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. 

John 

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? 

Stop! 

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. 

Stop! 

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. 

Breathe…

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. 




June 06, 2018

Spread Some Ed

Spread Some Ed
By John R. Greenwood

I sat down at my desk to write no less than fifty times over the last several weeks but I always come up empty after a line or two. I keep veering off course by my farmer friend Ed’s wrestling match with cancer. We spend our entire lives solving problems and setting goals for the future. We work on self-improvement and doing a little better for our families than the previous generation. Then one day this nemesis comes knocking at your door and everything changes. I’ve been focused on Ed’s reaction, and his actions since his diagnosis. I’ve been paying close attention to the message he’s been sharing with everyone. Ed is unselfish. He’s kind. He’s generous. He wants everyone around him to benefit from his battle. His message has been one of gratitude for what we do have and can have, not on what’s been lost. He wants us to stop sweating the small stuff we can’t control and start embracing what’s right in front of our noses. Although he’s taken a midwest tour to enjoy some of what this country has to offer he knows what’s really important has been within arms reach the whole time. He didn’t miss that fact, he knew it all along. What he did find during his travels was confirmation that life is good, family is great, and you don’t need deep pockets to appreciate any of it. I promise to continue learning from Ed’s journey. It’s probably the one thing this country needs most right now. Take a moment to look inward not outward for answers. The secret to happiness is in your shirt pocket close to your heart, not on the internet or reality tv. 


Do yourself a favor and listen to my farmer friend. Like the Farmer’s Insurance commercial says, “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.” 

Support Ed’s mission to 
promote gratitude for the now.

"Spread Some Ed"



Here's an essay written by another hero of mine Michael Perry. The piece is titled “Gratitude”. It’s probably the most powerful piece I’ve ever read or listened to. It fits Ed and his message perfectly. Thank you Ed and Mike, you’re both proof that farmers can cultivate minds as well as a field of corn. 


Follow Ed and Carol Gulley's journey here: 




May 06, 2018

Child's Play

Child's Play
By John R. Greenwood

I can assure you that the term "child's play" does not refer to the assembly of children's play equipment. It looked simple online. In the confines of my already burgeoning side of the garage I foolishly bit off more than I was ready to chew this afternoon. The rain drops were spaced just close enough that I was afraid to test my dark-cloud luck, so I cleared a swath big enough to build a one room bungalow and dug in. 




After not reading the directions first--I started with the foundation. 







All you had to do was unfold the walls and throw on the roof, right? Umm, slow down Scooter. There was a package of assorted wood screws in the bottom of the box that had more screws in it than my side porch. There were strips of wood and bags of plastic pieces/parts that looked like they might have fallen off a Home Depot delivery truck. I was not deterred. I had a hard time getting in my assemblage rhythm but as the bungalow began to take shape I began to imagine my grandsons scooting in and out of the door, ringing the door bell and stuffing their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the mailbox. I picked up my pace. It wasn't long before I realized the reviews regarding assembly time must have been based on a full "This Old House" crew. Or, they organized an old fashioned Amish barn raising and used the participants to put it together. Nevertheless, I was confident I could have a certificate of occupancy before the dusk-to-dawn lights on the garage clicked on. 






On a more serious note. These are the spring and summer projects we so desperately needed. This winter wore all of us down to a nub. We all need an outdoor activity other than snowblowing. It will wear off in a month when the grass is knee high and the ticks are running off with the patio furniture, but for now it felt good to be outside again. This will be a short post because I'm running out of steam and the alarm is set at 4am when Monday will arrive and the race for the weekend will start all over again. 

If anyone is interested in renting a one room bungalow Monday-Friday for $25 per day, give me a call. Un-housebroken pets of any species are allowed, it's a dirt floor. 




February 24, 2018

Side Effects

Side Effects 
By John R. Greenwood 


The climate of our society has given me the same side effects that would accompany a prolonged migraine. A migraine can last as long as 72 hours if untreated. 

During a migraine you may experience:

Pain on one side or both sides of your head
Pain that feels like throbbing or pulsing
Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
Nausea and vomiting
Blurred vison 
Lightheadedness; sometimes followed by fainting

Before a migraine even starts you may have vision loss, difficulty speaking, or uncontrollable tremors. Even once the migraine subsides you may feel drained and washed out. During a 24 hour period post-migraine you may also experience confusion, moodiness, and dizziness. 

The side effects above may also be caused by watching a present day newscast. I know in my case in addition to the news and social media, even overhearing a conversation at my local convenience store may likely result in all of the side effects associated with a migraine. 


