June 17, 2017

Father's Day Happy

Father’s Day Happy
By John R. Greenwood








I think we have Father’s Day backwards. Fathers don’t need to be acknowledged on Father’s Day, they should be thanking their children for giving them the joy and fulfillment every man hopes for when raising a family. I was blessed twice and those two sons compounded that blessing by adding five grandsons to my life. Who should be thanking who? My sons are great fathers. They give their families their all. That is my reward for Father’s Day. Seeing the time and nourishment they both shower their sons with is about the most gratifying thing a man can hope for. I long for the days when I would take my sons with me on my milk route. I would let them put the milk on the shelves and bring the milk crates back to the truck. Their pay check came in the form of a handful of quarters for the Pac Man video games in the backrooms of the Mom and Pop grocery stores we stopped at. I miss the days when you could bribe them with a new Matchbox or a Happy Meal. I especially loved the days when I would give my wife a break by taking them to the park where they could ride their pedal tractors or play on the jungle-gym. They’ve both instituted their own father-son rituals and it swells my heart to see it. I’m proud of the men and the father’s they’ve become. With each generation fathers become more and more involved with their children. My sons work as hard as my father and I did as a provider, and that might be the one thing that gives me the most pride. Both of them are blue-collar strong. They both possess an admirable work ethic as did the generations that preceded them. I have no doubt they will pass that trait on to their sons as well. I miss my father and grandfathers. On this Father’s Day I will take some time to reflect on all the “little things” they did that I didn’t realize the importance of at the time; like showing up for work on time and respecting my elders, teaching me to say please and thank you. They taught me how to plane a board, paint a garage, and tighten the chain on my bike. Most importantly, my father and grandfather’s taught me the difference between right and wrong. They instilled in me that doing the right thing was the best thing, and that you can’t put a price tag on integrity. My sons passed that test with flying colors and knowing that is about the best Father’s Day gift you could receive. 

So Brendan and Kevin, I want to wish YOU a Happy Father’s Day. 

Being a father makes me, “Father’s Day Happy.”   

Love,

Dad




May 21, 2017

Day's Light

Day's Light
By John R. Greenwood



It came slowly from around the corner of the milk-house. The first light of day crept quietly, trying not to disturb the slumber of the barnyard. The light of the milk-house window and day's first light met halfway between tank and tanker. My watch read 4:30am. It was a peaceful start to a Sunday morning. Two kittens were wrestling in the hay like kids on a sleep-over. The cows were beginning to stir in anticipation of their morning milking. The air had a mid-May freshness to it. I paused to soak it in from top to bottom. I was covering an early shift for one of my guys and turning lemons in to lemonade. The gentleness of the morning turned a short night's sleep into a gift. Society is losing the ability to savor these gifts with no price tags. I have tried to take up the slack by embracing the smallest of them. After six decades of watching people chase their tails I've learned that happiness doesn't come with any identifying criteria, it comes in whatever form you choose. If your list of criteria is long you may find yourself wallowing through lots of muck and mire. But, if you can find joy in a beam of light from a milk-house window, you may find you've had a better ride than most. That is where I'm at today. I've found life is better lived when you boil it down to the basics. Light and (lack of) sound are two that stood out this morning at work(?). 

If all goes as planned, a Sunday afternoon nap later, will make me feel like a king. 

Live life in any lane. 

Pick one.

Peace,
Raining Iguanas

May 04, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
By John R. Greenwood

Jon Katz discussing his latest book "Talking to Animals"  
I went to pay my respects last night, not for someone’s passing, but for someone’s rebirth. Not their rebirth, but for what they did to revive my life. My wife joined me for a trip to Battenkill Books in Cambridge where Jon Katz was launching his latest book, “Talking to Animals.” I wanted to be there out of respect for the things Jon did for me at a critical moment in my life. What Jon did was hand me a key to a world I’d yet to experience. I was deep into my fifties when Jon accepted my application and invited me to be a member of the original Hubbard Hall Writer’s Group. That small group became an immeasurable inspiration and support system that continues some five years later. You can’t write a check or a Thank You card big enough for what Jon’s encouragement and support has done for me personally. 

