2008 30 May

Great Galloping Goose!

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

It really was a beautiful day. I was living in Colorado and there was this wonderful park with swings and slides, a large lovely pond-lake with a little greenbelt wrapped around it, and an itty-bitty beach.

I would often go there in the wee hours and swing under the moon. This day, I had enjoyed a peaceful puttery walk around the pond-lake and had stopped at the beach to watch the flock of geese or swan, I never really knew for sure.

There were a gaggle of children feeding the geese while their parents watched. It was a bit noisy, but I just wasn’t ready to relinquish the peaceful puttering of my afternoon. I stood there watching the geese snapping up the goodies the children were tossing, listening the to water slap around on the sand and under wings and feet, relishing in the warmth of the sun on my arms and cheeks.

It really was just a wonderful day. But, I had other things to do, so sighing a deep, deep sigh, I turned to make my journey back home.

As I walked away, there suddenly was this squawking and wooshing sound. I turned around to see what was going on. A giant goose was pushing its way out of the water, flapping and screaming.

And coming straight for me.

I stood frozen for a few seconds, not understanding the situation at all. When the goose cleared the water, she picked up speed using her extremely large and impressive wings to hurl herself toward me.

Well, I wasn’t about to stick around, so I started walking very, very fast. The children were running to their adults and the adults had their mouths hanging open. As I ascended the small incline to the main path, that goose just kept getting faster.

She – and I’m just guessing it was a she, I didn’t stop to ask – was flapping and running and snapping and hissing and squawking and aiming at me like I was dinner.

OK, so what’s a girl to do? I just starting running as fast as I could.

That crazy goose chased me through the park. And she was right on my heels. I expected my butt to get literally goosed at any second. Other walking children and adults were jumping off the path with saucer eyes as my little parade wooshed by.

I’m a fast runner, but she had a definite advantage with her massive wings. And she wasn’t a little thing either. Her head reached my shoulders. I know because on one of my panicked glances backwards, I saw the inside of her hissing beak.

As soon as I hit the parking lot, she stopped. And so did I. Turning around, I just looked at her as my lungs gulped in the sun warmed air. We stared at each other and the gathering of people behind her stared at us.

Then she quacked at me, turned around, and started waddling back to the itty-bitty beach. Adults holding their children parted like the Red Sea as she went by.

I will never know what in heavens name I did to piss that gal off, but I have done my darnedest to never do it again. And I didn’t go swinging under the moon there any more. Too close to the itty-bitty beach.

2008 30 May

Back in High School

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

So, my friend comes over with a proposition. I’m feel like I’m about to get hoodwinked because my best friend – sitting next to me – knows what’s up and is acting suspiciously coy.

Now, I haven’t been playing my trumpet very regularly for a few years or so – lots of boring factors brought that action into existence – but I’m playing again. Having old friends around that remember when I was a pretty darn tootin’ terrific player hasn’t hurt.

My best friend conducted the community concert of Handel’s Messiah this last year, and it turned out pretty great, other than my grand mis-entrance. Hey, at least I followed the sage advice of an old director. “If you make a mistake, make sure everyone hears it!” Everyone heard it all right.

It wasn’t entirely my fault. I was following the program and they forgot a recitative, so I thought I was up. On the other hand, it’s not like I haven’t played this before. I should’ve remembered. Despite that fubar (and I won’t explain that acronym or your ears might burn), and the fact that the Messiah is fairly demanding and I hadn’t practiced diligently for years until a month before the gig, I did well enough to get lots of compliments and offers to play for more people.

But, back to my beginning sentence. My friend asked if I would play in the high school musical. Yes, they have their own band, but the director of said band handed the drama department a “I don’t have time for this” a week before the show.

Since they were desperate and I was gearing up for the Messiah, I said. “Oh, I guess so.” So there I was. Back in high school. Playing a musical. A few friends had also been hoodwinked into it, but we couldn’t let our friend hang out there all by herself on the piano looking frazzled and panicked. That would have been very unfriendlike.

I did all the musicals when I was in high school. We had a stellar drama group and our band won awards at competitions every year, so it was a lot of fun. It brought back memories watching all these teenage puppies running around doing their teenage thing. Was I really that energetic back then … and that stupid silly?

