November 29, 2013


By John R. Greenwood

a moment captured  
defines days beyond
love touches life
in silent tenderness

November 23, 2013

It’s About Time

It’s About Time
By John R. Greenwood

This piece is about time. Not in a, “We’ve been wondering where you’ve been?” sense but in a,“Time is racing by so fast I can’t stop it long enough to cross the street.” sense. I have many more things on my list than I have time for and prioritizing them has become a complex and draining ritual. 

We all have long lists of responsibilities we drag around like a Samsonite filled with old bricks. Each fulfilled obligation replaced with another. It’s been that way since high school graduation in June 1973. The adults in our lives back then tried to warn us. We are now realizing how smart those dinosaurs were. I am not complaining, I have no right to. My life has been blessed with two warmhearted sons, a beautiful wife who bakes delicious things for me and a steady job that I tend to under-appreciate. The balance between living life like you had three days left and living it like a mature, experienced, and responsible adult is a tricky one to maneuver. I start and end each day like I’m crossing a raging river on a Valvoline coated railroad tie. 

What is protocol? Where do you abandon responsibility and embrace spontaneous reaction? How do you maximize personal potential without shelving certain things on that, “Should Do” list. Where is that fine line between my list and my spouse’s list? Both lists surely include one another in some way. Lately this juggling act has consumed any quiet moment of more than ten minutes. My fervor to create something of some significance has impregnated my every move. I’m like a drug sniffing shepherd who knows it’s in the middle of that pallet of boxes but doesn’t have all the tools to actually get to the stash. 

I woke up early this quiet Saturday morning with that keyboard itch that constantly follows me around waiting to pounce on the first inkling of something worth writing about. It chased me all the way through my morning workout to the Keurig and my first cup of coffee. It kept poking me down the hall and to the PC where it now has me in it’s tight grasp. Sometimes I sit at the computer like drag racing’s John Force revving at the start of the quarter mile waiting for that green light moment that sends my mind spinning like a set of smoking tires.

This very moment is a perfect example. It’s a fall Saturday morning. My list includes leaf piles, garage piles, and piles of unread books. Mrs.G’s list is a true list that includes Thanksgiving preparation, food, and cleaning supplies. We have yet to compare our lists but when you’ve been married for thirty-eight years you know the drill. It’s a balance of need versus want, him versus her, you versus me. It’s a chess game they call life. Marriage adds a dollop of challenge to creating a doable list. Time is always the deciding factor. 

So for the time being I will grab time by the arm and yanks him along. I have no time to argue, no time to waste. What time is it anyway? Wow, where did that hour go? 

November 19, 2013

The Waiting List

The Waiting List
By John R. Greenwood

I'm not exactly sure what happened to me this evening but I'm going to try and explain it the best way I know how and thats by putting it down on paper. I just got home a little while ago from a TEDx Talk at Skidmore College's Arthur Zankel Music Center . It was a free event that I found to be a priceless experience. I found out about the talk last night only because it happened to pop up on my computer. I have been waiting for my friend, author Jon Katz’s Tedx Talk from last week in New Jersey to be posted. Because I had signed up for updates I was blessed with an unexpected gift of creativity right here in my own neighborhood. There was one problem. The tickets were all sold out. 

Apparently the Skidmore students take their motto of Creative Minds Matter very seriously. I was crushed. I spent the day trying to secure a ticket. I was told the tickets were beyond sold out and the kids were working it out between them as to who would get to go and who would have to wait for the next opportunity. 

I am a stubborn and sometimes relentless pest. I rechecked the information on the Zankel site and read the fine print. It said that even though the seats were all gone there may be some tickets available the night of the event. That was enough daylight for me. Being a milk glass half full guy (I’m an old milkman, so using milk instead of water is the right thing to do) and having a creative sweet tooth to satisfy I saddled up the Toyota Tundra and headed for the music center. 

