Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Music's Song

Music’s Song

Have you ever listened to the words as they join perfectly with the melody? Yes there are songs and music beautiful in their own right, but then to a certain degree; I believe all music is good. And then every so often there comes along a union of words and notes that are special. It’s easy for me because there is no doubt when I witness this magical marriage of notes and words that truly make a good song. It’s like a chill shutters through me constantly over and over until the song finishes. My hair stands on end. I can literally feel the air that surrounds me. My breath quickens and I swear I can feel my heart beating. At the same time it’s like I leave my very body, I see things yet I don’t. I know things are around me, but they become different. I think this is perhaps seeing beyond what the eyes can take in. Possibly this is simply my soul.

I shut my eyes and I am right there amid the life like dream that the person is painting for me in my mind. That is what I call a performer. So vivid, so real, I don’t need to ever see the video of the song. Every time I listen I truly see my own video in my mind. It’s so intense and real; when I do see a video of the song, it usually pales by comparison to my minds version.

For me it’s not about hopping and bopping around acting like so many monkeys trying to entertain. It’s when a simple group of words that seem to flow from the singer in a way that touches my very soul. It has nothing to do with lights and explosions. A true performer doesn’t need all the glitz, all a true performer needs to do is sing with their heart. The thing that touches me is the union of the words with the right music performed with passion. It’s magic, its spell binding, and no matter how many times I hear the song, it repeatedly takes me away, I never tire of it, when the marriage is a good one, I could listen to the same song over and over all night.

No matter how ugly things get, the best medicine a doctor could ever prescribe is a quiet corner off by yourself with a set of headphones and no interruptions. Find some songs that do it for you and let yourself feel the passion. Close your eyes and if it is really exceptional, don’t be surprised if after the song finishes you find that you have shed a few tears. That is music, the cheapest drug I know of. No hangovers, sickness, or other undesirable side effects. Just peace………..

Over the years I have heard many folks say….I wish I could play and sing…..I always say the same thing. You can, it doesn’t matter a lot if it is perfect. It doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is let your passion free. Take the step, you might surprise yourself. Yet if you find you just can’t do it; don’t let that stop you. Listen with your heart. Get in touch with your soul.

I am certain that if everyone took a few minutes every day to get with their soul, there would be a lot less hate in this world. That’s what music can do, set you free. Give it a try; you have nothing to lose and a soul to gain.

RL Tex Smith November 13, 2012.

Friday, November 2, 2012

There is Always The River

                     November 2, 2012
 011 Tex’s Thought Provokers

There is Always the River

When I was a young boy, knee high to nearly everything, I can remember that feeling of freshness. That feeling of experiencing things for the very first time. That wonder of youth when there were very few complex matters or bad things in the world to think about.

Mine was a type of Huck Finn existence; as far back as I can remember, the forest always being a part of my life.

And then, there was the river. I grew up on the headwaters of the Main Southwest Miramichi River. The hours turned into days, the days gave way to the weeks, the weeks revealed the months, the months turned to years, and time slipped by very quickly. Quietly with no amount of fanfare, I blinked my eyes and I was a man. At least that is what it seems like now. At the time, I can remember always waiting and wishing for something. “I can hardly wait until I can swim, then I will be able too.”… Then that day came and went and the wait was replaced with another “I can hardly wait for”, there always was something.

I realize now that when we are young we wish away the time always waiting for something, and usually that day came. When we get older, we wish we could go back to those times, knowing we never can. That is when, it becomes clear, that we take much for granted, and we seem to dwell in the world of “If only”. Yet, we then wake up from our dreams and realize that hindsight really is twenty-twenty. It is not just a saying that our Parents or Grand Parents said. It was true.  

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference." --Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer   

I can understand the ways of our Native brothers, they thought the earth was their mother and they were brothers with the bear and moose. The earth provided for them and river provided for them. I can understand why they held these things with such high regard.

So I ask, can something as simple as a river teach us anything? Can the forest teach us? Can the abundance of wildlife that call these places home teach us?

The answer is very clear to me, yes. That is if we take the time to see with our hearts and not just our eyes. For our eyes are very deceiving. They play tricks on our mind. One person sees a fully grown mature Eastern White Pine with their eyes. They see the value of that tree and perhaps what they can make from it. There is nothing wrong with this, provided the tree is used to its best end. However, another person sees the tree with their eyes as well, they see the same things, but they also see other things, like the story the tree can tell, the beauty it adds to the earth, the lives of the creatures that depend on that tree. It is then a person begins to see with their heart as well as their eyes.

When I was in Ranger School, there came a day when we were out on the wood lot practicing and learning about “Selection Cutting”. This should not be confused with “Selective Cutting” for there is a great difference. Selection is the harvesting of trees when they are the very best they will ever be, taking at the same time the less valuable wood, to give the best room to grow, leaving a legacy of good trees behind.  Selective is the harvesting of the very best and leaving the rest, also called “High-Grading”. The former is wise consumptive use generating good wood for many generations to come. The latter is a one time profit, leaving behind trash wood for many generations.

At any rate, we were harvesting some Red Spruce. We were cutting only the very largest and oldest trees. They were magnificent, as they stood towering over many of the other trees below them. I began to think of all the things those trees had survived. Wildlife nibbling on their young shoots when they were small. Infestations of many insects such as the Spruce Bud Worm, and the Spruce Saw Fly. As they grew they became resistant to diseases. They were witness to many wild fires, even the Great Miramichi fire in October of 1825. Hundreds of storms with very high winds and lightning galore, sometimes in winter, ice storms that left their branches hanging heavy.

Yes, they withstood many things. Had it not been for a firm root system, that solid foundation, they would have succumbed to something. And now, here we were, cutting them.

I said to one of my mentors standing next to me; “You know…there is something very sad about seeing these trees cut” He gave me a very stern look and wagged his finger in my face admonishing me for my statement; “You know these trees are the best they will ever be…it is time for them to be cut…if we wait any longer…their value will be decreased because of the rot…they have reached the age of culmination… if you had been paying attention…you would know these things..”

I know I looked like a whipped pup. At Ranger School, if one questioned or argued in a way that might be perceived the wrong way, you were labelled an Anarchist bent on Revolution. I thought quickly as he stood waiting for my response. I was always taught that honesty is the best policy, so humbly I said; “Yes Sir…I know that what you say is all true…I agree with it as well…its… just these trees are so magnificent…perfect…it seems a shame to cut them…even though I know we must…do I have to feel good about it?”

His hardened face grew immediately soft and warm, his eyes no longer felt like they were burning holes through me. Then he smiled. I was relieved. He said after thinking for a bit; “Hmm…I guess we really did teach you something here.” And smiling he walked away.

No, the forest or the river, the animals, fish, or insects, do not speak to me as we humans speak to each other. They communicate in ways that many never have the chance to realize. I am still learning their language for it takes a lifetime to learn.

Time, we are living in a time of hurry. The faster we can get to something, accomplish it, and move on to the next thing, the better. We do not know how to relax. We do not know how to see with our hearts. There just is not enough time. From one goal to the next we go with very little regard for anything around us. We do not even take time to consider our neighbours let alone nature. There is just not enough time. Oh, when we retire we will have lots of time. We will consider these things then, when things slow down for us. Hummm, dream on, for most of the retired folks that I know are busier than they ever were. By the time you realize that you should have made time, it has run out, and there is no time left. We can not get it back.

Time Out!!!
There is Connie the mail Lady! I have been waiting for my new bible to come in the mail. I have been waiting with great enthusiasm! I can hardly wait!......

Wait, hold on just a minute. See, there I go again. There is always some reason to wish away the time.

No, my bible never came, but instead, a letter from the Newburgh College of the Bible came. I am thinking about some on line courses.
One expected thing has turned into a totally unexpected pleasant surprise. I have been accepted, if I can raise the money, I can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Studies. 

At this point, I will give you another example of seeing with your heart.

