Monday, September 1, 2014

Lessons From A Rimfire - You, the Environment, and Darkness that Lurks

I thought about this in early Spring, when the conceit of winter come on days of  false warmth that lure us outside, only to smite the unwary as we have seen time and time again.  I wonder, when people set out on their snowboard, in their truck for that "shortcut", for that trek into the deep forest, do they not sense the shape of disaster that they can not yet see and will not speak of, simply because they think it CAN'T happen, or is it a mindset that it can't happen to THEM?

I thought of it today, the sun shining but the clouds piling up, a rumble from the West, tornado watch in effect.  As I pulled in the drive, eager to get the truck under cover due to the chance of hail I watch "The Lightning Rod Family" down the street, don their helmets, kids included and leave their driveway to go riding off towards a horizon the color of a cast iron skillet.

It's easy to judge events and individuals  in hindsight as armchair warriors are wont to do.  But there's not one of us here that has not ignored that bit of unease.  Taken that risk. Yet we managed to come home safely through simply chance or excess airspeed, having reached that place where the locomotion of a disinterested world accelerates just before that terminal precipice, only to quietly turn away from the edge.

If we are lucky, we learn.  

That is why I'm always always surprised when I go to the outdoor range during the winter months and it's totally deserted.

Certainly, I don't want to go with 30 knot gusting winds and a snow squall. But there are a lot of fairly clear days in the winter, where there may be some snow on the ground but the visibility is decent and the wind is manageable. You will have to dress for it, but then again, I rarely get hot brass down the front of my Nanook of the North Arctic Weight parka.

Perhaps it's just the way I look at things. Shooting as not just recreation, a sport to hone the skills of hand and mind, or to hunt, but as a survival tool.

There are always excuses as to why not train to proficiency. Money, time, family, weather. Some are valid, many are not. You don't have to necessarily practice with the heavy iron. I regularly shoot with a favorite little Ruger rimfire pistol to improve my skills, stance and sight picture. I could shoot a whole ammo can of .22 for the cost of two or three boxes of .good quality 45 (assuming I can find some).

I love the Ruger .22. It's easy to load and use. After I'd fired a few boxes through it,  it didn't misfeed. I can shoot it all day for the cost of an hour with something else. Yet it's often overlooked in the great mall ninja discussions of 9 mm, .40 and .45 loads, relegated to the kiddie table in the kitchen at gatherings of gunnies. Don't think that way.

Is it what I carry for self defense?  No.  But .22 is more than a way to gently introduce someone to shooting, and it's a great way to keep your own defense skills honed when, due to ammo cost or availability, you might otherwise let them slide. Think .22 rimfire will be too easy? Try setting out some targets at 30-50 yards with a crosswind, and your hands freezing cold (no gloves). See how well you do. See how much you learn about ballistics and windage. Not everyone who wants to harm you you is going to stand still, 15 feet away wearing a T shirt with a circle on it, waiting until your warm hand can pull the trigger.

Certainly you want to be familiar with the operation and controls of any firearm you carry for self defense but it's not necessarily about the weapon, it's about YOU, and how you react to threat. It's what you can do, and how fast you can do it, when danger stirs, not yet more than a whisper in the air, a rumor, like thunder in a late afternoon, striking before you expect it.

One of my favorite books is called Deep Survival by author Laurence Gonzales, which is a scientific look at the human factors of survival. Why does someone with just a certain mindset walk out of a situation, where someone else, better equipped and more physical fit, sits down to wait, and dies. I read through it like I'd been waiting for it for years, and it explained much of what I've seen in my life and work. It tells stories anyone would understand and I've given copies of it to friends and family. It not only educated me, but it confirmed the way I looked at the world.

I grew up in the mountains, learning early on that the wilderness is ill suited for the unprepared. Especially at the higher altitudes. At noon you may see just a few white puffs of cloud, smoke signals to those down below that says, come on up and visit. But they hide in that sweet invite to the unwary, unprovoked bursts of violence. For afternoon storms can suddenly build and sweep, fierce air masses that rise and fall in thundering downdrafts, winds forming into sinews of air, thunderstorms looming in shadow, like the spires of an old hall of Justice. You don't' want to be out in the open when one of those hits.

