Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ruff Double Memory

What hit me first - even before the crawling chill making its way through the clothing layers since stopping, hit me - was the  distinct memory: "I've been here before."

Déjà vu? No, not at all.

I had been there. In the exact spot. It was December 1958 and in a light snow, with a very crisp chill in the air. Only then my feet were a size 6 boys and freezing like exposed chicken knuckles! At least now, my feet weren't freezing. But the blood laced adrenalin jitters were still there. And I loved it.

As I look down at the single ruffed grouse posing in 'la mort avec l'honneur' alongside my dad's old double-barrel shotgun, resting in the skiff of snow, I am launched back in time to my first grouse hunt on that cold December day in '58.

Dad came into my room well before light to wake me. But he didn't need to, I'd hardly slept all night. He barely got the door opened with I popped out of bed like the 20 gauge shells from dads old side-by-side. "Well, aren't we perky?" He said with a big grin forming around the deep cleft in his chin. "Breakfast in 15. See you in the kitchen." "Yes sir. Be right there.", I replied, while jumping into my clothes.

A few splashes of water on my face, brushed teeth and a token stroke of the comb and I was good-to-go.

Mom was just finishing the pancakes, oatmeal, cold raw milk and coffee when I slid into my chair.

"Say bud. 'Spose we could get this 'early rise and ready quick action to become a regular part of your morning ritual? Hmm?", she said, smiling in front the more serious suggestion.

I knew I was busted. So I tossed back a bit of humor hoping to get unhooked. "Well, I guess I could, if there was a hunting or fishing trip connected." I attempted to slide that slick sales job by with a 'cute kid grin'. I lost. Oh, well, who cared. I was heading out to hunt with dad.

Breakfast is never better than those taken just before you head out afield or to the water with dad. Odd, the viewfinder on the camera fogged up just as I remembered that bit of history. As I waited for the fog to clear, I remembered the few moments before that first grouse bust out of the cover.

When I went with dad in the field and there was a gun present, I quartered dad on his left side like a shadow. Dad stood between 6'1" and 6'2" tall in a lean 175 lb. frame of all muscle and sinew. Grandpa, his dad, always told him - and me and my brother - that what we needed most was...'seasoning'. This was Grandpa's way of telling you to get back to work and toughen up. I don't believe Grandpa was much into fun. He was too busy being a drill sargent in practice. As a result of many years of conditioning, dad was not easy to keep up with. But when we hunted in the woods, he was a lot easier to shadow. I was eager and he slowed down a bit. He enjoyed being in the woods and didn't want to loose any time of it. A great combo that worked to keep me from a constant, "Hey, keep up!" reminder.

I really enjoyed those times. Even more so now the older I get. Well, of all things, that eyepiece keeps fogging up. Gotta wait for it to clear again.

Old Suzi, dad's 10 year old Brittany spaniel, pushed ahead of us at a comfortable distance with her nose to the ground and one eye in the trees. She knew those birds sat in trees and she wasn't about to let one get by her. It didn't happen often either.

I was a chatter box as a kid, but I knew to keep my comments, questions and musings to myself once we hit the trail. If I had a serious question, when I could get dad's attention, he'd gladly answer it. But I just knew that I really didn't want to over-use my 'field access'. So I learned to compartmentalize the questions and formulate them into as few as I could later on. A valuable lesson as I learned later on in life.

As I was doing some of this 'formulation', meaning I wasn't paying attention, dad pulled up in an abrupt stop. Yep! I ran right into his left hip pocket. He didn't move but I bounced off. Dad looked over his shoulder with his finger to his lips, then reached down an helped me up. We had no sooner gotten regrouped when the grouse blasted from the bushes!
That bird scared the holy bejeebers outta me! That's for sure. But dad, he just went into one of the prettiest ballet's I'd ever witnessed to then ... and possibly since.

The grouse quartered left, dad was in full sight, swing and follow-through when he squeezed off the left barrel. I just happened to be in the perfect line to see the entire scene. Dad, in swing, squeeze of trigger, flight and crumple of the grouse and Suzi in her trademark, hindleg hop-n-point! Just before dad would shoot, she'd look more like Trigger under Roy Rogers than a Brittany on point.

Like it all happened seconds ago, I can still hear the sounds of the rustling leaves, the drum of the grouse's wings, dads wool clothing rotating on his body, his feet making a bit of a rotation-friction squeak, then the click of the hammer - then the entire world was encompassed in the blast! Man! for a 20 gauge shotgun, that gun could really make noise.
Well dogged! The viewfinder fogged up again. At this rate, I'll never get this thing photographed.

You know, I was surprised, when even through the racket, I never took my eye off that grouse. In mid flight, one moment it was heading out of sight, then it just crumpled and fell in a rocketing arc, hit the ground and scooted in and under the leaves. Before we could flinch, Suzi was already on the bird, mouthed it and was in return. I remember it was smaller than I'd thought. Beautiful. Soft. Limp. No longer flying. It was dead.

I had a sudden pang of conscience. I looked up at dad and asked, "Did we have to kill it?"

