Category Archives: finding love

Pyrrhuloxia

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The desert cardinal.

It sings and behaves almost exactly like its scarlet cousins.  It never flies away from seasonal changes or difficult weather, and it also tolerates drier conditions than its bright red family members.

Why do you need to know that?  Because I am a birdbrain.  I connect things that are totally unlike each other.  I am a surrealist.  And for me, being a cardinal is all about never flying away when the winter comes, never giving up.

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There was a time in my life when I wasn’t entirely sure of who I would become.  Let me say clearly, “I am not now, nor have I ever been a homosexual.”  And if I had been one, like a couple of my friends turned out to be, I would not be ashamed to be one.  But there was a time, in my high school years, when I really wasn’t certain, and I was terrified of what the answer might be.

And it was in high school that I met Dennis.

Now, to be honest, I noticed him while I was still an eighth grader, and he was in my sister’s class and two years younger.  It was in the locker room after eighth grade P.E. class was ended and sixth grade P.E. was getting dressed for class.  I was returning to pick up a book I had left.  He was standing just inside the door in nothing but shorts.  The feeling of attraction was deeply disturbing to my adolescent, hormone-confused brain.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with that feeling.  But I felt compelled to find out who he was anyway.  He was the younger brother of my classmate Rick Harper (not his real name).  In fact, he was the book end of a set of twins.  But I came to realize that it was Dennis I saw, not Darren, because they were trying to establish their identities by one of them curling his hair, and the other leaving his straight.

Nothing would ever have come of it, but during my Freshman year of high school, I encountered him again.  During a basketball practice where the ninth grade team was scrimmaging with the eighth graders, the seventh graders were all practicing free throws at the side of the junior high gym.  While I was on the bench, he came up to me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and he tossed me his basketball.   “Play me one on one?” He asked.  I almost did.  But I remembered that Coach Rod had warned us to be ready to go into the game when he called on us.  I had a turn coming up.  So, I told him that and promised I would play him some other time.  He grinned at me in a way that gave me butterflies in my stomach.  Why?  To this day I still don’t really know.

Dennis’s older brother and I were in Vocational Agriculture class together that year and both on the Parliamentary Procedure team preparing for a competition. We were at Rick’s house.  After a few rounds of practice that convinced our team we would definitely lose the competition, David and his brother trapped me in a corner.

“Hey, Meyer, how’re ya doin’?” Dennis said.  Darren just stared at me, saying nothing.

“It’s Beyer, not Meyer,” I said.  Of course, he knew that.  The Meyers were a local poor family with a bad reputation, and it was intended as an insult.  And it also rhymed, making it the perfect insult.

“Still one of the worst basketball players ever?”

“I try.  I’m working on it really hard.”  That got him to laugh and ask me to give him a high five.

“Goin’ to the basketball game later?”

“Yeah, probably.”

I knew then that he wanted to be my friend.  I wasn’t sure why.  He was picking me out of the blue to make friends with.  We didn’t move in the same circles, go to the same school, or even live in the same town.  He was a Belmond boy, I was Rowan kid.  And he didn’t know I was only a few years past being sexually assaulted and not ready to face the demons my trauma had created within me.

Later, at the basketball game, he found me in the bleachers and sat down beside me.  In my defense, I am not a homophobe.  And neither he nor I turned out to be a homosexual.  He just wanted to be my friend and was taking difficult steps to make that connection.  He was the one taking the risks.  I greeted him sarcastically, and looking back on it, somewhat cruelly, because I was filled with too many uncertainties.  I never meant to drive him away.  But I will never forget the wounded look on his face as he scooted away down the bleacher seat.

He tried to talk to me several times after that.  He apparently never lost the urge to befriend me.  But as much as I wanted to accept his friendship, it never came to be.  I have regretted that ever since.

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Dennis passed away from cancer early this year.  It is what made me think about who we both once were and what I gave away.  I went on to actually befriend a number of boys through college and into my teaching career.  I never chose any of them.  The friendship was always their idea.  I went on teach and mentor a number of fine young men.  I like to think I did it because I felt a bit guilty of never really being Dennis’s friend.  I hope somewhere along the way I made up for my mistake.  I hope Dennis forgives me.  And I wish I could tell him, “I really do want to be your friend.”

The pyrrhuloxia is a member of the family of cardinals and grosbeaks.  And it does not migrate away from troublesome seasons and bad weather.  There is dignity in being a pyrrhuloxia.

