Thursday, January 28, 2016

On a Starry Night


On a Starry Night 

An Excerpt from Misty Creek, a novel

By John W. Vander Velden

 

Later, much later, she awoke in the dark, in a strange room, in a strange place, deep in a strange land.  Elizabeth drew the chair to an open window.  There she sat looking out into the night.  Even now Elizabeth could feel the slight touch of the breeze against her skin, the wind that seemed never to cease.  On that breeze came the sounds of the night.  The sounds of creatures near and far, creatures she had never heard before.  Odd short hoots, an owl of some sort she felt certain.  A distant wolf like howl similar to what she had heard earlier set the dogs of the community off to barking.  Insect’s sounds, crickets and katydids, filled her ears.  And above it all was the sky, a cloudless sky, simply ablaze with countless points of light.  Those lights were more than stars, more than any stars she had ever witnessed.  Looking upward took her breath away and caused a tremble deep within.  She understood, at least a little, of what the pastor had said.  And seeing those stars in that canvas of black, Elizabeth found she could not look away for several minutes.

Elizabeth sat there her mind flooded with so many thoughts. She drew a breath as she considered just how far from home she had wandered.  She went back to nights years ago, her mother brushing out the tangles in her hair.  A time when many thought she would never become a lady.  Those days she could wrestle Mitchel Dogerty to submission.  But she had not been a child for a long time, and though she had not lived all those years in her parent’s house on Elm Street, having taught for three years in the small Ohio town of London, the ache of homesickness filled her.   Closing her eyes a moment she could almost smell breakfast’s bacon greeting her with the sun as it slipped through the white curtains of her yellow bedroom.  The sight of her father in his paper.  The smell of coffee mixed with his aftershave when she greeted him each morning.  How far away she felt.  But far away was what she had wanted.  Something alien to the world that had always been her life.  Now as she opened her eyes to the diamond sparkled sky, she wondered if she had entered a world too different. Elizabeth swallowed as she looked across the open prairie.  Sitting there allowing the gentle breeze to pass her cheeks and move an errant strand of hair, the thoughts of home seemed to be pushed aside by the children she had met here on the boundary of humanity.  There was something familiar in them, something that all children seemed to have in common.  She smiled at the thought and sat by the window until the drowsiness came.  Softly it came.  It came with a calmness she had not felt, not felt in a very long time.  A smile formed on her tired lips, and in the dark, the weary teacher made her way to the bed, and in it found sleep waiting.

(515 Words)


 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ordinary


Ordinary                         

By John W. Vander Velden

 

I believe in the uniqueness of each person.  That everyone has special talents, gifts if you will, that make them special.  It is these things which make every human stand out in one way or the other.  Yet for most of us it goes unnoticed.  Even so I believe that the spark of the Creator lives within us all, and that makes people, extraordinary.  I try to take the time to see the special abilities in those that surround.  My mother’s needle work, for instance.  She never considered herself anything but ordinary, yet possessed so many talents she did not notice.  Her garden, and all the things she did around the home, signs of another special individual.  But she is only a singular example of the countless people I have encountered with an endless variety of talents, my sister the artist, another that makes plants become so much more, a brother that always finds ways to be helpful, and so on.  The world around is filled with people, each one extraordinary.

So why do I consider myself ordinary.  Perhaps in seeing the abilities that surround, I consider my meager contributions common.  That I think if I can do something…anyone could…nothing special here.  But there is an inconsistency.  Or is there?  If the world is filled with unique individuals then the vast range of “uniqueness” becomes ordinary.  The common factor here is that no two people are identical…well twins almost…but the rest of us, not so much.  So what I see in myself as a common ability, others might recognize as a remarkable talent. 

Talents and humility, can they coexist?  I believe they can.  That by recognizing the special spark in others helps us to keep our hat size from growing.  To understand that the ordinary are not ordinary at all…helps us to see that we are only ordinary…and that is amazing.

I believe, as Mr. Rodgers used to say, that you are special…but you are also ordinary.  I believe I am ordinary…and that makes me special as well!

(345 Words)                11-6-2015

 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fear


 Fear

By John W. Vander Velden

 

Sometimes fear is a good thing.  It helps us to avoid doing really stupid endeavors.  I remember after my first trip to the Grand Canyon, a news story reported that 13 people a year fall to their deaths at the park.  From my observance of those that visited the park, I was surprised it wasn’t thirteen a day.  One particular visitor jumped across a crevice to stand on a stone outcrop at the edge of the abyss.  It was not a wide space he leaped, but the surface he alighted tilted toward the multi-thousand foot drop.  Did I mention it had snowed?  Somehow fear did not play into that equation, or at least insufficient to prevent the crazy.