Dad looked back, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "No son, we didn't have to kill it. But we chose to. That one idea is the most important thing to learn about hunting. When you decide to take an animal's life, that decision will be a permanent choice. One that you can't undo. You cannot take back that decision. It is a natural part of life; taking an animal's life. But we must always do so being fully aware of the results of our decision. Something will die because of our choice. Never take that responsibility lightly. That's a big lesson for a little guy. But I believe you'll understand. If not now, then in time. Are you OK?"

I looked at him and then at the dead bird on the ground at his feet. It sure was pretty. I looked back up at him to say something about how 'pretty' the bird was. I remember noticing his eyes looked... 'moist'. I started to ask him, but he just smiled that wonderful smile that only my dad could give and said, "After all these years, I still take the responsibility seriously. Always remember that."

The camera lens fogged up again. Must be the cold.

Memories are like that. I've never forgotten it. I pray I never do.


View the print, Ruff Double Memory and the details for ordering a print.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sankali

Nothing moved.

Not sound. Not time. Not my mind.

Everything was in lock-step frame.

Only my eyes were in motion. But not real motion; scanning, perceiving, transmitting. They were only in a primal recording mode.

Time - and everything in its being - was on hold.

Three months earlier I had set out across the vast array of preserves spanning the wild back country of Botswana. I was in pursuit to find and locate the perfect bull elephant for my wall.

No. Not pursuing a dead head, with lead, but an image of pixels.


Don't get me wrong, I'm a hunter and I don't have a problem with pulling the trigger and delivering lead to a target. However, I reserve that option for animals I will personally consume. Elephant is not on my dietary list. Therefore, I personally don't shoot them to kill them.

I neither condemn, nor condone the actions of those who do kill these beasts.

In some instances the killing of the giant beasts becomes a necessity. An unpleasant reality in our over-crowded and resource strapped world, it has become a necessary, if not unpleasant business.

Managed kills are accomplished, in many instances, by sport hunters with large wallets and a lucky draw. The economics are sound. The fees paid do bring beneficial stimulation to strapped economies and to provide funding of protective forces; Game Wardens; for numerous species occupying the killing fields.
For me, though, there is neither pleasure or purpose in killing these amazing beasts. Thus I would not participate in the killing - outside of self-defense.

My preferred wild life capture technique is through the lens of a camera. The end uses for my efforts, find themselves as varied as the subjects themselves. Mostly though, they are a record of my life experiences while leaving only historical preservation as any trace of my being there.

Whether animal or vista, each is chosen for visual consumption in the same manner. I venture into the grounds, I pursue quietly and unobtrusively. I observe and note particular habits and quirks of each environment as well as the season. All of this is done long before I partake of its riches. In the truest essence of the word, I am hunting whether it be animal or location.

Whether for myself or for my clients, I choose the hunt carefully. The KEY word here is ...choose.


Two months, 26 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes later; after 12,000 plus kilometers had been tallied on the Land Rover's odometer; and numerous blistered seat-rashes had been recorded on my butt; I was still without the photographic goal.
Oh, there were photos. By the gigabyte. They would be filling my larder of visually stimulating projects for years to come.

But, the trophy bull elephant image, was still only a dream.

That is - until 5 minutes ago.


The morning had opened with the customarily expected noise of the bush. A slight breeze and the ubiquitous hum of the insect life: good, bad and the ugly. A chined offering, conjured a raspy pied-piper allusion, floating on the breeze with the chatty voices of the birds. This day had begun like any other.

But there was a different air about it.

I sensed a moment coming. The only question was, would I be ready for - IT?

Captured moments don’t just happen. They are the result of planning and execution.

Yet, regardless of the effort put into getting into that moment, the exact timing -when it happens- is never a known commodity.

The three axioms of Moment Experience Planning are:
  • You are in charge of preparing for the execution.
  • You have a shot at being at or in the execution.
  • But, you have no control over the timing of the execution.

Thus, in reality we are never really in control, of anything: at any time. We are only along for the ride. Learning to ride the wave of the unknown, toward -hopefully- an exhilarating conclusion we can survive.

That’s the rush. The excitement. The draw of it all.

Of course anyone can experience a moment by accident. It's what we call, luck. Such encounters more often result in lost, rather than in captured, opportunity.

To hedge one's odds for realizing the full impact of any potential moment, work. Every element must be brought as far as conceivably possible, toward a successful conclusion - fully expecting the moment hoped for - to execute. This is the ultimate thrill, in a moment experience.

Preparing for the moment and getting into it, is the very heart and soul of HUNTING.


Hunting, contrary to the vacuous opinions of the uneducated, is not about killing. Hunting is about properly executing on a vast array of knowledge. Any part of which, found out of order, could spell failure with little to no hope for a mulligan. All of this is necessary before any consummating opportunity to kill is presented.

It is therefore, quite possible to hunt and never kill and still have a great hunt. But, equally true, the hunter can never know the true power within the hunt, without consummating the hunt with a kill.

