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: