A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The First Years (Cont.)

John Barton decided to show me the town just outside the gates on my second day aboard the USS Long Beach.  We were accompanied by his long time friend, “Doc” Ackerman (a hospitalman that he knew from Vietnam), and Mike Trover, a Ship’s Serviceman Seaman that I had met that day.  That first night out in the Phillippines was reminiscent of being out in a carnival during the evening.  The air was smoky and hot as I passed the main gate of Subic Bay Naval Station, filled with the sound of music emanating from clubs along Olangapo‘s main street: Magsaysay Boulevard.  Throngs of people packed the bridge and river that separated the city and the base.  Children in banca boats screamed out to people lining the sides of the bridge to throw pesos to them into a river that they would attempt to catch, over water infested with typhus and various bacillium (I remember seeing the carcass of a dead dog floating down the river on a return trip). Everyone who has been to Olangapo in those days will attest to the children and young 14 or 15 year-old girls dressed in evening wear who would line the river, begging for money.  As soon as we stepped onto the surface of Magsaysay, we were met by a hoard of men shouting, “‘Dis way to women, we got lots of women, come…come!”  Children were at our sides, begging for pesos, looking for our watches and checking our back pockets for wallets to steal.  Women dressed in tight t-shirt tops and even tighter shorts also lined the start of the boulevard, each one begging us to follow her for a “good time”.  We passed a man selling authentic “monkey meat” barbecue on a stick, women in windowed stalls to our right, slapping rulers or wood sticks on their stalls to get our attention to change our money before we entered a club.  All around us were throngs of people.  I remember in particular, a black marine with a cut on the side of his head, obviously drunk, yelling to anyone in the crowd who would listen, “I’ll fight you, I’ll fight all of you.”  I made the mistake of looking at him, catching his eye.  He stared at me, trying to adjust his vision, stopping for a moment to state, “I’ll even fight you.”  Doc shooed us into Cindy’s, for a bite to eat, whispering something to someone who promptly ran off into the street, returning moments later with Phillippine constabulary to escort the marine we had just seen back to the base.

It was at Cindy’s where I learned about how John and Doc had met in Vietnam.  John had been a Gunner’s Mate 1st Class on a riverine patrol boat along the Mekong Delta.  Doc was on a helicopter gunship known as “The Poodle”.  I found it interesting that John and Doc could laugh about what happened on the fateful night that they met.  John thought that the vietcong had either called in by telephone, or by radio that a gunboat was smuggling arms up a canal that they never named.  What both men told us was that John, who was a gunner’s mate on the PBR at the time had his boat mistakenly shot out from under him by Doc’s gunship.  John went on to say that when they demanded the gunship crew give them a lift back to Saigon, the crewchief laughed, and told them they would have to “hoof” it back to safety because there wasn’t enough room in the chopper.  John said that his crew spent a few hours on the boat, wondering what they would do when a rescue chopper came in to pick them up.  John had the option when he returned to be shipped stateside, and instead, cross-trained to Ship’s Serviceman, to work in a ship’s laundry and earn his retirement pay.  It was John and Doc, who kept me out of trouble in those next days until the ship headed back out to sea, this time with myself on it.

The Long Beach was deployed from 1976 to 1977.  During the time I was attached to the ship, I was involved in:

  1. Bar brawls in the merchant marines bar ( in Port Louis, Mauritius, I found out that a whiskey bottle will break a man’s head, rather than break when it is used as a weapon)
  2. Underway Replenishment (I remember pushing tons of frozen meat down a chute stamped “Not Fit for Air Force consumption)
  3. Cleaning toilets that exploded with Collection Holding and Transfer (CHT) sewage (I was armed with boots, rubber gloves and an ample supply of Lysol and brushes)
  4. Witnessing the very last true missile launch, the TALOS missile truly was a sight to see, feel, and hear.  The entire ship shuddered when it was launched, lost at over 300 nautical miles, the missile was still on its flight trajectory.
  5. Riding through a typhoon (I was told that when the ship listed to a certain point, the superstructure would snap off)
  6. The Ugandan conflict (I was issued a .45 and 10 rounds of ammunition.  It was the day that I found I was “expendable”)
  7. Dealing with the captain when the Combat Information Center (CIC) was not supplying information (we were moving to plane guard station, 500 yards off the stern of the USS Enterprise. My operator down in CIC kept telling me “not to sweat it”)
  8. Finding out what it was like to be out in the Indian Ocean at midnight, looking at a clear, cloudless night sky — so many stars surrounding a huge moon over a surface that was as smooth as glass
  9. Discovering what it was like to return home, after so many months, knowing that no one (absolutely no one) would be on the pier to greet me — a very empty feeling

My time on the USS Long Beach (CGN-9) was short.  I was soon transferred to my “A” school for training to become an Operations Specialist in Great Lakes, Illinois.  I not only learned how dreadfully cold it can get, when winds blow across the lakes, but I almost washed out of the program there, were it not for an astute instructor who realized that the reason I was failing all of my tests came from a lack of confidence…garbage that I had taken from my family telling over and over again that I was a failure.  He gave me very important advice that I have followed to this day.  His tact was simple, since I only had one more chance to graduate, or be washed out and become a deckhand, chipping paint for the “rest of my life”.  He said, “Just say to yourself, not now Mom, not now Dad, I don’t have time for you right now.”  That instructor was right, I was not stupid.  I had been holding myself back all that time in school.  Up to that point, I had been scoring in the 50’s and 60’s, just not “getting it”.  I took his advice on that last test, my hands shaking and trembling as I scored my answers, repeating to myself throughout the entire test, “Not now Mom, not now Dad, I don’t have time for you right now.”  The results were nothing short of amazing.  The tests that had been holding me back all that time became simple.  I scored 98% on that test, and continued to score in the high 90’s until I completed my training.  I followed the advice I was given through my entire 20 years that followed, and on into college.  To this day, I am a person who consistently scores high on my tests, completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a 3.5 average, and my Master of Arts in Education with a 4.0 average.  That single event in a small, no-name military school in Great Lakes, Illinois, changed the very course of my life.