Moving at night is even more treacherous. Even though the moon may light your path, there in the vast darkness fly great birds in the forms of evening storms and winds that deceive. Night predators looking for the small, the weak, ebony wings beating the air, their cry a clap of thunder as they sought their prey, the careless. One misstep as the wind causes you to close your eyes for just a moment, and you may be sent home on a stretcher, or in a box.

Yet the wilderness will always continue its siren call for those that have learned that in traversing its peaks you will pass beyond the borders of the real world into a realm so quietly elemental that it seems otherworldly. There is nothing quite like setting up a small base camp in the mountains, sitting in the dark with a mug of tea while points of lightning struck in the distance, cleaving the atmosphere, separating water and air, pointing out this life of separateness I lead. A journey of shadow and dew, of dreams of light that sparks more than the night, but something within us. It beckons to both the experienced and the naive, as we head outdoors and up, abandoning the drudgery of the cities, repudiating civilizations reaching fingers, as we ascend into a lovers smile of radiant light, flirting with nature.

It's hard to resist. The nights quiet freedom around a campfire, the day's flaws hidden in the ebony of velvet night. Waking up to a new day of exploration. The high mountain air was a substance whose ethereal beauty so entranced me that on those long hikes alone, I had to remind myself to check my bearings and the time, as I knew that getting lost out there might be deadly.

For when your soul is entranced it is easy to go down a path you otherwise would not have, sometimes with consequences you never foresee. It doesn't have to be the woods or the desert, it can be a job, it can be the desire for a possession, it can be a relationship, those directions we take with the best of intentions that lead to a path overgrown with dark roots, sunk deep, that grab at your ankles as you try and decide which way to go to save yourself, with nothing to guide you but the unrelenting earth, discomposing and harsh.

It can happen to the most experienced of people. The trail disappears, the sky goes dark with a sudden turn in the weather, clouding familiar landmarks. You set out with the best of intentions when the small frayed tether between you and civilization is broken. Even in familiar territory, it can happen. The Boy Scouts say "be prepared" for a reason. If you can't take some minor preparations to provide for and protect yourself if something unexpected happens, you need to stay home. Being "lost" may not kill you, but being without shelter, food, and needed medical attention will.

Prepare for change, especially the weather. The weather now may not be the weather in 8 hours. Look at the forecast. In the wilderness, trust the weather forecast in the summer like you would  a politician.  Trust the weather forecast in the winter like that "looking for the love of my life" guy on with the wedding ring, hook for a right hand and eye patch.

Wear clothing in layers, peel them off as the temperature dictates, but you'll have them if you need them. Resist the urge to not take something worthy of "overnight warmth" because you're not planning on being out all night. The wild notwithstanding, don't travel with a light or no jacket in the winter just because you're going from your sheltered parking garage to directly into your garage at home.  A few years back a few motorists in Colorado died for that very reason.

Carry a compass, they're small and take little space. Always have matches and a lighter. Keep them dry. I took a course in survival where we were given a scenario that we'd been in a helicopter crash (bad weather, mountains) and had only a dozen items available from the crash scene. We had to rank them in order of their use. The match/lighter was my first pick. If you get hypothermia, the map, aspirin, Spam and string won't help, but they'll have their uses.

Shelter, warmth, water. You can get by for a surprisingly long time with just those. Always bring more water than you think you will drink and drink what you need to stay hydrated. Refill the bottle(s) if able. Don't consume snow, it takes away body heat and may cause internal cold injuries. Take a small metal cup or tin to melt snow for drinking by your fire. When ice is available, melt it before snow. A cup of ice yields more water than a cup of snow.

Keep to a trail. Without tools or experience, straying from a trail far away from civilization is about as smart as getting the Quiki Mart sushi. Just as you can drown in an inch of water, the novice can get lost in only 5 minutes of off trail "exploration" when they suddenly find mother nature is not as cuddly as they expected

If you don't want to post your schedule at a ranger station, tell a neighbor, family or a friend where you are going and when you will be back. A simple phone call you can keep a short outing from being permanent.

