I have often said to myself, “Roger, just what’s it all about? Is there a purpose or meaning to this life, or am I a wanderer to forever proceed without direction?” As a young lad I’d always set my sights on living the good life. At first, I’d thought that I’d like to live on an island where the soft cool breeze would come off the ocean and me and my girl would live happily under the shade of the palm tree. A couple of kids would frolic in the sand castles and we’d have plenty of fish and coconuts to keep us healthy. There are a couple of flaws in that scenario though. I found that the beach is laden with crabs, gnats, flees and other vermin that weren’t in my plans. I didn’t even have a girl at the time, and I had no way of knowing if she’d like the sand. As it turned out I didn’t like it and I really wasn’t fond of swimming in the salt water. She could take it or leave it but never said much either way.
I spent some time while on R&R in Hawaii frolicking on the beach but I really wasn’t impressed with it. So, I thought a nice piece of land in Montana with the rolling hills, the vast plains and the clear skies would be just the ticket. Turns out Montana is cold in the winter, cold and wet in the spring, and hot with gnats, flees and other vermin during the summer and fall. So, I had to ask myself, just what did I really want? The comforts of air conditioning and central heating to keep myself and my future family comfortable. Now that’s the ticket. That however, provides a problem though. The house, conditioned air, proper clothing and appropriate food all cost money, and lots of it. Okay, that meant I had to get a job, work hard all day, and hope to make enough so I could afford all of those luxuries.
I finally thought that I’d resolved my problems when I decided to join the U. S. Marine Corps. Surely, they would look out after me and provide me with the means to provide for my family. I’d bought into the idea that a career in the service would surely enable me to attain my goals. After I’d completed my training I returned home and married my sweet heart. That’s when I found out that if the Marine Corps wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one. Thus, this phase of my life started on a rocky foundation and I was torn between two commitments. I had a legal obligation to fulfill my contract to serve my nation, and my desire to follow my heart. That is when I was reminded that my obligation to the military was for only four years and I’d have the rest of my life to remain devoted to my true love. Now when I look back on it, if you’re determined, you may make a commitment and sometimes more than one. When they overlap you simply reinforce the idea that you need to stick to your guns and overcome those inconveniences.
Now, often times I look back on those memories and I can see them as clearly as a photo frozen in time. Funny, those photos never get old or wither with age. They are as clear and crisp as the day they were implanted. I’ve got to smile when I go over them, as they never seem to return in the same order or last the same length of time. Even the events that seemed tragic at the time are brought to mind with firm resolve and cherished just as much as those happy times.
Long before I met my future wife and even before I gave any thought to settling down, I had an idea that one day I’d take the place of my father and provide for the next generation. You see, we kids were taught that family is the important mortar that secured our civilization and maintain order in our lives. I didn’t know It at the time but the foundation for civilization is wrapped up in the love and devotion of committing ourselves to the next generation. It took a long time before I realized that it isn’t always about me.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that things are never as smooth as we’d perceive them to be. Some memories are reflections of what we thought we would be but when examined they actually are artificial. Once in a great while I see things clearly as if they were really a turning point in my life but once examined, I find they were only myths that I bring to mind because I want a perfect world.
Once, I remember, I walked through a wooded area not far from my house and in my mind, I was Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone. I patted myself on the back for being so adventurist and prided myself for my cunning ability to outfox the unseen enemy. Of course, as a ten-year-old you never think that sixty-five plus years later that you’d have a vivid picture of that day in your mind. Now, … Well now it’s stuck there and, real or not, it’s part of me.
When one walks down the path of reminiscence it’s hard to separate the factual from the cloud of ambitions that we had back then. With that in mind, I determined to segment my life into sections. Childhood, preteen, the years of frolic (before I accept adulthood), adult as a young vibrant idealistic dreamer, settlement into sensible adulthood, my working years and at last the crowning achievement of retirement. What I found is there is no distinct start up or cutoff date. They, as life so often does, overlap, intersperse, and push into the next phase in life without ever being able to establish an exact beginning or ending date. With this as a precursor I immerse you into mysteries, cunning maneuvers, wit, or the lack thereof, along with humor, imagination, and intent, as I saturate you in the wonderful world of spirituality.
So here I sit at the mouth of a verboten cave entrance. My thoughts are of carefree days when my best friend Able, and I wondered throughout the valleys and wet lands in search of the elusive treasure. Able was certainly able to climb the tallest tree, scale the most sheer cliffs and out swim anyone in the village. That is until one day he met that monster from the deep that we call the crocodile. That one proved too much as he consumed Able in two swift bites.