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: The First Years

My plane had just landed at Clark Air Force Base, Phillippines on a late September day.  Nothing is left of the base since the Pinatubo eruption, but looking back to those days, I can still remember every minute I was there.

The first thing that I remember was the heat, not a dry heat like one would find in Nevada, but a sticky, overwhelming heat that immediately left a fog on my glasses as soon as I stepped out of the plane.  We were directed to wait for a bus that would take us to Subic Bay, about a 2-hour bus ride.  I was one of the first people on the bus.  I noticed a very beautiful blond woman, a petty officer sit in the seat in front of me.  A young blond sailor asked if he could sit with her…pointing out that the bus was filling up, and he would have no place to sit down.  She relented, and soon they were involved in a light conversation as the bus begain its trundle toward Subic Bay.  About an hour passed, and the bus driver decided to pull over to a Sari-sari store for a beer break.  As I departed from the bus, a large group of children approached me.  I must have been an easy mark, because they flocked to me like a bunch of seagulls on a dead fish.  I was 19 then; naive and full of wanton charity.  I handed them all the change I had, not realizing at the time that they were patting me down, testing my watch to see how well it was fastened to my wrist, as they all crowed, “Hey Joe, gimme peso…hey Joe…”  As soon as they noticed I had no more change to give them, they ran to find another “victim”.   Our Philipino bus driver quickly became tired of the show. when the children started approaching him, shooing us all back onto the bus.  As we were boarding, the couple in front of me were laughing at the children.  The blond sailor turned to the woman saying, “You want to see something funny?”  The woman tittered a bit, then nodded.  He leaned out and yelled, “Hey!  Hey!  You want a peso?  You want a peso?”, as the bus began to move.  The children ran after the bus, hoping for one more coin.  I remember one boy in particular, looking up to him as he leaned far out the window his hands outstretched as he threw his beer bottle at the child’s head, the bottle bouncing squarely off of the child’s skull.  I remember turning to watch the child falling down in the dirt road, blood already matting his head as the other children gathered around him.  “There!  There’s your peso!” the blond sailor shouted.  Some of the men on the bus laughed, while the female sailor smiled and said, “You didn’t have to do that.”  The blond sailor gave her a surly reply, “Damn slopes deserve it.”  That image has lasted in my mind for a long time, and I still do not see how any of those children deserved to be treated in that way by one of us.  I was told before I left the United States that we were ambassadors.  I did not know what to say then, and I do not know what to say now.

My very first ship was the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), part of the then nuclear task force in the Pacific.  It was dark by the time we arrived, the bus dropping us off close to Cubi Point, where my ship was docked. It was a long walk up the gangplank, with my seabag slung over my shoulder, my orders clutched in my hand.  The duty officer had me escorted belowdecks to bunk with Supply (temporarily of course), until my more permanent berthing was assigned to me.  The smell was something to get used to as I walked through the passageways.  It was a mixture of bearing grease, sweat, and floor wax that wafted through the passage.  I remember being assailed by all kinds of foreign objects, understanding the differences between port (left) and starboard (right), the fact that a bathroom was now a head, and that my newest friend was John Barton.  John was a second class Petty Officer, a bona fide Vietnam Veteran who befriended me not only as someone I could confide in, but someone to look up to.  I can still remember those first words.  “New on board, huh?”  I nodded my head.  “Well, don’t mind me kid…I’m just an overpaid seaman.”  John was laid back and wise, the kind of mentor that one hoped to find, street smart and ready to help.

My first look at the Phillippines started here

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served: How we Survived Boot Camp

In preparation for Memorial Day this weekend, I was thinking of writing about the 20 years that I served in the military. So, for the next 4 days, I will begin to recount my time in the service. This day will be dedicated to the days that led to my entering the service.

It was a day like any miserable day, July 1976. I was 19 years old, when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant. I was working as a “gofer” at a radio station, and in a pizza joint, making about $7.50 an hour. She didn’t work, my family didn’t like her or her family, but I told myself I loved her. I felt trapped by what we had gotten ourselves into. It was on that day that I decided to call a recruiter. I didn’t want to join just any service. My father had served in the Air Force for about 20 years then, and he really wasn’t happy about the service — in fact, he hated it. Dad hated the “head” games that he felt were constantly played with him. He despised the hours that he worked, and the politics in his squadron. So, the Air Force was out for me…besides, I didn’t think I could pass the examinations required for the Air Force. I didn’t want to go into the Army — too much of a chance that I would find myself on the front lines in some jungle. The Marines was out too, no way would I keep my head shaved, and bark like a dog. The Navy…yes, the Navy was it for me. Every time I had seen a sailor, they always seemed to be relaxed. They had a suave, “kick-back” attitude that I liked. Sailors traveled all over the place, and they held a kind of worldly swagger worthy of Popeye. So, I called the recruiting office for the Department of the Navy.

