I came home late this evening. Darkness had already fallen and charcoal clouds churned across the sky against a new moon. My loved ones had left the light on for me so I could see to get into my home. So tired from a15 hour day at work, I could barely hold my head up as I slumped out of the car and trudged toward the front door. I paused to fish my keys out of my pocked and looked up to see this:
If you don’t know what that means; if you didn’t get a chill down your spine just then how can I explain my incredible excitement over the events of this coming weekend?
I kept my eyes on the weeping angel and I DID NOT BLINK! I made it through the door and locked it behind me only to turn around and find something evil; something vile; something foul waiting for me in the foyer!
Okay, so this Dalek is a little bloated and overweight. Maybe too much rock salt! It seemed to be dormant so I made my way around him and looked in the kitchen. No one was there. The house was empty. Even Romeo was gone! Where could they be?
I slowly made my way to the bedroom, making sure not to wake up the sleeping Dalek and this is what I found:
So, that explains it! Well, I won’t have to wait for Saturday to meet the twelfth doctor! He’s waiting for me along with my friends and family. And, not to worry! It’s bigger on the inside! Don’t miss the new doctor Saturday night! We’ll see you in the TARDIS! I hope he didn’t redecorate!
Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.
Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.
It was January, 1992 and I was lost and alone in Los Angeles. In looking for the hospital hosting my radiology meeting I had somehow ended up in East L.A. a most unsavory and dangerous place. In the days before GPS, I had to rely on a map and somewhere I had made a wrong turn. I said a silent prayer for safety and slowly made my way through the prostitutes and drug dealers converging on my vehicle. God was with me that day and I made it safely out of that area of the city and found my destination. At the end of the meeting that evening, I hit the interstate and headed back toward my hotel on the grounds of Disneyland. There, I would be safe and protected from the harsh world of reality I left behind. There, I would find magic. And, I desperately needed some magic in my life.
Even though I had only reached my mid thirties, a deep and darkening oppression eclipsed the California sun. My wife and two small children were tucked safely at home back in Louisiana and this country boy was a stranger in a strange land. I could not shake the feeling of dread and depression as the days passed even though I was staying just across the street from the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
And so, I decided to go see a movie. Just down the street in Anaheim I entered the darkened theater and sat through a showing of “Hook”, Steven Spielberg’s dedication to all things Peter Pan. And, in that movie, I found something deeply disturbing. I found myself. The character of Peter Banning, once the young, impulsive Peter Pan, had grown older and his self absorbed exterior of narcissism and type A behavior was disturbingly familiar to me. In one telling scene on an airplane, he chastises his son:
Peter Banning: (To his son, Jack) Jack, my word is my bond.
Jack: Yeah, junk bonds! [Jack hits the ceiling door in the plane with his ball, and causes the oxygen masks to drop down and scare Peter half to death]
Peter Banning: What in the hell’s the matter with you? When are you gonna stop acting like a child?
Jack: [laughs] I am a child.
Peter Banning: Grow up.
I did not realize it at the time, but I was already descending into the shadow world of depression. In just three years, I would spiral downward, every downward into complete and utter self destruction. By 1995 I would experience a total meltdown.
I bring this up because the actor who played Peter Banning was, of course, Robin Williams. To say I, like many in the world, was greatly disturbed by Robin Williams’ suicide is an understatement. Robin Williams was one of the funniest men in the world. His frenetic and manic antics made so many of us laugh. But, I knew, I just knew what was really going on inside that head. I knew because I have many of the same inclinations as Robin Williams. He has spoken many times about his depressive episodes and how he used his laughter to cover up the tears. Unlike Robin Williams, I was blessed to never fall into the world of addiction. But, I did find myself face to face with the specter of self imposed destruction.
Recently, someone very close to me heard the voice of destruction. I cannot share who this person is, but they shared with me how they heard a voice as if someone were sitting on their shoulder and urging them to hurt themselves. We discovered that this inclination was due to medication. And, thankfully, once the medication was changed those voices lessened and hopefully, will go away.