Carry a whistle, the sound will carry if someone is looking for you. But remember, it won't work on a rapist in the woods any better than it will work on one in a  deserted parking lot at 2 a.m. Pack a small flashlight or take  a headlamp and always extra bulbs/batteries for light or a signal. A knife is a must, no matter how short of a trip, even a small one or Swiss Army style, is better than nothing.  Good quality blades don't have to cost an arm and a leg.
 If signaling for help, select a site close to your shelter such as a clearing, shoreline or hilltop, where visibility is good. A search will probably start from your last known location and sweep over your proposed route. During the day, you could also use a signal mirror, your belt buckle, any shiny device can work. If you are using a fire to signal, and not just for warmth, build three fires in a triangle or in a straight line about 100 feet apart. Three fires is a recognized distress signal. Stay put if you know others will be aware you are missing and in what general area. Have a bright piece of clothing to wear or use as a signal, bright colors show up well against the snow.

As for shelter, you'd be surprised what you can do with just a poncho and a few bungee cords. Lacking that, there is a whole forest full of building material provided you start before dark.  Sticks, logs, stones, leaves and even moss. Build against another object, like a felled tree, rock face, etc., creating a sturdy base with movable stones or logs. Insulate all but one peephole with moss, leaves, mud or snow to retain and hold in the heat from your own body.

If dark is fast approaching, look for natural shelters, such as the large spreading roots of a tree, the hollow on the leeward side of a log or fallen boughs that are sturdy or can be lashed together to reinforce them. Branches can form a lean-to or extra cover, leaves on top can help shed rain. If you have no time for even this, seek shelter in a ditch or behind something, out of the wind. bedding down on dry materials to keep the ground from sapping your heat (aren't you glad you brought your coat and hat? ) 
Few people think about survival, beyond having money for cable. They don't think about a peek at the updated weather when they're only driving 40 miles. They don't think "I should have gone to the range more" until they hear the crack of wood as the front door of their home is broken down. Look at the victims of violence who, by force or choice, remained defenseless, or stand on the side of the mountain and gaze at a young couple dead, not from the accident, which was survivable, but from simply not having warm clothing or survival gear because it was just a day trip. Both scenes will equally haunt your sleep.

I don't spend my day in fear's blind crush, that breath-stealing conviction that things are always going to be worse. But I am prepared for the transgressions against my safety for which the only penance may be the discharge of lead. For I'm well aware that on any given day, there is no guarantee that when we breathe out we're going to breathe back in again.

I like to lay the odds in my favor, which is why, in addition to knowing basic outdoor survival, I know the basics of survival in small country town or big city.

I carry a firearm. I also carry the mindset that I can use it, and I will use it, without hesitation or fear, if necessary to protect my life.

Mindset is everything. Anxiousness can be replaced by calm, and even when a challenging situation occurs, often fluid as nature, there's usually a way around it, if you keep your head. If you can keep calm, you have more options, ones that can keep you safe and renew your faith. Not a blind faith that all will be well, that feeling has been the death of more than one intrepid weekend warrior, but the faith that gives us the courage to venture onward, to fight back. You will have the blessed understanding that although nothing is fixed, as long as you are breathing and have a few basic tools that you know how to use, you can survive more than you know.

Whether I am in the woods or walking alone across a dark parking lot, my gun is beside me, tangible and honest and real. Like all the tools I use, if I care for it and treat it right, it will not fail me; it's an affirmation of trust in a web of iron and wood. The slap of my gun against my hip as I stride deeper away into the trees or across fields of pavement is a constant, like the sound of a beating heart to a baby, comfort in the dark.

Some say we are safe in our nation's parks, just as they say we should be safe in small town America. Despite the country setting, and red white and blue speckled mailboxes, there is no truly safe place anymore, especially for a woman. Though there are certainly more crimes where more people live or where the the law-abiding are disarmed, the heart of evil roams equally at will through asphalt and country roads. Predators are among us, watching from a line at the corner market, waiting in the darkness of a rural parking lot or that untraveled, unbeaten path. Waiting for that sign, that manner, that tells them that you are un-toothed and un-fanged, a soft and vulnerable target.

When the day is done, I stop and set up camp for the night; with darkness coming down, I know it's not safe to continue. I might be in a tent in the wilderness. I might be alone in a small home, readying a fire to keep me warm. I ready my safety, and set my fire, looking down at the cord of muscle in my hands, strong yet delicate, holding the match, precious source of warmth, buried deep in my jacket. That one inch piece of sulfur tipped wood will last longer than memory or grief, its flame, so tiny, one bright flash in the darkness, is fiercer than bravery or regret. I have my tools. I have courage and will. I have found my own means of deep survival. It is within me, where it was all along.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blog Meet!

