Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Self Help, Story

The Swing in the Back of the Yard

An excerpt from my interview with Jack from Grumpy Gators Saloon.

Jack was reminiscing about another story that he heard from a patron at the Grumpy Gator Saloon. Jack is the bartender. And as a bartender he talks to a lot of people and hears a lot of interesting stories. The saloon has become, according to Jack, a kind of magical, mystical, existential place of healing. Hence my interest in speaking with Jack, the person with whom most of the lost souls gravitate toward upon entering. They don’t seem to gravitate toward each other. Jack appears to be the draw. Or at least that’s the impression I get from speaking with him.

Jack shared a narrative with me that was shared with him by a middle-aged, balding, African American man who had a very chaotic and at times lonely childhood. I was intrigued with Jack’s fascination and almost intoxication with an aspect of the man’s story that featured a rural backyard, trees and a broken down, somewhat dilapidated, swing set from the 1970s. You know the type of which I’m speaking. Metal, the slide off the side of the main frame of the set, a couple of plastic swing seats connected to the metal frame with chain link and of course the obligatory seesaw.

Jack told me the most memorable aspect of this interaction was the Man’s eyes. And then, how he used the swing set to escape his reality.

“His eyes told the whole story,” Jack muttered. “Dark, almost coal-like eyes, lit up and almost glisten when the man talked about his interactions with his swing set. A swing set that for some reason, somehow, became a whole other world for this guy. Allowing him to heal if but for an afternoon of solitary play.

Jack took a step back, gazed to his right almost as if he was trying to make sure that what he said next captured the essence of that moment and the essences of that man’s windows to the soul.

“He told me the swing set became his safe place, his travel machine. He would imagine that he was a pilot soaring high above the world, away from all the chaos covering the ground, as he would swing for hours pretending to fly around the world. His eyes widened, seemed to flicker as the man continued to tell me how he would picture different destinations throughout the world. A smile casually and occasionally crossed his face as he told vivid stories of what he would do in places like Paris, Casablanca, Bangkok and more. That guy really had a hell of an imagination. That swing set teleported him to remarkable places of which he never saw, experienced, or lived. Not sure if the guy ever did visit those places after his time here.”

Jack took a step back. Wiped his forehead with the towel that he was using to clean glasses. He gazed again to his right and a smile casually crossed his face. His eyes sparkled.

“He told me he would sit on the seesaw and rock back and forth. Imagining that he was on a great merchant ship sailing the seven seas. Like with his airplane travels he would spin tall tales of adventures in interesting Ports O’ Call. I asked him once why he never imagined himself as a pirate. He scorned and sternly told me he ‘never wanted to be anyone or anything that took or stole from another’. I found that fascinating. But I didn’t pry as I assumed loss is part of his pain.”

Another smile and a subtle head shake were the only indications I had that Jack was reliving that memory; almost as if he were living it in this very moment.

Jake turned to me and said, “The magic of a swing set, in a rural back yard with a forest of imagination framing that all time machine. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes, the places he went, the healing that occurred, the pain that dissipated because of that swing set and that man’s imagination. Imagination so powerful, so able to heal, so often never used by people in pain.”

Posted in Entertainment, Psychology, Story

Waves of Yellow Leaves Signal Healing

Excerpts from my Interview with Jack from The Grumpy Gator Saloon.

From Jenny’s Story

“‘A wave of yellow leaves’. I will never forget that visual and the look on her face as she looked up and to her left as a crooked smile fade onto her face as she told me the story of how she survived her incredible childhood,” Jack said as he looked over my right shoulder at something at the back of the bar. He was mesmerized, almost in a trance as he recalled the memory.

Jack was sharing the narrative of a Grumpy Gator patron who shared with him her stories of surviving a childhood full of ups and downs. A childhood characterized by unconditional love, passionate and dedicated parents and home filled with hope and optimism. Sadly, that all turned to despair and doubt and loneliness after the death of the patron’s sister one afternoon as the family was camping at a national park.

Jack continued, “Jenny’s sister drowned while the family was on a canoe trip. Jenny’s father and her sister’s canoe tipped near a rocky outcropping as he and her sister paddled into a photo shoot op of some trees. As the canoe started to tie, he list his camera to the sudden swell of the river and tried to balance the craft, couldn’t and hit his head on rocks as the canoe rolled. He surfaced. Bloody. Unconscious. Her mom, who was in the rear of a canoe she shared with Jenny, said, ‘I am going to help your father paddle over to help your sister.'”

Jack’s trance deepened as he continued, “Jenny paddled toward the capsized canoe that once contained her father and sister and looked for her sister. She called out her sister’s name. When she couldn’t find her sister, she called to and looked for her mother. Her mother was focused on her father and his rescue. She called back, ‘You can do this Jenny.'”

“Jenny told me that she then saw the trees her father wanted to shoot and felt her canoe dup and roll. She almost drowned herself and was saved by another canoeist in the area who came to the family’s rescue after they too witnessed the acvident. Jenny’s sister was found several days later, down stream nearly 2 miles. She too had hit her head on a rocks. Tragic. “

Jack went on to share that Jenny, “when in therapy, often sat on the left side of an old and worn, black leather couch in the office of an elderly, nondescript, male counselor. She would religiously stare out of the old Victorian home/office window at a maturing maple with yellow leaves.” Those leaves, according to Jack, “memorized Jenny, who slowly shared her story with the therapist over time.” He also said that those leaves and the waves of yellow dancing in the wind were a comfort to her as she began to accept the plot twists of which her life took.

Leaves, I thought, amazing form of medication. Leaves that maybe had a yellow hue if just for a few weeks in the year helped a young, grieving sister and human share an unspeakable narrative when one day healing began.

Ignite Imagination

Looking Up into Fall

Let’s Ignite Imagination…

Go outside.

FIND a tree on which leaves are changing form and color.

Lay down under the tree.

Open your mind and let your thoughts flow for the next 10 minutes.

Learn anything?

Posted in Entertainment, Mental Health, Story

Dreams on Fire

Ragin’ Racin’

There is nothing like the raw power, heat and allure of a fire. Or racing.

Friction, controlled and uncontrolled destruction, passion, flickering hope dancing toward the sky and dreams envisioned in the glow and breathing of red hot embers and white ash.

Checkers or wreckers is the mantra for the underdog racer trying to ignite a career from a burning passion. White knuckles on a worn steering wheel praying a metal machine right while physically turning left; praying for one more drift in a final turn toward glory on worn tires.

As the flames fan, flicker and fade, the fate of the racer blazes ahead toward infamy.