I have a friend who used to ride the rails. It was back in the 1970s. And he was photo-documenting the lives of railroad tramps – a culture and lifestyle that was fast-disappearing, even then.
His photographs are haunting and harsh and starkly real in unflinching black and white. They tell stories of deprivation and pride; stories of living on edges and in shadows; of the addiction to it all, the blatant freedom and mindset of it; the habitual moving and leaving and never arriving, never staying.
The work is brilliant. The photographs are utterly compelling. But what captures my mind and imagination the most are the words he uses to describe the experience – not the least of which is in the cultural dialogue of the tramps themselves. more “Riding the words.”
I have now washed my hands so many times, I no longer have fingerprints. I suspect that is significant.
I discovered this phenomenon when it became harder and harder for me to access my phone with my thumbprint. And it seemed to me that my identity must be literally slipping away.
Perhaps that is so for all of us right now. If not literally, then figuratively. And if not as individuals, then perhaps as a species.
We are no longer who we once were – or had become. And perhaps this is a wise and wholesome thing. more “In praise of an identity crisis.”
Once upon a time … before all the world stopped and held its breath … before we became achingly aware of and careful with one another … before, when life was just as it had always been, and would never be again … I wrote a story in remembrance of three weddings. more “In search of happily ever after.”
There is a gaping hole in the picket fence that once stood happily defining the edge of my front yard. It’s a place where the wood has simply degraded and fallen away. I find it significant that it happened under the weight and consequence of great beauty: an old and beloved honeysuckle vine that rested there for decades finally had its way with it. more “A hole in the fence.”
I’m not sure why, but people seem to want to come up and talk to me when I’m wearing my red rubber boots. With or without the dog. Any time of day. Downtown or in the woods or at a store or anywhere in between. more “The possibilities of red rubber boots.”
Quincy is a very literal sort of dog. And he takes things personally. He’s more agreeable than well trained, although he’s rather opinionated. He tries very hard, but is shy. Loyal to a fault. Vulnerable and naive and not terribly brave, but compellingly sincere.
Quincy is the kind of dog who barks first and asks questions later. Particularly when anyone comes to my house. No matter how often they may visit, how well he may know them, male or female, young or old or anywhere in between, he announces their arrival well and loudly. He announces it to me, to them, to himself, to most of the neighbors: “They’re here!” He barks it at the top of his voice. more “Quincy barks YES.”
It was nearly half a decade ago. Yet I remember – I will forever remember – the day I met a horse named Frodo.
It was on the grounds of the Aiken Equine Rescue, and Frodo was a participant in the remarkable Saratoga WarHorse program conducted there – an equine-based, peer-to-peer, veterans program that addresses the unseen wounds of military posttraumatic stress and off-the-track Thoroughbreds. I wrote about Frodo then, as I will write about him now. more “Frodo: from racehorse to war horse to home.”
“Go ahead. Underestimate me. That’ll be fun.”
I read that on a tea towel somewhere and related to it whole heartedly. Now, however, I want to rewrite it slightly to say: “Go ahead. Tell me I’m getting old. That’ll be fun.” Especially when you’re trying to convince me that the pain I have been experiencing lately is due to aging. And that it just has to be accepted as such.
I think not. more “Getting used to the pain.”
They’re called worry stones. Soothing stones … palm stones … thumb stones.
Smoothed and shaped by moving water, the Greeks chose such stones from the sea. In Tibet, they were claimed from melting snows and high mountain river beds. In Ireland they were most often picked up from the edges of ancient lakes. Native Americans selected them not only for themselves, but to hand down from one generation to the next – creating a sense of sacred connectedness, of unbroken peace and symbolism to be forever cherished.
The most prized of these stones have always been quartz. more “Stones of the heart.”
“Be a gift to everyone who enters your life, and to everyone whose life you enter. Be careful not to enter another’s life if you cannot be a gift.”
These lines were written by Neale Donald Walsch in “Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue.” They spoke to my heart, my memories, my imagination. They are the kind of words I clip out and file away and think about from time-to-time when contemplation is good company. The kind of words that come back to me sometimes at the oddest moments.
Such was the case a few days ago when Quincy the dog stepped in my eye. All 72 pounds of him. more “Be the gift.”