It was Indianapolis Blog Meet weekend.  Being the holiday weekend, quite a few folks were out of town, but we still had a pretty good group today after the Indy 1500 Gun Show.

Tam, Old Grouch, Roberta, Kerry (our long-standing official lurker), anonymous analytical chemist "I get paid to clean out the inside of capsules"--which had us all cracking up at his descriptions of working for a pharmaceutical company (we do hope you'll come to the next one), Partner in Grime and Nathan (otherwise known as Fuzzy Curmudgeon), as well as Og and Mad Saint Jack.

And Clifford, the Big Red Watch.
Of course, you tend to get the looks with one member in the group when you're around in public around a lot of geeks. . .with the "Is he or isn't he?"
Don't ask him when the next book is coming out.  He won't kill you, unless you ask him when the next book is coming out.

I handed out some bumper stickers I made to the Dr. Who fans in the crowd -
Seriously, it never lands on anyone, always on an empty street, with a flat surface.

Then it was time for the important item on the agenda - ordering beer!
Broad Ripple Brew Pub has some great handcrafted beers.  Partner offered to be designated driver, so I went for the Lawn Mower Pale Ale, which is a refreshing, low alcohol brew, perfect for a hot day (we won't mention the time I had two pints of that, only to find out I'd been served high alcohol IPA and the next thing you know I'm River Dancing at Roseholme Cottage!)

Then the food arrived, including their famed fish and chips and assorted appetizers (the giant pretzel with sharp cheese sauce and Indiana stone ground mustard pictured below.)
For some of us, this was going to be an early dinner.

The Brisket Sandwich with Bacon.  That's in-house smoked beef brisket piled on a bun smeared with pimento cheese and topped with applewood smoked bacon, sautéed red onions and their very own southern style beer BBQ sauce.
MMMM  Bacon.
The Brew Pub Build your Own Pizza.  I had chopped garlic, olive and pineapple.  Yes, that's an individual pizza.  I'd intended to take half of it home.  Somewhere that plan went awry.
Tam replaced the pineapple with jalapenos on  hers.
Taking up much of one wall of the pub, the conversations were flying in every direction possible.  Down on our end, Roberta and I were having a rousing discussion on Banana Slugs (Ariolinuzx columbianu G) and how you can mark them for research by branding them with little branding irons made out of 1 mm diameter copper wire fastened to plastic shafts and then freeze branding the slugs, like little slimy cattle, by immersing the branding head into liquid nitrogen for a few minutes.  Much giggling started over slug branding, the dangers then of slug rustling, but no one actually broke out singing "Happy Trails", at least until that second beer.

Down on the other end of the table I'm not sure what was going on but I heard, as Tam said, the most statistically improbable statement of all time with "I know the man who invented the licking robot!" and in the middle of the table,  "there was some guy  at the gun show selling powdered magnesium (mumble mumble) well. . it's Indiana. . . (mumble mumble). . and he can!" and then the conversations skewed and shot back out into the stratosphere again.
Not everyone was in the photo, but here's most of the usual suspects.

We also talked about some of the cool firearms that are going to be donated to a raffle for the Honoring Veterans Afield organization at Gun Blogger Rendezvous, including a little Winchester 74, fully restored by Partner in Grime, and a beautiful Mark III Hunter from Ken Jorgensen of Ruger that's in the Range safe for now, as well as others (click on the link for more information.)

Tam brought us all issues of Concealed Carry Magazine, her articles and the rest of the contents always a learning experience and a pleasure to read. Everyone commented on how polished and professional the publication looks as it has evolved over time, editor Kathy Jackson doing an outstanding job there, as is Tam, as a regular writer.  I had a couple of The Book of Barkley for some folks that might want an author autographed copy, and Kerry brought some fresh eggs from their homestead to share with our hostess.

Sorry, not Scotch Eggs, regular eggs.  Boy, those look good!
These are Scotch Eggs.  A hard boiled egg encased in sausage, breaded and deep fried with a creamy garlic ranch sauce to dip them in.