Like I said earlier, I lived a Huck Finn kind of existence. The river was my life. Whether I was fishing for trout and salmon with my dad, or swimming, or just canoeing, I was at one with my brother the river.
Each and every day was a new and exciting adventure. Yes, I spent time on the river nearly every day. And if I allowed it, it might have become boring. After all, once you had gone down the river a few times, what newness did it hold? Well, I can tell you, that every time down the river, although much the same as the time before, it was always different. Each trip was filled with a newness, the newness of a different day.

Have you ever thought about the rivers? I mean, they run endlessly, thousands upon thousand of gallons per minute, day after day, year after year. They never seem to stop. They get high with rain and snow melt, they get low with the absence of moisture, but they never stop. Just having these thoughts alone allow you to start to see with more than just your eyes.

Many times I have poled down the river and seen wildlife, the river being one of their sources of water and food. A lot of the time the animals that I encountered were the same critters.

So come and take a journey down the river with me, and I’ll show you what I mean about seeing with your heart.

Here are the rules.

First of all, we have to go back in time to about when I was sixteen.
I will be doing all the talking.

You do the listening.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and let your mind concentrate on the river. Put all other thoughts out of your head.

Now then, let me paint the picture for you.

It is now about 7:00am. It is July. The sky is clear. It is cool for this time of year, with absolutely no wind. There is a mist rising from the Bogan. I’m standing in the rear of the canoe steadying the boat with the boat pole. We call a canoe a boat.

I’m dressed in a short sleeved shirt and jeans. And for manly foot wear…well… I’m in my bare feet.

You are on the bank under the white birch, spruce, and fir trees, next to a huge rock with a crack in it. You are waving your hands around as if you wanted to fly. It goes like this.

“What you waving at?” “Flies…ya there a bit bad this morning…but don’t worry…they’ll soon be gone.” “Now you come down an git in the boat…you sit in that there boat chair in the front.” “No…don’t you worry none…I got the boat…we won’t upend if you do as I tell ya.”

“That’s it….now just sit still…here we go.”
I shove the canoe’s stern out and you can hear the growl of the bottom of the bow as it leaves the gravel on shore. I see that you are hanging onto the gunwales with white knuckles. You’ve never been in a canoe before, so your mind fills with the horror stories you’ve heard about people always upsetting in a canoe. And to make it worse, I am standing up in the back. You figure that you’re bound to get wet.

“Now then…just relax…I will speak real soft…just above a whisper. Don’t make no sudden moves…jus listen…there’s no need to worry…we ain’t a gona upend…as long as you sit still. Now, the reason I will speak in a soft voice is…I wana be quiet. Voice travels fer a mighty long ways down the river…so you keep yer voice down too. Now if I tap ya on the shoulder with the boat pole…that means don’t move and don’t say nothin…I heard somethin… an if we wana see it…we gotta be quiet.”

“Now ya see that there big ol rock?...that there is called Governor’s Table… it got its name years ago…ol Governor Carleton usta come out here fishing trout. When he’d git to that ol rock…well he’d up an have his lunch on it.”

Now the canoe is gently drifting down stream. The water is crystal clear, and you can see the bottom very plainly. Little fish are jumping out of the water next to the bushes that line the right hand side of the river; they are having breakfast on a host of different insects on the water. Off in the distance you can hear birds singing at least a dozen different songs.

“Look ta yer left up there on the sand bar…them there is turtle tracks…hey!...look, there’s one now… under that willow bush…see it?” “Yes sir…ain’t that somethin…tain’t offen ya git a chance ta see one…but there he is…big as life.”

By now we have drifted down to the first turn, it swings 90 degrees to the right.

“Hear that there roarin off in the distance behind us?...that there is up ta the tree nursery on Irvin ground. They’s testing the water bombers…they do that every day…ta make sure if they’s a fire….they’ll be ready ta go.” “What’s that?....Ya…sounds like there right beside us…See this here river is crookeder than a rams horn…twouldn’t be no more than a mile er so to where they are….up above us on the south and north branch…ya could almost throw a rock from the south an hit the north….they’s places where the dang thing almost comes back to meet itself…on both branches. Why if I was over at birch stub pool on the north branch fishin…an dad let out one of his yelps from the camp…I dare say I could hear imm…real plane. It’s no more an a little ways as the crow flies…but it’s about two miles by river ta git there from the camp.”

Ahead downstream you can see a small green camp, and just this side of it there is a weathered barn like building. To the left the water is very shallow; you wonder how the boat is floating at all.

“That there green camp that ya see is the Federal Fisheries camp, I don’t know if ol Jack’ll be there er not…that buildin just before it on the right is Fred’s work shop…years ago…it usta be an Inn…then it was a fish hatchery fer a time….then Fred moved in and made er into a work shop.” “Him and some his kids do a lot of different things in that there shop…they build snowshoes…fix canoes…an ol Fred…he’s a taxidermist.” “Listen to the river now fer a piece…she’s talkin.”

We go for a few boat lengths and just listen to the river.

“Dya hear it…?” “Ya didn’t…ya those danged ol ravens are a tad noisy alright…ya I know the sounds of the highway off to the right are there too…ya jus gotta tune them other things out…lets give er another try…now listen real close.”

As small whirl pools twist around the rocks and gurgles, and the water happily babbles over the shallow gravel bar, small little waves snap against the boat, the canoe pole thubs it way into the water. The sunlight dances like a billion diamonds on the water ahead of us. A slight puff of wind stirs the surface of the water like a comb bushes hair.

“Well…dya hear that time?” “No…well give it some time and yer ear will git tuned to it.”
You notice of a sudden that there are no more flies. They are gone. And so are your white knuckles.

“Ya well…when ya git out on the water away from the shore a ways…they seem ta disappear…not all of emm mind ya…but enough so’s ya notice a difference.”

“See that there flat rock ahead of ya…that’s right…that’s the one….they’s a lamprey eel nest on the lower side of it…may hap we could see the cussed thing….hateful creatures they are….one of the Ol Fellers lesser creations.”

Lamprey eels run with the Atlantic salmon, they are parasites. They have a suction cup mouth and they will just latch onto the sides of the salmon and it seems like they get a free ride up stream. However, that is not all that is being accomplished. Inside their mouth are rows of hook like teeth. They first use the suction to hook to their host then the teeth help hold it there, in this case the salmon. Then while they get a free ride up stream, they devour the salmon’s blood at the same time.

“Yes sir…there is the ugly ol thing now…cussed things…they have tried in rivers such as the Connecticut…ta git rid of the things cause the salmon population was all but gone…but them scientist fellers found out that the larva of the eel…when he is a little feller…can last up to seven years….so they give er up fer a lost cause.”

I give the canoe a little extra shove to get away from the creature’s nest.
“Cussed things…if ya put the pole in their nest where they’re layin their eggs…they git real protective…the cussed things el come right up outa the water at ya….jus like a cussed ol snake….ewww I don’t like emm.” 

By now we are adjacent to Fred and Dora’s house. Usually there are several canoes tied up along the shore, but not today. Everyone is down river fishing.

As we pass by the warden shack, old Jack is there and he comes out.
“Hey Jack how’s she goin taday?” Jack smiles as he rolls a cigarette and says, “Not too bad I guess…wha chya doin taday?”

“Oh were jus goin fer a little boat ride down the river a piece…showin my friend here the river.”

“Ain’t chya gonna fish none?...they’s a real good run on.”

“Naw…I might go down later…jus wana enjoy the river fer now.”

“Well okay…ya have a good trip then…we’ll be talkin to ya”

“Sure nough…I’ll be down ta see ya some time soon…an we’ll have a say.”

“Good nough”

By now we are starting around a slight bend to the left.

“This here is what we call bat ally…we won’t see any taday…but when we go down fishin in the evenin…an come back in the dark… the air is filled with the little goombers.”

“What’s that…no they don’t bother ya none….they is a eattin flies…an anything that eats flies is a friend a mine…oh every once in a blue moon…one’ll make a slight error in judgement…an wack ya in the side of the head…but it is a bigger surprise ta him than it is ta you…an he sure didn’t mean too.”