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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Stardusters… Canto 53

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Canto Fifty-Three – The Morrells’ Assigned Sleeping Nest

Alden was bone weary as he and Gracie finally found the nest that Sizzahl had assigned to the two of them.  It was a weird little alcove made of artificial stone, with what appeared at first glance to be a huge pile of sticks and leaves in the middle of the central depression of the floor.   The bedding materials were also artificial, however, made from some sort of foamy material and quite comfortable to recline on.

“Oh, Gracie,” said Alden, “I am so relieved to be able to wear clothes again.  I really couldn’t stand being naked around the children all the time.”

“I actually liked being naked, Alden.  It made me feel nice and so very free.”

“It’s like being totally vulnerable, like someone or something could take a bite out of you at any moment.”

Gracie looked suddenly concerned.  “Do you think our poor Brekka is safe with that awful man-eating plant thing?”

“Yes, I do.  It actually seems to take care of her.  I worry more about Sizzahl being safe with this uncle of hers.  Makkhain doesn’t seem very trustworthy to me.”

“You are such an old poop sometimes.”  Gracie looked a little put out.  “He’s her uncle.  He’s family.  Surely we can trust Sizzahl in his care.”

“But what about the rest of us?  Are we safe from Makkhain?  To him, we are the invading aliens.  And it’s no secret that the Galtorrian lizard-people will gladly eat human and Telleron flesh.”

“Well… yeah.   I don’t completely trust him either.  His weird, snaky eyes are creepy.  He’s not quite as human-like as dear little Sizzahl.”

“Gracie, I kinda like Sizzahl too, but you have to remember that she has no regrets about using us for her own purposes.  As soon as she learned we were Earth humans, she wanted to use us for her little Galtorrian/Human crock-pot experiment.  She’s cooking up ten children already, made from our… I mean, my DNA.”

“But when you stop and think about it, Alden, those ten little test-tube babies are your sons and daughters… your actual flesh and blood.  Doesn’t it excite you, at least a little bit, that you are finally going to be someone’s Daddy?”

The thought actually hadn’t hit Alden quite as hard as it did at that moment.  He almost swooned as he lay down on the soft nest-bedding.  “They are half mine and half Sizzahl’s,” He said.  “And they are going to be born from glass jars!”

“Cloning vats for warm-blooded children,” said Gracie.  “And since they are your children, doesn’t that make them mine too?”

Alden knew that back on Earth, not being able to have children had practically killed Gracie.  It was the reason she had been so anxious to adopt Davalon when they found him on that country highway, alone and left behind by his space ship and his people.

“Gracie, how do we do this?  We are living on an alien world now, possibly permanently.  We are two grown-up people from Earth trapped in the bodies of children.  You can never grow up.  And if I grow up without you, I…  Well, I simply can’t do that.   So how do we raise ten children all the same age?  And not just any children, half-lizard children!”

“They’re your children, Alden.  And I will love them as my own until the day I die.”

“The day you die may never come.  And I may have to keep making myself younger every year by Telleron technology to stay even with you.  I may be alive forever too.”

Gracie smiled as she crawled on top of Alden in the middle of the Galtorrian nest.  “Love me tonight.  You haven’t loved me since we became like this.”

“Gracie, you have the body of a little girl.”

“But I am an adult, no matter how young my flesh is.  And I love you.  We have a family now.  Don’t you feel young and alive again too?  Like I do?  Love me.”

There was no arguing with Gracie.   How could he do anything but love her?

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 40

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Canto Forty – In the Bio-Dome Command Center

Davalon and Tanith found themselves naked and alone in the command center, looking at monitors and trying to figure out what was actually going on in the Bio-Dome.

“Do you think we can really trust Sizzahl, Dav?” Tanith asked.  Her large and beautiful eyes looked into the heart of Davalon, Son of Xiar… at least he felt that they did.

“I wonder…  She is not hiding the fact that she plans on exploiting us for her own reasons.  In fact, she has exploited us in bringing us here with those plants she tried to rescue.”

“That’s true.”  Those amazing eyes turned downward towards the floor.  “I was wondering after Brekka was almost eaten by that alien plant why she didn’t tell us that it was there… you know, warn Brekka and the others away from the flower garden?”

“Yeah, I was wondering that too.  She doesn’t seem to care very much if we live or die.”

