Monday, January 28, 2019

At Last! Chapter 1 of "Journeys "Beyond the Peaks"

1.      Magic in the Night

          I like to watch my shadow on the ground as I walk, the wind tossing my curly hair upward and outward.  I can see the ends of it waving against the dry buff of the grass on the school playground.  I guess short hair isn’t so bad, after all.  At first, it felt strange to have it cut, after having long hair most of my childhood.  But Mom says it makes me look more mature this way, and with this mane of hair, I can throw my head back like a wild horse and break into a run on the street leading home.
          My younger brother, Ian, is waiting today, meeting me halfway down the block, waving at me wildly.  When I reach him, he pulls me into the exuberant embrace of a five-year-old, and begins a steady babble of questions:
          “What did you do at school today, Cinda?  Did you see any Hobbits down by the creek?  Do you think we could take a walk in the woods after supper?  Will we ever get to go camping?”
          “Hey, slow down!”  I ruffle his curly red hair and watch the wind finish what I started.  For an instant, I see our dad—who he’s named after.  I’m sure it’s because he has the same hair and greenish eyes.  “I can’t answer twenty-million questions at once.  And Hobbits are imaginary, remember?”  I take a deep breath.  “Where do you want me start?”
          He swings in beside me, holding my hand tightly.  “It doesn’t matter.  I’m just glad you’re home.  I miss you on school days.”
          As I smile down at him, I feel the strong connection we’ve always had.  The seven years between us always seem to melt away when we’re together.  I don’t even care that my school friends think it’s strange to be such close friends with a little boy, even if he is my brother.  But of all my friends, Ian is the one I feel most comfortable with.  I can talk to him about anything and know that despite his young age, he somehow understands.
          Mom says he has some kind of sixth sense, like our dad.  Sometimes I ask her more about this, but she won’t tell anything else.  “Dad is the one who’ll decide when you’re old enough,” is all she ever says.
          One day this past summer, I met Dad in the driveway right after he got home from work and pulled him around the back side of the groundcar’s charging station.  “What is Mom talking about?” I demanded.  “Are you psychic, or something?  She says Ian has a sixth sense like you.  What does she mean?”
          Dad looked into my eyes for an instant, but then he turned his gaze down to the grass at our feet.  “I wish your mom wouldn’t talk to you about it,” he sighed, almost to himself.  “Cinda, I promise I’ll tell you when you’re old enough.  It’s complicated.”
          “But Dad, I’m almost thirteen.”
          “All right,” he half-smiled.  “You can ask me again when you’re a teenager, okay?”
          I let out a deep sigh.  Same old brush off!  And he knows as well as I do that my birthday is eight months off.

          Now as I remember this, I look down at Ian and see how his hair seems to glow in the setting sun.  There’s something almost other-worldly about it.  Why does he seem somehow more than just a child?
          Sometimes when we sit talking, especially in the back yard under a sky full of stars, it seems the years fall away from us, and we become two beings existing in all time—traveling from star to star—instead of a teenager named after her mother, Lucinda, and a five-year-old boy.
          I shake my head slightly as we walk up the driveway.  Am I crazy, or is it just my imagination?  Then I realize Ian hasn’t re-voiced any of his many questions, and I look down into his face.
          He smiles up at me and says, “You were thinking.”
          Just as simple as that.  It’s like he can somehow read my thoughts.  Now I can see the shine of stars in his eyes.  Tonight could be one of those magical nights, so I say, “Let’s ask Mom if we can sleep out in the yard tonight.  After all, it’s Friday.”
          “A-a-ll right!”  He draws the words out as he dashes through the back door ahead of me.  “Mom!” I hear him calling.  “Can Cinda and me get out the tent?”
          “Ian, say it correctly: ‘May Cinda and I get out the tent?’,” Mom is saying as I walk in.
          “Oh, okay—May Cinda and I—can we please?”
          Mom turns and shrugs at me.  “Where did I go wrong?” she rolls her eyes, but I see the smile hiding there.  “We’ll see after supper, Ian,” she adds.  “Now wash up.”
          He grins as he runs for the sink.  I can tell he’s seen her smile, too.

