Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tick-Tock


Tick-Tock                      3-12-2014

By John W. Vander Velden

 

Time never stands still, no matter how much we would hope it would.  Nor are able to push it along at a faster pace.

 

The measure of time seems a finite quantity, with each part of our lives assigned a set portion.  So why do the days seem shortest while we are on vacation?  That is the non-stuck in the terminal waiting for our flight days.  The days we frolic far from home, while we rush about attempting to cram as much “life” into the “shrunken” hours.  So often we feel just “warmed up” when reluctantly we must return to our hotel.  Another day closer to work’s obligations.

And work.  How do our employers so skillfully stretch eight hours into – well -- something longer?  The time clock sets the standard.  Yet there are times I am certain, when there are those that fiddle with the time/space continuum.

I understand that everything is relative, and that is the real reason time seems so elastic.  So it becomes our choice, for we have more control over the 4th dimension than we realize.  Each day is a gift – filled with twenty-four un-repeating hours.  Special parcels we may share with others or spend in solitude.  Within those hours we face challenges.  Within those hours we deal with difficulties.  Within those hours we achieve triumphs.  Yes, each day our life moves forward with its highs and lows, for within those hours we exist, and how we spend those hours affect others and form the people we will become.

Tick-tock -- How will you use your time?  

(261 Words)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A New Chapter


A New Chapter                      12-19-2014

By John W. Vander Velden

For the book of my life has many pages.  So I am excited this January 2018 to begin a new chapter.  Each day, a blank space for me to fill.  Each day new opportunities and challenges as well.  The years behind have taught me not to be so secure in the expected, for life has a way of tossing aside what we anticipate.  I know there will be pain and disappointments.  I know that difficulties lie in wait.  My beloved will tell you that I am not always cheerful.  That life’s demons haunt me no less than others.  When exhaustion weakens the will, I too crumble, for I am but human and we all have our moments, our pages of despair.  But when I can, I choose to be optimistic.  To view the months ahead for their possibilities and to prepare for the adventure that surely awaits.  Those that know my age would hint the best of life lies in my wake, in the chapters I have written.   But this storyteller will tell you a different tale.  As a writer, do I not save the best for last?  The pen is in my hand the blank sheet before me, I will make the best of each day’s page.  Strive to see the best, and do my best, even when darkness seems to engulf.  It is about perspective -- and priorities -- and hopes -- and optimism.  It is about not giving up, when giving up or giving in the easy choice.  But on this winter’s day I recognize the grand gift of each day ahead.  I understand that I have no hint at what lies in my future.  I accept that only God knows the number of chapters my book will at last contain.  But I am excited in the 365 blank pages offered in 2018 that I might fill, as I begin a new chapter.

(316 Words)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Heat...What's That?


Heat…What’s That?                      1-13-2015

By John W. Vander Velden

Those that think that they can pass through life without a single glitch are overly optimistic or just plain foolish.  Life has its hiccups, pure and simple.  You can either go with them, ignore them, or fight them, but you aren’t going to live without them!

When I arrived at the farmhouse on a cold January Thursday I found it cool.  I didn’t realize at first just how cool but later the thermometer told me it was twenty – indoors.  I guess that’s more than cool – no matter what you definition might be of that word, temperature or otherwise.  A phone call to my furnace repairman resulted the discovery of a blown fuse.  Couldn’t say what caused the twenty year old electrical safety valve to give up the ghost, but with the new fuse heat returned to that part of my world.  Thought the power had blinked and caught the furnace off guard -- well maybe. 

Late afternoon – ggrrowwll – strange noises – need I say more?  The furnace guy arrived at just after seven – that’s PM.  We came to a mutual agreement that a new – as in expensive – furnace would be required.  Yes, I know the Williamson oil burner was old – more than twenty years old matter of fact.  Yes, I knew that the wonderful Williamson Furnace company of Indianapolis was only remembered by a few – parts unavailable.  So I wasn’t really surprised – well not much.  Don’t get me wrong, they checked out the dinosaur in December and everything seemed fine.  Friday I spoke to the salesman twice – to the gas company three times – and a plan of action was assembled – sorta’.  A new furnace – a gas furnace – on Tuesday.  Tuesday!  It’s winter – it’s Indiana, the northern part – and it’s cold!

But like I said, “Into every life a bit of rain must fall” – or snow.  Sometimes you luck out – and we did a little anyway.  I learned that the trusty old beast would run – some.  Some is better than none.  It would run until the thermostat told it to not run, then it would not start.  So – set the thermostat at eighty, start the furnace and let it roar for a couple of hours then shut things down awhile.  Not handy but kept the pipes from freezing.  Yes, I let the water run, but cold is cold.  I said that already.  That and having two electric heaters run twenty-four hours a day and it looks like we might make it, though I fear the electric bill.

