December 29, 2018

It'll Drive You To Drink

It’ll Drive You To Drink
By John R. Greenwood

It’s a short little road, not more than a half-a-mile long. I’ve lived on it since 1981 when there were just a few homes. I remember it being a dirt road in the 60’s when Pepper’s Turkey Farm was a thriving family business. Now it’s the NYS Thruway of my neighborhood. I’m not against growth and progress. What I do wish, is that people would take more pride in the neighborhood where they live. 

Today is the last week of 2018 in the foothills of the Adirondacks and it’s 40 degrees out, with no snow in sight. Its Saturday morning and a walk around my 1.5 mile block seemed like a nice way to start the day. I grabbed my music and headed down the road. There’s a short stretch of my road that is lined with a tall grove of pines. Its part of the original Farone family farm. Fortunately the property remains in the family. It’s the same spot where I almost walked into the side of a black bear lumbering across the road this summer. I’ve spent my life exploring the Adirondacks, but my most exciting wildlife experience came just a few hundred yards out my backdoor. In that very same spot is where I took the photographs you see here. Last fall there was a noticeable increase in alcohol related litter around the entire perimeter of my block. In this particular spot it seems to have tripled in just a few months. The sight sickened me. The fact that this debris field surrounds a bright yellow “Children In Area” sign angers me! The anger is compounded by the fact that not only is this person using my neighborhood for a literal dump, they are also behind the wheel of a car knocking back a bottle of wine while children play, joggers run, and people walk just a few feet away—people who want to enjoy the beauty of where they live. This is not just a neighborhood problem, it’s a problem with our current society in general. Society is rapidly being divided into people who care about more than just themselves and people who only care about themselves. It’s a divide that is widening by the minute. 

I’m not sure how we right this ship, but I do know how I intend to address it in my little corner of the world. I decided to informally adopt my little road and with every walk I’ll collect a bag of litter. Today I started by filling a small bag with the single serve wine bottles I found in just a 20’ swath under the “Children In Area" sign. On my next walk I’ll bring a bigger bag, and maybe, just maybe my neighborhood wino will pass by without running me over. And maybe, just maybe a spark of self-respect will overcome them. And maybe, just maybe, they will find it in their heart to make the extra effort going forward to throw their bottles in the trash and not the side of a country road. 

December 28, 2018

Nobody Wants To Help Mom

Nobody Wants To Help Mom  
John R. Greenwood 

"Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help mom do the dishes,” is a much heavier quote than it appears on the surface. You could take that quote and go in many directions but for me its simple. Charity begins at home, and for me there are many days when doing the dishes is a good place to start. It might also be taking out the trash or hanging up your coat. The best thing we can do to save the earth is to start with the little things at home. It’s also a great lesson to teach our children. Teaching a child to scrape their plate or pick up their dirty clothes is just as important as teaching them to save the whales. If they have no respect for the person who keeps the heat on or pulls a pine sliver from their palm there’s little chance they will grow to appreciate a babbling brook or a flock of honking geese.  

Cooperation and respect begin at home, and sometimes it starts with a sponge and a squirt of dish soap. Sometimes all that's required is a please or a thank you. The problem is, we all want to be recognized for everything we do. When you’re doing good things in the privacy of your own home there are no witnesses other than the ones who already love you. When you join a road-cleanup there are passer’s by. It feels different doesn't it? Walk a 5k for charity and you get a t-shirt, do the dishes and all you get is a hug. 

Note* This Bottle was released somewhere in downtown Saratoga back in February 2018. For some reason I never posted this piece at the time. I'd love to hear from anyone who may have found it. 


December 27, 2018

Listen To Your Mother

Listen To Your Mother
By John R. Greenwood 

Mother Nature has a way of re-centering me. Whether I’m in need of a pick-me-up or a knock-me-down, Mother Nature, just like mom, always has the answer I’m looking for. Today was no exception. 

I’ve wrestled with posting and writing ever since my friend Ed Gulley was called to heaven to help the good lord plant and nurture his next crop of love and compassion. We all know how much this world needs a bumper crop in the upcoming year. I’m certain my friend is sowing seeds of smiles and kindness as I write this piece. I miss Ed dearly. 

2018 has been a potpourri of ups and downs, repairs and replacements, weight loss and weight gain. It has been a struggle to stay optimistic when the air is congested with cancerous words and anger. I’ve become numb and a little withdrawn. It is uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me to be this way. Having a few vacation days off to end the year I thought it might be a good time to go visit Mother Nature to get some guidance. I’ve done it before. It’s a pattern of mine. 

I pulled up the Weather Channel and saw the sun was going to make a rare appearance so I charged my camera, grabbed a warm hat and coat and headed to a place I’d visited briefly but never really took the time to explore. How glad I am for making that decision today. It reaped rewards beyond my expectations. It’s a place just a few miles away on my favorite river. The place is called Hudson Crossing Park and it’s a gem of a place. There is a walking trail approximately two miles long that circles the park. Much of the trail provides vistas of the Hudson River and Lock #5 of the Champlain Canal. There is also a foot bridge that spans the Hudson and connects Saratoga and Washington Counties. The Dix Bridge is a beauty and loaded with historical significance. The park is primarily run and maintained by volunteers so it depends heavily on the support of community businesses and local residents. I learned much about the park during my visit and from their website. I apologize profusely for allowing this wonderful park to go so long before today’s more in-depth visit. 

 I’m sure the park puts on a totally different face depending on the season. Today’s stark cold and leafless trees gave the park a tranquility that soothed my mood and inspired my vision. If you live in the area, and you love the Hudson,  you owe it to yourself to visit the website for directions. Don’t be a serial procrastinator like me. 

I think I’ll finish this piece by letting the photographs speak for themselves.

A poem for those of you who stuck around until the end.

Hudson Crossing 
By John R. Greenwood

Emptiness fills December’s air 
Historical paths crunch beneath my feet
Crows crow, squirrels squirrel
Hudson water surrounds me
Am I home now?

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. 

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

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