Hidden Meanings

Hidden meanings

I wonder about things as I look around the spaces I travel. A lone dilapidated phone booth on a small town corner. An old mobile home smothered by kudzu. Even the occasional empty church sagging with the weight of generations. These scenes always make me wonder. 

As I drive through the older parts of town I laugh at the fact the houses I grew up with have become tourist attractions. They’re labeled “historic districts” and all the beautiful details and designs are displayed with uniformity. Rules keep the “period” stateliness preserved for future dreamers. 

I remember as a kid visiting my “Aunt Janie” in Cambridge, Maryland in the mid 60’s. Sitting on her porch after dinner with my Aunt and my “Nan” naming the cars that drove around the turn in front of her house. The porch wrapped around the house with metal gliders and chairs framing the front door. 

My Aunt would quiz me as the cars drove by and wave to the occupants as they appeared in what seemed a procession of friends. At 8 or 9 I still thought you only waved at folks you knew. This is how I learnt of acquaintances. It seems to me now that “back then” you could know folks by seeing them around occasionally. 

As I sat there on the squeaky glider watching cars and acquaintances slowly drive by I learnt to identify different types of cars and friends. All the different shapes, colors, and sizes captured my imagination that evening. I’m thinking that was the wisdom I missed as a young child. Like my “Aunt and my “Nan” packed a little lesson for me when I was older and wiser. 

As I leave these areas today driving into the subdivided section that extend cities out into neatly placed streets I notice the vibe changing. The acre of brush between homes feels private. The front of the homes have been built for “curb appeal”. Which means no porch. Just a few miniature columns reminiscent of past grandeur framing an ornate door. 

These entrances are often not used; as the attached garage becomes the main thoroughfare where you can privately enter and exit the house without being seen. Unlike the homes I grew up with, all the front doors are closed, relics of the past. Plants replace people and silence replaced the television and radio noises that I remember filtering through screen doors. 

So where did everyone go? Where did the sidewalk go? Why is everyone hiding. It seems the front porch was replaced by the back deck. All the homes have these sterile profiles displayed out front. The occasional flag or landscaping hints at the occupants. Man sized privacy fences encircle the back yard creating these miniature demilitarized zones of privacy. 

Houses sit back off the road often hidden by “S” shaped driveways. A scrim of trees create an obstructed view of the home front. A hint of militaristic planning. I’m transitioning to a new vibe as I’m latently confused by the change of environment in my 30 minute ride. I haven’t waved to any friends or acquaintances in a few miles. 

I’m not sure who started this architectural trend; although it’s pretty obvious he/she, or they were private folks with things to hide or hide from. Obviously they viewed the friendly nature of the front porch as a threat. It seems the “security” of the 6ft privacy fence wasn’t due to an insecurity about other folks, but an insecurity hidden by landscaping. 

It’s strange that a social gathering around a back deck is hidden behind a landscaping bunker. Cars line the front driveway and the front of a home where sidewalks used to be busy with waving children on bicycles making noise with baseball cards fluttering on wheel spokes. 

Now the faint sound of music from the backyard has replaced screen filtered music or television chatter through the front screen door. Acquaintances have become strangers and waving is reserved for friends. Our community is fragmented by sub divided suspicion protected by a garage door that leads to a kitchen hidden behind landscaped borders. 

I can’t speculate on architectural intention or city planning goals. I also haven’t figured out what was appealing to us about this strange cultural shift. I can infer that the suspicious nature of citizenry becomes obvious. The incessant need for boundaries is obvious. Where does the line between privacy and community lie? 

Culture survives no matter. The future will hopefully see through all these human boundaries and intentions. I hope it’s embarrassing to future generations and front porches once again become a place to wave. You can’t become acquainted with all the colors, designs, or sizes of cars and folks from a backyard deck overlooking a landscaped wood line, it’s just not natural!

Mom

Mom

It’s Friday and I’m loaded in the backseat of the car to roam around and not get my clothes dirty. Mom’s got her best errand outfit on and a smile outlined by bright red lipstick. As we slowly drive through our neighborhood I stand up in the backseat waving to my friends who have to wait for their Dad’s to bring payday home.

Gradually we leave the familiar row homes and circular blocks behind for the excitement of “The Plant”, that’s what they called the factory where dad’s worked. The fence across the street framed the “company softball fields”. Just beyond the fence was “the marsh” that hid the “Delaware River”. 

We pulled alongside the parking lot so Dad could see us when he came out from “The Plant”. A few minutes of backseat chaos later “The whistle” blew and throngs of men in blue pants and blue shirts with embroidered name tags came rushing out the giant metal and glass doors. Some carried their barn shaped metal lunchboxes with their rocket shaped metal thermoses to eat lunch at the tables outside the ball fields. 

My Dad appears out of a sea of blue carrying his lunch box and thermos in one hand and in his other hand a blue and white rectangle of paper flutters in the afternoon breeze. He leans in the window and kisses my mom, then proudly hands her his weeks wages. It’s a momentary pride, knowing by the end of the day after the grocery store, phone company, and power company he’ll be at it all over again. 

For the next 4 hours we’re wealthy. We stop at the bank for cash and I stand up so the cashier can see me and put my “Dum Dum” in the tube that magically goes back and forth between my mom’s window and the cashiers window. We shop  for the weeks groceries, adding some chocolate milk and “Fig Newton’s”. We drive through the power company and place money in another magic tube before heading home to put groceries away. 

Mom sends me outside with cookies to share with my friends so she can put groceries away in peace. After about an hour I’m pressing my face against the screen door asking to come in and get some kool-aid. My mom yells “Wait a minute!” Over the sound of the theme song from “Days of our Lives”. Knowing it will take a long time I turn on the spigot and get some water before running off to play some more with my friends. 

In the middle of a construction project with  Butchie and his “Tonka Trucks” my mom yells for me to come inside and wash my face and hands. It’s time to make the trip again to pick Dad up. I hop back in the car and lay down this time, exhausted from errands and playtime I fall asleep to the sounds of Friday traffic. 

I awaken to “the whistle” one more time marking the end of the shift. The same throng of guys come out through the double doors smiling and chattering about their weekend plans. Card nights, auctions, or dancing are the usual. I know the first thing we’re going to do is get dinner. 

We drive past our neighborhood to the local “sub shop” where the smell hits you through the open window of the car blocks before we arrive. We park on the side of the street and I hop out over the curb ready to go inside and listen to the sounds of folks ordering and the baseball game over the radio. The fan whirls around as I stare up like my Dad at a menu I can’t read. “Large roast beef with everything” my Dad orders. He continues to order for everyone in the family and while we wait on our order Dad makes small talk with everyone in the “sub shop”. 

After we get our order we drive home where my Dad proudly lays out the spread of sub sandwiches, “Charles Chip” from the truck that comes around weekly, and bottles of Pepsi we recycle every week for a discount on the new case. 

After the feast we assume our positions around the television tucked inside the console. Nobody moves except to reach into the snack bowl or turn the channel changer for the next episode of “This is Tom Jones”. 

Bed time was inevitable. Up the stairs, then up the ladder of the bunk bed. Mom makes her rounds and settles the last coals of energy with a ritual goodnight. Laying in the dark listening to the activity outside my window the dreams begin well before the onset of sleep. 

Higher Calling

Higher calling

Most folks think of religion when they hear the phrase “Higher Calling”! The phrase elicits some evangelical connotations for spiritual understanding from atop Maslow’s Hierarchy. Is it really spiritual, or is it personal, or both?

Everyone has a story. That story is a journey. We call this life, for want of a better term. At the core of the color of this journey are people. Family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances. Each of them with their own “story” intertwined with our own. So is it “our story”, or a collection of perceptions creating a landscape for our journey. 

As we move through the same spaces different worlds are created. We create these stories for celebration or dread, sympathy or empathy, identity or liberation. The latter being a defining moment. 

The danger is as we travel and “collect” experiences we run the risk of our path turning to concrete, leaving the fertile nature of life to stone, hence “being stuck”. 

Just walking a concrete trail littered with stone statues wearing the expressions of past triumphs and tragedies. 

Our story is more than a collection of static memories, and their purpose is not to stare back at us as markers towards an identity of power, or subjectivity. Here we run the risk of depression or narcissism, depending on the creator; you. 

What restores the path to light is consideration, communication, and understanding. Words bring the statues to life and crumble the concrete beneath our feet for the chance of one stalk of true understanding to rise towards the light. 

Facing adversity with grace is not just a Christian mantra, it’s more than a concept, it’s a “higher calling” to understanding that every story makes the journey complete. The ending can’t be found with part of the story. The journey to truth is incomplete, and therefore understanding becomes a false identity. 

The magic of the “story” is words can bring those concrete statues back to life. Words will bring color back to your path and create a pond for reflecting truth. 

As you stare into the glassy surface over time you see the trees behind you, the bank you stand on, and the nature of what’s behind you in a different light. 

As sound returns to this picturesque scene you begin to understand you were never alone. All of this beauty was around you waiting to be noticed. Now the statues you created come to life and you see that you didn’t struggle alone, you struggled separately. Unable to see that tragedy and triumph are moments, your life is not. 

A “Higher Calling” is a personal journey where others are understood and respected. Our story is only ever part of our journey. Along the path we must get to the reflective pool of understanding and see the world around us in other lights. Every step we take we must acknowledge the good and the bad, understand the good in the bad, and appreciate the bad in the good with equal reverence. 

Through our “higher calling” we can see humanity in everyone around us and understand that what we say and do, or chose not to say and do effects everyone along our path. Words are the key to the color of our path, as long as they’re shared, kept within and not shared they lose their color and crumble to dust.

So maybe our “Higher Calling” is outside the realm of us. Maybe we’ve forgotten that positive and negative are the origin of good and bad; and growing out of our realm opens up an horizon of possibilities to truly understand the world isn’t singular.   

Broken pieces of a Tense Life

Broken Pieces

I walk through life with the broken pieces of yesterday. Wrapped in tomorrow’s apprehension masking today

Heavy laden memories weigh my shoulders down. My mind denies the struggle as I wander around

There is safety in today as a memory or fear. It never comes round , so I’m never here

Always there or dreaming of when it’ll appear. But only a glimpse reflected in the shattering of a tear

I look around and it’s travelers I see wandering. Never knowing today or the life they’re squandering

It’s a death, reminiscing of what was, and mourning what could be. Twisted existence of what was or can be

My life is tense and today is a weigh point in the distance . Between yesterday and tomorrow is veiled existence

I don’t remember when today became folk lore. But I’m searching through the pieces of me for more

Today was always with me I just couldn’t see. The load I’ve been carrying has always been me

Gently I lay the pieces of me in a pasture of green. Separating memories from apprehensions I’ve suddenly seen

Today is a constant, the origin of all we are, have been, or will be. So it’s here I’ll live broken and free.  

Why Me

Why Me

Why did you create a world I have to adapt to. Life is easy. sleep, eat, and wander. 

I no longer wander, but still wonder as I look around, feet firmly planted on shaky ground

The world is at hand, but just out of reach it seems, mind battling between extremes

Standing in the middle is no longer safe, crushed by both sides, where ignorance resides. 

Sovereign folks work hard to be free, never giving in, to the comforts within

So ephemerally I travel through crowded minds, along empty streets, just me and mine

Thoughts scream like crowded voices on busy streets, as silent citizens stare at their feet

Talking out loud is a thing of the past, laughing or crying, with memes and fingers flying

We’re worse than separated, we’re leery and afraid, each of the other and promises made

Screens with a twisted alphabet rule our courage and fear, listening to the silence unable to hear

Quiet no longer depends on silence, as my mind is flooded with thoughts, peace can only be sought

So less becomes more and noise silently decorates the landscape, from beyond the glass I escape. 

I started life with me, myself, and I, a simple existence, between birth and why

Now I’m crowded with images and voices Screaming in neon whispers, trying to find a quiet corner

Why

Why did you create a world I have to adapt to. Life is easy. Sleep, eat, and wander. 

I no longer wander, but still wonder as I look around

feet firmly planted on shaky ground

The world is at hand, but just out of reach it seems 

Mind battling between extremes

Standing in the middle is no longer safe, crushed by both sides

Where ignorance resides. 