I have heard it said you should always “follow your heart”. But, I want to caution anyone about listening to emotions. Emotions are temporary. They change like the seasons of the year or the angle of the sun during the day. Our “heart” can often hear the voice of our emotions and we should be very careful what we listen to. In our previous book, “Conquering Depression” Mark Sutton and I have spoken often about the danger of making major decisions based on emotions. If my dear loved one mentioned above had acted on those voices, those emotions, the outcome would have been catastrophic.
I saw a Tweet about Robin Williams. It showed another famous character of his, the Genie from Aladdin. An image showed the Genie hugging Aladdin and the words reflected the idea that as the Genie, Robin was finally “free”.
Let me caution anyone very carefully, as I am sure Robin Williams’ family would, that contemplating self destruction is never the best answer for gaining “freedom”. There is a lie here that death is somehow a better alternative than living everyday with emotional pain. Remember, emotions change and they can BE changed. Mark and I will soon be releasing our new book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. What has amazed us over and over are the testimonials of those who read our previous book and felt that it “saved” their lives. Something in our book changed their emotional outlook.
I mean, how can you even wrap your brain around that outcome! Something I experienced; something I worked through with the help of God and my family and friends; something I endured in spite of the voices calling for me to give into the terminal darkness; something I managed to write about — to bleed all over the page — to bear my soul has helped someone in their moments of utter despair? Thank you God for allowing me to have that outcome. And, God I pray now for anyone who is feeling the heavy hand of self destructive emotions and I pray for every family touched by suicide for peace and understanding and the strength to endure.
For, I believe anyone can find hope again. I will miss Robin Williams. I am sorry his pain was so unendurable that he chose the path he did. For those of us left behind struggling with a world that seems absolutely insane; a world that makes no sense at times and yet, a world that still has moments of peace, tranquility, and hope — my prayer for you is that you NEVER make major life changing decisions in the heat of your emotions. Pause. Pray. Think. And reach out to someone for help!
This blog post will appear on our Conquering Depression website. And, we have not spoken about our current book on that website because the new book is coming out. But, if you need help now — please seek it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your family. Talk to your friend. Buy a copy of “Conquering Depression” and use the LifeFilters. It’s only about $10 and then, you can pick up the new book in September. But, don’t wait for help. Get it now!
To Robin Williams’ family I say thank you for sharing this incredible man’s talents with the world. I close with another quote from “Hook” — a movie that made me see that I had to become a child again and see the world through the eyes of my children:
Peter Banning: [sees Tinkerbell on the Peter Pan statue] Tink!
Tinkerbell: Say it, Peter. Say it and mean it.
Peter Banning: I believe in fairies.
Tinkerbell: You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?
Tinkerbell: That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.
We all need to believe in something. If you have followed my blog and if you check out our new website, you know Who we believe in! And, He is waiting to give you hope again!
Bad news first!
We are experiencing an epidemic of depression in the United States. That shouldn’t be a surprise! What is really worrisome is the level of depression among our “millennials”, those who are between 20 and 30 years of age!
In February, 2001 Mark Sutton, my former pastor and co-author and I were privileged to publish our book, “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness”. Within a few months, the world would change forever with the events of 9/11. In the years since our book came out, we have seen it become a “strong backlist seller”. What that means in publishing lingo is this was a book that wouldn’t die! Publishers give books about a two year shelf life unless they end up on the best seller lists. Our book never made it to the best seller list but it just kept on selling.
