Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

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Hunkerin’ Down

 

If watching the local news didn’t worry me enough my throbbing knees do.  Bone rubbing on bone from too many years of athletic abuse, I am usually able to control the pain with Voltaren gel and Tylenol Arthritis pain relief…not this morning.  My aching knees are much better predictors of impending violent low-pressure weather than any meteorologist.

My little piece of heaven is hunkering down awaiting a little piece of hell.  Violent weather has already killed two and it is on the way here.  Long lines of thunderstorms with predicted high winds and a worry that they may become circular in motion.

My home has weathered storms since 1892.  I have been privy to them since 1987 and we have dodged several weather bullets.  Whether tornadoes or straight-line winds, we have been a near miss or a glancing blow on many different occasions.  I haven’t cleared all the downed trees from our last brush with fate, this past winter’s ice storm.

The floors and cabinets found in the newer addition came from our first near miss.  An ancient pecan came down next to the house…followed by an ancient black walnut that blocked traffic for hours on Highway 11.  Later our renovator would turn them into pecan floors, black walnut cabinets, and countertops now gracing our home.  I’d just soon have left them upright and in the ground.

I just stepped out on to the porch.  The air is humid and the breeze tropical.  Every time the wind ceases, I wonder if this is the calm before the storm and check the color of the western sky.

A couple of decades after our first brush with fate, I arrive home one evening to thick, hot and humid, still air and a sky that had turned a brassy, sick green.  I took my bike off my car as nearby thunder rolled; I heard a locomotive coming over my western hilltops…there is no railroad beyond my western hilltops.

I barely made it inside and hunkered down in a hallway with my bride and two puppy dogs before all hell broke loose.  Thirty or so downed trees stacked like Pick Up Sticks in the nearby ravine greeted me the next morning along with a storage building ripped open by the falling top of a tulip poplar and a fence line smashed by a persimmon tree.

On the eastern side of the high rim of hills, the local camp, Lookup Lodge, found themselves trapped with their charges and spent a night without power, their escape routes blocked by downed trees.  My little piece of heaven had dodged another direct hit.

We have a wildlife wilderness filled with pecans, persimmon, black walnuts, hemlocks, tulip poplars, and oaks.  That’s just around the house.  We love them…most of the time…but not during the season of spring and summer storms.  Big tall trees that could easily reach us if they were to come down.   I can’t help but wonder if this will be the big one.

So, we are hunkered down watching the line of thunderstorms march from Atlanta on tv, keeping up with tornado alerts, making sure our cellphones are charged and water is taken up…just in case.  Sometimes I think I liked it better when we didn’t know…days before Doppler radar and other improvements in weather forecasting.

Those thrilling days of yesteryear when forecasting was “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning” or a falling barometer meant “Batten down the hatches matey, we’re in for a blow.”  Days when my knees didn’t ache so much…or at all.

I don’t wish ill on anyone so I don’t know what my prayers should be.  I guess I’ll pray for it all.  “Please keep everyone safe and undamaged.”  Just in case, make sure all of you in the line of fire are hunkered down someplace safe.  Wise men have said, “God takes care of those who take care of themselves.”  Please, “Take care of yourselves.”

Please follow Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

Image from https://stockhead.com.au/resources/stormy-weather-washes-away-profits-at-alkane-resources/

 

 

 

Wake up?  I am Awake What About You?

I was told to wake up by a former student.  I hold no ill will toward him and am happy he gave me a topic and a reason to vent.

I realize I don’t know everything, but I am awake.  Sometimes I wish wasn’t, just caught in a bad nightmare or watching bad horror movies.

I was young, but I wasn’t asleep during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, used to stoke up war fever against Vietnam and communism.  I watched Cronkite describe the Tet Offensive and the destruction of any belief in victory. I cringed at the Mai Lai Massacre and its attempted cover-up.  I read the Pentagon Papers which uncovered the secrets of our clandestine involvement in Vietnam and its neighbors from Truman to Nixon.

I watched hollow-eyed veterans come home to a disrespect they didn’t deserve.  I saw the aftermath of the student massacres at Kent State and Orangeburg…something we the people didn’t deserve.  I viewed the Vietnam protests on my black and white TV.