You notice that the bottom of the river here is starting to change a bit. There are bigger rocks and more of them. There is a lot less gravel. The weeds on the rocks have changed as well.

Off to the left, as the canoe is manoeuvred between a row of large rocks, a noise is heard. It sounds like a loud swallow, only much louder, kinda like when ya hit a holler log with a club.

“What’s that…oh that there is a Meadow Hen…it’s over yonder in the Bogan off to the left…It’s a heron like bird…only smaller…it lives on frogs an such…folks here bouts call emm either a pile driver…or some call emm a meder hen.”

Just then the sound of a man laughing can be heard. It is a loud deep laugh. I mean very loud, unique, like you never have heard before.

“Well…that there will be ol Harley….one of Fred’s sons….sounds like he’s at the Forks Pool.”

“See them camps up there on your right…they bin there a long time….this place is called the Forks Pool because it is where the north branch meets the south branch…many a fish have bin caught here…that down below is what we call the main river.”

As we drift by the Forks, Harley and I exchange a wave, and we continue on. There are two more folks fishing at the Upper Barr Pool in the main river.

“Yes sir...that there was ol Harley…he might not look it…but he is a powerful man…works in the woods ya know….they’s a set a rapids a way down river called Big Louie…an Harley is the only one I ever heard tell of that could pole a canoe up through emm.”

“Now them fellers down below fishin the Barr…that’s another of ol Fred’s sons…Freddy…er Fred Jr…but folks jus call imm Freddy…that feller with imm is ol Don…he owns a camp up there….that there grey one at the top over lookin the river.”

I pass the time of day with the boys, and ol Don tells me exactly why the fish are not taking. Freddy, he is a bit quiet around strangers, so he does not say much.

We continue on.

“That there rock behind us there…the one up next to Freddy…that’s Lem’s Rock…I don’t know it fer sure…but I guess it got it’s name when some feller name of Lem dove off it…he went straight ta the bottom an busted open his head on another rock….seems like they’s a lot a rocks got their name that way.”
Below us another canoe is anchored out in the middle of the river. There is one man in the boat fishing the sunken rocks at what is known as the Lower Barr Pool.

The river now is somewhat wider than it is in either the south or north branch.

“See that camp in there on the left…In there in that Bogan…that there is Stillwell’s Bogan….That there camp belongs to the Stillwells…over there to the right….that’s their boat landin…they use a boat to git ta the camp.”

“Right in there in the bushes ta the left….that there is where ol Fred and Dora lived in a small house when they first came here from Cloverdale…they’s nothin much left ta the ol house…it’s all fell in now.”

The man in the boat fishing is another man named Fred; he also owns a camp up at the Forks.
Fred and I exchange hellos and I ask how the fishing is. He tells me there are a few around, but he has had no luck.

Onward we go.

As the river widens out even more, there is a long straight stretch to cover.

“That there noise ya hear…that is the train…the tracks is jus up there a short distance in the woods.”

“See that big ol Pine tree up there on the right bank…see that big limb there about mid way up the tree…well that is where they is a big ol Great Horned Owl a settin most evenins…he’s a big ol feller…big nough ta make off with a fawn deer…yes sir…that’s right…no foolin…he’s that big….I know I wouldn’t want imm stickin those big ol talons in me.”

We go for some distance now not saying a word, just drifting. Listening to the river talk.
“Were a comin up on the Big Pool now…that there in the canoe ahead there…that’s ol Fred and Dora…the Big Pool is one of their favourites….I’ll have to be extra careful going by them….Dora don’t like it none when they’s too much disturbance on the water ta scare the fish…an she’ll let a body know it too…that there big ol rock there to the left of their boat is what they call Indian Rock…when we git right across from it….you’ll be able to see the Indian’s face an his head dress….right off the point of that there rock is where I caught my first salmon…I was seven years old…I don’t know who was more excited….me er dad…one things fer sure…when we came back up the river that day…Ol Fred was a waitin on the bank by his shop ta see what we caught….he said he knew we’d caught somethin…cause he could hear the hollerin all the way up ta his shop…an that there is a long ways.”

 “I guess that us fellers…specially dad…is quite loud…even more so when we git a bit excited.”

 I was extra careful as we drifted by ol Fred and Dora. Fred always smiled and seemed happy to see me, and we exchanged greetings. Dora never said too much. That was not unusual, for that was in her nature. As I said my so longs to Fred, we were now in what is called the Dungeon Pool. It is very deep and wide, and the river seems to be hardly moving at all.

“This here is the Dungeon…it always has fish in it…it is real deep and it has a bunch a cold springs a bubblin up from the bottom…I never did see any one ever ketch a fish in this here pool…it’s a good holdin pool though…an as the fish ease up inta the Big Pool…that’s when they’ll take…while they’s in the Dungeon though…they jus like ta beat an thrash around and play…they ain’t interested in no fly hook fer what ever the reason.”

Just then as if almost on que, a salmon about twelve pounds or so exploded out of the water snaking through the air.

“Dya see that?!?!...Ol Silver Sides imm self…that’s what I call the salmon…Ol Silver Sides.”

“That there was a nice fish…bout twelve pounds I’d guess…they sure are a sight ta behold.”

“That there camp over there on the left is Dalton’s camp….bin there fer years….the train tracks is jus on the other side of it…from here on in we’ll be real quiet…they’s not too many folks that come down this far…an if we go easy… may hap we’ll see some other critters”

Farther on down and steady we go. Quiet, listening to the river talk.
I could see on the far bank way down, two moose. This would be fun.

You feel the tap of the boat pole on your shoulder. You know that is the signal to be very quiet and still.

I whisper just loud enough for you to hear.

“Down below us…two moose….see emm? looks like ol Thunder Foot and Grey Rump.”

I always named the critters that I knew I had seen often. Thunder Foot was a big bull with a good rack of horns. Grey Rump was another smaller bull; I had seen the pair several times.

Now if you remain very still you can get right up to the moose, and sometimes go right by them without them really giving you other than a good look. If you are really lucky, you can pass close enough to see the flies crawling on their nose.

I always had this thing where I imagined what they were saying to each other. In my mind the moose conversation went something like this.

“Hey TF….what’s that?”

“Emmmm where?”

“No not down there ya big galoot…up the water…see it?”

“Emmmm yup…looks like an ol tree… stump an all…musta washed out from up above.”
“It don’t look like no tree I ever did see…are you sure?”

“Emmmm yup…like I said…it’s a tree…now let me git back ta my eattin…an quit yer danged fool frettin.”

“Ya well…I ain’t so sure…somthin jus ain’t right...I’m gonna keep my eye peeled on that thing.”

“Emmmm, yup…go ahead…you do that…me… I’m gonna eat….let me know if it turns out ta be some sort a human boogie man…emmmm you got a over active magination….silly ol grey rump….I think that there is why ya got that grey rump…all your grey matter….what little ya had…done got relocated to the proper place…emmmm yuck emmmm yuck…I made a funny.”

“It ain’t funny TF….what if it is a man with a boom stick….you remember what happened ta ol buddy Big Bell last year….he thought there was nothin that could hurt imm…yup a real bull of the woods…jus stood there an looked all tough an the like while that there two legged vermin up with that boom stick and pointed it at Big Bell…then we heard the boom…an Big Bell roared loud and fell…remember…we run off….an that there was the last we ever did see a Big Bell.”

“Emmmm you worry too much lunk head…emmmm I tell ya it’s a danged ol tree….now leave me alone…I’m eattin!”

“Ya….I’ll leave ya alone…but I’m gonna watch that thing mighty close.”

By now we were right beside the moose. They had looked at us several times, but we didn’t move. As we went by very close, close enough to see their eye lashes, they both just stood there chewing away staring at us. As the sun shone on their wet faces, and water dripped from their neck and chin. It was one of those perfect moments.

