“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” William G.T. Shedd
If you meet the snapping turtle in the road call the turtle man. Unfortunately the turtle man lives in Kentucky so you might have to figure something out for yourself. Based on today’s experience, I strongly suggest you do not try to pick him up.
I’ve saved many turtles in my day by gently moving them across the road in the direction they were traveling, so I thought: why is this day different than any other day? And as he went to bite off my hand I realized that snapping turtles have a bit of an attitude.
When I first saw him I wasn’t even sure it was a turtle it looked so strange. So I got out to confirm this and ran back for my camera. After a few quick shots I decided to save him from becoming a paperweight, but I guess he wasn’t thinking that far ahead and resisted. Then I got my other camera.
Several drivers slowed to look at the turtle and the photographer in the middle of the road, some gave advice and some made jokes. But it only takes one person driving while on their phone to run us both over so I nudged him across.
Park rangers showed up and after a brief discussion everyone felt he was fine where he was, safely on the other side of the road in the wet grass. I was the only one that knew he was actually headed up the hill, possibly for a Slurpee, but he’s an adult and has to play the hand he’s dealt. Fortunately it wasn’t mine.
It’s hard to appreciate the effort it takes to park like this with such precision until you’ve seen it. First they convince the horse to back into a spot, then they unload the family and send them ahead. The driver now has to unhitch the horse and tie him up to a post, ideally in the shade.
The second horse and buggy driver goes through the same procedure, lining his up perfectly next to the first, and the next and the next. It’s a beautiful thing really although I’ve never seen the reverse procedure, which must be a lot harder.
It seems like an overly complicated way to park, and I’ll have to ask them one day, but they’ll probably tell me: “Sell kann ennichpepper duh.” Which means anyone can do that.
I met Woodie today on a busy street corner in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I’ve seen him before but never gave him anything, and tried not to look at him when sitting at the traffic light.
Watching him standing there in the rain with his homeless sign, I decided to stop this time. I introduced myself, gave him money for lunch, and asked if I could take a photo. I didn’t ask him his life story because it’s none of my business.
I read an article a while back that the Lancaster City Council was considering an ordinance that would ban panhandling. City merchants also petitioned the city to do something about it, they say it makes customers uncomfortable and chases away business.
“When people give money on the street, it makes the panhandling problem worse,” Dan Jurman, chairman of the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Poverty told the Lancaster Newspaper.
The article went on to say: “There’s also the valid argument that in many cases, cash given to a panhandler amounts to nothing more than a quick drug fix.”
Woodie told me he was hungry, if he gets a beer or two with lunch, or a bottle instead of lunch I have no problem with that. A man is asking for help and I decided to give what I could.
“Your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting.” Joel Osteen
Getting on the right track isn’t easy, even figuring out which is really the right one can be confusing. For example, the track on the left in this photo is actually the right track for the returning train, and sometimes they have to switch to the middle one to get to where they need to go.
It might be easier to think of it as a path, and as you may have discovered for yourself, people sometimes go down the wrong path to get to where they think they need to go. This is true for addiction and all kinds of things that come with living in this world of illusion.
Finding the right path takes as long as it takes, if you realize you’re on the wrong one, get off and begin again, repeat as necessary. Mahatma Gandhi said the path is the goal; my goal is to find the path to freedom.
This is a line from a song called Daly City Train by Rancid: “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night, other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight.”
There really is no easy way to be free.
I wrote this for a creative writing class in 2008, a couple of years after my third rehab. It’s about making new friends in a place known as The Ranch House on the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital. The guests call it what it is, a looney bin.
Peggy, the oldest, forever in her tattered robe, hopscotching down the hall when she’s not talking to herself or crying.
Adrian, the young, spoiled wannabe junkie, whining about not getting strong enough meds.
Stacy, fresh from the pizza shop, smiling and stumbling around on Seroquel.
Steve, the happy criminal, acting like he’s at summer camp.
Victor, a child in a forty year old body, slipping into schizophrenic rants about hidden cameras in the vents.
Donna, the large breasted, healthy looking nurse, explaining her addiction to Vicodin.
Sara, the stuck up prostitute, waltzing through the cafeteria like a queen.
Susan, the tough, freckled, career alcoholic trying to play bouncer.
Carl, his laces taken away, flapping down the hall all night in oversized shoes, driving everyone crazy.
Lucas, the seasoned gang member with the bitten off ear, bragging about his tragic childhood.
Tom, lanky and pale, trying to beat himself to death after a half-assed hanging attempt.
And me, a paragon of sanity, here with my friends.
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” Lauren Oliver-Before I Fall
I think many of us forget that there was a time when anything seemed possible. For me it’s easy to focus on all the things that I can’t do, the things that I’m afraid to do, and with my self imposed limitations I create my own small world, my own prison.
I want to relearn that in reality, there is really nothing to lose, and that the sky’s the limit.
Everyone struggles in one way or another, its part of living this life of illusion. Whether it’s the ten thousand things or the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, there are challenges to be dealt with every day.
For the man in this photo his struggle at that moment was to inflate the balloon, for me it was trying to get a decent shot before I ran out of patience, for the owner of the United States Hot Air Balloon Team, his was waiting for the wind to die down enough to launch safely.
No big deal right? Yet some challenges are harder than others. For one person it might be your supermodel wife telling you that there is no caviar left, and that she scratched the Ferrari, again. For another it might be a denied parole and your cell mate telling you that he wants to be more than just friends.
One of my favorite authors, Charles Bukowski once said; “I don’t know about other people, but when I wake up in the morning and put my shoes on, I think, Jesus Christ, now what?” So it would seem that for some life is harder than for others. But wait…
In his poem How Is Your Heart, he reflects on the rougher times in his life. Jail, bad relationships, hangovers, backalley fights and hospitals, but looks at it in a different way. The last line in that poem is so perfect that people actually have it tattooed on their body, which is tricky because its 11 words.
He wrote; “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
At once time I considered getting that tattoo on my arm, but struggled with the choice of fonts. Decisions, decisions, decisions.