K’s Crow

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His name was simple enough, so he thought of himself as K. He liked Kafka, though Kafka was not what his K stood for. It didn’t matter what it stood for. It stood. That’s what counted. More than once he wondered, where do we go once we’re gone? If not anywhere, if it is indeed from life to blank, where was nature’s balance in that?  Carl Sagan said something about the universe being organized. Is it so unlikely there are manifestations of nature we are incapable of imagining? Why not? How can that not be true? And who are we to assume ours is the best vantage point from which to decide the matter? Humble up, folks.

K’s head found itself busy with thoughts like these from time to time. Old enough now to worry about how much time he had left, a clarity had begun to emerge. Could the point of us simply be the contribution of our life as a whole, and then, that’s it. It seemed out of balance to him.  Why should Hitler receive the same fate as Gandhi? Is there really a conflict of good and evil? If not in those words, certainly there is a battle between healthy and unhealthy?

Wasn’t there something in the bible about a rich man having about as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle? The older you get, the more questions you have, is what K believed, at least for himself.

All this led to Alice, this woman who had once captivated him, and seemed to digest who he was almost instantly. The array, accuracy, and potency of the armor he had built up over six decades plus was acutely formidable, and it found no threat to respond to in Alice. K knew if he was asked what he loved about Alice he wouldn’t know how to answer with precision. It’s like asking what was it you loved about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the only fair answer one can muster in a moment like this is so say, “Where to begin.” Then, stop talking.

Early afternoon, an exquisite blue cloudless sky, not steel blue, but all a powder-soft velvety blue.

A crow arced across the blue sphere like a God.

I’m for the birds!

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Red-Tailed Hawk

“May I please have everyone’s attention?!” My respectful but loudly expressed request was made to a forest full of birds. It was morning. “Everyone, please! Quiet!”

And they were silent.

“Thank you. Sorry to mess up your morning. Now, here’s the thing. The person I’d hoped to be doing this with is not in my life anymore. Is that understood?”

A twitter of confirming yeses.

“So, I’m doing this with a hand tied behind my back. Now,  I love birds but don’t know a bunch of you, so I needed to get some help. Any of you heard of a bird I-D app?

Not even a peep.

“Didn’t think so. New to me too. Anyway, I turn it on, you sing, and it tells me what kind of bird you are.” I took out my not-so-smart phone and opened the app. “Okay, start singing!”

All of them, at one time.

“For the love of God! One at a time!”

Spring mornings the world is alive with birdsongs, audible jewels of sound. I have loved birds and the woods since boyhood, but making it a point to identify birds is a new endeavor.

Writing early mornings these days I can hear the birds before the sun fills the day. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, anything like the justly revered, John James Audubon (1785-1851), but, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be wandering around in the woods, yelling out, “One at a time!” in order to get two types of birds to stop singing at the same time so I can figure out who they are.

 

 

My Dad & biking make life feel safer

man-on-racing-bikeMy father, Sanford Cleveland Kahrmann,  taught me how to ride a bicycle. To this day, when I’m on my bike, he is present. And for me, when my father is present, all the world feels safer. Anything with his presence helped heal the wounds of the day. Today, Saturday May 2, will be first time on the bike this year.

My father died at unexpectedly when he was 55 from peritonitis. I was 15. While we never got to be adult father and son, adult friends, we were friends. I absolutely reject the notion that parents and their children can’t be friends. Rubbish. If you become friends with a family member, the friendship is all the more sacred, and stronger.

I learned how to ride a bike on Buchanan Street in Pearl River, New York. My first two-wheeler was a Huffy. Now, I don’t know this for a fact, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the name was picked because of the bike’s weight, again, just a guess, but I’d say my bike weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-zillion pounds. At least I thought so. After all, the name Huffy made perfect sense. If you had to pick up the bike and carry it for any reason, you’d be huffin’ and puffin’ in no time.

Nevertheless, it was my first two-wheeler. I was proud of it. A grown-up bike.

My Dad put training wheels on in the beginning. I didn’t know kid in the neighborhood who didn’t feel the painful stain of  stigma (usually self-inflicted) of having training wheels. Not just because you wanted to ride a bike like the older kids, but their name. Training wheels! No self-respecting kid in the neighborhood was comfortable being seen with training wheels.

All the kids in my neighborhood, boys and girls, were self-respecting. We wanted our training wheels taken off our bikes, as soon as possible.

Finally, the big day came. My training wheels were coming off! Holy crap! I sensed I might be experiencing a wee taste of what it was like to become a man.

The moment was as ceremonial as it gets. I got on the bike – Wait!

A sidebar, if you please. I had short legs.  may be worth noting that inch-thick blocks of wood were clamped to each side of the pedal by a generous wrapping of duct tape, all so my feet could reach the pedals.

Back to the story.

The ceremony was underway. I am balancing on both wheels supported by my father who is on my left and holding onto the back of the bike seat. I start to pedal, and we get underway. My Dad jogs alongside, holding onto the back of the bike seat.

My confidence grows. I am pedaling!

Now I am becoming a man!

Now I look to my left; my father isn’t there anymore.

Now I am careening onto the Costello’s front lawn!

Now I am toppling over!

Now, of course, I am trying again.

It took about two more tries to get it right, but soon I was riding my bike. Picking up speed. You discover one of the reasons people talk about the wind in your face.

There was a freedom to be had when I’m on my bike. Still is. Our movement is our own, and, for me, there’s the gift of knowing my father is part of my every stride.

Tadmuffin Millhouse #1

“A lot of people are rubbish on the loyalty front. I don’t get it.” Our speaker was my good friend of many years, name of Tadmuffin Millhouse. Tadmuffin. How on earth do you not like someone named Tadmuffin Millhouse, I ask you? The man sounds like a cottage!” log-cabin-1886620_1920

We were sitting side by side on an old rock wall flanked by woods on one side and a meadow on the other. We faced the meadow. The movement of a meadow when the breeze has its way is magic to behold – beauty in perpetual motion. Tadmuffin’s chest had puffed up with happy pride when out of the blue I asked him for his views on the importance of loyalty. 

“Too often the script is essentially the same. I’ll hear a woman or man say, “I’m loyal to my family and friends. To all my loved ones,” and then, more times than I’d like to think about, they jump ship the moment any, say, actual real-life loyalty be required.” 

And then, Tadmuffin being Tadmuffin, told me his loyalty. 

“Loyalty comes from our better angels. Spiritual nausea and pain is what disloyalty feels like, experiencing it, or inflicting it. Disloyalty is injustice. Moral injustice. Hell, I’d be loyal to that pleasant looking man walking across the street over there. I can see his wife. They’re laughing. I’d be loyal to her as well. I love being loyal to others. I can’t do anything about lip-service loyalty. Loyalty is an honor to have in one’s marrow. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fear free, but it is honorable life.” 

Back to the woods

The woods have been my sanctuary since I was a small boy, and now, after another wrestling match with a dose of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is my sanctuary. The PTSD is the result of being held up and shot in the head in 1984.

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The author. April 4, 2020

Needless to say, events like that one shift life’s landscape to varying degrees. It’s not unusual for it to take time to, first, recognize the changes, then, the hard step, accept them. You have to accept them in order to manage them. If I did not accept my eyes won’t let me read anymore on their own, I wouldn’t wear glasses when I read.

If you don’t accept the presence of whatever it is that is impeding your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it will continue to drag you down, and it won’t stop.

The woods and all the magic that awaits there, welcomes everyone with as pure an equality as there is in life. I’ve done a lot of healing in the woods. They’re helping me heal now.