Category Archives: imagination

Cooper II

cooper_iiIt was a beautiful afternoon to enjoy lunch on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. We were waiting for our meal when I noticed a lady sitting alone at a table near ours. What I saw in the chair across from her intrigued me. I looked around to see if anyone was watching, and I quickly recorded the odd scene with my cellphone.

Normally, I would just make up a story to fit an unusual situation like this, but the lady’s melancholy movements kept drawing my attention back to her. Half way through my burger–completely out of character for me–I excused myself. The lady seemed less startled than I was when I turned an empty chair around next to her table and swung a leg over the seat.

“I’m so sorry to intrude. I’m really not like this. Do- do you mind?”

She drew back, ever so slightly, pursed her lips, and looked me over. Her watery blue eyes narrowed, but she finally sighed and shook her head. Just once.

“I- I’m really not … I’m a writer. Oh, well, I try. To be a writer, I mean.”

A tiny smile brushed across the fine lines on her cheeks and then hid behind the clouds in her eyes.

“I- I make up stories. About people. But .. but I don’t want to make up yours. Your story, I mean.”

She tilted her head at the chair across from her and glanced at the quiet gray form in the chair. Without moving her head, her eyes came back to me, and both eyebrows lifted a fraction of an inch.

“Yes. I’d like to hear his story, too. And yours. From you. Well, of course, from you.” I could have sworn I heard a chuckle from that quiet gray form. But no one counts on my hearing for much of anything.

After a sip of tea, she looked down at the map of her life, purple roads crisscrossing the backs of her hands. “I once had a little gray dog. He was a Miniature Schnauzer. Are you familiar with the breed?”

“I am. Very, actually.”

She nodded a quiet approval. “Then you probably know.”

“I think I probably do.”

“After my husband … Cooper. My dear little Schnauzer’s name was Cooper. We were hardly ever apart. Most of eighteen good years. He was so smart, so faithful. Last summer, today …”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.”

A moment of silence quietly passed between us.

“A puppy?”

She shook her head. “Oh, I wanted to. But I couldn’t … I wouldn’t.”

A tired smile slowly reached the faraway look in her eyes.

“You’re a writer, yes? Well, you see, my story is in its final scene. But it’s okay. I’m not alone.”

We both looked at the quiet gray form in the chair across from her.

“I call him Cooper, too.”

Homeless Horseman – A Real Life Alastar Connolly

Horse-Keeper (CCBY20 BRAYDAWG on Flickr)

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Alastar Connolly’s horses were not only his companions, they were his best friends. Friends that always listened. Friends that never judged. (Well, almost never.) During dark times, Alastar’s horses were his only family, and he often slept in their stalls, burrowed deep in the fresh hay.

A real-life Alastar Connolly made the local news recently. A state fire marshal inspection on the backstretch of the Cal Expo Harness Racing Track near Sacramento ousted farrier Johnny Walker, and many other grooms, from the barn tack rooms where many of them had been living for years, near the horses they cared for and loved.

From the report in The Sacramento Bee:

Farrier Johnny Walker, who has owned and trained horses at Cal Expo
for 20 years, has been sleeping on a cot outside the stall of his
only horse, The Goose.

"He's my family," said Walker, 64. "I've had him since he was a baby.
I just love him."

"As long as we're racing and keep making money, that keeps me going,"
Walker said. "But if I couldn't keep (my horse), that scares me."

Hopefully, after renovations ordered by the fire marshal are completed, Johnny Walker and his fellow farriers and grooms will be reunited with their living quarters, and their horses, at least in the short term. Tack rooms were never meant to be permanent places of residence.

Alastar Connolly would have empathized with Johnny’s physical and emotional plight. As a boy, being separated from his beloved Molly and Wilbur started Alastar on a journey that took him half way around the world. Fortunately, looking back on his life in Ireland, Alastar wrote:

"I lived a life filled with horses that I loved as friends and
friends that I loved as family."

You can read the story of the real Johnny Walker (not the pipe-smoking gentleman in the picture above) and his horse, The Goose, in the article Cal Expo racetrack workers scramble to find housing during renovations, on The Sacramento Bee website.

My editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, brought Johnny Walker’s story to my attention. Having an editor who expertly helps me polish my words, and who watches out for me between manuscripts, is truly a blessing. Thanks, Robin!

All the best,

In Sunshine or In Shadow

Tomorrow marks the first day of fall, the autumnal equinox. The day the sunshine starts to fade, and all the flowers start to die. The day the world begins to slide into the shadow of another cold, dark winter. Tonight, in my Northern hemisphere, I’ll say farewell to the summer of 2012. Rest in peace, beloved season. I’ll miss you.

Most folks look at me like I have three heads when I tell them my favorite weather is ninety-five degrees and¬†ninety-five percent humidity, under a clear, cerulean blue sky. What can I say? I like to sweat … and I like to feel alive. I’ve always loved hot, sunny summer weather, and I’ve always disliked being cold. Wait, that’s not quite right. I’ve always detested being cold.

It’s no wonder Weatherly’s lyric, “‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow”, from that hauntingly beautiful Irish ballad, Danny Boy, always leaves a lump in my throat, but perhaps Robert Frost said it best:

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Danny Boy
by Frederic Weatherly

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

But when you come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warm and sweeter be
For you will bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

With warmest regards,