With that pleasant thought in mind I thought I would find a way to vent my frustration, anxiety, and fear of the current state of affairs in a semi-silent format such as photographs and poetry. Here is my alternative to running into the streets screaming. 


What's Next?
by John R. Greenwood 

If only we knew what was around the corner
Where did all that hope that once lined my street go?
I thought things would be different by now
Did we take a wrong turn?
Someone poured cement and we stepped in
now we're stuck swaying from the ankles up
unable to run away
maybe we should have saved time
and dove in head first






 Frozen In Silence 
by John R. Greenwood

silent behind the glass
a shattering sound

clearly visible
causes my mind 

to race 
back in time
1963

shots fired 






Angry Men
by John R. Greenwood

Angry men still exist
they blame everyone else
never pausing to glance in the mirror
Anger kills
from the inside out
look closer men
before your hearts rot away






Left Behind
by John R. Greenwood

No words needed





February 21, 2018

The Art Of Being Happy (Bottle #7)

The Art Of Being Happy (Bottle #7)
By John R. Greenwood

I’m sick and tired of being happy. It’s getting harder and harder to find optimistic friends to play with. Everyone is too busy running around hating on each other. Because my job and my life take place on the double yellow line between the right and left lanes I’ll refrain from making this a political commentary. I will say my glass was a lot more full two years ago. Lately I feel every time my glass gets near the top someone comes along and kicks it over. 

I’ve spent my life extracting happiness from every common moment I could wring from life’s dishtowel; from that new car smell to my morning’s first sip of coffee. It’s been sixty-two years and counting, collecting bits and pieces of happiness. My greatest joy today will come from out of the blue. It might be a pure and genuine thank you from an appreciative coworker or stranger. It could come in the form of a Labrador’s wagging tail or a grandson’s infectious giggle. It might even come in the last 30 seconds of an otherwise heart wrenching newscast. 

Like a fish-less bobber I keep popping to the surface hoping things get better. If you’d told me back in the 60’s and 70’s that this country would be struggling with color, gender, and abuse in 2018 at the level we are now I would have laughed you off the street. I would have hoped by now our brains and our neighbors would have found a way to level the playing field so we could all take a shot at the net. I was sadly mistaken, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep doing my part, spreading my optimism and handshakes wherever I go. I’m not a quitter. 

Oh, I almost forgot, there’s a town hall gun debate coming on in a couple of hours. Let’s see if I can extract anything out of that—he said smiling. 

Bottle release update: No feedback on anything I’ve placed back in the wild yet. Here’s a couple pictures with some hints of where the latest two bottles were set free. 

"Be The Reason"
#5
Hint: You'd be able to get more "Information" if they were open right now...



I thought you'd enjoy this amazing coincidence. My wife had not yet read the piece on Bottle #5. I shared the story and photo with her after I'd already posted it. When she got a chance to read it she sent me this photo of her desk at work. You must believe me when I tell you neither one of us had discussed this quote at any time before I wrote the piece or set the bottle free. It did send a warm-chill up my spine.  








  At My Age Bottle #6
This just seemed like a happy place to be set free...



Bottle #7 “The Art Of Being Happy” will be out there roaming the world by the time you read this latest piece. 

Happy Hunting


RI 




February 18, 2018

At My Age (Bottle #6)

At My Age (Bottle #6)
By John R. Greenwood


“At my age flowers scare me,” is a great quote by one of the greats, George Burns. George has been gone awhile now and it’s sad to say but I’ll bet there’s only a handful of people I work with who even remember George in “Oh God”. There’s only a few more that even remember John Denver. It’s funny to think about that movie being at the end of George’s career. There's no more than a pinch of readers here who would even know about George and Gracie so I won't even go there. Even though George Burns and Gracie Allen were ahead of my time, there was still enough remnants left when I was growing up for me to have a deep affinity for them both.  

I thought George’s line would generate a smile or two. I smile out loud thinking about some kid in his thirties trying to figure out what it even means. What it says to me now is—you might just as well laugh about old age because it’s rolling toward you so fast you wouldn’t be able to jump out of the way if your tried. George Burns was born in NYC in 1896 and lived to be 100yrs old. He kept us laughing until the end. If you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of George Burns Google him, and watch a few clips. 

Here's one:I don't do miracles

George handled age like whisking lint off a sweater sleeve. I’m doing my best to follow his lead. 