Sovereign folks work hard to be free, never giving in

To the comforts of sin

So ephemerally I travel through crowded minds

Along empty streets, just me and mine

Thoughts scream like crowded voices on busy streets

As silent citizens stare at their feet

Talking out loud is a thing of the past, laughing or crying

With memes and fingers flying

We’re worse than separated, we’re leery and afraid

Each of the other and promises made

Screens with a twisted alphabet rule our courage and fear

Listening to the silence unable to hear

Quiet no longer depends on silence, as my mind is flooded with thoughts,

Peace can only be sought

So less becomes more and noise silently decorates the landscape,

From beyond the glass I escape. 

I started life with me, myself, and I. 

A simple existence

Between birth and why

Now I’m crowded with images and voices

Screaming in neon whispers

Trying to find a quiet corner

Making the best of things!

I’m taken back by the undulating guitar riff of “The Whipping Post”. My thoughts and feelings meld into a time and place I can sense, but not remember clearly. Suddenly memories roll like scenes on a old 8mm projector out of control. Snippets of youth and folly take me to that point just short of experience, then it hits me like a black wall. 

Are my memories someone else’s nightmare? Are “the good ole days” a lifetime prison for someone I called friend? What about “making the best of things” is a psychological sacrifice for another persons imagined glory? Have I sub consciously sent the message for someone to forgo their pain for my nostalgic moment? How blind am I?

As more and more of my childhood friends finally make the newspaper with their last hoorah I wonder what they took to their grave. I wonder about the time we went “skinny dipping” and haled the experience as a Hallmark moment. Who was terrified and “made the best of things” for our moment. Who was in fear while we snuck looks and feels of each other in the glory of youth. 

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and many normal things back then are illegal today. I remember partying was the popular thing to do. Whether it was playing cards and drinking, going to the woods drinking and smoking weed, or going to clubs they experimented with for kids under 18. All these places were minefields for girls and twisted training grounds for guys looking to get back at the world. 

All of us are aware of folks telling us to hold back or hide our feelings so we didn’t ruin a good time. I experienced this with my own family member. I was talking about a dude who passed and how he did me a solid in life by telling me to “get outta this place and don’t look back.”  Then they reveal to me he violated her “back in the day”.  I was caught off guard. 30 years passed. 30 years of sacrificial silence put aside with a nod, or lighting a cigarette and moving to another conversation, or going outside for some air while the rest of us “partied” on. 

What about those folks who couldn’t, or didn’t have children. This is a dark space. How many birth notices, baby showers, or gender celebrations were celebrated by someone suppressing the memory of choices made, or consequences unseen with a smile, a drink, or a long drag of a cigarette deep in thought. This horrifying picture of someone lying in the dark untangling the beauty of birth and the tragedy of loss. All for the cheer of the group. All to “make the best of things”.

No one really had money back then. You could scrounge a few dollars and buy enough gas and beer to get started towards a night of excitement and possibility. There was always that one guy who was “dirt poor”. He or she bought clothes at good will and would buy individual cigarettes because they couldn’t afford a pack; but they would play those clothes and blow that smoke like a “rock star”. Striving for an image so they didn’t stick out. 

Eventually someone would get bored and make a comment about the clothes, usually the person who bought something new and didn’t get noticed soon enough. Then collecting money for more beer became like being the kid on the court to  be picked last for a team. Grinding someone down to the point their misfortune became a personality of humor and self deprecating behavior is evil at best. 

The “good ole days” seem now to be not so good, or is that really all we can do. “Making the best of things” cuts both ways. It could be sacrificing our fears or hurts for the sake of others, but isn’t that the same as making things the best. Maybe it comes down to the unsung hero, I really don’t know. I do know “the good Ole Days” are often a mixture of good times and bad choices, as well as good choices and bad times. Maybe that’s the beauty of life!

Closing my eyes till I see light, then looking at the sun till I see dark spots has become a metaphor for me. I can see the light and beauty in darkness, as well as the ugliness light can reveal. We’re told to love our neighbor as ourself. What we often miss is we have to love ourself first. Until then the best I can honestly do is acknowledge the pain and celebrate the joy, and if they get mixed up once in a while all I can do is “make the best of things” to honor all the beautiful souls I’ve crossed paths with. 