When I arrived the lobby was swollen with throngs of youth and nose rings. I weaved my way to the ticket counter and asked to have my name added to the waiting list. I peeked at the list and saw dozens of names ahead of mine. I am not easily deterred. I am old. I have nothing to lose. I struck a claim at the nearest open wall space and leaned there confidently waiting for my lottery number to be called. When the theater doors opened and the lobby began to empty I checked my watch. Time was running out. I glanced around at the solemn faces remaining--all with tilted ear and a wishful spirit. I heard names like Libby, Kyle, Stefanie, and Marcus being called out. Just as the they were about to kick out the door stops, I heard those words I had been waiting for, “Greenwood”. 

I entered the theater with my head held high and grinning from ear to ear. I called my work weary wife at home and whispered, “I’m in.” I then proceeded to enjoy the creative candy bar that my sweet tooth so desperately craved. It was a wonderful event and I enjoyed every morsel. 

Now that you have the setup, here’s the main point of this post. All three speakers were wonderful and I would love to spend an hour describing each one’s message but I have a more personal observation I want to share about creativity. Its pull is not easily explained. Each one of the presenters tried to share their take on it. Everyone in that theater was there because they have some creative itch to scratch. It may be painting, story telling, sculpting, or dance. It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is don’t ignore it. That is the point I want to implant here. Creative endeavors are never fully satisfied. They only lead to the next one. The very last question of the night was asked of all three speakers, “What does being creative mean to you?” I was a millisecond from standing up and yelling out my definition. Instead I wrote it down.

“Creativity is a treasure hunt that never ends.” - John R. Greenwood

My treasure hunt began in the kerosene stove heated living room of my childhood home where I would turn a big wooden-legged red naugahyde ottoman upside down and get in it. I would pretend it was a ship and I was the Captain. My imagination fuse was lit and it has fueled me for well over five decades. I have been seeking the treasure of creativity every day of my life ever since. I have yet to find a glass big enough to quench my thirst. I lift every rock in the garden and look beneath it for that one venue or spark that fills me up. I’m guessing that will carry throughout the autumn of my life.

I wanted to walk up and down the aisles of the Zankel theater and look each and every student in that room in the eye and tell them my story. I wanted to shake them by the shoulders and scream into their faces, “Don’t stop searching!”, “Don’t settle!”, “Don’t hesitate!”. 

I found what I was looking for on this creative night. I refilled the tank, and re-stoked the fire. I didn’t find the treasure but I did find another piece of the puzzle. There always seems to be a piece missing. 

Isn’t that what keeps us searching? 

November 16, 2013

After Hours

After Hours 
By John R. Greenwood

beauty never sleeps
always patient
relishes the night

November 15, 2013

Music To My Eyes

Music To My Eyes
By John R. Greenwood

Strolling past a music filled window caused me to stop posthaste. The utter beauty of notes I could not hear swelled my heart as I stood in the darkness peering in. Like a harmless intruder I watched in silent want. That deep desire to plink a gentle tune upon the ivory white keys of a black lacquered upright embraced my eyes. The youthful joy of weathered experience emanated out through the panes of glass and into the courtyard of Hubbard Hall. In silent shadows I yearned for the music beyond the glass, beyond my reach. A painter’s brush could find no greater subject or pastoral scene. I paused in brief elation to gather the noiseless sound of music. My wide eyes openly savored each song played as the sweet melody of this cool November evening brought warmth to my soul and my spirit to windy heights.  

November 13, 2013

Another Fine Evening

Another Fine Evening
By John R. Greenwood

Friends, readers, dog lovers, and more all gathered with soft smiling faces in a warm hearted bookstore. Peace enveloped each foot step as they entered the wonderful world of words. My friend Jon Katz, "The Encourager", was about to launch his newest book, "The Second Chance Dog" - a book about love and second chances. A story that was destined for greatness-written or not. I arrived early at Battenkill Books in hopes of taking a quick shelf browse before the crowd arrived. It was nice to experience the pre-event simmer as other early birds stalked the patient, book-filled shelves looking for words of inspiration, love, and maybe a little adventure. Many arriving faces took on a familiar tone as if I knew them all by name. Generous hosts passed out delicious maple cookies. Bedlam Farm followers clip-clopped the hardwood floors with quiet anticipation of the books author Jon Katz, his wife, artist Maria Wulf , and the star of the evening Frieda the 'Helldog'. Yes this was going to be another fine evening provided by Battenkill Books and Hubbard Hall's Curiosity Forum.

