Blessed Be, Grandfather Tree…

TJ and I walk a routine path a couple times a week, but it took us many outings until we spotted this majestic grandfather tree, hanging tough on borrowed time and pushing his exuberance through his weathered, gnarled and termite-chewed facade. In fact, we both agreed the grandfather called to us before I took his picture. We also agreed a third of the way down from the top is the grandfather’s face, peering right at the trail in search of an appreciative eye.

You be the judge, but I can tell you this was taken during sundown and the natural lighting was much lower than is presented in the shot. I used no filters and I made no adjustments. Grandfather’s vibrance shone on his own, rewarding us for taking the time to stop and acknowledge him. Blessed be, Grandfather Tree. A long life well-met.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Five Favorite Things You May Not Have of Your Own

I’ve been seeing a trend out here amongst scribes communing in the Blogverse, writers discussing their favorite things. I could refer you to the picture above as a prime example of my absolute favorite thing, having a woman like TJ as my best friend in our favorite habitat: on a trail.

I can always cite my son, my family and all of my beautiful friends as the top shelf favorite things in my life. Ditto for a wide and diverse pantheon, largely Egyptian, but represented as well by the Norse, Germanic and Greek sects, altogether constituting an alternate form of spiritualism. All of this combined gives me my verve, my reason to wake up, my ambition to be the best I can be in my job and as a writer.

I think we can all agree our loved ones and spiritual connections make up the top tiers of our welfare and happiness. We also have tangible treasures unique to us, which may sparkle to some, turn away others. Some of us have the ultra-rare privilege of ownership to things most others do not. For this post, I want to share five of my very favorite things you likely don’t have, not that it’s a brag. There’s very little material worth involved, but I do love these simple things which represent me or are fun extensions of me…

My CD copy of Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime, an all-time favorite and a writer’s album. Autographed by former vocalist, Geoff Tate, with whom I had dinner and an interview in Washington, DC before a Queensryche show. An unforgettable moment of my music journalism career, Tate and I spoke casually and formally about music and the industry. He gave me pointers then as a fledgling journalist I never forgot.

My trusty Donald Duck coffee mug purchased at Disney World, Florida in 2010. The classic Donald, circa the 1930s and ’40s. I had to have it, along with a can of Mickey’s “Really Swell” Coffee, which was then…really daggone swell! I have a good handful of coffee mugs, but even TJ pulls Donald down for me automatically when fixing me a tea or before I set up my coffeepot. The mug is out of circulation, and I thank myself almost every time I use it for getting it while I had the chance.

“Sir Percy.” My parents obtained me this four-foot aluminum knight in Cape May, NJ. The story I was told of my stepfather hauling him all over the resort is a family treasure in itself. Percy is the middle name of my grandfather, with whom I had a deep bond and who predicted to me at his kitchen table when I was 12 and already burrowed into Stephen King novels, I would become a writer one day. Sir Percy has served as protector of my realm in 7 homes.

My original 1978 Han Solo blaster from Kenner. No, it’s not the one from my childhood. No, it doesn’t have the packaging. No, it doesn’t work, as in making the high-pitched laser screech. I don’t care. I love it. I’ve had to reassemble it a few times, but as a kid, when we all played Star Wars, most boys would offer to take on a Gundark for the right to be Luke. Usually that was settled rock-scissors-paper elimination style. Not me. Solo. ’nuff said.

Reading in bed with TJ. The end of the day, the kiddo in bed for the night. The day’s worries and trials settled for the time being. Just us and a pair of books. Sometimes we end up stopping to have a family strategy session. More often than not, TJ beats me staying awake. Still, it’s our most favorite nightly ritual as a couple.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.