Shells

Shells

I knew as soon as the screen door slammed and the scent of poverty pierced the darkness. The faint glow of a flat screen illuminated trills of smoke and beer in a brown glass bottle sitting on a side table that served as a pharmacy, restaurant, and electronics tool shop. “What you want” sounded as the familiar greeting. 

“Nothing”, I replied, as I turnt off all my senses as a defense to the onslaught of foul smells and words. Poverty for some, has a way of coming out ugly. I glanced at the three day old t-shirt stained from microwave meals and smokeless tobacco slobber. “How ya doing”, I asked. The long silence framed his stare at the flat screen reminding me, in here, it’s on my terms. “How’s it going”, he growled as the stare continued. Anyone else would wonder whether he’s talking to the tv or me. 

Together we sit in the mid day darkness staring at the glow of the flat screen, one not knowing what to say, and the other tryin to pretend he don’t care. “I come to cut the grass.” I stated. He just stated at the tv slowly sipping that brown bottle emotionless. I remember back when he thought he’d get better. He’d laugh and say something like, “yeah, I’ll get out there next time, just ain’t felt right lately.”  I’d tell him, “No problem, I need the exercise more that you.”  My recent weight game was a running joke we shared. He never seemed to lose or gain anything. 

I sat a while longer in silence feeling the claustrophobic nature of silence echoing in triumph. It was as if death had won in there, but was withholding that last breath suspended in misery was something enjoyable. Nothing moved save the flicker of characters on the TV. Almost a fitting prelude to the finality of life and how nothing was real forever. How do you speak to death?

I slowly got up to the sound of leather stuck to my bare leg. You had to dig deep outta that hole in the chair created by years of sittin and jumpin, back when the house had a little more life. “See ya in a bit”, I announced, as I trudged towards the light of day through the screen door. As I opened the door and stepped out into the light it was if I walked through a portal to another emotional universe. Hope melted dread into memories of kids playing and laughing as I walked around the dilapidated swing set overgrown with weeds. 

This place was happy once. Just like folks portray on TV. An old car pulls into the driveway at the end of the day and kids freeze instantly, then run for the driveway laughing and calling out, “Dad’s home” while Momma sat on the porch smiling smoking her cigarette and telling someone on the phone she had to go, “Bud’s home” she’d say, “I’ll talk with you later.”  

Momma would step out to the yard a few feet meetin Dad and everyone would fight to get through that same door that now was a portal to poverty and death. Momma’s chair still sat on the porch, but nobody sits on it no more. It’s a shrine to happier times, and the only happy thing that passes through that door now is memories and me. 

I tried a few times to get “Pop” to let me help him outside, but I think the sunlight and memories are just to bright for his eyes. “What I wanna go out there for”, he’d grumble, “ain’t nothing out there.”  I knew better than to insist, you didn’t insist with “Pops”. He seemed to sit with regrets better than sunlight. 

Out back in the lean to was the old lawn equipment surrounded by old tools and projects never finished, or started. When Momma was around Pops would build her something for the house, or for one of her friends. They’d sit out there talk and drink beer till dark, or till us kids came round cryin bout bein hungry. They’d laugh and he’d say, “Boy, you don’t know hungry!” Then we’d all go inside and hang out around the dinning room waitin loudly for dinner. 

Eventually I’d awaken from the memories of yesteryear by getting tangled in some spiderweb. The scene before me changes from monochrome to virtual in a fleeting second taking my memories and smiles with it. I spend the next fifteen minutes tryin to start that damn lawnmower we had when I was a boy. I’ve been cranking that damn mower since I was 12 years old, but he won’t have a new one.  

Slowly the mower comes to life and I fade to the past. I follow those same lines I’ve been mowing for 15 years. Each row taking me down a different path from the darkness I occasional notice through the front door. Light and laughter may never shine through those deteriorating shuttered windows or the sagging screen door ever again, but at one time this place was the brightest corner of my world. 

They say life ain’t fair. I look up over the noise of the mower and the memory of Momma sittin on the porch watching me with a phone locked between her shoulder and the side of her head tilted so her cigarette smoke don’t get in her eyes to wave at an old friend or neighbor driving by. She never had to talk to correct me. In one smoke filled motion she’d talk on the phone, blow out a cloud of smoke, and hand gesture me in the right direction. I miss her, not as much as Pops, but I miss her daily. 

