Author Archives: eelprod

A Shift in Direction

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MomentsThere is this moment, caught within a second, that gives us pause.

Over the past four years writing has become more and more important in my life. It has taken my work as a photographer into the realms of expressing what I see and imagine with words, and not just with pictures. Photography lends itself to the visual direction in my writing. Now, when I see a scene in my mind, it is through the lens of a camera, that stop in action moment that allows me to describe each element in a scene.

Granted, this did not come over night. In fact, I find myself revisiting work from previous years and doing complete do overs in the descriptive scenes or throwing them out entirely. Each year, each month, brings improvement in the scenes described in a story, character building, and flow of the book. This could go on indefinitely! But in the meantime, there is hope that something gets noticed and published and others outside of the writing group I am in will see my stories.

This blog has been sporadic over the past few years. In this coming new year I hope to publish more. One of the things I want to blog about, and thank you Peggy Konert for this suggestion, are reviews of books. The first one I want to share with you is “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. As the work within the writer’s group entails both praise and critique for improvement, I have approached this one in the same way.

A novel titled The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty, birthed a considerable inspiration in my own writing on how to utilize a character’s inner thoughts, write from each character’s perspective, and build suspense to keep a reader engaged.

It is the story of several key characters, set in Melbourne and Sidney, about a man’s secret held close for decades until his wife finds a letter addressed, “To my wife, in case of my death.” The contents of the letter are intriguing but not the focus of this review. Three of the key characters are not involved with the man’s secret but play alongside his story throughout the book and hold their own place with great tension and success.

Will and Tess live in Melbourne with their young son Liam. In partnership with Tess’ cousin Felicity, they run a small out of the home marketing business. Tess and Felicity have been best friends since birth—their mother’s are sisters.

One day, Felicity and Will sit down for a weekly update meeting with Tess to go over the week’s focus. Before the meeting starts Will and Felicity tell Tess that they have fallen in love, and over the course of the discussion the possibility that they could all remain living together is mentioned. They inform her that they have not had sex, as they felt it was too much of a betrayal without Tess knowing what was going on with the two of them.

Tess takes Liam to Sidney to stay with her mom, who has just broken her ankle and needs the help anyway, giving Tess a reason to leave without letting people know what is going on. Tess is slowly introduced to the other characters in the story and the reader finds the connections of these characters to each other quite believable. Tess becomes involved with an old boyfriend and she begins to question herself and what she believed she felt for her husband, and whether she was indeed in love with him. Her connection to the wife of the man with the secret and the secretary at the school she enrolls her son in, play together expertly and keep you reading way past the time your eyes are saying go to sleep!

One element that really stood out in the reading was the compassion Tess expressed for Felicity and Will, and her ability to look at the situation through her heart. She loved her cousin so much, and held such empathy for her husband, and viewed the situation through her own actions in Sidney, and she went with an unconditional love approach to the heart breaking revelations. How each character in the story deals with their own emotional struggles with others is handled beautifully and leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and spiritual uplifting.

What this book did for me was multi-fold:

  1. It fortified my belief that my approach to how a character in one of my stories comes to grips with her husband’s desire for other women is believable.
  2. The style of writing Moriarty carries throughout the book of revealing the characters’ thinking to bring out all of the emotions and responses, inspired me with what I can add to my writing to make it even stronger.
  3. That the flow of a story is one of the most important elements in a book. Once you have a reader hooked, do not let that tension falter but build until the climatic ending.
  4. And, that even a published author with wonderful books can improve in their writing (which is great encouragement for beginners in the art).
    1. For example, she has the wife of the man with the secret opening the letter to read it and then leaves the reader hanging for two chapters to read about the other characters before allowing the reader to read the letter! I jumped ahead and then went back.
    2. A timeline gets confused and the author says “yesterday” when the story actually had the situation happen two days earlier. This is a hazard of rewrites and deleting scenes.
    3. She added after the final chapter a “what if” section, letting folks in on things not mentioned or hinted at in the book. One example, the paternity of a baby, which had never been brought up in the book as a possibility. Totally took away the exhilarating tension of the book and how she worked out the storyline. This reminded me of the epilogue in one of my stories that opened up so many cans of worms after ending it with what finally became the final chapter. Linda, another wonderful writer in our group, said my epilogue took the reader out of a good ending and created discomfort at the future stories introduced. She actually wrinkled her brow in distress as I read the epilogue to the group. So I ignored the ‘what if’ section of The Husband’s Secret, and settled on the ending I preferred. It reinforced what Rebecca, a writing teacher in our group, loves to do, cut the last part out!