Misunderstood by many:
Not every hunt must end in a kill to make it a good hunt. But equally true - a human must experience the mental and spiritual challenge that is found only in the kill - at least once - to fully appreciate the value and power found in the responsibility that rests with the choice ... to kill or not to kill. This is not a lesson learned intellectually.


The scene that unfolded before me, in that split-second of time, was as unplanned as any in all my life.
I had no control of - or over - the moment.

I did have control of the use in that moment.

The camera found footing on the monopod.

The lens drew its focus.

The synapse began firing in reflex mode and the hold was as smooth as any trigger hold ever executed. As in anything in life that exudes success, timing is everything. And this moment was all about timing.

When the shutter stopped firing, 14 frames of one of my most memorable experiences in life had been captured. The span of that moment-in-time, was less than 24 seconds.

The bulk of life is truly the Journey and not the Destination.

But it is the Destination, to which we look, for Journey justification and the dream of a return.

I will return.


Thus, two months, 26 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes… and 23.7 seconds later… I had my bull elephant trophy.

And so do you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Next Season: Swamp Deer

All season long, every day looked promising. He was so elusive, but you were sure the Buck would finally walk into your sights.

But it didn't happen.

You could feel that big buck just writhe with glee - if that is possible for a deer - when he dropped another can of 'deer season whoop-ass' on you again.

Why, you even got a bit of a chuckle. "Dang! That deer is schooling me hard. Givin' me a complex you are Big Boy. A regular complex! Next year. That's MY year. You wait and see who's laughing then. Yeah!"

Alas this season ended on the same note as the previous 3. Despite your confidence filled pronouncement, you got your butt kicked again:
Hunter 0 ... Buck 7.

Seven times you'd come to the hunting ground. Seven times, in hand, a perfectly engineered planned. Seven times YOU went home seeing nothing more than beautiful sunrises, memorable sunsets, dozens of birds and small animals. You observed as nature used the shade creatures, formed as the clouds, dancing across the sky to trace the passage of time for all in attendance; you included.

Each day that passed, you left the woods later and later. Sure the hot coffee, soup and a very welcome, 3 fingers of Scotch, were always a luring siren. But a stronger pull; even stronger than the urge to hang the Buck on the cross-beam, was keeping you in the woods.

In the early days when you first started hunting you didn't understand. It just didn't figure! Dingle-crackers!... it was cold, wet, tiring, cramped, windy ... it was down-right miserable at times. But so many times, you didn't even notice it. You even began enjoying it.

That's it. You stayed longer because you just plain liked being in the woods.

After a time, you began to realize that finally, you had begun to act natural.

Everyone who is veteran hunter of a few years, knows that no one needs to head out to their stand at 4am in the morning. Only a masochist or a neophyte would do this. Right?

Well, yes. For the first few years.

Then you would just keep on doing it, because you realize there's no better place to get your morning shut-eye, wake-up to warm coffee and a roll, see the sun rise, hear the birds wake-up ritual and watch the entire woods world come to life.
Any questions?

Naturally you did your fair share of eyelid surveys. Most likely this was when the Buck got His chance to see you as well. Yeah. if you hadn't been having such a good time you might just have taken that 'big bad boy' home this year. Eh?
But you never laid so much as an eye-twitch on the Buck. Yeah. That's true. That's OK. There's next year.

To keep in pattern with the previous years, you religiously went back to the scene of your miserable failure to revel in it's success.

Because you knew he still roamed the hills, woods, creeks and swampy bottoms. He was still there; whether you were or not.

The wind would drop and the frost clinging to the trees, glistening like diamond dust with the first rays of the sun would shimmer in place; or the high-noon shadows pouring through the leafless canopy would suddenly go mime; or the misty glow of the forming evening fog would provide a sanctuary backdrop for the moment you'd see him.

Ah, but not before He had slipped silently out of his bed. Never quite revealing his 'serta-in-the-grove', stealing his way to a splendid spot, befitting of his regal offering: your annual chance to see Him. Then He would offer his annual greeting snort. On cue, as choreographed as a Shakespearean actor, you look up!

There HE is.

Wow! He's grown so much. His rack has become huge; intoxicating. His massive shoulders and neck still showing the muscle and blood engorgement of the rutting and mating ritual and exercise.

What a sight He is.

What an opportunity. Yeah, you think, "OH! If only it as still 'in season'! If only I had my bow! If only ...", but this fades and gives way, to just .. "Wow. He is beautiful. I know he'll spook and be gone for another year. Wouldn't I love to capture this image to look at any time of year?" And that's when you raise the camera and take the 3 photos you get before He is out-of-sight.

Make no mistake about it ... this IS His domain.

You know it.

He knows it.

So do all the other animals in the woods.

"Yes.", you say to yourself. The the ephemeral wisp of the moment takes on a Brigadoonesque atmosphere. Time just seemed to stand-still while He stood there.

Surrounded by the royal walls of his riparian realm. Each woodland surface draped in the muted glow of the diamond dust of late fall frost. Winter is soon to appear. His rack will once again fall, feed the mice of the woods and possibly tantalize a woodsman seeking the fallen coronets.

