My Visit to the Tremendous Angel Oak Tree

In an attempt to regroup and heal a fraction from the heinous and disappointing ramifications of the past year and a half or so, a good friend and I decided to attempt to get away for a few days…I haven’t really been able to relax much because…well, the obvious reasons concerning the world currently, but I have managed to find a few moments of enjoyment.

On Sunday, I finally got to visit a tree that I’ve been in love with for years and wanted to visit: the Angel Oak Tree in John’s Island, SC, and it was beautiful beyond words to see in person. Pictures don’t do her justice, but here are some taken on my visit. (photos not taken by me are noted)

Imagine all this beauty has seen in its hundreds of years of life…

 

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photo by Brandon Kahn
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photo by Brandon Kahn

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A final hug before parting…until next time….

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photo taken by Brandon

I will be back home tomorrow from my attempt at a vacation from the real world. I’m still trying to recharge because no matter what, there’s a lot to be done when I get back home, and not all of it is writing related.

I want to live in a world where we can have trees that are hundreds of years old, and people to appreciate them. So take a moment, take a breath, enjoy, and get to work. I will be.

Have you ever been to the Angel Oak Tree, or visited another place you’ve longed to see? Please share, I’d love to know!

Smart Modeling Safety and Safely

As an artist and avid lover and appreciator of artists and their fantastic works, I find myself lucky enough to also call many artists I know, friend. It’s after a conversation I had with one

Regina del Mondo Dell'ombra
Regina del Monde Dell’ombra by Lenta Scura

such friend, an artist that goes by Lente Scura (you can find his sensational work here or here ) that prompted the subject of this post, which is some basic safety when it comes to modeling.

 

Modeling comes in many forms and is done for a multitude of reasons. For instance, I usually only work with artists I know to create single pieces or collections of work based on those collaborations. For example, a photography shoot with and/or so an artist like Lente, or HourGlass Imagery, can base a new piece or set of pieces around them. And this is where safety comes in, whether you know your collaborators well or not. In the end, it keeps all parties safer.

The Summoning- HourGlass Imagery
The Summoning by HourGlass Imagery

 

I don’t work with many photographers, and often know the ones I do, and work with them more than once if we work well together. Modeling is not my trade, but art is. Regardless though, I do all I can to be safe and as comfortable as an introvert can possibly be. Here are some basic things to remember to model safely (for all involved):

Research and references-The two R’s, if you want to be catchy and if it helps you remember. When opportunity arises, you should research who you’re working with, and where you’re working if you are unfamiliar with the location or area of a shoot. You can also get a sense of what their work is like. Also, if you haven’t worked with a certain photographer before, it’s good to ask other models they’ve worked with, particularly ones you know. Having others vouch for a photographer’s respect, professionalism, and work is a huge deal and carries weight. References are great to have.

Bring a chaperone/escort- This is a number one rule for me, especially if I have not worked with a certain photographer before, do not know the person well, depending on the location of the shoot, or comfort level and wardrobe of the shoot. A chaperone or escort is generally a friend or colleague, someone you know and trust to be a quiet observer assuring your safety and comfort level, and a photographer’s reputation. Some photographers will say they don’t allow escorts because they may be a disturbance, and if that’s their answer, you should walk away. It’s up to a model to decide if they want someone with them, for whatever reason, and no one should tell you otherwise. I personally question anyone actually telling you that you aren’t allowed to bring someone to assure your safety.

Make sure someone knows what you’re doing- If you decide not to bring a chaperone (perhaps because a shoot is out in public or not in a closed or studio setting), you should at least be sure that someone knows where you’re going, when you’ll be there, and a time they can expect to hear from you to check in, and someone you can call in case of an emergency. In the age of social media, many models announce their shoots on their pages, but it’s still a good idea to be sure someone you know and trust has a few more details, like an address and timing. If you end up carpooling or traveling with someone else, take down license plate and send that and info about the car to whoever you’re checking in with. Better to be safe.