The two Telleron tadpoles looked at the monitors.  The black-and-white picture screens showed no movement except that of the Morrells and Sizzahl in the cloning facility and the others in the crew quarters.  Everywhere throughout the facility the plants and the animals of the Bio-Dome lay mostly brown and dead.  Only the lone zhar-doe continued to wander and look for food as if it were still trying to survive.

“Do you think this planet deserves to be dying like it is?” Davalon asked.

Tanith looked him directly in the eyes.  “Planets never deserve anything that happens to them.  Comets strike the surface… species go extinct… all life comes to an end… none of that happens because a planet did something wrong.”

“What about the Galtorrian people?”

“I actually like Sizzahl.  She’s so smart and she works so hard… But these lizard people… ugh!”

“They’ve poisoned the whole biosphere.  They eat each other… like our people used to do… and they don’t even have to.  They don’t need to recycle protein and flesh in order to maintain their population and food supply.”

Tanith nodded her agreement.  “These Galtorrian lizard people are creatures from a nightmare.”

“Yeah,” said Davalon.  He realized how much he and Tanith always agreed on things.  She was more than his nest-mate.  She was his friend, his best friend.  If he was ever going to be old enough to be allowed to breed offspring, a rare privilege for space-faring Tellerons, he would want to do it with Tanith.  He actually felt he understood the love between Alden and Gracie when he looked at Tanith.  Davalon loved Tanith.

“What do we do next?”  Tanith looked to Dav for leadership.  He really wasn’t sure what the best course of action was.  They were committed to the present course of action.  Their space ship was wrecked and quite some distance from the Bio-Dome.  If they were to have any hope of living through this adventure, they had to find some way to make this place livable, at least until Xiar’s rescue party found them.  Would Xiar send a rescue party?  Dav didn’t know.

“We have to help Sizzahl for now.  We don’t have any other choices.  At least, not yet.”

“Davalon, I would die to protect you and keep you from harm.”

“I feel the same way about you.”

“But you feel that way about all the tadpoles.  You’re a hero.  But I mean just you.  You are the one Telleron that I couldn’t live without.”

Davalon looked at beautiful, naked, green Tanith standing there in front of him, not only without a single stitch of clothing on her, but more personally naked than he had ever seen her before.  Her soul was bare.  “And I repeat… I feel the same way about you.  You are that one Telleron for me.”

She put both her arms around his neck and hugged him breathless.  She was crying softly.  And all he could think to do was hug her in return.

*****

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Love Stories With Clowns and Elephants

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Yes, this essay is supposed to be a book review of Sara Gruen’s lovely, enthralling circus story Water for Elephants.  But you know me.  My writing gets overwhelmed and filigreed by my obsessive urge to dive into the ocean of things that excite me to purple paisley prose.

It is a fascinating love story involving a depression-era travelling train circus, a young man who suddenly finds himself a penniless orphan days before he can complete his degree in veterinary medicine, an elephant, a beautiful horse-riding show girl and circus star, and her cruel but charming ring master husband.

I don’t think I am spoiling anything by telling you that Jacob Jankowski, the main character of the tale falls in love with both the beautiful Marlena and an apparently untrainable elephant named Rosie.  And I also shouldn’t actually be ruining the ending by telling you that the murderer who ends the story is revealed in the opening pages, but is still a surprise when masterful story-teller Sara Gruen re-reveals the murder at the end.  This is a plot-driven novel that completely catches you up in a doomed relationship, a complicated romance, and an artfully re-created world of depression-era train circuses that ranks right up there with Cecil B. DeMille’s movie spectacular The Greatest Show on Earth.

Yes, I had to equate this book with an old 1950’s movie that I love because of the similarities of plot and spectacle.  Both the movie and the book have a faithful clown friend who lives a tragic life.  Both Buttons the clown, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, and Kinko the clown, the dwarf Walter in the book whose only friend is Queenie the dog before he gets involved in the main character’s problems, play a crucial role as a supporting character.  There is a romantic triangle in each.  Jacob, Marlena, and Marlena’s husband August in the book mirror the complex relationship between the circus runner Brad Braden, his girlfriend the trapeze star, Holly, and the circus’s newest trapeze star, the Great Sebastian in the movie.  And in each story there is a huge disaster that threatens the existence of the circus.  But I am in no way suggesting that one is merely a copy of the other.  Each story is unique and enthralling in a thousand different ways.  They are two entirely different stories told by two different master story-tellers that happen to be built on the same basic framework.  And both of those things teach you a great wealth of carefully researched details about the magical world of real travelling circuses.

Oh, yes… And I forgot to mention, the book Water for Elephants was made into a movie in 2011.

