Monday, February 6, 2017

He Speaks

That corner of land there?  The one that falls between those two main roads, the one road slanting into the other?  Sam’s Dry Goods used to be there, but it caught fire a few years back and the building was cleared to look like it pretty much does now, except they planted grass and put in a couple of benches.   It looks ok I guess.

Before Sam’s Dry Goods, it was just Sams, then before that Berts his dad, Bert was Sam’s dad, and then  it was just Plains Goods, when Berts grandpa Tanner had it set up.    He had to clear the land of a couple of huge boulders I liked to sit on in the middle of the day when the sun was out, and the trees that gave some good shade, and I argued against it, but commerce is commerce isn’t it?   It’s the way of things.    Things come and things go.

The roads split there because one originally went out to a town called Savior, and the other out to Hope.  Kind of funny now to think on it, isn’t it?   Both of them now long gone.    Tanner had it figured it was a good place to set up shop, so that’s what he did, so I lost my sitting place under the trees and life went on anyway.

Before Tanner come along,  there was a lot of hunting in woods that were all around here.    Good Deer and Possum, and aways before that there was other types of critters that aren’t around anymore.    I kind of miss them.

Before that most of this area was forest, with single dirt track.    You would spot someone every now and then, but sometimes years would go by without seeing anyone.   Just Bear and Coyote, Cats and Deer, Squirrels, always lots of Birds.   Easy eating for anyone who showed up.
Sometimes you would get a gathering of folks moving in and setting up a village for awhile, and it was good listening to them live their lives.  That’s when the rains were good, and the creeks ran high.   Then we would get dry spells and of course the people would soon be gone.    I’ve seen lots of different folks down this way over the years.

Then there was a time of just forest and wildlife.   Of wind and sky.   Things were fairly peaceful then, outside of the usual life and death that goes on in a forest.

Truth is, I come down this way because of the forest.      This area used to be the bottom of a great ocean.  Then when the water receded, it took a few years, but the forest sprung up, and I was walking down here one day and kind of fell in love with it, so I’ve been here ever since.

Some might say that I should have been watching out for everybody and all over the years, but I reckon I set them on the path, they can see to themselves now.    Maybe I could have done better, but you know what?   I am that I am, and always will be.     Like all things, what you see around you will pass, and the forest will return one day, and maybe I’ll haul some rocks back and sit for a spell like I used to, in the midday sun, under the trees, and just watch the birds.    I’ve always liked that.   

It suits me.

Friday, September 2, 2016



I am 60 years old today.   I am kind of amazed by this.     As you know, I have always been the wild one in the family, slept under more than my share of bushes and highway bridges, and have mixed with scurrilous crowds of questionable origin on way too many occasions.    As a result, I have dodged a number of bullets along the way.    Not real ones, mind you, but the there has been the odd moment here and there when I found myself in a precarious situation and known that - had the God of Chance nodded slightly another way than the way it turned out - it would have been the end of me.   Well, there you go. Maybe the Gods were never paying close enough attention, and is the reason why I am still here.       Maybe the real danger is in getting someone's attention.

I wanted to write this to you because, like all sons I guess, I have very mixed feelings when I think of you as my father.   I naturally love you because you are my father, so you immediately get a few easy points for that.  You loved the right woman at the right moment to lead to me being alive on this earth.   In addition, you also get well earned points for imparting to me a lot of the life wisdom that I carry with me to this day.   Its a Way of Seeing.   Seeing other people.  Getting an immediate sense of situations when I walk into them.  It includes, but is not limited to; judging myself by my actions; establishing a Strong Moral Code that I can live by; being responsible; always showing up 5 minutes early; don't take what is not yours; and finally, do what you say you are going to do, and do it when you say you are going to do it.   These are all Great Things that you have given me.   Hey, thanks.   I love those things about me, as they help make me proud of who I am as a person.   You did good there.