Bedlam Farm has become a rally cry for me. The words alone lift my spirit and ignite creativity in me. Jon and Maria opened their home and their lives so that they might expand the lives and dreams of others. I never took their kindness for granted. It was the perfect gift for me at the perfect time. They proved to me that aging shouldn't mean closing doors—on the contrary. It should invite the opening, knocking on, and kicking down of doors. 


My 50’s were invigorating for me, due in large part to the people I chose to hang out with. I would include a list but it would take up pages and pages. It would be easier to simply say, "If you’re reading this right now, there’s a very good chance you belong on my Thank You list." 



With every book launch of Jon’s, my dream of someday launching my own is reenergized. But, even if that day never materializes, I have enjoyed the fruit of having put words to paper. My life has mushroomed to include so many kind and generous people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet if Jon had not accepted that application to the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Group. It was a portal that continues to this day. 

I will end this piece with a formal nod of gratitude for Jon and the people who funneled through him to me. I learned a most valuable lesson from you all. “Follow your Bliss,” whether it comes via pen, paint, photographs, sculpture, or hammer and nails. Embrace it and run with it. It could also come from your pets, Mother Nature, or chasing your grandchildren around the yard. Don’t stop following that, “Bliss.” Jon once shared Joseph Campbell’s mantra in the book cover at one of his book launches I attended. For once in my life I listened to someone’s advice.


As I sit here writing this, I’m raising my glass of milk (for you Ed Gulley) to the air in a toast to all you other, “Bliss” followers. 

Thanks for the ride! 



Respectfully yours,

Raining Iguanas

John R. Greenwood


Below I've included a few photographs from years of book launches and get togethers. 




Northshire Bookstore Manchester VT.
October 2011



Red and Jon arriving for one of our writing meetings
June 2012





   Battenkill Books
August 2013 


Bedlam Farm
April 2013



  Chatham Library
March 2013


Bedlam Farm Open House
September 2013 



Our Hubbard Hall Writer's Group Presentation Day
Freight Theater
May 2013



"Second Chance Dog" Launch
Battenkill Books  

November 2013



Mary Kellogg reads at the Bedlam Farm Open House
September 2013 



The best place to buy "Talking to Animals"
2017 






May 01, 2017

What Does It Feel Like To Be A Loser?

What Does It Feel Like To Be A Loser?
By John R. Greenwood

What does it feel like to be a loser? 

It feels awesome! 

After peaking my weight somewhere between xxl and xxxl, I once again committed myself to shedding some weight. I have stayed fairly consistent over the past couple of years with my morning routine of stretching and using free weights to keep my back from seizing and my muscles from wilting. The problem is, when it comes to cookie avoidance, my willpower tends to run weak. This past Christmas season was particularly challenging. It seemed like each day from Thanksgiving through New Years someone at work was bringing in a fresh batch of something chewy, crunchy, filled with chocolate, or coated with sugar. It was like living between Martha Stewart and Ina Garten during Sweep's Week on the Food Network. Being weak and polite when it comes to cookie trays can be a deadly combination. So, when several people in adjoining departments decided to start off 2017 with our own, "Biggest Loser" contest it was a no-brainer for me to yell out, "I'm in." In January there were still lingering containers of goodies lurking around our homes and in the office, so we didn't start our contest until February, and then I didn't roll up my sleeves and lace up my sneakers until the beginning of Lent. I figured I needed all the help I could get so I added Jesus to my team. He did his share by keeping me away from meat on Fridays. I also heard a voice from above every time I passed the bottomless candy dish perched on our hutch in the living room, and I get a kick out of the #1 on the back of his jersey. 

