Endings Affirm Meaning

An ending knows what it does. It also knows what it means.

An ending forces one to divorce the beautiful. It brutally parts the ways with an uncomfortable finality. An ending sees the past clearly. Perhaps too clearly for comfort. And that is why an ending brings tears, regrets, wishes, and what-might-have-beens.

But an ending knows what it does. And it knows what it means.

If it means a lot. If it hurts beyond what you want to admit, you can be assured of one thing: it was good.

As tears fall, they fall for one reason: there was once something worth crying for. The absence of tears doesn’t necessitate happiness. It could just as well mean that bland life has nothing to awaken the emotions within you. Likewise, the presence of tears does not necessitate pain or loss. It could just as well mean a realization of blessing which is no more. A thankful cry which pronounces growth and understanding. A thankful  heart which acknowledges the shifting of time painting the past in static form slightly out of reach.

But they are nothing to be feared. Endings, that is. Should be embraced. Every tear, every wish, every desire, every difficult step it takes to walk away should be embraced. It is better to walk away from happiness than to run away from adversity. The happiness will sit forever on your heart with memories and experiences that push you one step further in your walk.

I’m thankful for the endings in my life. This is how I know I’m alive. This is how I know that meaning exists. When living in the absence of that which you love, you understand how real the love really was.

 

 

Advertisements

A Vigil for a Starry (Christmas Eve) Night

On a night when the clouds cover the stars like an impenetrable mountain cliff, I wait for a sign. A small tinge up my spine. A desperate plea for the ancient ways to speak once again. I wait for the light, hoping it will come, hoping it will be enough. .

The stars, spread brightly out like colored snowflakes flickering across the onyx sky, reflect a distant constellation, and begin to re-enter the atmosphere, piercing through the fractured clouds, giving faint and distant light to the voidless black, the empty sea, the sandless desert, the vacant abyss that is deep within me. The light, hushed and dimmed by a millennium of travel, is all I have. Is all I ever had.

I wait for the reflection to reach me, hoping one refracted beam from a star long ago still exists, the same ancient light that awakened the shepherd’s eyes one cool and lonely night. Can the light that ushered in a new millennium, awaken a new epoch within me. If so, it might be enough for my heart to go on.

In the midst of tears, in the solitude of our inner being, we yearn to be on that impoverished hill, to understand the magnitude of that sight, a heavenly light illuminating a darkened heart, a heavenly chorus rising to a crescendo of glory.

Will I choose to believe its truth, not blindly though because I know what the light can do for one’s soul.  And though the unbearable pain releases not its grip, I have a question to answer. Does the light still exist for me?

Does the same sky, which God ripped open that night with his right hand, planting angelic heralds of peace on the clouds to rustle awake the shepherds, still exist for me? Can he reach into my clouded heart and announce the truth like a heavenly chorus? If it is so, all suffering and cause of angst still present throughout the world will be no match for the blessed announcement: “A Child is born.”

PERSON: This child is born.

A Photo and a Description

I posted this photograph the other day when I highlighted that northern Vietnam was my favorite place in Asia:

rice field workers thai nguyenIt made me think of the opening paragraph of my new novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, set to release this coming summer. I’d be curious to hear what you think of the two of them, the photo and the description. Here goes:

This part of the Vietnamese countryside has witnessed little change through the centuries. The crooked-back peasants face another daunting day every time the sun slips over the eastern ridge, greeting them with stoic reminders of the paddies which need tending. The giddy, shirtless, barefoot boys still ride the water buffaloes out through the paddy ridges to find slivers of green grazing that will keep the beasts contented until the next time they are needed to plow-under the sun-baked soil, readying the field for another planting. The dawn illuminates a village, which awakens like a colony of ants, miles to go to feed themselves for another day. The crows overhead witness the ants, scurrying out from underneath the palms which shield the single-story cement dwellings from the relentless afternoon sun. The busy-bodies hunker down in the fields, women side by side with sister and aunt, neighbor and cousin, donning the cone-like, pointed straw hats, which protect their face from darkening in the heat of the day. The dainty hands, each with a single stock of rice seedling no more than six inches tall, skillfully pushes the heroic staple into the mud until it settles in the place where it will thrive and grow, giving the planters their rewarded survival. They owe their lives to the blessed crop which gives them sustenance; they owe their age to the cursed crop, which robs them of years and sentences them to curved backs and ridged, hard skin. This is the land of their ancestors; a canvass of paint so vivid, so real, so far removed from the toil of the modern masses. These people have become one with the land, one with time, one with each other as they etch out a noble existence for which two thousand years of Vietnamese history owes them much.

 

Writing Excerpt from Novel #3 – to be released in 2014

My third novel is split into two completely different time periods. Here’s a short excerpt about Vietnamese villagers, caught in the complexities of war at the tail-end of WWII, in Tonkin, French Indochina – 1945.

