Halloween

It’s Halloween and it’s still one of my favorite times of year. When I wake up on that day, a myriad of words and images fill my mind and take me to recalling my childhood and the childhoods of my children and grandchildren. This evening, my grandchildren and their friends will take to the streets in costumes and go home with candy and other treats, just as their parents and grandparents did when they were young.

Halloween has been an event for families and communities all my life. When I was a country boy, hayrides, corn mazes, carving pumpkins, and bobbing for apples happened days before Halloween, leading up to the event that took us to town with excitement in our hearts. I don’t remember a time when kids in costumes didn’t fill the streets of my hometown for tricks and treats.

For me, Halloween is the closing of autumn. The season came with the usual sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of summer’s end, when the days shortened and whispered to me the approach of winter. Yet, I bathed in sunlight and the gold, brown, and red when the first leaf of autumn turned color (here in the north) and grew to a crescendo when Halloween finally arrived.

So, I arose this morning and peeked out my window, because Halloween comes with surprises. Will it be sunny, rainy, or snowing when the carved pumpkins are alit with candles one last time and the little trick-or-treaters ring our doorbells tonight?

We shall see. Meanwhile, have a safe and happy Halloween everyone.

Image courtesy scholastic.com.

Birthdays and Life

My baby picture. Circa, December 1957.

Today is my birthday. Another year older and closer to death.

Death is a common theme the older I get. But that’s life for all of us.

I was born on Sunday, 62 years ago. My mother said she went into labor while laughing at Jerry Lewis. She and my father were watching Hollywood or Bust at the movie theater. She loved watching Jerry Lewis movies. My dad didn’t like Jerry’s style of humor, but he enjoyed Dean Martin’s singing. It was Dean and Jerry’s last movie together.

So I came into this world around 11:30pm that Sunday, during a typical February snowstorm in northwestern Pennsylvania. I was Mom’s second child and the first to survive childbirth.

In 1957, Dwight Eisenhower was the US president and a postage stamp Cost 3 Cents. Some of the news during the year told us…

  • Congress approved the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction to protect blacks’ voting rights,
  • Hurricane “Audrey” destroyed Cameron, Louisiana killing 390 people,
  • National Guardsmen barred nine black students from entering previously all white Central High School in Little Rock,
  • The Russians launched Sputnik I, the first earth orbiting satellite,
  • The FBI arrested Jimmy Hoffa and charged him with bribery,
  • The Milwaukee Brewers Braves won the World Series,
  • The Detroit Lions won the NFL championship,
  • The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup,
  • Jack Kerouac published On the Road,
  • Dr. Seuss published The Cat in the Hat,
  • And Laura Ingalls died in Mansfield, Missouri.

I became an avid reader by the age of 5 and wrote my own stories. My schoolteachers encouraged me to write. Comments in report cards and letters to my parents said

  • Steve loves to daydream;
  • He has an amazing mind;
  • His writing is extremely original.

But I wanted to be an artist more than a writer. I drew every day. Even later in life, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Aptitude tests for the Navy and college said I was creative and artistic. And the Navy said I would make a good leader. I think my Myers-Brigg personality type indicator listed me as an ISTJ. Strengths for an ISTJ are responsible, reliable, and hardworking. ISTJs get the job done. They make great business executives, accountants, and lawyers.

But I wanted to be an artist.

I have always had a very active imagination. I live in a bit of a dream world when I can. I’m a visual person and I appreciate beauty and design. And most of all, I feel extremely anxious in the wrong surroundings. Working a job that shut me in an office would have likely driven me insane.

So, I headed to the outdoors and became a wildlife artist. I didn’t become rich or famous, but I did well enough doing what made me happy. Later in life, around 45, I began writing again. I had too many stories in my head, many leftover from my high school days, that I needed to let out. A writing quiz for authors suggested that I write Young Adult stories. It summarized me as someone who “loves to write about years gone by” and is “flexible enough to write like a teenager, with the wisdom and perspective of an adult.” So I did.

Since then, I don’t write or make art as often as I did. Now, I read and think a lot. It’s only natural. I’m in the Thinking and Judgement part of my ISTJ personality, doing some soul searching. I have always been philosophical and contemplative to seek an understanding of the deeper reasons for life. Now, more than ever, I’m intrigued by the unexplained, the mysteries of life, and the phenomena of nature. My kinship and love for the outdoors sparks a deep appreciation for the wonderment and beauty of nature. When I’m outdoors in nature, I feel fully alive.

It’s that feeling that has me looking forward to full retirement from the 9-to-5 working life that I do to pay the bills. 4-and-a-half more years to go.

Quiet and serious, you are well prepared for whatever life hands you.
—An ISTJ personality strength

When Dawn Came (Revisited) [poetry]

It was here one night,
among white blossoms and junipers,
that we lay and were touched
while the rest of the world snored
in their small beds.

We breathed frost words to breezes on branches,
breathing deeply in the deep woods
with no earthly destination,
hidden behind the pulse of dawn
throbbing on a trigger’s touch.

You were delicate incense I lit alone.

In silence,
my fingers found the sweep of stars on bare skin—
a house-warmth murmur of Christmas gold when you breathed.

You were a bird
whose only cry came in color in the company of starlight,
whistling up the violets
in a garden wilderness of morning delight,
flowering into streaming pink and gold,
and fleshed with last night’s rose petals when dawn came to us.

Sunday Dilemma [fiction]

Once when she was twelve, an early Sunday romantic dream left her misbehaved and secretive by the time she and her parents left the house.

They spent the bright and hot morning at Uncle Brian’s spacious and opulent Full Gospel Church of the Disciples of Christ. The place was quietly air-conditioned at a comfortable sixty-five degrees. Sunlight shown through rows of stained-glass windows and reflected off highly polished blonde hardwood walls. Sarah and fifty others sat in a rich, spiritual flavor, on rows of pews covered with cushioned white leather. This was no place for children.

She sat quietly through song and prayer and Uncle Brian’s sermon about sin, how it corrupted the corruptible and damned their souls to eternal hellfire. She listened to an intense preaching about Jesus rising from the dead and becoming savior to anyone seeking salvation from that awaiting hellfire. Sarah shut her eyes and saw herself standing alongside a busy Jesus rescuing lost souls from a fiery damnation that looked a lot like the inside of a spewing volcano. This was not a place where they sacrificed virgins. She felt safe. Almost.

Recalling the dream caused her to flinch between her mom and dad, but she kept her eyes closed. She had done nothing wrong. It had been a dream, after all, likely caused by her hormones taking orders from her DNA. It was her biological clock’s alarm reminding her that she was female and old enough to bear children.

But her parents and the rest of society said otherwise. Which is why she read romance novels under her bed covers, sneaked peaks at Internet porn, and wrote erotic stories on her laptop.

Her face burned. Would the man from her oversized Bible throw her into the spewing lava for thinking about sex?

Uncle Brian’s sermon was long. Her anguish was longer. Reaching the right age would be longest of all. Somehow, she would survive.