I recall, eons ago, when I was neither adult nor child,
during a phase of life known as adolescence
or numerically, being a teenager.
I also recall later being
a male adult parent to three, at one point—
all three almost simultaneously fitting
the technical teenager definition.
We all age up, but teeny boppers, as was once
a more affectionate term, stay the same.
Someone is always oddly 13, 15, 17, or some
age of that hormonally unbalanced
and the musically misguided post-pubescence.
I recall that back then, I was often bored unless
in the midst of violent volcanic eruptions,
and even then, given time, I found them dreary.
Almost everything of interest
involved getting into trouble, things which
I confess to doing with reckless abandon.
Now I look around and see grandchildren,
mostly in some phase of teenage-ism,
some exhibiting familiar behavior, some not.
I see parents, once teens themselves, distraught
over viewing in their progeny reflections of
their former life, a past they seldom
confess or want to remember.
I have no solutions and few suggestions for
those raising difficult teen personalities, like me,
like them, maybe like my parents in the
years of the Great Depression or
WWI or II. But I smile slightly
and I sympathize greatly.
Two things in life are not for sissies:
raising teenagers and getting old. That,
having done both, I can swear to. But,
in the long run, they are worth it.
May we all live long, prosper,
and remember. “Tomorrow, and
Tomorrow, and So Forth.”
Look both ways as life transitions. Be mindful of the gaps in denial.
It was hard work, that summer
filled me with memories
and lessons about life,
living close to nature, those feelings,
a life lived as few city boys knew.
The smell of manure spread on the fields
the milk cow faces up-close to touch
the unlimited number of stars in the sky
first seen by me at fourteen.
Few city boys knew or saw.
The noises of the day, the life,
the tractors, lifting bales of hay
with a hook. The smells, our sweat;
and the taste of fresh raw from-the-cow, milk
and garden peas right out of the pod.
Things learnt, few city boys knew about.
The quiet of an amazingly still cool night,
the sleep of a man who is still just a boy,
the sun in the morning when the cock crows
the waking of nature and all that is life.
Amazing stuff, few city boys know.
The smoke from the fires
the good feeling of hard work finished,
the wait for tomorrow’s harvest and
the craziness of good friends.
Things this city boy soon knew.
The past not forgotten,
the touches, the pain, the
cries and the laughs all
implanted like extra brains in
my heart and my head, parts of me.
Few city boys will ever know.
And there it will stay
till one lucky day — it happens,
I’ll be back on the farm when
I’m finally a boy again, in an old man’s body.
What every city boy knows is true.
It was a cold northeastern Pennsylvania night. I don’t recall the day of the week, or even the year, but the season was tucked into that idiom wrongly called, the dead of winter. There’s nothing dead about it.
I was in my teens and still living with my parents. It was late night and snow had covered the ground one day in the early nineteen-sixties. While night, the reflections from the snow allowed me to see everything, although it looked like a blue-tinted black and white photograph.
While all years of my life were important, those teen years are prominent memories. I still recall how I felt then, but now it’s hard to describe. I’ll never feel like that again. The wonderful adjectives of youth applied to me: vital, vigorous, and energetic; yet so did lazy, horny, rebellious, and impulsive. I would not say pensive or thoughtful. Yet, there was that one night.
As I walked through deep snow above my ankles, a powdery white mattress was laid out around me in all directions. The white snow was tinted cobalt blue by the moon-lit night sky. None of the snow was marked by footsteps or car tires. The blanket was pristine. The cemetery across the street was a charming and peaceful sight. I loved the sight of the snow, the reflection of street lights with a wintery halo, the contrast of red brick buildings with lines of white where snow landed. Even boarded-up windows seemed fitting to this natural artistic sight. What I saw made me feel good. I was happy, but thoughtful about what I saw.
If anyone saw me, they might assume I was lonely. I was not. Never. While my teen years presented me with daily challenges, feeling lonely wasn’t one of them. Even back then, I treasured my alone time. I have searched for more nights like that one, but I will never discover such a night again. Nature’s art is often so fleeting.
