IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

August 11, 2018

In a Christmas tale for the present day and set in the vast open ranch country of the high plains in Wyoming, a family story develops that ultimately rescues three lost souls.  Here is the “Prologue” to a story written straight from the heart; now represented for book and film development.

PROLOGUE

Christmas had been unusually good to the ranch this year, he considered. Now past, he welcomed the chance to relax but somehow also know for certain that the Love legacy would be safe and continue.

As he had each morning at sun-up, cattle boss and ranch manager Dan Echohawk walked down the long drive from the main family home and unlocked the ranch-run café managed by Phil Jensen’s wife, Doris. He would have his first cup of a hot wake-up drink, and then return to manage the dying cattle spread.

He sat on the red bar stool and swirled the black liquid in his coffee mug as if an answer waited for him in it. Dan mentally measured how the two-generation old cattle business didn’t need to die as so many other family ranches had. It was financially sound but just needed a good man and woman at the reigns again; someone who loved the ranch as much as he did.

“Rachel,” he sighed hopefully. “I think Jake…” he muttered, and then realized he was talking to himself again. “You have a nice day, Doris,” Dan finally offered with a heavy cough, as he took one more swallow and prepared to leave.

Dan suddenly realized how much harder every movement was becoming. His cloaked illness was becoming less likely to stay hidden each passing day. Hope Rachel and Jake return early today, he posed in silent reverie. Best we finish this story while I can.

Doris waved from the other end of the room as she dialed the heater up and began her preparations for the regulars who would be coming through the doors any minute.

“How do you do?” the younger man said as he took a seat next to Dan at the counter. He seemed to appear without making any sound upon entering.

“Doing well; thank you,” Dan lied. “What brings you to Love so early, stranger?” Dan quizzed.

“Just enjoying being out at this hour” he replied. The visitor offered a few other particulars about himself, but with a pleasant demeanor kept his focus upon Dan.

One thing led to another and soon Dan found himself considering how this day’s early morning walk down to the Love Diner had offered a new twist. Someone returned back up the gentle hill with him.

Dan built a fire from the pile of pine logs stacked in the brass cradle, and now sat in his favorite easy chair positioned near the stone hearth in the Great Room. He and Missy had enjoyed many hours here after the sun went down; right up to her final day on earth last year.

He invited his friendly guest to take the lounger opposite him. A roaring fire soon crackled and took a winter chill off the one hundred-year-old lonely ranch house main floor.

There was something interesting, and even wise about the inquisitive man who had entered the diner at opening hour; a man who simply called himself “William.” He guessed the well-groomed man fitted in typical Wyoming western wear, was in his mid-thirties, though his energy seemed more like a college athlete.

For some unearthly reason William just seemed to open Dan up, like no one had ever before done. With few close friends, he was busting to share some of his secrets about this place folks simply called the Love Ranch but had little confidence in how to go about it. Dan’s visitor urged him on and he decided to trust William. He began to tell his story as honestly as he knew how:

     Few folks take the lonely stretch of road from I-80 north, then another due west past Eden, where a whole lot of nothin’ greets the eye until you reach a sharp bend before a long drive at a sign post marked ‘Love, Wyoming – Population 50.’ Our small diner and gift shop, the last of the one gas pump country cafes that served the occasional passersby and local cattle folks since the 1920’s, marks downtown.

Up the drive leading to the diner and then the ranch house are three more signs welcoming strangers. Each one was placed there by an original member of the Love family who settled this land. In a family tradition, of sorts, every generation was expected to add their own sign upon marriage. The first of three signs welcoming a visitor up the drive was placed by the original ranch owner, ‘Old Man’ Jack Love. It reads:

 If you are going to fall, you might as well fall in Love.

 

 

 

 

GREATEST GENERATION and FRIENDS

    

 

Have had several dreams of my father. Always in his early thirties–half my present age. Grew up hearing the stories, in bits and pieces of World War Two soldiers: Dad, neighbors, friends, family.

They are almost entirely gone — in fact I don’t think one who was close to me remains. I look forward to seeing them again, laughing with them, thanking them, but not in dreams. Why I wrote the love stories celebrating them in the war years 1941 –1945:

The Last Valentine, The Lighthouse Keeper, Ticket Home,
and, “When the Last Leaf Falls” (unpublished)

Like a soliloquy to the lost but not forgotten, tender music like this pays tribute to these old-young men who fought so valiantly for their loved ones. From “The Pacific.”