The ice fog hangs thick across the winter wheat field in the distance. "My, Oh, My!" You repeat to yourself as you remember how it provided the ermine backdrop so fitting this royal creature.

The fog begins sending drizzles. skittering down through the branches now as you make you way back to the truck.

One last time you turn and look at the opening where He, The Buck, stood, showing Himself to you. A shiver runs through your system. No, it's not the cold. It's the anticipation.

You're already planning the next seaon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Streamside: A Freestone Mystery

”Yet, this type of ‘weirdness’ is the nature of such mystery.” story ©2010 Les Booth; painting, Streamside, ©2010 Diane Michelin
Freestone Palette Colors trace wild run Essence of time freely flows Life intensifies Freestone Mystery Penticton Herald, ePenticton Herald News Josh Mavenhome Penticton Herald / Saturday Edition 10/24/09
 
Many unsolved mysteries exist around the world, but the 1998 unexplained disappearance of a Victoria, BC woman still has people down in Keremos shaking their heads.

This clip, from the article, written by my uncle Thomas Mavenhome, about the 1998 cold case, fills in some background for those unfamiliar with the 11 year old mystery.

'Four weeks ago, Provincial Conservation Officer, Sarah Tumewatter, and BC Fisheries Biologist, Jon McCormick, stumbled upon a mystery on Bumblechoock Creek, north of Keremos, BC. The events of 23 September, 1998, still remain no closer to being resolved than they did on that fall Sunday afternoon, 4 weeks ago.

"We have no clues, other than the personal items and still alive brook trout, found, yesterday, on the banks of Bumblechook Creek. We are quite baffled. We simply have no idea where Jane Manson is today.", said officer Tumewatter in an interview on Friday; 23 October, 1998.

Jan Manson, well known Victoria resident, is an attractive 32 year old, red-haired, athlete, fly-fishing aficionado, respected outdoor artist and conservation advocate. Ms. Manson, single, went missing Sunday 23 September. The answers to her whereabouts are still a complete mystery.

Tumewatter and McCormick were conducting a 10-year stream assessment of Bumblechook Creek, along a remote stretch of water in the upper reaches of the rough country, north of Keremos, BC, when they came upon a very strange scene.

Tumewatter and McCormick rounded a bend on the creek to find, neatly laid out on the rocks beside the stream, a fly-rod and reel, a landing net and a very much alive, brook trout.

Officer Tumwatter said both she and McCormick spent over 2 hours combing the area, after placing a call to report the strange findings to the Penticton BCCO office. Within an hour after the phone call - they were joined by other BCCO personnel. BCCO carried on the search, around-the-clock, for the next 14 days.

By the time the official search was canceled, nothing had turned up. No prints. No clothing. No personal items. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

There were no shoe prints anywhere. None. No prints of any kind. Not along the creek; into the creek bed; nor back up into the woods. McCormick said it was as if Manson was,"... just transported away. Gone. Without a trace". '

Ms. Manson's 1998 2-dr GMC Jimmy, bearing the custom trademark of a - Screaming Brook Trout - located on both lower door panels and rear tailgate, was nowhere to be found in the vicinity. Despite extensive searches all across Canada, Alaska, the lower 48 United States and even into Mexico, no trace has been found.

Bumblchook Creek', is said to have more than the occasional black bear and a rare appearance of cougars. But neither animal is suspected to be involved in Manson's disappearance.

BC Conservation Officers identified the owner of the fly-rod, reel and landing net and therefore the missing person - as Ms. Manson - from the name, email address and drivers license number, marked on each item.

Many speculations have arisen over the years as to the whereabouts of Ms. Manson.

Some say Manson fell into Bumblechook Creek's icy waters, drowned and was swept downstream, over the 14 meter waterfall, downstream roughly 1/2 kilometer. But the water was thoroughly checked; above and below the falls. Nothing turned up. Most feel this was most unlikely.

Others say, she fell, suffered a concussion and amnesia then either staggered out of the area or was possibly lost and died of exposure. But that too, seems unlikely. The area was thoroughly searched; thousands of motorists and people in the area were canvased; nothing; not so much as a 'maybe', was uncovered.

One popular theory is that Manson, a very pretty 32 year old, was abducted and kidnapped by the fabled remnant of the Spanish conquistadors, said to be living in the wilderness around Bumblechook Creek. No one has officially documented the veracity of the claims as to whether these mythical residents really exist. But wild and fantastical stories abound. With many claiming to have had contact with them; and some even claiming to be descendants.

The list of speculations continue, and continue to grow. Many are fantastical enough to even make sense. But not seriously, unless you're under the influence of mind altering chemicals first.

Yet, this type of 'weirdness' is the nature of such mystery.

Maybe it's to be as Tumewatter said in an interview on the 5th anniversary of the unsolved missing person's file. "Some things just remain a mystery. Until something else shows up, that's how we'll have to look at this case."

Yes, maybe so.