--------------------------------

To date I haven’t gotten any feedback from any bottle catchers other than my friend Diane who graciously did a catch and release (Please don't say anything, but I made her a special replacement bottle). The interest seems to have collected some momentum. To all of you who have been kind enough to follow along, I thank you. I have to admit it’s been fun thinking about where these bottles are ending up? I may never know. I have plenty of bottles to keep me going and if necessary I just might start sending a random olive or pickle jar out for adoption. Whatever happens it’s a little distraction from the madness of the news. I don’t turn things off completely but I do adjust the floodgate according to my tolerance level on any given day. I feel I’ve earned the right to call it a day when the nastiness of the world around me becomes too much to handle. 

Play Nice...

RI


“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” —George Burns

“It only takes one drink to get me drunk.                                                                             The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or fourteenth.” —George Burns 






February 16, 2018

Be The Reason (Bottle #5)

Be The Reason (Bottle #5)
By John R. Greenwood


Yesterday I was in the passenger seat of a Freightliner making deliveries with one of my drivers. We were on State St. in Schenectady. If you’ve traveled it you know it can get a little crazy in the morning. We were within sight of our destination when we both noticed the stopped minivan ahead of us. The rear hatch had popped open and left a mountain of newspaper bundles covering the road. It looked like a dump truck spreading a load of gravel. The bundles were scattered far and wide. The gentleman driving had jumped out and was desperately trying to save his lost cargo. Cars were honking and swerving all around the poor man and his unexpected catastrophe. My driver stopped well back but that didn't keep cars from blasting by us and the scattered cargo. I jumped out and I told him to go to the store we were delivering to, a hundred yards away. I began scooping up newspaper bundles like a mother scooping up a runaway toddler. I placed them in neat stacks on the curb as the unfortunate, grey haired newspaper boy began reloading his squatting minivan. When I had all the papers stacked neatly on the edge of the busy street I ran over to our truck and I grabbed a handcart. I began wheeling the stacks over to the other panting grandpa. In the end we safely rescued every escaped newspaper. 

There in the middle of a chaotic Electric City thoroughfare stood two out-of-breath men of advanced years smiling from ear to ear at each other. With no words necessary we simultaneously reached out and shook hands. It was simple gesture that stuck with me for the entire day. I knew, he knew, that it was times like that, that we feel blessed by the kindness of strangers. In those moments, no credit card or bulging wallet can recreate two old men having their own little Hallmark moment. One of those moments when you feel there's still a glimmer of hope in the world. He didn’t need to express any gratitude, I was way ahead of him. I was reveling in the silent handshake of a random act, a random slice of life as it happens. 

With that thought safely packed away, I went home and quickly placed this simple quote on Bottle #5 and released it in Saratoga Springs early the next morning. I didn’t dare wait another minute. Have you watched the news lately? 

Don’t give up.

Don't give in.  

Be the reason someone smiles today...


RI 



February 11, 2018

Unexpected Message

Unexpected Message 
By John R. Greenwood

My phone plinged with that Instant Message pling last night after dinner. It was “Merganser's Crossing’s” Diane Fiore. Diane and I became friends when we were both invited to become members of Jon Katz’s original Hubbard Hall Writing Group back in 2012. Diane had been following my “Bottle Project” as she called it, and had messaged me a fun little story. When I asked if she minded if I share it, she never hesitated. 

She had just read my piece on the release of Bottle #4. At the top of that piece I included a semi-detectable photo of where the bottle was left. Diane is from Clifton Park and although she was familiar with Congress Park she said she’d never actually visited it. She thought she recognized the park as the place I’d left Bottle #4. She had some errands in the area so she decided to see if there was a chance she might be able locate the bottle. She said she found a parking spot on Broadway and headed into the park on her bottle expedition. Because this was her first visit to Congress Park it took a little exploring to get her bearings from the photograph. It wasn’t long before she caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of her eye. Sure enough the bottle was still where I’d abandoned it. She compared the discovery to finding the $350,000.00 under the big “W” in “It's A Mad,Mad,Mad,Mad World.” She now admittedly had a dilemma. Should she keep her new found treasure or leave it for another person to find? If you knew Diane you would already know the answer. Being a spirit of immense generosity and thoughtfulness the bottle was left as found. She practiced what we call basic bottle-catch-and-release by snapping a picture with her phone and walking away. 

I answered her message and explained that I was worried people might think I’d lost my mind. As expected her reply assured me my crazy “bottle project” was anything but. The ultimate encourager, she called my madness enthralling—which may be a little strong. For me it’s surviving the Winter of 2018. To date there’s four orphaned bottles roaming around out there, all hoping to stir the curiosity of an eagle-eyed dog walker, enthrall the wonder of a dear friend, or entertain the creative side of a senile old man with a snow covered lawn and no kids around to chase away. 

Happy Hunting…


RI