Sunday, March 27, 2011

To Be Remembered Like You

Tender feelings of my sister JoLyn woke me in the early morning hours, and feeling moved, I sat up in bed and immediately set about trying to recapture details from my fleeting dream, but it was too late and all that was left were my tears and the wonderful feeling that had produced them. 
     Saturday night, I had viewed the short clip Channel 4 News had produced recognizing the kindness of her friends and neighbors and I imagine that it had had something to do with my emotional state, although I was only guessing.  None the less, I found myself wide awake and alone in the dark, reflecting on pleasant memories of Jo from recent days. 
     I relived my time with her early in the week, and subsequent visits in the days that followed, recalling how refreshing it had been to see her feeling a little better.  Her big smile entered immediately into my mind and once there, I found it difficult to push aside, not that I really wanted it gone,'s just that trying to fit anything else in my mental picture became nearly impossible.  After some trying, however, I began to recall the faces of people, some familiar, but most strangers to me, that over the past weeks have poured into her living room, bringing flowers, food, treats, music and gifts of all kinds, all given with sincere feelings of Charity.  Not the Charity that most often comes to mind at the mention of the word, but something much, much more, ...the attitude of pure, Christ like love.
Rising, I went to the living room and turned to a familiar passage of scripture.

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Wherefore, ...if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth.  Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail.
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever..."

Faith, Hope, and Charity.  JoLyn embodies all three, and after what we her family have witnessed in the people who love her, I think it's pretty safe to say that she's not alone.

     To you beautiful people who are so right, and good, all of you who have served, visited, written, sent letters, donations, and gifts I say, that someday, when all that is left of my mortal experience are memories of those who knew me, I pray I will have done something to merit being mentioned in the reverence with which I think of you.  Thanks, from the most tender reaches of my heart.

God bless you always,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roller Coasters And Beer

     One year when I was about six, Coy and Jackie Williams invited us out to a new place in the mountains to spend the Saturday before Easter. As I remember, our family got an invitation from them every Easter Saturday to go one place or another for an afternoon picnic. One year was Cedar Breaks, others somewhere up in Beaver Mountains, and I think we ended up in the place I’m about to describe a couple of times.
      It was in the foothills northeast of town I believe, although I may have been confused because of my young age. The really cool thing about where we were going was the wild dirt road we got to travel on both to and from the picnic site. Filled with deep swooping gullies, the road would suddenly drop from beneath our speeding old station wagon, cramming our stomachs up into our throats each time the car made its sudden dive, then down through the seat beneath us as we flew up the opposite rise. One after another, the hills rolled out like a long poor man's roller coaster, filling our car with youthful screams of delight the whole way.
     When we got up to the camping area we found a ton of huge granite rock mounds all over the place, just rough enough on their surface that we could creep up the sides to the top. We climbed everything in sight, and when we were bored with playing on the top, we scooted back down on our back sides. The granite was like a really course sand paper, and so, though it gave us great traction, it also did a terrific job of tearing the bottoms out of our pants.
     While we waited for the food to be prepared, I was doing a little exploring around the creek, and found an unopened can of soda. I couldn’t tell what kind it was because I couldn’t read yet, but I knew it was pop, because I’d seen a lot of grown up people drinking the same flavor at the Fourth of July celebration the year before. It had a horse shoe shaped emblem on the side, and was kind of a yellow gold can. We didn't get much pop in those days, an occasional fountain root beer at Lund's Drug Store down on main, or a Shasta Soda whenever Mr. Sullivan came to fill our big fuel tank on the farm, so to find one just lying in the creek was a huge deal.
     Anxious not to be found out and told I couldn't drink my treasure before eating, I popped it open, and guzzled it like I was dying of thirst. The first few gulps got past my gullet, but suddenly my raging thirst gave way to youthful taste buds and my whole system hit the skids. It didn't seem possible pop could taste that bad, and mid gulp I began to heave uncontrollably.
     A few years later I was educated on the evils of certain kinds of pop they called “Beer”. Mine happened to be Coors, and fortunately for me, the good folks at Coors Brewing Co. had ruined my taste for their foul beverage forever. I honestly never had the desire to drink thanks to that experience, however, I have tasted it a couple of times since just to see if they had made any improvements….they haven’t…