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

Sneak Peek — In a Wonderland Called Love

Sharing a synopsis for reading fans of my latest work in progress for both book and film.  Hope you enjoy!

 

A Wonderland Called Love

by

James Michael Pratt

 

Christmas Eve – Present Day

Jake Monson is a lost soul shattered by 15 years of war. As he ponders upon the dark thoughts invading every waking moment, Jake pushes through a snowstorm on a lonely highway somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. He joined the Army at 18, earned elite Army Ranger status, and served as a Special Forces operator in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a dozen other countries. Now disabled, he is unsure how to reconcile a past of violence with a new one of peace.

Rachel Love Strong lost her dreams of the perfect man and never-ending high plain sunsets long ago. Christmas Eves were the last magical memories for Rachel, who as a child hadn’t known anyone lived a life larger than in Love, Wyoming; population 50. Single with one child, Rachel wasn’t planning on making this family ranch and one horse-stop café her life when she eagerly left for culinary school on the coast years ago. With parents recently deceased, she desperately wants to wrap up the sale, get back to her successful L.A. catering business, and a busy perfection-obsessed life.     Hypnotized by both the blizzard and deep thought, Jake loses sight of the road before him. Suddenly swerving to avoid a deer, he finds himself crawling out from under his over-turned truck, bleeding and limping toward some distant lights.

With a winter white-out, Rachel didn’t expect many guests for the annual Love Family Christmas Eve meal, but with dogs barking she also didn’t expect to find a stranger staggering toward the porch, falling headlong into a snow drift.

Over the course of a holiday week, Rachel finds an injured man in need of more than bandages and rest, and that sometimes home is where you find what you went out into the world in search of. Jake forgets his past long enough to discover magic and innocence isn’t lost after all. They both come to find that unfulfilled dreams and unexpected miracles can happen in a winter wonderland called Love.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

Photo courtesy Alan Day of Heber, Utah

A Christmas season tale of redemption and filling inner emptiness with what matters most is offered when two strangers find the meaning of life over quiet weeks of giving. They learn that the unexpected can happen if you are willing to slow down and look for it.  This short excerpt is from the narrator voice found in the manuscript in progress:

“Love, Wyoming, Population 50, exists only in the heart of every person who calls it home, or who stays for a week or two. But there’s the rub–the one thing that most won’t do. That is, most folks won’t ever visit Love; not on purpose anyway.

“It is a place without cell phones, cable TV, and internet, yet holds the magic everyone longs for. It is that intimate connection where face to face is all that’s needed to make a person feel important and needed.

“I didn’t get this wisdom from my Cheyenne ancestors, but from plain old observation.  Now this truth be told — you are all welcome to Love. Will you actually make your way here?”

Uncle Dan Echohawk, from In a Wonderland Called Love, a Christmas story now in progress.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

 

The Making of Dickens “A Christmas Carol”

Author at Santa Claus Lane in Carpenteria, CA. 2001

We owe alot about the evolution of our present Christmas Day to a novelist.

In fact a novelist has kept his bestseller on the shelves, on stage,  and on the big screen — turned into no less than six different movie versions — for 174 years because he was able to take quintessential values about love and attach them to a largely uncelebrated date.

This holiday season a delightful family film, The Man Who Invented Christmas  presents the story of Charles Dickens writing of A Christmas Carol.  It offers insight on how Christmas became the sacred and family fun filled holiday that it now is.

Christmas has become so beloved since 1843’s arrival of Dickens A Christmas Carol that fun park villages and lanes across America have been dedicated to the annual event.  One such lane is shown in the photo above. It was near my hometown in Ventura County off the 101 Highway on the California coast in Carpenteria, California. The famous “Date Shakes” — among other novelties — called many travelers to tap the brakes on their north and south bound drives and indulge their inner child for a few moments.

The American celebration of Christmas combined imported traditions from our cousins in Europe.  My Dutch immigrant grandparents brought theirs, and our English, German, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian cousins (among many others) also imported theirs to make the American holiday a unique mix of Christ, Santa, Christmas trees, sleighs, parades, lights, candies, music, carols, gift and a card giving event.

As an author continually in search of the next inspiration for a novel, I find the story of Charles Dickens 1843 inspiration for the perennial classic “A Christmas Carol” compelling and worthy of every reader’s time.

Written in just a six weeks, Dickens’ self-published novel has given us the Ebeneezer Scrooge character which informs us of the cost that a cold heart really is. But it is more than that. It is a story of love lost and refound in a “it’s-never-too-late” plot that is timeless.