John Sutton was a good guy. He’d been a Radioman in the service for the past 15 years. He had a beard, and a hearty laugh. Better than the sour faces I saw in the Marine recruiting station next door. His assistant was the same way. I knew that this was the service for me. So, I took the ASVAB test, and waited a week for the results. In the meantime, I told my parents about my decision. They weren’t happy at first, Mom telling me that I was going to get myself killed someplace and Dad telling me that I should have told him first. Mom wanted me to join the Air Force like my father, but I could tell he was relieved. Dad and I never really got along together during my entire childhood. He had told me I would never amount to anything, that I was worthless because I skipped classes in school. Yet, I always seemed to come out smelling like a rose (well sort of). I was a straight “B” student, and to this day, I still don’t know how I managed that trick. I remember cutting class, only to sit out in the commons area, playing blackjack all day. Either that or I was ditching school to walk 3 miles to a shopping mall, spending my time until I was ready to go home. I would only attend class to take tests, and ace them.

My ASVAB scores were high, except for Math, which was mediocre. I could pretty much write my own ticket — I could get whatever I wanted. I wanted to get into radio, I’d been training to be a journalist/disc jockey during my time in high school, and the Navy had a rating called JO (Journalist). That was my ticket. But…there was one catch. I could get the rating, get the school in a year. I would have to be swabbing decks in the meantime, cleaning toilets, showers, serving people food, until I got my school. But, I could be an Operations Specialist. They handled the radar on the ships, controlled jets, even talked on the radio. John told me it was a sea-going rating, that I would be out to sea, but could make a lot of extra money by being on a ship. A Journalist would not get that kind of opportunity. Out of desperation, I took the Operations Specialist position, because I would get a guaranteed school, something I needed at the time, with my future wife and child to think of.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity that left my brain struggling to keep up. By August, I had entered the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and after being poked and prodded, was told that I would not be accepted into the military because I had flat feet, and had recently undergone surgery for a thyroid goiter that meant I would need to take medication. I was devastated, that after all the trouble I had gone to in order to get into the military, I was medically not going to be accepted. My father was with me in the MEPS office, and asked to talk to the medical officer. To this day, I don’t know what he said, but suddenly, my authorization was stamped that I was fit to go into the military. Wow, Dad had come through for me. I left for boot camp in San Diego 3 days later.

More to come…

Recruit Training Center, San Diego was not as hot as one might think.  Marines were part of our greeters.  A marine gunnery sergeant was the first in fact, to board our bus.  His words were simple, and he barked out every word.  “Everybody off the bus!”  We all picked up what bags we had.  “I said move out!” he shouted at us again.  “And don’t f***ing fall of the bus on your way out!” There was something about his demeanor that meant we were supposed to get off of the bus quickly.  We had various people, all of them with different colored pieces of rope hanging from an arm to distinguish them from everyone else.  I then noticed that the marine gunnery sergeant had no colored ropes hanging from his arm.  He stood in front of us for a moment to shout, “When you are here, you will face forward!”  He looked over to a couple of men shifting around in line.  “Shut up!” he screamed, lunging to the two.  “When I talk, you listen.  Do you understand?”  Both men had taken a step back, nodding their heads in assent.  “I didn’t say to move maggots, I said to shut up!  Step forward!”  The two men stepped back in line.

The sergeant stepped ahead of our group, positioning himself  ahead of our ragged line.  “You assholes look like shit!” he screamed at our group.  “Follow me!”  He began to march toward a large building, where more people with colored braids, this time in naval uniforms waited patiently for us.  As soon as our line had crossed the threshold of some large doors, they began to yell at our group, hounding and singling some of us out.  I dutifully followed the marin sergeant, who instructed us to wait behind a thick, solid white line painted across the floor.   A wall filled with a line of barred windows stood in front of us.  Workers behind the wall were beckoning to us one at a time.  When my turn came, I dutifully walked quickly to the window.  I had an older woman.  “Name?” she asked.  I gave her my first name and last name. “What city are you from?” the questions droned on, while she typed out 4 or 5 sheets of paper.  One of her last questions was curious, if I sang or played a musical instrument.  I said yes.  I read music; had been singing in choirs all of my childhood life, and had played a flute as well as a clarinet and saxaphone.  She pulled out a very large red stamp, placing all of the sheets she had been typing on inside of a brand new brown record file holder, and used the stamp on the front of my record file, instructing me to walk to a yellow line, about 20 feet away from where we had been.  As I was walking to the area, I noticed that others had started to congregate there.  Two or three red-striped men were standing with them, instructing us to stand on the line, with our bags at our sides.  One of the men looked at the folder that I had tucked under my arm, and motioned for me to surrender it to him.  He looked at the front of the record jacket, and told me to join a small group of men standing at a blue line not far from where everyone else was gathering.  One of them started to talk, when a short, blond man came out of nowhere to tell him to be quiet.  We all waited on the line for what seemed to be hours, until the very last man standing at the white line had been processed.  The large group on the far yellow line was being accosted by several men, all grabbing record files, then having them line up in different lines to march out of the building.  All of the groups, except ours.