Then, as iced tea and waters were refilled and Roberta had this amazing gingerbread looking dessert with ice cream, the conversation went to engineering, several in the group being the sort that understand such things (and that pre-1920 electric motors can blow up transformers if started improperly, don't ask us how we know.) It was not a surprise that many of us were nodding our heads to someone saying  "It's all fun and games until the arcing starts."
Too soon, the food was done the games all over. It was time to head home, to a black lab that would be wanting to be fed, preferably one of those Brisket Sandwiches.

Thanks everyone, for the fun afternoon!
My people are home - and no, I wasn't in the kitchen snooting for crumbs.

Bullets and Biscuits

It's Indy 1500 gun show weekend, so there's lots going on and a lot of friends in town. So I didn't miss out on the fun, Partner drove down from the Range and is spending the weekend at the crash pad with me while someone watches our place, so he can go to the blog meet this afternoon.

Til then, Sunday morning thanks and praise is a little nicer with homemade biscuits!

White Lily flour made with soft winter wheat and minimal kneading is the secret to light as a feather, tall, southern style buttermilk biscuits. It's hard to find around here, Meijer stores usually carries it though.

2 cups self rising white Lily flour
1/4 lard (yes, lard, the real thing, not Crisco which is full of transfats)
2/3 cup buttermilk (or milk with a dash of lemon juice in it, let sit 5 minutes)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Cut lard into flour until the fat is smaller than baby peas.
Mix in milk just until it pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Knead on floured board 2 - 3 times,  cut into 8-12 biscuits and place very close together on a baking pan.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Serve with butter, honey or preserves and BACON!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Canines - Fill in the Blanks

click on picture to enlarge

Nouns -  gun safe, ball, friend, couch potato, shoe, wiener, pot-roast, beer, toy, hippie, pointer, mailman, playmate, shepherd, bone, doghouse, toy.

Adjectives:  floppy, miniature, hyper, happy, difficult, stinky, farting, smart, shedding, loyal, protective, hairy, short-haired, caffeinated, furry, playful, napping

Adverbs:  silently, loudly, cunningly, slowly, quietly, sleepily, cuddly, lazily, hysterically, hesitantly, quickly, skillfully, exuberantly.

Color:   black, white brown, red.

Number:  Not nearly enough     

There's no good word for this - Abby can sleep anywhere!

Friday, August 29, 2014

On Origins

We sometimes go through our whole lives maintaining a single belief.  Some is written in the Good Book, some scribed on our heart or etched in tears.

Some are tales to be told.  My daughter Brigid Jr., as she is known here, was adopted into a family with a Native Hawaiian mother, after I had her as a teen. She is quite adept at Hula (which is NOT the grass skirt number you see at the bar by the Honolulu airport - THAT, my friends, is a Tahitian dance). Hula is living history in an art form.  For Hawaiian history was oral history, It was codified in genealogies and chants, which were memorized and passed down, generation after generation. In the absence of a written language, this was the only available method of ensuring accuracy. Chants told the stories of creation, mythology, royalty, and other significant events and people.
Such were the stories of my beginning, adopted out of a bad situation.  When asked as to my background and genealogy, Mom told me what she said she had been told by the caregivers who placed us with them.  I was just like she and Dad and would look like them, predominately Irish (with maybe a tiny bit of Scot) and lots of Scandinavian, like her. The eye slant?  That was said to be a bit of Native American, not hard to believe, given where I was born, with a high Northwest Indian population.

I identified my whole life with being Irish/Scandinavian. I was proud of whatever tiny bit of Native American blood I carried, volunteering and donating time and money to help some of the elders in that community.  That was my history, that was my belief, for fifty years. My daughter and granddaughters inherited the same unique slightly slanted, almond shape eyes, some thinking the little ones holding some Polynesian blood except for their blue eyes and  blond, blond hair. We'd laugh and say "no, we think they have a little Cree or something, we're not sure."

It was what it was, and I put my origins and questions behind me. I learned to make the dishes of my grandmothers, I learned the languages and the culture, just as my daughter has learned the culture and the language of the Hawaiian Islands (hearing a 6 foot tall redhead speaking fluent Hawaiian always gets some attention).
For it was my history, as I had no history; no one had tried to find me, no family remaining of blood. I tried the various sorts of Internet adoption searches after Mom had died.  But the trail was not just cold, there was no trail; no bread crumbs strewn to find my way, no one seeking me but the taste of ash upon the tongue.

