REPTILE RELAY

LIZARD © 2004 Richard Soberka - http://www.photoway.com/REPTILE RELAY
Do you run alone?
Running along the succulent lined sidewalk of sunny Scottsdale, AZ this summer, I was thanking God that this was the last stretch of the run. The sun blazed out its 100 degrees already at 8 a.m. and I was enjoying the slight downhill of this last 1.5 miles of the run. I slowed to take a sip of the rationed remainder from my quickly evaporating water bottle (now approaching those 100 degrees!) and noticed I had a bulging-eyed admirer checking me out from the block wall.
I stopped briefly to study the approximately 5 inch lizard flexing his muscles in a two-, then three-pump push-up before he scattered down the brick wall to the shade of the small succulent bush. As I continued on my run; he followed and began to keep pace. I watched from the corner of my eye. My five strides matched up with his hundreds of steps as he stalked me; bolting from bush to bush that lined the well-manicured embankment of the Cactus Shadows housing development. I began laughing out loud as I continued on; for hundreds of feet, this lizard continued to keep stride with me!
I studied it closer, thinking this had to be impossible for this tiny creature to maintain this pace! Was there somehow another lizard hiding along the pathway, ready and waiting to take the next leg of the race? How could this lizard keep up? But he did!—I was amazed; he, so tiny and having to work so hard to match my downhill run; and me, advancing toward my own air conditioned shade and fresh, chilled water awaiting me at home, yet enjoying the moment with my new running partner. I would slow a bit advancing on the next opportunity for him to rest in the shade, but he would dart out once again and I was motivated anew to continue.
I thought back to the mile relays I ran for Arvada West’s high school track team. Each of the four girls on the relay team had to run ¼ mile at top speed as she transported a shiny aluminum baton to the next fresh-legged runner. What began as a featherweight baton and run-ready legs pumping like well-oiled machinery, at 300 yards would transform into exhausted, wobbly legs nearly giving out and handing over what had become a leaden encumbrance. The next girl then took over transporting the (once again) lightweight aluminum cylinder and, undoubtedly she underwent the same transformation at that 300 yard mark. This went on for each runner and ended with transporting that baton across the finish line to victory!
It would seem that my little lizard stalker had his own teammate with fresh legs waiting in the cool shade of those succulent bushes ready to take over for his endeavor to keep up with me. I laughed at the thought of how many millions of steps he (and his teammates) would have to take to catch me before I made the rest of the journey to my air-conditioned oasis.
I thought back to those Arvada West relay days and, what I loved most about the team was, even though each girl was exhausted after her own leg of the run, each girl would find enough strength to make her way to that 300 yard mark (wobbly, exhausted legs and all!) and cheer on her teammates.
About ¼ mile in to my reptile relay run is when my companion’s journey with me ended. I still had quite a way to go and I thought back to all those mile relays–without that girl located at the 300 yard mark, cheering when most needed, the journey seemed impossible.
My mind returned to the joy I felt during that little jaunt with my lizard companion and it carried me the rest of my way home.– It also struck me as so similar to the journey we have with God; I thought about His footsteps and that old story of the “Footprints in the Sand.”
Whether we see the one set of footprints or we see both sets of prints, we never run alone.
Whatever it is that you are carrying; a shiny baton, a nearly empty water bottle, the loneliness of heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, the burden of an illness; or, maybe you run from the shadows of shames in your past; there is One who can carry you on; One who will heal all your wounds and quench your soul-thirst. He cheers us from the 300 yard mark and every other lonely stretch along the way, providing laughter for the moment, a friend to help carry your burden when your body has exhausted its strength and, most definitely, He shows us the hope of an Oasis at the end of the journey.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
May your relay, your day, your journey and your life be blessed.