          After supper, Dad helps us get out the old canvas tent that looks like a square umbrella, and we set it up in the backyard.  He doesn’t say much, and I can tell he must be tired from a long week at work.  I’m not exactly sure what he does, except that he works at an office in Denver and drives over an hour just to get there.  Most days Mom has to save his supper for later because he can’t get home in time to eat with us.  At least he got home early today.
          “Yes, Cinda?”
          “Can we go camping in the mountains someday?”
          I hear him sigh and see how he tries to smile.  “I hope so.  We need a better tent than this one, though.”
          “Like what, Dad?” asks Ian.
          “One with a real floor to keep the damp out and the warmth in,” Dad mutters.  “The nights get cold in the mountains.  And we’d need a real zipper for closing the door—to keep out the insects.”
          “Have you ever been camping there, Dad?”
          He turns to me, and I see his eyes flash.  “My brother Dain and I used to go when we were young.  But now we’re too busy with our jobs and families.  Besides Dain and his family live far away now, since they moved to Montana.”
          “Was the camping before Grandpa Parker died?” asks Ian.
          I see him flinch as he turns toward Ian.  He opens his mouth, but then closes it and just nods.
          “You went camping before then, right, Dad?”  I say for him.
          Now I see him swallow hard and nod.
          Silence floats between the three of us, as Dad rises to his feet.  “I need to go talk to Mom.  You two can handle things from here.”
          “Sure, Dad.”  I try to make my voice sound cheerful as he walks toward the house. “You need to remember not to ask about Grandpa Parker,” I whisper to my brother as we crawl into the tent and begin to spread our blankets out to cover the grass.
          “Yeah, I forgot.”
          I decide to change the subject.  “I wish we could visit Uncle Dain in Montana.  I’ve heard it’s a really neat place.”
          “Me too, Cinda.”
          “Yeah, I wonder why Dad isn’t close to his brother,” I sigh.  “They hardly ever talk, it seems.”
          I look up at Ian as I finish and see how the rising full moon is shining through the door into his hair, looking like a halo.
          “Do you think he’ll ever let us go camping in the mountains, like he used to?”
          “I don’t know, Ian.  It seems to remind him too much of Grandpa and how he died too young, before Dad was even in high school.”
          “It would be hard, wouldn’t it, if one of our parents were to die soon?”
          A chill runs down my spine, making me shiver.  “Let’s not talk like that.  It might bring bad luck.”
          He doesn’t reply but turns and looks wistfully at the blue-black of the evening sky.  I move over next to him in the tent doorway, following his gaze.  We sit in silence a long time, watching as the stars begin to appear one by one.
          I hear a humming sound and realize it’s my own voice.
          “I wonder if the stars really sing,” he whispers.
          “You mean like the Bible says they did at Creation?”
          Quiet settles around us again.
          “Sometimes I can almost hear them, but not quite.”
          “Me, too.  It’s like you only hear them when you quit trying too hard.  Then it happens, kind of by itself, just for a moment.”
          “I think this is one of those nights,” he whispers.
          I don’t say anything, enjoying the silence.  Instead I take his hand.
          His voice comes again, “It’s the kind of night that feels like Narnia is right across the yard.  If you walked over there at just the right time, you’d walk into it, like Lucy went in through the wardrobe.”
          I draw a sharp breath.  ‘Lucy?  That’s Mom’s name.  Could there be some kind of connection?’  But I push this thought out of my mind.  ‘Don’t get carried away.  He’s just a child and has a big imagination,’ I tell myself.
          His voice begins to speak again, and it suddenly seems far away, even though he’s still right beside me, “Maybe it’s Middle Earth,” his voice begins to quaver.  “I feel like I can almost see it.  Look—over there.  I see something moving.”
          I follow his pointing finger and draw in a sharp breath.  “Tell me what you see.”
          “It’s an open plain of tall grass.  With moonlight.  And some huge animals moving—eating the grass, I think.”
          As I squeeze his hand more tightly I can see strange shapes looming where our house should be.  But then I blink, and in that split-second it’s gone.  All I can see is our back porch.
          “Wait,” he cries.  “Oh no, it’s all gone.”
          I feel him trembling and pull him gently into my arms.  “It’s okay.  I saw it too—the dark shapes and the tall grass.”
          “Did you really, Cinda?”
          I nod but wonder if I’m just echoing what he told me.  Did I really see something?
          As I continue rocking him on my lap, I find myself humming a tune which just started in my head.
          “Cinda, what’s that song?” he murmurs.
          “I don’t know.  Do you?”
          “No, but I have a strange feeling that someday we will.  This is kind of scary, isn’t it?  I wonder if things like this happen to other people.”
          “Except in books, right Ian?”
          “Mom says you have something like Dad,” I find myself saying, before I realize I shouldn’t.
          “We need to ask Dad about it.”  He almost jumps up.
          “Not now, Ian.”  I pull him down into my lap again.  “I’ve already asked Dad, and he won’t tell me anything.  He said to wait until I’m older.  Besides, I think I’ve just filled your head with too many magical stories and books.  They’re only pretend, you know.”
          “I don’t know,” he sighs.  “Sometimes they seem so real in my mind.  And you said you saw what I did.”
          I try to think of an answer to give him, but my mind has gone blank.
          “Tell me a story—please, Cinda.”
          “Oh, all right.  Which one would you like?”
          “Tell me about how the morning stars sang together.”
          “Okay.  Well, in the beginning of all time, God…”
          His eyes are closed as he lies there with his head in my lap.  But I know he can hear me as I speak softly into the night.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Journeys Saga - Book I - Third Installment, As Promised