Details ahead of time- Photo shoots that are done well take time and planning ( though not always, there are sometimes some sensational impromptu photo shoots, but those usually happen with someone you know and not someone you just met who happens to have a camera and claims to be a photographer).  Generally speaking though, when working with a photographer you’re planning to shoot with, there is a discussion before the shoot where details are shared and gone over. These include what the purpose or inspiration of the shoot is, what is desired or expected of model or photographer, what wardrobe will be and who provides it, make up or use of a make-up artist, and location and time of the shoot. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but usually these all make their way into the conversation before the day of the shoot. The amount of detail and planning can radically differ from photographer to photographer, or shoot to shoot, but some things should be established ahead of time, wardrobe being a big thing, or more accurately, lack thereof. Some less than reputable people posing as photographers will sometimes try to convince a model to take off a bit more, or give a few of ‘these’ a try, etc. or otherwise go beyond what a model signed up for, often with a lot of pressure, guilt, or shame. Which leads to my next point…

Stick to your guns- Don’t ever compromise your desires or comfort in the moment to appease a photographer (or anyone) that tries to get you to do more than was discussed or something that you don’t feel comfortable with at the time. Keep to what was discussed before your shoot, and what feels right to you. Some great things come from shoots where model and photographer work together and are comfortable with each other. But, if you decide for any reason you don’t feel comfortable with a situation or how a shoot is going, then trust your instinct and stick to your guns. Say something, remove yourself from the situation if you need to, whatever you need to feel safe.

Bring these with you- charged phone and a charger; your own water and medicine (such as Tylenol, Advil, etc,), it’s safer to have your own than to take something from someone you don’t know well; mace/pepper spray/ other deterrent, because honestly, you just never know, but know how to use it; some cash and debit/credit card, along with your license, even if you aren’t driving (if those three things haven’t been ingrained to you by your mother), so that you always have a back-up way to get home.

The point is to enjoy the work that you do and that is created from that, and to get home safely without compromising your comfort level. Be safe, and create something beautiful!

Il Giorno di Corvi
Il Giorno Di Corvi by Lente Scura

 

Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Three

It’s been incredibly odd not posting the last couple of weeks, and at the same time I feel like I could use a few more, I’m still recovering from my move and settling in to my new place. Whether you may or may not be aware, July happens to be a Camp NaNoWriMo month, practice for the big NaNoWriMo of November. I mention this because of the call for music I’ve seen among a few Twitter people’s I enjoy following, so now seems a great time to share some more music to inspire your writing. So, without further ado:

UCD Choir- Mo Ghille Mer

Songs like this make the Irish part of my heart throb. When I listen to this song, I often get goosebumps as I close my eyes and get lost in the beauty. The scenes that come to mind while listening to it changes, but the strongest involve woods with sunlight streaming through trees, green hills with determined and heartened characters making their way across them; perhaps the search for something lost prompts an unexpected journey.

Erutan- Transylvanian Lullaby

Where to start with my love of Erutan’s work? She’s absolutely sensational, her skill and talent are on display in this beautiful music. Setting aside the amazing fact that she arranged and performed each part of it herself, the music and voice are enchanting. It’s a lullaby for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not ripe with ideas to pluck like the strings of instrument or heart.

Jeff Beal- Next Line (from House of Cards)

Whether you listen to this song without having seen it in context of the show it’s from, or not, there’s no denying the intensity creeping through the music and voice. The way the music grows, the ethereal voice surging through the background, has followed me into my dreams and waking thoughts. There’s triumph as well as suspicion lacing through the notes that seems to put me in mind of capes whipping through the woods, leaving behind or surging towards something.

Zardnonic & Voicians- Bring Back the Glory 

I know, not a typical suggestion, but I have been a fan of this one ever since the first time I had the most vivid daydream to this song. Seriously, it was awesome in the true sense of the word. This song was the soundtrack to an epic battle beginning in free fall from the sky, swords clashing and wind twisted bodies about, dragons soaring in, flips, dives…it was a hell of a spell to find myself unexpectedly under. I wrote at least three different variations of a scene to this song, who knows how many more I’ll manage.

Hans Zimmer- Romani Holiday from Sherlock Holmes

It starts off soft and slow, but it doesn’t take long to pick up the pace and meet the notes that make your spine tingle…or mine anyway. Hans Zimmer is a fantastic composer and there are countless examples to prove it, and this is one. I love putting this on when looking for energy for a scene, perhaps a chase, switch, gambit, or a chaotic moment; my fingers can’t always keep pace.

Poitin- The Congress Wheel

Another song from the Sherlock Holmes, this one has a lot of energy and is sure to fuel your scene with its vivacity. It could easily inspire a jovial tavern scene, a suspenseful chase, a flirtatious allusion, etc. Even just listening to it a couple of times will inspire you to do something, so why not write a few paragraphs?

Misty Mountains Cold- The Hobbit

You don’t have to have read or seen The Hobbit to appreciate the inspiration that can be found in this song. I enjoy the landscapes and culture that come to mind as I listen to the sweet, rumbling voices in this song, even if I ignore the actual lyrics. When writing adventure, a harrowing journey, foreshadowing of trials, yearning, this is a good song to look to for inspiration, in my opinion.

Clocks and Clouds –Darkness Gives Way

I found Clocks and Clouds through Twitter, after they crossed my path by chance. As those who’ve been around a while can attest, I’m an adorer of strings, and this song plucks my heart just right. The shifting of the tempo and music lends itself to a changing scene, infusing you with all of its energy before you let fly on paper or screen.

For whom the bell tolls – Steve Baker & Carmen Daye

Donnie Darko fans may recognize this song, and it’s certainly one you should listen to if you’re looking for something to set the scene and inspire something dark, plaintive, haunting, sorrowful. It makes me think of a gallows on a frozen day, tears becoming icicles on frostbitten cheeks, perhaps a weary procession through a desolate wood. I don’t know many writers that could say they enjoy writing the type of scene invoked by this song, but listening to it could help channel that emotion into your words and your scene.

Vlada Mars- The Storm

When it comes to purely instrumental music, it’s more likely to be more solo strings than piano, just happens to be a personal preference. However, thanks to a suggestion from the witty and wonderful B.E. Van de Viere on Twitter, I gave a listen to some Vlada Mars and found The Storm. This music puts me in mind of grand old houses with something hidden inside, mysteries waiting to be unwrapped like presents, tumultuous situations ready to spiral into chaos.

Between Music- Breaking the Surface

Between Music is a band that plays and performs their music under water…yes, you read that right, under water, and some of the most hauntingly beautiful music you will hear. Putting aside the amazing ingenuity of creating instruments and apparatus to make this possible, I think it’s hard to disagree with the fact that this is some of the best music to inspire water related fantastical beings; mermaids, sirens, nymphs, water gods and goddesses, whatever story you find in the watery depths of the oceans. It’s definitely not for everyone, but something about this holds an ethereal beauty for me.

So concludes Part 3 of music to help get those writing gears going. I hope you’ve enjoyed! Do you have any favorites?

 

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Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part One
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Inspiration Corner: Art Spring

It’s been a while since I’ve shared  up a hearty helping of art inspiration, though it’s certainly not for lack of devouring hours’ worth of art ogling.

Spring (the weather we’re supposedly having between blasts of winter), unsurprisingly  brings to mind awakening Mother Nature, growth, and rebirth, which also makes me think of rising from the ashes. So, here are pieces from some amazing artists that caught my eye and inspired me (links to the artists’ original post if you click on the piece):

field_of_flowers_iii__mother_nature_by_ireneastral-d7ff5wd phoenix_by_guillaume_phoenix-d7k11t2

ashes_of_ophelia__s_death_by_lunebleu-d2zs6ps prayers_of_mother_nature_by_mrnepa-d7he7qs

mother_nature_by_silentplea-d45rzm9  from_the_ashes_by_tylercreatesworlds-d6u93wc

ashes_to_ashes_by_alexiuss-d76x37t  ashes_of_time_by_iardacil

phoenix_by_laura_csajagi-d1mdi6k  mother_nature_by_alicechan-d6f8z2t

their_strength_by_westling  spring_by_phoenix_feng

s_reborn_by_anotherwanderer-d733tiv  mother_nature_by_kelogsloops-d7p25ke

 

ashes_by_ariel87-d6qd6tj  from_the_ashes_by_nataliedecorsair-d6xnets

ashes_to_ashes_by_elestrial-d38wx0y  karolinkacuddziewczynka_by_krowka7-d5z9hrd

spring_by_yuchenghong-d2ler0d  spring_by_littlepurplebee-d3ehv3y

the_tree_by_shortcircuit123-d7el269   new_by_chriscold

life_by_alectorfencer  spring_by_la_chapeliere_folle-d63cn4r

new_life_by_rawrrrr_321      tree_of_life_by_emberblue-d4l2vnr

life_by_endzi_z-d3iiw61  tree_by_marcoso86-d1wgctj

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of these. Do you have any favorites?