The long hard sorrow doesn’t end easy in a place like Tonkin, but sometimes an epic struggle that demands justice dissipates just as easily as it starts when one too many deaths make one appreciative of what one already has. At some point, loss seems acceptable and further loss unbearable. Death has a commanding grip on reality in a part of the world where a meager existence is hope enough to move on, marry, plant rice, have children, and etch out a bigger patch of paddy for the next generation.The life of one more Frenchmen suddenly took on an insignificance. Their neighbor’s business was too great to talk about, too shameful to mention, too harmful to ponder, and too hopeless to do anything about. Gossip seemed like wasted breath and staring merely burnt holes in their fragile eyes, and so they blinked, turned from the fury, and went quietly back to their homes away from the madness. Even the characters in the house, playing out the complexities of war on a grand scale, had nothing to say and sat on the floor with insipid looks on their faces.

About that ocean

This afternoon, I stood on the embankment looking out over the sea. Two individuals were talking, facing away from the expanse. The expanse which seems to widen minds and open the world to possibilities.

At that moment, standing on the bank in Penang, I felt an overwhelming sense that the world was so much bigger than it was when I was in high school, growing up in the slow-paced countryside of Butler County, PA.

The ocean makes me think I know more about life, about people, about cultures, about history than some others who haven’t been as fortunate to travel like I have. But whether I actually know more or not, I don’t know.

But my perspectives have so shifted that the tiny plot of land I knew as a kid, the one I hold dear to my heart, seems like a speck in time and a galaxy away from the open air breeze off the sea.

They are each different parts of me, and each part envies the other in ways that are not so obvious. Having the ocean view makes me understand how to put my upbringing into proper perspective. Having the ocean view makes me understand how different my children will be from me. Having the ocean view makes me glad that at one time I didn’t have the ocean view.

We all need perspective. The more, the better.

That’s all I have to say about that ocean.

Description: Draft Writing from 3rd Novel

Here’s a teaser. I shared this paragraph at the writing workshop last night. It’s just a draft description of the Vietnamese countryside which may eventually make its way into my third novel – currently in process. I’d appreciate your comments.

This part of the Vietnamese countryside has witnessed little change through the centuries. The crooked-back peasants face another daunting day every time the sun slips over the eastern ridge, greeting them with stoic reminders of the paddies which need tending. The giddy, shirtless, barefoot boys still ride the water buffaloes out through the paddy ridges to find slivers of green grazing that will keep the beasts contented until the next time they are needed to plow under the sun-baked soil, readying the field for another planting. The dawn illuminates a village which awakes like a colony of ants, miles to go to feed oneself for another day. The crows overhead witness the ants, scurrying out from underneath the palms which shield the single- story cement dwellings from the relentless afternoon sun. The busy-bodies hunker down in the fields, women side by side with sister and aunt, neighbor and cousin, donning the cone-like, pointed hats which protect their face from darkening in the heat of the day. The dainty hands, each with a single stock of rice seedling no more than six inches tall, skillfully pushes the heroic staple into the mud until it settles in the place where it will thrive and grow, giving the planters their rewarded survival. They owe their lives to the blessed crop which gives them sustenance; they owe their age to the cursed crop which robs them of years and sentences them to curved backs and ridged, hard skin. This is the land of their ancestors, a canvass of paint, so vivid, so real, so far removed from the toil of the modern masses. These people have become one with the land, one with time, one with each other, as they etch out a noble existence for which two thousand years of Vietnamese history owes them much.

Life on the Hudson: A Description

I wrote this last summer as I was taking in the views of the Hudson River just north of New York City. It was a descriptive writing exercise. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

A majestic brick manor sits high on the banks of the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee – the broad river expanse – miles across – which spreads the Hudson like a lake – wide and proud commanding the sight line of all who stand above it.  The house is red brick, with white, oak trimmed windows and porches – the river-facing porch upheld magnificently by two solid pillars of oak, round and smooth – near obelisk-like, except for the shingled roof which connected the two with a wide, angled canopy. Three stories with enough rooms to hold many stories of their own, the mansion is nestled between assorted fruit and hardwood which shields it enough from the wind but still affords it a splendid view of the water below.  Four chimneys reach high from the four corners of the house reminding one of intimate talks and treasured moments on the bearskin rugs beside the crackling embers.

Over the bank, on the cusp of the river sits a white, wooden gazebo, intricately carved, replete with matching white benches attached directly onto the sides, slotted with smooth, rounded spindles spun meticulously on the lathe of a splendidly skilled carpenter.

The gazebo sits on the edge of a long wooden dock which juts straight out into the pale, stagnant rim of the river.  The dock affords a lovely spot for a picnic lunch, a short paddle excursion to the beach or a place exquisitely designed for pondering the remarkable beauty of the Hudson River Valley.

If a certain writer with a penchant for pondering would sit, feet dangling, pen and paper in hand, waiting for the muse to come, what would he see?

A vast, sparkling sea, slow moving, half glittering with shiny shards of light flickering quickly back and forth.  A darker, shadowed portion, water exposed to the shielding of the hill behind it which covers its light from the early morning sun.  A single boater, paddling long and swiftly, leaving a lonely line on the smooth canvass, not unlike that of a jet leaving its mark across the blue empty sky.  A swift moving train, clinging to the distance shore, moving steady and quick, like a row of ants, purposeful, pushing, a slow moving bullet in a straight line, barely above the shimmering reflection of the water, almost as if it too is gliding on the water like a chain of floating boxes.

An expanse above in sky blue.  An expanse below in jittering light – dark and bright.  A forested hill in the distance separating the two.

This is life on the Hudson.