The short, blond man standing before us instructed us to stand on the blue line, and stay quiet while he talked to us.  “My name is Petty Officer Estes.  All of you here are with me, because you are a special company.  Your number is 935.  Does everyone understand what I just said?”  We answered with a few mumbles.  Petty Officer Estes stopped what he was doing, we were hanging onto his every word except for a couple of men off to the side.  “When I talk, you listen!” he shouted.  “Now shut up!”  The two men stopped what they were doing, and looked at him.  “Now, I will say this again.  When I tell you something, and wait for an answer from you, all I want to hear is: Yes Sir! Do you understand me?”  We mumbled the words he wanted to hear.  “Damn it!” He yelled, his face suddenly becoming beet red.  “Did you hear me?” “Yes sir!” we all yelled back.  Petty Officer Estes paced across our line.  “Better,” he said.  “Now, as I was saying, you are a Special Company.  Each and every one of you has said that you are able to play a musical instrument of some kind, or you said you can sing.  If you look around you…you’ll notice that there are about 85 of you in this company.  15 of you will be members of the Blue Jacket Choir, you will be part of an elite marching group that will lead this company.  Those of you that can read music, and can play an instrument will be part of the Blue Jacket Band.  And those of you who don’t measure up will be part of the 50-state flag team.  “Do you understand me?”  We all shouted together this time, “Yes sir!”  Petty Officer Estes nodded his head.  “Good, because if any of you screw up, I will personally make sure that you repeat your basic training in one of the Rifle companies that you saw forming back there.  Petty Officer Estes pointed to the now-deserted area where the regular companies had formed up and left to eat.  “Yes sir!” we all replied again.  “Fine!” Petty Officer Estes replied.  “Now, all of you pick up your bags.”  We all picked up our bags.  A younger man with a blue rope stood beside Petty Officer Estes, who moved to the rear of our line.  “Now march!” Petty Officer Estes yelled to us.

It was Petty Officer Estes, who moved us through all 9 weeks of boot camp.  He told us that on occasion, we may be leaving the confines of RTC to come out into the real world to play or sing.  He was correct, we did just that.  I became part of the 15-man elite Bluejact Choir in 1976.  Every Sunday, we sang at church.  We sang at funerals, and we sang for our graduation.  We were a crack marching unit, our arms and gait exaggerated to create a stomping march that kept time with our 20-man band.  Petty Officer Estes was there to get me out of trouble, when I got into trouble.  He was there when I was part of a small group who were robbed at gunpoint on our second liberty.  Petty Officer Estes was there when we fired our first weapons, and led us into our first taste of tear gas.  I don’t think that any of us will forget Petty Officer Estes, and for myself, boot camp was over 30 years ago.

RTC, part of the Naval Training Command (NTC)  was officially closed down in 1997.  I was originally part of a group of perhaps about 150 men from all over the United States who flew in one day to one particular place for 9 weeks — Recruit Training Command, San Diego.  There were maybe 20 from Denver.  We had men from as far as Hawaii, and from San Diego or other parts of California, too.  The youngest of us was 17, the old man of our group was 26.  At the end of our boot camp training, all of us, except for about 10 received orders to commands all over the world.  I, interestingly enough, was part of a smaller group of 30 who were held back for a special school, teaching us how to tie knots, basic seamanship, and navigation.  But what stands out in my mind about RTC, is not so much the men that I stood with, or the trouble we got into, but something insignificant that stayed with me my entire life.  What I remember there was pigeons; pigeons everywhere.  We marched in pigeon crap, we sat in pigeon crap…I wouldn’t be surprised if we were eating pigeons at one time or another.  Pigeons were everywhere, and you could smell where they had been, if it wasn’t urea, it was crap.  To this day, I really can’t stand pigeons, in fact, I really think they’re crap.

More to come…

A Dedication to Those of Us Who Served

In preparation for Memorial Day this weekend, I was thinking of writing about the 20 years that I served in the military. So, for the next 4 days, I will begin to recount my time in the service. This day will be dedicated to the days that led to my entering the service.

It was a day like any miserable day, July 1976. I was 19 years old, when my girlfriend told me she was pregnant. I was working as a “gofer” at a radio station, and in a pizza joint, making about $7.50 an hour. She didn’t work, my family didn’t like her or her family, but I told myself I loved her. I felt trapped by what we had gotten ourselves into. It was on that day that I decided to call a recruiter. I didn’t want to join just any service. My father had served in the Air Force for about 20 years then, and he really wasn’t happy about the service — in fact, he hated it. Dad hated the “head” games that he felt were constantly played with him. He despised the hours that he worked, and the politics in his squadron. So, the Air Force was out for me…besides, I didn’t think I could pass the examinations required for the Air Force. I didn’t want to go into the Army — too much of a chance that I would find myself on the front lines in some jungle. The Marines was out too, no way would I keep my head shaved, and bark like a dog. The Navy…yes, the Navy was it for me. Every time I had seen a sailor, they always seemed to be relaxed. They had a suave, “kick-back” attitude that I liked. Sailors traveled all over the place, and they held a kind of worldly swagger worthy of Popeye. So, I called the recruiting office for the Department of the Navy.

John Sutton was a good guy. He’d been a Radioman in the service for the past 15 years. He had a beard, and a hearty laugh. Better than the sour faces I saw in the Marine recruiting station next door. His assistant was the same way. I knew that this was the service for me. So, I took the ASVAB test, and waited a week for the results. In the meantime, I told my parents about my decision. They weren’t happy at first, Mom telling me that I was going to get myself killed someplace and Dad telling me that I should have told him first. Mom wanted me to join the Air Force like my father, but I could tell he was relieved. Dad and I never really got along together during my entire childhood. He had told me I would never amount to anything, that I was worthless because I skipped classes in school. Yet, I always seemed to come out smelling like a rose (well sort of). I was a straight “B” student, and to this day, I still don’t know how I managed that trick. I remember cutting class, only to sit out in the commons area, playing blackjack all day. Either that or I was ditching school to walk 3 miles to a shopping mall, spending my time until I was ready to go home. I would only attend class to take tests, and ace them.

