Age Be Damned

Knees are long since shot

Back moans in protest lifting his weight

There is more white in his beard each day

He should be a body at rest, but all he knows is motion

 

The muscle memory runs deep within his core

Legs, once iron pistons tearing up meters of pitch with everystride

Arms were battering rams; shoving aside torso’s in his wake

Heart, still pounding to a warrior’s beat

 

But like Charon at the Styx, time has taken its fare

Not in coin, but in speed and strength and wind

Young pups nip at his heels

Passes, runs, tackles…all happening almost faster than he can follow

Hits, once dismissed as a light tap, fall as a staggering blow

 

His rational brain says “Stop! Enough! We are done!”

But his warrior spirit is unyielding

Emotions of battles past, of matches won, overwhelm the logical centers of his brain

“Once more” the warrior says as the cleats pull on

“Just this match” he lies, as the jersey slides over him

“We are NOT done yet” he snarls as rationality crumbles

 

He stands on the pitch, staring down an opposition who mirrors his past

His body marked by countless matches, to their paltry few

“They think we are weak” his warrior voice whispers

“We are no threat” he adds with disdain for any who think so

So there he stands as he has hundreds of times before

Brothers on either side of him, bearing their own scars and theweight of time

Challengers wait across the open pitch, they expect an easy win

They are about to be taught a lesson all young pups must learn

Wisdom and experience will triumph every time

The anticipation puts a great-white smile on his face

“Bring it!” screams his warrior heart

Author Credit: Dennis Noonan

Editor: Nathan Payne

Lost Boy

First there was one. He was the center of his fathers world. He was the sun. 

Catch in the yard, horse rides to bed. The childhood joys, Love is what bred.

Then there were two. The first boy still had joy in his life and a brother made new. His father was his hero, a man of music and soul.  Chasing a dream to be a musician, his ambition was bold.

Little did this father know, with two boys and a wife his responsibility did grow. Working a 9-5 he saw his dream soon fade and into depression did he quickly slip away.  Drowning in the bottle begun, the whole world changed for this first born son.

At six years old responsibility was born. Duty called and the inner instinct to look after his own had formed. A brother and two cousins were under his care; making pbj’s, getting juice and water, applying bandaids, all he would bear.  His hero and grandfather in the other room, there for emergencies but beneath the bottle all often and too soon. 

Then there were three. A new start desired we attempted to flee. A young family trying to find its way. Traveled across the country in seven long days.  Now the first son was accustomed to the task. With two younger brothers he protected and loved. Naive to the sacrifices he made, just thought it his job. 

The spiral continued and the pain multiplied. Three young boys wondered why their mother so often cried. Little did they know if not for them she’d have died. A grit and determination only a mother can summon. We moved again with a fourth brother coming.

Finally at ten the eldest knew. Time to confront his hero and defend his mother too. He mustered up all his courage and strength, he marched to his father with tears in his eyes. A cry and a plea to leave her alone, never realizing that wrath would change to his son.

Divorce soon followed that fateful night. A broken family clinging to life. The oldest son grew into a natural leader full of grit. Guiding his brothers, supporting his mother, unwavering and steadfast through all of it. He was the rock. He had to be. If he wasn’t strong for them then who would be? If you ask him his path he has no regrets. Proud of the man he became although he chooses to forget. Because deep down inside, behind the mask of duty and pride. Behind the responsibility and sacrifice and honor; he hides. A Lost Boy who misses his hero resides.

Bubbles Underwater

Long have we pondered the unknown.  What is out there?  What is left to be discovered?  The frontier ever eluding our grasp, always beyond the horizon.  I am determined to find out…  It was a rigorous training and selection process.  It required investment of large quantities of my own personal funds.  The time had finally come to test the skills and training I have been honing over several weeks and brave a new atmosphere.  The early morning temperature was cool…the environment much colder than when most choose to explore the unknown.  We began the difficult process of donning our EPS or environmental protection suit.  Some new fancy material called neoprene or something.  I’ll leave that to the scientists…  All I know is the thing was a pain in the ass to put on and I felt like my entire body was caught in a Chinese finger trap!  I think it had 7mm written on the cuff…whatever that means.  I have to wear this backpack with a cylinder on it and hoses coming out to gauges and a mouthpiece my trainer called a regulator…basically the thing that keeps me from dying.