First, there are no good practical books on depression for Christians. Trust me. I know. When I went though my depression back in the late 1990’s the only books I could find were far too clinical and used “case studies”. Frankly, it was like trying to read a textbook! When you are depressed the LAST thing you are able to do is to read a textbook! Read the rest of this entry
I sat in a dark theater embraced by the cool dankness waiting for what was promised as a miracle. I had suffered through the drought of science fiction films from 1968’s 2001 and Planet of the Apes until the late seventies and this movie promised to end that drought. I doubted it. No one had any idea of how to make good science fiction movies anymore. Spielberg had approached that possibility with Jaws, but it wasn’t really a scifi movie. Would this obscure George Lucas deliver?
I sat slack jawed, weepy eyed and stunned through my first viewing of Star Wars. In 1977 the scrolling introduction mentioned something about a “new hope” but I had no idea this would be the fourth installment in what would become six films. I just knew that everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again. Over the next 12 months, I returned to my local cinema (this was in the days before VHS so movies would stay in the theater for months) and watched Star Wars over 33 times. Sometimes, I would show up in the middle and watch to the end. Sometimes I would watch until the trash compacter scene. It was pure scifi addiction.
In the years that followed, the movie studios tried to reproduce Lucas’ achievement and failed. Star Wars knock offs proliferated but they never got it right. What made this movie work so well?
First, Lucas just dropped us smack into the middle of a galaxy far, far away. He did not explain the alien lifeforms, the planets, or even the politics. He allowed me, the moviegoer, to join him in the work of figuring out the backstory and setting. He trusted me to figure out the story without having to feed it to me. This was classic “show, don’t tell”.
Second, he created characters who were real and stand alone and defied stereotypes (Leia was the first female action movie figure instead of a typical damsel in distress) and at the same time had enough of the scifi tropes in their personalities that there was a sense of familiarity. Take the cliche and adopt and adapt it.
Third, he used classic storytelling elements — a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Fourth, he created moments of hilarious humor followed by deeply moving emotional moments. The scene where Luke gazes over the dead, burning bodies of his foster parents and then looks away in disgust is still simple yet emotionally gut wrenching.
Fifth, he gave us the Laurel and Hardy comedy pair in the droids. One of them was over the top silly and the other silent and subversively serious. R2D2, would save the day always with his hidden talents.
As I have watched the stories unfold regarding this new movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy” I began to sense the same kind of potential. Here was a movie based on a very obscure Marvel comic book line. There would be no familiar characters from the rest of the Marvel Universe. And, there would be no anchor of familiarity with the galactic civilization in which this story was based. But, I knew, in my heart and in my soul and in my mind this movie could be another “Star Wars”. I could only hope and I think I was right.
I took my daughter, Casey and our friend, Lisa to the first showing last night. There were no scrolling narratives at the beginning but the opening 5 minutes were some of the most gut wrenching introductions to a movie I have seen since J. J. Abrams killed off James T. Kirk’s father in “Star Trek”. Wow, I was stunned at the depth of this scene and I knew, I just knew that this movie would play off of that opening scene and if it pulled that off, it had to be great.
I laughed. I laughed some more until it hurt! I clapped with joy. And, I wept more than once. All of those classic elements from the original Star Wars were there but in their own, unique and singular fashion. The musical score from the 70s and 80s was perfect. I found myself singing along as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord mimics Karaoke with a handheld critter. Don’t ask. It was brilliant! And, the comic team of a certain genetically enhanced raccoon and his friend, a walking plant took the relationship with C3PO and R2D2 to a new level. In fact, everything about this movie was familiar. But everything about this movie was totally foreign and different. They pulled off one of the most daring and risky moves in recent history.
I predict Guardians will make the most money of any of the recent Disney/Marvel movies. I predict that moviegoers, like me will go and see it over and over and over to enjoy every nuanced line, every missed moment because our eyes were watering with joy, laughter, or sorrow. I predict Guardians will usher in another round of wannabes, but they will be pale reflections.