Journeys Beyond the Peaks

By M.F. Erler, Illustration by R.P. Feser


          My name is Alexia Sullien, but most people call me Lexi.  Right now, I’m in our thatch-roofed hut on the edge of my father’s compound.  His name is Darien, and he’s the commander of this Rebel Safe-zone.
            In front of me is a small cook-fire.  My younger brother, Andre, and I have rigged a tripod above the fire out of pieces of discarded metal, which is something scarce here in the wilderness.  Therefore, it’s very valuable even if it is old and rusty, and no one can discern its original use.
            Even more precious is the cast iron kettle attached to the tripod by a wire handle.  As I stir the stew bubbling inside, I wonder—not for the first time—where our mother, Daiah, got it.  She says she’s had it so long she doesn’t remember.
            “Did you get it when you were living with the Redlarks in the Wilds of planet Terres?” I asked her one day, just a couple of weeks ago:

            Her face clouded with anger at my question.  “I don’t like to think about Terres,” she mumbled.  “Those weren’t good times.  Terres in the late Thirtieth Century—was a tightly-controlled Galactic System planet.  First, I ran away from Terres-City, the only settlement on the planet.”
            “Didn’t that help, Mom?  To be free in the Wilds?”
            “I thought it would, Lexi.  But the Redlarks were too free.  Their use of drugs, sex, and evil spirits seemed like freedom at first, but they were just a different kind of bondage.”
            Mom had never talked of any of her past like this before.  Perhaps it helped that Dad and Andre weren’t around.  They’d gone out hunting for deer.  And maybe she felt I was old enough now, at fifteen Standard Years.  Anyway, I didn’t want her to stop, so I asked, “How did you ever manage to escape Terres?”
            She shook her head and stared at the dirt floor of our hut for several seconds before she answered.  “It wasn’t easy.  When the opportunity came, I thought it was just good luck.  First, I met Dominic, your father’s uncle.”
            “I’ve heard Dad mention the name, but he’s not here in our compound, is he?”
            “No, he’s in an out-clave far distant, in another country on Earth.”
            “Did you meet Dad then, too?”
            Now she smiled slightly.  “Oh, no.  That was much later.  Dominic had run away from the City, too.  But he realized much sooner than most that the Redlarks were a big mistake.  He and his wife and son left us to join a small group of Rebels.”
            “The Rebels aren’t the same as Redlarks?”
            “Definitely not.  We’re Rebels now, but we’re certainly not Redlarks.”
            “We’re Believers in the True King, right Mom?”
            “Yes, we are,” she smiled again.  “The forces guiding the Redlarks weren’t from the System, but they were still evil—like some of the reports of strange dark powers we’re hearing now.  Besides, The Book warns us of this, too.”
            “Why is that ancient book so special?”
            “Well, Lexi, Believers say it was inspired by the Lord himself, the True King.”
            “Is he a king here on Earth?  If he is, why do Believers like us have to hide?”
            She sighed.  “Your dad’s answer to that question is always the same—”
            “I know—the Lord’s Kingdom is not of this world.  Do you believe that, Mom?”
            “I do, Lexi.  And as I look back at my life now, I can see it wasn’t just luck that brought me to where I am today.”
            “How do you mean?”
            “Well, after I met Dominic, your dad’s uncle, he helped me see where truth really was.  So I followed him when he left Terres.  Back then, no one knew where Earth was, or if it was just a myth. But the Rebels somehow knew, and that’s how I got here—with Dominic and his followers.  After we’d been here awhile, I met your father, with a different group of Rebels.  He’d left Terres as a System soldier, but was converted to the Rebel’s cause.”
            “Wait!  You mean you and Dad were both from Terres, but you didn’t meet there?”
            “Strange, isn’t it?  We came to Earth by two different paths.  Now, I know the King had it planned for us.  It wasn’t by chance, after all.”
            “I’ve heard Uncle Jon mention Redlarks, too.  Was he there when you were?”
            She looked at the floor again before she replied.  “Yes, but it was long before we became relatives.  He came to the Redlarks shortly after I did, for the same reasons, trying to find freedom.  We even shared a hut for awhile—”
            Her voice stopped in mid-sentence. 
“What’s wrong, Mom?  Are you okay?”
            In reply she reached over and took my hand.  “I shouldn’t have told you.  Please don’t mention it to Jon or his wife, Martina.  She’s Darien’s sister, and therefore my sister-in-law, so I don’t want to hurt her.  What happened between Jon and I was during a dark and lost time in both our lives.  It’s best forgotten.  None of us were Believers then.  Now things are as they should be.  Jon has married Martina, and I’m married to her brother, Darien.  And we have beautiful children.”
            As her voice faded away, I saw something shining in the corners of her eyes.