I had moments like this nearly every day. But for someone who had never seen it before, well, it was really quite something. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the look on folk’s faces or the moose. It was a toss up.

Now well below the moose, I spoke softly once again.

“What dya think of that”?

“No…your right….that’s not somethin ya see everyday…this here spot is Upper Rocky Bend…it’ another good pool…jus look at them there Pine trees….ain’t they beauties?...that there one in the middle…it’s bin hit by lightning…at least three times that I know of….see the big ol cracks down it’s trunk?....look over there ta yer right….it’s a Kingfisher settin in that there alder….an look over ta yer left…it’s an ol fish eattin Merganser…she’s got all her brood a little ducks with er…cussed things…eat their weight in fish every day…but…I guess they gotta live too.”

Meanwhile I looked over my shoulder to take another look at the moose. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. They were sondering back up into the woods. My thoughts went quickly back to their imagined conversation.

“Emmmm come on ya ol worry wart lets go over to the pond an see what’s goin on there….I wonder if ol Clyde’ll be there…ain’t seen imm in a week er two….I toll ya that there was a tree…emmmm yuck …emmmm yuck…human…emmmm yuck….boom stick emmmm yuck….ya comin?”

“Ya well…some day yer gonna thank me fer bein suspicious…what if I ain’t there ta keep watch fer ya….boom…an that’ll be all she wrote for ol Thunder Foot….funny guy…you’ll see someday.”

As they disappeared from sight, I imagined them still mumbling away.
We were now in the main pool at Rocky Bend.

“Now this here is Rocky Bend Pool…it looks a bit like the Dungeon…but they’s a difference…over there next to the tall grass…the water is a taste lower…they’s a spring that puts in right there…the fish lay right there… I’ve hooked a lot a fish right there….it’s a good spot.”
 “See that there dead Pine….ya that’s the one…see the holes in it?….yup them holes was made by a Pileated Woodpecker…ya know them there fellers with the big ol red head.”

As we make our way around a slight bend to the left, we can look down towards China Town.

“Now ya see all them there rocks ahead of ya…that there is China Town…it got it’s name cause there is as many rocks down there as they is them there Chinese fellers….look there’s a deer and an it’s got a little feller with er…we could sneak up on the two a them jus like we did with the moose….but what dya say we leave emm be…were down the brook a fair piece…an the big fellers is startin ta eat the little fellers…huh…oh that means I’m startin ta git a taste hungry…what dya say we head back now?”

We make our way back up stream. Poling up to the camp takes a while, but we finally make it. Just in time for a real good breakfast. I hope you had a good trip.

If only life were that simple. I don’t remember when it was, I must have been fairly young, when I began to realize that there was a complete different world out there besides the one I knew on the river. I can remember being at the farm where my Grand Parents and Aunt and Uncle lived. Watching the evening news night after night. We would be setting there together, Gramps, Gram, ol buddy Unc that’s what I called my Uncle Richard, and Aunt Dineny (Dianne).

Walter Cronkite would give the death toll from that day in a place called Viet Nam. It seemed like a far away place, but I knew that many young men were dying there every day. At the time I had no idea as to why, but they were dying none the less. The looks on the grown up faces was cold, almost numb. I can remember being scared. Feeling like this is real; it was not just another war movie. Some call it a loss of childhood innocence.

As I got older, I soon learned that there was a lot more to life than my Huck Finn existence. The world was a very tough and sometimes cruel place. Amid all the beauty of God’s creation, there were many terrible things that a person had to face. I guess they call it growing up, becoming a man. And it all happened way too fast as I look back on it now.

Back then it couldn’t seem to happen fast enough.

Time goes by very quickly and we are here for such a very short time.

I wonder why we have to fight and argue over such trivial things?

I wonder why we have to hurt one and other?

I wonder why we as humans, with so called intelligence, can’t see the simplicity of life, the wonder of all of God’s creations?

I ask myself over and over where can I go, what place will I ever find where I can just find God’s simplicity?

And then it comes to me. It has been there for all of my life. I ignored it many times. But it never went away. And I say to myself, it is as plain as the age spots I now have.

There is always the river. Until next time, try and learn to see more with your heart.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Old Will

Like an eternal fixture the old man sat on the bench, attentive as always, to life as it passed by. By and by he would speak to me about something of a trivial nature. Yet, in his eyes he was saying something else; few ever knew him well enough to know the truth that lay behind the look. The real thoughts that haunted his mind, the things he had seen, the things he had done, the places left far behind only to be found now in the caverns of his mind. A lifetime of memories like so many treasures revealed to only a chosen few.

Oh if only I were a smarter man, if only I had had the sense to write things down as they happened. However, as the old saying goes, hind sight is twenty twenty; I can not claim to be other than normal, for it is the same for the huge majority of us. Life should not be about the “what if’s” or the “if only’s” it must be about the now and what we decide to do with it.

One of life’s hard lessons is the fact that before we sometimes realize what treasures are right before our eyes, they’re gone never to return. Then and only then we learn that we have taken this great and subtle gift for granted. This old man, this dear sweet old friend, old Will, which was short for William, was for me a gift that I took for granted, insomuch as I thought he would live for ever; one day he was simply gone.

As I think back I can remember him, as clearly as though he were still here. It’s the strangest thing, even now after all these years, as I walk through the breezeway of our towns business section, and turn to the right, towards the bank, I expect to see him setting on the bench. His absence brings me back to the reality of the void. A shot of emptiness stabs my heart, and then it is quickly replaced with the warmth of his smile and the look in his friendly eyes. This repeatedly brings on a fond memory, a treasure of the grandest kind.

For me to say I knew him well would be wide of the mark. Yet, I can say that I knew him better than many. Perhaps it was that I looked beyond the constant smile seen by all, maybe I listened more intently to the things unheard by most. For within this most humble of men was a man of great knowledge, a man filled with pride for his country, a man filled with a great love for family and friends, and mankind in general. He was above all else, a man worth knowing; one that I am honoured say was one of my dearest friends.

Oh so rare are his kind, for I never once heard him say an unkind word of another. Even when someone had done a wrong, he would find a positive thing to say. Possibly it was because of the hell he had witnessed in his time. It could have been to him anything he saw after the hell paled by comparison. Hell on earth comes in many forms; perhaps we can only know hell on earth if we live within in it. Which hell on earth is the worst? I think we would know it if we saw it; Will knew it because he lived it. Once released from it’s grip, he had only then to deal with the horrifying memories that hell had left with him.

It was always there, under the surface, behind the smile, haunting and nagging at his soul. Many never seen it or knew it existed. But the look deep in his eyes betrayed his well disguised demeanour. Yet, with all of the ugliness there was also a sense of pride that he possessed knowing that he had played his part and had given his best to his comrades and country. The fulfilment of knowing that he belonged to a magnificent group of the many just like him who had faced evil in the eye and conquered it’s would be domination. Every time I watched him carry the flag in a parade or other function, I saw that pride, that look of a life that had true meaning.

Then there was the pain of the present. The hurt when those few mindless scoundrels would ignore him, scoff at him; look down on him as less than human. Thankless Ignoramuses the lot of them and I am proud to say so. But not old Will, no…he would just smile and treat them far better than they deserved. Not once did a harsh word for them ever cross his lips. For he viewed all people the same, none better, none worse. He had see the worst that man can do, and these mindless Asses fell far short of that type of evil.

His eyes though, they were not filled with hate, no…it was more in line with extreme sadness. Sad because of the sacrifice so many made. Sad because there were, even a few, that did not appreciate in any way shape or form what he and so many others did for them. At the same time thankful for the many more that did appreciate their sacrifices.

So many emotions racing up and down back and forth in his mind, combining to cause that look in his eyes. There was another thing that he possessed that betrayed his outward appearance, his voice. Steady slow and deep were the words that came from within him. Their tones to my ear rang with sadness even when he laughed I heard it. For on those rare occasions when it was just him and I, he would tell me portions of his past. The little shake of his head and the look down at the ground when in his mind he was taken back to that time as if it were only yesterday. The hurt and the pain was clear.