For now we only have the image of the fly-rod, reel, landing net and a live brook trout to help us conjure up the actual events that have led to this mystery.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ma Pek

MaPek
The sun rose slowly on the horizon as the waves lightly lapped at the expanding shoreline. Like insects the small long-legged shore birds swarmed around the foam and surf searching for a morning meal. Each one skittering along the beach in a dueling dance with the waves. The early morning breeze – gone by midday in the steamy tropical environments – lightly lifted the palm fronds with each rhythmic pulse. Each lap of the waves upon the shore was another sultry, psychiatric summons to the senses. As I was inhaling this idyllic scene a movement up the beach caught my eye.

I watched as he made his way from the tree line to the waves, the morning sun – full promise of the heat to come – glistened off his richly pigmented skin. Years of exposure to the tropical sun had given his native brown the deepened tone of gold as it glistens in a setting sun. The deep furrows in his skin were not mere wrinkles, they were the mental storage tracks – not unlike those of a phonograph – recording the years of living and tales lived.

His eyes, though dark with age and tempered with wisdom, sparkled with the strength of youth. Though his hair bore the salt and pepper of age, it still flowed with the charm of a young man in his prime. I could tell he was different- he had been a leader. Even at this distance, he projected the quiet but powerful aura that moves the elements of life… for him and others.

As I moved among the villagers in the open-air markets I enquired of the man whom I’d seen earlier. Yes, they knew him. It only took the mention of where I’d seen him and a short description before I was told glowing stories and legendary tales of the man, Philippe del Pescador. The pronouncement of his name not only produced the smiles of admiration from the announcer, but from those within earshot as well. Then a chorus of commentaries, tales and praise would follow from every direction.

Around the village he was known as “nuestro padre de la pesca”. That is, in his native tongue, “our fishingLow Tide father”. In the height of his day, Philippe was the most prolific fisherman on the Yucatan coastline. He was fearless and formidable. His passion for his work, life and the ocean were unmatched by any. Yet, for all his competitive spirit, Philippe was also a man of genuine compassion and heart. There was not a fishing boat launched from the Isle de Corazon that was not, in some way, made possible by Philippe. His days as the fisherman to match were now history, but his legacy lived on.

In his early days he made friends with both the locals and the foreigners who came to pursue the great game fish of the Gulf: marlin, tarpon, blues and shark. Philippe was the man to have at your helm to find the trophies – he was the man to bet on for success. He was also the man who would keep you from trouble with the sea and who make sure you come home to shore – alive and brimming with tales of adventure that you sought.

He had grown up as young boy fishing with his father and enjoying the life on the gulf. He wanted nothing more, nor asked for it. He was strong in character and deep in his convictions. He pursued fish for a living, but would do all in his power to educate his fellow fisherman and the foreign pescadores in how not to harm them or their habitat: fish were his life in every possible way. He had, on a number of times, lost business because he refused to compromise his principles or ‘his fish’ on the foolishness of monetary gain.

I had to talk with this man … to find out what made him who he was … and to meet such a wonderful example of humanity. So I made my way back down to the shoreline where I’d seen him earlier. But another stood there … a woman. She was dressed in the colorful dress of the locals and despite her age she was a beauty.

I slowly approached and addressed her, “Señora de la buena tarde.” She turned and graciously bowed and replied, “Señor de la buena tarde.” “Pero no soy una mujer casada, yo sigo siendo soltero.” A bit embarrassed I acknowledged with apology, “Perdondeme, la senorita!” She chuckled, quite pleased with the coupe and the fact that a woman of her age was obviously still in possession of what makes young girls … well, young girls! We talked until the sun began to sink below the horizon.

She knew well Philippe … possibly better than anyone in the village. For Philippe was the reason she was still a senorita: he captured her heart but would neither let it go or subdue it. She asked if I would like to join her for dinner. I then asked her, “ Senorita, we have talked for hours and I do not know your name, nor do you know mine.” She again giggled with the gentleness of an eight year old, and told me her name was Juanita Sanchez. I acknowledged her – told her my name and I graciously accepted … knowing there was much more to this story and that I would acquire the details only if I talked more with this lovely lady of mystery.

In her humble little home we partook of tasty corn tortillas, frijoles and fresh vegetables. She even produced cold bottles of the local beer: oh, how wonderful a cold drink is when you’ve been without it for a week! The meal was modest, but had been prepared and presented with the greatest of care and grace. After dinner we sat on the veranda, sipping strong coffee, as I listened to the story of Philippe del Pescador.

Philippe, as the stories told to me by the villages, was a great man in the community. He had learned well from his father. The senior del Pescador was a man of great strength and muy carismático … un hombre de la grandes fuerza y carácter. He was also a good and honest man. He had helped many of the fishermen of the area get their start and then worked to show them how to be successful … and how to maintain the fishery. Philippe was by his side daily, learning all this from his father.

One day during a fierce storm Philippe’s father was swept overboard, lost in the raging sea and his body never recovered. It was a terrible time for Philippe, his family and the entire village: they all had lost their leader.