Finally, the team is suited up and does their final gear checks.  We make our way down to the entry platform…  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us were saying a few final prayers.  Anyways, the time has come to take that giant stride.  With my air breather in my mouth and a hand on my mask, I step off the ledge and take the plunge into another world.  I tap my head to let my team know I’m ok…standard protocol I learned in training…I must have looked like a pro for a minute!  Little did everyone else know I was sweating bullets inside as the cold flooded into the spaces between my body and my suit; sending shivers down my spine.  We are all waiting on the surface now for our team lead to give the signal to descend.  The anticipation has my adrenaline spiking and I try to steady my breathing and remember my training.  Just the kind of situation a rookie like me would screw something up in…the first descent.  I get my focus back and it’s time to adjust our buoyancy and plunge into the deep.  I’m just making sure I breathe calmly and clear the pressure in my ears so I don’t get the squeeze.  I heard about a guy who went down his first time and got the squeeze and never was able to walk right again…something about his equilibrium being all messed up.  Didn’t even get any VA benefits or anything…a real bummer.  So far, I’m flying down smooth and all of a sudden, a whole new world is opening up before my eyes.  I keep checking my gauges and trying to not forget my training but there is new life around me I’d never seen before.  They were coming up to me and checking me out just as much as I was checking them out.  Thin slender looking things with eyes and tiny wings on either side making waves with their bodies to propel them around.  Very strange creatures…I can’t figure out if there is any hidden intelligence within them or just pure animal instinct.  They weren’t in any of the safety briefs so I don’t think they can hurt me.

The team lead gets all of our attention and signals for us to follow his lead.  They gave us these giant webbed feet to wear over our boots to help move through the dense atmosphere…so I start fluttering my feet to propel myself after the lead.  I’m starting to feel the chill of the environment.  My hands have the thinnest layer of protection to retain enough dexterity to operate my life support equipment and they are starting to feel the numbing sensation of being submerged in a bucket of ice water.  I remember my training and clench my fists a few times and use my arms to move to help raise my core temperature a little.  As we travel along, deeper into this other world, I am seeing relics of a time long past.  It is almost as if another generation lived here before the environment was overtaken by this alien substance.  There is a school bus, a boat, a Blackhawk helicopter, even a basketball court!

I have gotten so enthralled with this new horizon I am conquering and the amazing sights it has to offer I realize I haven’t looked at my gauges in…well I don’t even know how long.  I check my watch and 25 minutes has already gone by and we only planned for a 30-minute trip and I have no idea if we are near our extraction point.  I check my air pressure and am down to about 700lbs and know I’ll burn threw that in a matter of minutes if I don’t chill out and relax my breathing.  I spot my lead and he seems to not be panicked so that helps me settle down a bit.  He gives everyone the signal to start heading up but to take it nice and slow…something about breathing in this new environment and pressure changes can damage your lungs if you go up to fast.  I check my gauges and have about 550lbs of air left and we are supposed to always have at least 500lbs left for emergencies so I think we will be ok.  As I’m slowly rising to the surface the enormity of what I just did hits me and everything around me slows down to half speed.  We make it to the surface without incident.  I have just completed my first dive!  But…if you asked me what I will keep with me forever…in that moment of ascent and all the team around me…it was the bubbles.  Seeing all the bubbles exiting our life support systems and rising to the surface breaking apart and reforming as they traveled with the sun’s rays beaming down and splitting through them into a prism of colors…that is what I’ll remember.  The bubbles underwater.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0049.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0048.JPG

Mia’s Fire

Opening day of dive season and the weekend was perfect!  We arrived early Saturday morning and didn’t even bother setting up camp.  After a pre-dive brief we were all eager to suit up in our neoprene and hit the water!  You would think that camping was a second thought at best…and to be honest, it was.  I have had the pleasure of countless nights spent under the stars and there is one common experience that turns a night outdoors into camping.  It is the thing that brings everyone together and ignites the conversation of the day that goes well into the night.  It is where we dry our boots and warm our souls.  We were fortunate this night.  Little did we know but we were about to experience the most beautiful campfire of our lives.  I think it is because we needed a reminder that we weren’t just diving, but we were camping too.  A glowing bed of coals at least a foot deep and twice that wide.  Burning embers that if given a little more oxygen could smelt lead.  Every log placed tenderly with care and in perfect precision.  This was the product of the most unexpected of characters.  A petite young woman named Mia.  She saved us from just sleeping outside to having a true camping experience.  This is Mia’s fire.