I was concerned about the future of space opera scifi when Disney announced new episodes of Star Wars. But, the team from Marvel that worked with the team from Disney has created such an epic, classic movie with Guardians I am now in eager anticipation. I can’t wait until I can sit down in front of a dark screen and listen for that familiar fanfare and see that scrolling intro to J. J. Abrams’ next Star Wars installment. The fact that Marvel/Disney has reached out to young, enterprising directors who think outside the box for the next few Star Wars movies as well as these wonderful Marvel movies gives me hope that imagination is new again; that nostalgia has been resurrected and given a new hope, a new skin for future generations.
I cannot give Guardians of the Galaxy enough positive stars. It was fantastic, fun, moving, exhilarating, alien, bizarre but the most satisfying movie experience I have had in many years. Go see it and bring lots of tissue. You’ll be laughing so hard you’ll cry and then you’ll be crying so hard you’ll laugh!
Well, I had almost given up.
And then this:
Hey, Bruce, just wanted to say congratulations for winning the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award this month. Your posts on The Warden and the Wolf King were awesome. So glad you’re a part of CSFF. (Christian Science Fiction Fantasy Blogtour)
Now, back to my despair!
I can tell anyone reading this blog post that it is incredibly frustrating being a published author in today’s publishing environment. I have written three books in the series, “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”. After the second book came out, my publisher, Charisma, “released” me from a five book contract. But, I and already written the next two books in the series. I put a few feelers out to interested publishers and had my agent try and generate some interest in the third book. No response.
I have self published before and at the first annual Platform conference in Nashville, Michael Hyatt told me to self publish again. Take control of your own destiny, he suggested. I turned to Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson where Michael Hyatt was once CEO. That book became available in December, 2014 about six weeks later than my third book would have come out through Charisma.
Unfortunately, the third book has not received as much attention than the first two. In fact, after months of writing this blog and promoting my book here and through Facebook and Twitter I had become very discouraged. I had all 13 books in the series mapped out. But, it seemed interest was dwindling in my book series.
At the same time, B&H Publishing approached me and my co-author, Mark Sutton during the ICRS, the largest Christian media trade show in the country. In July, 2012 I was asked by B&H to update our depression book, Conquering Depression. This development was a complete shock and a pleasant development. But, it would mean I would now be dividing my time between Jonathan Steel and a new book on depression.
The last two years have been tough but ultimately rewarding. “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” will be released in September and soon, our website will debut. I am currently working feverishly on the website and social media and marketing and publicity and . . .
But, what about Jonathan Steel? The fourth book in the series is already written. In fact, the original manuscript was responsible for securing that five book series deal with Charisma. But, the original novel was 150,000 words long. My contract with Charisma specified a maximum book length of 75,000 words! What was I to do? It would mean seriously chopping down the fourth book to half of its length! I considered breaking the book into two parts, but the story just wouldn’t hold up. I went to work, painfully and carefully whittling down the manuscript. It was tough, let me tell you. As my books have come out, I have had the great fortune of working with an excellent editor and my writing has improved. This is a great lesson every aspiring novelist should pay attention to. Spend the time and money to get an editorial input on your manuscript. You will learn so much and your writing will improve or you will walk away in total frustration.
Now, with my former contract kaput, I have to decide what to do with the fourth book. Back in April, I made a decision to take the new, shorter edit and the old, longer manuscript and bring them together. The shorter work had so much more going for it, but the longer manuscript was meatier with more character development and lots of new backstory. A shocking development occurred in the narrative as I rewrote the book for the shorter version and I was excited about the potential.
But, again I became discouraged. Should I press on with the series? How could I afford another self-publishing package in the tens of thousands when the third book just wasn’t bringing in the funds to offset these expenses? But, as I started in on the third revision of the book, I got excited about some story changes based on hints and clues I placed in “The 11th Demon”. I really want to get this book out there.