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AUTHENTICITY – Part 2

DSCF8820AUTHENTICITY -PART 2
The whole truth…
Why do you write?
Who is your audience?
As a new author, I was doing research on book signings and book release events. My friend and “research partner” Pammy and I entered the doors to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona as wide-eyed, innocent information gatherers. Both of us are “lovers of books” and could hardly wait for this day. With its shelves laden with adventures, mysteries and thrills, the excitement we felt at experiencing a new bookstore was palpable. The chairs were set in rows and the two empty seats in front of the rows captivated our attention. Yet, what we learned that day paralleled the day my sister and I found out about Santa Claus; catapulting us out of our innocence and into a harsher new existence.
Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen, the “emcee” for the event and a lawyer by trade, had no issue with sharing her knowledge with everyone. She and the author of “Going, Going, Ganache” (a cupcake mystery) by Jenn McKinlay had a very open discussion about Jenn’s book, her fun characters, the cheeky titles of her books, her genres and her journey as an author, librarian and mother. The discussion turned to publishers and talk began about “ghost writing.”
Up to that point, I thought ghost writing was simply when a person hires someone to write down their words for them or when someone who hasn’t yet embraced their “author-hood” writes under a different name. (–Like when Stephen King began his writing as Richard Bachman.)
Ignorance is bliss.
I had no idea that publishers will hire writers who can most similarly write like other authors (i.e., Clive Cussler) and thus mass produce more books (at a cheaper rate) and still sell it as a Clive Cussler novel. (Notice that now the Clive Cussler novels will acknowledge the additional writer!) Yet, this was the truth that was shared so openly. I felt like the new kid in junior high English who appeared to be the only one in the class that had the wrong answer and was trying to hide this fact from the teacher and the other students while reviewing homework answers.
I dared not look around to see if others had the same shock I was feeling for fear of giving away that I had no idea this happened. I refused to look at Jenn and the owner. I tried to steady my breathing, I glanced at the book shelves that overflowed with hundreds and thousands of books; the hard work of hundreds of authors filled this room—or did it? This new truth seemed to howl out at me like open mouthed skulls screaming out from the valley of the shadows of death.
To me, this isn’t ghost writing but more along the lines of the forgers and frauds. Truth be told (by these two people “in the business,”) it happens more than you would guess.
Like a well taught liar, deliver enough of a truth and it seems entirely plausible.
Is this slippery concept of authenticity really something all writers strive for? Or is it just a dead idea?

And yet, it seemed to make sense.
This is America. We like to mass produce things. We like to sell things and create them as cheaply as we can. The good old All-American dollar. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so bad for taking nearly two years to get my first book written and published. If these other writers have a staff of others cranking out titles for them (for the publisher,) then what harm does this really do to me? I had to rely on the other theory that there MUST be other good and decent, talented authors who refuse to let another writer take on their name and write THEIR stories.
My friend and I departed the doorway of The Poisoned Pen, stumbling into the harsh noon sunlight of the Sonoran desert radiating off the black asphalt. Our innocent endeavor forced our eyes to open into a new, scorching reality.
“Did you know that about writers?” She looked at me sideways as we approached the car.
My mouth still agape, “No idea. They talked like everyone knew?”
“I KNOW! And I felt totally stupid.”
“Me too! But now I’m kinda pissed…”
“Me too…”
We drove in silence as we digested this new information.
I remembered reading that when commercial airlines first took off, the barf bags were used all the time. It would seem that people do, quite literally, have a tough time digesting and adjusting to new ideas and new things. As more and more people took more and more flights, the barf bag use declined quite measurably. Fly now and the bags are so rarely used and rarely even found on a flight.
I felt like I needed a barf bag.
Yet, as I chew on this new idea, tossing it around my taste buds, I am learning and experiencing a new flavor. When I wrote my first “piece” and put it out there, I didn’t want to take credit for it. I didn’t want my name on it. In “Masters of the Mountains,” my name is found nowhere. I was simply the author included in the telling of that tale of Jim King’s Paradigm Racing Team. I didn’t want my name in there because of who I was writing for and because of the purpose behind that book.
When I saw the beauty of the photo of Central Park (see Part 1), and witnessed the ideas morphed by Heidi Rosner for The River for the cover of my book “grace,” they both show the truth of the beauty of the places.
And, as I thought more and more about my purposes for writing and who I write for, I realized that I would be okay with the title of “ghost writer.” I could handle the criticism of others who might call me a fraud, a forger, (ha ha—like I will ever be) a-“mass producer!” Whatever anyone wants to call it–If you are doing what you love then I believe you only have to ask yourself this question:
Who are you writing for?
I need only to read Hebrews 12:2 to remind myself who I “ghost write” for:
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” King James Version (KJV)
When I digested my own truth of who I write for, the bitter taste evaporated and was replaced with sweetness. There is only One that I write for; only One I have to satisfy with the words He has given me. Bottom line—Aren’t we are all ghost writers?–filling pages with the authentic, genuine reality of what the ultimate Creator has given us? We become the translators of our experiences; sifting the golden perfection through our wiry sieve of life. We are those made in His image and made to be the reflectors of His light; those made to have life abundantly and to tell those stories, worthy of an audience of One.