The main ingredient in my 2017 Thrive To Stay Alive Weight Loss Tour was a magical trick called "Get off your ass and just walk." So, I did just that. I walked every morning, noon, and night, for the last two months. That, along with a divorce from bread, pastry, and cookies helped me achieve "Biggest Loser" status. When I weighed in at 4:30am May 1st I'd lost 25lbs of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Cheer. 

I'd be lying if I told you it's no big deal. Because, it is a big deal. It ranks second behind quitting cigarettes some 15 years ago. That was a battle that took everything I had and my first grandson being born to pull off. Being a big loser took second in the importance race but both challenges had an immediate impact in my health. It's something we all know but somehow it becomes an insurmountable wall. I also know how fragile success can be. All it takes is a couple of off days or missed routine and the numbers on that scale can climb faster than Morning Glory's up a lattice wall. What inevitably happens is we revert to old habits and easy excuses. I won't say this times different, I know better. I'm a professional quitter. All I can do is keep reminding myself how hard it was getting this far. Hopefully knowing I need to go a little farther down the scale will keep me motivated and honest. 

The real test came later in the day when I was reveling in my "Biggest Loser" victory. A longtime coworker from the other end of building happened to be heading in the same direction as I was. We were walking side by side, me with my new svelte swagger, when my (ex)friend reached over and patted my stomach and said, "Puttin' on a little weight there, aren't ya bud?" My lottery win day just got a punch in the kisser. I just smiled my big loser smile, walked away and said, "There's always tomorrow." 

Ten more pounds shouldn't be too hard for a loser like me...


April 30, 2017

Maintenance-Free

Maintenance-Free
By John R. Greenwood


I will never understand people who want to live in a maintenance-free house and live a maintenance-free life. I hear them on HGTV shows all the time. "We want a low maintenance yard." 

Why?

Isn't that what the American Dream is all about; mowing your own perennial rye grass front lawn and trimming around your white picket fence while the kids play Frisbee with Riley the black lab in the backyard? 

Saturday morning I was up at the break of day loading the back of my pick-up with brush I'd cut late last fall. I made three trips to our local landfill with leaves and branches that will ultimately be recycled into mulch. I wasn't distressed by the work involved, I was in man-heaven. That is what I always thought was "livin' the dream." My truck, filled with my leaves, from my trees, from around my house. Yes, I know there's more to life, but if you can't embrace the joy of maintaining your own hunk of real estate, how successful are you going to be finding true happiness in anything?

Don't get me wrong, I've been running the same springtime ritual for over fifty years now and it can wear you down, but to me there's nothing like the feeling I get when my .54 acre is all cleaned up and ready for those soft, gentle April rains. Those afternoon rains that have the dandelions shooting out of the ground and tree buds popping out like Jiffy Pop eight hours later. 

I swear I could actually see the Hosta growing as I sat on the back steps knocking the fresh dirt out of my boot treads. The birds were filling the air with tweet music and you could feel the maple tree roots stretching their legs in the soil below. In a week or so I'll be snorting tree pollen and getting high on May. 

Maintenance Free? 

What the heck do you people do for real enjoyment? 




So, Are You An Artist?

So, Are You An Artist?
By John R. Greenwood


Artists Matt Chinian (left) and Fred Neudoerffer (right) 
"So, are you an artist?" This was the question posed to me by, "The Artists' Space" Gallery Director Fred Neudoerffer one evening at the Spring Pop-Up Art Show at the National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa. 

"No," I said, "But I do support them." 

On this night I had come to support and say hello to painter Matt Chinian. Matt is an artist who lives in Cambridge, NY. We met in August of 2015 when I visited his gallery during the Cambridge Valley Fine Arts Tour. We finally had another chance to sit down and talk last year when I went to his home to purchase two of his paintings. We became friends on Facebook and when I saw he was going to be one of the featured artists at the Pop-up Art Show just a few miles away, I wanted to stop in, shake hands, and say hello. After speaking with Matt for a few minutes, Fred Neudoerffer, the gallery's director, came over and introduced himself. Fred is not only the Artists' Space director, but as I would discover when I got home and had a chance to look up his webpage, an extremely talented, and experienced photographer. It was after Fred first introduced himself that he asked me if I was an artist.