But then there are these other memories of you that make things more complicated for me.   Other things that you did, or didn't do, at the right and wrong moments.  Like how when I was 27 years old you decided to walk away from our family, and then stayed away for the next 30 years.    Then it was only after Mom died that you decided to come back and make yourself available to your grown children again.    Mom had desperately hoped her entire life that you would establish a relationship again with your children while she was alive, and you, you bastard, you waited until after she died to do so. You twisted the knife one last time.   I wonder what satisfaction that gave you.   I would understand this better if you had just had sons, but you had two daughters as well.    As a father myself, I know that you don't ever walk away from your daughters. Ever.   Your selfish actions meant that two daughters went 30 years without their father.

Now that you are back so to speak in the family fold after mom has died, however, it is turning out easier for my siblings to accept you back into their lives.    Much harder for me.   Even now, I can't fully explain that to myself.     Mom's ghost sits on my shoulder and whispers softly in my ear FORGIVE HIM, but I just can't just yet.   I'm sorry Ma.

Other things keep getting in the way.    I remember in my 30s somewhere when there was a moment when I was truly lost.   A bit like how I am now, actually.    I was walking away from a previous life, and had not yet found another life to walk into.    I was scared, and unsure of myself, and was not able to gain any bearing relating or solid footing onto who I was or where I was going.    I remember this unbalanced moment acutely as if it was yesterday, and I also remember sitting at the kitchen table and writing you a letter expressing my fear, and looking for some small response, anything, some measure of reassurance from you that it would all turn out ok.   I wasn't asking for money, or anything material from you.    All I was looking for, All That I Needed, was a pat on the back.   I needed that, Dad.   Instead, I waited and waited, and I never heard back from you at all.     You either didn't notice, or you didn't care.    Maybe you just threw my letter away unopened, figuring no answer from you was a response in another way, and would harden me a bit.   Welcome to life, son.

I have a hard time getting past these things.     This is why when I had two daughters of my own, I gave them Mom's last name instead of yours.    To me, you abandoned us.  You abandoned me.   I know that you eventually found out that I did this, and maybe you were hurt by this, but also know that until and including the day Mom died, whenever I needed a calm reassurance in my life - that pat on the back - she was the first to give it, as I would to her, in her own moments of weakness.    It was Mom that taught me what it was to be Family.    Love and Loyalty.   She earned her stripes, my love, and then some.

Then there is one more thing.  A memory I didn't even know I had until recently.  The memory goes back to a time when you and Mom were young and struggling together trying to raise four noisy kids.   I remember on multiple occasions you volunteering to take me to the airport for the day to get some paperwork done, and spend some one on one time with me.  Maybe to Mom this meant we were heading to some quality father and son time.    But then this is what I also remember.    I remember every time we went to that airport, you would take me up to a wood paneled meeting room and tell me to wait there, and that you would be back, and then - and then - you would not show up for a number of hours.    I must have been 10 years old at the time - a little kid - waiting alone for hours in that wood paneled room.   Eventually you would show up and then we would drive home.    I never told mom what happened in those days.   Maybe even then I was in the process of burying it deep.    Maybe that is why it is only recently that it all came back to me.   Of course it was years later that we all found out that you were having an affair with not only one secretary at that airport, but two of them at the same time.   Lucky you.   Not so lucky for your son though.  The son that would one day be me.

All in all, I wish I could say that I was a better father than you.   All I can say that is that I am trying.  We try to correct in ourselves our father's failings, but often find our own new ways to screw up anyway.   I know that you dealt with this very issue with your own father.    I find myself dealing on this with you.  In the end, maybe the best that fathers can hope for is to be judged as people.  You do some stuff right, and most of the rest of it is wrong.   One of the things you used to say was that you can't judge decisions you made in the past.  You have to believe the person you were did the best they could at the time.    I try to live by that.