No worries today though as Abs’ brother Briganti, after the appropriate mourning time has agreed to accompany me in search of the treasure upon the top of this mountain. His mother strongly objected as he is the oldest and needs to carry on the clan tradition. Bee, as we refer to him is strong and agile enough to swing the branches and slip through the tight spots in search of a way as he and few other men can. I will accompany him as he usually finds an alternate root, tosses a rope and I’m able to join him in short order.
When we arrived at this location it was late and the visibility was very low so we decided to lay over for the night. We’d heard the tails of the dragon who rules the tops of this mountain and eats whatever he chooses, including humans of course. But dragons are fairy tales and meant for the weak to scare them from the tops where the treasures are hidden. Suddenly I feel and hear a thunderous roar of a beast that I’ve not encountered before. The first time I’d opened my eyes I thought that I’d seen something, a speck aloft but convinced myself it was a long way off and it wasn’t all that big any way. Now I was wishing that I’d paid more attention to the rumors of dragons and how to kill them. I pushed closer hugging the wall and slipped behind a rock as it settled at the edge of the entrance. The roar was so ferocious that I thought it was going to pierce my ear drums. After a bit it settled down with its nose just shy of my position. Surely this thing doesn’t really exist. I resolved to be extremely careful and examine the creature. Something funny here. I thought as I peeked around the corner. Something really odd. Quietly I worked myself into a position where I could get a better view. The smell was that of rotten eggs and I could see a small yet consistent fire burning beyond the nostrils. Then I heard the sounds of men chattering in to background. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it seemed one was in charge and shouting commands. Just at that time I felt a hand on my left shoulder. Of course, I tensed up then swung around to face my oppressor. Bee had his hand over my mouth and motioned that we quietly retreat further into the cave. I obediently followed and we slipped through a small crack toward the rear. We spent the next couple of hours just observing the activities below and discovered that it consisted of a small village of approximately twenty people, women included. Bee directed me to a small hole in the wall, you could hardly call it a cave but it provided shelter and we’d be out of the ear shot of those others until we could develop a plan.
“It seems we’ve stumbled across a bit of deception. I don’t think that thing really flies. It’s lifted on the wind and controlled much like a kite. It’s quite an ingenious contraption though.” Bee was showing me those things that he’d discovered while hiding out.
“Now, we’ve got to figure a way to confound them and cause a disruption in their plans.” He spoke as if he’d given it considerable thought so I simply listened. He explained how he’d been able to sneak around the outer perimeters and located what he thought was the center control apparatus and how we could disable it. Hopefully, with any luck, we’d be able to disable their dragon and cause considerable damage to them in the process.
“So, what’s the idea?” Up to that time I had remained silent. Mostly, out of awe at the ingenuity and a thriving desire to best them at their own game. He explained that by disrupting the normal process we’d gain the advantage of distracting their attention so they would concentrate on regaining control of their apparatus and we’d have a better chance at getting off with the treasure unnoticed.
I had reservations about our being able to pull it off but, as they say,
“All’s fair in love and war.” We scouted for another day and as the enemy drew in their ruse for the day we went to work. He was certain that they wouldn’t be able to get it fixed and reestablish control as it would be dark soon and we’d have the advantage of surprise. As we sat there waiting for the sun to go down, I managed to recreate some measurable past occurrences. I laid my head back on a rock, closed my eyes, and allowed a smile across my face as I listened to the melodic chirps of the crickets. It seems they always start up this time of the day.
“Does it hurt?” I heard a soft voice inquiring. I swiped my fore arm across my brow and was mildly shocked to see the blood on my sleeve.
“No, I don’t think so.” I replied as I opened my eyes to see a lovely young woman wiping my forehead with a towel. It was different here. The altitude caused the breeze to be cooler. I gently grasp her hand and ask her name. We had quite a talk for a long while and I was just getting to ask if we could meet again when I was rudely awakened.
“Time to go now before it gets too dark.” I shook the cob webs and joined my companion. It seems he was off scouring the terrain while I slept. When I started an apologize, he simply shrugged his shoulders.
“You’re a low lander and the altitude can play tricks on you.” I thought that as an odd explanation until I considered it for a bit. Oxygen is much lower at this level and for those not used to it, sometimes it becomes a challenge. With that in mind I simply acknowledged with a head shake and followed him down the path. It didn’t take long and actually wasn’t as complicated as I had imagined to be. In short order, we reached our destination and cut loose the ropes to let the monster fly. Then we placed fire to the quiver of arrows we’d brought and started shooting. It wasn’t long before the entire village was ablaze and people were scattering in every direction. We accessed the treasure chest, grabbed what we could carry and returned to the hole in the wall. It was an exhilarating experience, my first thievery, and later we discovered that we’d actually gotten an old relic worth many times what we’d bargained for.