The Jan Rutland Memorial Artists' Space is located on the second floor of the           National Bottle Museum

I admire, respect, and appreciate artists and their craft no matter what form it takes. I am mostly drawn to their passion to create. Matt Chinian and and others like him have no shut-off switch. They can't fathom a day without art in their life. Whether it's creating it, savoring it, or supporting other artists, they must nurture their mind and spirit by engaging that internal drive. I too have this insatiable need to be in, "art" search mode. Whether it's something shiny, or black and white, crafted from barn boards, or baked in a kiln, I'm drawn to it like a big fat moth to a backdoor light on a hot July night. 

The internet has opened up the world to anyone with a creative bone in their body. I can exhaust myself watching videos by artists and craftsmen. What is clear in the end, is that watching is not doing. If you want a drink from the well, you have to roll up your sleeves and start cranking. Your thirst won't be quenched by staring at the ripples below.  


It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of being an artist. I become so engrossed in looking at and enjoying the work of others that I wander off my own path and have a hard time finding my way back. You can't master a skill watching. It takes practice and hard work. I admire those who stay the course and won't be deterred by roadblocks. Often a person creates by instinct and passion not knowing the joy they may be providing others. My goal, and my own joy in life, and in this blog, is to mine those precious snippets of artistry and place them in my ever growing bag of life-treasures. 


"Beautiful History" 

There is a wonderful place less than ten miles from my home called the National Bottle Museum. It is located at 76 Milton Ave in Ballston Spa. I have been passing by it for years yet never took the time to find a parking spot and venture in. Tonight was different. The visit was short but rewarding. I will return soon. You should too. Treat your appetite for history and art. Make it a point to visit one of Ballston Spa's main street treasures. I'm glad I finally did! 


National Bottle Museum T-Shirt








April 12, 2017

A Day Of Observance

A Day Of Observance
By John R. Greenwood

The New York Public Library 
"Each time I went to the library I felt safe. 
Nothing bad can happen to you in a library." 
- Maya Angelou

The quote above can be unearthed on the NYPL Websitea mouse click you will not regret. 


Saturday, April 1, 2017 was a day filled with new friends, old friends, and Friends of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Who knew a bus load of librarians and book lovers could be so much fun! I found out Saturday when I joined a literary tour to NYC. The trip to New York's Algonquin Hotel and the NYPL was organized by Saratoga Reads of the Saratoga Springs Public Library in honor of Saratoga's home grown author from the 1920's Frank Sullivan. The day included round trip bus fare, lunch at the Algonquin Hotel and two informative and entertaining tours of the area. 

We boarded our well-traveled tour bus in the Wilton Mall parking lot. We were greeted by John our cordial and competent driver. Having logged many miles behind the wheel of a tractor trailer myself, I can say from experience that John's professionalism was exercised past every mile marker. 


Bryant Park NYC


We arrived at Bryant Park in New York City, safe, sound, and right on schedule. After a brief description of the day's itinerary by our host Rhona we enjoyed some free time to explore. Many of us headed straight to the NYPL in Bryant Park to get a library card. I now have free access to 63 million items in 209 branches. I will have to finish the four books I have in various stages of completion before tackling that list. It's nice to know they'll still be there when I'm ready. 



Statues of Liberty, Woman in Red, and Batman

I took the accompanying photos and Youtube video during the two walking tours. I spent the day like a sponge trying to soak up every drop before the spill ran off the edge of the kitchen table. I am not a traveled man. When it comes to NYC, I've been to two Yankee games and one Met game in 60 years. I'm not sure that even counts. 