AUTHENTICITY – Part 1

Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-So…Help Me GOD!

CENTRAL PARK

CENTRAL PARK

You’ve heard it. You know it from courts of law, swearing on the Holy Bible in a country where Christianity and beliefs get blurred and kicked out of any public or political place.
What do you believe?
WARNING: This blog post contains some harsh truths
JOHN 8:32—“Then you will know the Truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My friend and neighbor, Heidi Rosner, (and the artist behind the cover of my first novel “grace,”) sent the above picture from her most recent visit to Central Park. Her text said: “Looks a lot like your cover?!”
I was stunned. It really did look a lot like my cover. As writers, we are continually on the quest for authenticity. The cover that I created in my mind’s eye—morphing the Applegate River with the events in my book; calling the river in the book The Rogue River, adding a bench and a bridge…totally unique. I was searching for an authentic cover (which is why I had it created instead of using one of the publisher provided images).
What Heidi created with her translation of my descriptions and desires for the painting truly blew my mind. She has authentic talent: morphing water, brushes, color and a two dimensional surface into depth, beauty and captivating emotion that brushes the soul with magic.
Then it hit me—Like the ugly truth—words from Dr. Jared Aragona the instructor from my most recent writing course at SCC, “There are no new ideas. There are archetypes that are generally appealing and re-used in new ways. You will not come up with something that has never been thought of or already created.”
This mirrored a truth I have found in movie productions. There are usually two movies released close together; two competing studios trying to capture your attention and your dollars. Think about it–Remember “Stir of Echoes” and “The Sixth Sense?”—Two very similar movies released within weeks of each other and both embodying quite similar stories. Or, how about “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist?” and “Wyatt Earp” vs. “Tombstone.” More recently, although I didn’t see either of these (nor do I think I need to) “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.” These are just a smattering of genres and types but the list goes on and on, seemingly proving Dr. Aragona right—no new ideas.
Gloria Steinem—“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
It was like the first time I heard the awful truth of Santa Claus. My older sister and I huddled in the living room after asking the hard question—our parents huddled in the kitchen, awaiting our answer.
My sister in a hushed whisper, “We need to know! All those nights we spent waiting for him? They said they would tell us the truth.”
I was too young to really get what my sister and parents were talking about, but I felt the foreboding in my gut. Truly, though young, I already knew the universal truth that, indeed—Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t want to know, but I wanted to be brave like my big sister.
We squared our tiny shoulders and approached the kitchen. I love how my parents handled it—my sister, driven for the truth gave them our answer—we deserved the truth. She folded her arms across her night gowned chest and lips quivered slightly with the words, “We want the truth.”
“First understand that, no matter what we tell you, there is still magic in Christmas — if you believe. It is more about belief than the truth…The truth is — there is not a Santa Claus. Also, the truth is—if you don’t believe—there just might not be the magic…or the presents.”
I saw my out, “I will believe! I believe!”
Fast forward–back to truths and authenticity—is this a myth? An unachievable platform that people somehow grasp at but it slips by them as they await up late at night, trying to stave off the sleep-laden eyelids long enough to get that glimpse of it? Does what one believe even matter?
I believe there are fakes and forgers; you can’t work in my profession at the police department and not see this truth. But there is also the scientific truth that no two fingerprints are the same—Each of your ten fingers’ prints are unique and different, and these are different that anyone else’s ten fingers, and those are different that anyone else’s created, EVER.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
As I studied the photo of Central Park and thought about the creation of “The River” by Heidi, I was struck with another truth—Beauty is beauty. Beauty is true and we are simply God’s unique creations trying to interpret, translate and relay His beauty. Truth is, even these ideas I was “stumbling across” were not new. As I studied this phenomenon in these two pictures, pondered the duplication of movies, and thought on my beliefs, I also came upon these words—

