August 17, 2018

Open Tribute Letter To Ed Gulley
By John R. Greenwood

"Ed's Field of Dreams"

Below is a letter I began a few weeks ago. I wanted to document my thoughts about my friend Ed Gulley. Ed was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year. His battle was hard fought. He passed away on August 13, 2018. Ed and his wife Carol along with their entire family documented the story of the their journey so that others might benefit from their strength. Their goal was to be real and honest, a path they never strayed from. Ed faced the end like he faced every day on his farm--full steam ahead. He was a giant among men and I feel privileged to have known him. I am devastated by his passing but I vowed to him one day near the end that I would carry his generous spirit with me and spread it like seeds in a fertile field. I have attached a link to the BeJosh Farm Journal, Ed and Carol's Blog. I urge you to visit and soak in some real-life. I also attached a voice recording of me reading the letter. 


Bejosh Farm Journal Link 

Here is a link to the letter below recorded in my own voice:
A Open Letter Tribute to Ed Gulley

Dear Ed,
I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I knew I had to put my thoughts about your bravery in light of your diagnosis down on paper. I've spent my life observing the people around me. I've been surrounded by supportive mentors and role models for as long as I can remember. It's been sixty plus years of sorting the good and bad advice that has been placed in front of me by personalities of all shapes, sizes, and values. When I stop and listen to people, I do my best not to jump to judgement about their words or actions. Of that long list of personalities that have crossed my path I have a separate column where I list the treasured ones I call, "Characters," and you my friend lead that list. One morning a six years ago you walked out of the Bejosh Farm milking parlor and into my life. I knew from that very first handshake that you would have an impact on me. From that day forward you and your personality have rarely left my side. It was your bear-hug approach to each day that captured my attention and admiration. Watching you confront the ultimate enemy with such bravery has cemented you and your courage in my daily reflections. As I witnessed the strength of your family over the last few months I've learned volumes about what real wealth is. It's not something you store in a vault, it's something that emanates from our hearts. I've known people with bigger bank accounts but not one with the richness that your voice has placed upon the world. To savor what you and Carol have shared with us all over the past few years has been an experience that will stick to our insides like a bowl of oatmeal. Anyone who has been lucky enough to enjoy just a sip of your personalities can understand why your journey as a family has resonated so strongly in your neighborhood and across the country.
Ed, I will miss your physical presence but your voice, your outlook, your love of your vocation will carry with me and others who knew you. Every time I enter a milk-house I will see you smiling in the shadows. Every time I pass a family farm I will see you standing next to the barn, cornstalk straight, your farmer-chest puffed with pride. Every time I pass a tractor crossing a freshly furrowed field I will see you in the driver's seat waving your strong and calloused hand back at me. Every time I see someone sharing an unselfish act of kindness, I will think of you and the spirit in which you lived your life. You are not gone. You will not be forgotten. You dwell deep within all you touched. You gifted your children, your grandchildren, your fellow farmers, your friends, and even those on the other side of the fence with something invaluable and rare.

They call it authenticity.

You were draped in it.

Thank you for sharing it with me, and with the world

Peace to you my friend.
John Greenwood

June 30, 2018

I've Been Thinking

I’ve Been Thinking 
By John R. Greenwood

I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things these days but I can’t seem to muster up the energy to put them down on paper. I feel like I’m stuck in a roundabout and I can’t decide which exit to take. My mind goes from responsibilities at work, to worrying about the lawn that needs mowing. While I stand there contemplating cleaning the garage, my kitchen sink is leaning against the wall waiting for me to install the new base cabinets. The mail comes with a bill for upcoming dental work—the price tag higher than the cabinets and the countertop combined. Do we get the roof replaced or the house painted? Why does every person that walks by me ask if I’m retired yet? WTF did the president just say? Has anyone ever really been fined for littering? 


I lace up my running shoes, grab my headphones and head for the back door. A 1.5 mile walk around my block, or “The Loop” as I call it will clear my head. Do I listen to Warren Haynes or The Piano Guys, Joe Bonamassa or Ludovico Einaudi, The Allman Brothers or Pokey Lafarge? There’s that spinning and ringing again. 