Now you are 84 years old and too old for me to send you this letter.   Additionally,  I have no desire to rattle you at the end of your life with ancient misgivings.   It is best to leave you to die with the delusions intact that allow you to get from one day to the next, as each of us does.  But forgiveness.  Forgiveness from those you leave behind is a blessing that - while all of us deserve it - it is not something we always get.   That forgiveness is something that I am still working on with you.    I will get there.  I am just not sure how long that will take.

Love, your son.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Exit Salad Stories

The Ark

The Clarity


A Morning Walk

The Clarity

The Clarity

He remembered the first time he found The Clarity.     He couldn't have been more than 3 years old and he was walking with his mother through a shopping mall, holding her hand as he always did.  Close by there was another mother and her daughter by the fountain talking with each other.    It was strange sounds at first, but then he reached out to understand what they were saying, and then he knew.   They were talking about the strange american waffles they had just had for breakfast.

He asked his mother "What does 'american' mean?"    

His mother looked down at him, followed his eyes to the other mother and child, and she said comfortingly to him "They are speaking French, which is why you don't understand them".   And then he replied.   "But they are talking about the strange american waffles they had for breakfast".
This caused his mother to laugh, and rub his hair with her hand.   

Of course.    He was only 3.    She looked down at him smiling and said "You sure do have an imagination, little man", then took his hand and led him away.   That is the last he saw of the mother and daughter, though he looked ahead for them, and knew that they would have a nice day together.

It was strange, that first moment of self-recognition, and his mom acting that she might not have been able to understand the mother and daughter like he could.  Over the following weeks, He would turn it over in his mind, and kept it there for awhile, and would look at it every now and then, like the colored pebbles he found in his back yard, and put in the shoebox under his bed.

Then, the next time it happened, he was sitting with his father, and his father was reading him a bedtime story about space travel, and about the many planets circling the sun.   He was interested, so reached out , and found that there was something larger out there circling the sun, way beyond the planets.   Something more terrifying, so he asked his father  "what is that big thing out there,  further out than the planets, Dad?".

His father gave him a perplexed look,  and then a warm smile, and tousled his hair.  Again, with the hair.  Maybe that's what adults do.   "Interesting idea, son.   Maybe one day you can write a story about it."     Then he knew his father didn't understand, but he could not explain this to his father,  because it would require explaining how he knew, and he didn't have the words for that.   And without the words, he was beginning to wonder if he could even understand it himself.

And then there were other things.    He would pick up a rock, and reach out, and then know what it was made of and where it was from.    It was interesting that everything has a history and a story.     But his friends didn't seem to know or care about that stuff.    Sometimes he would tell them a bit of the story, but then they would laugh and move on.   They were always in a hurry together, for the next thing.    Rocks were just things you threw and then forgot about.     

Or, sometimes he would walk by someone in a crowd, and if they looked interesting enough, he would reach out, and then he would know who they were, and their parents, and their parent's parents.   He learned that he could go as far back or forward as he wanted.    It was all there.     

Everyone had a story as well, just like the rocks.   He got to Know people that way.

He realized that he could Know things that other people didn't.    And it wasn't like he tried to know those things.     It was just that he reached out and they were there.    Knowing something was like a river flowing around him.  An invisible swirling mass.   When he wanted to Know something, he just reached out, and it was there waiting for him.   

He  never told anybody he could Know things, even his parents.   Whenever he got close, they always laugh, and maybe do the hair thing.   He sure could tell stories, and he just had a wild imagination.   He was young, after all, and no one ever took his stories seriously anyway.   After awhile, he just didn't share anything so much about what he knew, but could not explain.   It stopped people from shaking their heads at him.

When he was ten, he decided to stop trying to Know people also.  He would meet someone and like them, but when he would reach out he would then know that their children would one day die in a car accident, or that maybe a person he reached out about he would learn secretly liked to kill small animals.    Things like that.     You know things like that, and you can't look in their eyes, anymore.   It wasn't good, so he just decided one day to stay away from reaching out about most people.    