These seemingly simple evenings have become an important part of my life. I relish new acquaintances and experiences because they keep me vital in the world. Jon used that word a  few times during the evening. I too look at life with open eyes  and open mind. This little chunk of Cambridge has become an oasis for me. It all started with my association with Jon and the Hubbard Hall Writers and it has fueled my spirit for the last couple of years. It was a wonderful feeling to see so many like minded people enjoying a popular man as he shared his extraordinary story so openly and with an authenticity that is so lacking in today's world. 

Thanks again Connie Brooks (Battenkill Books), Leslie Parke Studio (Curiosity Forum Supporter), and Deb Foster (Hubbard Hall Marketing Director), for your time and effort providing your community with such meaningful events. Your commitment to the arts and artists in your backyard is a commodity that pays dividends that can't always be measured in dollars and cents. Changing lives would be a hard gem to value. I can tell you from this man's perspective it is priceless.  

November 11, 2013

Thanks Dad

Thanks Dad
By John R. Greenwood

That's my father Ralph up front leaning through the railing
Thanks dad for the youth you sacrificed for our country. You never talked about it much. Only in your last years did you seem to want to share any of your Navy experiences. You were proud of your service but reluctant to flaunt bravado about it. Because I was fortunate enough to miss the Vietnam experience by a couple of years I will never know the true sense of bravery and fear you did. I am proud of you and my son who also dedicated four years of his life for his country. 

I will keep this post simple because I know that's the way you would want it. I want you to know that I don't take my country for granted. I enjoy my life to the fullest because of the sacrifice of others. That is important for me to say. I come and go as I please. I write what I want, when I want. I fly the American flag proudly on the front porch of MY house. Today I pray for the safety and safe return of all veterans throughout the world. My heart aches for the parents of those who've lost a son or daughter. 
Thanks Dad. Thanks son. I am forever grateful for your service. 

Dad served aboard a transport ship. He was also a Navy diver.
He did love to talk about how many times he crossed the equator. 

The first time I saw this was a few years before my father passed away. 

November 10, 2013

Photograph In The Closet

Photograph In The Closet 
A short story by John R. Greenwood

It was nagging him like a barking dog on a moonlit night. Something was trying to get Kent’s attention. It was getting stronger since his father died. Having these ongoing thoughts that something was coming around the corner was weighing heavy on him. It was proof of how much damage a pile of unanswered questions can do to you. Thoughts of his own mortality seemed to be at the root of it all. His parents, now both gone, had left him an orphan at fifty-nine. 

“My mother was way too young to die.” he said. “My father was way too old.” 

The subliminal arm tugging began fifty years ago when he was nine. It was at that time Kent found a beat up old trunk full of family papers. He stumbled upon it by accident. He was sure it was meant to stay hidden away by the way it was buried deep in the back of an upstairs closet. It had been a rainy weekday in July and his mother and father were both at work. He was an only child, alone and bored to death. His curiosity had gotten the best of him. He pulled the trunk out into his parents bedroom. The latch on it was broken. Kent lifted the lid slowly. He leaned it carefully against the foot of the bed and began to spread the papers out across the floor. There he sat Indian style sorting through the mysterious trove of unknown items. He didn’t know it at the time but this little discovery would impact his entire life. 

