Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zombies Among Us

I was walking on the abondoned rail trail below where we live last week. I was crossing what I call 'The Scar', an open gash that the developer made in the trail when I noticed someone coming in the other direction with a small white dog on a leash. As we got closer I saw that it was a young woman and she was texting on her iphone or some such device, looking down at it the whole time. She must have noticed me because as we were about to pass I looked her way to wave and say hello but she was looking away and had put her phone in her pocket. She still had her ipod earplugs in. I can understand not wanting to say hello but we were in the open in full view of the houses just above where we were walking. I am sure that after passing me she got her iphone back out and texted something like "passed scary old man" in cyptic language. I wonder if she even noticed the smells of the decaying leaves in the woods, the play of light through the evergreen braches or the clouds overhead? I know she never heard the sound of a bird that day. Good thing she didn't walk into our neighborhood moose.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Consistency of Mud

The weather man predicted an 80% chance of snow for today. I needed some exercise so climbing Tower Mountain again sounded attractive. It is my new favorite local hike and can be a loop if one so desires. As I climbed out of the valley I quickly came to were the ground was superficially frozen. I also discovered a small recently dug grave for a dog. Someone had come upon the poor, unnamed pooch and thoughtfully buried him then erected a small monument with his collar draped over it. What a thoughtful thing to do.

The trail became much more steep and rutted as I neared the towers and the summit. The wind was blowing a little on top but still no hint of snow. In fact it looked like it was clearing a bit to the west. The only 'snow-flakes' were frost particles blown off the pine needles. As I left the fences and towers and descended into a more natural area at Krell Hill I was greeted by my Corvid friends. They were just playfully soaring and circling in the wind. They always make me feel connected to the web of live and like I've just come home.

I explored around Big Rock for awhile, found an abandoned climbing rope, took some more photos and scrambled onto a few rocky outcropping to check out the views. I could see Steptoe Butte in the distance. A few whitetails were in the area moving like graceful dancers in the underbrush.

Descending now, I found out that today was definitely not a good day to be a trail runner. The trail was all frozen beneath but covered with about an inch of gooey, slippery mud. I slipped a couple of times on nearly flat ground. On the steeper sections I had to skirt the edges or just plant my feet in the center of the eroded middle which was not muddy. As I made my way down the snow finally moved in, which in itself was fun to watch against the backdrop of the dark hillsides. Very nice hike, all in all. I was all alone except for my animal companions, taking everything in.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

My hero while growing up and more so now, was my uncle, Norman Wills. Despite teasing me about 'girlfriends' when I was little and harassing me about my bowling form when I was at the alley with my teen friends, he was always a positive male role model for me. He never smoked and drank very little unlike every other adult in my family.

From the earliest age I was instructed to never ask him about 'The War' that played such a huge role in my parents generation. He had terrible nightmares and was trying to live his life by forgetting the horrors he had experienced.

When he entered the service he was asked if it mattered which Theater he wanted to serve in since his mother had immigrated from Germany at the age of three. He essentially said that it didn't matter to him. So he went off to England after training. He fought from the day after D-Day (his boat was at the back of the landing force) until he was wounded and captured in Aachen on September 21st, 1944. At that time he was Staff Sergeant Squad Leader in the 36th Armed Infantry Regiment of the Third Armored Division, a "Spearhead Doughboy". As squad leader he was 'in charge of the operation of a light machine squad of 9 men, including gunners, crewman and half-track drivers and led men in battle'. During close house to house combat a German grenade was thrown at him and he was badly wounded in the leg and then captured. "They only asked me if I was American or British" he told me. Several hours later the Allies advanced, the Germans retreated and left him there. When he was recovered in the field of battle his long journey of healing was just beginning.

He spent 23 months in military hospitals in England and in the U.S. healing his badly broken and infected leg. During all of this time he was married to my mother's sister, Alice, who was raising their young son Dennis.

Uncle Norman was awarded a Purple Heart, two different Bronze Battle Stars and served in the Normandy, Rhineland and Northern France campaigns including the liberation of Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge. The only time I heard him talk about his experiences was on the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. I was at home visiting them in their living room on peaceful Cherry Street in Lockport, NY. He said the local VFW had contacted him to be part of the celebration. "Why would I want to celebrate something that I have been trying to forget for the last 50 years?" was what he said to us.

Once, later, on the phone I encouraged him to write down some remembrances for future generations of our family but he gently re-buffed my request.

This man who always gave a warm greeting, a big smile and who had a gentle way of encouraging you had a hidden secret that he bore with dignity, never complaining. He continued to hunt, fish, bowl and garden into his later years. I still recall him in the back yard on Cherry Street pitching wiffle balls to my two young daughters. The limp as he walked, reminded me of his secret, safely tucked away...

Norman Wills
February 10, 1917
October 28, 2003

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Quote That Speaks Truth

"There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change, until there is more time, until we are less tired, until we get a promotion, until we settle down / until, until, until. It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living." George Sheehan, physician, author, runner, 1918-1993