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Doodlefox

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While watching Netflix yesterday afternoon, a retirement activity that becomes the majority of my social life when the diabetes demons are eating me, I started doodling a fox.  It was a pencil doodle at first.  And I was not drawing from life.  I was drawing the fox in my head.  I suspect it was the fox from Antoine de Saint Exupery’s masterwork, The Little Prince.

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Yes, that fox.  The wise one that knows about taming little princes, and loving them, and being reminded of them in the color of wheat fields.  I began to need that fox as my doodle pen uncovered him on the blank page.  There he was.  Surprised to see me.  Either he was leaping towards me in the picture, or falling down on me from the sky above.  I don’t know which.  But I realized I had to tame him by drawing him and making him as real as ever an imaginary fox could ever be.  You will notice he does not look like a real fox.  I did not draw him from a photograph, but from the cartoon eye in my mind where all Paffoonies come from.  And this was to be a profound Paffooney… a buffoony cartoony looney Paffooney.  It simply had to be, because that is precisely what I always doodle-do.

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And so he was a fox.  He was my doodlefox.  I had tamed him.  And then I had to give him color.  And, of course, the color had to be orange-red.

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And so, there is my fox.  Like the Little Prince’s fox he could tell me, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.  It is only with the heart that we can see rightly.”  And I put him in a post with lyrical and somewhat goofy words to give you a sense of what he means to me, in the same way one might explain what the thrill of the heart feels like when a butterfly’s wing brushes against the back of your hand.  Yes, to share the unknowable knowledge and the unfeelable feeling of a doodlefox.  A demonstration of precisely what a Paffooney is.

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Stardusters… Canto 29

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Canto Twenty-Nine – In the Bio-Dome

Being naked was almost more than an Iowa Boy who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s could take.  It was immoral, wasn’t it?  And those feelings that boys get when they are around even the idea of naked girls?  They were back with such force that it practically knocked him on his behind with the sheer power of desire.  Alden Morrell was lost and afraid.  As he stood in the arboretum amongst dying alien trees and dying alien field crops, he tried to hug himself calm.  It really wasn’t an inappropriate desire, was it?  He did not feel urges towards the lizard girl or the naked Telleron girls.  He knew, they weren’t human, after all.  Sure they were pretty, but… and the only girl he really desired so strongly was, after all, his wife… by law.

“Alden?  I was looking for you in the living area?  Why are you here in the greenhouse?  What’s wrong?”

Gracie walked toward him, comfortable with her own nudity in ways that Alden simply wasn’t ready to comprehend.  He loved her… but she was a child.   The size and shape of a child.  Wanting her was wrong… wasn’t it?  He was, after all, a child himself.  At least, in this new body he had been given he was.

“I don’t know.  I can’t stand being naked so much.”

“You look good, and I love you for it.”

“But, I…”

“Alden, we are farming folk.  We know about soil and plants.  Can’t we help Sizzahl save her planet?  And those lovely zhar-does?”

Alden looked about him at the withering undergrowth and the soil beneath it.  He was a farmer, wasn’t he.  He picked up a handful of moist black dirt and held it to his nose.

“The soil smells rich with nitrogen, like it had a soybean crop planted in it last season to fix nitrogen in the soil.”

“Do lizard men know about crop rotation?”

“They must to have soil this rich and fertile.  If only we had some good corn and beans.”

“Could we get some on the Telleron space ship?”

“Most of the plants they grow on board the mother ship are ferns and fungus.  They prefer swamp plants mostly.”

“Rice, you suppose?”

“Maybe.  We can ask Xiar if we live long enough to ever see him again.”

“Alden, we are here by a miracle of God.  I was old and dying, and now I’m young and alive again.  You’re younger and more energetic than I’ve ever seen you.  I wish we had grown up together so I could’ve known you when you were like this before.  I would have loved you from the very first time we met and known you for so much longer.”

Alden stopped thinking so much about himself.  It made things easier.  He focused on the problems of Sizzahl and the tadpoles.  Yes, he was a farmer, and this was a farming problem.

“Maybe we can help Sizzahl and all the rest,” he said.  “Maybe we could find leaves and stems among the plant samples that don’t have the disease and try growing some small cuttings into whole plants.  I don’t see any place here where they’ve tried that.  And we can ask the tadpoles about what seeds they have from Telleri.”

“And maybe even Earth,” added Gracie.

“Yeah.  Maybe even Earth.”

*****

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