            So here I am, just stirring the stew and thinking about all this.  In the cold winter months, Jon and his family come to live with us here in the compound.  It’s only in the warmer seasons that they go to a cave they’ve discovered.
            I like it when they’re here with us because Jon has been teaching all of us first-borns to cross the GAP.  I don’t understand the science of it, but I know it’s a shortcut through space.  My cousin Celestia, Jon’s daughter, says they can go from here to their cave in the blink of an eye.  Once she took me to the cave and back, all in less than a day.  It was amazing.
            First, I was standing on grassy ground beside our hut.  Then she took both my hands in hers, and we closed our eyes.  The ground felt like it fell away.  The next instant I felt a rocky floor beneath my feet.  When I opened my eyes, we were in a dimly-lit cave.
            “Wow,” I remember saying.  “Can you teach me to do that?”
            She grinned and nodded.  But then she said, “With lessons from my dad, you can learn even more than this, like how to go backward and forward in time, too.  The GAP—the Galactic Antipaterminal Passage—can cut through any dimension of space or time, Lexi.  But it takes practice.  I’m just learning myself.”
            Then she took my hands again and closed her eyes.  The next breath I took was beside our hut, back in the compound.
            With that kind of motivation, it’s been easy to take in everything Uncle Jon and Celestia have taught me.  And I’ve been practicing a lot.  I start to name to myself the places I’ve crossed to, while I keep an eye on the bubbling pot.
            Just as I reach the end of my mental list, the air crackles beside me.  Looking up, I expect to see Celestia, but instead my uncle comes into focus.
            “What’s up, Uncle Jon?”
            “I need you to help someone, Lexi.”  He always gets right to the point.
            “Okay.  Who?”
            “It’s not just ‘who’—it’s also ‘where’ and ‘when’.  I need you to cross the GAP to the past.”
            “Me?  But I’m not that experienced.”
            “You have more innate ability than you know,” he smiles slightly.  “And you’re the best- qualified GAP-crosser available right now.  This task needs a teenager.  Your cousin, Celestia, is too old.”
            “Uh- okay.   But I haven’t had much practice with Time-GAPs.”
            He pulls out a strangely-fluted amber lamp.  “This helps with time-crossings,” he says.  “I’m sending you to the late Twenty-first Century.”
            “Why then?”
            “I think I’ve told you about Danny, who I visited in the early Twenty-first Century.”
            “Yeah, the name sounds familiar.”
            “Well, his son Evin needs our help.  And the only way to do that is through his children.”
            Even as he continues giving me instructions, he somehow lights the strange lamp.  Shadows of brown, with flashes of yellow and orange, begin to circle the walls of the hut.  Then I feel the floor fall away as soon as he touches my hands.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Journeys Book I - Dedicated to Memory of my Mother.

This Book is Dedicated to the Memory
Of my Mother, Floy,
Who passed away during its writing.

Oh, flying time go backwards, backwards indeed
Make me a child again today.
Mother, come back from the land of peace,
Press me to your heart as in the olden days.
Kiss the creases from my forehead with ease;
Straighten my hair, prematurely gray.
Wait for me dozing, my kind little sheep;
Rock me Mother, oh rock me to sleep.

Oh, years go backwards, steer the flight again!
Tears and sadness, I have enough,
Tears and sadness instead of peace and luck;
Take them and give back to me my youth.
Tired I am now with loving glow
To sacrifice further my spiritual possessions,
Tired to sow for others to reap;
Rock me, Mother, rock me to sleep.