In the old days I’d hurry and put the mower back in the shed and run inside to see what I missed. Now, I stare around the shed wondering how time can change a shed full of life to a blanket of darkness filled with the remnants of someone’s hopes and dreams. It’s hard to stop mowing knowing I’m gonna have to go back in there. 

Maybe it’s just knowing I gotta figure out what to say when I go back through that portal of misery before I leave this world for another week. I walk back to that front door just as I did when I was 10 and knew my teacher had called home bout my behavior. 

I step through the door and that same “slap” of the door changes my reality again. “Finished up” I said feeling as though I’m talking to a mummy. I walk to the kitchen where I can no longer see any counter top or sink and get a bottle of water. When I was young I would just turn the sink on, stick my head in the sink, and drink straight from the tap. Not anymore though. 

As I walk from the kitchen to the front door to leave I ask, “you need anything.” Hoping he’d say yes, but knowing he’d never need anything again. “Gotta go”, I said “Got work this afternoon, they got me on second shift.” I’m hoping asking if he needs something or mentioning shift work will spark a conversation. All I get is, “Ok, see ya later” and back to the glow of the flat screen. 

I walk to the door not looking back and in between the door opening and closing I’d say, “Love ya Pops, call if you need something!”  I don’t turn back on purpose. I figure the best thing I could give him was the privacy to smile at me saying “I love you” and him not having to answer back. It’s the least I could do. 

That final slap is a release of sorts. I head back to my truck thinking maybe next time knowing he let go of his next times a long time ago. He made a good life for us and it’s the least I could do to check on him. He deserves much more than he will take, but that’s how he is. He doesn’t understand the different weights of physical burdens and emotional burdens. I wonder myself which one would be heavier. 

I drive by the cemetery where Momma’s at on the way home to get changed for work. I don’t stop every time now. I just smile at her memory and beep the horn. She was Pops light, and when she left, his light went out. Funny how he has a memory to me, but ain’t gone yet. When he does go their memories will meld and I’ll forget how life treated him. 

I’ll forget he got hurt and Momma passed in the same year. I’ll forget how all the sudden the house sagged, the light went out the shuttered windows, and I began to carry memories of someone who was alive. He always said life wasn’t fair, but how could you believe that when he sat there with Momma sittin on his lap laughing and huggin. Made no sense then. 

What I ain’t forgettin is how important time is. I also understand money. I would trade one million dollars to be able to go visit Pops and he be sittin on the porch in Momma’s chair out front waving as I drive up to cut the grass. I’dgive it all away to hear him sayin, “Boy, could you straighten up those lines please. The neighbors gonna think I cut the lawn drunk!”  If he left me a million dollars, it wouldn’t be as good as the memories. Maybe memories is all he could muster. Beats a dollar anyway. 

I ain’t found the “right one”yet. Maybe one day I’ll find the one who wants to take this place and shake the poverty and sadness out of it. Restore it to its former glory with friends and neighbors in the yard, telephones ringing, and lawn mowers buzzing. I could smile about the past, present, and future all in one breath. Then maybe Pops could smile down on me, since it’s too hard for him to smile at me. 