So again, I  put it behind me and just enjoyed what I had, which was a wonderful family that loved me, a Big Brother who protected me and was my best friend.   I shared their hearts, I shared their heritage. I always filled out my "what race are you?" on applications as either "human", if it was fill-in-the-blank, or "white", for all I had was smoke and myth.
Besides I've always been a firm believer in hiring someone because of their skill set, not their color or gender.  I perfected Irish soda bread and colcannon, I crafted intricate Swedish pastries at Christmas time.  I learned that about any fish is good if you dip it in beer batter, fry it and serve it with chips and Guinness.

But I went ahead recently and had some genetic DNA testing done, if anything, to tell my daughter and two tiny granddaughters a bit more about their heritage, when they are old enough to understand.  It was an extremely reputable provider of this service, and not quick or cheap.
Big Bro and I with Grandma Gullikson (I look excited, as always, to be in a dress)

I got the results today.

I don't think anyone intentionally lied. I just think the placement folks didn't know and made up what sounded good to my prospective adoptive parents.  It was that or  my Mom said what she thought would comfort me, as in the beginning of our journey as a family, having come from a place where, as an baby, I screamed if anyone tried to pick me up to hold or comfort me.  I felt very much out of place.

The tests aren't perfect, and they certainly won't tell you who you are related to, but simply compare your DNA against known samples in the database for each area, comparing your DNA against those to come up with a primary geographic affiliation (where you share the same DNA traits  with the largest number of people).

I couldn't have been more surprised at the outcome.

For I don't have Irish blood. None. There's a slight possibility of a little Norwegian blood but only slight, and some other tiny percentages of regional DNA match scores including Welsh, and the UK. But no Irish.  In actuality, the regional DNA match score was predominately, from one country of the world. Not Ireland. Close, but no cigar.
Scotland, originating most likely in the Strathclyde area but possibly also from the Glasgow or Dundee area. My biological parents had remarkably similar Allele's in the Autosomal STR profile so they were likely of the same ethnic background, just with parents or grandparents (or so on) from a different part of Scotland.

But what about  that second, and not miniscule, area?--that measurable piece of something that perhaps gave me my unique facial features, and was not Native American as was claimed by those that passed on my history to me.

It was Ashkenazi Jewish (Budapest, Hungary)

Color me surprised. 
For tonight folks, I'm just going to sit here and think upon what we believe, and how fragile it is; rolling it around on my tongue trying to  taste the sweetness of it.  I'll sit and look as the night approaches, pondering the nature of half glimpsed truths; of the mournful stillness of wanting to belong, of the little death of losing something that you never held. I'll pour a small finger of amber liquid and gaze slowly at a glowing candle, a flame never wide enough to embrace the whole world, but large enough to sum up in glowing light, this one small soul, in one small corner of it. 

Still hate Haggis though.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Important Update on The Book of Barkley

Folks, just an FYI that the Book of Barkley is going to second print.  Obviously, being a total unknown, they didn't print up all that many for the first run, but I think most of you that ordered, have got your copies though I have heard from a couple folks that Amazon sold out.  I have appreciated the feedback, and the online reviews (And Tango Juliet--the mailed card with just the words "GREAT BOOK!" and the Pet Smart gift card meant the world).

But, as much as I appreciate your reviews, as I have asked  before, please do NOT mention or link this blog in them or use my HOTR name.

For both professional and personal reasons (related to my privacy and safety given my line of work), I do not wish to so easily direct people who might see the name LB Johnson, or the book title (which my employer had to vet) to this website and a daily run down of my activities and location.  

So please, review the book on it's own merits,  as a stand alone effort and the author as that--an author not a blogger.  I'm proud of this little place, but I'd really appreciate that.

I wrote the book in six weeks after both Barkley and Big Bro died, weeks apart.  It was healing for me in a lot of ways. Quite a few of the stories had been in the blog, but were greatly expanded upon. A lot of it was totally new, and it all had to be tied together to form some sort of story.  Honestly, without your encouragement, I don't think I could have ever done that.

