Monday, August 31, 2015

Optimism


Optimism               

By John W. Vander Velden

 

Optimism leads us toward places we have never been.  It is like a walk on a mountain path.  We do not know what lies before us as we trudge onward toward higher ground.  Yet we go on with hope…the hope of a view that was worth the effort.  When at last we reach the trail’s end, we might be disappointed that trees and rocks prevent the anticipated vista, or we might be awestruck by the grandeur that lies before us.  It is that hope…that optimism…that drove us to walk for miles.  We do not allow the possibility of disappointment to quell our quest. 

Sometimes we have been beaten down again and again.  We feel that life’s climb brings only the strain of forward attempts.  Difficulties surround and hope is hard to maintain.  Those days when optimism seems folly, we should take a breath and remind ourselves the best yet lies before us.  That the path that leads may not at time be easy but is not insurmountable.  Looking forward, head high, striving to do the best we can to reach higher ground.

Optimism, though we might at times fail, is not a waste.  It leads us on and brightens our journey.  For often we reach what we expect.  To those that anticipate failure…failure will surely come.  But those that reach toward lofty desires, will at last find themselves at a place far higher.  Driven by optimism, though they, as everyone, face disappointments, will step by step move up the path toward the peak….

You see the optimist is not foolish enough to believe that troubles or heartaches are avoidable, but knows that in the end when the tally, of good and ill, is completed the sum will fall in their favor.  They see the sun even while it hides behind storm clouds.  They understand you see the rainbow best while getting wet.  They know that any good thing requires hard work.  They prefer to hope for the best rather than anticipate the worse. 

So it comes to each of us and we must choose…are you an optimist? 

(353Words)                        8-31-205

 

 

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Life They Had Created


The Life They Had Created                

By John W. Vander Velden

The sun shone brightly in a cloudless azure sky.  Tom felt the warmth of Joann’s hand as they walked on the wet sand.  The waves thundered as the water stretched and tumbled, rolling sea with its white salty froth which drove the sanderlings on racing spindles only inches ahead of the surf’s advance upon the strand.  Joann laughed at the tiny bird’s antics.  For as soon as the wave was defeated by sand, they pursued the retreating sea, only to be herded hastily by the next foaming brother.

Tom and Joann paid no heed to the six gulls that watched them pass.  The birds content to stand on a single leg while lazily enjoying the early season warmth.  Tom pointed to the line of gray pelican racing above the surf, plunging one after the other into the valley between the swell, only to burst from the water on the wing and away.

Smiling Tom considered the familiar touch of hand in hand, a familiarity that only time could grow.  Forty years shared had drawn two people into a united life.  Now as he walked with his best friend, his champion, his love, he knew that the number that lie ahead likely shorter than the years since he had promised his everything.  But that did not matter, not today, not ever.  The adventure was not complete, and each day opened to new possibilities.

So on this perfect morning, on this perfect beach, Tom shared this perfect moment, only one of thousands of moments, of a life he never imagined building, with Joann.  No one knew him better.  No other had seen all his strengths.  No other had seen him at his weakest.  Tom drew a breath and allowed the air to slip away on the sea breeze.  He looked at his wife and wondered why.  With all her talent and beauty she could have chosen another, but had not.  Surely her life could have been easier.  Joann pointed to how the waves broke ahead of them, as they walked on.  Why Tom’s mind went back to a dark time, when harsh words passed between them, he did not know.  The day when he felt certain she would leave, for he knew he had failed her.  He blinked back the tears that dared to spoil the moment. How his heart broke at his inadequacy, Joann deserved better.  But when the dust settled, when each had really heard the other, when the truth could be seen, and tears had ended, then they found what had been misplaced, their love.  In the years that followed, that love had formed a new foundation, stronger than any that had preceded.  That time was history, perhaps other couples had their moments, but it was such a small part of the years.  A short rough patch of a lifelong journey.

That was most of lifetime ago.  And now the warmth of Joann’s touch, the familiarity of her laugh, and the inquisitive look in her eyes, proved that the past was but a memory, a memory that did not need revisiting today.  Tom smiled as he slid his arm around her, kissed her hair, felt the wind in his face and heard the crash of rolling waters at their feet.  This was the moment that mattered.  Now as newlyweds the walked, in awe of the ocean’s power, as children, seeing for the first time the greens, grays and blues that stretched to the horizon.  Tom and Joann were together, here on the beach, and in every aspect of the life they had created.

(593 Words)    4-1-2015

 

 

 

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Writer


A Writer 

By John W. Vander Velden

 

When I look in the mirror, too seldom do I see beyond the graying hair and the changes that years have done to my personal landscape.  Too seldom do I consider the countless pieces that make up this man.  For I, like all others, am a complex collection of titles, husband, father, farmer, a man of faith, the guy that takes photographs, and a writer.  That is but part of the list of the oddly shaped pieces of the collage that when fitted together make…me.

A writer…What does a man that has farmed for more than forty years have to say?  More than I can have ever imagined.  Does what I say have a real value?  I can only hope.  Each task takes tools, but it is in the hands of the craftsman that tool yield those tasks completion.  Writing is about more than pen and paper, more than keyboard and screen, the real tools are the words themselves.  I do not consider myself a craftsman of language.  Rather I clumsily assemble bits and pieces in the hope that once in a while something comes out of the blender worth sharing.