I’m sure I wasn’t, but I must have been. How scary is that? Even scarier is the adage, “High school is the best time of your life”. Whoever came up with that one must have done absolutely nothing with his or her life. I wouldn’t go back to high school if you offered me my very own island.

All the drama, the ‘he said – she said’, laying about on dirty floors, the spontaneous giggling, the stinky bathrooms, the insane social rules of the teenage hormonal microcosm … I’d rather stick hot pokers into my eyeballs.

That said, we had a good time. My friend treated us to some Mexican food. Then we four went to the elementary school playground. We played four square for a while and then played on the jungle gym. At midnight.

Our collective age? 182.

2008 30 May

Climbing Mountains of Code and Still Breathing

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

Webfetti.com
As I tweak and prune and attempt to make my site (or as my best friend keeps referring to it – my baby; though I think of it as more of a beastly spawn) super user friendly, entertaining, creative, and helpful as possible to those who may drop in, I find myself experiencing unadulterated joy while fluttering on the fringes of madness.

I’ve learned a ton of stuff – HTML stuff, how to make logos, how to use FTP, learn the language of color, where to stick meta tags, where one code ends and the other begins. Six months ago, I barely understood how to make paragraph breaks and I couldn’t have explained my way out of a meta paper bag.

I never wanted to be a techie. I’ve been so resistant to anything related to code, that just seeing it made my irises bleed. Back when I was in college, computers were still the new kids on the block. The only course one could take was BASIC. I took it. There were hundreds of people taking it. We all wanted to be in the cutting edge of the next new great invention. 

Unfortunately, I might as well have tried to turn a housefly into a horse. It didn’t make a bit of sense to me and the lab assistants were so overworked and ill-equipped to answer my remedial questions, that I never did grasp one fleeting ampersand of understanding. I vowed that I would hate computers and all that they represented until the day I croaked.

Then Apple came along and my family got one. During my Christmas break, I played around with it and decided that not all computers were evil entities out to infect us with insanity. So much for vows, but I still didn’t want anything to do with HTML, CSS, or code of any kind.

I finally bought my own computer (a forever upgradeable one built by guys who may have been my lab assistants) and I’ve merrily learned what I needed to run the programs, but as soon as a hint of code peeped its slashy head into the picture, my eyeballs would start rotating in quite an unnatural way.

Since I became the editor for a computer accessories website, I had to start learning some code despite the jerks and jiggles of my optic nerves. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys I work with and for, though they are the ones who prodded me to start my own site. They have gracefully and gently pulled me through the learning process without laughing so hard that they needed to change their underpants.

So, here I am, tweaking and pruning and optimizing my site in, gasp, CODE! Though it’s all very basic – shudder – I still get headaches and my hands shake after hours of wading through the evil little slashes and their cohorts. At the same time, when I see it come out and realize I DID THAT, I experience this ultimate sense of prevailing through the struggle – as if I just climbed to the top of K2 and didn’t run out of oxygen. What a rush!

I guess now I’d better start adding more content and get more people to visit and talk to me. I didn’t do all this for nothing. Crikey …

So, do you like it?

2008 30 May

Beware the Grasshopper

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

Webfetti.com
Yesterday, I went outside to let the dog I’m watching relieve herself. I usually sit on the steps while she does her duty, but not yesterday. To my horror, there was a grasshopper sitting where I usually do.

Now most of you would probably say, well, just shoo it away. That’s a big problem, see. I am mortally terrified of grasshoppers. Just typing the name makes my heart race.

I backed away hoping peeful puppy would send the evil insect hopping. Not so. Thus reconfirming my belief that they are fearless creatures from Hades, and deliberately torment me whenever given the opportunity.

You react with laughter, yes, I know. I’m used to it. It doesn’t change my perception. I know it’s ridiculous. Most people are afraid of snakes or spiders or mountain lions or clowns or midgets. I’m not afraid of any of those things.

But hoppers? They are evil incarnate.

It all started in my uncle’s backyard in Denver when I was eleven. Where I grew up, outside of Chicago, they are little green things. The crickets are bigger than they. In the West, however, they are gigantic brown malicious creatures that not only hop around, but can FLY!