This book is a must read!

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It is all about the light…

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baptism

 A baptism at War Eagle Creek, under the Bridge, by a small Baptist Church. Love the light.

Staring at this empty page, waiting for some great string of knowledge and wisdom to magically appear, I notice the light through the slats of the kitchen window blinds. As soon as I brought up the blank page and asked for a nudge in the right direction for a piece that would impart some key that would move the world, I saw the light.

Each evening, around 7:00 p.m., the light comes, slanting through the branches of my neighbor’s forest. The shade from the giants that loom over the white two story home behind our mutual fence, create a cool environment for my yard without all the leaves to be picked up in the Fall.

Less often do I witness the morning light, coming in the opposite direction, creating a world of varied shades of green. Sitting here with keyboard under my fingers, my mind searches for words to describe the feelings that are invoked by the light and ensuing shades of green. If I was a painter I would put those colors on a canvas, selected from a palette that does not require a descriptive, only a visual selection.

Crayola has them all named, I’m sure, but without a box of 54 at my fingertips, the colors remain unnamed. Yet, they are all there, laid out without form or reason, shadow and light changing them with each passing moment, making it even more difficult to define which green is showing out when and where.

Yesterday at the Mill, a woman with a Canon Rebel series camera showed me a photograph she had taken of a deer and lamented the glow in the deer’s eyes created by the false light of an automatic flash. Seeing the wheel set on the little green rectangle that represented complete authority over a photo by the camera, I shared with her some of the camera’s features. As I shared with her a few tips on how to use her camera more effectively, the words came, “The features in this camera, the functions available to help you create a good photo, are all related to light. Everything about a good photo is about light.”

Sitting here at the table looking at the light fall through the trees in my neighbor’s yard, I flash back to my first workshop with David Alan Harvey, my favorite teacher. He had said the very same words to me, “…it is all about the light…”, and over the years I have grown in appreciation for this simple yet profound fact.

Everything is all about the light. Not just a good photo, but our lives and world we live in. Be a light in your world. The world as a whole is so shadowy and dark, yet within each of us is a light that when loosed around us, can spread out and open up the pockets of darkness. Be a light. Light of love. Light of kindness. Light of understanding. Light of compassion. Push back the dark, be a beacon of light.

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My mind is clear, my heart is peaceful.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I watched a movie the other night; not so great a movie but one line stood out.

There is so much chaos in this world: wars, killings, abuse, deception–all splashed on the screens of our computers and televisions on a sometimes minute by minute basis. “THIS JUST IN” usually sets off alarms in our heads that create stress reactions in our bodies. That’s why I don’t buy newspapers or subscribe to cable. I also ignore the headlines that try to intrude on my Yahoo page, alongside my Facebook newsfeed, and I select “I don’t want to see this” on a lot of the postings from my friends.

The line in the movie was referencing what one of the characters allowed to roll through her mind during meditation. I have learned over this past year that bad words make for bad feelings, good words make for good ones. I am a strong believer in the power of words: words we speak to ourselves, to others, about ourselves and our goals. Such a common mantra in the world of “feel good philosophy” and often pushed aside as old fashioned, but this is very old wisdom that should be heeded.

What we watch for entertainment is also a HUGE influencer on our thinking and behavior. You can say, “Oh it is just a movie!” but next time you sit through a show that has bad language, bad behavior and/or extreme violence, see how long you find yourself flashing back to that movie. Take note of how you feel and how it affects your behavior. This one is a tough one. We have been slowly brought into watching things that just a few years ago were tightly restricted. In the name of freedom of artistic expression, movies now have scenes in them that are hard to sit through, especially with others.