I may have been troubled by any one of the issues I thought life changing. Today, I recall few of those traumatic teeny-bopper problems. But, I can still visualize the night. While I have long since been free of my adolescent burdens, I remember. I didn’t feel cold. I felt both my pending freedom and a connectedness to my surrounding, to the night, and to the silence. And to the darkness, the light, the snow, and a sweet silence only night offers.
I was wearing plain old brown leather oxford shoes and white socks. My pants were a bit too short and much too snug: a style of the times. Adults thought my hair too long. It was a little greasy, and it hung down to cover part of my face. I didn’t wear a hat. My outer layer was a hand-me-down, black, Navy-surplus pea coat – unbuttoned and hanging open. The collar was up.
As I picture that night, I feel my experience. That not-to-be-forgotten night was like a photograph taken with my eyes and ears, sensed with my tongue’s taste buds. I could smell the clean crisp aroma of the night air. It is imprinted in my memory: a serene moment, fifty-some years ago. A semi-normal teenager, I realized that something remarkable was happening around me. I liked it and I wanted to share it with you.
The day’s white powder parted like a soft curtain as my feet gently led me forward. Sidewalks, streets, and any surfaces open to the sky were topped with the blueish flakes. No cars passed. The plows would not be out until early next morning.
Months before this night, trees had lost their leaves. Now, white fluff-covered bare branches stretched skyward like arms reaching to catch descending flakes. Evergreens bore much thicker and fuller sparkling white coats over their needles, a weight they endured with their strong, flexible, down-sloping boughs. I sensed a soft chill as a gentle breeze brushed the powder from trees onto me.
As snow clouds passed, I saw the clear night sky of spiritual proportions. A nearly-full moon illuminated the earth with light reflected upward by snow. Even with the light in the sky, billions of stars floated above me, while below them the sheen of fresh powder glistened. I was so young, yet I intuited the unimaginable enormity of what was around me. I could sense the sheer winter-night beauty of it all. I felt comfort in that notable moment. The night and the silence were etching a memory no artist or photographer could duplicate.
The silence was purposeful and reasoned. A quiet so intense the night air was a sharp penetrating stillness that muted other sounds. All was perfectly still. No movement, not even a hush. It was an absolute quiet: a silence so powerful I imagined intense peacefulness within me.
I stopped. Didn’t move for a long time. I listened for sounds of anything, silent sounds. I heard nothing but silence itself. Very still, breathing shallow, listening intently to what was the most peaceful moment of my life as my personal Sounds of Silence came from nature. I was with my friend Darkness, where I felt destined to be. I experienced sensual pleasure in the absolute beauty of that cold winter night.
I saw silence in the stillness as nothing moved. The world had stopped. I tasted tranquility as the clear, dry night-air slid over my tongue. As the still coolness flowed into my nose with its chilled crisp fragrance, I smelled a fresh aroma only nature could provide to a young mind open to such images. I have aged. But, this memory remains set in the mind of a teenage boy.
Slowly, I started to walk a bit farther. Then stopped again. I knew this was exceptional. Then I walked more, and I stopped again. I do not recall walking away or going home. The memory leaves me standing there, taking it in.
I didn’t know that this memory would be discovered and retrieved by my muse over half a century later. Said she, “Up now, Lad. And write in yer book, before ‘tis lost again in the disorganized gaps of your mind.”
If you have no time for the video now, please come back to watch it. It’s worth it.
Live in the present, but look both ways, to the past for who you were, and to the future for who you’ll be.
Mind the gaps, but fill in where you can.
We think it good, we think it bad,
we think it happy, we think it sad.
Transitions gap our evolving life.
Changes are scary,
transformations are mad.
Born into kaleidoscope
with passion we creep,
from stumbling blocks
to stepping stones
we eventually leap,
crossing mortared passages
through well-tuned segues
our unplanned journey
First babes, then as children,
we transform into teens,
with hormones and zits
and other strange things.
To walk and to talk,
of this life we wonder,
what it all means
we continue to ponder.
Back to the womb
we desire to go.
As we learn of the changes
we continue to grow,
but kaleidoscope says
the answer is no.
Thru constant transitions
always more progress.
Life brings us new lessons
and dappled confessions;
how excited we get
as we look for more color.