Writes Kate Samuelson of Time.com:

When Dickens pitched a Christmas book to his publishers, they couldn’t understand why anyone would be interested in the idea. But the author had predicted a turn in the yuletide. Queen Victoria had recently married the German Prince Albert, who brought the Christmas tree over from Germany, and the idea of the festival being a time for family and celebration was gradually seeping back into public consciousness…

I have included a link to the full background article and review of the movie celebrating Dickens creation — The Man Who Invented Christmas  — here:

http://time.com/5017067/a-christmas-carol-charles-dickens-movie/

BTW:  I give the movie a “10 Star” out of 5 rating;  a must see for every lover of the Dickens tale.

CHARACTER MATTERS — A societal crisis is solved this simply

Assume a virtue though you have it not.”  — Shakespeare

Some time ago I had the privilege of doing a book signing for one of my titles along with Golf legend Johnny Miller who was breaking out his book Called It the same day and at the same store.

We discussed life, issues with the swing, and even mental preparation before taking any swing.  I remember talking about how things “come back” to you and how important every swing we take really becomes.

If life is a game, and people are players, then some also become perfect with practice and others become users. What achievers actually do is pre-thought, and pre-practice in their minds. The outcome of those actions, when built upon thoughts played out before hand,  are winning consequences, and the difference between how good or conversely how bad those outcomes can be, is only a matter of time.

Because the power of media is deeply ingrained in a fast paced soundbite society, we find we are living in times where allegations and accusations of unlawful, inappropriate, hurtful, unwanted, and even violent behavior against others becomes instant fact before an investigation or jury is even called in to question.

“CBS fires…” and “NBC fires…”  and “NPR fires…” and “Fox New fires…” and “Hollywood mogul loses company…”  “More accusers come forward…” and “Senator embarrassed by allegations…”  and so on.

Virtue is a planned behavior. Character is forged over time by choices between virtue and vice. When changes of life are made, so personal character is also changed. As we watch the mighty in society fall each day, remember it did not happen in a day. It began with a simple thought…some time ago.

A crisis in society where character is constantly challenged through allegations of sexual and other misconduct, can be solved very simply. The cause of allegations — which if they turn out to be true — means the perpetrator practiced mentally before any physical action against another person took place.

James Allen (1864-1912) had tremendous impact upon my mind and my course in life, when in my 19th year my mother wisely handed his most famous book to me — As a Man Thinketh — and said, “Jim, I want you to read this.” What stood out to me as I read was this:

 

We become what we think about.

That premise of pre-thinking our life, our actions, who and what we want to become, is a simple formula for success, and conversely to disobey it is to ultimately fail and face disastrous consequences.

LIFE HACK and simple formula for building good character…

If you want to be well thought of as a gentleman or a lady–

Deliberately plant seeds of thought with good outcomes.

Redeem the past through giving and seeking forgiveness and…

Ensure the future by living well today.

LIFE 101: Dark vs Light, Pain vs Joy

This much is true.

When it comes to darkness, light follows.

It may be a sunrise that soon yields a brightness of the sun at its zenith, or a light switch that chases away a darkened room, but one does not know the difference and the joy of light without the coldness of the dark night.

Pain, Confusion, Darkness, Disappointment, Tears, Illness of all kinds, offer the flip side:

Pleasure, Clarity, Light, Serendipitous JOY, Laughter, and Wellness.

You never get one without the other — so hold on!

As a Man Thinketh…In His Heart” (revised edition coming to Kindle 2018)

 

Music Inspires Stories

 

This Guy’s in Love with You

Music often inspires elements and characters for my stories. This song is one from my youth. It seemed to play at every school and church dance, and listening to it now returns me to a certain innocence that the world seems to have lost.

Music for “Vivian’s Book of Love” could not get much better than from Burt Bacharach — Vivian’s story is also “his” story; one of a broken heart and lessons for a life well lived. Revealed in an unforgettable slow dance but fast-paced 110 page journey with the most powerful ending I could imagine.

Hope you enjoy THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU — from the 1960’s that actually had songs of pure innocent love…

When the Last Leaf Falls — Chapter 2

A Sneak Peek continued…

Previously I posted the Prologue and part of Chapter 1 from the novel now under development. Below is the rest of Chapter 1 and all of Chapter 2 as a follow up”Sneak Peek.”

I recommend clicking the link below and reading the “set up” in Post #1  (Prologue and first half of Chapter 1) then coming back and following it up with the rest of Chapter 1 and this new  entire Chapter 2.