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beneath The Protective Shell

This morning, while addressing some of the Honors English students at Tooele High, I posed this question to the class;
     "What does every true artist hope to accomplish when they first set brush to canvas, pen to paper, voice to music, or feet to the dance floor?"  One particularly attentive young lady near the front answered most appropriately,
     "To make their audience feel what they feel."
I was pleased that she had so completely perceived the intent of my question, and even more so at the way she articulated her answer.
     "Feel" is the key, for without feeling in art, whatever form it may be, there can be no earth moving, glass shattering, soul burning impact, only coordinated brush strokes, tedious words, pleasant music and technical movement.
     A few weeks ago on American Idol during Hollywood week, several of the young contestants each performed various renditions of "God Bless The Child" and though they were all done well, none really brought anything new, or moving in their song.  None that is until a young kid named Jacob Lusk appeared in front of the judges.  What happened next was something that couldn't be planned, choreographed, or faked.  When he began to sing, something moved inside him as unconsciously he peeled back the protective shell guarding his heart, and for as long as his voice rang from the stage, the world felt his soul. 
     When the music finally died, not a person in the theater could keep themselves from lending their own part to the stirring ovation that erupted.  Judges, staff, and fellow competitors were compelled to their feet, and with tear filled eyes, cheered until he had gone from their view.  At home, my wife and I were similarly moved, as surely were countless other viewers around the globe. 
     "What was that?" I asked my wife in disbelief.
     "I don't know, but we've got to hear it again!" came her reply, and we did watch it again, ...and again a third time, each time experiencing the same glorious feeling that had moved us from the beginning.
     Once tapped into his pure center, young Jacob had only to feel as he sang, and want it or not, the whole viewing world was swept along with him.
     While writing "Search For Yesterday", I at times found myself little more than a conduit though which an unimaginable flow of information was passing, arriving in surges that lasted for hours, and at speeds my frantic fingers could scarcely keep up with.  In those moments, raw emotion moved me in ways I hadn't before believed possible, ripping at my heart with pain that drew real tears while at other times filling me with peace, and tender feelings of joy.  Later, while again swept up in the wild current of flooding thought, I found my breath suddenly gone and the pounding in my chest nearly unbearable as I waited in anticipation for what might happen next.
     Nothing in my previous experience in writing had ever given me the hope of reaching such a place as I began to find myself so frequently in, but once tasted, the addictive thrill of it had me hoping and even hungering for more.
     As phone calls, Facebook and E-mail messages, and Blog posts have begun to come in, I'm thrilled to hear that in some small way I have been able to share.  Good times become great when you can share them with friends.  Thank you all for taking a chance on me, ...a small risk though it may have been for you, you still took it and I feel blessed just for the chance.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Owed" to JoLyn