Once again, I could feel the caress of her fingers as she slowly swiped her fingers across my forehead. As I peered into the darkness, I could feel the tingle up and down my spine, wondering about life and why I should care. I woke up to a prickly jab on my leg. Now what? My mind wondered as I jumped up brushing my side. It wasn’t long before I discovered I’d laid down in an ant pile and they were voicing their objections to me covering up their hole. Bee, with a hushed laugh poured water from his canteen and motioned me to shut up.
“We’re quite safe here if we don’t make unnecessary noises.” I couldn’t make out if he were chiding or mocking me. I moved myself to a more, less infested, comfortable spot and asked
“What time is it?”
“Too early to move, now just be quiet.” I questioned myself if this had been a worthy venture or just some spare of the minute impulse that would gradually wind me up in the hoosegow. At any rate I was committed and had to see this through. Impulse is not always the best guide. I rolled over, pulled my jacket around my shoulders and closed my eyes.
“Going to sleep all day?” Bee was already up and about sticking things back into his bag. “It’s late enough now, they’re all tired and have only one sleepy guard posted. Now is a good time to make feet.” I picked up my ruck sack and we proceeded down the steep slippery rocks.
Three days later, as we sat by the side of a bubbling stream, we finally took a look at our loot. We were caught between two feelings. The first was jubilant and the other remorse. When we realized what we had, our first thoughts were of fame and fortune and the next thing that came to mind was we’d stolen a valuable artifact and those who’d lost it would spare no expense or retribution on the perpetrators. This would mean that we’d have to disappear, probably half way around the world and even then, we’d be subject to being caught.
We discussed if we should take it back but decided that being staked out on an ant hill with multiple lacerations would not be beneficial. Perhaps we could just leave it behind, they would find it and return home. A real specific problem with that scenario was that they, by in large had no homes to go back too as we’d burnt them. After a bit of discussion, we decided that the only way forward was to continue and see what life brings. After some discussion we decided that the evening was close at hand and we’d be better off finding a resting spot for the night. We crawled up behind a water fall, couldn’t build a fire as things were too wet and besides, we were afraid that the light would give away our position. I propped my ruck sack against a stone and laid my head back for another night of damp misery.
Once again, I could feel the softness of her fingers gently brushing my forehead and drifted off. My next feeling was the gruff hand being placed over my mouth.
“Keep quiet and listen.” Bee was giving orders again and I was in no position to argue. We sat there, tense for a short time wondering just what would happen next. I started to ask a question only to have his hand grab tighter. Okay, we’re in deep kimchi now. My mind told me as we sat as quietly as possible. I could hear the chatter from the creek where we’d stopped for our water and from the sound of it, it ranged from anger to frustration. I didn’t understand the words but I knew the results if we were discovered. After a while the noise became less audible and I felt perhaps we’d outsmarted them. After a long duration I decided we’d actually attained a measure of safeness and laid my head back once again. I fluffed my ruck sack and laid my head back to get some rest.
As before, I could feel her caressing fingers and hear her soft voice.
“Come to me and we’ll work things out.” She was always positive and I was always certain that she was correct. Memories have a funny effect. They come and go like the wind and cannot be controlled. They start and end randomly, sometimes without offering a conclusion. I think the expression is Go with the flow.
Every once in a while, these memories bubble up to the top, and I can smile because although life had been hard, the truth is just around the bind. They are more precious than all of the jewels that I have accumulated throughout my entire life.
Now I lay me down to sleep… the words replay in my mind’s eye as I stare at the stars. I wonder, shall I ever find real rest? Again, I wonder through my mind, as I reflect on the journeys I had planned and the adventures I’d promised her. Trips to all of the exciting hot spots in the world and the accomplishments we’d attain. Once again, somewhere between sublime and remorse I replay those actions that we never actually encountered. But she never complained. She never whimpered, she never allowed setbacks to overcome my plans. Steady as a rock was she… I replayed that song in my head until I finally gave way to oblivion. Even then, the confusion of signs and symbols flowed through my dreams so I never really am able to rest. So, how can I rectify my faults? Once again, the turmoil of the twisting wind swirls about and sends my body into another restless night.