Taken from a poem by an unknown author, published in a Houston, Texas newspaper, late 1800s, in German. (Translated by Gudrun Sloan, 1996)

I did not write this poem, and I have no idea who did.  I'm told this a translation from German.  The translator was an employee of NASA in Houston, Texas during the 1990s.  I was informed of this and given a copy by my cousin Jo Beth Decker, who is also a descendant of the Hinrichsens and Fesers, German immigrants to Houston in the 19th Century.

Monday, January 7, 2019

As Promised for the New Year, the First Installment of My Next Book

Journeys BEYOND the Peaks


Tales of Time-travel into the Past
By M.F. Erler

            In this historical-fiction novel, thirteen-year-old Cinda Parker and her young brother, Ian, know they have a special mental connection.  But it’s not until a mysterious stranger named Lexi comes to visit from the future, that they realize they are more than typical mid-twenty-first century children.  Lexi convinces them that they must travel back 200 years into the minds and lives of some of their ancestors, in order to help their father,--who is still dealing with anger and grief over his own father’s death from cancer several years before.
March 2018
          This is a work of fiction.  While some of the events described are historical, most are from my imagination.  Some of the characters are based in part on stories I’ve heard about my ancestors, but none of the characters in this book are meant to represent actual historical people.   Any resemblances to actual persons, past or present, are coincidental, with one exception:  Elena Hansen Hinrichsen and her husband George were historical people (my great-great-grandparents), and they did have four surviving children, Louisa, Hinrich, Elena, and Sophia (my great-grandmother). 


Much of the inspiration for this book has come from a diary written by my great-great-grandmother, Elena Hansen Hinrichsen between 1887 and 1892 in Houston, Texas.  I am indebted to my Houston-area relatives for their assistance in making this diary available to me and to augmenting the information recorded in it.
With the permission of these relatives, I have occasionally quoted from the diary, and have used the actual names of the Hinrichsen family members, although I have changed the spelling to the more traditional German rendering of Heinrichsen.  Not all of the names of the grandchildren have been kept the same, and in places there have been shifts made in their birth orders.
In addition, the events and experiences presented in this book are not recorded exactly as they happened, but I have tried to give an accurate depiction of later nineteenth century life. For example, the story of their lost daughter, Lorna, was drawn from another person’s family history, not theirs.   As a writer, I have taken some “literary license” I must admit.  For, while truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, a simple account of day-to-day life doesn’t always make for a good novel.
However, I’ve found that the longer I work on this, the more kinship I feel with Elena Hansen.  In some way, I have truly gotten to know her.  Words written by the first translator of her diary echo my own feelings:
“In conclusion, let me say that this translation has been a labor of love…To follow the daily thought and feeling of one so refined and spiritually consecrated has been to me a means of grace.  And may I add the prayer that God may bless its perusal to those who cherish the memory of one who is not lost, but only gone before.”
                                                            A.E. Rector, San Antonio, Texas, 1938

I personally am looking forward to the day when I pass the pearly gates of Heaven and get to meet Elena, my ‘grandmama’ face to face.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Will the Real New Year Please Stand Up?

Happy New Year.  Of course, this only applies if you are on the Gregorian (more commonly known as the Christian) Calendar.  Most of the western world is.  However, not everyone celebrates the new year on what we call January 1.  Before the Sixteenth Century, most of Europe was following the Julian Calendar, started originally by Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor.  In the Julian Calendar, March was the first month of the year.  Which explains why September, October, November, and December literally mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th month, respectively.  (By the way, the reason July and August both have 31 days is that Caesar Augustus, successor of Julius Caesar wanted his month to have as many days as his predecessor's.  Couldn't let him look more important, after all.)

When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in the 1500s, January became the first month.  Therefore September (septem=7 in Latin) became the 9th month instead of the 7th.  And so on.  The reason for this was the Julian Calendar's year was not 365 days long, so there was need for a leap month every so many years.  And you thought Leap Year was complicated!

Here's some more calendar trivia.  The New Year of the Church Calendar actually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the First Sunday in the Ecclesiastical season of Advent.  In a sense, our commercial new year coincides with the opening of school in August or September.  School used to start the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, but that has fallen by the wayside in many places.

And then, of course there's the Lunar Calendars, whose dates vary from our solar calendar from year to year.  Chinese New Year usually falls sometime in February, on 2/5 in 2019.  Then Hindus, Arabs and others also have their own calendars.  The Jewish calendar has two new years, similar to some Christian churches.  The Sacred Jewish New Year falls around Passover in the Spring.  While the Secular New Year is in the Fall.

Okay, now that I've further complicated your life, let me just wish you a peaceful and hopeful new year.  That's what I'm hoping for anyway, though it may be a pipe dream.