He started with the the old photos. There were black and white photographs of people standing in front of tattered homes in tattered clothes. They were people he didn’t know in places he had never been. There were few names on the backs of the pictures. Most weren’t familiar, although he had a sense they should be. As he picked up each one he felt drawn to look deep into the eyes of each person in the picture. It was as if they were looking back at him. He could almost feel them trying to speak. He opened a large stamp covered manilla envelope and a more recent photo fell out. It wasn’t a new photo but it wasn’t as old as the others. There was a man standing behind a woman with his arms wrapped around her waist and his chin nestled in the crook of her neck. The woman was smiling and holding a baby. The man was definitely his father. The woman was definitely not his mother. There was nothing else familiar in the photo, but there was something written in cursive on the back. It was the name, ‘Rudy’. 

Kent remembered holding the photo of Rudy for the longest time. It was as if he were trying to peel back the years to decipher it. Was his father the godfather to a relative or friends baby? The women wasn’t aunt Jane and it couldn’t be his father’s younger sister Kate, she died in a car accident when she was a sophomore in high school. The photo gave him a chill, like a piece of forbidden fruit. 

His father looked so happy, the woman did too. Even the baby seemed content.  

As Kent started to dig deeper into the papers he heard a car pull in the driveway. The time had gotten away from him. His mother must have finished her shift at the diner early. She had been getting fewer and fewer hours ever since the plant across the street shut down. Kent scooped up the papers, shoved them back in the trunk, slammed the lid and slid the mystery collection back to the shadows of the closet. Whew, that was close! 

It wasn’t until summer had disappeared into fall and Halloween was approaching did the trunk come back into focus. Kent was going to dress up as a lumberjack. He asked his mother if he could use one of his father’s old flannel shirts. She said sure and even suggested he might find one of his fathers old red and black wool hats on the top shelf of their closet. The best part was she was on her way to visit a friend for the day and his father was off on business. It looked like Halloween and an old mystery trunk were about to mix it up a bit. 

Kent waved goodbye to his mother. For a nine year-old a kiss on the cheek is no longer acceptable. The second she hit the end of the block Kent had that trunk open and was digging away. 

He found the picture of his father and the mystery women and baby. It was like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing. Then it happened. Kent opened an envelope with a handwritten letter in it. It was a woman’s writing. The envelope had a return address but no name. The address was 176 Clement St., Hollister Mass. He sat back against the bed post and began to read the letter. 

Dearest Frank,  Oct 2, 1952
I wanted you to know I am okay and the baby is too. I know you will never forgive me but it had to be this way. You have a life ahead and all I have is Rudy. I know things will be better this way. It’s the only way. I will not contact you again. Please don’t come here. There is no reason for you to worry. My parents gave me plenty of money when I left. I am with relatives who can help. I already have a job lined up. Trust me, I will, we will, be okay. 


When you’re fifty-nine you don’t flinch at asking personal questions. You’ve passed the age of being embarrassed. When you’re nine you don’t ask anyone anything, especially in the 1960’s, and most especially when it involves strange women and unidentified babies. Kent would bury this letter back into a dark corner of the trunk. Although the bits and pieces he had uncovered didn’t have an immediate impact on his life it seemed like every person he met in the next fifty years might have a story to share. Kent would find himself listening in on private conversations in the doctor’s office or at the movies. He would sit in the food court at the mall and watch every passing face as if it might sit down and tell him their life’s story. Every  new acquaintance was secretly analyzed. Kent turned into an FBI profiler and he didn’t even know it. 

Kent never did muster the courage to talk to his father about the letter or the photo. Now that his mother and father were both gone it really didn’t matter anyway, did it? His life had no voids. He had been married to the same women for thirty some years. His children were now adults forging their own trail through life. But something lately seemed different. He couldn’t help feeling like the phone or the doorbell were about to ring.  

Kent had been thinking about visiting his father’s sister Aunt Jane. She lived two states away in a place that was named to sound like paradise but he’d been there two years earlier and it was far from it. It was part nursing-home part purgatory. He pulled into Meadow Edge Villa not knowing if Aunt Jane would even recognize him. The lady at the desk spoke softly like she was standing in the middle of a room of sleeping newborns. She pointed to the Meadow Edge Community Room across the hall. She whispered, “Your aunt is in there. Her hearing is failing. She gets upset easily. She may not want to talk to you. Don’t take it personally.”

