The Tree

The meadow is beautiful, tall grass, wild blueberries
And beyond the wood calls to me as it has so many times before.
The trees, cedar and pine, stand tall and strong
Only giving slightly to the late day’s wind.

I slowly walk through the meadow, enjoying the warmth
Of the sun upon my face and the scent of the grasses
Plying my nostrils and playing with my child’s memory, they
Brush gently beneath me giving soft cushion to my feet.

My path through the wood is in front of me and my endless
Curiosity takes me towards it, then on it
Leading me into the sweetness of the piney balsams
And the strength of the ashes and oaks.

A blue jay screeches overhead calling to his mate
As the dove coos gently so to sooth the very wood itself.
A lady slipper creeps into view on my right and then
On my left a rhododendron, soft white flower adorned.

I have taken this route many times into these woods
And even knowing the great pines towering above me
Block more and more of the sun’s light till one marvels
The light can make its way to the wood’s floor through cover so deep.

The dampness of the wood touches my skin reminding me
Of a recent rain and its reluctance to give up its quenched thirst.
Still I walk forward feeling drawn inward to a point yet unknown
And even so knowing I must continue until it is found.

As I look up of a sudden a giant oak more dead than alive
Jumps into my path blocking my way and forcing my stop.
The path should go to its left or to its right but I cannot see
Any sign of such though surely there it must be.

I look up at the tree and it down at me, its once limbs
Now knotted reminders upon its bark, its dead branches
Memories of younger days, sunnier days, when oak did
Reign supreme and all around gave way to its might.

Now bitter for those days the oak defied my passing daring
Me to go around to one side and then to the other but
Somehow, each time, blocking my way, pushing me back
Forcing me to stay and causing to fret for what I must do.

It is but a tree, and more dead than alive, I can surely go
Around it at will and laugh at it as I do for I am its better
And I am stronger and it will not have its way with me, no
It will not gain league over my will.

I see the roots just above the ground readying to trip me as
I try to pass but I am smarter and will but step over them
And gain freedom from the will of the tree and show it now
And forever that I am the control, you can see in my brow.

No, this is not the way to do it, I know this now and must
Reconsider my move lest the tree reach out and grab me and
Take me its prisoner. No, I will wish the tree to dust
And I will prevail for I have been told I have strength, it must be.

So I pull deep inside me the forest air and prepare to do battle
With my foe for I will defeat him and in glory I will pass it
And give it a look that will wilt it and shake it and keep it at bay
For I have the knowledge to always have my way.

Yes I will move against the tree now but wait what has happened?
The carpet beneath has entrapped me and holds me still, I cannot
Move, it has taken my will. How dare it do this to me, how can
It do this to me, I am not wrong, am I not?

The tree bends it branches towards me to grab me and take me
Its knotty grin staring at me and chiding me to retreat but I will
Not be bested, I don’t have to go back, I can just stand there.
No tree can defeat for it has not the power, no, not anywhere.

The tree has gained allegiance from its fellow tall pines that
Stand to its sides, guardians of the way, protectors of the tree.
I look to their top but that I can’t see and now what of me,
Me and this tree?

I cannot allow this to happen, the tree’s anchor will not let it
Have dominance over my person for I am not threat
To its well-being tho now it has grown wider and darker.
It laughs at me where I stand, taunting, I hear it louder.

I can go back, I need not care about this tree, it will not follow, It will never have me. Perfection is my plan and I grin at the thought
That I can turn my back on it, this tree, right now as I ought.
I turn, no, it won’t let me, it holds me, it casts a spell.

I feel my chest and what is it which makes my heart so thump now.
My breathing is deep and I can feel the heavy furrow of brow.
The spell is so evil so strong and consuming, how did it gain entry
Into me so quickly and take my person away from mine of sentry.

It has replaced my joy with fear and cast its ugly pall
So I may not be happy, no, not happy at all.
I no longer remember for what brought me here
Yet now I am trapped, oh Lord, how the fear!

I beg the tree its mercy and a grant of its clemency so I might
Continue my journey to where, now think as I fight
I know I must be going, yes, sure I know where and now I will travel
And leave behind my fear before I unravel.

Oh no! Its branches have caught me and now I am its prisoner
For it will have its way with me, yes, no, I don’t know any more.
Start up in the bed, straight and tall I do sit feeling my mind race in a fit The pain in my chest now tells me it was real but the tree, what became of it?


Getting Sober in Your 20s — Part 2

Alcoholism and addiction are the diseases that will tell you that you do not have them.  The irony of the problem is that recovery from the disease does not require any expensive medication.  Still, it is a doctor who will absolutely confirm the diagnosis but the treatment, abstinence, seems somehow unacceptable to the individual in its clutches.  The rationalization that cutting back or controlling is all that is needed comes to the forefront.  But that is the lie the disease whispers into the ear of the afflicted.

Our society, to this day, is uncomfortable with the idea of alcoholism and addiction.  The picture that gets painted is one of old men who are either one step away from homelessness or already there as being the hallmark of most alcoholics.  And while it is true that those nearing homelessness and in its grips so frequently do suffer from the disease, the reality is that they make up only a very small percentage of all alcoholics in society today.  There is no such thing as being too young to be an alcoholic or too smart.  Alcoholics are frequently high functioning fully employed individuals.  It crosses all races, religions, nationalities, educational and socio-economic states.  It is sneaky, insidious and deadly.

The following are the 20 questions developed by Johns Hopkins University to help the individual with the identification of alcoholism.  Take a minute to read through them and see how many apply to you.