Several phrases are among my favorites when I am pushing through doubt, red tape, negative talkers. One is this new one: My mind is clear, my heart is peaceful. Another is: God loves me and has a special purpose for me. When I get bogged down I turn to those tried and tested methods of changing my thinking and my words. Another favorite is “Fake it till you make it.” Even though I may not be feeling what I am declaring, I find that by saying the words over and over that I can reshape how I am feeling and reach a good place in whatever I am trying to achieve.

You can use this method with anything; learning a new skill, taking on more responsibility, making peace with someone who you are struggling to be peaceful with–the options are unlimited. The only limits are what you put upon your own self.

This blog post is more for reminding myself of the advantages of positive reinforcement than to share with others. That is one of the great benefits of owning your own blog. I can be my own personal therapist and share some of my favorite photos in the process. Plus, who knows, maybe someone out there needed to hear this. So I followed the prompting and hopefully it settles in where it is needed.

My mind is clear, my heart is peaceful!

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Reading Between the Pixels

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Snow with table

Snow’s Covering & the Odd Assortment of Things in a Yard

Everything looks better with a coating of snow: old houses, wrought iron tables of unknown origin, a bird bath that won’t hold water. And add to that the appearance given by a coating of photoshop, and voila! you have an amazing scene.

People are like that snow covered yard. A coating of half truths, convenient loss of memory, fancy resumes, and the picture you paint of yourself can look great. Anybody remember that old movie from the Ma and Pa Kettle series where Ma keeps bugging Pa to paint their dilapidated house? Ma comes home one day to find that Pa, a man with deep levels of laziness, has painted the house and it looks so wonderful. Then it rains and the “paint” washes off. Pa had used whitewash as a quick fix to what he thought was a major issue in his life, his wife’s need for a house that looked good. Ma was very upset; Pa was apologetic and felt bad. But nothing that Pa did and learned through his experiences, ever changed how he approached life–lazily, filled with quick fixes and avoidance.

I’m in the process of looking for a house to purchase, one that will fit all of my family’s needs and my budget. It has taught me, again, the lesson of how to read between the lines, or in this case, between the pixels. Just as the photo above makes a scene that looks enchanting, so do many, if not most, of the photos posted on websites advertising homes. Since beginning my search, I have walked into houses I expected to be larger, cleaner, more together and found trashed walls, nasty bathrooms, and detritus left behind by jilted inhabitants.

After several weeks of looking at the “real” house as opposed to what a photo tries to convey, I am much more savvy. But I still get taken by surprise, just like the house I went to today. The photo I had seen showed another section of house on the end of it, making it a worthwhile look at for the price, knowing I would no doubt have to put some work into the property. I don’t know where that section of house disappeared to. And the two houses sold together advertised completely different than what they were in actuality. Oh, you can see remnants of the pixels that teased me into viewing them but no where close to what the photos portrayed. Or, as has happened with several, a Pa Kettle approach to renovation–using toxic and substandard materials and methods to whitewash the truth of the house.

Which brings me back to my topic of how humans cover up their truths. It is only after you have spent some time with people, seen the results of their actions, experienced their truths, that you can usually “SEE” a person. Many times over my lifetime I have met people and seen their physical appearance one way and after knowing them, have that appearance change. It is because I have gotten to know them, accept them, believe in them, love them, that even a person who is considered unattractive by worldly standards, becomes very attractive to me. The same thing happens in reverse: persons appearing attractive and/or savvy in their abilities, after some knowledge is gained of them, show their true colors and become much less attractive.

Our world view is covered by the hype of all kinds of people; people wanting to sell you something, make you believe a news story, create an illusion they know best for you. So next time you are in a situation where you have to make a major decision about something, or hear a news report that is “the truth”, don’t just read between the lines–read between the pixels. See the whole truth. Several years ago, after being taken in by several sad sacks and their down on their luck stories, I asked God to show me when someone was in true need of help, and not a con artist. The very next time I was confronted with a person asking for my help, within the first 60 seconds the person shared information with me that told me their truth. But I ignored it, and in effect ignored God’s tap on my shoulder, and ended up helping someone who created havoc in my life and others.