Kent peeked around the edge of the door not knowing what to expect. There she was parked in front of a big screen television. The Young and the Restless was blaring across the room. He knelt down beside her wheelchair. She looked him straight in the eye. “Frank, Frank I’m so glad to see you. You look so handsome. I’ve missed you so much. How’s Kent doing?” Kent picked up her warm hand and held it against his cheek. He smiled at her and with great care responded, “It’s Kent Aunt Jane. Dad passed away. I stopped to see you. How are you doing?”

Kent’s bluntness brought her back to reality. It took a minute but she gathered herself and apologized for forgetting that her brother had passed away. After a few minutes of small talk she was more herself. Her hearing seemed fine. 

Something told Kent he might not see Aunt Jane again. He didn’t want to upset her but this might be his last chance to ask about Rudy. Who was he? Did she know? 
Kent took a deep breath, held her hand firmly and let it fly. “Aunt Jane, I found an old photograph in dad’s things. There was a women and a baby. Can you tell me who Rudy is?” 

She froze like she’d seen a ghost. She pulled her hand out of Kent’s and held her head like she was getting a migraine. She closed her eyes and just sat there for the longest time. When she pulled her hands away from her face she wasn’t crying. She was placid as could be. She looked Kent dead square in the eye and said, “You’ve gone all these years, there’s no need to tell you now. If your father wanted you to know he would have told you a long time ago. It doesn’t matter now. Go home and enjoy your life. Let Rudy be. Go, I’m tired, I want to watch my show.” 

Kent hugged her, apologized and stood up. He left the room with slumped shoulders. He’d tried. Her answer confirmed there was a story. He just might have to wait until he saw his father on the other side to find out if he had a brother he’d never met. 

Months passed and so did Aunt Jane. Kent resumed his life and began to prepare for retirement. He’d thought about digging into ‘’ to see if he could find out anything about the mysterious Rudy. The more he dwelled on it the more it disrupted his life. Then one day he decided to simply let it go. It just wasn’t worth worrying about anymore. He thought he’d play hooky from work one day and take a hike to his father’s favorite fishing hole. It was a secret place that no one but Kent and his father knew about. Kent’s father made him swear he’d never share it’s location with anyone. He hadn’t been there in years. The path was overgrown and hard to follow but there were tracks in the mud. It looked like Kent and his father weren’t the only ones who knew about this secret spot. 

As Kent rounded the bend where path met the stream he saw an older man sitting on the edge of the bank with his hiking boots beside him and his feet soaking in the cool  water. Kent cleared his throat to announce his approach. The man although a bit startled did not seem the least bit upset that his quiet afternoon had been disrupted by a stranger. Both men looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Hey, how’s it going?” 

Kent couldn’t help thinking he knew this guy. They were fairly close in age. Was it possible they were grade school friends who didn’t recognize each other? Kent asked the semi-stranger if he minded a little company? 

The semi-stranger never batted an eye. 

He said, “Sure, I was just enjoying what I thought was my dad’s secret spot. He died recently. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I shared it now that he’s gone. 

What’s your name anyway? 

Mine’s Rudy.”  

Dear Readers,
I originally wrote this story for a contest. I decided to post it now instead. I figured if people liked it I would just write another one. If they didn't like it, I would just write another one. And so the story goes. Thanks for stopping by. 

November 07, 2013

Face To Face

Face To Face
By John R. Greenwood

View from the Gulley Milkhouse
There was a time when fear ran my life; fear of change, fear of the unknown. Now as I approach the latter portion of my life I can't get enough of it. Today I completed a mission I began over a year ago. It was at that time I had been out on the road with one of my bulk milk drivers picking up milk from local farms. 