1    Have you lost time from your work because of your drinking?
2    Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3    Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4    Is drinking affecting your reputation?
5    Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
6    Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
7    Do you turn to lower companions or environment when drinking?
8    Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
9    Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10    Do you want a drink the next morning?
11    Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
12    Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
13    Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14    Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15    Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
16    Do you drink alone?
17    Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
18    Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19    Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
20    Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

And their conclusion is: If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.
If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.

Please remember, the above is the conclusion of experts in the field of alcoholism and addiction.

Below are 5 video which were created by Alcoholics Anonymous.  In the videos you will hear from people under 30 who will tell you about their alcoholism, what it looked liked, what happened, and what they have done.

Young People’s Videos

1. On the Beach Flash Player
2. Alcoholics Anonymous Flash Player
3. Young People’s Animation VideoFlash Player
4. 25 and Under New Flash Player
5. A Group of People Just Like Me New Flash Player

If you have more questions about alcoholism and Alcoholics anonymous follow this link:

You should also feel free to contact me.

Forgiving Jane Fonda

In July 1972, Jane Fonda visited Hanoi North Vietnam.  For this essay her reasons are irrelevant.  Her actions were clearly illegal and she was not punished for them, at least by U.S. legal authority.  But to understand what motivated such actions by anyone in those days means understanding our country at the time.  Our country was war weary, racially divided, and coming out of the closet.

I do not know what made my generation want to turn the world on its head, but it did.  We were born during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, had parents, even those who voted Democrat, who were rather conservative.  Sex was taboo and dugs consisted entirely of marijuana and LSD.  That was the view, anyway.  It was not entirely true, of course, but it was the prevailing sentiment.

In the 1960s our standards of dress changed radically when the Beatles grew their hair out, the skimpy bikini tested the beaches, miniskirts were a fashion statement, and women burned their bras.  In the background you could hear Bob Dylan singing “The times they are a changing.”  Political activism grew out of our college campuses as students said we should make love and not war, Dr. Timothy Leary (PhD Yale) told us to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”  Aside from getting high and dropping out of mainstream society, I am not entirely sure of the meaning  behind his message.  But he was one “authority” the generation listened to.  Abby Hoffman, founder of the political movement the “Yippies,” had warned us to “question authority.”  In addition to the Yippies (Youth International Party), there were the Weatherman, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers.

The Black Panthers brought fear to white America.  That was not its intention at all.   Founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland California for the protection of the Black Community.  The strong and empowered black man scared the crap out of white America, but for all the wrong reasons.  Public opinion, in those days, was in no small part controlled by governmental groups like the FBI.  The FBI, Edgar Hoover in particular, launched a campaign of misinformation about people and groups Hoover thought dangerous.  One such person was Martin Luther King.  Unfortunately mainstream media had not yet taken Hoffman’s reprise of questioning authority and so it regularly published without question whatever government officials stated.

Young men, like me, were drafted by the thousands in the late 60s and early 70s to conduct the war in Vietnam.  We were fed the idea of the “domino principal.”  This principal, developed by the Eisenhower administration, said that Communism in the far east would take one country at a time, each falling to the Soviets and Chinese like a domino.  We were there fighting for freedom.  Curious, in 1968, a group called Country Joe and the Fish, sang a song called Vietnam in which they sang, “And it’s one two three what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn!  Next stop is Vietnam.”  This song was sung time and again by GIs serving in Vietnam as if it were their anthem.  A very accurate view of that sentiment is caught in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam.”

In 1967, all forms of birth control, save abstinence, was illegal as was all forms of abortion.

In 1968 you could still buy gasoline for 30 cents a gallon.  Cigarettes were 25 cents a pack.  And the minimum wage was $1.25.

On July 20, 1969 the first man stepped on the moon, Neil Armstrong.  And then from August 15 – 18 1969 the Woodstock Concert was held.  All the while men were dying in Vietnam.  Absolutely no one knew which way was up although many wanted you to believe they did.

In 1970 students were holding “sit ins” in their college to protest the war.  Some went so far as to close down the campuses and experienced the cancellation of graduation ceremonies.

By 1972, when Jane made her ill-advised and illegal trip to Hanoi, Richard Nixon’s associates were breaking into Democratic offices in Watergate.  If truth be told, and it must be, our country was rife with people in positions of power and influence misusing that power.

In 1976 Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon of his wrong doings.  There were people still who wanted him brought to trial and Ford, not wanting the office of the president so scarred, saw to it that such would not happen.  Then in 1977 President Jimmy Carter offered amnesty to all draft dodgers.  The country needed to heal and few complained about such actions.  But Jane Fonda was the exception.  While American servicemen were being held as POWs in North Vietnam, being brutally tortured, Fonda visited that country, and soldiers everywhere were rightfully angered to the extreme.

When Fonda made her trip, I was serving in Italy and was not even aware of it.  The only news we go was that served up by the military newspaper “The Stars and Stripes.”  You can be certain that news was heavily censored.  I had served in the far east from December 1968 to December 1969, and for my part, I just wanted to forget it.

In 1978 Jane Fonda made a movie with her father Henry, “On Golden Pond.”  She and her father had been estranged for years.  Fonda, not known for being an easy man to live with, was typical of his generation in his conservative leanings and owned a good part of the estrangement between him and his daughter.  Still, the movie brought to two together and they did make amends.  American families had been ripped apart by the war as well and needed healing.

I feel sorry for anyone who still holds any resentments towards Jane Fonda for they have missed one of the most important truths of life: forgiveness.  I think Jane Fonda’s actions were despicable but I forgive her.  I still do not like her as a person but I have moved beyond, far beyond, any lingering resentments.  Resentment is the poison I drink while desiring the other person to get sick from it.  It is pure foolishness and serves no good.