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian
“The music of this opera was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to the public.” (About Madame Butterfly) –Giacomo Puccini
“It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.” Mary Daly
So, God helped me. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…
And, indeed, it is free.

THE BEAR

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Getting ready to head out on a “maiden” run along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, we stopped to look at the map and trail. What we found was a warning—Just two weeks earlier a black bear had been sighted in the area.
We set out anyway.
By the time we had meandered up the winding trail, viewing massive scenic expanses of water sparkling like diamonds across the sky, greenery reaching up, up, up into the billows of blue overhead, that bear was all but forgotten. I don’t take my camera on most runs—I like to capture the moments in my heart and my mind’s eye—like taking the time to try to capture the AWE will scare it away like the mist of breath on a cold night.
Seven and ½ miles later we had witnessed a skunk blaze the trail ahead of us and two deer bravely traverse a cliff. Our senses were mildly alerted to the wild life, but our perception of danger was overpowered by the beauty of this place.
Then we heard it.
Straight from Friday the 13th, the crisp and foreboding break of a branch on the forest floor—broken by something heavy and halting our journey.
“The bear!” it was a hush that felt like a scream to me.
I stopped dead in my tracks for just one moment that felt like eons.
“There –just to the right—about 50 yards up from us—“
That’s all I need to hear. My sights never locked on that bear, but I didn’t need to. The ominous echoing crack of that branch and the sudden memory of every bear mauling I had ever read about, heard about and seen on TV. came pushing through my body propelling me toward the safety of the trailhead and the protection of the car.
It was easily a quarter of a mile before my more adventurous bear seeker caught up with me. “Did you see him!? Did you see it!? I didn’t see any cubs…I wish I would’ve taken its picture!” The words came out in excited bursts…
We continued our escape and warned all below us of the sighting. The rest of the trip I heard about how much he wished he would’ve taken that picture.
Hindsight is 20/20—especially from the safety of your car.
What if? What if he would’ve got that perfect shot?
I am glad he didn’t. Like I said earlier, I am okay with not having the photo— Seriously; it is okay to miss some shots in life. I have the story to tell.
What if he’d stayed just long enough for the bear to get pissed at us in his territory…What if?
I have a picture of another bear.
It was mid 1980’s and my father spent three years bear hunting in the woods of Colorado. Three seasons of baiting, waiting, re-baiting, more waiting and nothing, nothing, nothing.
All the hours spent preparing: practice shots at the range, canvassing the perfect area, months spent reading about the most aromatic and appealing black bear baits. And then–the season comes and all that waiting–crouched for hours, with black bear shot gun loaded and ready–finally pays off.
His first black bear! Large nose sniffing the air and moving ever closer to that perfect bait, branches breaking beneath the weights of those grandiose paws getting closer and closer and closer!
Breath is suspended, muscles peak and moving ever so silently (especially after three years of practice!), he prepares to shoot. There is something untold that happened right then. What will all the men say! The pride of shooting this creature, the pelt, all that meat for black bear burgers…I think not. I think it was awe.
He shot it. With his 24 exposure Fuji disposable camera. Got three wavering shots off before the rest of her cubs came into the view–two babies trampling behind her. (This was way before digital, so there was an actual wait time before we could see the evidence!) The film was so fuzzy and the pictures only showed the mother’s behind and the babies’ beginning.
I know my dad got a lot of crap about that moment. The moment he made the choice to not shoot—it was the last year of his preparing, baiting and waiting.
I was never more proud of my dad for shooting his first (and last) black bear.