 

Mia’s Fire

The fire burns at perfect tempo and time.

A sacred ember planted by the Italian “mine”.

The heat, the smoke, the dark orange glow.

The blue flame dancing in a nightly show.

It brings us together and warms the soul.

We share fellowship together and the stories grow.

Mia has tended this fires heart.

With grace and deft, from the start.

Many doubted, nobody knew.

We all are thankful that Mia’s fire grew.

-Thank you to Mia and Dillon for the wonderful photos!

 

As I Lie Awake

I open my eyes. I see my beautiful spouse lying next to me, still sleeping contentedly. It is a Saturday morning and I am the first to rise. Our daughter is still snuggled in bed with closed eyes. I go to the kitchen with a thought in mind. To get my favorite coffee beans and give them a fresh grind. As the water heats I look outside, a perfectly manicured lawn and white picket fence is where I reside. I contemplate the American dream, a perfect life is what it seems.

My cup freshly brewed, the delicious aroma in the air. I take my first sip and so begins this nightmare.
The taste is bitter and brine. My eyes pop open for the second time. I realize before was all a dream. Reality setting in is not what it seemed.
I am a divorced middle aged man, with a patchy lawn and a weathered fence that can barely stand.
I still have blessings and purpose in my life, but I am also lonely, without a wife.
My daughter is my shimmering moon, a gift for my heart, in my wake of despair.
I am finding myself again, through being a father, a chef, a diver, a sailor, a writer…these things are my air.

I close my eyes after a long day. My mind is blank and I drift away. The next time I open my eyes, from my sailboat on the open ocean is a majestic sunrise. My daughter has grown up and left the nest. I’ve pursued my passions, and followed my dreams. Am I asleep or awake? Maybe both it seems…

Music

I am tense. It has been a long day. My muscles are knotted and tight. My body is rigid and my mind is weary. I am a single father. I just worked all day, picked up my little girl, made dinner, lunches for tomorrow, did bath and bedtime routine, and cleaned up the kitchen and any other things needing attention. My muscles are knotted and tight. My body is rigid and my mind is weary. It has been a long day. I am tense.

The waves wash over me. I open my ears, close my eyes, and clear my mind. The sound flows into me and reverberates through my bones from my head down to my toes. The bass notes hit and penetrate my core. I feel the rigidity leave me. The tensions relax. I feel the pounding of the beat pulsing in my head and find a calmness and a peace. The melody plays; feeding my body and mind with rejuvenating rhythm. The instrumental begins; strumming the strings of my heart and stirring chords deep within my soul.

I think about my beautiful little girl sleeping soundly in her bed without a care in the world. I take a deep breath with a long exhale. I am aware and grateful for the tremendous blessings I have been bestowed. I am relaxed and calm. I have been restored. The sacrifice isn’t as heavy as it was and more than worth it. I am ready for a new day. Music is my cure.

Moonlit Peace pt.2 (Easter version)

The ocean is a lonely deep; dark… briny….
Churning out sea foam as it crashes against a rocky shoreline.
It whispers in your ear to come explore,
Parting its early morning mist inviting you to row onto the moonlit black.

You enter your boat, you do not know why.
You lock in your oars and cast off your line.
No one knows where you are or where you’ve gone.
The thick salt air overwhelms your senses and you begin to pull.

The subtle calm has lured you into the ocean’s embrace.
The last stars in the sky on the horizon, the first rays of dawn,
you feel at peace.

A gull’s cry draws your attention to port; where you see a rogue wave approaching.
You try to turn your bow into the oncoming assault but realize too late,
the lonely deep has drawn you out and you are caught in her trap.
Like the angler-fish of the deep, the maws of this briny beast are snapping fast.

As your boat rolls and you go under, a wave of panic washes over you.
You feel the phantom hands of countless lost souls grabbing you and pulling you down under…
Or is that just the seaweed? You open your eyes and realize no one is there.
You spot the surface and start climbing, fighting to get to that breath of air.