Then there were the other stories, the ones that filled the air with laughter. Like when he and Uncle Fred would go fishing, or the story of the twelve point buck. I heard these stories over and over and they never lost their appeal. Yet even then, the sadness was there, behind the laugh, given away by the look in his eyes.
In this world there are thousands of people that have achieved greatness. Greatness is defined in as many ways as there are people. For me, I have my great hero’s, but none are greater than Will.

What is it like to want nothing more than to be accepted? For many of us, we will never know because we have never known a time when we were not accepted. But Will knew what it felt like, because acceptance was all he ever wanted. Sadly, he never always got it. I am not sure how to ever change this in our society, I think it has always been there and always will be; this feeling that some people get that leads them to think they are better than everyone else. I am sure of one thing, old Will never had these feelings and I learned a lot about acceptance from him. I especially learned what I didn’t want to be, because I never wanted to cause that kind of feeling in another person, that hurtful feeling of non acceptance.

As I remember Will and my other old friends, I wonder where we are headed. This leads me to fear, and then I reel myself back to the now. Here today, this is what is vital for all of us. We can’t change something once it has happened. Tomorrow is important, yet today is the most important. I say this because what we decide to do today will affect what happens tomorrow. We can choose to ignore flames of destruction or we can try and extinguish them. It is our choice to make. We can choose to set back in our own little worlds and ignore wrong, saying it is not our problem. If our Grandparents had done this, today’s world would be very different.
Today does make a difference. We make a difference if we are a mind too. When thousands of British troops were trapped in a place called Dunkirk, it was the people they were fighting for that made the difference. What would have happened if those people did not make the difference? What difference does it make if my son and his son never hear of the difference these people made? What difference will it make if my son and his son never get to know people like old Will and the difference that he and those like him made? I think that we need to do more, much more, to ensure that doesn’t ever happen.

If I was able to give one piece of advice to the next generation it would be for them to start today getting to know more about the past. History from the internet, books, movies, and people, this will then reveal more of how we should live today, thus charting our course and the next generation’s course into the future, and there is no better form of history than from someone who has lived it and in many cases made it.

Folks seem to talk a lot about the “this and that” of how bad things are getting. It’s like Mark Twain said though “people always talk about the weather but no ones does anything about it”; I think we need to do something about the “this and that” of today. Take the time to get to know the old Will’s out there. Each of them has a host of lessons to share, treasures if only we could just see them as such.
Take advantage of every opportunity to get to know these people who have lived and listen to what they have to say. Do not take for granted that they will always be there. Take the time starting today to spend time with these living breathing books of history. You won’t be sorry that you did.
Have you ever once looked into the eyes of a veteran and listened, really listened? Have you ever done it with any older person that has lived? If you haven’t, its time you did. Trust me, as Will would say “I’m honest”, it will change you inside if you let it.

There are some that would say I wasted my time setting and talking to people like old Will. I feel sorry for those that think this. My times were many and never once wasted. I learned a lot and had the time of my life doing it.
One day, we will all get old. At that time I am sure we will all have lots we can share with those that will listen. It will be nice if we have the ears of some young interested folks to talk too. Besides learning valuable lessons, you will get the chance to make some of the best friends you could ever have. The joy you will feel when you know the person you are talking with is truly glad to be with you can not be described.

I will never forget all those wonderful times when I would meet up with old Will, how his face would light up knowing that I was one that really cared about what he had to say. He knew that I was one that wanted to truly spend time with him. He knew that I accepted him. Many were the times when I would walk into the Legion and he was always among the first to shout my name and ask me to set down with him “gee….come set down…I’ll getcha a Blue”. How I long for those times to return, but I know that can never be, not with old Will or the rest. Yet, those times can be had for me again and they can be had for you too. It is what we choose to do today that will make a memory for all the tomorrows to come.

RL Tex Smith
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010


In one of my earlier writings I spoke of a rock I used to set on. That rock was much more than just a rock. From it I was carried off to many special places. Not that much unlike a magic carpet it carried me. Finding me in a desert in some far away land in my tank or in a dog fight as I flew with my squadron of Aces.
Through one adventure after another there with me as always, was my constant companion and best friend in the world outside my Dad. It didn’t matter to me a smidgen that she was a girl. The bravest most understanding, kindest friend one could ever hope to have, outside my Dad. Her long strawberry blonde hair lined with dark streaks was as soft as satin.
In those days the Trans Canada Highway ended at the east end of the Hugh John Flemming Bridge in Hartland. My Grandfather’s farm was on the line between the communities of Upper Brighton and Peel. Just up the Saint John River from the bridge at Hartland. My rock was located in one of his pastures, near the old chicken barn that served as headquarters for my battalion or the town hall of some hamlet we were liberating. On some occasions it served as a saloon. Then there were the times it was nothing more than a large chicken coop.
Because the highway ended at Hartland, a lot of traffic made its way right past the farm. From my rock I could watch all sorts of vehicles. Trucks, cars, buses, of all shapes and sizes, even the odd motorcycle from time to time passed by me, my companion, and the rock. Of all the things I loved to watch, my favourite by far, was the long army convoys. They would take hours to pass.
This of course served as a perfect back drop when my battalion and I were taking a piece of ground against overwhelming odds, in one horrific and bloody battle after another.
Then when the pulp drive in the river was on, the boats served as another fine back drop. To top it all off, the Canadian Pacific Railway lay like two ribbons in plain view. Now I ask you, what more could a lad ask for? It was the perfect place on earth to be anything on earth I wanted it to be.
My companion’s name was Sheppy; the finest dog in the world. Where you found me you found old Shep.
It has been said by a host of folks a whole lot smarter than me that animals are just that, animals. They can’t reason, they don’t have thoughts or feelings. Well I am not convinced. One of the dogs I have now, Harley, has more expressions than some people I know. I think if we take the time to really look, I mean really look at the simple things; we begin to see things in a different light. We learn that any dog or other animal is much more than just a dog or whatever.
All those years ago from my bed in my house I could hear the phone ring. Bonanza had just ended and I was laying there in bed. I saw my Dad look at me, I never moved though, so he thought I was asleep. As I listened to him talk on the phone, I knew that something was terribly wrong. Something had happened; something bad. When I heard him say "well…she was a good old girl….that’s too bad" I knew….I knew that something had happened to old Shep. I sat up in the bed almost in shock, hoping I was wrong. By then Dad had passed the phone to Mum and he was making his way to me. In his gentle way he then confirmed my greatest fear as true. Old Shep was older than I had realized and she was getting hard of hearing and her eye sight wasn’t what it used to be. Whether either had been a contributing factor in her demise, I guess I will never know. She had been crossing the road when she was struck by a vehicle.
I think that was the first real time that I knew life was fragile. The first time I began to think how unfair life can really be by times; perhaps my first taste of loss of innocence.
From that time forward, the rock was never quite the same. Oh there were still many adventures. Yet somehow they were never as exciting or breath taking as when I would have old Shep at my side.
As I think back on it, sure I missed her, and I still do, but I also think there was something else going on at the same time without my knowing. Before this terrible event, life ending was on the television or the radio death announcements. Hearing about someone I didn’t know passing really didn’t have the same effect until I felt the sting of death first hand. It doesn’t matter that it was a dog. To me that dog was everything. Even to this day it stings when I think about her.
Since that time there have been many passing’s that have stung, and should I be fortunate enough to live a while longer, there will be more. It makes one wonder how much hurt can we handle? This makes me realize just how resilient our make up is. When I think of the hurts that some folks have endured it almost leaves me breathless.
So many things I can’t fathom. How perfectly our bodies are made to accommodate our lives. How we can adapt and overcome. The perfect system in which we and all creatures live. I can’t comprehend how molecule x met molecule y and went boom and started it all. I can’t grasp how we are supposed to have evolved so perfectly. Further, where did x and y come from?
Short wave radiant heat from the sun heats the earth and long wave radiant heat from the earth warms us. Just another example of how perfect our life balance is. It is beyond me how this just went boom and came to be.
So many mysteries that we may never know the answer too. In some strange way I think this keeps us trying to answer questions that as yet have no answers. Again….perfect. The complete wonder of our minds and how we only use a portion of them. Perhaps folks like Einstein learned a way to use more of the minds assets than normal.
It’s like looking at the simple things and really seeing them. How much life exists in each of our back yards? We see these every day, but its what we don’t see unless we really look that makes it truly fascinating.
Isn’t it the same with each of us? We may see each other every day. But do we really see each other? Do we really take the time to see the true great work of art each of us really are?
Ahhhh but alas we are all much too busy; always in a hurry, with not enough hours in any given day. We only have time to see what we see and take for granted what is really there. To me it’s a great deal of what is wrong with this world. Life is short, very short. We all need to slow down and appreciate the very simple things. The life in our back yard, the unique neighbour, or yes, the love of a dog.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
RL Tex Smith

