AN ALTERNATIVE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE : A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE

AN ALTERNATIVE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE : A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE

by Paul Schroeder

A spiritual message, in a time of need, illuminated a larger life path:
“The Spell of the Yukon”
               By Robert W. Service
“I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
   I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
   I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
   Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
   And somehow the gold isn’t all…”
I rarely ever worked overtime, or sought spare part- time jobs to make more money, seeking blue skies above to doing work indoors, and I relished my poorer beer pockets without ever developing or resenting the absence of a richer champagne taste.
Those ambitious lads of my childhood who entered finance, medicine or law,  worked 24-7 towards a salaried lifestyle that flew them first class, overseas to luncheon meetings and purchased them mansions in the  glass sky towers of Manhattan.
Effete, they would confess,”Those who say that money can’t buy you everything, don’t know where to shop!”
I  became a college instructor teacher who received a meager pittance, but though  I relished my bankers’ hours’ 9 to 3  job, I deeply longed for the respite of work, each academic year, within a ten week vacation, over the summer.
During academic semesters I recklessly ate up all of my sick days and personal days, taking escapes in the sun at the beach, and landscaped land escapes in three and four day weekends, at mountain lakes’ sites to hike in virgin woods alone.
Others in Higher Education had instead garnered many days, ‘in their bank’, saved up jealously, to trade for cash, losing one day for every two saved, upon retirement.
To me, counter intuitively, non providentially, time away to think was worth more, as an escape valve,  than half of some obscure future money.
Work was onerous and exacting, and freedom was a hiking-in-the-woods- relief, from fluorescent overhead lights, and the grinding grading of incessant exams and papers.
For release,  the best part of my chosen vocation, I lectured and pontificated, teaching American and English Literature, in a large lecture hall,  chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, during class instructions, throughout, to self medicate.
I am presently retired, thirty-five years in teaching, and have a modest lovely home and property, and as for wanderlust, I  have long found that armchair travel is the cheapest kind of travel, content to read brochures, than take inoculations, to explore the world.
Money aversion- ennui got worse as I grew older.
 I soon preferred the sidelines of copious earnings, a spent man, seeking  to relax and to write.
Why was I, so different, to care little for “success”, measured in hard work towards riches?
I wasn’t remotely money excited,  as a child, dimly knowing on a subliminal level that God didn’t place us here, on Earth,  on a special mission,  to make money.
A spiritual message experience, I received, as a teenager, a homeless runaway at seventeen, running from a divorced household of violence and police- being -called -by- the -neighbors,
became a core influence for my slant on monied life, a purposeful one of just getting by, instead of working hard towards earning luxuries.
It was Christmas time in New York City and I was seventeen years old, homeless penniless,  and wandering.
I had exited  the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, where I had feasted for hours, on museum eye -candy, but my stomach  had rumbled with hunger.
And now back on the street, I found that it had been and was now, snowing heavily.
I wondered worriedly where I would sleep, that night.
 A local movie manager,  a friend, Paul Gary, said that I could, when in Brooklyn, sleep in a little used old loft room in his movie theatre, the Loews Oriental, in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, in a dusty, haunted costume property room.
I was the inhabiting spirit.
The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts,  sold to passerbys from a kiosk wagon, near to the museum’s stone steps, in a blizzard of snow, wafted my way and roused me.
I had no money in my pockets; I salivated at the  sweet nutty perfume.
 Chestnuts were a seasonal treat I had  enjoyed, at this very museum’s site, when I had a bountiful existence within my cantankerous parents’ marriage’s deep pockets’ circle of influence.
I would ask my parents,  they’d  fish for loose change and I would relish the sweet flavor of fire roasted hot chestnuts, now a new symbol of want and the faded memory of childhood .
I was alone upon the streets of Manhattan, hungry and had no money.
The  snow covered shoulders and face of the man who stood behind the kiosk wagon, were wrapped in steam; he was small and dark, wearing mittens with holes for the fingers.
The snow fell heavily in sheets that made a city of asphalt shock look gentler.
I  came close enough to  inhale the dark aroma of roasted chestnuts,  a childhood memory token, an olfactory solace for my pangs of hunger.
 I  noticed that on one side of his kiosk wagon hung a large piece of grey cardboard with a blue magic marker message upon it, his philosophy of the moment, but on an unconscious level, one  for the rest of my adult life.
A raised consciousness was sparked.
It read:
“I really don’t like making money;
I don’t want to conquer the world,
and I don’t wish to ever be rich;
I don’t even want to set the world, on fire;
 I just want to keep my nuts warm.”
A spiritual message, in a time of need, illuminated a larger life path.
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GHOSTS AND CATS OF BLOCK ISLAND