Philippe and Juanita had grown up together and shared much in common: including their love for one another. They had planned to marry, but those plans were dashed with the death of Philippe’s father. Philippe knew he had to step-in an attempt to carry-on in his father’s place. He also knew he could never fill this father’s sandals … but he must carry on the legacy: that was his purpose in life. This level of commitment did not have room for a family. So, Philippe made the sea his family and the life within her were his children. Juanita was devastated at the loss of her love … but in time she grew accustomed to her role as “mistress to the Sea” … and she and Philippe again were inseparable.

Through the years of fishing and working Philippe had built a good business. But more importantly he’d built the honor and respect of his fellow citizens of Isle de Corazon. The years had been good for fishing and the villages’ livelihood, but Philippe had paid a high price for his success. Juanita and he were never able to broach the barrier between them and his duty to his father’s legacy. Though he and Juanita were never married he took care of her as if she were his wife. He built her the house in which she lived, supplied her with food and money. He did more for her than most men do for their ‘actual’ wives … and Juanita could not help but love him all the more for it. I was amazed … and in awe of the power of the love I was being introduced to. I knew this example would forever change my life … and how I would perceive love.

Their love for each other was immense. In many ways it was far more complete than most who had married and live together in that union all their lives. I began to see that they shared what many have lost sight of … true love of the person, not for the person. They were complete in knowing the other was satisfied in their role and that the greater good was being served: not by just one, but by both.

A great pair of companions: the ultimate mates.

The night grew on and it became quite late. I bid my farewells to Juanita, thanked her heartily for the wonderful evening and for sharing such intimacy with me a stranger. She graciously thanked me for the company and the opportunity to share the wonderful story of the love of her life. She then asked if I would meet her the next day at the boats where we had met that day. She said that tomorrow was a special day for she and Philippe and that she wanted me to be present. I thanked her for honoring me with such a request: I would most definitely be there. I said goodnight and walked into the balmy air of the Yucatan night.

The next morning dawned a bright red all along the horizon.‘Red at morning… sailors’ warning!”

The old salt rang in my ears as I arose to wash and prepare for the day. It will rain today — it will be day to be watched closely — on the sea: rough weather is ahead. I was very excited; looking forward to meeting again with Juanita and being introduced to Philippe.

My mind raced with questions to ask of Philiippe; of the days of fishing; the famous and infamous people whom he chartered; talking with him about his ethic of the sea – I was so much looking forward to meeting this remarkable man. So much so that I barely noticed the change in the weather.

I was just putting on my sandals when the wind began to pick up. It was light at first, but it was constantly building in force. By the time I reached the beach the palm fronds were no longer merely wafting in the breeze, it was more like they were be ripped from their petioles! I didn’t see how anyone would be able to have any type of ceremony on the beach in this weather … and then I saw him: Philippe. Dressed in his finest, looking to the beach and walking in a straight line, from the last line of palm trees, in that direction.

IT was when he was in full stride, midway from the trees-on his way to the beach- that I saw the group. How could I have not seen them before? There had to be the entire village – all dressed in their best clothes and all around the boat … the red boat … the one I’d seen Philippe standing by the day before. The boat with the name I did not understand … words I did not understand: Ma Pek.

I’d assumed yesterday that it was an oriental name; possibly named by someone who had spent some time in Southeast Asia. I was going to inquire about that name yesterday, but in all the events of the day I’d forgotten. Now that name began to haunt me: along with all these people. What was happening here? In the midst of this storm? I had the feeling that the answer to that question would be intriguing; how, I didn’t know, but I just felt it would. Then I noticed it; or better yet the lack of it.

The wind had stopped. Just as suddenly as it began it was over. The clouds opened and the sun came rushing through. I was just beginning to register all of these strange sensations, when I saw Juanita.

Wow!

Not only was she gorgeous — but, if I didn’t know better I’d say she was dressed in her wedding gown. And just as suddenly as I’d began thinking this … I knew I was right! I was at a wedding! But not just any wedding — it was Juanita and Philippe’s wedding! But why during a storm? I could understand the beach … but in a storm? Was there something special about the storm? Their lives – lived apart, without the ulfillment of a marriage they both desired – was nothing shy of a torrent of emotions. Was this why the storm? Or was there something else? Torrents of questions-searching for answers-flooded my senses. Then before any fulfillment to this could occur, the crowd began to collectively gather in a ceremonial sway.

The crowd that had gathered now formed a circle around Juanita and Philippe. From the land side of the circle came a mariachi troupe playing traditional Mexican wedding music and with each rise in the music more of the people began to sing. Soon the entire village was singing, the clouds were gone, the sun softly shown upon the beach and all was right with the world. A priest appeared and the ceremony began.

Suddenly there was an air of calm covering the entire beach. The people are calm and all are drawing in toward Juanita and Philippe. The air fills with the words of ceremony and the soft sounds of a coastal Caribbean sea shore: lapping waves in rhythm and the gentle breeze known so well to all. The priest finishes the ceremony and Juanita and Philippe look long into each other’s eyes. The look speaks volumes. Years of conversation are being relayed on the most sensual of paths possible: eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart.