Pandemic Positives

There have been numerous positive ideas to be revealed through this “Pandemic”. One glaring thought is divisive, but obvious, there’s a lot of drama wrapped up in the word “Pandemic” when it comes to Covid. Yeah, it’s wide spread, and yes many folks have died; but by and large folks with underlying conditions know and unknown are the victims. Healthy folks seem to move on as if it was an additional flu season. 
That last statement brings to light a great find in health. Vaccines, masks, or quarantines can’t really protect you from catching or treating covid like being healthy can. Your bodies immune system is the best defense against this virus. We are built to withstand these conditions, it’s in our biology. We’ve known this, but this virus has  highlighted the fact that a healthy person can come into contact with an infected person and their body will protect them.  
Being healthy will help someone deal with the symptoms if they are not a symptomatic   They will be affected, but not hospitalized, or when hospitalized they will be released sooner. Many folks have become aware of the value of being healthy, and more importantly that health doesn’t mean bodybuilders or bikini models. It simply means you can live a healthy life by balancing what you eat and do in your daily life. This generation growing up will certainly value health and will have longer lives  being active because of it. 
I’m going to steer clear of the government conspiracies except to say that; we are more aware of the medicine we take, it’s uses, and misuses. We were asked to take an experimental vaccine for a genetically altered flu before it was approved by our regulatory agency. Even worse, the regulatory agencies and politicians struggled to find political ways to coerce citizens to take a vaccine that was, and is experimental. There’s nothing wrong with not taking an experimental vaccine for an experimental flu. The distrust associated with this situation has lead many folks to question pharmaceutical science and the government. 
Which brings me to doctors. You can look anywhere on line and find credible doctors citing peer reviewed evidence for and against this whole pandemic issue. This reinforced a notion I’ve had for years. Searching for a doctor is no different than choosing a teacher or finding a mechanic. They’re all the “luck of the draw” if you don’t do your homework. Our older folks though/think differently about doctors. They followed doctors’ advice because what he or she said was law. Today we understand doctors are people to and need to be vetted, and questioned when discussing our personal health. 
As to our mental health, I think folks paying attention value relationships more. Having seen folks pass in the span of a day makes some folks evaluate the relationships they have and how authentic they are. This seems to create more dialog between folks that facilitates greater understandings. Our differences are our strength. We create a bigger world when we understand each other by considering others point of view. 
There are obvious divisions between us when it comes to this pandemic. There are political differences based on authority and freedom. There are scientific differences associated with trust. There are medical differences dealing with beliefs about treatment. By and large though, most of us get along everyday and endure the political and mental stresses associated with the so called “pandemic”.
Whether it’s closer families, engaging communities, or cultural harmony, most folks are appreciating life and the folks around them more authentically. We’re valuing relationships and their effects good and bad on our lives. Remembering that “our differences are our strength” creates a tolerance and respect that goes beyond the public spectrum and into our homes and hearts. 

It’s pulling into that gas station at 03.00am and inhaling that first breath of pine soaked air floating in the dim glow of that lone soda lamp flickering in the oil slicked puddle of rainwater. 
The hum of nature responding to the dull rhythm of the convenience store brings memories flashing with the intermittent fluorescent lamp behind the sweat soaked glass. 
I stand alone in the night shaking off the weight of miles nodding between mile markers. Home is so much more than buildings. Home is attached to your soul like the kudzu wrapped around the pine trees blanketing the forest. 
The bell jingles as I open the door to a blast of 60 degree air that leaves my mind back at the warmth of pumping gas in the memories of the night. I nod to the clerk drinking coffee and staring at the phone and glancing up at me occasionally with a weary smile. 
Back out in the warmth of the night I pour out part of the Coke to make room for my peanuts. It’s become a tribute of sorts to being back where I planted roots. As I start the truck the sound of mufflers booms through the din of memories and cicadas. Slowly I pull out on to a barbed wire lined back road simultaneously rolling down my windows drowning in yesterday hoping for tomorrow. 
I plan my trip to arrive in the early morning between dawn and sunrise. Quietly I sit outside the driveway looking at the house and the woods framed by the swamp with the bay in the background. The salt in the air is stronger than the truck fumes now and laughter rumbles in my memories as I notice the yellow glow lighting the worn out welcome mat that at one time was conditional, but times are good now. 
My que is the progression of lights going on. First the bedroom, then the bathroom, and finally the kitchen where I know the coffee pot is beginning to gurgle and the vacuum seal on the refrigerator if broken with a rubber snap. 
Slowly I turn into the driveway to be awaken to the sound of gravel on rubber. I can see my pops turn towards the driveway in the herb lined kitchen window. I think I see the faint smile of recognition as I wonder what memories take him through his day. I turn off the truck and grab my bag opening my door as he opens the front door in some sort of duel. 
Walking towards the door everything is mute till the hug brings back the feelings without memories that remind me why I left, and why I come back. I’m reminded that the kudzu covers up the forest and kills the weeds for a purpose and I’m suddenly grateful to be home.