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Power of Information and Communication

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
My Thoughts
The Power of Information and Communication
Throughout history, and even in our own experiences, we have heard of, or had happen to us, something that was just wrong; something where the system failed people or you personally. Is this part of history only? Does it still happen today? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It will always be a part of society as long as there are humans involved.
When we learn of, or have a first hand experience, with some form of injustice, we naturally want something done about it. In most cases, we want for this type of thing to stop and not happen in the future to others. So we make noise, we get upset, we write letters, until someone takes up the cause to have this injustice corrected. At this point, we must be careful. I think it is imperative to ask some very important questions. One that jumps, no leaps, to mind is; what are the motives of this person? Why have they decided to take up this cause? What are their reasons, is it truly for the greater good, or is there some other reason? Like perhaps….votes. In other words, it is great when we get the support we need from politicians or other influential figures of society. It is nice to know that there are some people that really do care. But do they?
I know this sounds negative, even perhaps suspicious. However, many times I can recall, seeing people wearing the name of the great Liberator, Champion of the people; only to find out later that they did not care one iota about the injustice. They had some other reason, and it was to benefit them.
Oh there are some who truly act for the greater good. Yet, in today’s society, these types of people are becoming far and few between. In fact, what once may have been the norm has sadly become the rarity.
I think it is time for the people of this great country we live in; to get a hold on things and reel them in before it is too late. There are some that would say it is already too late. I for one think it is never too late to do what is right.
People are frustrated. They feel left out of decisions; critical decisions that may have an effect on their well being, and their children’s well being. I hear things like; "it doesn’t matter what I think." "No one cares about anything but themselves." "Why bother, they are going to do what they want, they already have their minds made up."
Ask yourself; who put these people where they are? We did, and we have the right to expel them if they don’t listen to those that they are supposed to be representing. I know this is not perfect, our system, but it is by far the best system out there.
A politician listens, really, to only one thing. They really only see one thing, at least most of the politicians of today anyway. And I suspect, no I know, if we look at history, people in this regard were not much different. They view everything as votes. When they see enough votes, then they will champion the cause.
For example, when a politician in a riding sees that they have enough votes to be elected, they will stand up and say what people want to hear. They will ultimately support the majority and what they believe. Here though, is where we should wonder, does the politician believe the cause of the people, or does he or she believe in his or her cause to get elected?
So then, we start to hear folks saying; "I don’t know who to believe, they all are a bunch of crooks. One is just as bad as the other."
To this I say, it does matter, we can make a difference. The way I see this is simple, yet hard work. We need to inform our representatives of what we think. We need to be involved. We need to talk to them in any way we can; letters, phone calls, emails, one on one face to face, and in some cases, where the politician is not listening, in orderly peaceful groups.
We ask ourselves every day; where did we go wrong? Why, in one of the greatest countries in the world, are things the way they are? I believe it is because the real power people want it the way it is. They don’t want it to change, because they are driven by greed. They are making a fortune from our oppression. Further, we have become so used to it, that we begin to believe that things are as they should be.
There are those that would have you believe that things are as they should be. There are some people who think that some people are just meant to be poor and ignorant, while others are meant to be rich and powerful. They think that it is the natural order of things. They may not always say it. Yet, they think it, and they believe it.
I know this is perhaps a hard thing to believe, yet it has happened in our history. The difference in Tommy Douglas’s early days, was the politician’s and bureaucrats actual said it out loud. As far as I am concerned, this is just sad. What is even worse, is the fact that if they said it back then, they say it today; the only difference is how and when they say it.
We are very lucky to live in a free society, and we take it for granted every day. The Power Mongers are banking that we continue to do so. That we continue to feel frustrated and we continue to act like the robots they want us to be.
How is it that politicians in the thirty’s and forty’s got away with making statements like they did about people every bit as good as they were, if not a notch better because they had scruples. Information, that is why; the people of that era did not have what we have; information, and communication.
We live in a time where we have at our finger tips power. Yes power, because information and communication is power. We know when something happens almost immediately. There is no waiting, information is now. The question is, why are we not using it to our advantage?
The reason is quite simple really; we have been led to believe that we do not matter, yet I for one believe we do matter. I further believe we can use the power of information to our advantage and break free from this false impression that some keep us believing; we are powerless.
As long as we do not change our thinking, as long as we are falsely led to believe that we have no power and that we do not matter, they win, and we lose.
We need to become alert and involved, in a very peaceful way. We need to use the power we have for the greater good. There are ways to do this and I will elaborate on this further on in this writing.
There will be those that call me a dreamer. They will put me down any way they know how. There are those that will totally and forcefully disagree with me. To this I say; why are you so dead set against what I am saying? Why are you trying so desperately to make me look like a fool? I wonder, are you one of the people that think you are better than others? Are you one of the people that do not want things to change?
Let’s take a moment and look at our youth. I am not sure what you all are seeing but I can tell you this is what I see. I see a young society of people that are being led to not care or respect anything or any one. There are exceptions to this rule, and while I think that these young people are to be considered admirable for their beliefs, I think of how they are viewed by the whole, by their peers, others of their generation.
I can tell you that the young folks of today that do have principles and integrity along with respect, are viewed in a very harsh way by the whole. Theirs is a tough existence.
Why is it that our kids are so much different? One reason is the information and communication and lest we forget technology. Yet I think there is more to it. Yes every generation is different than the one before. But I wonder if our parents had the technology we have today, would they have been all that much different?
The other thing is this. No one with any sense condones the way children were treated years ago by the school system. They were beaten, and belittled in ways that were wrong on so many levels it is in some cases unthinkable. This had to change, and thank God it did. Yet the changes went too far and now we have a society of young people that have zero respect for authority of any kind.
You see folks it is easy to legislate things. When something is wrong we will legislate things to death. We make new laws and rules, many we do nothing to enforce. The law makers appease the greater good by making something a law or a rule, putting it on the books, making themselves look good, to get re-elected, or promoted, and then do absolutely nothing else with it.
Think of it this way, if we say no to our kids, then we give in and say yes, what will no mean to them?
I do not agree that we have to go back and start trying to knock things into our kids head. But we do have to make them accountable for their actions. We can no longer expect our teachers, for one, to accept abuse repeatedly from hoodlums. These criminals, sadly often perceived heroes by their peers, should be punished in the proper ways when they have done wrong. We need to support and ensure that this happens. Otherwise, we will continue this spiralling fall into the abyss. Plain and simple, the wrong doers in society, not only in our schools, but every where, need to be shown they will be held accountable for the wrong they do. This is the tough way of doing things. It means officials will have to deal with the problems, instead of just legislate them, or more clearly put, ignore them.
So what is the simple solution? Easy, begin teaching our kids in the home, right from wrong, and mean it. Stick to our guns. Tough love if you want. Make our kids accountable for their actions. Say what we mean and mean what we say.
This will require some effort, but it will pay dividends in the long run. When the kids find out that we will no longer accept unacceptable behaviour, it will become easier.
Now then, what you live with you learn. In some cases kids are only emulating what they see at home. If mum and dad are hoodlums, then junior is likely to be one too. This is where the schools come in. These kids need to be shown their worth and that they do matter. These kids have to be shown that they will be held accountable for their actions. And mum and dad hoodlum will need to be held accountable for junior hoodlum as well. They must be made to take responsibility for their children too. We need to support this and we need to support our teachers, police, and anyone trying to make things right for the greater good.
Well how do we do this? It isn’t that simple, or is it?
My thoughts on the youth (only a few thoughts) that I just spoke of, is just an example. There are countless other issues.
Take an issue that you are concerned with, and make it known. How you say?
Easy; email, face to face conversation, written letters, any way you want. Then just convince two people to do as you do, and have them commit to do like wise.
Here is an example. And it is only an example.
You do not agree with the 5 trout limit in New Brunswick.
You think that it should be 20. But you also think that people who get caught over limit should be fined $100.00 for being over the limit between 21 and 25. After which, for every trout they are over 25, fine them and extra $25.00 each. This is not long adding up. Further, you can not have any more than 2 in your possession that are over 12 inches long. This then will take care of the large sea trout. Beyond this, you want the powers that be to support the conservation officers with the money and tools they need to do the job. You want more patrols, more often, in all areas where trout fishing occurs. You want this all legislated.
Fine you say, but how do we achieve this?
Just write an email to your elected official (MLA) explaining this. But before you send it, ensure that you have two other people that will send the same email to the same person. And have them promise that they will do this. As well, have them promise to each have two more people do the same. We all know at least two people who we trust to do this sort of thing.
If you do the math, it will not be long and the official’s mail box will be full.
But you have to mean what you say and say what you mean. You have to ensure that the official knows that you will hold him accountable for his action or in-action.
This is information and communication power. It is at our finger tips. All we need to do is use it.
Not having a computer is not an excuse. Phones and written letters are at everyone’s disposal.
If there is a law or rule that you think is wrong, do not break that rule or law. Work to have it changed.
Or we can just go on letting the rich and powerful have us believe we do not matter. The choice is ours. RL Tex Smith