It was a grand step to come to the point where I called myself a writer.  To acknowledge, to myself, at last that the hours spent deserved that title.  A journey of years and thousands of pages that led me at last to that place.  Writing is in so many ways a solitary endeavor.  One person against the blank page.  In so much of my life it has been me against “whatever”, and being the sole warrior does not frighten.  But there remains the need for a “companions in arms” that understand the “war” waged with the empty white space.  I have filled that need with friends…comrades in the battle…my writing group as well as other writers that live far and wide I have met in the attempt to grow my craft.  Each of these companions come with their own voice, each telling their stories as only they can.  Perhaps this is the greatest gift they can share…the knowledge that I don’t have to sound like anyone else.  They remind me that, when it comes to my stories, not everyone will “get it”, and that’s alright.  Each have taught me valuable lessons…lessons of craft…but also lessons in self…to believe in myself, as a person and a writer!

(405 Words)                6-19-2015

 

 

 

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Crossroads


Crossroads

By John W. Vander Velden

 

There are times when we find ourselves at the crossroads, faced with a multitude of possibilities.  For we understand that we can continue straight ahead, go to the left or right, or turn around and go back the way we came.  But we must make a choice.

 

On occasions we take drives, headed in some general direction to see what there is to see.  On those outings we have no specific destination going on back roads not unlike the car rides our parent took us decades ago.  Both Jackie and I were raised in farm families, and an hour or two wandering about county roads more than cheap entertainment for us all.  It gave our fathers a chance to “compare notes”.  I remember one time late in my father’s career he and mom drove north on vacation.  He returned disappointed.  “There’s nothing to see up there…just pine trees.”  What he meant to say was he missed the cropland, the corn and soybean fields, gold expanses of ripened wheat, and the rolling green of hayfield and pasture.  My father was a farmer, down to his bones…maybe deeper.

So it does not surprise Jackie, if I suggest we just go for a ride, and we find ourselves on some chip-and-seal road not so far away, looking over miles of crops and farmsteads, considering just how much the “country” has changed.  But those drives should remind us of other things as well.  For though we may not have a set a goal or destination on those jaunts, as we go along, we come to crossroads, and whether we place more than a glance as we pass, each requires a decision.  Do we go on, shall we turn here, or have we gone far enough with a need to retrace our path?

Those questions should not be reserved for the time spent behind the steering wheel. For each day we come to crossroads. Some come expected, others…not so much.  Some offer opportunities that make the choosing of direction easy.  Others are locals of difficult decisions, and we wonder which direction is best.  For meandering around the countryside might be an acceptable pastime, in our lives we understand that each road can lead to a different destination, and not every cross road is marked, nor is the map we hold at times sufficient.  But the sun is yet overhead and we are bound to travel on.

As we go through our lives we understand that the choices we make affect our lives.  We know when we reach these crossroads that the choice of direction is our and ours alone.  No one can choose on our behalf, and though there are times we would wish others might, we should never surrender the right of the choosing. So throughout our lives we must choose, and each decision we make might be right, it might be wrong, but we journey on.

On our travels at times, it is certain, will head in wrong directions.  There will be times we find ourselves utterly lost, certain we have ventured so far from our hoped destination that to reach it beyond possibility.  It is but life.  It is that we are but human.  For we wander a road none has traveled before, and miss-turns are part the learning.  However those that walk the road of faith understand that we have a companion on every part of our journey.  Someone that will not abandon, no matter whether or not we choose our direction wisely.  Someone that can help guide us as we move through life’s maze of forks and crossings.  Someone that can help to shape and clarify the destination we hope at last to reach. 

I hope you do not travel alone, that, at the crossroads, you choose your path wisely.  That you find courage when the way becomes difficult.  Have the humility to ask for directions when you travel lost or confused.  Understand that you can move back toward familiar territory when forward motion becomes impossible.  That each day you take a breath and understand you stand at a new place, and understand the road ahead has many crossroads.

(689 Words)                7-31-2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

It Happened Twice

It Happened Twice
By John W. Vander Velden



We enjoy watching hummingbirds that visit the feeder and flowers each summer. These small flyers seem at times fearless and shy at others, and when the light hits them just right their feather shine as jewels.  But it happened twice which makes the event more amazing.  For on two occasions one of these winged wonders flew into the shed which we us as our garage.  Perhaps it was a young bird or just disoriented, but flyer became trapped there.  We left the two large doors open for hours so it might leave as it came.  However the hummer stayed high in the rafters searching for exists at the underside of the roof’s peak…exits that did not exist.  The metabolism of hummingbirds is high, they do not survive long without food, and we feared for the small creature.

Twice I climbed a ladder and while the flitting bird focused upward searching for a gateway to its freedom, I carefully captured the hummer with my cap. I am fascinated by the small birds, impressed by their amazing flying ability – they can fly backward – but also by their size – or lack of it.  Though they are not the smallest of creatures they are tiny.  Birds have many things in common with us, so we understand a bit of how the mechanics work – they have lungs and a heart for instance, blood flows through vessels and muscles move their small feet and buzzing wings.

These wonderful winged warrior are the smallest of birds, and though I had watched them many time, I did not realize how small.  But holding a hummingbird in cupped hands and knowing that the animal could fly within that space, brought home its size.  And to consider that with in my hands this tiny living thing had, beneath a coat of delicate feathers all the organs my body contained, took my breath away.


I called for Nick and Jackie to meet me in the yard.  There in the yard with those I hold most dear, I slowly opened my hand.  The green backed flyer remained but a half second before it shot skyward – up – up— up -- and at last a tiny speck that disappeared from our sight.  It happened twice – twice I held a miracle in the palm of my hand.   (382 Words)