I been to the ocean once. The Atlantic. I must have been nine, maybe eleven. Mom took me and Pen and Danny. Relda came too. It must have cost them most of all they had between them to do it. They watched from the sand, sat out on blankets brought from home. I remember running out into the waves and getting tumbled. I did it again. And again. My shoulders got ground through layers of skin. The salt burned like hell. I saw fish I’d never seen before twitching and swishing around my ankles. Danny walked far out into the water. I wanted to be that tall. The salt water equalized his height. Pen and I hooked arms, arched our backs and floated on top of the water. I saw a starfish on the sand. Dead and brittle. I threw it back into the ocean. It rolled back onto the shore. I left it. The next morning Pen woke me up. Come on Nickie she said. We are going to the ocean again. I told her I ain't going. Why not? I done seen it. Even then I know’d I’d take a field of late fall corn, golden and rustling and smelled of something more than pure, over any ocean. When the last rows were cut down, well, every year, it made me feel like bawling. God damn I hated that part.
Born in the low mountains of central Pennsylvania, raised in Oxford, Ohio where countless rows of feed corn transition abruptly into streets paved with rust-red brick leading you to the most beautiful college campus in the world (just ask Robert Frost). A graduate (barely) of Miami University, where he selected Individual and Family Studies as a major because it got him out of having to take French. Turns out, that decision, compounded with a long, hard, look at his high school years (filled with run-ins with the law, a couple visits to juvie, foster care, rehab, etc.) opened the door to a career in substance abuse counseling, county-level child protection, work with Native Americans, suicide prevention and restorative justice work, in both rural and urban areas.
Those work experiences, and the places that he invested himself in, have left lasting impressions of awe, sadness and wonder at the hardships and triumphs of the human experience. They have also led him to sustain a deep love for the land and people he has met along the way.
The time that has passed between tearing himself away from Oxford, Ohio and where he is today (Georgia), include years spent in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio (again), Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Idaho, and Kentucky (plus another stint in Colorado- where he will probably reside again).
He's seen a lot; what he's learned is speculative and highly debatable...
He and his wife have a son; in German, his name means "Strong Land." Everything is for him now.
New Mexico, chased by dead coyotes and dying crows.