“When you give someone a gift of color, you’re giving a gift of love,”
― Anthony T. Hincks
“When you give someone a gift of color, you’re giving a gift of love,”
― Anthony T. Hincks
Wow, where did the time go. Seems like I just got here and already it is time to leave. Oops, I think I just made a pun. I guess a little humor doesn’t hurt, especially when your future is a dim as mine.
Not so long ago, I was young and bright. Maybe a little green, but we all are when we first get here. I was excited to see each morning, feel the gentle breezes rocking me up there on my perch. I had so many friends then. We were all so much alike, doing the same things, experiencing the same things. We were so close, we even took showers together. Life was good.
About a month ago, I started to feel a little pale. My color was changing and I couldn’t do anything about it. The only comfort was that it was happening to all of us and, the truth be known, reds and yellows didn’t look bad on me. In fact, I realized I was getting a lot more attention from those things that walk around down below. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, and from time to time, would shamelessly flaunt my new found beauty.
But the change didn’t stop. One day I noticed a little tinge of brown. Not much, but definitely something that had not been there yesterday. Nothing to worry about, I thought. But, it turns out that I was wrong. As the days came and went, the brown turned to rust and was extending itself over more of my body. The colors of which I had been so proud were disappearing and my movements were becoming more labored, almost brittle. Where once I could bend and surf on the wind, I was now finding it more difficult to move without breaking something.
I remember the day it happened. It was becoming more apparent that a lot of my friends were leaving. I don’t know if by choice or chance, but it appeared many of them were collecting on the ground below me. It was kind of sad actually. They just laid there, waiting for whatever was going to come next. Apparently, no one knew. I certainly didn’t. I just knew that it was getting a little lonely up there. I began to deliberate about staying where I was and/or joining my friends. It turns out, it wasn’t up to me. A few nights ago we had quite a blow. Wind gusts attacked us mercilessly. I held on for a few hours, but ultimately, the decision to jump was made for me. Silently, in the dark, I drifted aimlessly down, landing among a throng of my friends.
So here we are. It is a beautiful day, but a little colder then it has been. I can’t say that I wasn’t starting to feel the chill a little more acutely before leaving. I’m hoping it will be a little warmer down here. One thing I don’t like however is my inability to stay in one place. I no sooner settle in when a breeze comes along and sends me someplace else. I’m just not sure where I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to do anymore. I guess time will tell. In the interim, one of those things that walk around the trees picked me up this morning and pointed a metal thing at me. I suspect it is because I’ve still got it. Maybe not like a few weeks ago, but my yellows are still quite apparent and I have a very attractive blaze of red on one of my appendages. I’m not surprised that I was selected, but hey, that’s just me.
Well, that didn’t last long. They just threw me back out here in the yard. Now what? I can’t say that I can recommend getting old, just kind of existing from day to day. Life is not particularly comfortable anymore, what with the stiffness and the dry skin and all. And, deep down inside I know it is just a matter of time. But, no use worrying about it, I can’t change a thing. So, I guess I’ll just curl up here and wait to see what tomorrow brings.
The whole world, as we experience it visually,
comes to us through the mystic realm of color.
– Hans Hofmann
I slammed the car door and ran across the parking lot, stamping the slush off of my boots before entering the McDonald’s. The thermometer was hovering around eight degrees and a cup of steaming hot coffee sounded really good. I had my tablet tucked under my arm, thinking I would spend a few minutes catching up on my e-mails before proceeding to the office.
I slid into a booth and booted the tablet, looking around the dining room while I waited for the coffee to cool a bit. Several tables were occupied with people grabbing a quick breakfast before starting their day. Sitting on the far side of the room I saw an elderly gent sitting alone, staring out the window. He was dressed for the weather, displaying a heavy sweater over a flannel shirt. A bulky coat lay on the seat next to him. On his head, he sported a baseball cap.
He must have felt my attention, because he suddenly turned his head and looked at me. I offered a smile which was returned with a blank stare. That is when I noticed that the ball cap was emblazoned with USS Keppler DD765. A veteran I surmised and decided that, before I left, I was going to thank him.
As I discarded my coffee cup, I walked over to his table and was again met with a gaze devoid of any emotion. “Judging from your cap” I began, “it would appear that you are a veteran.”