Then they move to kiss. And quietly … in nearly the tone of a prayer Philippe looked deeply into the sparkling eyes of his new bride and says, “Mi amante mas querido, el amante de mi corazon. Mi corazor compitiendo con a usted.. pero digo a mi corazon — ma pek … ma pek.”
There! There were those words: ma pek. The name of the boat. What did it mean? It had to be powerful because tears were forming in Juanita’s eyes.

Then they kissed. A short but electrifying kiss. As soon as they parted the crowd began to sing; they cheered, and for minutes they applauded the event all had awaited for years to occur.

The crowd formed a line and the mariachis played as they swayed up the beach and headed out to the village streets. I stood there watching when Juanita … just a few feet away turned and looked in my direction. She smiled and then mouthed those words … ma pek … ma pek. She must have seen my confused look. She smiled then pointed to a spot on the beach where a shore bird was facing a rather large meal in a lively crab.

Obviously the bird was tackling a meal that was bit larger than normal. But this did not deter the bird. Juanita quietly said, “Mire allí… the bird is patient. It will not be impatient. It will wait quietly. It will be ma pek …it will be still. And when it is time …it will eat …and eat well. Learn from the bird … ma pek …be still and all will come your way.” She beamed and continued on with the procession.

I stood there; tears forming in my eyes and realizing I had just received a unearthly value in those words. I turned to watch the bird … it was eating: eating well. Have you ever seen a bird smile? I have.

A flood of emotions rushed in familiar torrents of questions through my mind, as I stood there at the grave site. My mind was laboriously filtering through the emotions experienced in the short time of passing events of the past few days. As I looked upon the faces of the two caskets in front of me I was embroiled in a sea of mixed emotions. Only days earlier I witnessed these two wonderful human beings as they were united in a life-long desire … a life they both had desired for years: the union of marriage. But today, I stood before their now lifeless physical containers encased in emotionless wooded containers: their last physical abodes.

I’ll not attempt to question or debate what lies beyond the physical life we so dearly strive to maintain and enjoy. But, I will affirm that these two lived a more complete life in the last days they had together than most live in a lifetime.

I was saddened to have lost access to their physical presence: so much was not explored by me. And yet I sense a value that will only deepen with time; the wonderfully blessed event I have been privileged to have been involved in; having a part in their wondrous lives at all.

I came away with a deeply learned and valued lesson from both … ma pek.

In all things … ma pek.
_________________
by Juaqin Cay Posted in ODG&J | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cotton Humid

he air of thick humidity is like the air of impending doom.

Persistent, dreadful and overpowering. It makes your nerves scream for solace. Yet all you get is the sensation of a fresh line of sweat beginning to role, in a tortuously slow bead, down the middle of your back.

No mercy.

Humidity hangs like the clumps of Spanish-moss draped over and smothering the whole plot of live oak trees in the back yard.

Stringy, clingy, sticky, itchy... and thick. I can hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it... and by the sweat dripping from my armpit - hate it.

And to think it's not even daylight yet.

Oh, what a way to begin a day.

Well, that's how they've begun in the deep south for ... I guess since the dawn of time. It's not changing now, 'cause it's not changed in all those eons of time. It's just one more thing about this area you just learn to deal with.

Glorious.

One more reason to dislike living in the south.

Hmm, that sure sounds a might 'Yankee like', now don't it!

I gather fixings for coffee and listen to hear the clear voice of the mockingbird as it mimics through it's repertoire of songs. From one solitary bird, I hear the voice and chatter of every bird sound it has heard during it's short but melodious lifetime.

I don't need a couple of dozen birds flittering around the yard, I have them all in one: my mockingbird. With a half-dozen mockingbirds I'd be enjoying a whole forest of song birds and not have to deal with the sparrow crap that covers my car each morning: no matter where I park it.

I hate sparrows.

The incredulous fool who brought those filthy little waste buckets over here from England -'cause they missed their melodious little songs. Yeah right! I'd like to stake him over big 'ol fire ant mound; sure 'nuff!

What a stupid act of imbecilic short-sightedness that was.

On the same par as the 'too smart' conservation folks back up my way, in the mid-west, who promoted the planting of an Asian prickly bush called the multiflora rose all over the place. In the name of conservation, touted to be grand ground cover; for anti-wind erosion and extra places for the critters to live. Only problem, the stuff took over!

Seems the 'too smart folks' forgot to tell the birds not the fly around and shit the seeds all over the place. Where it grows - and that's just about anywhere - nothing else can grow or go! Now the 'too smart folks' have to pay other 'less smart folks' to dig it up and threaten to fine and jail 'other folks' if they dare plant it again!

The birds still eat the berries and shit the seeds, so the problem still exists. Why didn't they just plant the native blackberry bushes? Sure both plants are prickly as all get out. But at least with blackberries there'd have been berries both man and bird would have enjoyed!

Short-sighted for sure.