Sometimes It was better to just not to know.

It never did him lot of good to reach out to things in school, either.  They would be studying something like biology, and he would start to reach out and begin to look at the evolutionary history of a particular species and he would get lost in that, and then not be able to give the more simple answer that the teacher was looking for out of the textbook.  The main problem was that the textbooks didn't tell him anything interesting.   They were just words that pointed to things.  The other problem was that, When he Reached Out, He didn't have the words to explain the things he found.   So in the end,  he just tried to read the textbook like all the other kids, and he only did ok on his tests.   Not great, but ok.

He knew that he was Different.   He was a lonely island of awareness, with everyone else just unconsciously going about their lives around him, and him with his Knowing Things, or even sometimes intentionally not knowing what he knew.  He sometimes hated what he knew.

But even with all that, he realized that he couldn't stop what was inside of him.  The only time he allowed himself to reach out was at night when he was alone with the freedom of his thoughts and his curiosity.  Many things interested him.   Animals and Trees, Clocks and Weather Systems.    The forging of planets and continents.    History.  The Endless Stars, and the cycles that lay beyond the edges of the universe.   At night, in the darkness of his room, he would let his mind wander through The Clarity, and drift in that river of knowledge, like floating on his back on a moonless summer night, gazing up at the stars.  It went forever.

It was utterly amazing.    All those things without words, so he that he had to put his own words to them to begin to understand them.    The Swirling.   The Pulsation. The Burst.   The Cycles.
The Swirling Ecosystems.   The movement of stars against the walls of Darkness and Silence, and the Cycles beyond.   The Thread of Time, frayed as it was on each end, and The Flashing holding those frayed ends in place.

He could know all these things, but could never explain them.

As he got older, he began to read scientific research papers online, and every once in awhile, he would send out a few anonymous thoughts to the author of a paper, sort of pointing them in the right direction.   Sometimes he could tell that they understood something that he tried to explain, and it made him feel good that he could help, when he saw in their later papers that they took his advice.

Then one day, when he was 17 years old, he was walking down the street, and a pretty girl he didn't know smiled at him.   Him, of all people.   Dorky Him.   His heart raced.  There became a loud ringing in both of his ears.      He couldn't help it.  He reached out and knew that for her it was only a momentary smile, one quickly given, and then just as quickly forgotten, but it was not that way for him.   He walked for awhile, absorbed in the thought of her.  Then he stepped out onto the street, and it was then that a delivery truck ran him over.   Killed him right then and there.   And then he was in the river again.

Of course his parents grieved for him at his funeral, but it was not like he was in any kind of place to tell them that it was ok.     Then the river pulled him away from all that.  His parents, the girl, and who he was.   

It was funny.   What it was. 

That.    Whatever it was. 

Whatever.   What?

He drifted beyond the Cycles.  Beyond the Frayed Ends.   

Then, after awhile. 

Oh look.


The Ark

The Ark

Tom Christiansen woke up.

His eyes opened to a lit room that at first registered no meaning to him. A soft thrum was steady in his ears.  The lit room, a thrum - neither leaving any impression on him, until finally, self awareness slowly rose to the surface – I am Tom Christiansen.   I am in the Betty.   She has woken me up.

He blinked, but still he did not rise, responding to an overwhelming inclination to lay still while his mind cleared and he felt out his surroundings.   Untracked moments gathered and passed, and though he listened, he saw no movement, heard no other sound on the ship.  He surmised that he was alone, and this could only mean that the first two judges had done their work before him.   How much time had passed?

He tried to wiggle his fingers, then his toes.  Bend his legs some.   He took a deeper breath.  Physical inventory checks out.   He seemed to be ok.