I woke in the morning, my pillow all a shred, my blankets twisted so tightly that I can’t get up and I find myself on the floor. So now, where am I? Confusion drapes across my mind as I struggle to make sense of it all. Am I alright or have I had another listless night leading to nowhere? Do I have a plan or am I simply here for the amusement of another? So, I lay my head back down, smooth out what remains of the pillow and pull the blanket up over my head. Perhaps if I go back to sleep when I wake up it will all be in place. Somehow it never seems to go smoothly though as I toss and turn again for the better part of an hour, then in frustration I sit up and look for my threads. It seems there is no end to this circle. Even record players come to an end. I whisper, “I love you darling.” While wishing I could speak to her directly. A tear forms in the side of my eyes and I sit in absolute dismay. The things I would do, the things I would say, if only you were in ear shot. Then I make up my mind to release all of those inhibitions, brace myself and prepare to meet the day head on.
As I amble to the wash room I determine that today will be a good day. After all I’m still here and with the onset of a new day, I’ve got a chance. The first thing on the agenda is to take care of the personal needs. I wonder, does ever one have to relieve themselves first or can that be put off for a while? Not that it makes much difference as I’m not about to ask anybody as in the ranking of relativity it’s low on the totem pole. But they do surveys on everything else! I tell myself, so maybe it might be of interest to someone. Any way I preform the necessary rituals, take my pills, brush my teeth, and comb my hair. While looking into the mirror a favorite memory comes to mind. The feeling of happiness sweeps over me and I pause to enjoy. That’s the good part. It is quickly followed by another memory. The funny thing about them is as they come and go, they leave in their wake other feelings. You see memories are neither good or bad as they do not distinguish right from wrong. They are simply there and leave it to emotions to determine how things work out. At least with a record or a radio you can shut them off. So now I’m left in a quandary wondering what I could have done differently or how a different word choice would have forestalled a misunderstanding and the pain of regret. Once more I brace myself and determine that today, as it is the day that the Lord has made, I will gird my loins and prepare for the unexpected. No matter how determined I am to face the day with a new perspective I always find myself on my knees asking for guidance and forgiveness.
Following a good breakfast and a coupled cup of coffee, I’m finally ready to meet the day. My memories of promises made long ago are safely tucked back into their special cubby hole and I resolve to carry on looking forward to another day of accomplishments. I face east and feel the warmth of the sun on my face and convince myself that I will accomplish what I’m meant to do. One drawback, I don’t really know what my assignment for the day is and I have no one to ask.
My gaze catches the movement of the swans slipping across the lake, a small furrow following close behind. My mind takes me back to years ago when she and I stood on this very spot and she grasp me tightly as the tears of joy streamed from her face. With her hand grasping mine we vowed to remain together forever. Then again, as always occurs, a cloud hides the rays of the sun and the lighten flashes, followed by a thunder of a thousand hoofs beating on the roof bring me back to reality. The swans have disappeared and the smooth glass reflection is plummeted with stones of gulf ball size pellets. I quickly retreat to the safety of the room wondering, just what did I do this time. For a brief moment I consider just shutting down and returning to my bed. Yet I know that once this has passed, I will be required to mend the damages, tend to the horses and cows and carry on as if nothing had happened. I opt for another cup of coffee while I await the cessation of the storm.
As I sat there allowing my mind to scurry off in a blissful manner, I’m reminded of the reality that never happened. It seems I’d placed myself upon the ground with my back to a pine tree. I genteelly rubbed first right to left then in a circular motion to relieve the itch that I couldn’t reach with my hands and allowed my vision to encompass the touch of her hand upon my brow. This seems to be a re-occurrence of desires as a means of escape not directly connected to reality. Self-gratification seems to be the stimulus for most acts indulged in by the human species and I am no different. What starts out to be a simple straight forward desire increases the tension and desires and sets one’s simplest fantasies into a frenzy.
My thoughts turned to the pine cones that are strewed about in abundance and a thought grabs hold. It seems there exist an unending abundance and they should be put to some use. Some will use them for fire but what would that profit me? I took stock of my resources and determined that I had ample string and a nice supply of needles in my kit so I could configure them into shapes resembling things, animals, and even people. My mind started in a frenzy pace to assemble all of this into a profitable venture. I just knew that I’d hit upon the ultimate prize to attain my goal of wealth and independence. I’d mind, mold, and produce a most worthy result and all would come for miles and pay huge sums of money to acquire my objects and my knowledge. Alas, much like the castles built in the sand, time and realty set in and I’m right back where I was. Time has passed by; my time of rest had dwindled to a mere fraction of my allotted time and once again I was faced with the displeasures of reality. I vowed to stow it into a special place to be brought up later when I had more time and physical resources.