Countless vacant and abandoned houses are scattered over the American prairie and plains, headstones marking the passage of a rural way of life nearly gone as the face of agriculture has changed. Each house has stories to tell, imprinted in front porch wood, kitchen walls, or the stones of an empty hearth. A faded curtain moves in the breeze, and for a moment, murmuring voices are heard. In the arid southwest, homes carved into cliffside ledges mark the presence of an entire civilization. These Anasazi ruins speak of the passing of “The Ancient Ones,” a people whose origin and fate are unknown. Stories live here as well, told in voices so old they are part of the land itself. The Anasazi stone houses, empty now for about a thousand years, are likely to outlast the abandoned rural home of far newer vintage. When this prairie house is torn down or burned, what will become of its stories? Photos: Livingston County Illinois, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Apache County Arizona.
As today’s Autumnal Equinox passes in silence, and daylight stands in balance with night for one day, golden fields of corn and soybeans are but days from harvest. The land yields to open space without windbreak or cover for pheasants and deer. A darkening sky will soon foretell snow instead of rain as a primeval chill settles upon the land. Autumn will reluctantly give its domain to winter as colors fade, sunlight contracts, and the spirit of the land retreats into itself to wait for spring. As it bids a brief greeting, fall exclaims its essence in vibrant symphonies across the prairie.
The transition of autumn is glorious and inspiring, yet it is laced with endings. Perhaps that is why it seems to be the shortest season. Photos: Kane County, Illinois and Jo Daviess County, Illinois.
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.
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.
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