 

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Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part One

Everyone who sits themselves down to face off with their manuscript, short story, essay, or other, has their own preferred setting. Some are incredibly specific and strict in what they require in order to fill a page with their words, either the time, tools, the place, the silence, or the music. Others may have their preferences but can generally make do with circumstances at hand, whatever they may be. Then of course, there are some that don’t think and just do, sometimes it’s the same, sometimes they deviate from their norm. The point really is that everyone is different. Today though, I speak to those that enjoy or even use music as their inspiration when it comes to their writing.

Personally, when novel writing I do enjoy listening to music. Many times I intend to listen only as inspiration before I start, but there are often times that I my fingers just start flying while the musical spell is still at work. Truly, music is an experience in itself when given the time it deserves. Sometimes I get too into music and I feel like I’m about to combust because my physical body cannot hold everything a certain note or song makes me feel…but anyway, I thought I would share some music that has fueled me while writing or given me inspiration before diving in to my world of words.

2Cellos

If you’re familiar with my blog you can hardly be surprised that 2Cellos are on this list; I got to experience a sensational concert and watch them play live. But here are two particular favorites to write to.

Celloverse

Something about this melody (and the background of the video if you watch it) just invite movement, action, creation. I’ve often found myself swaying along to the music only to realize that my fingers are dancing across the keys.

Hysteria

If you follow me on social media at all, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me share this at least once if not more. The plaintive and hauntingly beautiful notes in this evoking song strike a chord within me that cannot be easily explained. This song often sets my fingers aflame and results in pages of emotionally charged words.

 

Lindsey Stirling

Shadows

I love watching Lindsey Stirling play just because of how much she enjoys it. This song in particular always puts me in mind of a hero or heroine on a harrowing journey, but determinedly on their way with spirit and drive. So, that’s often what I write when looking to this one for inspiration.

 

Irish Party in Third Class and Johnny Ryan’s Polka

This duo of songs will get you up and moving no matter how the day has started. I love writing a fun and merry scene, jovial talk, and dancing feet to this sprightly tune. I happen to also love this type of music and have many characters that hail from such hills and moors these songs call to mind.

 

Apocalyptica

Hall of the Mountain King

No matter how many times I hear this song by Apocalyptica, I get chills and as if I will explode without somehow channeling the energy this song builds within me, into something else. When I write to this song, I think of intense scenes of an epic tale, escape, loss, perhaps even battle or war, but the writing comes fast and I’m always a little breathless when I’ve finished.

The Path

The alternating pattern and charged energy in this song put me in the mind of opposition; the cellos seem to be answering each other as they play against their own shadows, so I enjoy listening to this when there’s controversy or something unexpected may happen.

 

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star from Dead Space

I may not necessarily listen to this while writing, that greatly varies, but one thing I can be sure of, this song inspires eerie imagery and macabre scenes that make your spine tingle and pull your blankets close at night.

 

Pentantonix

White Winter Hymnal

I’ve been a fan of Pentantonix for a while now, I have a hearty appreciation for well-done a cappella, but this song in particular really enchanted me. When I close my eyes and listen, sometimes I focus on the lyrics themselves and others I just float along with the melodic voices and move with the rhythm, feeling the energy and the beauty without the words; from that I see visions of fairytale forest chases and snowy woods, red capes whipping in the breezes with the snapping of trees’ fingers…

In effort not to overwhelm anyone, I’ve decided to split this post into…however it many it takes to share all of the soul tinging music that makes this writing soul surge. These are some long and recent favorites that can really help me with a mood or a scene, or even give me an insight to a character. It truly is amazing what the power of music can do. I hope you’ve enjoyed!