I was eleven. I was bored out of my mind because my cousins had year round school and they were gone. The backyard wasn’t finished yet. It was full of dust and weeds. But no biggie, right? It was a beautiful summer day. My imagination was fully engaged. I could find something to do. Plus, I had already been out there playing with my cousins. We had barbecued out there, too.

So, my uncle was at work. My mom and aunt were chatting. My sister was three and playing with our three year-old cousin, or maybe they were napping. I announced that I would be going out to play. No objections were sounded. I’m sure I was driving my mother bonkers. I was a very hyper kid.

I slid the glass door open and triumphantly bound out into the dusty yard. I got about ten feet from the house and was attacked. Yes, attacked. There were battalions of the beastly brown devils laying in wait for me.

They assaulted my arms and legs, my front and back, my face and hair, bouncing off of me, crawling on me, leaving trails of goo. I utterly freaked out. I began screaming and whipped my hands around, pumped my legs up and down, and madly crashed into the glass door.

My mom and aunt looked out after I nearly broke the glass and let me in. I screamed some more and relayed to them, through gasps and wheezes,  that these giant brown bugs had jumped all over me and tried to eat me!

My aunt laughed and said they were just grasshoppers. I did not laugh as tears streaked my face. My mom smiled but she didn’t laugh either.

I didn’t think about them again for a long time after returning to the safety of Chicago. The little green ones still didn’t bother me, but we hardly ever saw those. Crickets, giant June bugs, garden snakes, lightning bugs, lots and lots of mosquitoes and gnats, but few hoppers.

I returned to Colorado when I was 18. My family had moved there when I went to college. A friend from college also lived there, so we spent some time hanging out over the summer. Her mom had a new house under construction, so we went to see.

The area was new, dusty, and weedy. We happily got out of my friend’s car and walked toward the “A” frame. One of those ghastly things jumped right into my path. like a black cat, but way creepier. I was suddenly and abruptly petrified. I began to hyperventilate, shake, and tears started bursting out of my eyes. My heart was beating at the speed of light. Fortunately, my friend knew me well, spotted the problem, and shooed it away.

She was surprised, as most people are, that I could fear anything, let alone something so benign to most. And it’s true, I don’t fear much.

Grasshoppers are pure evil. I worked up the courage and actually stared one down. It stared back. I was about ten feet away and my heart was pounding so hard, I thought my ears would explode. Had the vile thing moved, I would have launched myself into space, but I was determined. And that stare down gave me the knowledge. I understood. They are creatures of the dark. You can see it in their eyes.

The moral of this story? Be careful out there in the weedy dirt. They may come when you think you’re safe. The little representatives from hell are patient and calculated. They will fly in onto the dashboard of your car, sit right in front of you, and stare at you while you drive. I know. It happened. I didn’t even turn off the car when I got home, I just opened the door and ran.

2008 30 May

Hang on Tight and Smile

Author: Shawn Categories: Story Shelter

I kept trying to go with some friends for a bit of water-skiing fun on Lake Burton in Georgia. The weather kept being uncooperative. It was a very rainy summer. The few times we tried, the storms would chase us away.

Finally, a blitz of sunny days graced us and I knew chances would be slim for another chance. Except I didn’t water ski. Nope. I’ve skied in the past. I love it. But when given the choice, I opted for something new. I tubed.

I heard how fun it was and I couldn’t wait to experience a different way of being whipped across the water. Why hang onto the rope like an upright skinny stick when I could be drug like a sack of potatoes?

The blue and yellow tube was a triangle sort of shape with a cavity in the middle to sit on. Four handles hung around the front and back sides. I was told I could either sit in it or lie on it.

I thought about that for a few seconds. Have my legs smushed underneath me or hang them off the back. Hmmm. Considering the length of my legs, having them squished didn’t seem very appealing.

Besides, one good bump would send one of my knobby knees on a quick journey into my face. There would certainly be one good bump and definite dreadful pain. Decision made, I jumped into the water.

My accommodating captain pulled his speedy boat around and positioned the tube beside me. To say I was calm as a warm cucumber would be mighty misleading. Excited and nervous, yes, but dubious was my main emotion.