And then, I decided to check out a relative’s new book on Amazon. I can’t reveal her real name, but her pen name is Lorraine Britt. I read some of the reviews of her book and wondered, “What about my books?” I had checked out only one review for “The 13th Demon” that called it an “honest effort” and I was afraid to go back and check for more reviews. But, I was pleasantly surprised! The reviews definitely reflect the improvement in my writing so that was a relief. And, as I read the reviews I had to keep pinching myself. People actually like my books? They want to read more books?
It is late on a Friday night and my discouragement had reached a new high (or low, depending on how you look at it). But, after reading the reviews, I have made a final decision. “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” will be released in some form or fashion by November, 2014. I am strongly considering forming my own independent publishing endeavor. The reason? The fourth book will definitely lead to a spin off science fiction series called “The Node of God” if it succeeds. And, I have several other books planned. These are NOT in the genre of Christian Speculative Fiction and I am pretty discouraged with fiction publishing by traditional publishers right now. I may only have a small group of readers who like my characters and want to read my books, what Michael Hyatt calls a “tribe”. And, I imagine we are a strange tribe indeed to want to follow Jonathan Steel on his quest to rediscover his memory and his life. But, I have always lived on the edge of the strange, odd, and edgy.
If you’d like to see the fourth book finished, just drop me a comment. I need the encouragement. And for now, I will cling to this one thought: God is not done with me yet and I will never give in, never give up.
Check back soon for more information on my new website promoting “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”.
I wrote about Leeli yesterday. But, today I want to finish with three truths I took away from the story. These may not be the messages that Andrew intended, but they are messages I took away from this wonderful story. So, what did the characters and the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King” teach me?
Evil does not always take on the expected form, particularly in the beginning.
Every good story must have a compelling and dangerous villain. From book one, I have been waiting impatiently to find out more about Gnag the Nameless. Try as I might, I could not imagine what Gnag looked like. He was not only nameless, he was faceless! Was he a reptile? Was he a wolf? Was he some other hideous manifestation of animal/man crossover?
I must confess, when I finally met Gnag the Nameless I was, well, underwhelmed. This was the creature responsible for an evil wave of Fangs overtaking the world? Really? Surely we can do better than this, Andrew. But, I trusted Andrew. I knew that the best villains are not necessarily the most vicious appearing villains. The best villains are subtle, almost ordinary, and certainly instill a sense of overconfidence in those who oppose such a villain. Hmm. Sounds remarkably similar to our own Enemy. He is subtle. He moves behind the scenes. And, he assumes a pleasing or nonthreatening appearance. But, he is NOT nameless!
Andrew does not disappoint in the area of bringing out the worst in Gnag. I cannot even begin to describe the events but there is no way any reader could ever be disappointed by Gnag’s ultimate plan and his ultimate appearance.
My take on this was how the Adversary works quietly behind the scenes in our lives. He places obstacles and crises in our way to trip us up. He throws his minions at our daily lives. We get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned and we often don’t even know why. The Adversary at this stage is truly nameless, faceless, and loving every minute of it. And then, through a glimpse of Truth through the eyes of Spirit, we see how Satan has tried to stop us from doing good. And now, in the light and in the open, the Adversary becomes the Beast that he is. And that is when we must choose — fight or flight — stand and engage in spiritual battle or run away and hide. Andrew has shown us that the fight can be intimidating and we can think we are losing but God will bring us the victory over an adversary who is already defeated! Thank you, Andrew for that insight.
The plan we have for our lives is not always the plan God has for our lives.
Kalmar did not want to be a king. He just wanted to indulge his artistic expression. This desire to avoid what others wanted him to do with his life led to his big mistake of singing the song that converted him into a wolf. Of course, being a wolf placed him in the desperate situation of fighting to retain his true identity and forced him into the very situation that led him to king like behavior. Andrew deftly and authentically shows Kalmar’s struggles in the final book. He takes Kalmar literally all over the place and through the story, Kalmar grows. Not only does he end up becoming the King, but his reluctance to be the king is the very thing that makes him a good king — the servant king.