What do you think of these? Do you have a go-to song, band, or type of music when you’re writing?

 

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My Amazing Night at The Fox: 2Cellos

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or are familiar with my blog, then you might have heard me mention 2Cellos a time or two. More often than not it’s me sharing a song that’s inspiring me, creating fantastic images in my mind that I have to write down; sometimes I just love watching them play and then fuel that same passion and love they have of playing their music, into my own writing.

When I was writing my novel for NaNoWriMo, there were many pages hastily written after listening or watching Luka and Stjepan play over and over again. In the midst of my frantic search for more of their work and information on them because I was curious (they’re from Croatia, which endeared them to me all the more; a friend of mine that died a few years ago was also from Croatia), I found that they were playing at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta in February, on the 9th.

I had little hope of being able to go, The Fox not generally being in my price range, but I had vague hopes and intended to try. To my surprise, my mother, at the persistence of my sister (thank you both!), gave me a wonderful Christmas present: Two tickets to see 2Cellos when they came to The Fox!!

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So last week, an old friend of mine joined me, and we went to see 2Cellos at The Fox!! I have never been to The Fox, despite having lived in and around Atlanta most of my life. The entire night was an experience (especially for this homebody introvert.)

So how was it?

At the end of the night, I absolutely enjoyed myself, which was in great part due to my friend, Grim, who took the anxiety of driving in the damned city and need to budget the energy for it out of the equation for the night, which was wonderful and helped a lot.

We arrived, in the freezing cold with wind quite capable of blowing me off course mid-step (no exaggeration), at The Fox, a solid 45 minutes before show time because you never know what Atlanta traffic will do…and parking…parking can be a nightmare. We were able to park across the street from the theatre, which was infinitely grateful for, and we arrived.

We bustled through the doors amidst the throng of other freezing people vying to get in. We each had our tickets ready, following the crowd through this large hall until meeting another set of doors. Through here was the carpeted theatre lobby, at the foot of the large staircase that would lead us up to our seats.

We went straight to our seats and had this fantastic view while we waited:

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We were there early, so we spent some time taking pictures of the theater around us from our seats.

 

And of course:

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We were there early, the show started 15 minutes late, and the theatre slowly became packed with people. It was interesting to hear snatches of conversation, see people who recognize each other from seats across the aisles; I was enjoyed some people watching while we waited, what author doesn’t?

By 7:45, the lights dimmed, and Luka and Stjpan took the stage with confidence seen in people following their dreams. Their smiles lit up the theatre, the bright lights were unnecessary. They greeted the audience and regaled us with the last time they played at The Fox, it was opening for Elton John. After saying that they’d made it back to the same stage on their own, they claim that Elton John will be opening for them next time they return 😉

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It was a joy getting to see some part of their personalities; they had a fun sense of humor, but more than that, there was the love of their music, which was intoxicating and uplifting. Soon after their greeting, the fingers were flying at the strings and they warmed up with a little classical, showing off their years of skill and technique.

Things didn’t take long to heat up, Luka and Stjepan’s bows shredding as they played; I cannot begin to describe the awe and appreciation I have for such skill and talent and such love and enjoyment of music as shown by 2Cellos.

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In between some of the songs, Stjepan or Luka would take the mic and speak to the crowd. Often time it was to make the crowd laugh. Stjepan, in his dramatic and rugged way repeatedly mentioned how “beaut-i-ful” the music was, and as the flirt he is, dedicated the beautiful music to the beautiful ladies in the audience.

It was so easy to melt away in my chair listening to them play. I wished I could have done more actual watching them play, but unfortunately, the lights continued to arc right into my eyes, particularly during the fast paced songs where I pretty much kept my eyes closed instead of accidentally meeting with the brutal flares.

We didn’t stay for the entire concert, an accumulation of reasons equating to the final decisions to leave sooner than the end. A booming and sensational rendition of Thunderstruck, which included adding a drummer and some pretty serious sounding bass, heralded a switch in music style. The drummer stayed, and between the bass making my heart feel it would explode within my chest cavity, a headache beginning from the unfortunate and continued glare of lights in my eyes, and a general escalation of energy, my skin was practically sizzling and I was very much ready to be in a more reclined and relaxed position, as much as I was reveling in the music of Luka and Stjepan as they played live.