What if I couldn’t hang on? What if I fly up into the air, twist freakishly in the spray and end up in some bizzare excruciating position? What if I take flight into the trees, crumple into the branches and become the first mutilated human kite?

Strange things happen to me. I mean, how many people do you know who have run themselves over with their own car? Or who have been chased out of a park full of people by a giant psychotic goose? Well?

I have to prepare myself for the bizzare when trying something new. My smiling face appears confident and fearless. Inside, my mind carreens with scenes from some mutant circus causing paralyzing fear and resisting the urge to run away screaming with my arms flailing over my head.

I used to be fearless when I was young and fresh and hadn’t been subjected to countless anomalous accidents. Fortunately, I still have the child within and my love of adventure and admittedly, speed, wins out over my paranoia. I love things that go fast.

So, back to the story. After a few instructions and tips, I kind of awkwardly flung myself onto the tube, belly down, legs dangling behind me. Grabbing the two front handles, I wiggled around to get comfy. I looked up to my grinning friends, gave the thumbs up, and quickly grabbed onto the handle again before the jerk of the rope hit the tube.

Bang! Off we went. My chin rested on the front of the tube. Ripples of water bounced my head up and down. I felt like a life-size bobble head. As we picked up speed, I pulled myself up a bit so my eyeballs wouldn’t fall out and used my arms like shock absorbers. I forgot how much power surges through a rope behind a boat.

First turn and there grew a large beastly wave looming – giggling. Oh, this is it. I’m going to hit that toothy beast, be launched fifty feet into the air, spin around with my arms and legs spread like helicopter blades and land on the other side of town.

It could happen.

But, it didn’t. I caught some air, hanging on so tight I could see my knucklebones protruding through my skin, and landed with an ka-oomph. Bumpily I glided back and forth across the riffling water and boat wakes until I was nearly alongside the boat.

Suddenly, it was like the tube hit dry ground. My body uncontrollably slid forward and the lake swallowed me up. Until then, I’m proud to say, my hair was mostly dry.

I tread water until my friends returned with tube in tow. Was I okay, they asked. Dandy, I gurgled. Ready for more, they asked. More? Bring it on!

Apprehension retreated to its cave and I was a fearless child once again. Perma-smile was pasted on my face. My friends had them, too. I got braver, allowing myself to soar higher and higher as they turned the boat sharper and sharper. After my fourth watery dismount, my skinny little arms were shaky and begging for respite.

It was a blast. I recommend it if you haven’t tried it. No skill involved. Just hang on tight and smile. And if nothing weird happened to me – everyone else in the world is safe.

*First published in The Clayton Tribune

2008 30 May

My Singular Grandmother

Author: Shawn Categories: Story Shelter

We sit at her white foldout kitchen table playing cribbage, the family requisite.  The little apartment is permeated with a fresh blossomy smell that breathes Grandma.  Dark wood furniture boasts of style, function, and order.  Collectibles and plants are splashed amongst swirled soft pink and green walls and carpeting.

 

For the countless time I gaze at this slight delicate woman dressed in cadet blue slacks, a floral silk blouse, and narrow dun-colored slippers.  Her slate wire glasses sit on her nose, firmly in their place.  Blue-gray curls neatly surround her oval thought-lined face. Clicking fingernails echo across the table at me. 

 

“Shawn, honey,” Grandma’s sweet grainy voice warns, “the game.”

 

I lay my hand and count, “Fifteen two, fifteen four, and his heels is five, not much,” I grumble.

 

She nimbly shuffles the cards and deals the next hand.  Her soft mouth sets and resets as she decides which cards to throw into her crib.  She always plays to win.

 

Everyone in our family considers it a great feat to beat Grandma, and we all are admonished if we don’t keep the game going at a brisk pace. 

Her eyes twinkle, like deep pools in the ocean, as she wins yet another hand. 

Your crib, dear,” she announces as she slowly rises.  I collect the cards and start shuffling.  Her hands grip the table baring bulbed joints and bulging light blue veins wandering amidst the spattering of age spots that paint her smooth skin.   

As she straightens her slender frame, she swallows an involuntary groan caused by arthritic pain.  Swiftly steadying herself, she pushes off the table and waddles across the kitchen, her arms rising to meet the cupboard.  Her movements are deliberate and flowing. A smoky blue glass emerges and she places it on the speckled counter. 

