Gaps and false starts,
They tell you it is never too late
but time lays waste to the body
and heaven burdens
the spirit of man
with a choice.
But men have their own minds,
follow their own hearts.
Sometimes good comes out of it,
but mostly nothing remains
save the charred and smoking corpses
of love, hope, and plans.
With shades of orange and pink, the rising sun smoothed the jagged edges of the snowcapped moutains, rendering them deceitfully gentle for a time.
Topping his final rise, the bedraggled soldier Olnan saw the shrine in front of him, not too far away now. Taking time to rest, breathing deep of the fresh, chilled air, he took a moment to admire its beauty.
As he admired it, a memory came unbidden, but not unwelcome.
His father was holding his hand. He seemed happy enough, but his breathing was labored at this high altitude.
“Are you well, father?”
He smiled at the note of adult concern in his son’s voice. “Yes, Olnan. I’m fine. We’re here now. All is well.”
“Do you want me to go in with you?” He was curious to see the inside of an actual shrine.
“Of course I do. It’s time for you to learn the rituals I perform that honor the ancestors.”
“Like …. ” Olnan took a moment to figure it out. “… your grandfather?”
His father laughed with pride. “Yes, Olnan! Well done! Yes, like my grandfather, but also those who came before him. We owe them a great debt we can’t repay. They went through many things to settle us here, and faced hard times.”
Olnan beamed at the praise.
His father lapsed into silence, but didn’t move. Olnan knew when that happened that he was supposed to wait; Father was remembering something unpleasant. When he spoke again, his voice was husky with emotion.
“But they didn’t give up.” He looked down at Olnan. “Let’s go, son.”
Still holding Olnan’s hand, they entered the shrine.
Olnan felt warmed by the memory, and sadness at the empty space beside him now hit him unexpectedly hard. He took another moment to gather himself.
And now, my father has become an ancestor, and I’m not yet a father myself.
He took the offering pack that held the ritual’s needs off his back and held it instead.
It seemed even now that he could see his father there at the door, motioning for him to come inside.
Taking a deep breath, he walked toward the shrine, smiling through his tears.
One day, my children…
These words, each one,
holds a piece of me,
pulling apart like fingers in
a warm loaf of bread.
Then other words come
and add their own flavor to it:
some bitter, some sweet
some tart, some tasteless,
but always the words remain.
While I am here to tend them,
they’ll continue to gather me
from every hidden corner
of my mind.
“Are you so eager to leave me?”
“I am eager to leave. Are you so reluctant
to accompany me?”
Between nothing holding me here,
and you with no reason to stay,
we can break the bonds.
But one must
make the sacrifice.
It comes down to trust,
for while love is the fruit,
trust is the seed.
Both reach out, but neither grasps.
Both turn their backs, but neither leaves.
They search each other’s eyes, but neither
The fork in the road is here.
We’ll walk one path together,
or two, alone.
It’s time to go.
A soft spring sunset
filters through park tree leaves.
Travelers fill the roads, heading home
to late dinners and early bedtimes,
prepping to complain about Monday morning.
Time is seized by pets and children,
and the night’s calm settles like a
or a hug,
or a shroud.
And just for a while,
the veneer of normalcy
rolls down the windshield
of my parked car.
given golden coronas
by the setting sun.
And for a brief moment,
for these harbingers of new life
that have served their purpose,
a moment of silence,
and gratitude to have seen
Our moral compass
can’t find its magnetic north
and we’re lost again.