Dad just finished his copy tonight, and he was in tears when he called, in a good way.  For it's not just a story about a dog; it's about the redemption of faith and family and what makes us who we are.  It meant a lot to him. I'm sorry Big Bro wasn't with us long enough to see it in print as much as I rushed to make that happen;  but I'm so glad Dad was.
With the second print, I was able to correct a few typos and issues with punctuation (let's just refer to it as a semicolon-oscopy) that both the copy editor, beta readers and I missed (I cried a lot when I edited it, and frankly, I was rushing to get it out  in print before Big Bro passed).  But, with the help of my dear, and long time pre-HOTR friend, GigiK, we got those fixed.  That's a good thing, but the book may not be available for 10-11 days from today and anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks for the updated electronic version. 

BUT- in the interim,  I do have 40 copies here of the first print that I can autograph and send, during that second printing. 

If you want one, send $15 in cash or Money Order made out to LB Johnson to the Wild Hare Enterprises address below  with your mailing address and any special requests as far as the autograph. That covers only my personal cost of the book, packaging and shipping; there will be no money earned on these, a thanks for your support and patience to the first 40 of you that take me up on it. 

This is a dear friends address and they will get the requests to me weekly and will ensure the autographed books get out promptly:

Wild Hare Enterprises
1101 Cumberland Crossing Drive, #307
Valparaiso, Indiana  46383

Again, thank you for your  encouragement and public support as I try and go from blogger to "Dammit Jim I'm a writer, not a Doctor".  You all helped get me through a really hard time and are making sure that memories of my family members, both two and four footed are not forgotten. - Brigid

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scents of Memory

I choose many things by the scent of them. Scent is the key part of taste. People that lose their sense of smell often lose their enjoyment of food. Smell is transport or torment, as simple as hunger, as complex as love. Scent is memory, simply the whiff of something takes us back.

It doesn't take much to take me back. The smell of  Revlon Charlie perfume, worn the six months I spent in London on an assignment years ago where I bought some in an apothecary, the fresh clean air smell of raw corn silk, brushing my nose as I waited in an Indiana blind. Rosemary baking on bread and the floral steam scent that was my Mom hand ironing everything in our house, including the sheets, while I played with my little Tonka trucks underfoot. Waking up now, the faint scent of shampoo and Ivory soap on my pillow.

The smells of childhood are all their own, be it your own childhood or that of your children. Clean milky skin, the scent of fresh grass, bicycle oil and band aids, the bite of apple in a school lunchbox, soap bubbles and Hershey's chocolate. The teen years are simply a smell of angst, gangley legs and sweat, locker rooms, Right Guard deodorant, burnt rubber, that lay as real today as that of a dead red rose that lay between the pages in a book for so long, the scent of which, to this day, rends your heart like a veil.
Then the smell of a hospital, a smell I hate to this day, watching someone become more and more body and less and less self, until the self was so wrapped up in pain all that was left was the body, wasting away, releasing its scent to the room. Yet I could still hug them and could still smell, if only in my mind, the warmth of cookies, the smell of Wind Song perfume and baby shampoo. Not for me, an end like that, lay me out where I smell only fresh rain or motor oil, release me to the wild, to become part of it, then never look back.

Scents are like colors, bringing back memories some would wish swept away. Crayons, Flesh and Indian Red, colors not politically incorrect, and soon bleached to remove possible offense. Just as some mask the breathy clean musk of natural beauty with too much powder and perfume, covering up that which is innately desirable. But scent, like colorful crayons, remains vivid in memory, drawing horizons on pieces of paper that went back home to that kitchen that smelled of perfume and cinnamon.

I can still walk through my childhood home and take in those scents, of yeast and meat, spice and coffee, tracing them with my noise through alleyways of retrospection, cataloging them with the smells of other things, marionberry pie, fresh bread and fresh cotton, the exhaust of a muscle car.
There are scents that in just one moment, take us back to a place, a single, distinct point of time.

The scent of a newborn baby, there one moment and gone, hanging in the air with that inexplicable note of deliberate grief.  The scent of the wind as you race down a hill on the back of a motorcycle, your hands around the waist of your sibling, not yet having the capacity to weigh the consequences as you race on down towards your future, the tang of the sea in the air. The scent of the garden, there as you lay in bounty for one too old to do it any longer, hands down in rich soil that is a door to a  treasure you have in your keeping, buried down deep within you.