Rising consciousness began filling in some of the unknowns, but not all of them.    He was planter number 3 of 11.   2 were intended to rise before him, Belken and Roiker.     The fact that he was now awake and alone meant that both Belken and Roiker were gone, probably long gone.  It also meant that Betty had found and placed herself near another potential planetary system.  Once close enough and sure of its stability, she had awoken him to make the judgment, and to decide whether to drop down or not.     If the ship was still holding to plan, they should be circling a type 3 just about now, and his time had come.  This was his moment, and the thought of it filled him immediately with excitement and a distant anxiety that was quickly alleviated by his training.  Drop down through the checklist of what needs to be done.  Perform the checklist tasks well, and everything else will take care of itself.     

But first he had to find out where and when he was. 

He pressed the release button on his preservation unit, and it opened with a slight hiss.  He uncoupled the life lines from his wrists and then got up slowly.   His body was stiff, but that was to be expected.  His wrists, arms and legs all felt like they were made of stone.    His head felt too heavy to lift, but finally his feet were on the ground, and he was sitting up.   As expected, there were liquid nutrient packets next to his unit, and he managed to reach over and open the first one.  He tilted it into his mouth and the liquid spilled down his dry throat.  Within minutes he began to feel better, so he reached for the second and downed that one as well.  Then he grabbed the hand rail and tried to stand up.   Whoa.  Not so fast.   He sat down again.

After awhile, he tried again, and this time managed to stand.    Then he took a step.  Then another.    The nutrient packets were working.   He seemed to be ok.  Might as well let Betty know he was awake.  

“Christiansen checking in” he said.  

“Hello Tom”   Betty replied.

“What year is it Betty?”  he asked.


Holy shit.  “Belken and Roiker before me”?

“That is correct.  Belkin was awoken in 2873.   Roiker in 3752".     Both Type III found planets were fertilized with DNA activants."

"How far out are we?"

"We are Approximately 1.2 parsecs from our Source.  2,456.25 solar years into mission."

Wow.   “Do you have a planet for me”?

“Yes.  Type IIIa, surface gravitation quotient 1.3, atmosphere nitrogen-oxygen content, with potential survivability quotient of 86.   Partial ambient temperatures.  It looks good.  Profile fits within awakening parameters.   We have been in orbit for 120 solar years without any significant geological or nearby solar disturbance, so is estimated as a safe seeding haven”.

“Thanks Betty.  Good work.  I'll get going on it.   You don't mind if I clear my head a bit first, though, do you?"

"No problem.   There will be a meal waiting for you in the galley"

Whoop De Doo, he thought.  My first meal in 2400 years.    Not that he was looking forward to it.    Back at Source, in their training for the mission, they had been told that getting their bodies used to orally ingested food again would be somewhat challenging.    Still, it was what it was.   Gotta get through the hard parts to get to the easy parts.  Steak and potatoes could wait for another day...

He still needed to clear his head. He got up and first shook his head, then his shoulders, then his hands, then each leg.  An old habit of waking up from long ago, under a different sun.

He walked unsteadily down to the galley, and sat down and ate the small bowl of warm mush that Betty had prepared for him.  Each spoonful felt like sandpaper down his throat, and evem though he took his time at it, after 3 bites his stomach was in revolt.   He quickly got up and made it to the latrine before throwing it up into the bowl.   He dutifully flushed the stuff away, and then went back and tried to eat again.   This time the 3 spoonfuls went down without coming back up.   Good.  Might as well put that into the success column.

Then his first sip of coffee.  Milk, no sugar.  Damn, and double damn.  That woke him up.  He sat at the small galley table and closed his eyes and felt pleasure in the savory experience of it.   Feeling better, he walked over to the bay window, cup in hand, and looked down for the first time on the planet that was to be his home.

"Betty, I get to name this thing, don't I?", he asked.

"If you'd like", she replied.

Did Belkin and Roiker name theirs?"

