In a land of limitless horizons, there are moments when the arrow of time seems to vanish. A crystal point of distant horizon appears, and the clouds and wind are moving yet going nowhere. These fragments of timelessness occur most readily in high summer, in the lateness of afternoon, or the onset of evening, when the long hours of daylight passing into twilight are still ahead and the deeds of the day are behind. An intangible shard of temporary eternity floats out of the sky and settles all around, comforting in its insulation. It is neither before nor after, but only “now,” a single thread of the fabric of the present. Its essence is both so small as to be immeasurable, and so vast as to be incomprehensible. One can feel it, wrap oneself within it, breathe it in, and partake of its singularity, but it cannot be held or prolonged. There is no influence upon it save its own, and it will vanish as readily as it comes, replaced by the forward motion of time’s arrow. And then one longs to meet it again. Teton County, Wyoming.
As this August sunset unfolded over Winnebago County, Iowa, I was the only person for miles in any direction, and the only person recording this scene with a camera at this place. There is no other record of this event. An eternity of sunsets will follow, but this image is the singular record of this one day’s sunset moment at this one place in the heartland. Is that important? Would it matter if this one scene had passed unnoticed and unrecorded? After all, it is always sunset somewhere on the planet, and sunset is nothing more than a happenstance of light source, clouds, and the viewer’s position. There will be another one tomorrow. Five minutes after this photograph was made, the sun was gone from this August day. The long twilight faded and darkness came . . . but the sunset remains. It is an image of a moment never to be repeated, a threshold at the end of this day which can not be had again.
This is a photo of Earth, as viewed through the rings of Saturn. The image was made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, peering over its shoulder toward a home it will never see again. Astronomer Carl Sagan said it best in his 1994 essay “Pale Blue Dot,” which is condensed here: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” (NASA photograph)
There was a time when many of America’s children gained their education in one-room schoolhouses. As much a fixture of rural life as the horse and plow, the schoolhouses vanished as the number of farms dwindled, as people migrated to cities and towns, as the agrarian dominance of the country’s workforce passed away. Most have been torn down, but here and there an isolated and empty schoolhouse remains. If you listen closely when it is quiet and the wind is just right, you can hear the voices and laughter of children, carefree and young and full of delight at knowing the world was limitless and it belonged to them. Ogle County, Illinois (left) and Stephenson County, Illinois (right).
Many years ago one could travel nearly anywhere by train. The journeys could be long, sometimes involving connections with other trains and different railroads, but the process was reliable. That era has passed, as impatient travelers of today think only of destination and little of journey. Railroad stations, the portals at the beginning and end of the train-travel journey, have slowly disappeared from small towns and big cities alike. Now empty, the stations wait along abandoned tracks for trains that will never arrive. Weeds grow where passengers once stood. The travelers have gone elsewhere and the portals have closed. Lee County, Illinois.
My friend and fellow author Robert James Waller has died at 77. Most will recall him as the author of the best-selling novel “The Bridges of Madison County.” Recognition for this was well-deserved. But Bob was more than that. A true Renaissance man, he was also a talented musician and photographer, as well as a master of economic theory and management. He was a romanticist, even as few people truly understand the meaning of the word. Go well, my friend, along the rivers and the long dusty roads, through the Iowa rains and past the old westbound trains.
Posted in Announcement, Fiction, Love Story, Novel, Photography, Romance, Writing
Tagged Fiction, Iowa, Robert James Waller, romance, Writing
By Paul James Zack
Stories and scenes come alive in the time shadows of our minds. An elusive fragment of late afternoon rests on your thoughts . . . the ephemeral light of an ancient evening embraces the land . . . the bonds of physical reality float away in the vastness of the night.
Time shadows. Where you have been. And where you never were. A person you loved, once upon a season, long ago, but still today. Do they remember? Did they ever know?
Always the stories. The stories remain, after the parting, after the dust disappears on the wind. The stories allow us to live, and live again. Can we ask for anything more?
An Eternal Melody is the story of cowboy singer Casey Beckett and western artist Victoria Ames. Casey, fast approaching the middle of his life, is a man out of place in a world run by clocks and computers. Bonded to the land with his Wyoming roots, yet driven by restlessness he can only vaguely understand, he travels the country to sing and recite cowboy poetry. Victoria, middle-aged and separated from her husband, is struggling to follow her dreams. She yearns to live in the infinite vistas of the western landscapes she creates on canvas, but wonders if her desires can ever be attained in a life where her every step forward has been matched by retreat.
When Casey walks into Victoria’s art gallery on a hot June day, their lives are forever changed as they begin a passionate romance transcending the boundaries of time and place. Written in poetic prose, An Eternal Melody is an unforgettable tapestry of tenderness and yearning, defining what it means to dance to the music within one’s heart. Set in harmony with the lyrical soul of the land, this love story reminds us that hope can exist even at the darkest hours, at the final curtain, and that with courage and affirmation, a man and a woman together can fulfill their shared destiny. An Eternal Melody will speak to your spirit and haunt you with its passion.
This book is now available on Amazon Kindle (please click on the link below). Exploring the pages of this site, you will find photographs from scenes in the book, poetry from Casey Beckett, and the first chapter of the story. Read, imagine, experience. Find a place in the time shadows of your mind. And your heart.
To purchase an e-book copy of this book from Amazon Kindle, please click on the title: An Eternal Melody Thank you!
Posted in Fiction, Love Story, Novel, Photography, Poetry, Romance, Writing
Tagged ancient, art gallery, artist, cowboy, dance, Eternal, love story, Melody, minds, music, passion, photographs, poetry, romance, stories, time shadows, western, Wyoming