In my own personal life, I know that God has taken me down paths I never imagined. Becoming an author, a dramatist, an apologist, and a public speaker was not in my plan. But, through the years of crises and refinement in the fire of depression, God has taken me to the place in life where I have found my purpose. And, in finding that purpose, I have found true joy. Unfortunately, the joy often comes at a price as we see in “The Warden and the Wolf King”. You just need to read it to see what I mean.
Running from God will leave us confused and unhappy and out of phase with the world. When we turn toward God along the path we have been avoiding, true fulfillment happens and we glimpse the eternal plan of God and see our place in it.
Janner just doesn’t want to be the warden. He doesn’t want to have to take care of his little brother. He wants to read. He wants to settle down in the huge library of ancient books; to get lost in the lines of poetry and essays and stories. And yet, in his desire for this we see his unease, his displeasure with a sense that everything is not quite right for him. He reluctantly takes on his role as warden with disdain and ultimately guilt. Of course, we see Janner’s brave protection of his brother in spite of his inner monologue of guilt and despair. And, ultimately it is Janner’s journey I most identified with.
Ultimately, we want to do God’s will for our lives and at times, we resent that. But, we know it is the good and right thing to do so we press on. And, in the perseverance, God begins to shape us and mold us into the person He intends us to be. Then there comes that moment, when our vision transforms from the momentary to the eternal and we see through God’s eyes the grand plan unfolding from the beginning of time and our place in it and we give in to that plan; we open our mind and our heart to the inevitable; we lose ourselves in the glory of His purpose with no regard for the price. And, in that moment we are most like Christ; a pale reflection in truth but still a connection with the sacrificial Lamb that is our salvation.
Thank you, Andrew for a wonderful tale that works on so many levels to convey Truth to a world drowning in the Adversary’s lies. I know that children (and adults) will enjoy this wonderful tale for a long, long time. And, I hope that we haven’t seen the end of the Jewels of Annieria.
To Find this book use this link.
I gladly and with great anticipation received a copy of this book for this review. Readers of the first three books may feel appropriately envious!
Check out these other reviews of “The Warden and the Wolf King”:
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
And, if you would like to check out a special offer for my three books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles, go to the order page at 11thdemon.com.
Bitter disappoint burned in my chest. I had just found out I was being released from my 5 book contract with Charisma after my second book. It was late on the first night of Hutchmoot 2012 and I wandered the beautiful grounds of Redeemer Church in Nashville crushed and weepy. I made my way back into the sanctuary to listen to our hosts regale us with song and sat on the last pew. In front of me, a young girl, probably 5 or 6 squirmed on the pew beside her mother, restless and bored. On the stage Andrew Peterson was about to sing a number from his newest album, “Light for the Lost Boy”. He told us this story:
An artist told about growing up without knowledge of God. But, somehow he knew there was Someone to watch over him, a secret Companion. Later in life, this man came to know Christ and realized that God was always with him in the quiet, desperate moments of his life. Andrew decided to write a song about this secret companion. Then, he paused and called out to his daughter. The girl on the pew in front of me snapped to attention and with great delight ran up to the stage to sing with her father. As they sang, “The Voice of Jesus” I wept silently with joy that even in the midst of my depression and disappointment, the voice of Jesus still whispered hope and love. When she joined in with her father at the end of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and a hushed, reverent stillness gripped us all. In that moment we heard not just the voices of Andrew and his daughter. We also heard the Voice of Jesus. My despair lifted and the music calmed my soul and brought me a measure of sorely needed peace.
I tell you this because when I read of Leeli in “The Warden and the Wolf King” I hear the voice of Andrew Peterson’s daughter raised in song. In fact, song and music are integral to the story of this novel and permeate throughout the narrative. This shouldn’t surprise me. Andrew Peterson’s songs are more than catchy tunes. They are deep, thoughtful reflections on our life in this imperfect world and the redemption we find in Christ’s love.