The oily jet smell of a turbine engine blowing up and out from the hot eternal darkness of a engine, the odor rising like flame and blowing cleanly back, across tarmac. You never forget that odor, the vivid, dead perfume that is a dinosaur cooked on a kerosene stove, coating everything it touches.
That particular smell followed me throughout the years. The air smells like brimstone, upon the disembodied plane of it, our shadows move, walking in grids, slowing, not stopping, as if our shadows only congealed for a moment, in proximate musings.

There are nights aloft, breathing deep, the warm drowsing air of late summer, empty of geese and full of stars, hands upon the wheel casually, yet within the fingers, wrists and elbows slumbering forever the capacity for flight.

We fly out across a vast expanse of water, our eyes looking out ahead, from below, the silent watch of drowned sailors shadows, water moving like breath, breathing in and out to the sea and beyond. Gravity weighs us down like anchors, our craft fighting the eddies and currents of the fronts swift passing. In the windshield are the reflections of those eyes, scanning, taking in the gauges, the small tics of EPR and fuel flow. The scent of crisp cotton and leather brings back that reflection, that past; my eyes then, that are my eyes now, the eyes of a child and an ancient, one who looks at everything as if it is new, one who has seen so much death that they will never be alone.

That coppery smell of blood for me, is not just a smell of maturation, it's a visceral journey to those places I've stood, the blaze of remaining fire swimming in my eyes like two tiny torches, daring me to tear up. I don't, I can't. Not here, not now. The tears will travel back, harsh, sparse swift drops, brought back with the scent of soundless explosions and cold fire, to be gathered up into a sealed red container, where they remain as I drive home.
So many smells, some that comfort, some that cause your eyes to well up, some that are a soft blow to the heart, a scent that lingers on the tongue, hanging invisible even when the air is washed clean, sticking to your skin to later be drawn in deep as tears are released. You think of it and dream of it and turn cold and hot in the remembering air.

The stale air in a bedroom, the smell of sleep laying deep in your throat as your brain refuses to rest. You watch someone sleeping, looking at that exposed place on their neck where the sheet and their hair almost meet, the skin laying pale in the moonlight. Flesh, bridging a contrast between soft silky hair that smells faintly of Sandalwood and the sheets pure smell of crisp softness. You place your lips on that space of skin, inhaling softly and deep, breathing in the balm of future tears.

But, there are other smells, so many smells now, that bring only smiles. The smell of wet dog, soaked and tireless, rushing from the water that beads on his dense fur, as slow as chilled glycerin. The smell of green, as the wheels of an airplane pull away from it, the length and breadth of life measured in the takeoff run on a freshly mowed runway. Garlic baking, a peppery meat infused scent of Merlot poured into glasses at lunchtime, stealing away from work and duty for a few days of leave in a city foreign of sight and scent, dim sum and sourdough, the salty scent of an oceans' release.

There is the smell of fresh bluing, the smell of the first handgun I ever bought. I held it, taking in the deep blued finish that seemed to hold all reluctant light and breath, feeling the weight in my hand, the scent of cold steel bracing me. Then I simply stepped up and fired it. A single shot, in which a lifetime lay behind me. A single shot, upon the bare and pock marked wall, the shadow of its form shuddered in what was not the wind, but my own trepidations, until holding it steady, I squeezed the trigger with one intake of virgin breath.
In that moment, in the rich, trembling roar of its power, the trepidation fell behind and I knew that this would be one desire that would stay with me always. In that moment, the sounds and smell of every old hunting rifle I had ever shot came in that single converging brace of gunpowder smell and noise that was that moment, spoiling me for anything else.

So many smells, so many memories. The clink of glasses; the smell of fresh cut flowers slain by way of sacrifice to the days celebration.  Their scent lay like a seal applied on the words that bound us that day.  Friends that gathered, then said their goodbyes, the smoky hush of a candle going out, the soft rustle of scented silk as the light lay down with the dusk.

So many scents, so many memories. Food and wine, gunpowder and grief. And love; all of it intertwined, the power and the need of it all. I wonder what scents tomorrow will bring to store up for later? The rain has passed, a deep cleansing rain that's washed from the sky all burden and need. I open the window just an inch, curtains inhaling in and out with the scent of fresh air that is as new as the day.

Outside is the scent of earth, of life that continues on. It hangs on the air, waiting to be breathed in deep.
 - Brigid