The evening news showed protesters threatened with thirty caliber machine guns in Chicago and journalist Mike Wallace thrown to the floor for asking a question before being escorted out of the Democratic Convention.  Carnage raged outside the convention center as Daily’s minions used batons and tear gas to disperse protestors.

I experienced the Civil Rights era with government attempts to discredit Black leaders and the Black Panthers…something we still attempt to do today unless we need a good quote to make a point or someone to focus hatred upon.  1968 WAS a time when we really shouldn’t have believed our FBI.  No J. Edger Hoover probably wasn’t a crossdresser, but he was a paranoid racist at his best.

In real time, I watched people of color marginalized, beaten, bombed, and their buses set on fire.  Their votes suppressed by men who looked like me flying a flag from old time’s there not forgotten.  With reports from several states, how has that changed?

I lived through the assassinations of two Kennedys, a King and attempted assassinations on two Presidents.  I don’t believe Oswald or Jones did their evil alone but have no definitive proof, so I don’t spout off about it or embrace conspiracy theories.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories about bombs being sent through the mail.

I witnessed, in black and white, the murder of a sovereign Asian countries’ president and a military coup but didn’t know we were complicit until well after the fact.  Complicit in attempted assassinations on Castro and the Bay of Pigs?  Yeah, those two and others.  Still, until the Seventies, I believed we wore the white hat in our gunfights at high noon and were better than assassinations, coups, and invasions.

Watergate and Contragate?  I witnessed the hearings that followed, a President riding off into the sunset and a Marine Colonel falling on his own sword so another President didn’t have to ride off to California.

Wake up?  Bullshit!

Gerald Ford told the nation their great nightmare was over.  Bill Clinton comforted the people of Oklahoma City and the nation after a mad bomber killed over a hundred and sixty.  George W. Bush left an elementary school reading to reassure a nation when planes crashed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  Yes, as we continue to point out, they were imperfect men, but they knew how to act in times of national distress.  They knew how to calm and unify.

Why do I need to wake up?  There is plenty of evil to go around, and I’ve lived through much of it, much of it created and covered up by our own government.  I don’t need to embrace loudmouths who make a living spouting conspiracy and pointing fingers at the other side.  Maybe we should wake up and realize they are nothing more than small-minded hatemongers attempting to make a buck.

When you share their hatred and conspiracies, you become a part of the problem.  Maybe you should wake up and realize when you share hate you become the problem that is undermining the nation and your friends and neighbors.  We need compromise, not a conspiracy.

More rants and musings at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image was liberated fromhttps://www.lifehack.org/648887/how-to-detect-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

Kaleidoscope Eyes

 

I’ve never been on a trip in my life…a drug trip.  I’ve abused alcohol on occasion, made a road trip or a dozen, but I’ve never dropped a tab of acid.  For some reason, my mind is broken, and I now understand the description kaleidoscope eyes despite mine not being drug induced.  Unlike the lyrics from the old Beatle’s song, there were no “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”  My scrambled and flaring neurons fired in black and white.  It was just a damn dream!

I slept in my recliner.  Upright to offset the post nasal drip exacerbated by our extended ragweed season and the sudden change from a long summer to the late arrival of fall.  Undoubtedly my location confused my blind and aging puppy and sent me down a path that didn’t include “cellophane flowers of yellow and green”.  It bewildered me just as badly as any of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Tilly pawed me awake begging for attention, a treat or both.  The thirteen-year-old would not be quieted until she received her puppy treat and an extended belly rub while lying on her back on my lap.  Finally satiated and bored, she left me for her mommy’s side.  I looked at my watch and found it to be just a bit after three…maybe it was a little after three, now I’m not sure…of the time or the blind puppy dog receiving a tummy rub.  Did that really happen?

I tried to return to sleep, my mind misfiring, sparking like an electrical short.  My thoughts were on our aging puppies, their aging owners and friends I have lost or are losing and not on “the girl with the sun in her eyes”.

When you’re sixty-eight thoughts of your own mortality lurk nearby, no matter how much you try to push it out of your mind.  There are fewer sands in the hourglass.  I don’t dwell on those thoughts but they tend to explode unexpectedly.  I pushed them aside, and they shoved back…hard.  My thoughts seemed to be on a repeating loop, a loop flashing from scene to scene, person to person, my own version of Dante’s Inferno on rewind.