GHOSTS AND CATS OF BLOCK ISLAND

by Paul Schroeder

Block Island, an oasis off the coast of Rhode Island, is where I have spent  time musing and walking.

 

Ghosts, seen on Block Island are only part of the paranormal show, in town.

One late September I and my wife stayed at the hotel 1661 INN at Old Harbor on Block Island for a week to celebrate a vacation where

we enjoyed an island off season, bereft of tourists from the mainland to watch an island gear down from summer and close up in preparation for the winter.

Only a few bird watchers clubs frequented the island then, for the weather was windy, cold, blustery and rainy,

storms which added to our desire to stay close to the inn and in each other’s close company.

One stormy and windy evening at  ten o’clock in the evening, I went out to the backyard of the inn, tacitly to watch the view of whitecaps roiling on Old Harbor and to socialize with a pair of goats, which roamed freely on the property.

Out on the harbor,  a quarter of a mile from the shore among the rolling whitecaps, I saw a flickering, blue triangular light that vanished and then reappeared a short distance from where it had been.

At first glance, it looked like the angular sail and mast of a middle sized sailing craft, a craft in distress that struggled to make headway in the stormy waters, except that this sail radiated a surreal phosphorescent light, a glow that ebbed and waned like a dying flame .

The bluish sail’s color glowed in a purplish light and then vanished completely, only to reappear another short distance from where it was last sighted.

 

 

I initially surmised it to be a flame above the waves from ignited methane from the ocean floor.

I watched in  wonder as its shifting movements  made it jump from one location to another location every few seconds; its odd flickering flame glowing in a surreal sailboat triangular form, was something I’d never seen before.

It vanished completely, after a few minutes among the stormy waves, as though it had finally capsized .

The image of that strange vessel has haunted my memory for many years,

a famous Block Island ghost ship seen often in stormy weathers, by many others before and after me.

However, not until recently, some years later,  having read “Livermore’s History of Block Island”, did I realize that the book’s description of an oddly lit and shifting Palatine Ghost Ship seen off Block Island is precisely  what I caught and observed that windy white capped and rain swept evening.

Other ghostly goings-on prevail, there.
A woman seen carrying a clock, and observed talking to herself, is another famous full bodied apparition; she seemingly ignores the greetings of a rare tourist, on a deserted stretch of road at the  far end of the island, and then, clock in hand, she suddenly vanishes.

Even odder, some Block Island ghost stories are still in the making.

(from a communique from a friend):

“I was fishing off Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island in 1995. I was in a boat, and we watched a big cloud of smoke appear off Block Island in the distance.

What  happened was that an airplane crashed into a restaurant.”

It appears that a young child, a wife and a doctor and his mother all perished en route,

in a small aircraft just before landing at Westerly Airport on Block Island.

The small plane hit a restaurant taking an additional islander life;

one small airstrip lay 500 feet parallel to a line of three coastal restaurants.

Block Island, an off-season haunt for me, now has the addition of these ghosts,  for the dead often remain at the site of their violent death, ghostly additions to  a place already  most assuredly  haunted.

There is resident talk of ghosts seen on the island, especially those spirits restless and active at the Old Town Inn, a hotel location, geographically central to the island.