“Do you want a glass?” she inquires.

“No, the can is fine with me.”  I reply.  She glances at me with that ‘are you sure’ look; her eyes probing for certainty.  

“The cards are waiting for you Gramma,” I say, smiling. 

 

She shrugs, reaches into the fridge retrieving a 7-up™, and pours half of it into the glass.  A shadow of a smirk appears on her lips.  Probably wondering why a can is preferable to a glass, I muse.

 Returning, she plops the drinks on the table as I deal.  As she grasps the table, her rounded bottom makes its descent into the chair.  Picking up the cards so I can’t see them, she deftly determines which cards to throw to my crib.  She would rather lose points than give her opponent any. 

 

Again, I find myself watching this ninety-two year old dynamic rarity.  I recall her eighty-third birthday when I had the opportunity to ask, “Gramma, what does it feel like to be eighty-three?”

 

She smiled and softly said, “Well, I don’t really feel that different,” she paused, reflecting, “I guess I realize how much I don’t know.”  I still remember the awe I felt at that moment.  That bit of profound wisdom is so characteristic of her transcendent humility and wonder.

 

Shawn!”  Grandma barks, “Mind the game!”  She clicks the table with her fingernails.

 

Oh yeah, the game,” I smile and discard.  Can’t keep Grandma waiting.

2008 30 May

Biking in the Georgia Mountains

Author: Shawn Categories: Story Shelter

My Journey With Three Rabun County Coaches

To make one fact incontrovertible, I am not a morning person. If it’s before 9 a.m., it is simply too early. Some of us just aren’t made for mornings. I once had a poster that said, “If God wanted us to see the sunrise, He would have scheduled later in the day”. Come 9 p.m., however, my second wind kicks in and I’m good until at least 2 a.m.

So all this talk about mornings is about doing something I wouldn’t normally do. In fact, when my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. one Wednesday morning in June, I was sure I was deranged.

Why did I decide to do this? For an opportunity to go out and mountain bike. I joined three heavy-duty athletes who were also Rabun County coaches. These guys went out every morning to run, bike, or swim, or something. Their meet time is 6 a.m. At the end of the summer, they have their own iron man competition.

I wanted to go out with them to see what they do, maybe learn something, and mostly, see if I could keep up. What I didn’t bank on was doing it at an hour I was normally in a deep sleep.

Coach James invited me to their Stonewall Falls run and said I could ride along if I wanted. Ride while they run. Shouldn’t be too bad, I thought. Of course, they are super athletes and I, a sporadic recreationalist.

Bleary-eyed, I drove to meet them. I was barely conscious. How in the world was I going to pull off strenuous demands to my sleeping body?

I arrived at the trail head, parked my truck and took my mountain bike off its rack. Coach James checked it over and gave me some tips. Keep the front wheel light, hunch down over the seat with your posterior behind it on steep descents to prevent tumbling head first over your handlebars. I heeded his words, though I already knew them. At that hour, I needed to hear them.

They discussed our route and decided first to head for the falls. There we would evaluate. They were very considerate but didn’t pamper me. For that, I was extremely grateful. I detest being patronized.

Down the gravel road we went, three bulging men and skinny me on my bike. It was still dark. A few chirps broke the early morning silence along with the crunch-crunch of foot strikes and the steady crackle beneath my fat tires.

We hit the first steep hill as the sun started shooing the shadows away. I got about halfway and my legs could pump no more. The coaches disappeared up the road as I pushed my bike up the rest of the way. Well, this is just great, I thought. I’m going to feel like an idiot. What was I thinking?

I quickly caught up on the other side as I floated down the hill and felt better about myself. That’s the best thing about biking. Catching some speed, air whizzing through your body hairs, sounds blurring past. It’s freedom. Pure and simple exhilaration.

We finally reached the refreshing falls. Funnels of water bustled down the inky rock face inbetween the dark green foliage. The area was a half circle of dirt and rock surrounding a pond with a few picnic tables dotting the fringes. Large droplets of water rushed down from above into a misty flurry where they mingled together to form the pond.