My ASVAB scores were high, except for Math, which was mediocre. I could pretty much write my own ticket — I could get whatever I wanted. I wanted to get into radio, I’d been training to be a journalist/disc jockey during my time in high school, and the Navy had a rating called JO (Journalist). That was my ticket. But…there was one catch. I could get the rating, get the school in a year. I would have to be swabbing decks in the meantime, cleaning toilets, showers, serving people food, until I got my school. But, I could be an Operations Specialist. They handled the radar on the ships, controlled jets, even talked on the radio. John told me it was a sea-going rating, that I would be out to sea, but could make a lot of extra money by being on a ship. A Journalist would not get that kind of opportunity. Out of desperation, I took the Operations Specialist position, because I would get a guaranteed school, something I needed at the time, with my future wife and child to think of.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity that left my brain struggling to keep up. By August, I had entered the Military Entrance Program and after being poked and prodded, was told that I would not be accepted into the military because I had flat feet, and had recently undergone surgery for a thyroid goiter that meant I would need to take medication. I was devastated, that after all the trouble I had gone to in order to get into the military, I was medically not going to be accepted. My father was with me in the MEPS office, and asked to talk to the medical officer. To this day, I don’t know what he said, but suddenly, my authorization was stamped that I was fit to go into the military. Wow, Dad had come through for me. I left for boot camp in San Diego 3 days later.

More to come…

My Writing Post (Final Installment)

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Our story starts with a unicorn mired not only with thoughts of loneliness but a question forever locked within his mind: Where am I, how did I get here, where am I going?  The unicorn’s quest begins in a magical valley surrounded by high mountains that hide a sparkling lake passable only through the forest which he came.  The coolness of the lake is inviting to the unicorn. Dusty, dry, and tired, the waters of the lake are invigorating, and provide a sense of shelter in what he perceives as a dangerous world.

Like the unicorn, many of us can sometimes find ourselves in what seems like a safe place.  The location may feel safe at times, but in general, it may not be such a safe place to be…as the lake is surrounded by a very dark forest.

It is those perceived dangers that bring out fear in the unicorn, as he imagines the red glowing eyes of many a predator in the dense forest that surrounds the lake.  It is because of those fears that the unicorn begins to run for his life, leaving behind the magic of the lake, to enter the danger of a dark forest.

During a fight or flight situation, we may feel perceived danger.  Our pulse quickens, our heart races, and we decide whether we need to fight or run.

The unicorn runs for several hours until he finally slows down.  Finding himself mired in the sludge of a weed-ridden bog, the unicorn presses forward, ever mindful of a warm fog that begins to envelop him.  And it is in this fog, that the unicorn realizes that his memories are slipping away.  It is only by luck that the unicorn reaches a large tree, its branches withered and bent, surrounded by bouncing lights.  It is not until one of those lights approaches the unicorn that he realizes it is not just a light, but a fairy.

The unicorn meets his first friend, Humbalt (Hŭm-bălt).  A fairy purported to be over 5,000 years old, Humbalt is young for his age, a veritable wisp of a fairy when compared to the general population of the fairies who inhabit the tree, many of whom have ages spanning more than 10,000 years.  He befriends Rosenet, and offers his friendship and guidance so that he can complete his quest.

I decided to use a fairy as a mentor for the beginning of the quest, because he signified a minor thought that pushes Rosenet in a certain, specific direction.  Many times, we may start a major undertaking in our life with a small idea, or action.

Not long after the two have set off on the beginning of their quest, a third traveler is added to their group.  A princess of the kingdom of Matrimé, Pyridee is a strong young woman, who not only enjoys the hunt, but also the beauty of the world around her.  No one knows why she decides to join this group, but the three are a natural fit, the trio that forms the heart and soul of the unicorn’s quest to find his people and once again be reunited with them.

Pyridee epitomizes the new, present day woman.  She is strong, yet possesses a certain kind of fragility, almost worldly, yet naive in many ways.

More to come…

One thing I forgot to mention is that Humbalt is a healing fairy.  Those fairies with healing powers were generally known as “water fairies”.  The area that Humbalt is from is a swamp — thus, this fairy is borne of the water, so is also able to heal.  An interesting point is Rosenet, the unicorn.  His horn is also known as alicorn, known for its curative powers.  In some fantasy stories, as well as true stories, unicorn are hunted by man for their magical curative powers.

Within the next chapters, the three solidify their strength as a group with the addition of two others: Egarot (Egg-ĕ-rō) the griffon, and Anson (Ăn-sŏn) the mischevious, jittery elf.  It is the solidification of this group that allows Rosenet to overcome not only the dangers new lands, but also a persistent creature who attends to thwart their every move, named Sahame (Sĕ-hām).  It is in the second chapter that much of the back story is explained, and why the drive for Rosenet to find his lost people is so great.

Using a griffin and an elf, I drew upon the real meanings behind these types of characters.  The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine. The elf is being used not only as a pivotal character, but in the old English tradition. English folktales of the early modern period commonly portray elves as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities.

The quest continues on until the group meets a very old and wise wizard named Gordoneste (Gōr-don-ĕst).   It is Gordoneste who explains all that happened to the lost tribe that Rosenet seeks, and of the final confrontation that must occur between the unicorn and his adversary, Sahame.  It is because of the final confrontation, that Rosenet’s friends unflinchingly offer their lives for his, faced instead with his imminent death, which Humbalt sacrifices his life, for that of the unicorn.  But the wounds are too great, the pain too grave, until Gordoneste decides to give the unicorn a second chance at life, as what he started; a human being.  In return for life however, is the price one must pay–that Rosenet’s memory will be gone, his life as a unicorn lost in time, forever.

When I saw Gordoneste in my mind’s eye, I pictured a wizened old man who stands as straight as a tree, and is as spry as a young man.  In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the Matter of Britain representing a prime example.