I would often prefer to stay at the Old Town Inn, inspired by the stories of its often seen ghosts.

History indeed confirms that a State Senator who lived there in the early 1800’s, faced charges that he murdered his ailing mother for his inheritance, by throwing her down the long narrow stairway, a stairway still in evidence.

I surmise that he was acquitted.

But the staircase and basement area judge fate and history differently.

The owner told me that he had seen the bare bulb in the basement often spin of its own accord; it kept him and mainland workmen away from that basement.

Most locals were too leery an ilk to spend any real, required time down there, doing some essential repairs.

When restorations had initially begun, it had been noticed that all interior doors had been removed; when the new owners had queried contractors why this had been done, a disturbing answer had been returned.

The many doors’ constant opening and closing by themselves had unnerved, distracted and unsettled the mainland workmen.

They had removed the doors, and erased these house symptoms, but touched not the disease, itself.

Guests have asked the front desk about a ghostly woman, seen from their upstairs windows,  a spectre who has walked in the deeper shadows of the garden at night, in a pink, long, flowing gown, who has carried a pink parasol.

She can be  seen in the back garden, under a full moon, late at night, when weather conditions are perfect.

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I would stay here on Block Island, despite its ghosts, because it was far from  scenic views of the harbor, and from crowds of daily ferried tourists.

This central location on Block Island allowed me to be more reclusive in my wanderings, far from people, which was my nature.

I wandered among persimmon trees, apple and wild plum, across vacant meadows and fields whose scattered vestigial remnants of ancient  stone foundation fragments revealed where houses once stood.

On one such long walk, a deer froze in a field to then bolt from view and

on my return to the Inn, on that same cold, windy afternoon, I saw a cat

quickly scurry under the foundation of the hotel, a cat as orange in color as the drifting early October Maple leaves.

Only the feral cats who roam the streets of Block Island know its ghosts as permanent residents,  lost and not yet found.

Block Island’s feral cats, independent and grateful creatures, like solitary ghosts, have astonished me in the oddest ways.

Whenever New York City snow drifts high enough to seal all the doors and windows of February, I conjure an image of frozen kittens cuddling in the Rhode Island icy snow.

That image haunts me,  though I’ve never seen it.

I was informed when I inquired at the inn, that she was feral and would have to over winter on the island alone, that she belonged to no one and had recently had a litter somewhere under the cellar.

The staff, who took pity on her and who fed her, would soon leave by early November.

The hotel wouldn’t re-open until mid April; in deep winter snows, with a new litter of kittens, she would be on her own.

I was moved to go into town to buy some canned cat food and these I presented to the kitchen staff who cared for her.

I was told that I could

feed her myself, as she was just outside the kitchen, awaiting a handout..

I opened two cans and spoke to her, watched her as she fed.

I wondered aloud to the kitchen staff what fate might bring to those kittens when heavy winter snow lay against the outside of those abandoned

kitchen doors, all winter long.

Later, about ten o’clock in the evening, I heard a knock on my door that stopped my writing and upon opening the door, I found the chef outside, smiling warmly.

He asked me if I could follow him down to the kitchen.

She had, he said, been grateful to me and had brought me a ‘thank you’ gift, in eloquent cat artistry.

A large, dead marsh rat lay by the back kitchen door, fully displayed, on the welcome mat.

Puffed up and very proud, she paraded back and forth over it, purring and repeatedly making eye contact with me.

She had caught it and then she had brought it to me,  as thanks, but also as a token.

It had somewhat assuaged my anxieties about her and her broods’  chances of survival, facing an icy cruel winter, with no food,  alone on the island with only ghosts, as her company..

I recall that cat’sunflawed nature, uncomplaining and noble

show of gratitude and
courageous

resiliency,  all of which unfurled her fearlessness.

 

Ghosts and cats who roam Block Island would wander alone in the coming ice storms,

and she, bereft of food,

with new and hungry kittens to feed,  would face a winter

of killing blizzards.