The coaches inquired about me. I was good, I said. But honestly, I still wasn’t awake enough to know what I was. Here and pedaling. Excited to be with some of the best athletes in the county. Trying to absorb something, anything, of the experience, but still under the spell of Morpheus.

They decided to take the short trail. Stay on the trail, when it splits go to the left, they said. Don’t forget to keep your front wheel light. Again, they were caring, considerate, but still no coddling.

The trail was about a half a foot wide and dove straight down. At first, I had to ride my brakes. I didn’t want to run over the muscle-bound men in front of me. Down and down and up, zigging and zagging, ducking under branches, down and up some more. The trees huddled around the rusty red trail casting shadows. Small streams traipsed across the trail and fun was found splashing through them.

The coaches edged out ahead of me and disappeared. I couldn’t catch up this time with sharp narrow turns to negotiate. I felt like I hadn’t seen my coaches for hours. The ups had now become relentless and I was positive I had gone the wrong way somewhere.

I stopped to let my gasping lungs suck in some air and allow my heart to slow down a bit. Sweat poured over my face and my legs felt like cooked pasta. I heard rustling and cracking branches. A small flash of alarm washed over me thinking I might run into something wild and cantankerous.

The bears here are fairly harmless. Small black bears. There were coyotes and mountain lions about, but I wasn’t too worried about them, either. It was the wild boars and the weasels that concerned me. And snakes.

I’d rather not face off with some animal’s mama, so I and my pumping chest pushed on, continuing up. Suddenly, I glimpsed some white above me. Heart jumping into my throat, I stopped. Two coaches were there. Wild and cantankerous indeed.

All right? They asked. Yes, did I go the wrong way? I asked. No, you’re doing fine. Almost to the top. Deep sigh of relief. I wasn’t an idiot after all. They jogged off and I continued to push. Coach Grimmett caught my eye through the trees. Almost there, Shawn, all downhill from here, he said. Oh, there is goddess, I whispered.

They way down was wonderful. Nice tight turns, dirt popping and crunching under my rolling weight, leaves brushing over my arms and legs, more streamlets splashing over my tires. Rays of sunlight shot through the thick trees creating spotlights on the trail and the surrounding trees.

I rode back down the road to our trucks beside coach James. We finished at about 7:15 a.m. Coach James said I did well. From him, that was a compliment.

Looking back, I believe I was less than 10 minutes behind them rather than the hours it felt like. Remember, part of me was still asleep. All in all, it was a blast, though it does feel more like a dream. I rose to the challenge, but then I rarely back down. The coaches were terrific, patient, and made me feel good about all of it.

Thanks you burly three. And if you really meant it, yes, I’ll go again. Someday.

*First published in The Clayton Tribune

2008 30 May

Enchantment

Author: Shawn Categories: Poetry Park

An ache binding the suspense
Stabbing sighs skim every breath
Tears drip through my heart 

Feeling as an eternity
In blinks and frames
Not real, yet the hunger

                  deafens…

                                         …and rings

In crystal mounds of sadness
And in shooting stars

And I miss you day by day
Waiting for time to arrive

             reality to begin…

                                      …love to explore

©Shawn Shearer

2008 30 May

Possibilities

Author: Shawn Categories: Poetry Park

A timid chance beckons
A path yet unclear

As we hold our hearts close

Feel our fear

Dipping our toes into
Ishtar’s forbidden pool

Diving into its abyss

where our dreams duel

Coarse scars left behind
Ghostly memories of tears

Venture to small chary steps

After so many years

Felicitous serendipity of fate
Latently karmic and pure

Could this perchance lead us

To a sterling peace, a cure

Fantastic images tingle
As voracious passion devours

Our quivering bodies know

As our minds gently flower

Another chance embraces
A path yet unclear

As we hold our hearts forward

Face our Fear

©Shawn Shearer

Possibilities won an 2008 Editor’s Choice Award from ILP

2008 29 May

Morning

Author: Shawn Categories: Poetry Park

What unknown dream
Seizes the soul
Night breathing peace
In chests of pain

Comes into mind
Demons will find
Ripping unconscious
Security behind

Being on edge
Light peers on the path
Where pain disperses
Freshness of body

The waking hour
Is not kind