Happy reading!

Continued from Post #1  Sneak Peek — When the Last Leaf Falls 

 

Where was I? he pondered. “Fitch…” he said.

     “Radio…” Fitch said with teeth chattering, “…is as dead as that new guy—the replacement—Hawkins. We can’t send a runner—so here we are.”

“We fight it out?” Howie stammered through a sudden and frozen wind, slapping his face like an unseen hand showing no mercy.

“Yeah. We fight it out.” Fitch shivered against the icy chill as he brought his binoculars up. His entirely freezing and fatigued attention was on the German patrol and the single tank entering the open ground. “Now let’s line up to meet this SOB,” he whispered.

They were ill-prepared for winter fighting when the 9th Infantry was thrown suddenly into the surprise German counter-attack. The men of the 9th Recon Troop wore white bed sheets they’d liberated from a bombed-out Belgian hotel, draped over olive green combat uniforms and GI pot helmets, in hopes the camouflage effect made them invisible to the enemy.

Fitch and Howie rolled twenty feet in the snow to their right until they had the tank lined up directly in their path and just under a slight rise in the terrain which enabled a shot at the underside. Sergeant Fitch would give Howie the required tap on his helmet; a signal for him to rise to one knee, fire, and for the other men of the patrol to run for the relative safety of cover they had left behind.

Everyone knew they had to wait for Howie’s single bazooka round to fire and then they would sprint against German tank machine gun fire, along with individual enemy troops firing at them in an open field of knee deep snow. The proverbial “fifty-yard dash,” held particular meaning today to every man caught out in the open field.

To Corporal Howie Anderson, with the single tool of the trade to stop a tank, it meant saving them—buying time for his friends—but not for himself.

“You get one shot, and only one,” Fitch reminded him. “After that, we are dead or they are.”

Howie pulled off his helmet and looked intently at the photo of his new bride; a photo wedged inside the interior lining of his steel pot. “I won’t die, Collette,” he said as he kissed the photo and replaced the helmet.

Sergeant Fitch loaded the single bazooka round into the back end of the long tube—it too wrapped in white rags. “Wait… Steady… Hold it… Hold it…” he commanded.

The approaching Panther V was less like a tank to Howie and more a lumbering monster churning through the whiteness of the frozen field where the two Americans, among a dozen others, lay making themselves invisible.

The enemy tank spit out brown icy earth from its back as heavy metal tracks chewed toward them—and behind it was other men with guns. Someone is going to die, Howie’s mind screamed as his nervous breath sucked in ice cold pre-dawn air.

Realizing the moment his life would most likely end was mere seconds away, Howie mentally focused upon one thing he must do if destined to die: Don’t miss

“Wait. Not yet. Hold…” Sergeant Fitch continued in shallow breath.

Everything was too slow now. His sergeant’s orders were killing Howie as much as the approaching tank would. He couldn’t run, hide, say, “time out.”

“Hold it… Just a bit more… Wait until he hits that rise. Got to get a shot underneath him… Hold it…” Fitch’s voice chattered in the biting coldness of the moment.

The tank was less than one hundred feet away and would soon crush him. Where’s the order to fire? Howie’s brain shouted.

“Now!” Sergeant Fitch yelled as he tapped Howie’s helmet. “Go! Go! Go!” he ordered to the others as Howie carefully aimed at the exposed underside of the tank’s belly that was almost entirely upon him now.

He pulled the trigger, becoming oblivious to anything but the swoosh of the shell projecting forward out the long tube and into the under-carriage of the enemy tank to his front.

Men scrambled and the small arms firing began. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his friends begin to fall. He dropped the bazooka and without thinking of retreat rushed forward to take the fire meant for his friends.

He’d gotten off a proverbial “lucky strike”—a hit with the bazooka round that the odds makers in Chicago gang run back rooms wouldn’t have favored. He unconsciously screamed and fired wildly while the German tank belched smoke and began to burn. Stunned enemy soldiers returned fire. Several dropped just feet from him. He was a crazy man now; firing a Thompson sub-machinegun he had slung over his shoulder, reloading, spraying the field, and reloading again. He expected death to come any second, but the bullet with his name on it kept eluding him.

He stopped and fought from his standing position at the rear of the smoking tank as a dozen Germans now retreated. He yelled and screamed, firing, attacking as only the insane can without regard for consequences as the enemy fell before him.