We twist the scope faster
by leaving the nest,
then we see it in others
that desire for best,
we discover ourselves
as never before, we are
with all the transitions
still frozen by fear
of uncertainty we abhor.
What is our purpose?
Why are we here?
Why do these changes
bring us such fear?
Back to the past
or into the future;
Where do we go?
What must we know?
Need we keep changing
as we continue to grow?
Everything changes while
the gaudy scope turns.
We fear the next spin
and where it might end.
Continue we must
with this prismatical game,
long into life
and well after birth.
Because everything always changes. It’s never the same.
Bill Reynolds 9/25/2017
Up from the colors, stare into the gaps. Look both ways at life’s many changes.
Two memories from my youth relate to this post. I recall my mother frequently telling me that I was contrary. She would say, “Now Billy, stop being so contrary.” She could have chosen from many words: obstinate, difficult, stubborn, negative, or silly. Actually, that’s not true. She used silly a lot, as in, “Silly-Billy.” I actually liked being called silly and still do. Today, such a fun-loving attitude coupled with silly behavior would prevent a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).
As a youngster, I did have more than my share of confrontations with adults, especially those in positions of authority. I admit it. Mom was right (aren’t they all?). I was often contrary and many synonymous terms applied equally well. I confess that I enjoyed being difficult, most of the time. Sometimes, I paid for it. Some say I never outgrew my contrarian attitude.
The other memory comes from the time of my early to mid-teens. I don’t know where if came from, but we adapted a phrase for a while that was intentionally meaningless, but we said it – a lot. It was kind of an early version of whatever! We would say it to each other and often to adults. We always knew exactly what the adult retort would be. The locution was Yeah, but, or yeahbut. Today, the Urban Dictionary says yeahbut should be followed by f**k, but we seldom used those words in combination.
Most often, but is used as a conjunction to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. Adults insisted on asking, “But what?” We knew we were pushing buttons when we looked them straight in the eye and answered, “Yeahbut.” Silly kids, right? I confess to deliberately irritating adults given any opportunity.
However; yet, nevertheless, nonetheless, even so, still, notwithstanding, in spite of that, for all that, and all the same; I do like butts. Some more than others.
But this is about me being a but man. As I said, but is usually used as a conjunction. It is also used as a preposition (anyone but him), an adverb (to name but a few), or a noun (no buts, you’re buying). Add a t and it becomes slang for a body part. But is a useful word.
It is also a word that I overuse. In my writing and speaking, I am rightfully criticized for saying but too often. Twenty-one times out of 350 words so far in this post. But, it is the subject, after all (22). When I edit, I look for the buts and remove or change as many as I can. But not in this post. At the beginning of a sentence, that is most often when it is there, it changes nothing in terms of meaning. My use is not always as a contrasting conjunction. But there’s more.
I am a quiet, introverted man by nature. I’m not very shy. The larger and less familiar the group, the quieter I will be. I am happy to let anyone banter endlessly about virtually any topic with no sound from me. I listen closely and analytically (Usually – some might say I don’t listen at all). At some point I might say it. In one-on-one conversations; especially the heated, no attributions kind we have with trusted friends, I will eventually say something. My comments in such environs are often preceded with facial expressions and perhaps a raised eye-brow or two. Then out it comes.
“Yeah, but….” (or just but). Sometimes I fancy it up with things like however, on the other hand, consider this, did you know, or maybe so, but…. I can also be passive aggressive with things I learnt from the younger folk like whatever, ya think?, really?, or my personal favorite: No shit? I like to add Sherlock to that last one, but only when it wouldn’t be offensive (accidentally).
A couple of weeks past, I got to listen to my middle child (now 42) recite a verbal rampage on his view of politics and life, with all the arm waving and facial expressions to have gone viral, had I recorded and posted it.
I really enjoyed listening, even though I couldn’t get a word in until he finished. It was an enjoyable banter, indeed. To be fair, I could see myself. When he finished, I smiled at him and said, “Wow!” and tried not to roll my eyes. I decided that if I said ‘yeahbut’ I would have turned the page to the next chapter of his ranting objections to life in this real world. Sometimes, we just need to sit on our butts and keep our buts to ourselves. Yeahbut moments should be carefully chosen.