How did one wave plunge you so deep? If you don’t make it, will you be at peace?
Your body overtakes you and the taste of salt floods inside.
A gasp for air becomes a last cry of despair as you realize the cold you feel underneath
The surface is fading out of sight, sinking deeper…how is daylight turning into night?

You feel the seaweed tugging on you again,
this time you see the eyes of the man whose hand is pulling you deep.
You do not know it but you have been summoned to join the feast.
As you close your eyes and search your heart, the cross you’ve accepted, a redeeming new start.
You see a man in your minds eye, dressed in white reaching down from on high.
He steps from the boat onto the sea, reaching into the depths on bended knee.
You feel a strong hand grasp your own, the seaweed recedes, releasing you home.
As you open your eyes you are where you belong.
At the feast of your King singing a hallelujah song.

A Restless Affair

I’d just rather stay home. Everyone expects to see me.
I double check to make sure I look ok. I think I look ok?
Traffic is bad on the way…I’m going to be late. I hate being late.
I start to feel jittery as I’m looking for a place to park…why are there no spots left?
Now I’m definitely going to be late…a fretful sweat has already begun.
Do I still look ok?
Finally a spot is in sight…I park the car resisting my instinct of flight.
With apprehension I make my way, just have to show face; no need to linger or stay.
In disquietude I enter the reception hall.
A plate of food and a drink, that’s all.
A hundred tables to choose but not ones for me. I feel out of place, smothered, drowning, nowhere to be.
She takes my hand and looks me in the eye.
I steady my breathing and willingly comply.
I know these feelings are all in my head, no matter how hard I try to replace this dread.
She guides me to a place for two. She talks to me, comforts me, she’s felt this before too.
We make it through the night and home.
I fulfilled my obligation, could not have alone.
Until the next time that I must venture out to face the demons that overwhelm my mind.
In my castle I’ll remain to recharge my soul; this is my anxiety grind.

Brotherhood

I cannot sum up brotherhood better than saying, I’ll be there for you
When overseas in foreign ports three sheets to the wind and you cannot stand, I will carry you
In the chow hall and you had a rough day, you know who you can turn to
When facing tragedy of insurmountable odds, we face it together with steadfast fortitude

On the pitch of battle we are warriors together
We fight together, try together, bleed together, and die together
When you go down I will support you, covering your back with my own
Pulling you to your feet to fight and charge on

My brothers, my family
All we had was each other
Poor, alone, being raised by a single struggling mother

The shirt off my back in the blistering cold is what I would give you
The meal off my plate if that’s what it came to
The blood in my veins if I thought it would save you

I know these things in my heart to be true
I know we are brothers, because you would do these things too

Moonlit Peace

The ocean is a lonely deep; dark… briny….

Churning out sea foam as it crashes against a rocky shoreline.

It whispers in your ear to come explore,

Parting its early morning mist inviting you to row onto the moonlit black.

 

You enter your boat, you do not know why.

You lock in your oars and cast off your line.

No one knows where you are or where you’ve gone.

The thick salt air overwhelms your senses and you begin to pull.

 

The subtle calm has lured you into the ocean’s embrace.

The last stars in the sky on the horizon, the first rays of dawn,

you feel at peace.

 

A gull’s cry draws your attention to port; where you see a rogue wave approaching.

You try to turn your bow into the oncoming assault but realize too late,

the lonely deep has drawn you out and you are caught in her trap.

Like the angler-fish of the deep, the maws of this briny beast are snapping fast.

 

As your boat rolls and you go under, a wave of panic washes over you.

You feel the phantom hands of countless lost souls grabbing you and pulling you down under…

Or is that just the seaweed?  You open your eyes and realize no one is there.

You spot the surface and start climbing, fighting to get to that breath of air.

 

How did one wave plunge you so deep?  If you don’t make it, will you be at peace?

Your body overtakes you and the taste of salt floods inside.

A gasp for air becomes a last cry of despair as you realize the cold you feel underneath

The surface is fading out of sight, sinking deeper…how is daylight turning into night?

 

You feel the seaweed tugging on you again,

this time you see the eyes of the man whose hand is pulling you deep.

You do not know it but you have been summoned to join the feast.

As you close your eyes you feel a chair beneath your seat.

 

You awaken at the table of the beast.

With countless other souls breaking their morning fast,

In Davy Jones locker…