After fifteen minutes of futility, I decided I was beating a dead mule when it came to sleeping.  I needed to get up and be productive or read or watch TV…something to remove the broken kaleidoscope in my mind or at least shade the sparking.  Looking at my watch my scalp crawled.  My loop had not lasted fifteen minutes, it had lasted over two hours.  Every timepiece in my house told me the same thing, two hours had passed.

According to my newest technological marvel, my Fitbit, I had never been awake.  I don’t know which is worse, a lost two hours or living a dream so real it doesn’t seem to be a dream.  Was my puppy even there?

The dream has been lost.  It’s memory rendered like a wind-torn fog.  If it is truly gone why am I still under its influence.  A four-mile walk and a church service later I am self-medicating with a beer…or five.  Maybe I should just listen to Judy in Disguise.  The words make no better sense than my dream or the old Beatle’s tune…but it does seem to be a happier song.

The image is  from Deviant Art at https://www.deviantart.com/ninjahekla/art/Kaleidoscope-Eyes-114938033

For other gentle musings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

“SOUTH WACKO-LAKI”

 

An early morning thunderstorm has jarred me out of a sound sleep.  Sleeping soundly is unusual for me lately.  My sleep seems pain-filled, both from arthritis making its presence know if I lay in one position too long and from the dreams tormenting my mind.  Don’t feel too much concern and it’s not the point of this post.  Compared to many of my friends and family my age, physically I’m doing quite well.

The dreams…the dreams are due to my fragmented mind, torn asunder by depression and anxiety.  Some chemical in my brain has gone wacko, taking the rest of me with it.  I now reside in the state of “South Wacko-Laki” just across the river from “A-Kook-Among-Us.”

Could it have been triggered by diet; the sausage biscuits I should ‘never’ eat, the bee sting or a thousand other triggers that may or may not be the reason?  God how I hate asking, “Why?”  Maybe it’s just getting old.  Maybe there is no reason.  It is what it is…I hate ‘it is what it is’ too.

Anxiety is a new adversary while the depression an old enemy.  I have too much going on, too many things I need to be doing.  Plenty to be anxious about…but I’m retired, I have plenty of time to go forth and be productive…NOT.

My retirement has taught me one life lesson.  I am not a very good steward of my own time.  My lack of self-discipline explains why I’m failing in my early morning attempts at writing while simultaneously NOT really watching a rerun of Bobby Flay, staring at my computer screen wondering where my last thought came from or went to, all the while worrying about the lightning, thunder, and rain washing away my plans for the day.  What plans?

A checklist…that’s what I need.  Little square boxes to check as I complete small tasks.  I wonder how many trees would have to give their lives to create my checklist.  Okay, a few easy things to begin with like “Just get out of bed!”  Sometimes, even that is not easy.  “Walk three miles.”  Why has my walking become so much harder?  Not physically…MENTALLY!

A harder one, “Stay away from social media!”  Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook along with WordPress fits nicely with my fragmented mind…and probably contributes…not probably.  I can’t totally stay away because I use social platforms to advertise my books to people who are NOT buying them.  I must come up with a better plan.  Maybe write something people WANT to buy?  Purchase an advertising service? Quit entirely?

I have four stories I should be working on.  Should be an indication of how fragmented my dried up gourd of a head is.  If I shake my gourd does it rattle with dried seeds?  The seeds are not germinating, I can’t finish the stories.  I’ve reached a point in each…a barrier of some sort.  I can imagine the end but can’t quite find the rain-shrouded path to take me there.

Maybe a hiatus is in order.  Something to recharge my over-used but underutilized brain.  Go hide in a dark cave for a while…no, I’m already in a cave it seems, and the light from the computer screen doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Buffett’s lyrics echo in my fragmented head, “but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.”  Could it be as simple?  Well, wishin’ sure ain’t gettin’ it done!  Fishing…maybe.  Probably should wait until the storms pass or maybe just embrace being at rock bottom in the state of “South Wacko-Laki.”

For a saner Don Miller, one should probably go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If interested in “Mommy Porn” with a twist, you might also consider Lena Christenson at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image is from “Rule the Wasteland”  http://rulethewasteland.com/?page_id=28

 

“As Time Goes By….”