Yes, there is the good side to fear, but there is another as well.  For when fear stands in the way of growth…well then…  Another example:  Growing up, I did not have an opportunity to ride roller coasters.  Might seem strange but our family never had the time to go to amusement parks.  I had nearly attained the big five-o when we took Nick to Indiana Beach.  I stood in line to ride the Corn Husker Express.  Not because I thought I would enjoy being tossed in sixteen different directions simultaneously, but because the thought of hurtling down and around terrified me.  I observed that the park did not keep an ambulance in waiting.  I watched as the coaster went time and again without mishap.  Logic told me that the danger perceived, that fueled my fear, did not really exist.  I carried my fear as I climbed into the car and the forty-five seconds I bounced and jolted, twirled and twisted, down and up, and round and round.  I rode because I would not let fear prevent me from riding.
I have ridden other roller coasters since and enjoy the thrill…sorta.  But each of has faced times when fears…fears of the unknown…fears of failure…fears of embarrassment…or other fears have stood in the way of trying something new, and in doing so have missed many opportunities.  Fear can be a safety mechanism…it can also be a barrier.
My time in high school and college left me with a fear of public speaking.  The fact that not every one of my speeches in class went well certainly did not stop my knees from knocking.  But a time came when I was put on the spot, so to speak.  My pastor asked if I could cover for him.  I really didn’t have an out.  Until the moment Pastor John asked, I would have been content if I never had to stand and speak before a group again.  But I did, and I learned…that I could.  I do not say that I enjoy public speaking, but there have been times it was required.  Because I was asked…because I looked that fear straight in the eye, caught my breath, slowed my heart, hid my trembling knees…I can.  Another time I did not allow fear to prevent me from doing what I must.
For our lives are filled with the unknown and the unknown can be scary.  But as we look forward and see that fears that surround, it seems wise to categorize our dreads, to break them into the things mean to protect and the things that merely prevent…living.  If you understand your fear and you will not be imprisoned by it. 
I expect there will always be things that frighten me, but I will do my best not to be controlled by fear.  (598 Words)  9-18-2015

 

 

Friday, January 8, 2016

What Ifs and Somedays


What Ifs and Somedays                          

By John W. Vander Velden

 

We face a new year and find ourselves in hopeful wondering.  It seems the time to remember…to anticipate.  Too easily we wrap our minds around the “what ifs”.  What if I had taken that new job?  What if I had said something differently to a friend?  What if I had taken the time to….?  We all have regrets and looking back can make us wonder how things might be, certain that our life could be better.  “What ifs”…..

The season also drives us to think of “somedays”.  Someday I’ll have more time to exercise.  Someday I’ll visit my family.  Someday I’ll write that novel.  Too busy, we tell ourselves now, but someday…

It is good to remember the past…the real past…the whole past.  It is good to make plans for the future…realistic plans.  But we must take the greatest care not to let the “what If’s” and the “somedays” rob the TODAY and all the possibilities that this collection of hours contain.  To understand that the past is filled with missed opportunities and debatable decisions.  We are after all imperfect people.  But didn’t we make the best choices with the information at our disposal.  Surely things “MIGHT” be different, but we cannot know if things would be better.  Life is what it is, not what it might have been.  We should learn from our mistakes, but we should not let them determine who or what we are.  It is important to remember that we move forward from THIS place, not some imaginary possible location we might have found ourselves.

Just as our present can be stolen by past’s regrets, we can allow now’s value to be eroded by postponing the things we need to do into a vague “someday”.  This demand or that demand tugs at us all, and it difficult to say no.  We will never accomplish everything on our “bucket list”, but that does not mean we abandon the “pail” entirely to an indefinite future.   Hoping that “someday” offers opportunities which seem presently out of reach, is the best way to accumulate the  “what its” of the future.

So a new year has begun and with it new challenges, but also chances to reach new goals.  We should not put off all...our hopes...our dreams…or our health…until someday, because the right someday might never come.  Balance the daily demands with a few moments for other things. Grasp the chances as they come.  Stretch your mind.  Reach toward new heights.  For if you really take care of today, then there will be no need to worry about the “what ifs” or “somedays”.    (450 Words)  12-29-2015-1-8-2015

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hoarfrost


Hoarfrost

 

By John W. Vander Velden

The morning fog has lifted, winter’s sky growing blue the air calm and cold.  Large the flecks of frozen air left behind, clinging, shining, radiant in morning’s light.  Sunlight sparkles brilliant white the flakes that cover branches, fence and grass.  Beauty in every direction, a sight too seldom seen…too soon vanished, with no trace, only the memory will remain.  So many hurrying along pay no heed.  “Be careful,” they say.  “The walk is slick…” Their concern.  Yet there is little to be seen, far or near, that exceeds the beauty of a day beneath the cold brilliant winter sun, the world painted with hoarfrost.

(103 Words)                            2-14-2012