He took one quick look back to see if his friends had made it to the safety of the ditch near the tree line. As he did he heard the distinctive sound of a half-dozen American M-1 Garand rifles with their pop, pop, pop… metallic clinking sounds as eight round clips emptied into the enemy now in full retreat.

“Yeah!” he screamed, gazing up just as one lone enemy soldier emerged from the turret of the disabled tank with pistol drawn. He instinctively fired a burst into him. He watched as the young man flailed forward with eyes wide open in the surprise of death.

During that split second euphoria of surviving a one-on-one shoot-out, Howie noticed a change come over his enemy. The man looked warm and limber in sudden death. Howie envied the warmth of the dead man, as his 20-year-old body felt stiff and frozen in place; legs unable to move him forward or back.

The entire scene rolled before him in surreal film-style slow motion as if this violence were not real, and he was not really here, and Sergeant Fitch who waved his arm for him to retreat to their position was, in reality, Humphrey Bogart, and it was not him standing alone against the Krauts, but someone he was watching from the theater seats that merely looked like Howie Anderson and the…

“Anderson! Get out of there!” he heard Lange scream.

He found himself stiffly turning to obey. His entire squad—all his friends including the Preacher—Powell—were waving their arms for him to join them in the ditch. Their firing gave him cover.

Finally turning to make the dash to friendly lines, he felt a sudden jolt. His helmet flew off, his knees buckled, and a warm sensation of blood trickled down his face. He tasted the salty red moisture as it met his lips.

“Good,” he said as he collapsed into the snow. “I feel so good,” he sighed as face-first he struggled with the blood-reddened snow against his warming and flushed face.

Don’t die, my love,” she had pled as they last kissed three months ago in Paris.

In dying, he knew he had saved his comrades. And in dying there was really only one regret… Collette.

 

2

The French Women

 

“Only a French bakery can claim to make a woman skinnier when she walks out with a baguette than when she walked in,” Carlos laughed as he ended his call to a private party in London. “Here she comes. I have to go. See you tomorrow… Ciou,” he said, clicking off the phone as he waved from the car to the two women leaving the café.

Jeannette nodded to him and then kissed her mother on the cheek. “I will call when I return from London. We will spend more time next visit. Je promets, Mère.”

Marie understood the pressure on her youngest and most successful child. She returned her daughter’s kiss whispering, “I have something special to share with you on your return.”

“Oh! A mystery!” Jeannette replied smiling. She stroked her mother’s face with the back of her hand. “You are so beautiful, Mère. How is it you never age?”

“Ingredients from the bread of life keeps us young,” Marie chuckled. “Now go. The train for Paris leaves on time, even in Normandy.”

Jeannette smiled and knew her mother’s riddles involved profoundly religious motives. “Someday I hope to understand,” she replied.

“A hint, mon petit chou. Avec le bon homme, et Dieu,” Marie answered.

With the right man and God, Jeannette translated.

Mother and daughter had now stepped outside the Alderette Boulangerie and Café, which served as a gathering place for the citizens of their small off-the-main-road Norman village, Mont Anglais. Her beau waited in the rental car at the curbside.

“And Carlos?” Jeannette returned in a whisper, as she simultaneously signaled to the man behind the wheel that she was aware of the time.

Marie forced a smile to the Spaniard, and then softly whispered, “In matters of the heart God will never lie. I will pray for you.”

“I know you will. Adieu, Mère.”

Carlos hit the horn.

Marie frowned and Jeannette winked in reply, taking the baguette and marmalade from her mother’s hand; something sweet to remind her of a mother’s care.

Carlos wasted no time as he hit the accelerator, whizzing past Mathieu in the town square. The town’s gardener waved to Jeannette and then looked sadly back toward Marie.

With his beloved Claire now gone, and time not his friend, the secret and a promise he had kept since World War Two was about to be shared—whether he liked it or not.

 

 

VIVIAN’S BOOK OF LOVE, a Novel

                               Praying Chief at Sundance, Utah

For my next fiction I have chosen settings close to home. The praying Ute Chief at Sundance Resort, Utah is set in pleasant repose of rushing waters, pools native trout call home, and where I have gone to refine every manuscript ever written, including The Last Valentine–a novel adapted by Hallmark Hall of Fame to produce the 2011 hit release with Betty White and Jennifer Love Hewitt; The Lost Valentine.

Tranquil, it is often passed over by visitors to the state. Not a large resort, its natural peace and beauty lends to a slow pace, thoughtfulness, and introspection.