Just walk…

Two hundred feet down the road I pick my head up to look at the mist rising from the hayfield next to me. It’s a calming pastoral view. My heart rate takes a dive. My breathing slows. A car with a late-for-work-driver holding a cell phone to her ear and the radio blasting skims by me so close the hood on my sweatshirt blows off. I yell something profane in sign language. 


1/4 mile later a small bundle of brown hops from a roadside hedge, stops, and looks me square in the eye, and in her most convincing rabbit voice says, “Chill mister, life is good. It’s going to be a beautiful day. Live it like you stole it.” I pause there thinking about those Saturday mornings my father would wake me up to go chasing those philosophical rabbit types around the woods with my 16 gauge Ithaca shotgun. I cherish and smile at the memory, not because I loved shooting at rabbits, but because I never did. I was too engaged in the surroundings to give a damn about pulling the trigger and disturbing Mother Nature. In my heart I don’t think my father cared one way or another either. I hear his voice.

Smile, breathe and walk slower…  

I round the corner on to Route #9 and I hear a smorgasbord of bird noises over Warren Haynes playing “Soulshine”. I pop out an earbud. It’s a Mockingbird performing her latest version of, “I’m a cricket, seagull, bullfrog, hear me sing.” I’m mesmerized by her talent and her extroverted display of joy. I stand there staring at the top of a telephone pole like a child soaking in fireworks for the first time. 

Smile wider, walk faster, and feel free…

I reach the halfway mark of my “Loop”. I buy a coffee in a place that ultimately puts a roof over my head. I sit at the picnic table out front and wait for someone to say good morning to. People come and go. I witness their promenade in and out of the convenience store door. Life keeps moving, oblivious to my thoughts on the sad state of society. My positivity struggles for survival these days. These morning walks keep me hanging by a thread. The sun peeks between the tree branches and gas prices on the sign above me. It was five cents cheaper two days ago. 

Go home now. Take a hot shower…

I start thinking again. My pace is brisker. I notice my gate has opened up. My chest is puffed. My back is straight. I’m hitting my stride. Life’s abundance flashes by on either side. Another rabbit salutes as I pass. A bluebird lands on a fence post, beak pointed sharply upward, she’s taking a break—the family’s been fed. 

I see my house…

For one brief moment it’s 1981 again. The house is the same, but now there are flowers everywhere. Thirty-seven years flash by. I hear my sons playing in the yard. But they're not really there. They’re home in their own yards, mowing their own grass, making their own memories. 

I smile. 

I breathe. 

I stop thinking.

June 17, 2018

No Words

No Words 
By John R. Greenwood

There are times when words will not suffice, where actions speak louder. There are times when words simply won't rise to the surface, the weight of their meaning too heavy to express. That is the case these days. The emotions of knowing the struggles of the world near and far sometimes overwhelm me. I see the pile so big its shadow covers everything around me. Five minutes later a photo of a grandchild fills me up and injects a smile back in to my heart. I feel tossed like the SS Minnow in a sea of "What's Next?". Once the dust settles I sit and digest all the pieces and parts around me and I always come to the same conclusion; don't live by what you see, hear, or write-- live through your actions. Let the ugly roll off your bent back. Stand up straight, and stand up for what's right. Live with generosity and purpose. Don't look to destroy, it wastes too much energy. Instead, strive to lift up those weighed down with burden. This Father's Day when I took my morning walk I grabbed a pad and pencil in hopes the sun coming up through the trees would inspire me to write something worth sharing. I could feel it, but I couldn't find the words. I kept thinking of Ed Gulley and how lucky I was have people like him as friends. The thrill of having two sons and five grandsons made this particular day, one of pride and joy. Sitting down with my coffee and writing gear this morning didn't inspire me to write at that particular moment. Instead it shut down my mind and opened my heart. It opened it wide and let all the good around me fill me back up. It gave me the strength to head back home with a little more purpose, a little more fuel in the tank. I promise to live with more Ed Gulley-like spirit in me. I will do it for Ed, my family, my friends, and most of all for me. If I don't let the good in the world make me speechless, how will I ever find the words to say, "Thank you". 

Happy Father's Day to my sons. They are awesome at the job.