We did manage to snag this picture before heading out

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Pay no attention to the frightened animal look, I did enjoy myself!

I enjoyed hearing songs I knew, and ones I had not heard before; truly it was a fantastic experience I was not sure I would have. I cannot say enough how thankful I am to my sister for championing this desire of mine, my mother for this heartfelt gift, to Grim for joining me, and for two sensational musicians to while the night away with.

Is there a concert or show you have attended that you were particularly excited to see? Or one you’re looking forward to? Tell me about your experience!

 

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Veteran’s Day Tribute: A Man Named Art

Today, is Armistice Day, better known as Veteran’s Day; a day of honor, thanks, and remembrance of all of those who have served their country in times of War. Sadly, most people only think of veterans on this day, if ever at any other time when a reminder isn’t directly in front of them. (The history of this day can be found here on the Veteran Affairs official site.)

Veterans_0

As much as I may be tempted to use this moment to recite the numerous disconcerting facts concerning veterans returning from combat and the mental health “treatment” they receive, how many dispossessed veterans make up the homeless population, or any other soapbox worthy spiel, that’s not what I want to post about today. Today,  I want to tell you about a man I met over seven years ago. A couple of years ago, I wrote the story of how I met him, and why I will never forget him.

This is the story of..

HomelessVeteran1Rev

A Man Named Art

When I was 19, I decided I wanted to move as far away from my home town as I possibly could. This led me to move to California, about 3,000 miles away from home, to live in San Diego.

My boyfriend at the time, we’ll call him J, worked at a fast food place a few minutes from the apartment we lived. I usually drove him to work. There is one big main street in the little city we lived in of Mira Mesa, with lots of stop lights. Down this road you will find homeless people on just about every corner.

There was one man I grew to recognize by sight. He had a big bushy brown beard, tanned and leathery face repeatedly baked in the Sun, a worn and patched camo jacket, and raggedy pants that looked like they’d fall to pieces. He also wore a baseball cap, and walked with an extreme limp.

Some of the homeless had signs, some did not, some of them looked like drug addicts, others would fall asleep while holding out their cups of change. But this one man, I remembered.

On this big main road, I had to make a left turn down another street in order to get to my apartment. It was an annoying street in this way because the lights to turn left took a long time, at least 10 minutes, by the time all of the other lights had a chance to change.

It was at this light that I would first speak to this one raggedy looking homeless man. I had my window rolled down partially, for the breeze. I didn’t realize it was still down by the time I had stopped at the light. I saw the man limping up the line of halted cars, he had no sign or cup, was just walking past the car windows. A car or two in front of me rolled down their windows just far enough to shove a $1 bill out of them. When he came to mine, it finally dawned on me that my window was down. I’m not a confrontational person and was not looking forward to telling this man that I would not give him any money. Most homeless people I’d encountered were drunks or druggies, usually just trying to find more money to slowly kill themselves with.

However, this was the beginning of something else. He stopped at my window, and looked at me. I looked back at him, trying to find my voice to say “no”, when he looked at me and said, “I hope you have a most blessed day,” and he gave me one of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen, and then he limped past me. He didn’t ask me for money, or a smoke, or shove a cup in my face and jingle it. He just wished me to have a good day. It touched me.

Sometime later, after a couple of more light stops and “hellos” back and forth between this man and me, one day, he didn’t travel down the line of cars as usual. This day, he turned to me, smiled, and started a conversation. He’d grown used to me, and I to him. A time or two I gave him an extra dollar I found in my pocket or left over change. But this day, he said “so, how’ve you been doing?” I replied “Not too bad, I suppose. How are you holding up?” To say that I had no idea how to talk this man so casually would be an understatement. I was afraid of offending him, or reminding him that I had a home I was going to, and he did not. He looked at me and said “Well, I have air in my lungs, so I take that as a good sign”, then he chuckled, gave me a smile, and then limped off down the street.

A month or two of these casual greetings led to a “hello” one day that ended in me learning his name, Art. I liked the name. I’ve always loved art, and have explored what I can do with art since I can remember. It was a good name.