More to come…

So begins the new life of the unicorn, in discovering what it is to be a man…what it is to win, to love, to gain, to lose.  It is this new Rosenet that suffers so many agonies in the pursuit of understanding himself, find the love of his life, losing her to another man.  Frustrated and distraught with pain and grief, he becomes a wanderer, finally regaining the love of one who was lost to him as a unicorn.  And like the cranes, return in spring to find anew, the preciousness of life in all its complexities, taking one day at a time.

The natural spring of life is in all of us.  Some of us prefer to ignore it, others squander it, while still others cherish it.  One look at many FaceBook pages, and you will notice people with hundreds of acquaintances.  Others with perhaps 50, maybe even only 5 or so.  But, if one looks at the numbers of friends that another accumulates, and another that accumulates only a handful, imagine how many lives we all touch…and like the unicorn, how many we can change, for good or ill.

The second book takes up where the beginning of the first book leaves off.  The daughter of Rosenet, convinced by the stories that her father shared with her, vows to herself to free her people on the verge of enslavement.  Her mission is to travel to the far corners of every kingdom in the known land, befriend them, and raise an army to defeat Hautered’s troll army.  This book focuses on Anisse, her quest, and her trials, as she rides forward with a new group, intent on saving a kingdom.

The second book, entitled “From Where the River Wends”, is about the twists and turns in our lives.  It is a quest of one person to win over the hearts and minds of perfect strangers…to ask those people for an offering of their souls, in order to save a small parcel of land, and an otherwise insignificant people.  It is one person’s drive to raise an army, in support of those who cannot; and regain their property, respect and peace of mind. 

The third book finalizes the responsibility of Anisse to raise an army to rescue her father, and restore security and peace to her kingdom.

As a parable to the second book, many discoveries talked about in the first book are “rediscovered” in the third book.  Questions are answered, mysteries unravelled, with a final plot twist that will answer the question, “Will Rosenet survive?”

My Writing Post (Cont. Installment #3)

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Our story starts with a unicorn mired not only with thoughts of loneliness but a question forever locked within his mind: Where am I, how did I get here, where am I going?  The unicorn’s quest begins in a magical valley surrounded by high mountains that hide a sparkling lake passable only through the forest which he came.  The coolness of the lake is inviting to the unicorn. Dusty, dry, and tired, the waters of the lake are invigorating, and provide a sense of shelter in what he perceives as a dangerous world.

Like the unicorn, many of us can sometimes find ourselves in what seems like a safe place.  The location may feel safe at times, but in general, it may not be such a safe place to be…as the lake is surrounded by a very dark forest.

It is those perceived dangers that bring out fear in the unicorn, as he imagines the red glowing eyes of many a predator in the dense forest that surrounds the lake.  It is because of those fears that the unicorn begins to run for his life, leaving behind the magic of the lake, to enter the danger of a dark forest.

During a fight or flight situation, we may feel perceived danger.  Our pulse quickens, our heart races, and we decide whether we need to fight or run.

The unicorn runs for several hours until he finally slows down.  Finding himself mired in the sludge of a weed-ridden bog, the unicorn presses forward, ever mindful of a warm fog that begins to envelop him.  And it is in this fog, that the unicorn realizes that his memories are slipping away.  It is only by luck that the unicorn reaches a large tree, its branches withered and bent, surrounded by bouncing lights.  It is not until one of those lights approaches the unicorn that he realizes it is not just a light, but a fairy.

The unicorn meets his first friend, Humbalt (Hŭm-bălt).  A fairy purported to be over 5,000 years old, Humbalt is young for his age, a veritable wisp of a fairy when compared to the general population of the fairies who inhabit the tree, many of whom have ages spanning more than 10,000 years.  He befriends Rosenet, and offers his friendship and guidance so that he can complete his quest.

I decided to use a fairy as a mentor for the beginning of the quest, because he signified a minor thought that pushes Rosenet in a certain, specific direction.  Many times, we may start a major undertaking in our life with a small idea, or action.

Not long after the two have set off on the beginning of their quest, a third traveler is added to their group.  A princess of the kingdom of Matrimé, Pyridee is a strong young woman, who not only enjoys the hunt, but also the beauty of the world around her.  No one knows why she decides to join this group, but the three are a natural fit, the trio that forms the heart and soul of the unicorn’s quest to find his people and once again be reunited with them.

Pyridee epitomizes the new, present day woman.  She is strong, yet possesses a certain kind of fragility, almost worldly, yet naive in many ways.

More to come…

One thing I forgot to mention is that Humbalt is a healing fairy.  Those fairies with healing powers were generally known as “water fairies”.  The area that Humbalt is from is a swamp — thus, this fairy is borne of the water, so is also able to heal.  An interesting point is Rosenet, the unicorn.  His horn is also known as alicorn, known for its curative powers.  In some fantasy stories, as well as true stories, unicorn are hunted by man for their magical curative powers.

Within the next chapters, the three solidify their strength as a group with the addition of two others: Egarot (Egg-ĕ-rō) the griffon, and Anson (Ăn-sŏn) the mischevious, jittery elf.  It is the solidification of this group that allows Rosenet to overcome not only the dangers new lands, but also a persistent creature who attends to thwart their every move, named Sahame (Sĕ-hām).  It is in the second chapter that much of the back story is explained, and why the drive for Rosenet to find his lost people is so great.

Using a griffin and an elf, I drew upon the real meanings behind these types of characters.  The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. In antiquity it was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine. The elf is being used not only as a pivotal character, but in the old English tradition. English folktales of the early modern period commonly portray elves as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities.

