say.
“I need some time alone with you,” I say.

I hear it in your voice, the love that lives there for me, and I smile. You tell me how you had a dream about us driving off in a convertible on a spontaneous trip … just the two of us. I listen to the details of your dream and it’s like a breath of fresh air. In your dream you saw us burning our scheduling books, flinging our cell phones to the side of the road, and leaving our obligations behind.

“We have the weekend,” I say.
“Let’s play possum,” you say.

Saturday morning never looked so good. The sun is shining bright. It’s up there to wake us up. It’s quiet and no one else is around, it’s just you and I. The sky is blue and inviting us to enjoy the day.

“Honey, I didn’t know how much I missed you … I can’t tell you how good it feels to have you by my side,” I say.
“My love for you is strong, and in my weaker moments it’s what keeps me going,” you say.

In the haven of my mind, thoughts are no longer distracted or scattered. They are focused and right there with me, feeling the soft warm kisses you give me. The book I had been writing lies half-unwritten, absorbing the rush of life. And we, well, we share Saturday alone together.

The Visit

[Below is my version of a one-sided conversation with my father. I wrote it this way because I thought it would offer you a chance to fill in the other side of the conversation with your own father’s voice and words.]

Last month I went out to see my father. He lives in a remote area on the border between Wyoming and Utah, a beautiful place by any standard. It had been awhile since I had paid him a visit. Lately, every time I see him I see the aging man he is now, not the man of my childhood. The man of my childhood no longer exists, dead and gone for many years. Currently my father is growing old, and time picks at him, annoys him, and like all of us, it frustrates him.
In the “Behind the Scenes” I like to give you some background about the books I write and the characters in those works. My father is just one of those people I mine traits from for my characters.

The visit.

It’s good to see you, Dad. 

Yea, it’s been a long time since I’ve been home. I guess I should’ve come home sooner, I didn’t realize that you were so alone.

 I saw the cattle down at Sweat Ranch, boy, they look mighty hefty on the hoof. The old ranch looks good. Plenty of water and the grazing is bountiful.
The old buildings on the place sure do look good. You did some fine work restoring them. The property will probably last forever now and I can imagine how future generations will be able to appreciate it. It’s a fine piece of history.

 Oh, you heard I’ve got a novel out now. 

Oh well, it’s just a book … one I doubt you would like. I’ve got another one coming out soon. I think it’s more of something you would enjoy. It will probably be six months to a year before it’s out.

 You look like you’ve lost some more weight. If you keep that up I swear you will just fade away. Your color is off and it causes me to worry about your health.

 Yea, that’s the same pickup I had before. It has been good to me and the engine is real strong. Besides, I don’t have the money for a new one. Sure, it takes a lot of fuel and yes, the price of fuel is out of sight these days. It seems everything costs a lot now days.

 I got this haircut in Reno and no I didn’t lose a bet. It’s a soul thing, but I doubt you would understand. A Mohawk does seem to suit me.

 I knew you were gonna ask when was the last time I made it home. I haven’t been here since grandmother passed away, and yea, I wasn’t here when grandfather joined her. I was on the road when I got the call. The weather was bad and I just couldn’t get back in time. But I went by the graveyard and it looks like they finally got the stone put in place. It’s a pretty color, that stone, they polished it up real fine.

 I’m sorry I didn’t come for a visit when mom left. I know you took it hard. Living up here by yourself has got to be difficult. How about you moving out to Reno and living near me?
No, you’re right, there isn’t any other place that’s going to feel like home. But your home is so remote. I think you would do better in a city.

  Yea, we have traffic lights in Reno. No, I haven’t seen Roger or his wife … I heard they moved to town. I’m sure he complains about living in town, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like it. The mountains are no place to grow into an old man.

  The Green River is flowing real good. Matt and I caught us a mess of fish. We had a great time. You should’ve come along. 

No, you’re not too old to walk the bank. I think you would have enjoyed it.

 Well, Dad, I’ve got to go now. To be honest I have work to get back to. I will let you know when the next book comes out.
Now you be good and eat better … and slow down on smoking those cigarettes. Winter will be coming on soon, will you be all right up here by yourself?

It wasn’t a problem for us to come out for a visit … we enjoyed it. Honest we did.

I found it difficult to leave him. He looked old and frail, and I felt he wasn’t entirely capable of taking good care of himself. I saw him as a species variously subdivided from the world I lived in. To me he had become an old man left behind by the changing world, unwilling to change with it.  I know his mind is filled with all kinds of important useful information, but with every passing minute the thoughts and memories are vanishing. I worried over him as I drove away.

I Guess I’m Doing Better Than Some People

I was out visiting friends the other day and I caught up with someone I haven’t seen in long time. I asked my old friend how he’d been since I last saw him. He looked down at the ground and shook his head and said:

I got laid-off three years ago, my wife she filed for divorce two years ago. And my kids, well, they call another man dad. But my eyesight is still good, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

My unemployment ran out not long ago, then the mortgage was due and I couldn’t pay. After that I got a notification that my house was in foreclosure. But my health is in good shape, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people. 

My savings has gone completely dry and my car got repossessed late last week. I pawned off all my tools to buy groceries. But my legs are good, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

Everyday I seem to be losing something material and my life is reduced to a handful of things. But I’ve been sober for over a year, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

Man, I feel like I’m out there in the twilight zone sometimes when I see how my life has changed. I play the old country music and I get sad when I think of the day Waylon Jennings died. I think of how his music made me happy and how his silence makes me cry. My power got shut off the other day now I can’t listen to anything. But I’ve learned to pray, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

Here we are, we probably should be talking about the weather. But we both know damn well, its not easy living in this world of money. I’m a man of work with nowhere to go. I’m broke but I’m not broken, and I could use a job. But I’ve come to understand that God sees me and I feel him smile, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

I remember a time when my future was bright, I was handsome and strong and when I walked along I held my head high. Somehow I lost my way and now I feel bent, old and obsolete. But I still have my guitar and I can play the strings, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

I know that lately things haven’t been so good, things have changed and I’ve done all I know how to do for my situation. I’m just a simple man, you know. I don’t need much. I suppose though, if I had it to live all over again I doubt I trade it or change one thing. It’s like ole Jimmy Buffet says, ‘Some of it was magic some of it was tragic but I’ve had a good life all the way.’ At least I have some good memories, so, I guess I’m doing better than some people.

The economical storm in my old friends life was heart wrenching to hear. The afternoon visit seemed to be heavy on his shoulder and he looked uncomfortable with that ‘I wish I had better story to tell’ look on his face. I didn’t have much money but I reached for my wallet and he stopped me.

“It’s been real good to see you friend, it’s nice to know you care but I don’t want your money. I’ve known you to be a soulful man, would you mind, just say a prayer for me instead.”

I nodded in agreement. I got back in my pickup, gave him one last long look and waved goodbye. As I drove away I thought about how it can happen to any of us at any moment. Our world can change. We can lose our job, become ill, or death finds someone close to us. These things that are ugly and stink up our lives we call shit. And when it happens to us people often say as if it’s comforting ‘Shit happens!’

So, I prayed for my friend and all of mankind.

“Thank you o lord for the gift of life. Each of us is a seed for greater things and you have planted us here on Mother Earth, and I’m so thankful to be here. I also thank you for all the shit that happens to us because it takes a lot of shit to help the crops to grow. We are growing o lord, we have been fertilized well and we are growing to be better because of it. Thank you for our growth.”

After that prayer I too felt God smile.

Bless you all and may your Spirit Grow.

Ra Lynn