Monday, February 15, 2010


Thursday, February 4, 2010


This will be deep! However, I will try my best to make it simple.
Wait! Don’t stop reading; give me a chance. I know in this time of fast pace, hurry up and wait… hurry to go where? We have no time for the babblings of some crazy old lunatic that is rambling on about some gibberish that will serve no purpose. There will be nothing… (In it for me). Because, if we are honest, that is how the world works today, Quid Pro Quo. It’s too bad too.
If you give me a chance, perhaps I will at least make you think, so why not get a coffee and sit down with this; what have you got to lose?

Imagine if you will, that you are in a classroom. There is a professor at the chalk board. He is writing notes and you think…I should copy these notes….they may be important. You ask yourself…Is anyone else writing these notes down? The strange thing is that everyone is likely thinking the same thing as you. So everyone is looking at each other, with puzzled looks. Because as of yet, the professor has said nothing. You are still doubting, and your mind is saying should I or should I not? The old saying… “Fools rush in” is arguing with thoughts of …. “If I do not copy this down….and it is important…then I will be in a mess.”
Finally, one brave soul decides to start writing. Good, now I can go ahead and not look like a geek. Soon the entire works of the class is doing the same. We really are more like sheep than we care to admit.
You write feverishly so as to get the information. Professors have a tendency to erase and keep writing, with the appearance that they could care less if you are finished copying or not. They are on their own time table, not yours.
Soon though, the professor sets down. He rubs his hands together to wipe away the chalk dust, then wipes an apple off, grabs the daily paper, gets comfortable, and begins to read. It is like he is the only one in the room, like he does not even acknowledge that the room is filled with you and those like you.
Again you see some puzzled faces. Yours being one of them.Then one brave over achiever asks, “Sir…could you give us some direction?” To no avail. The professor continues to read the paper and devour his apple, as if he heard nothing at all.
Then and only then do you go back and read what you have copied once again. Because when we get in a hurry, we tend to accomplish the primary task, with little or no regard for anything else. You decided to copy the notes, and to do it at a fast pace so as not to miss getting them. You copied the words with out really digesting what they said.
Here is what it said.

“At a time beyond two weeks from now but less than three; be prepared to speak in front of the class, on the importance of a food chain in the ecosystem. You can be as creative as you see fit. It is important to point out that your priorities are all important as to the effort you give this task. You can elect to abstain from this endeavour, or, you can choose to be prepared. The choice is entirely up to you as an individual. You will have up to a twenty minute time limit for this exercise. Wisdom dictates that our choices be made in accordance with logic.”

So, you read it. Then you reread it. You look around and begin to realize the different fears that are starting to manifest themselves on people’s faces, along with the ones hatching inside of you.
There is a small revolt beginning as different people begin asking questions.
“What will this be worth?” What does this have to do with a psychology class…if I wanted to be a biologist…I would have chosen to enrol in those studies”
“Please give us a date so we will know exactly when this will be due.”
“There was nothing in the course outline that stated we would have to speak in front of people.”
Several more comments are made none of which the professor acknowledges. Finally though, he puts down his paper. Tosses his apple core in the waste can, turns with no emotion or change of expression and says. “You have all the information you need….at least all that you are going to get….I suggest you act accordingly…class dismissed.” With this said, he very calmly picks up his things from his desk and walks out of the class. Louder statements are made by many. The unfairness of it all is emphasised. Yet, nothing seems to deter the professor’s exit.
Now then, we jump ahead to two and half weeks from now. You have decided to give this enough effort to at least pass. You have heard of some folks that have chosen to ignore this task, thinking that it will only account for a small portion of the final mark. You know of other classmates that have burned the midnight oil putting forth a great effort to gather, prepare, and organize the information.
You have one friend that has remained non committed as to how they will approach this.
The day arrives and with much apprehension and perhaps a bit of interest as to how this will play out, you go in to class.
The professor is seated at his desk as the class begins. One by one he calls the name of the members of the class.
When you are called you go forth with butterflies in your stomach and present what you have prepared. You do it with as much emotion and vigour as you first thought, enough to go through the motions and pass. Just what was required and nothing more. After all, you have a lot of other work to do too.
You get through it, and it is like one thousand pounds has been lifted from your back upon completion. You did look for some sign of how you did from the professor, yet you receive none. For just as he did with the others he said nothing. He just seemed to listen and make a few notes. He never once showed any emotion one way or the other.
You listen to the various presentations, assessing each as they speak. Some are short and sweet and to the point. Some are done in such a manor they may as well have read them aloud in the first place, for that is what they did anyway. Some use power point presentations to enhance their presentations. Yet even some of these are just words, no diagrams, no pictures, so it was just like a reading in the long run. And yes there were a few that abstained. Even at this, you noticed that the professor never gave a sign of emotion one way or the other.
There was one person though, that made you laugh; he made you feel, well…good. It was also informative, not too long, not too short. The student spoke to the entire class and seemed very comfortable. He only used his notes as a reference, instead of just reading a bunch of information. You also found that it was interesting, because…you actually learned some things from his presentation. Perhaps even to the point of reading more about the subject on your own time.
Once done the professor stands in front of the class.
He then spoke.
“Today we have witnessed some very creative presentations. Further, we have seen many different styles. Some chose not to participate. Well…in life there are choices….We all are presented everyday with challenges where we have to make decisions, sometimes based on very little information. The point to this exercise was to see how we all react differently to basically the same thing. Really there were none of you right or wrong. Yet it was very interesting to see how you all reacted to this. I certainly have learned a great deal from this little experiment, it is my hope that you did too. Why? Because…my friends…two weeks from today…I will expect a formal paper from each of you relating to what this exercise has taught you. I do not want to know what you learned about a food chain either. I want you to relate what this entire process has taught you about life. This will be very important to you as it will account for 60% on your final exam.”
This now seemed somehow in an odd way to make sense. At least now we had enough information to make a semi sound decision as to what to do.
Had I learned anything from this? My answer is yes. And I think if you think about it you will too.