The quest continues on until the group meets a very old and wise wizard named Gordoneste (Gōr-don-ĕst).   It is Gordoneste who explains all that happened to the lost tribe that Rosenet seeks, and of the final confrontation that must occur between the unicorn and his adversary, Sahame.  It is because of the final confrontation, that Rosenet’s friends unflinchingly offer their lives for his, faced instead with his imminent death, which Humbalt sacrifices his life, for that of the unicorn.  But the wounds are too great, the pain too grave, until Gordoneste decides to give the unicorn a second chance at life, as what he started; a human being.  In return for life however, is the price one must pay–that Rosenet’s memory will be gone, his life as a unicorn lost in time, forever.

When I saw Gordoneste in my mind’s eye, I pictured a wizened old man who stands as straight as a tree, and is as spry as a young man.  In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the Matter of Britain representing a prime example.

More to come…

My Writing Post (Cont.)

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Our story starts with a unicorn mired not only with thoughts of loneliness but a question forever locked within his mind: Where am I, how did I get here, where am I going?  The unicorn’s quest begins in a magical valley surrounded by high mountains that hide a sparkling lake passable only through the forest which he came.  The coolness of the lake is inviting to the unicorn. Dusty, dry, and tired, the waters of the lake are invigorating, and provide a sense of shelter in what he perceives as a dangerous world.

Like the unicorn, many of us can sometimes find ourselves in what seems like a safe place.  The location may feel safe at times, but in general, it may not be such a safe place to be…as the lake is surrounded by a very dark forest.

It is those perceived dangers that bring out fear in the unicorn, as he imagines the red glowing eyes of many a predator in the dense forest that surrounds the lake.  It is because of those fears that the unicorn begins to run for his life, leaving behind the magic of the lake, to enter the danger of a dark forest.

During a fight or flight situation, we may feel perceived danger.  Our pulse quickens, our heart races, and we decide whether we need to fight or run.

The unicorn runs for several hours until he finally slows down.  Finding himself mired in the sludge of a weed-ridden bog, the unicorn presses forward, ever mindful of a warm fog that begins to envelop him.  And it is in this fog, that the unicorn realizes that his memories are slipping away.  It is only by luck that the unicorn reaches a large tree, its branches withered and bent, surrounded by bouncing lights.  It is not until one of those lights approaches the unicorn that he realizes it is not just a light, but a fairy.

The unicorn meets his first friend, Humbalt (Hŭm-bălt).  A fairy purported to be over 5,000 years old, Humbalt is young for his age, a veritable wisp of a fairy when compared to the general population of the fairies who inhabit the tree, many of whom have ages spanning more than 10,000 years.  He befriends Rosenet, and offers his friendship and guidance so that he can complete his quest.

I decided to use a fairy as a mentor for the beginning of the quest, because he signified a minor thought that pushes Rosenet in a certain, specific direction.  Many times, we may start a major undertaking in our life with a small idea, or action.

Not long after the two have set off on the beginning of their quest, a third traveler is added to their group.  A princess of the kingdom of Matrimé, Pyridee is a strong young woman, who not only enjoys the hunt, but also the beauty of the world around her.  No one knows why she decides to join this group, but the three are a natural fit, the trio that forms the heart and soul of the unicorn’s quest to find his people and once again be reunited with them.

Pyridee epitomizes the new, present day woman.  She is strong, yet possesses a certain kind of fragility, almost worldly, yet naive in many ways.

More to come…

My Writing Post

In addition to this blog, I am also writing a fantasy book, actually a trilogy.  The next few blog posts will discuss the story at length and what it is about.  I will endeavor to discuss why I wrote each chapter, and why I felt it was important to discuss what I wanted to discuss in the book.

When the Cranes
Return Again in spring:  Synopsis

When the cranes return again in spring is a story not just about one person’s quest, but it is about life’s quest in all of us.

Lorevele (Lōr-ĕ-vel) is a city under siege; its king and his daughter are locked in an argument.  She has a choice she must make, one that could affect the safety of her kingdom forever, while placing her own life in danger.  King Hautered (Haw-těr-id), of Laifetre’ (Lī-ěh-fě-trā) has signed an edict, that a she must marry his son, Gerenoux (zhěr-ěh-nō) within the week, or his mercenary army of 10,000 trolls will march upon Lorevele, and burn it to the ground.  Her father, the great King Rosenet (Roz-ă-nĕt), is opposed to this marriage.  He feels that his daughter must ride out to the four corners of every distant land, bringing together the peoples of every kingdom they have helped, and rally an Army to drive back Hautered’s army of 10,000 trolls into back Laifetre’.  Rosenet’s daughter Anisse (A-nee-săh) is convinced that her duty to her kingdom and her people is to marry Gerenoux, and she only has hours to finalize her decision.

It is rumored that Hautered has made a pact with the troll army.  In exchange for their services in securing the kingdoms of Matrimé (Mĕ-trém), Uvalde (Ū-val-děh), and Zoltanne (Zōl-tan), they would receive the kingdom of Lorevele as payment in kind.  Stories have come from far and wide, describing the brutality and fierceness of this troll army.  Fear has led many families to flee from the kingdom, while others have grimly decided to risk family in defense of their homes.
The debate between father and daughter relaxes for a moment, as Anisse is frightened by the shadows of cranes coming to flight.  Rosenet asks his daughter if he ever told her stories related to the annual migration of the cranes returning in spring.  It is this question that leads to the introduction of a saga that the king shares with his daughter.