It seems no matter what we humans decide to bequeath this land we take for granted, we end up doing it more harm than good. The meddling mess-ups, we so nobly refer to as natural resource management, are painfully well documented.

It just doesn't seem anyone in charge ever bothers to read the results. Doesn't anyone see a connection? Well, don't they?

I guess not.

But of course why should those poor bastards start using their heads now? What could they possibly accomplish if their actions were actually accompanied by a dash of common sense? Not likely they'll begin to think to change their current patterns of failure. As it will not likely add one more stitch to the lining of their already over-stuffed, greedy pockets.

Not likely.

Breakfast is over and I just can't stall the inevitable of the day: cleaning out that cotton patch.

Backbreaking work. It's hot. It's dirty. And it's a bit dangerous in ways people not from the country, nor used to workin' cotton would think of.

The shade of the cotton plants offer the local rattlesnakes and cottonmouth, in those areas near the river bottom, a cool, shady place to wear off the afternoon heat. A reptilian encounter is not what I need today. I don't need it any day, but I really don't need it today. I'm in a mood. A mood where I'd likely kill something and I don't really like killing snakes.

Not that I mind killing something that needs or deserves a good killing, but snakes tend to do a lot more good for the land- and in turn me- than most folks given them credit. So, I'd just rather let them be and go on my way.

But blast-it! anyhow! Those fool-headed varmints won't just let me pass, regardless of my intentions. They coil up, ready to strike and just dare me to blast their little pea-size brains all over the cotton stems. And sometimes I accommodate them.

But I still don't like it.

Well it's almost time to hit the field. I'll give it a bit more time; no sense in being too, pushy with the time now.

I like that about the south.

Folks here move to a much slower clock than those who live north of the 'humidity line'. Oh, don't get me wrong, I grew up with humidity in the Midwest, so it's not like I'm unfamiliar with humidity - 'cause I am, familiar! But humidity in the south, well- now... we do it with a whole new vigor toward torture. I just don't like it... humidity that is.

I really don't!!!

I don't like being hot. I like even less being sticky and hot in a dusty, dirty place. 'Cause when you work in stuff like cotton, you end up feeling like half the junk from the field is stuck to you before you get home. That's what makes the humidity so bad. You just can't escape it. And you can't escape the dirt, either. Humidity sucks. No two ways about it. But cotton humidity? Well, that stuff's just plain nasty.

I've been covered in all kinds of hard work humidity, but cotton humidity is about the nastiest of all. 'Course I can't say that with complete authority. I never worked anywhere farther south than these cotton fields of the 31st parallel. As hard as it is to imagine, humidity in the real tropics has got to be worse than it is here.

It just plain hurts to imagine that much humidity.

But I reckon, in all fairness, I got to.

Looking out across the pasture I see those crazy cattle egrets are dowsing for 'hoppers, crickets and whatever bugs and critters they can gobble up as they sachet across the pasture.

Now, there's one funny critter: the cattle egret.

Down here, most folks call them and their taller relatives, the white egret, great blue heron and it's white-color phase, pond skoggins. I don't really know where that name came from, but it's not a term-of-endearment. Of that, I am very sure.

Those things make a wretched sound. Sorta like a feller chokin' on his own blood, as if he'd just had his gullet slit. Nasty! An awful sound. Scares the daylights out of most normal folk.

But... they do keep the 'hoppers, crickets and critters cleaned out of the fields. Odd, they don't seem to have a fancy for the boll weevil. Now that's a shame. Cotton could use a friend in that category.

I'd better get-to- gittin' on down into that field, 'cause on the horizon, just above that cotton patch, I see the build-up of a huge 'ol thunderhead. Looks like we might get some rain after all.

It's been a dry season; dryer than normal. Maybe this high humidity will be worth it's torture if we get a good rain.

Maybe. However, I'm not totally sold on that notion yet. Reckon I'll let it on the table.

Think on it.

Judge it later.

It's time now to go clean that cotton patch, sweat a river, dodge the snakes and watch those pond-scoggins chase the critters in the pasture.

I'd best not forget to watch out for that new electric fence line, neither.

Cotton Humid
Cotton Humid by Les Booth. eLithograph giclee print on archival 90# watercolor paper. Print run of 100 only. Short-story, printed on matching paper, accompanies prints 5-20. Available as extra item.
Available through the OOAK Gallery.
Thanks for visiting.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Short Story outlet

I just started with a Short Story group on Google + and while attempting to comment on a blog post of a story, I was forced to set up this blogspot blog.  I don't need another blog!

For the love of keyboards and watching TV, I have enough already.  But since I've been forced, I will make use of the Internet real estate property.

Thus, I will use this as my point of pushing Short Stories to the G+ #shortstory circle.

The image at the left is my current 'official' Akilologos avatar.  But that avatar will change as I offer up new posts, illustrations, publications and the like.  The Brooky Trout is a book I am currently working on, that is slated for a 2013 release.  So, I'm pushing this book and the image.  For now.

I posted my first entry: Ma Pek : from the original posting location at .  So I will copy it here and then do so with all my offerings in the future.

The games begin...


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