Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Night Owl, White Owl

I had labored long and hard in the forest, cutting and stacking firewood. My muscles ached as I undressed and unzipped my sleeping bag. I sat upon the lower bunk and turned down the Coleman lantern. The last waves of it’s light, like ripples in a pond, traveled to the walls of my cabin, where they disappeared into the infinity of the night.

I stretched my legs down into my sleeping bag, and propped my head up with my pillow. My eyes opened just a little, seeking to answer the question of why the cabin seemed to still be unusually bright. My query was answered as my eyes were filled with the beauty of a rural Pennsylvania night sky shining through the cabins only window--with ten-thousand stars illuminating the heavens.

I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep, restful sleep. A kind of special sleep granted by Mother Nature, only to those who labor long and hard in the wilderness of this earth.

Then, it started. After too few hours of this wonderful reward of deep sleep, it started.

“Who. Who-who-whooo.” Please go away Mr. Owl. “Who. Whoooooo. Whooooooo.”

“YOU, that’s Who.”  Uh, I am not going to put up with much of this.

Still in my long johns, I slipped into my work boots, grabbed an empty bean can from the trash, and stumbled out into the crisp early morning forest air.  “Whoooo.” I turned to face my nemesis. There behind me, on a branch of a tall, old, Hemlock tree, was an owl, a pure white owl.

I was about to toss the empty bean can at him, but it abruptly started to snow, quite fiercely, and the icy crystals stung my sleepy eyes. The owl took flight and disappeared deeper into the mystical, moonlit-snow-globe of the forest.

I turned to scurry back inside, but as I did I was struck with fright as I saw a rather large creature lumbering down the streambed on two feet, some fifty yards away. It did not turn to look at me, and I dared not take my eyes off of it. I fixed my terror struck gaze at the wall of reeds where he disappeared into the swamp.

I did not get much sleep for the rest of the night. It’s hard to get comfortable with the cold barrel of a loaded shotgun, lying in bed next to you.

I knew that as soon as it was eight o’clock, Old Lester at the General Store would have his door open and coffee brewing. At seven-thirty sharp, I started to make my way up the forest trail to the road. I followed the road down the mountain to Lester’s General Store. When I was ten feet away from his front door I saw him turn the door-lock and a dirty old sign, to OPEN.  In the course of our morning conversation, we determined that it must have been a bear walking on two legs, maybe it had cut it’s front paws and couldn’t walk on them. Either that or it was a bear that had escaped from the circus… yeah, right.

What it is, is a great story about an owl, and maybe, it’s about that big hairy thing that lives deep in the back woods of rural Pennsylvania. The big hairy thing that the locals don’t talk openly to city-folk about, or maybe, it was just the icy snow in my sleepy eyes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Letter

Dear John,

It has been over a year since we said goodbye at Fort Benning, Georgia. I'll never forget how proud I was to be there for you, standing next to your Mom and Dad. Watching you walk up to your Commanding Officer and exchanging salutes. You were the most handsome man I ever knew in my entire life. I don't remember who cried more, your Mom or me.

I know you said that because we had only been dating for six months that it was too soon to get engaged, even though you knew you would love me forever. I swear, if you had asked me then, I'd of said yes and ran right off to a Justice of the Peace, or the Company Chaplain and married you right on the spot. But you were the one that said it wouldn't be fair, because you were so certain that you would be sent off to Afghanistan or Iraq or some other hot spot in the world.

It was your idea that, only if we wanted to, we could see other people. I swear John for this past year the thought of ever seeing anyone else never entered my mind. Every night in my dreams I can still see your lips moving, saying those words over and over again, " It isn't fair, it isn't fair."

Those words were playing in my mind when your Mom called this past weekend. She told me you got hurt. You were the only member of your squad to survive one of those IED things. Your Mom and I started to cry over the phone. When we hung up I could hardly see through my tears. I jumped into my car --determined to drive all the way to Indiana to be with your folks, but I stopped when I almost hit a little girl waiting for the school bus at the corner. All I kept saying to myself was. "It isn't fair, It isn't fair." I just couldn't do it. I was too upset to make a drive like that. I turned around. Went home, went to bed, and cried myself to sleep.

And again last night, I didn't get to sleep till after five in the morning. The next thing I knew the phone rang about eight am, and it was your Mom again. She said you were in a hospital in Germany. She said you would be home in about three or four weeks.

She told me about your legs. The Doctors told her you were depressed and that you weren't talking to anyone on the phone, not even her. She was getting all her information from the hospitals communications officer.

John, I know you are depressed, you have the right to be. I know, it isn't fair. But I also know I love you, and your Mother and I are flying to Germany next week. I hope you read this letter before that. I love you more than anything, and I will always be there for you.

All my love.