“It would, and I am” came the terse response.
“Well I would just like to thank you” I said, extending my hand.
He remained silent for a minute, looking me over with a cautious eye before finally deciding to return the gesture. Grabbing my hand with a firm grip, he said simply “Much appreciated”.
“Did you see combat” I asked.
“I was career Navy” he replied. I saw combat during the Korean Conflict and again in Vietnam” he offered.
“Wow” I said. “Were you ever injured?”
“Not so you’d notice” he said. “All wounds aren’t physical”.
My interest had been peaked. “Would it be OK if I sat down” I asked.
“Suit yourself” he said. “It’s a free country.”
I slid into the seat opposite him and said “It is indeed, and I suspect you had something to do with that.” For the first time, the hint of a smile played around the corners of this mouth.
“I like to think so” he said. “Names John. John Carter.”
“Pleased to meet you John. I’m Bob Stanfield. I guess the Keppler was your ship?”
“Yup. She was a destroyer. Spent over two enlistments on her. An onery bucket of bolts she was. But she always brought me back.”
“What did you do” I inquired.
“Whatever I was told. That was the Navy way” he said, a little twinkle appearing in his eyes. “Seriously, I was a crewman on one of the gun mounts.”
“That was kind of dangerous, wasn’t it?”
“Son” he said. “There were no safe jobs. We were there to fight. Didn’t make no difference if you were a gunner or a cook. There was no place to hide.”
Feeling a little embarrassed, I mumbled “I guess that makes sense. When did you go to Vietnam?”
Newport was our home port. We left in October 66 and sailed through the Panama Canal and into Pearl Harbor. We were only there a week before deploying to Yokosuka Japan and on to the Gulf of Tonkin for plane guard.
“What was plane guard” I asked
“We were there in support of the aircraft carriers, tasked with fishing their pilots out of the ocean if they had to ditch. We pulled one out in December of 66 and got another one in January of 67.” We also provided gunfire support for the allies fighting on shore. We would destroy specific land targets that had been identified and interrupt Viet Cong troop movements into South Vietnam. However, while there, we also damaged or destroyed about 50 Communist junks.”
“Was your ship ever hit” I asked?
He sat silent for a moment before responding. “Yeah” he said softly. “It was. A land battery scored a hit on us. Blew up the gun mount right next to mine. There was fire and explosions and screaming. I remember most the screaming and not being able to do anything. We lost nine good men that day. Friends and buddies. Never quite got over that. But, it could have been me just as easy. It was one of my bigger losses.”
“There were others” I inquired.
Again, a pause, and then he looked at me with hurt in his eyes. Finally he said “I didn’t suffer my biggest loss until I returned stateside and found I had lost respect. Was a time I couldn’t have worn this cap without fear of verbal or physical confrontation. Somehow, the war had been blamed on me. It turned me bitter and resentful. I had offered my life and came home to that. I was spit on once.”
I sat there in disbelief, not knowing what to say. I mean, I had admired what this man had done before, but now, I was looking at him in a whole new light. His war had not ended with his tour of duty. He had continued to fight it for a lifetime.
I rose slowly from my seat, my eyes never leaving his. I was overcome with a rising sense of sorrow mixed with disgust for what he had endured. Here, before me was a hero. Here was the reason I could run into McDonald’s this morning. Here was a man that had answered the call when asked and was punished for it.
Words continued to escape me. Finally I said “Well John, let me just say that in my eyes, you are a great American and I am proud to have had an opportunity to meet you.” As an afterthought, I threw him a sloppy salute.
I was surprised when he returned it with a quick gesture and said “Son, it is still the greatest country on earth. Don’t ever forget it. There are tough times and then occasionally, there are mornings like this one. Thank you.”
From The Archives Dec 2013
A color is as strong as the impression it creates.
AWindowless facades gape
With saddened eyes
Hopscotch and hope
Remnants of yesterday
Once vibrant streets vacant
Life but whispers on the wind
Weed filled lots
Host rusted skeletons
That slumber there
Trees, like old friends
Embrace the decay
Cast dappled shade
Upon what was
The American dream
From the archives. Originally posted July 2014
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way–things I had no words for.
Georgia O’Keeffe Quotes – Female Artists – Artists
Georgia O’Keeffe Painting RedCanna