"Yes.  Belkin named hers 'Eve', and Roiker named his 'Thunderbird'"

He immediately snorted at that, then coughed, and said  "Effing Idiot Roiker, naming his after his car.  Just like him".   Still, he wondered if Roiker did that just so that some 1,000 years later the joke would be appreciated by another human.    Thanks for making me laugh, Roiker, he said to himself in his mind.  He lifted his cup toward the bay window.   I owe you one, buddy.

He took another sip, and stared more out at the planet.    A small thing, with greenish hues.  Immediately the word came to him.  Short and simple.  Eco.

"'Eco', Betty.    I would like to call this planet 'Eco' if you don't mind."

"Eco it is, then Tom.   Search and replace completed on all documentation compiled to date.  It has now all been uploaded into your home unit."

Ah, the unit.  He should go check it out and get ready to do his job.   

"On my way" he said, and grabbed a couple of energy biscuits that Betty had laid out for him, and made his way down through the ship's hallways and up to an air lock marked above it with  the single word "Christiansen".  He opened the air lock, then stepped into what was to become his home for what the mission team back home called the 'duration', if by 'duration'  means 'For the rest of your life'.  Way back in his memory, he remembered stocking this home with books, movies, and close personal items, a summation of his life at the time.   A life way back when, a life that existed on the other side of his big sleep.  Strange to think that everybody he knew back then was dead now.   As was their great great grandchildren.  He had Pictures of them even.   Pictures on the walls of the unit.   Ones that he was not quite ready yet to look at.

Time enough for that, he thought, and went immediately to the work at hand.    His job was to take the unit down to Eco, and in low level flight, dropseed the planet with the 10,000 or so source DNA capsules that dotted the underside of the unit.    The way the unit was designed, there would not be enough raw fuel propulsion to get back to Betty.   Most everything was built for his time on the planet.   He did not know if it had been planned that way, or if that was just the way it was.   Not his job to think about it.  His job was to seed the planet, while Betty moved off to other planets and star systems with the eight remaining planters.   Maybe in another 1,000 years or so, she would wake up another, the fourth planter.  La Fonte, if he remembered correctly.   The one with the pretty face.

"Betty, I guess I'm ready whenever you are"  he said.   Then, as an afterthought "Thanks for watching over me all of these years".

She replied immediately.  "Its been a pleasure Tom.   You were a sound sleeper.  Good luck with Eco."

"Thanks."  Back to business.    "Christiansen Descent in 5-4,3-2-1.  Code Activation Now".    He pushed in his personal code on the console, and then pressed his palm against the plate for identification.  While the jets fired up around him, he strapped himself in watched the dials closely.

"All Go.  Disconnecting in 3-2-1, Now.".    And with a brief jolt, the home unit slowly detached from the mother ship.    He looked above and saw Betty slowly moving away and pulling out of orbit of the planet already.

His last chance for conversation.    "Good Bye Betty, and good luck.   Give em Hell".  

"Good Bye Tom.  You too.   Betty out."  and he could see her jets initiate a slow burst and then grow dark again.  He watched as the ship drifted slowly away.    He continued to watch it a long while, watched it recede until it was just a flicker of light.   He watched it until she was gone and then maybe a little bit after.

Then again, training kicked in.    He turned back to the controls.   "Ok Homey.  I guess its just you and me now"  he said.  Then, as he reached down to the controls to move the unit down to the planet below, he saw a sticker on top of it with the word "Asshole" written on it in felt pen.

He laughed again to himself, and said  "Fucking Roiker.  Now I owe you two."    He pushed the controls forward and began his descent down towards a small green world that he knew would only ever have one set of human footprints on its surface.

If the DNA seeding ever worked,  and the DNA figured out how to make a go of it on this world, he could not imagine what sort of creatures would eventually evolve and roam its environs.    He himself would be long gone, and it would probably be more than a few millennia before those risen up creatures would ever look up upon the stars, and wonder, and question whether there was a distant home that lay beyond their gaze.  As he dropped down the markers across Eco's surface, he realized that  - by that time - he would long be dust.

He was ok with that.