Song is so important to the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King”. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and being impatient when I came to long verses of song lyrics. Most of the time, I skipped over them. And, although the songs’ words gave some framework for the world of Middle Earth, I could have done without them.
I was sitting at an outdoor table under a tent with my son Sean when Andrew Peterson plopped down next to us and began to eat his dinner. It was a cool September evening in Nashville at the 2012 Hutchmoot. Talking to Andrew was like talking to a long lost friend. The conversation meandered to children, much like the three jewels of Annieria in the Wingfeather Saga. Andrew scrunched up his face, shoved his nose in my son’s face and proclaimed: “You better behave, Sean me boy, or your father’ll have you hoisted up the petard!”
I’m sure Andrew doesn’t remember this. He said things like that to everyone at Hutchmoot, but we remember it well. And, it is that spirit of random abandonment to reality that flows through the Wingfeather Saga.
Being a alumnus of two Hutchmoots, I can easily see in Andrew’s writing his love for Buechner, Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien, and Wendell Berry. He blends elements of fantasy, swashbuckling, and allegory with a touch of parable throughout his works all set against a lushly realized landscape. Now, I am an author of a book series. I am currently in the final edit on book four and I can tell you it is not easy keeping all the story lines coherent and moving in parallel. One of my pet peeves is with authors who set out to write a book series and run out of creative energy early on. They create immersive worlds, stunning characters, and set up elaborate plot lines and then just get lost in their own maze. The list of book series I have given up on is long. By book four, you can tell you are lost in a forest along with the author and there is no way to get out unless you turn back (reboot your story) or open up the Pandora’s box of contrivances and let loose the deus ex machina.
45 Years Ago . . .
With bleary eyes I glanced at the clock. Almost 4 AM and somehow, I was still awake. I had just turned 14 and I was determined to watch the live broadcast of mankind’s first step onto the surface of the moon. What would happen? Would he sink in the lunar dust? Would a lunar xenooctopoid grab his leg and pull him under the surface of the lunar soil? Would his spacesuit explode in the vacuum and splatter frozen blood and guts all over the black and white camera poised to show the world this most historic moment?
My nephew, Keith, had decided to stay up with me. He was only 10 at the time and he was not happy about being awake at this early hour. My father, a raving space enthusiast, had gone on to bed. After all, he had to work the next day and all I had to do was sleep in on a hot, lazy July morning.
The year was 1969. The world was on fire. War protests raged across America demanding an end to the Vietnam War. Rock music filled with the raucous, explosive anger of millions of young adults vibrated across our radios. Angry women marched in the streets demanding equality. Fury still washed across the country from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and racial tensions were at an all time high. And, most teenagers and young adults were high on acid, heroin, marijuana, speed, quaaludes, opium, hash, you name it. Our new president, Richard Nixon would soon be rocked by a political scandal that would force him out of office. Communism in the guise of “socialism” was sweeping across the world from the USSR and into Eastern Europe, South America, and Cuba. Every single minute of every single day, I lived under the threat of instantaneous mutual nuclear annihilation. My future was bleak. Would I end up in a body bag on the other side of the world? Would I die in a race riot or war protest? What kind of world was I inheriting?
Summer is here along with the heat and humidity. I wrote in my last post that soon I will launching a website dedicated to depression and our new upcoming book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan For Conquering Depression”. So, I dug through my previous posts and found this little story I wrote for the now defunct website, Posterous. It is set in the dead of winter, a reflection of the cold, dead feeling one can experience with depression. But, it is a story of hope!
Awake My Soul
I do not move.
I am quiescent and still.
Movement for me is pain. Life is pain.
The trees outside are harsh and bare. Winter has stripped them of vigor and life. Gray fingers claw at the even grayer sky. Even the clouds do not move. The air is still. No wind. No breeze. No life.
My daughter has placed me here on the porch. I feel the sting of cold on my cheeks but I can ignore it. I have ignored all feeling for months now. Since Tom died, I have had no reason to move.