Read between the lines and pixels, and you will save yourself many trips down the wrong, sometimes cleverly snow covered, paths.

Snow w wagon wheel

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Hoar Frost & Knowing without Knowing you Know

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Hoar frost 1

“It is Hoar Frost, I think.” As customers arrived and we admired the scenery from the windows of the Mill, the term slowly came to mind, and even the spelling of the word.

December 26, 2013, driving to work at War Eagle Mill, the vistas of frost on the trees, shining in the beautiful light, the clear blue sky outlining the white, left me speechless. Once the Mill was open and no customers, I asked my co-worker to join me outside to take photos. Jennifer is a budding photographer and was glad to join me in marveling at the fantasy world outside.

The bridge, the trees, everything with an edge or a surface, was outlined in pure white slivers of frozen fog. That is what the forecast had called for: frozen fog. Having no idea what that meant, I dreaded the idea of driving to work in “frozen fog” but then discovered the sheer beauty of it without the danger of ice and snow covered roads. Jennifer and I walked over the bridge, around the mill, and looked up into trees above our heads. Every thirty seconds, at least, one of us would say, “It is gorgeous” or “I’ve never seen anything like this” or “How beautiful!”

And it was so beautiful; a fairy land scene like you see in movie musicals, people dancing improbably out in sub-zero weather without proper shoes or coats, the sun glinting off of the frozen trees and ground. It was cold, but without the wind it was really not hard to deal with. An hour later, the whole scene was transformed, the sun once out for a while melted it all away.

Over the next two weeks connections to my thought process of how I came to know the word hoar frost kept building. Something I would read, a thought that would come to mind, a conversation with someone. Over those days I recognized that there is a connection to knowledge that we are unaware of but is so available for the asking.

Some might call it a generational genetic connection, others might say a universal knowledge, or innate (inborn; natural) knowing (another way of saying genetic imprinting maybe). I’ve tapped into this thought process before; a knowing of something I wasn’t aware I knew would make me think: hummm. But this time I got it.

A book I’m reading for the second time talked of how God walked upon the deep and what that brought up for the author. As I read it I imagined God walking on the waters of the deep, before any form had taken place, and thinking, “Think I will do this,” and it was done. His knowing so old and no doubt surprising him when he recognized the knowing. Some might say that God knows all things all the time. And I believe he does. But just like us, made in his image, maybe it takes the right time, the right setting, to bring it to mind and fruition.

As I have gained in age I have gained in knowledge (thankfully). And much of that knowledge I gained because I listened to a teacher, or an advisor, or read a book, or researched it. But a lot of what I know seems to be just like that hoar frost, a knowing without knowing I know. My friend Larry suggested I post a photo from the series on a weather station website. When I searched and found the site, the first thing I noticed was the description by the weather man of the “hoar frost” that was all over the landscape.

But, I already knew that! So trust your knowing, stop second guessing yourself. If you have to, look up the word, or idea, or fact and verify it. But trust the knowing!

Hoar frost 3 Hoar frost 2

 

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Listen with your ears, and whirl on!

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Dervishes

“Are you a Whirling Dervish?” I asked the young girl whirling through the aisles of the Gift Shop of War Eagle Mill. “What’s that?” her brother asked. “Yes, I am,” she piped in. As if she totally understood what I was asking her.

Whirling is a good description of what it feels like sometimes in my life. Seems like events, people, weather and time all whirl about me as I walk down this path that has been laid out for me. I step out so many times uncertain as to the outcome but with an intuition knowledge that assures me it will all be good.

In this season of Christmas I find myself turned off by the whole experience. And while I spent a few dollars and time collecting gifts for my very immediate family, I felt coerced somehow. That the mass push to buy, buy, buy was pulling me to do something I really didn’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong. I spent a lovely three hours deciding on the perfect gifts for my grandchildren and daughters and found the perfect parking place (thank you parking Angel). I was patient at the lights and the long lines of traffic, kind to clerks, engaged other shoppers in conversation, smiled at babies, and watched the manic pace of others.