The very introduction to When the Cranes Return Again in Spring is based upon change, and our fears that can sometimes be based on how we deal with change.  In asian lore, cranes are considered a sign of longevity.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allāt, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the “three exalted cranes” (gharaniq, an obscure word on which ‘crane’ is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the attacker to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Aristotle describes the migration of cranes in The History of Animals, adding an account of their fights with Pygmies as they wintered near the source of the Nile. He describes as untruthful an account that the crane carries a touchstone inside it that can be used to test for gold when vomited up. (This second story is not altogether implausible, as cranes might ingest appropriate gizzard stones in one locality and regurgitate them in a region where such stone is otherwise scarce)

According to Japanese lore, a wish is granted to anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes. Watch the above video from Asia Society’s Education Department to see how schoolchildren at P.S. 154 in Brooklyn, New York, participating in Students Rebuild’s Paper Cranes for Japan project, got to work folding paper cranes,raising hope, and raising money to help Japan rebuild after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (2 min., 12 sec.).

It is from these myths and legends that When The Cranes Return Again in Spring begins.

More to come…

Working ’til it hurts

It is 12:44 a.m., and I am working on my blog.  We were entertaining a visitor today, so I have not had a lot of time to think about what to write.  Sufficed to say, my eyes are burning, my ideas are not coming to mind and I am sore from head to toe.  On that note, I leave you with a poem that I wrote long ago.  I never entered this poem into any kind of contest, but it is copyrighted.

The Joust

‘Twas upon a field bright and gay,

An errant knight died one day.

For women he held close-at-heart,

One very near, and one apart.

A tournament joust he came to play,

Sporting banners the breeze did flay.

With lance and sword of finest gold,

A champion true, the bards all told.

A lady fair did he enchant,

Admirer of the knight-errant.

Another still as yet untold,

Was yet a love that could unfold.

For promise to the lady fair,

The errant knight did state a care.

Unwed twice his temple woe,

He took her-a maiden-long ago.

Yet, in his heart was lodged a lump,

A savage fever for a trump.

A Queen of Hearts he’d fallen for,

Another dream, unclaimed amor.

Life with either one a charm,

He did not want to give one harm.

So secret his confessed desire,

The Queen of Hearts, his hidden fire.

So ere he went out to the field,

The lady’s pendant he would yield.

And from the Queen of Hearts he shied,

A look of shock and smile to hide.

A bane did he confess to her,

A passion in his heart.

A constant longing did he harbor,

Her love to him impart.

For both alike were the two,

The Queen of Hearts and knight-errant.

Love for the lady too; imbued,

Both were so verdant.

Then forth upon the field to play,

The knight rode out in trumpet’s bray.

Announce to him a good knight won.

An undefeated champion.

Cheers rang out among the crowd,

The deafening din a cry aloud.

To open up the gates of hell,

Which spawned the errant knight’s love spell.

Lances up, both breached each other,

Gloves enclasped, exchange good tide.

The errant knight then turned to smother,

A feel of dread he could not hide.

Love the two he did indeed,

He readied then, his mighty steed.

Trapped he felt, by his heart’s blunder,

Lance low, charged on hooves of thunder.

Fast the adversary came,

In that moment-split, a thought,

Grew into the good knight’s brain:

I can’t have both-Lord give me naught.

Hard hit he was, his helmet struck,

The champion’s lance-his throat had tuck.

Two cries he heard upon the field,

As unto death-grip he did yield.

The Queen of Hearts and lady fair ran out to the knight-errant.

First ired was the lady fair; she took from him her gold pendant,

A look of grief replaced the smile the Queen of Hearts did rend,

And so the errant knight found that the joust was at an end.

‘Fore death’s long sleep to him embraced,

Satisfaction crossed his face.

Seeing glistening tears upon her tress,

He laid his head upon her breast.

Though blessed by the eternal knife,

He’d found the true love of his life.

To him a peace had come to pass,

He’d won his joust-of-love at last.

Copyright 1987  R.M. Almeida

Thinking About Death…

I was looking at old pictures of one of the ships I was on when I was in the Navy, then took a look at what it looks like now.  This is the USS Monticello (LSD-35) where I spent the last part of my first four years in the Navy.  This ship holds a lot of memories for me, horseback riding in Northen Luzon in the Phillippines, the ship being kicked off of the base on the island of Kwajalein, following a major bar fight centering around the sole prostitute on the island, canvassing the WanChai district on a rainy Sunday, or dealing with broken glass on my weatherdeck, the residue from drunkards who had thrown beer bottles on it because they had nothing better to do.

USS Monticello (LSD-35)
USS Monticello (LSD-35) in 1977
USS Monticello (LSD-35) in mothballs
USS Monticello (LSD-35) Present Day (Mothball Fleet)

I felt a kind of emptiness deep inside of me, like a stone sinking to the bottom of a lake.  I suddenly felt cold, lackluster and sad.  There is something about looking at what was once part of your life, now shackled to a cement tomb.  A look inside the ship shows what is left (lockers, etc.) stacked up like cordwood in many a compartment, paint peeling or missing in some places, the compartments cold, lifeless and empty.

The mess deck (present day) where we ate our meals.
Mess deck of the present, where we once ate our daily meals.

The mess deck, where we ate our daily meals, played Bingo every Saturday night, played cards, listened to our boom boxes, or just talked.  This was the social center of the ship, the pulse during the evening, empty during the day as we all worked in our respective spaces.  The colors were bright, the lights brilliant, and the noise incoherent.

Mess Deck (1977)
The Mess Deck -- Social Area of the ship

Like a wake, all I have are the memories of my time aboard the USS Monticello (LSD-35).   I feel a certain loss…an ache in looking at these images, feeling that when I join the rest of the crew that I served with, all our memories will be lost in time.  Like the character, Roy Batty in Blade Runner, we were warriors of a sort.  And when our time comes, I have no doubt that many of us who served on the USS Monticello (LSD-35) will feel like Batty’s character: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.”