Within a range of a couple of miles are the locations where the plot for Vivian’s Book of Love takes place. That would be on the Provo River, a rafting and fly fishing spot just below Robert Redford’s Sundance.

I hope you may enjoy this “set up” to the proposed novel. Here is the opener to Vivian’s Book of Love.

 

PROLOGUE

At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet… Plato

Like the Swiss clock handed down from generation to generation, it relentlessly ticks away. An equal amount of the tick-tock stuff is given to all, but those precious seconds of lingering hand-holding, pleasant conversations, and admiration which the eyes lock into memory–become like a leaf caught on a breeze.

What you fill one minute with passes on—even as you contemplate how to spend more if it. There are precious snap shots–those moments frozen in a day from long ago–but you can only memorialize them, fill photo albums with them, or write of them as I do now.

Vivian was not only the girl of my dreams, but still captures them, so it is here where I come to bury the dead. Not with remorse, but great longing and a sense of awe for the surroundings which inspire my dreams.

Snow capped peaks loom over the village park that carries her name. Simple charms attract a certain kind of visitor to this often passed-by connection from the valleys above to those below. Natural beauty alone and modest cabins greet the fly fisherman to the trout stocked river, lined with its willows, pine, and the cottonwoods which shed like snow falling in June.

The scene of the white fluff wandering in a summer breeze, and Vivian chasing it with girl-like glee along the river path, still stops my heart, making our wonderland feel like an eternal replay of a favorite ballad; the one played when, once upon a time, you first fell in love.

For most others the charm found here is a ride on creosote treated railroad ties and aging iron track still carrying an original 1905 Baldwin Steam Locomotive. With turn-of-the-century passenger cars in tow, and the quintessential caboose guarding the tail end of the train, the locomotive winds its way through the river gorge in the shadow of soaring pined ridges where the eagles nest. Slowness takes over as smart phones are put away and God’s handiwork is admired.

Tourists come to the one whistle stop at Vivian’s Park each Saturday with the Ghost Train chugging up the canyon for Halloween, and the Polar Express breaking through snow drifts during the Christmas season.  With passenger cars resembling the old west era, a magic lost to our modern world of fast everything comes alive.

Constant, Bridal Veil Falls reminds visitors of power and timelessness. From deep within aquifers of the Rocky Mountains above us there is the unfailing year-round source of spring water falling from two sedimentary formations created over one million years of passing time.

Someone one hundred years ago would have witnessed with their natural eyes the exact same dramatic vista–cascading sprays of water forming a wide veil when the unending stream of droplets finally reach their destination from the heights above. The romanticized waterfall speaks to the human senses this truth; that everything of value and beauty takes time. 

Time is a thief. It doesn’t sleep, slow, stop, or rewind. It simply goes on in a ticking of give and take, allowing for memories alone. Memory is a good and wicked thing at the same time. When love falls upon the soul like the Bridal Veil does–narrow in the beginning and wide at the end–it carries you away to the pleasant places of romance and dreams where words like eternal, and forever, and never-ending come to life.

With Vivian I learned the things of love that her presence cemented into my heart. Those wonderful, terrible, haunting, and dream-like phantoms are encased safely where I can go and visit; and for a moment I feel her lips against mine, and her hand teasing me as she waves for me to come and follow her down the now silent tracks.

I awaken angrily at times, frustrated at others, from those day dreams which seem more frequent. Within the same cursing of breath that my pleasant visions have vanished so suddenly–there is also some sense of gratitude for having been with her, ever so briefly. Time gave those gifts to me, and I mustn’t curse it.

I seek now to share the hard truths and the idealized romance of it all, but not with moralistic rhetoric; well except, perhaps, in my opener to “The Western Philosophers 101” class each I teach each Fall and Winter semester at the U.

They can take it or leave it, but the sooner a person seeks what I lay out–well, I’ll let you decide…

I welcome that first freshman class each September and then it begins:

“Goethe said, ‘We are shaped and fashioned by those we love.’ Have you ever been in love?” he asked.

He looked out over the classroom of fresh-faced freshmen and watched some suddenly sit up from their slouch, others nervously shift in their seats, and a few offer the cocky assurance that they are about to waste an hour of time.

“If you have not, then I will tell you how it feels. Everyone keeps a book of love,” he began.

This sneak peek is the set up to Vivian’s Book of Love. Twists, turns, and secrets kept follow as we learn a young man’s background, his name, and the surprise that Vivian becomes to him.