November 25, 2017


By John R. Greenwood

I’ve come to embrace quiet.
Quiet unlike silence includes 
the steady hum of the clothes dryer 
in the other room. Pre-dawn, when 
the traffic is sparse the tic and tock
of a wall clock whispers a familiar rhythm. 
It’s November, the heat is on. 
The faint cracks and clicks of the 
warm flowing through the metal vents
remind me to be grateful 
for the roof above my head.
Quiet allows mindful thought, while the brain 
stretches and idles gently beside.
The best quiet is made of layer upon 
layer of distant sounds. Soft and soothing 
sounds that carry no threat nor angst.
Peace and quiet are rare, like the quiet knock 
of a childhood friend at the backdoor.
A friend you haven’t seen in years. 
A friend you dearly miss and weren't expecting. 

November 21, 2017

Turkey Hunting

Turkey Hunting
By John R. Greenwood

Heading out to go Turkey Hunting

Its turkey season and the adrenaline is pumping. You can feel the excitement in the air every November after the leaves have been raked and the frost-stricken mums are beginning to brown. There are signs of turkey season everywhere. Camo hats, mugs, boots, and jackets are visible around every corner. Whether you're in a Walmart parking lot or your doctor’s office waiting room, you will find a hint of camouflage. Turkey sounds, pictures, and banners infiltrate internet ads and the sales brochures overflowing our mailboxes. There is no escaping the fact that turkey season about to gobble us up. The surest sign turkey season is happening in our home is the twinkle in Mrs. G’s eyes. They begin to sparkle soon after the bottom of the Halloween candy dish peeks through. It's taken decades for me to prepare for what’s about to transpire in the coming days. I sense the transition when fleeces replace windbreakers and Harvest Blend K-cups replace Nantucket Blend.  

Heading into turkey backcountry at 7:00am

Its now time to cinch up my boot laces, grab the car keys and ready myself for the Turkey Hunt. No matter how hard I've tried to convince my turkey hunting half that I'd be perfectly happy carving a turkey breast instead of a Buick-sized Butterball she never flinches. Regardless of how many will be at our Thanksgiving Day table you can rest assured that in our home there will  be a beautiful turkey with all the trimmings. We will enjoy a traditional meal whether all the chairs or just two are filled. This is one holiday tradition that is nonnegotiable in my home. The more I try to steer the ship to a smaller less involved event my wife holds steadfast to preparing and providing us with the true Thanksgiving experience. Why I try to rock the boat and change its course, is a question a slow to learn husband will never come close to answering. 

That bird didn't have a prayer!

This year though I think I finally got it. 

I now realize that it’s not about the food or the preparation for my wife it’s about continuing a ritual she’s been following since our first Thanksgiving as husband and wife in 1974. Its about setting out a bowl of nuts and the nutcracker. Its about cream cheese filled celery and oven-brown dinner rolls. It’s about setting the table with a harvest of color and warmth. Its about family, whether they're there or not there. When I try to manipulate the turkey hunt and make it about dollars and cents or need versus necessity I tread on sacred ground. I should have learned by now to simply embrace and appreciate how fortunate I am and how thankful I should be to have married someone who still holds on to the traditions and rituals that we’ve been working on together for forty-three years. 

"Successful Hunt #43"

What else am I thankful for this year? 

My family of course. 

And successful turkey hunt #43. 

Hope you bagged a big one too. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sore Back Happy

Sore Back Happy
By John R. Greenwood

What makes you happy? 

I woke up during the night to write about what I’d been mulling over the last several days. I’d taken some vacation time off to get some projects done around the house before the cold weather hit. Normally we take several days around the Columbus Day weekend to go to Cape Cod. This year my wife and I decided to take that time and money, and replace and enlarge the concrete patio between our house and garage. We put the patio in ourselves when we moved in back in the early 80’s. It was beginning to show its age. The slab was cracked and deteriorating on top. I’d resurfaced it for years and was losing the battle. 

I hired a local mason to pour the new pad. To save on cost I was going to demo and remove the old one myself. He got the easy part. I broke up every inch of the old patio with a large crow bar and sledge hammer. I moved the broken slabs with a steel handcart and loaded them onto my pickup. I made several trips to a local construction refuse business and unloaded them—all by hand. 

This is where the “happy” part comes in. 

It’s now over a week later and the new pad has been poured. I took the last two loads of old concrete away today and although I can barely move, I’m happy as a Cape Cod clam. I woke up last night because I was content and “happy”. My sore back was a physical reminder of the American Dream. I’ve written about this sense of home-ownership before but this most recent project seemed to clarify the feeling. It was intensified when I drove up North Broadway in Saratoga the other day. I passed an endless convoy of landscape trucks and trailers. The lawns were filled with men in company logo’d shirts all doing the fall cleanup-dance of blowing, raking, and bagging leaves. I’ve never looked at having someone else maintaining my yard as being a sign of success. Having my own yard to massage with a lawnmower and rake is enough for me. I look at excess as being more of a burden than a sign of accomplishment. When I look at a sprawling estate in pristine condition I have admiration for the laborer whose blisters were responsible, not the person with the thick check book. Its possible that I’m a Powerball win away from changing my perspective but I hope not. I’ve spent a lifetime fine-tuning my DYI skills. I’m still a toddler on that scale but when it comes to appreciation for doing something with your own two hands I’m high on the list. 

After a couple weeks of working on the patio replacement and fall yard work my wife and I planned out a new raised flower bed for our new backyard retreat. We decided on a stone planter that would be easy to access and maintain. With some husband and wife ping-pong we came up with a design. Rather than wait until spring we took advantage of the nice weather that was hanging around and “dug” in. This was another back-intense build that came with a high degree of satisfaction. Having a full size pickup truck with a liner is a huge benefit when tackling this type of project. Having a truck that’s a  “worker” versus a “looker” makes loading it with cement, dirt, and stone more project friendly. In fact, as I write this I’m thinking I might start calling her “Dusty”. 

After a spring, summer, and fall filled with a bathroom remodel, patio remodel, and yard maintenance at every space in between, you’d think I’d be looking forward to kicking back and putting my feet up but I’m not. I will return to writing and walking which makes me whole, but true happiness for me comes with a sore back and calluses. 

Let me ask one more time.

What makes you happy?