On that morning I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of one of those farms. Their names were Ed and Carol Gulley. The first time I visited their farm I was taken in by the glass head pictured at the top of the post. Ed and Carol have various antiques and oddities decorating the buildings on their property. At the time I really just wanted a photo of the glass head. My second visit found me trying to muster the courage to ask if it might be for sale. By my third and most recent visit I had made up my mind that the face of glass was going home with me. Farmers are busy people. They don't have time for nonsense. I was hesitant to disrupt the flow of the Gulley's daily routine. When we arrived the other day I kept a watchful eye for Ed or Carol. I made up my mind that I would simply go for the gold and get right to the point with the first one I saw. The problem is you don't always see them. They have more to do than worry about the driver picking up their milk. The farmer has his job to do, the driver has his. The Gulley's dogs were clearly audible out back. Ed or Carol couldn't be too far away. The milk was almost all pumped out and I was running out of time. A few minutes later I heard Carol talking to the dogs. I quickly went outside and said hello. I told her I was glad to be back and how nice it was to see her again. Right now though I needed to get down to business. "Carol," I said, "would you consider selling the glass head in the milk house window? I have wanted to ask that question since the first time I saw it." 

She smiled like I might have more dollars than sense. In actuality she smiled because she knew the feeling. It was evident by Ed and Carols collection that they suffered from the same picker-syndrome that I did. Carol graciously offered to find Ed to see what his thoughts were.

When we finally had everyone together the bargaining began. It was fun to dicker back and forth. We finally struck a deal, shook hands, and I took possession of my new friend. It was one of those have-to experiences that you can't explain you simply go with it. 

When I placed my new friend in the crook of my arm I looked at Ed and Carol and with great courage I blurted out,"I was wondering where the derby went that was on his head the last time I was here? I was hoping that might be for sale too? With the seriousness of a doctor giving you bad news but with a slight twinkle of the eye, Ed replied,"The goat ate it." 

Ah, life on a farm. Ain't it a hoot?

November 2013
Wearing his new wool hat, C. Klearlee checks out the scenery in his new home at The Greenwood's


November 01, 2013

Shin Kick

Shin Kick
By John R. Greenwood

I will keep this short. I got kicked in the shin today and it hurt. 

Here’s the story:
In spite of my advanced age I hold a Class A Commercial Driver’s License. I’ve had it for over twenty years. It has been a part of my life and my livelihood throughout that time. Even though I don’t drive a truck everyday to make a living my job centers around those that do. I can also find myself behind the wheel of a tractor trailer at a moments notice on any given day for any number of reasons. 

As a CDL holder I am also subject to random drug and alcohol screening just like every driver under my watch. 

Yesterday was my lucky day. 

Until they test for Centrum Silver or caffeine I am safe as a baby. What happened when I went to take the test was the shin kicker. 

The testing company comes right to our workplace. I was working on some files when my Department Head tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come with me." When I finished filling out the necessary form I was directed into a room where a young female technician was set to test my BAC on a breathalyzer. She was about the same age as the shoes I had on. Let me add at this point that were two types of D&A tests being done that day. One is for Non-DOT (regular plant employees) and the other is for DOT (CDL Drivers). 

When the young shoe-age technician looked up at me she blurted out, “You’re not a driver!?” (shin kick). 

I reeled in my Mr. Sarcastic and just gave her that “Oh, you’re goin’ to the moon Alice” Ralph Kramden look anyone who’d just been shin kicked would have. Then, I took a step back, stood up tall, puffed out my chest and replied. “Yes, I’m here for a DOT random.” 

I’ve been shim kicked a lot since my hairline disappeared from view and what was left turned the color of a Q-tip. I cringe when anyone under the age of thirty gives me that, ‘Look’, like I was Father Time himself. Except for Honeymooner and Centrum Silver references, I try not to talk like I’m ready for a dirt nap anytime soon. I feel good. I pass my DOT Medical Recertification with ease every two years. I take no prescription drugs (knock on wood) and I can bench press more now than I could when Nixon was president. 

I’m trying not to be angry about being shin-kicked because I was a shin-kicker too. I now take them all back. I guess that’s the man’s way of telling all of us to stop and think before we pass judgment. The one you hurt may be the same one staring back at you in the mirror some morning. 
                                                                                      Kick softly...