My daughter has wrapped a scarf around my neck and tucked it into the woolen sweater Tom gave me last year for Christmas. I can still smell him on it when I choose to acknowledge my sense of smell.
The air is so cold, it numbs my face. The numbed is numbed even more.
“Why is she out there on the porch?” That is my son-in-law inside the warm house.
“I’m tired of her, Richard. I can’t take this anymore.” My daughter has tears in her voice. I cannot feel them. I cannot touch them. The tears mean nothing to me.
“She’ll freeze to death.” Richard says.
“That’s the idea.”
There is a profound silence. And then, subdued sobbing; quiet, subtle.
A white flake shimmies down the still air and lands on my nose. I choose not to feel it melt. So intricate, so beautiful in its design — one of a kind — it dies on my cold skin. It dies on the already dead. For, she has left me to die out here alone; cold; still; frozen.
The sliding door opens behind me and a waft of warm air bathes the back of my head. I cannot feel it on my neck for the scarf. Richard’s shadow falls over me from the lights inside the house; lights that try in vain to chase away the gray.
“You’ll have to forgive your daughter, Mom.” He says behind me. “She is very frustrated and wants to leave you out here to die.”
“I’m already frozen.” I whisper and he leans over me. His breath touches my forehead.
“Did you say something?”
“I’m already frozen.” I said more strongly. “Let me finish dying.”
My lips pull apart and I realize they have frozen together. I feel the pain as the first real sensation I have experienced in months.
Richard squats beside my wheelchair and for a second, I choose to notice the strong profile of his face; his angular cheekbones; his gently stubbled chin; his clear eyes. He is watching the trees.
“Winter is hard for all of us, Mom. Spring is coming. I want to tell you a secret. It is a deep and abiding secret that no one can know.”
More flakes are falling now and caressing my cheeks. I choose not to feel their gently touch. One lands on my cornea and I blink involuntarily. I must not do that again. But, try as a I might to ignore his statement, the attraction is there. What secret is he talking about?
“What secret?” My voice is a bare whisper.
“Virginia is stressed out because we have chosen to take a journey. It is a long and tedious journey and we will be gone for weeks. She doesn’t know what to do with you during that time. She can’t leave you alone. And, she isn’t going to leave you out here to die.” His breath streams away from him, a living thing full of warmth and moisture and the snowflakes eddy and swirl.
“Rawanda. In Africa. There is a little girl. She needs a family.” He turns his head to me and his gaze is full and hot on my face. Tears mingle with the snowflakes. “She needs to know her grandfather. She needs to know what he was like. Only you can tell her that.”
Another snowflake hits my eye and melts. The moisture runs along my eyelid and I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. No! I cannot let this happen! I cannot feel!
“Will you come with us to Rawanda? Will you come with us to get your granddaughter?” His eyes are full and round and wet and the snow is covering his bare head, peppering his shoulders.
I feel something deep within stir from a slumber of unforgiving anger and frustration. The black dregs of my depression begin to drift away as the warmth stokes itself in my heart. No! I want to scream. No! I want to hold onto the stillness; the inertia; the coming of winter’s death. I try to ignore Richard’s gleaming eyes and his warm breath and when I subtly avert my gaze a flash of bright red burns my retinas. A lone flower dares to challenge the grayness from my camellia bush. The snow flakes are covering it now and it wants to be seen; it wants to look upward to the hidden sun for life and warmth; it wants to live.
The chair creaks; the ice breaks across my knees and I push, push, push up and out of the heaviness of my crypt of sorrow and I stumble to the flower. I brush away the snow with shaking hands and my tears anoint the petals with life. With life!
Awake my soul!
I turn to my son-in-law who is standing with his mouth wide open and the snow covering his head and my daughter stumbles through the open door with her hands pressed to her tear streaked face and I feel the ice crack as I smile. “When do we leave?”