Giving is something I love doing, so I do it all year long. It might be a simple leaf painted with someone in mind, a ride to do errands for someone who no longer drives, or as nice as clothes needed to start a new job. That’s the giving I like. This giving pushed at the end of the year doesn’t speak to me. So I had to get outside of myself, think of the meaning it holds for those that I am buying for (very disappointed and sad if their grandmother didn’t buy them something), and do it.

Then I wonder: what will I do next year? Every year for the last four years I have asked myself this question. Every year I think: I am not going to do Christmas this year. Every year I can’t stop myself from it. Although it is not my thing, and rarely do I receive gifts in return, I get out and buy those special things I feel they need and want.

That day at the mall I felt like a Whirling Dervish. Not so much out of control as others place on the term, but centered, focused on the joy of the moment, and just doing it. With that attitude the time went quickly and I was done in a very short time. I admit, a couple of days earlier I wasn’t in that frame of mind and had to ask God to help me with my attitude.

Soon, this season will whirl out of sight and we can focus on a new year with new beginnings, which really are just a continuation of what has happened the year before!

I hope all of you have a glorious season, however you celebrate it, and keep on whirling! And remember, God loves you and has an amazing plan for you. Ask God what it is and you will receive the answer if you listen. Jesus had this wonderful saying, “Let those who have ears, hear.”

Whirl on!

 

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Unique People: A Long Life Together

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Jerry and Carolyn

My grandson is leaving for school today. Just two hours down the road, he will be on his own for the first time. Eighteen! Hard to believe that little bundle I was first introduced to so long ago is the same tall young man that drove by himself from Tennessee all the way to my house. Much taller than me, he is still my sweet grandson and now traveling his own grown up path.

The couple in the photo started out their lives together even younger–they ran away at 17 to get married. They both went to small schools, his with five rooms and one teacher, and her school was heated with a coal stove much like the one they are standing by.

I’m sure their parents were very concerned; they would have known the challenges these young people would face in life, and how little they both knew at the age of seventeen. But 53 years later they are still together, and from my conversation with them, very, very happy and in love. This was their anniversary and they had chosen War Eagle Mill to celebrate.

The older I get the more I say things to indicate that life was so different in my youth than the young kids of today are experiencing. No doubt that is true, and this couple’s parents no doubt thought the same thing. Each generation has a different world to experience. And each young person will no doubt think of how different their life was than the children they have and watch head out on their own.

So as my grandson heads out on this new adventure, I gave him a few (well more than a few!) words of “sage” advise:

Mom isn’t going to be there to wake you up for school. Respect the property of your hosts. Don’t be afraid to fail; life is full of successes and failures and even the failures pay off somewhere down the road. Don’t let fear of failure keep you from plunging into the adventure ahead of you. Take life one day at a time and don’t worry about tomorrow. Pray; the Lord’s Prayer covers everything. Follow your heart; if this isn’t what you want, don’t be afraid to try something else. Just make sure you give it a chance. You are doing this for a reason, and the reason may be totally different than what you thought you were to do. And finally, the most important, to be honest with yourself and others.

I wish someone had told me these things when I started off. Maybe they did and I was too sure I knew the right way for me to listen. My life has been filled with many exciting wonderful adventures, others rather dull but fulfilling, and of course, some that broke my heart. My heart mended, the adventures I experienced led me to where I am now, and the skills and knowledge I gained is what I need for today.

So I hope my grandson takes my words to heart, and even though he will no doubt experience a lot of the same kinds of bumps and thrills I did, remember that life is to be lived, not enslaved by what the world at large thinks he has to have to be successful.

 

 

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Unique People: Freedom of the Road

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Good ole days

“I’m a full-time RV’r, camped at Rocky Branch. I’m moving on to DeQueen for a month, then to Alabama for the winter. I’ve lived in my RV for many years now.”

This sweet man loved coming to the War Eagle Mill for breakfast every few days, while parked at Rocky Branch. War Eagle was a destination on his sojourn across the states in search of good weather. He loved the area, the Mill and living in a RV. Originally from Fairbanks; if not for the stroke, he said, he would still be there. His love of fishing and hunting has been put on hold by the loss of good movement in his legs, requiring a cane to walk.