If I may be allowed a moment of indulgence, I feel compelled to write some tender feelings that have stirred my heart for the past several days, regarding JoLyn Heder Hansen, who just a week ago was informed that she had terminal cancer and would soon be leaving us.
     Although my color outside the lines, boyhood style went contrary to her grain, JoLyn, my kid sister, has remained my loyal friend through all of our years of life together.  As a little girl, her squeals could penetrate lead, and more often than not, her ever watchful eye made for a whole bunch of trouble, but she was always my fierce protector.  Game for as rough a play as my brothers and I could conjure up, we tore a gash in the sprawling Milford flats that may never be mended.  She loved  her dolls, and to play house, and pretty dresses, but was also tough, and could run faster than any boy in her class with the exception of Denny Myers,  although only we knew it, as while in the public eye, she kept her un-ladylike tomboyish side fiercely guarded.  She caught lizards and pollywogs with us boys, and was right next to me when I reached up and snatched a Sparrow hawk from its perch on a cedar fence post.  We tortured insects together, built huts, dug tunnels and forts.  We sang almost from the womb, for people we didn't know in a bunch of unfamiliar places, performing songs in three and four part harmony before we were out of grade school.  JoLyn was our anchor, her perfect alto voice never straying from its key even when audiences seeming to number more than half a town had our hearts trembling with fear.  She was mom's loyal sidekick for as long as I can remember, dusting, cleaning, and doing laundry while becoming especially adept at preparing her favorite meal, Macaroni and cheese, which is what we ate any time our parents were gone at dinner time.  She took easily to caring for us and others, a quality that has never left her, and is to this day her finest virtue as she continues to gently nurture her six children.
     At age seven, while my parents were away, I chopped my thumb off with Dad's hatchet, and when I ran screaming into the house, JoLyn immediately turned nurse. Un phased by the pulsing squirts of blood streaming upward with every beat of my heart, she did what she had seen Mom do for bleeding owee's, and began wrapping the wound with strips torn from a clean bed sheet. Neither of us new anything of the vascular system, or the need to apply pressure, so consequently the dripping mass of crimson cloth on the end of my thumb grew to near volley ball size before we realized we were in serious trouble.  In desperation she began again, but was met with the same result as unknowingly I bled nearly to death.  Providentially, our neighbor, Jackie Williams, came to the rescue, stopping the bleeding in time, but I've never forgotten the fierce determination with which JoLyn battled to save my life.  Some years ago, on the long return drive from Montana after attending the funeral of our grandmother, I caught JoLyn crying during a rest stop and asked what was the matter.  A little embarrassed, she responded,
     "Oh, it's stupid," she replied, but at my insistence, she continued, "'s just the way you guys, (referring to me and my brothers) were talking has me worried!"
     "About what?" I asked.
     "Well," she hesitated, "...Mom and Dad wouldn't approve of your line of thinking, ...nor do I, and it worries me that it may eventually lead you to trouble, and just I can't bear the thought of being in the next life without any one of you." 
     The sweet concern of my angel sister touched me in such a way that I immediately revisited my personal value system, and made the necessary changes in order to come in line with the things I knew she felt strongly about.  Someone once told me,
     "It will never hurt you to do a good thing," and as I thought about her sincere desire, expressed in love and tenderness, it wouldn't have mattered what that good thing was, ...I'd have done it.  For the second time in our young lives, I recognized her fierce determination to protect me from harm, and once again I benefited from her goodness.

    For a full week now, I have been thinking of little else but JoLyn, her wonderful husband, and beautiful family, as together they have struggled to find solace amidst a fire storm of unimaginable revelations regarding the uncertainty of her remaining days. In June, we said goodbye to our brother Van, and now, less than a year later, we are again faced with the painful task of bidding another sibling farewell as JoLyn's numbered days fade with each successive sunset.  Though deeply saddened, I have no fear for her, for my trust in Jesus Christ's infinite grace, and the tender mercies of our loving Father in Heaven, assures me she will be received with open arms.  She has been a champion among all women, and has in every way prepared herself for this invitation home.  I will struggle along with so many at her loss, especially her husband and kids, but the legacy she leaves will carry us on.

   To you dear sister, have been every whit my ideal.  I love you more than air.  I will glory in the moments we have left to share before parting, ...and when you're gone, your precious memory will lead me home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yes, There is a Sequel

"Please tell me there is a sequel!"

I'm happy to say there is! ...and a third, fourth, and fifth in the "Beyond Cimmaron" series.  Book Two is "Trail of the Damned", and I have posted a sample and author's description to wet your appetite.  All of these manuscripts are complete, and ready for submittal to the publisher, however, in order to make them successful, we are being advised to give "Search For Yesterday" a chance to build some momentum.  Thank you for your interest and valued support.  I promise Book Two will be worth the wait, and all of the questions drumming in your heads will be answered.