One day, I was making chicken for dinner. The packets at the supermarket came with four, even though I was only cooking for two. Sure, I could have saved them and had left overs for the next day, but I had other plans. I told J he was to go find Art, and bring him here. J looked at me, surprised. I told him we had plenty of food, Art might as well have a nice meal for once.

It took about 20 minutes for J to track Art down, but he did. Over my threshold limped the bearded, camo jacket clad man I’d said hello to so often. The old book bag on his back was coming apart at the seams. He looked nervous, unsure of what to expect. I smiled at him and asked him to sit down at the table. Then I asked him if he liked chicken and macaroni. He nodded, and then looked at the table. I brought him over a plate with the two extra pieces of chicken and a big helping of macaroni. He looked at the plate, then at me, and said “Is this all for me?” I told him yes, and that he should dig in before it got cold.

It was over this meal that I learned much more about Art. He was a veteran, had served in Vietnam. On one of the bases he had been stationed at, he had been hit by a Humvee, which had almost completely shattered his hip bone. The medical facility he was taken to had decided to just put a pin in it, which was very painful to walk with, and of course, was the cause of his limp. Between the pain in his hip and the pain in his mind, he drank, heavily. He’d had a couple of children, to be honest I don’t remember how many. His wife had died. He knew he had a grandson, but he had never met him. He told me that he was not a good man when he had been drinking. He didn’t know what else to do with himself. He’d tried to get jobs doing construction, since that was a trade he knew, but with this hip, he was a liability, and no one would hire him. I also learned that he hadn’t touched a drink in nearly 2 years. He hoped to prove to his son (the father of his grandson) that he was worthy of another chance. He told me when he’d been sober for 5 years, he would track his son down and go see him. That was his plan. To live and be sober for 5 years, and hopefully he would get his family back.

I wanted to cry. It was one of the saddest stories I’d ever heard. This wasn’t a movie or a book, this was real. This man had served his country, and when he came back broken, they told him to deal with it all himself. It’s a sickening thought. No one who has protected and served their country should be treated like this.

Art ate everything but the second piece of chicken. He wanted to know if he could save it and take it to a friend of his, another homeless man. They sometimes pooled their money together after a week or two, and rented a cheap hotel room, so they could get a shower and a bed for at least one night. I packed up the piece of chicken and gave him the rest of the macaroni with it.

We took him back up to the main street. As he got out of my van, I handed him some blankets I wasn’t using, an old sweatshirt, and J even gave Art a pair of jeans that didn’t fit anymore. I also gave him a little money, not that I had much myself, but I felt that he needed it, and would use it for something other than alcohol or drugs.

Whenever I saw Art on the street, I waved and smiled. If I had the chance, I’d stop and talk to him, check up on him.

One day, I didn’t see Art in his usual spot. There was another homeless man. He’d taken the prime spot because Art wasn’t there.

More days passed without seeing Art anywhere. I was worried. J found the man Art sometimes pooled money with, and asked him about Art. We were told that he was in the hospital.

I found the hospital that Art was at and decided I would go visit him. Before going, I got a book of crosswords, word searches, a pack of pens, and a “get well” card. If anyone knows how unfun hospitals are, it’s me, so I thought something to do to keep his mind off everything might cheer him up.

When we walked into the room, Art teared up. He couldn’t believe we’d come to see him in the hospital. I handed him the little bag of things to do, and his get well card. He gave me a big smile, and a most sincere “thank you”. He told us he found out he had colon cancer. They weren’t sure what they were going to do yet, since everything had to go through the VA. We stayed for an hour or so before leaving. Art took my hand, and thanked me one more time.

A week or so later, I called the hospital to talk to Art. They informed me, he had died. I was so angry, so sad, and so heartbroken that he didn’t get a chance to finish those 5 years and that he never got the chance to try again with this family. My only comfort was that, at the end, he knew at least one person would remember him, had cared about him.

It’s been almost 5 years now since I met him, and I still remember and think about him. It still makes me angry to see how a country can ask men and women to fight for it and die for it, but if they are unlucky enough not to die and instead come back injured, that the country they fought for would do the least it could to help them.

But, for ever and always, I will remember a man named Art.

thanks-vets