It strikes me that in life it is a lot like this example. There are some of us that choose to do nothing, commit to nothing, because most of the time they either don’t care or there is nothing in it for them. There are those that give just enough to get by. Then there are the few that give their all with great enthusiasm.
It is easy to be enthusiastic about something you believe in. But how do you know if you really believe in something? I think you believe in something when you are excited about it. When the hair on your neck stands and you get the tingles. When you have an insatiable desire to learn all you can about it. When you speak about it with passion.
We are, I think, becoming a society with less and less passion about anything.
Sadly, when we come across a person that is full of passion, some of us, not all, put the person down, label him an idiot or childish. Some of us will do anything to make the person with passion seem less than they are.
There are likely many reasons for this. I think one huge reason is envy, or jealousy. It seems some folks get in a rut and they feel somehow threatened by a person who is not. Sometimes it seems they are in the rut and they like it there, and they want everyone to be in the same rut with them. I for one can not bring myself to feel this. In fact I have a very hard time understanding it. I love to listen to people and I really like a person that has passion. I am however, not into the mean spirited type of passion. To me this type of person is not all that different than Hitler. You all know these types of people. My way only. You had better listen to me. I am right and the rest of the world is wrong. These types of people. They may well be passionate, but to me it is the wrong type of passion.
So then, this begs the question, what am I most passionate about? Because if I think if I know these things, I will come to know what I believe in.
I self evaluate all the time. I ask myself questions. Some would call this a struggle for identity, or paranoia. I call it part of learning.
If you are like me, then you all can remember a teacher that you had that seemed to be full of an endless supply of information to impart on us with a never ending, never changing, emotionless, monotone, uncreative, demeanour.
You likely remember another teacher that touched you with their enthusiasm and creativity, their passion.
The difference is, because you remember them both, I will venture to guess that you remember well the lessons of the passionate teacher. While the only thing you really remember from the other is how positively boring they were. How hard you had to struggle to stay awake, and very little about the lesson.
To me this person with no passion is a huge problem, because it gives me several feelings. One, the person really could care less if I got anything from their teaching. Two, the person generally comes across as….I know you don’t let’s just leave it at that…attitude. Or they are just going through the motions. Just putting forth enough effort to get by. No passion whatsoever.
It is easy to be passionate about the things we enjoy the most. Take baseball for example, if this is something you like; you generally will be full of information about the teams and players. You will know inside and out the rules of the game. You will strive to learn all you can about the game. You just plain enjoy it. It brings you joy. It maybe golf or something else, but no matter what it is, if you truly love it, if you truly are devoted to it, if you believe in it without trying. Then it will be easy to be passionate about it.
So then, if you do not go around showing to everyone the passion you have for something, am I saying you don’t believe in it? No I am not. I think for a host of reasons people tend a lot of the time to hide their passions. They don’t want to make a big deal about it. Part of the reason is they do not want others to put them down. They want to be accepted. They do not like the feeling of being made fun of. They want and deserve respect. I think it is absurd that this exists; to me it is a very high form of petty meanness. It is something I will never be able to accept or understand, why some people get so big on themselves they feel the need to look down on another person in a host of different ugly ways. And that is what it is to me, plain and simple, ugly.
I also find it interesting that the people who you know the best, the people you grew up with, are by far the worst offenders. Again, not all, but some, make it their mission in life to prove to the world they are better than you by telling you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do and how you are wrong if you don’t agree with them.
It seems to me that even Jesus could not preach in his home town because of this very thing. I mean…who does he think he is…he is just a carpenter…where does he get off…I knew him when…Things like that.
So what do I believe, what do you believe. God?.... Well? Do I believe in God? Do you? Is it okay to have doubts? Because I do have doubts. The person who tells you that they have no doubts…well….lets just say…I am very careful around these types of people.
I come from the world of wildland fire suppression; I have been involved in it for a very long time. Because of this, I get to help out with some courses here and there as an instructor. I tell folks at the start of every course somewhat the same thing. I tell them, the one thing I have learned for sure is how little I know. The reason is clear, the learning never stops because we are involved very personally front and center with one of the most powerful forces in nature. No matter what I learn, there is always something new to learn. I do not think that one person can ever know it all.
If I could find a person that has fought fire in every type of environment under every type of condition, in all types of weather, then I might say that person knows almost everything. I know a lot of people a lot smarter than I am about wildland fire, and I can tell you I have never come close to meeting anyone like that. And I know I never will either.
Yet, I have met a lot of folks that say and let on like they know all there is to know about wildland fire…..and I tell every class….these are the folks that will get you hurt or worse…killed…if you let them.
So then, what are you passionate about? What do you believe in? I don’t want you to tell me, tell yourself.
And if you are passionate, do you show it? If not, why don’t you?
No one will know for sure but you and God.
I said before we all want to be accepted no matter if is on a baseball team or if it is church. This is part of being human. I think acceptance is a key. Tolerance is a key. I do not like to forced to do or not do anything. I try not to do this to other folks because I wouldn’t want them doing it to me.
My walk with the Lord is my own, and if I walk wrong, he will let me know in some way. It is a private thing between myself and God. I don’t need to know what another person views as right and wrong. What might be right for them may not be right for me and vice versa. Who am I to tell you that you are wrong with your thoughts? I am not speaking of the wrongs all of society has deemed wrong, like breaking laws. I am speaking of the things a person believes and is passionate about. When it comes to that, it should be between me and the Lord.
I do not feel like we should have to agree in all aspects of we believe in order to be treated with respect or to be accepted.
To me it is very clear. We are all the same, none better, none worse. It is not up to me to judge peoples beliefs, beyond the written laws that we all have to obey. If you do not like rock music, that’s fine by me, but I don’t think that because you think it is wrong, it gives you the right to tell me that I am evil because I do. Well…you can say this to me….it does not mean I have to listen. Think about it, be honest with yourself. If some one were to make a habit of pointing out how you are less of a person than they are because of something as ridiculous as this. Do they really change the way you think? Do they really change your belief? You may well give in to them, for the want of acceptance, but I seriously doubt they will ever change what you believe. I think only you are able to do that.
I know it sounds like I am some sort of rebel. I am not trying to be.
Ask yourself which is worse. The person smoking a cigarette, or the person condemning that person to hell because he is smoking. See to me, as long as society deems it is legal, and the person is not telling me that I should smoke, or they are not making me breath second hand smoke, then who am I to say they shouldn’t. Do I think they will go to hell because they smoke? I do not.
And I believe the same about a lot of things that people for whatever reason believe are wrong.
I love country music. I have a passion for it. I am not forcing others to listen to it if they do not like it. I do not see where my country music listening has caused harm to anyone else either. Yet I have been told that I should only listen to gospel music. That any other type of music is wrong. Hmmm, can’t find anywhere when Jesus said that all music is bad and you will burn in hell if you play or listen to anything but gospel music or hymns.
I know that there will be someone out there that will have a list of reasons as to why my thinking is wrong. To these folks I say, good. Say what you will, I doubt that you will change what I believe. Yet you can try if you wish.
I do recall that Jesus had something to say to the Pharisees about making rules that were hard for people to follow, just so they could feel better about themselves.
I do recall that Jesus said that anyone that accepts Him and asks for forgiveness will be saved.
I do recall that Jesus said that it is not what goes into a person that makes them wrong, it is what comes out of a person that can make him wrong.
And best of all, at least where I am concerned, Jesus gave us two great laws. Love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul. And love others as you would have them love you.
For me it is just too much of a stretch to think that going to a dance with my wife will condemn me to hell.
But then this is just what I think…I am not in anyway telling you what you should think.
One thing I do find really unacceptable, is how passion and enthusiasm is put down by some. I think we need to let our passions flow, regardless of what others think.

Until next time, may God bless you all, and may He give us the courage to be real. Tex