He has friends in all the places he stays. The price of gas has curtailed a lot of the road trips, and have been replaced by longer stays in areas he chooses each year. This is his fourth, maybe more, year to come to War Eagle Mill. This morning was his last time for breakfast before moving on to DeQueen. His stroke makes it difficult to maneuver the stairs but he just had to have breakfast “…one more time before I leave.”  He is probably in Alabama by now, enjoying the balmy winter days on the coast.

Bob looked at me funny when I asked him if he would be the first in my photo series of unique visitors to the Mill. But he gladly stood for a photo and signed the paper I wrote his information on, giving me permission to use as I liked.

We stood talking for quite a while, and during the conversation I saw layers of history hinted at that I would love to know. His life in Fairbanks, why he is on his own, what it was like to lose his full mobility. I could take photos of every single person that comes to the Mill and put them in this series, because we are all unique. But there are some that just stand out; people who have a spark, a knowledge, history that others do not possess.

Over the next few weeks I will post more about the unique folks that come to the Mill.

Why don’t you come by?

IMG_8681 Mill at sunset

 

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Sunflowers

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Sunflower

Yesterday, on my drive home from work, I turned around in a driveway to go back and look at a house that was for rent not far from work. In front of the house where I turned around was a bed of large bent over sunflowers. Loaded down with their bounty, they could no longer hold their heads up to the sun.

Sunflowers have fascinated me since I was a kid. How that little plant poking its way through the soil, could grow to the giant plant loaded with seeds that are loved by both humans and the birds and other animals that feast on them.

Life is like a sunflower. Starting out so small and innocent, growing to maturity, producing a life, carrying a burden at times, and eventually fading away. But in the meantime, we flourish, shine in the sun, give of ourselves, receive nourishment, shine forth in beauty, and make our world a better place.

Nothing more than that today; just wanted to share the beauty of sunflowers.

 

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Changing Views

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Rain 2

This view out my front window is one that I have been looking out over for two years. Finding this house was the final piece of an adventure that began thousands of miles to the West. And the beginning of another one that today looks wholly different than that first day looking out my window onto this scene.

My family and I had just completed a marathon drive from San Francisco to Arkansas, and after almost a month of looking for the house that would take care of our needs, found this one. We drove across the US as opposed to flying directly into Northwest Arkansas from Maui because the airline refused to allow animals to travel in the belly of the plane to any place with a temperature above 85 degrees.

Listening to the rain filling the street out past my picket fence, the memories of our trip to Arkansas flood my mind. No Ka Oi and Bob, our little dogs, barking furiously at a large cowboy statue in Las Vegas, Bob shaking so hard for hours after getting off of the plane, and the kids fighting in the back seat. The Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona, the heat of Tuba City and walking in the footprints of ancient dinosaurs. Lying in a different bed each night wondering what we would find at the end of our journey.

But what this morning’s view of my picket fence brought to mind the strongest, again, is how amazing our trips through life flow together to form the present. How each moment we live creates the scene for the one that waits behind the curtain being readied to play out.

Last night I watched a two-part series from PBS on the Dust Bowl; how the intense farming that brought prosperity and the American Dream turned on those that thought they had finally achieved that dream. All of the lessons learned from that disastrous period seem to have been forgotten–the farming practices are once again stripping the land of its grasses that hold the earth together. It seems that history is determined to repeat itself, each time with a modification that is hyped to bring about a different and better outcome.

One can imagine the intense pleasure those farmers experienced every day looking out over the wheat fields and the beautiful sunsets. The out of the ordinary wet decade produced bumper crops and the first world war created a great demand for their wheat. Children from that era, in their last decade of life, related the joys and travails of that period, speaking of how hard the resulting dust storms were on their families. Yet, they went on to lead lives filled with families and joys and defeats of their own.

Listening to the rain, the thunder driving the dogs under my desk, my prayer is that each new step I take down this path in life be directed by the wisdom of God’s plan. Whatever that may be. And I truly believe that our choices in direction are not so important as allowing our methods to be directed by that higher power. And one day maybe we will learn to stop stripping the earth, and our lives, of the grasses designed to hold it together.

 

 

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