Spring Cleaning - NYC Style



Life Imitates Art 2017
I enjoyed every minute of my visit. The endless variety of people and views kept me fully engaged the entire time. The day went far to quickly. I was glad I had my camera. I was fortunate to capture some great shots of the faces and places I experienced that Saturday. Here are a few more. 



Next Generation 



Keeping The Peace


The Essence of New York 




Sentinel
NYC Style



Hats Off To You NYC
Thank You! 


"My personal favorite of the day" -jrg



Here's a video collection of the day.
Enjoy! 

April 08, 2017

That Raking Sound


That Raking Sound 
By John R. Greenwood



There's something about the sound of a metal rake when it hits the ground for the first time each spring. For me, it "is" the sound of spring. Those metal tines whisking up winters leftovers is like a starters pistol signaling, "Go!"

I've been at this springtime lawn ritual for about fifty years now. Yes, October leaf raking can be invigorating, but wielding the rake in October is more like putting the kids to bed. Leaf piles signal it's time to sit back and relax and let winter drive for awhile. On the other hand, pulling out the $12 "Special Buy" Ace Hardware aluminum rake a week before Easter is what I've been looking forward to for months. It practically jumps from the dark recesses of the garage into my hands. The hands whose knuckles are chapped from the March winds but whose palms are soft and in need of some fresh rake-blisters. I head out to the edge of my property where the lawn ends and Waller Road begins, spit a, "let's do this," spit in the palm of each hand and let spring officially begin. A robin watches from a maple branch above hoping I unearth brunch for her and the kids. The Saturday morning sun warms the back of my neck, I take in a big whiff of leaf mulch and fresh earth, hit the ground with a good swipe and smile.

Life is good.


Rake on...




April 07, 2017

Where Do I Fit In?

Where Do I Fit In?
By John R. Greenwood 


 Where do I fit in as a person who likes to write? I have been asking myself that question for several years now.  Author Jon Katz says, "You write, therefore you are a writer." Being a writer doesn't come with a flow chart of earnings or readership quotas. The biggest thing I ever received for any of my work was a beautiful framed photograph of the Catskills that I won when a story I wrote was published in the Conservationist magazine. It hangs proudly in my home. The most rewarding thing I get from writing is when someone is touched by what I put into words. That's why I enjoy writing simple notes and letters to people. I have always liked writing captions to photos and I have always been drawn to thought provoking quotes I run across. I collect my favorites in a notebook. Let's just say I'd have a better chance at being a Hallmark Card writer than a Stephen King. 

When I go long stretches without expressing what's going on inside I begin to isolate myself. I withdraw from the things I enjoy and I lose interest in everything. I'm at my best when creativity is a steady flow and I'm on the move. That's why it's so important for people to have an interest or a hobby to keep them attached to the world. I began Raining Iguanas because I needed to find out who I really was. I went from teenager to father and provider with little time to prepare. In later years, just when I thought I might be able to set aside "me" time my parents became more and more dependent on me. It's called life and if you plan to enjoy it you had better learn to enjoy the little things or you'll never be truly happy. When my parents had both passed I was in my mid-fifties. It was now just my wife and me. Our sons were grown and had expanding families of their own. I needed to stop and catch my breath. That's when I began to put thoughts down on paper. That was the spark that became this blog.

What's next?