I write this on Tuesday afternoon.  The LP tank has been set and the line run above the frozen yard.  The old furnace has been mostly hauled out of the basement – only the heavy part remains.  They’ll wait until we get heat before they take the time to manhandle the old heat exchanger.  The new furnace is set in the home I hope it resides for many years.  They are working on the electric, vents, and ductwork.  There is hope, and with a prediction of umpteen below in the forecast, the return of heat doesn’t come too soon.

(513 Words)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Standing Stll


Standing Still                          

By John W. Vander Velden

 

I find myself standing still in the dark.  The winter’s night surrounds and flakes sail on the faint breath of crisp air.  The cold stings in my lungs on each breath that is drawn and when released floats as a small cloud of my making, drifting an instant and gone.  I stand where I am and feel the cold, watch the snow falling, taste the pure air, and smell a pureness of a world scrubbed clean by the winter.

Closing my eyes, drawing frozen air deep within, holding it a moment, I know.  Not all things can be held, seen, or touched.  Perhaps it is through life we learn about the “more”.   Perhaps it is a gift.  Some might consider the knowing a curse, but I find that knowledge among my greatest possessions.  For here in the dark I understand that I am surrounded by the “more”.  More than the cold.  More than the snow.  More than the darkness.  More than even my life.  More than I can ever know.  The unseen but real that exists everywhere.

My mind thinks of a single kernel of corn, small and orange.  I imagine it in my hand, hard and cold.  I can feel it as I roll it between my fingers. I know if I were to open the seed I would find only starch, for the miracle it contains is too small to see.  But when the year’s snows are but a memory I will place seeds carefully in uncountable rows and know that those seeds will soon be “more”.   I am confident that stalks will grow from those tiny bits I have held.

The thought reminds me that not everything can be placed in a box.  Though the human race may stretch our knowledge, questions remain.  Simply because those questions go unanswered does not decrease their relevance, for there are truths that go on beyond our reach.  I find comfort in the secure knowledge that the cosmos does not exist as some random accident, and recognize that I am part of something greater.

On a winter’s night my senses attune to the world, the cold, the dark, to the gently falling snow, to my heartbeat.  I know that my life’s complexities and difficulties will not simply vanish, like the mist of my breath on this night.  Yet knowing I do not face these things alone gives me peace.  For I am confident that liberally blended in the “more”, the unfathomable greatness, is love.

Standing still, I know I am surrounded by the reality I can touch and “more”, and comforted knowing that within that intangible, love exists. 

(437 Words)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Choices and Chances


Choices and Chances                  12-30-2014

By John W. Vander Velden

 

How would life be, if…? 

We enjoyed several movies this holiday season, where the main character felt certain that they had made the wrong choice.  Over and over we watched as the character wished for the life they had passed up, certain that it would be better than the over complex world that they felt swept them away.  I know, I know, it’s an overdone scenario.  Even at the film’s beginning we knew that after spending time in their alternate universe, they would come to appreciate the life they had.  Yet it’s kinda’ fun watching how desperate they grow, longing for what they had tossed aside at the story’s beginning.

Yes, the stories are cheesy and exaggerated, but there is an “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of message buried in those stories.  A lesson for all of us.  For life is full of choices and each choice brings with it a chance.  Everyone – and I do mean everyone – looks back at the choices they have made and wonders -- how would life be if…?  For there are choices we have made that we regret.  Our past is filled with many of these.  Some made on impulse.  Others out of spite.  There were those decisions that were just plain stupid.  We look back and wonder how different our life would be if…

Choices and chances, often it comes to just that.  Dwelling on what might have been, can separate us from what is.  There was a time I was forced to make many important choices.  I am certain that obligation comes to everyone sooner or later.  As I consider that time and all the difficult decisions I made, I know that not all my choices were the best, and that troubles me.  Times it troubles me a great deal.  But I have come, at last, to an understanding.  I know I made the best choice I could have at the moment.  I did not know the chance or the final value.  I used the information I had, ground it up, put it together, sweat and worried, but in the end I chose!  It was up to me and no other.  And during that time I never chose for my personal benefit.  I took the chance…and educated chance, but I took it.  If I knew then what I know – NOW – likely I would have, at times, chosen differently.  But that is exactly the point, I didn’t know!

Life is like that, isn’t it?  Life is a learning experience.  It’s about taking a chance each time we make an important choice.  But life must be more than dwelling on the past, more than wondering what if.  For the space we occupy and those we share that space with, are an accumulation of actions we have taken.  Our life is shaped by those actions – those choices – the good ones as well as those we now consider foolish.  In a way our choices have made us, and in my case “I’m OK with that”.  Rather than dwell on what if -- I focus on WHAT IS, and find myself grateful for the world, for life, and for my place in it.  Yes, choices come with a chance, but what a wonderful opportunity to build – WHAT IS!

(541 Words)