 

My friend, the piano player, is not long for the world.  As I sat with him, giving his wife a needed break to run errands, I felt guilty.  A good portion of my being is praying he goes soon and I’m remorseful for the thought.  I am sorrowful because I doubt his end will come soon…I doubt it will be an easy passing.

His body, a body used to eighty plus years of hard work, refuses to give up despite a mind ready to move on to the great unknown.  Charlie has lung cancer and despite the oxygen he receives is struggling to breathe …and yet he continues to breathe, gasping to hold on, gasping to make me laugh.

In an earlier blog, I wrote he reminded me of Hoagie Carmichael, sitting in front of an upright piano, banging out a tune in Bogart’s and Bacall’s “To Have or Have Not.”  Smiling, cracking wise with an unfiltered coffin nail stuck to his lower lip, his mouth twisted into a sly grin. This morning I’m reminded of another piano player, Dooley Wilson as Sam in “Casablanca.”  I’m reminded of the love song he sang, “As Time Goes By”, but only because Charlie’s time is passing slowly as he awaits the kiss of death. “A kiss is but a kiss….”

A master carpenter when not banging away at the piano, Charlie told me he kept looking at the ceiling above his bed, seeing the imperfections and thinking how bad the builders were…laughing he admitted to being one of those builders.  “We really could have done a better job.”  I could see no imperfections.

“Why don’t we go sit on the porch.  We can roll you out there.  A little sunlight might do you good.”

He agreed, and I helped him into the wheelchair before realizing the portable oxygen bottle was in his wife’s car.  Sometimes it is not the blind leading the blind, it’s the blind leading the stupid.

We talked about death and what it means.  My thoughts on death have always been personal and I’ve kept them private.  Speaking to someone so close to death about death is uncomfortable and disconcerting.  Still…I opened my own soul.  I’ve always believed “energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only changed” which is the basis for my spiritual beliefs, but you shouldn’t say that to someone whose energy is dwindling…should you?

He made me laugh when he asked if I feared death.  I answered, “No, just dying hard.”

Smiling and nodding his head, he responded, “Yeah, me too”, followed by a laugh that turned into a coughing spell.

Charlie tired out quickly and I tried to let him sleep.  He was like a young child, fighting sleep tooth and nail.  He would be silent, eyes closed, and then, as if rallying, struggled to begin a new conversation.

In between naps and gasps, he spoke of times gone by, people he knew, many now gone.  Hopes of glorious reunion.  I wonder…I wonder if his faith is stronger than mine.

I wrote the following death scene for a yet unpublished book entitled Paradise.  It was written with an attitude of hope.  I hope Charlie walks into the light.  I hope we all walk into the light “As (our) Time Goes By.”

The old man could hear voices in his sleep.  They seemed familiar.  He opened his eyes to a bright light….  There was no glare and he didn’t have to squint.  It was soft and warm, welcoming.  Figures were silhouetted against it.  Three he could discern but there seemed to be others just beyond his sight.

“Allen Kell…wake up!  It’s time.”  The old man smiled because he recognized Lucretia’s voice.

“Lucretia…time for what?”

“It’s your time…your time to move to the light.  There are people here who want to see you.  I want to see you.  It’s been a long time and I’ve missed you terribly.”

“Who’s there with you Lucretia?  I can’t quite make them out.”

“Cassandra and Josey…but there are others.  Don’t be scared.  It is glorious, and we can all be together.”

“Together,” The old man found himself on his feet, in a body he didn’t quite remember.  He wore the old Garibaldi shirt from the war, an old slouch hat was in his left hand.  With his right he reached for Lucretia’s hand…except it was all their hands it seemed.  Lucretia’s along with Cassandra’s and Josey’s.  There were more people from his past.  Sean, with his leprechaun grin, waving at him.  Alexandre’ decked out in his fresh mourning suit and smiling broadly.  Shailene in a mauve gown whose bodice defied gravity.  James, Momma and Papa Edwards…and more.

“Come, Allen Kell.  We are here to help you reach the light.  Your time on earth is done.  You should not be afraid.”

“Afraid?  No Lucretia, I’m not scared.  I’ve missed you.  I love you, just lead and I will follow.”

“Come, Paradise beckons.” and he was gone.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing under the nom de plume of Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19