I'm still not ready to make work a second thought. I think work keeps me grounded and vital. What I have been struggling with is whether or not to do something more with my thoughts and words. I rise to my alarm every morning at 4am but I struggle with procrastination and discipline. I can put off difficult things for years. I've discovered a vein of inspiration on the television. It slowly emerged when I subscribed to Netflix. The endless barrage of commercials on network television became so annoying that I, like many others, began searching for an alternative. It was a few months after watching various options on Netflix that I began pulling up YouTube on the television. I stumbled across a BBC show called, "What do artists do all day?" It stirred up that creative fever that is always present. It's that itch I can never scratch. I can never seem to figure out how to feed that fire. Writing helps but it's either not enough or it only makes me more frustrated because it creates an even larger yearning for something more. It's that, "more" that I can't seem to identify. I believe it's a need to express myself via some form of visual art. What form that expression takes has yet to speak up. I keep searching and searching. I absorb the works and ideas of anyone and anything that passes by my window in hopes something will stand up and shake me by the shoulders. Whatever it is, it has to be original in some way. I am convinced the answer is out there waiting for me to uncover it. My mind races when I watch an artist that seems to be in a sort of creative trance because that's the feeling I'm trying desperately to recreate. I'm too impatient for fine art, so the venue I choose must be larger and more crude. I feel drawn to using materials presently around me.

What I'm experiencing is not rare. There are millions of people who suffer from the same malady. It's something that has plagued man since the beginning. We find it etched in caves. We unearth examples throughout the world. My fear is that sometimes  the ember dies without ever knowing the flame it may have become. I believe we all possess the same fear. It seems to strengthen with each passing day.

I wrote the words above weeks ago and let them marinate in my iPad. I just returned to the piece and reread my words. I do that sometimes. I forget the original point I was trying to convey and I wander off on a tangent. The key, I suppose is that we return. It's easy to get lost entirely and fall off the edge of the earth. I refuse to do that. On my recent visit to the NYPL I found fresh inspiration in the form of two lions; Patience and Fortitude. They spoke volumes to me, not just by the books within the walls behind them but by their message. Relying on instant gratification is the instigator of all our present day woes. It's knowing that true happiness lies in the calloused hands of hard work and appreciation of the end result. To possess the patience to muscle though diversity and despair is the true test of man. Having the courage and resiliency to withstand the roller coaster ride that life throws at you is what helps you appreciate what you have.

I am a content man in what I have, but I am always hungry for more contentment. Sounds crazy but it makes perfect sense to me. In this world-wind world, I crave quiet. Quiet in the form of art. Art in the form of anything assembled out of creativity from within.

If this sounds like rambling, it's not. To me it's as clear as a bolt of summer lightening. Embrace what's within reach but reach further, swing for the fences but celebrate a double, sip coffee, gulp life, sit down and cheer. 


Most importantly, come back soon.

Peace. 




March 24, 2017

Spring-Mud

Spring-Mud
By John R. Greenwood

Spring-mud dries hard
it coats my shoes,
leaves a trail down the hall,
and tracks across the kitchen floor.

Spring-mud-clumps bring 
fresh excitement for 
sunny days ahead.

Spring-mud is different than 
the muds of summer, fall, and winter. 
It signals the beginning of this
and the end of that. 

Spring-mud is happy mud. 
Stomping children squish it 
beneath their feet, 
smiling playfully—
even a mother’s displeasure 
melts away
replaced with 
a sentimental smile of her own.

Spring-mud smells good. 
Its scent infused with the optimism 
of green lawns, soldiered in dandelions.

Spring-mud footprints leave 
distinct descriptions of their origin.  
Lug-boot impressions let you know 
dad’s across the road in the barn. 
Paw prints turn us into 
animal trackers. 
Size 4 sneakers leave imprints of
pre-school adventurers. 

Spring-mud is joyful 
when you take the time
to read it. 






February 19, 2017

The World It Seems

The World It Seems
By John R. Greenwood

The world it seems has lost it's mind
Spewing words of hate it can't take back

People once friends turn ugly and unfamiliar
Their ears poisoned by what they hear

Alternative facts and refurbished lies 
Ricochet untethered causing fear to swell

I recoil into the dense undergrowth 
Waiting for the traffic to slow to a crawl

Once hopeful for the building of diversity
I feel the ceiling crashing from the weight of evil

Mistrust runs free for the taking
Strewn out like lawn sale leftovers

Somewhere along the way we lost the map

The World it seems can't read the signs