Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Peace & Justice, Photo Essay, Photography/Photographer

Black and White (or not)

A black and white photo is light and dark, its sharp contrasts easy on the eye.

Perhaps black and white is easier on the mind as well.  No difficult decisions, no wavering, no questioning right from wrong.  But real life is in color, with many subtle hues and shades.  Condemned prisoners who crossed over The Bridge of Sighs in Venice got one last peek at their beloved city.  Did they see their world in terms of black and white, or in color?  Perhaps one’s perception depended upon whether one was looking in or out, whether one was coming or going.

It is easy to cast judgements, until you have walked a mile in another person’s shoes, looked into her eyes, heard his story.  The world is not black and white.  It is the color of flesh and blood, with many gray areas.  What is the color of a human tear?

All images and words by Naomi Baltuck, copyright 2012

Note: For another facet of this topic,  check out this link by Carbon Leaf, The War Was in Color, and my post Remembering Uncle Lewis.

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Essay, Naomi Baltuck

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

– Naomi Baltuck

© 2012, essay and photographs, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi410xuqmD74L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, Naomi Baltuck, Photography/Photographer

Remembering Uncle Lewis, A Memorial Day Story

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many other stories about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Naomi Baltuck, Story Telling, Photo Story

Black and White (or Not)

A black and white photo is light and dark, its sharp contrasts easy on the eye.

Perhaps black and white is easier on the mind as well.  No difficult decisions, no wavering, no questioning right from wrong.  But real life is in color, with many subtle hues and shades.  Condemned prisoners who crossed over The Bridge of Sighs in Venice got one last peek at their beloved city.  Did they see their world in terms of black and white, or in color?  Perhaps one’s perception depended upon whether one was looking in or out, whether one was coming or going.

It is easy to cast judgements, until you have walked a mile in another person’s shoes, looked into her eyes, heard his story.  The world is not black and white.  It is the color of flesh and blood, with many gray areas.  What is the color of a human tear?

All images and words by Naomi Baltuck, copyright 2012

For another facet of this topic,  check out this link by Carbon Leaf, The War Was in Color, and my post Remembering Uncle Lewis.

– Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppiNAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #14: With Heart Divided

DEATH BY CANCER

Excerpt from With Heart Divided

(Autobiography)

by

Donna Swanson

What do you say about dying?  Holding a hand that is already like a skeleton with skin stretched over it?  Standing in back of his lounge chair and putting your hands gently on his shoulders for fear of hurting him?  Kissing the top of his head where only a few strands of those once thick curls remain?  Saying, “I love you.” trying to make up for all those times you did not say it before?

On the night before our son, Mac, died, Jacob stopped by his daddy’s chair on his way to bed and said, “Goodnight, Dad” Mac answered “Goodnight, Jake.” John and I and Dennie had been there all day and about 10:00 I went home to get some sleep.  John stayed because Mac had begun to get really agitated in his hallucinations and he was afraid Mac, though weak, could throw himself out of his chair or hurt Shelby.

At 5:30 the next morning the phone rang and Dennie said I’d better come quickly.  By the time I arrived Mac had just won his war.  Satan had played his last card, death, and though he won a battle, he lost the war.  Mac died with his father’s arms around his shoulders and his wife’s arms holding him.  Shelby let the boys sleep until the undertaker had gone, then she sat in her chair with a child held close under each arm and told them their Daddy had gone to Heaven.

When we went with Shelby to make arrangements, the first thing she said was, “I never expected to be doing this at 33.”  Both the visitation and funeral service were held in our Church for there was not enough room in the funeral home.  The Director said he had never held a service with so many people in attendance.  Shelby and John decided to bury Mac in the little cemetery about a quarter-mile from our home.  Arrangements were made and now Mac’s grave is close by.

Of course Mac is not there.  He has changed the landscape of Heaven for us. No longer is it a place just to be talked about in sermons or read about in the Bible.  Now it is where Mac is.  And we wonder what he’s doing today.  We see Heaven through the eyes of sorrow and joy.  And death has truly lost its sting.

My family has lost many members to cancer; two sisters, a brother, my mother and several cousins.  When the battle is done and the tears have dried, the heart regains its equilibrium and life goes on.  But for the poet, part of the healing process is putting into words our thoughts and the thoughts we see reflected in the eyes of our loved ones.  These are written for my son, Mac, and my sister Jackie who died of ovarian cancer.

FROM THE SHADOWS

I step back into the shadow,

beyond the light of my family’s

celebration.

Storing memories

that must last through eternity.

I watch for the last time

each milestone celebration;

each small moment.

I take in the wonder

of the ordinary:

The smile of the morning,

The uncertain rest of the night

and the miracle of a day renewed.

As eternity beckons

I reach for the temporal,

for one last touch of mortality.

But I watch from the shadows.

© cover art, narrative, and poem 2011, Donna Swanson, all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Donna Swanson was born during the Great Depression in 1938 to an Indiana farm family.Youngest of eight children and a twin, she has lived her entire life in Warren County, Indiana.  A high school graduate, she chose to marry and raise a family rather than attend college; although she took classes in art, Koine’ Greek and psychology after marriage.  She has written nine books: Mind Song, published by The Upper Room in Nashville, TN; Rachel’s Daughters, The Windfallow Chronicles (a double trilogy), self-published; Splinters of Light, yet to be published, and the present autobiography.  A poem, Minnie Remembers, has become a standard tool in the study of gerontology, made into a documentary film by United Methodist Communications, and given the Golden Eagle Film Award.  It has been reprinted in most denominational publications and over twenty-five books. Mrs. Swanson is a Bible scholar and taught adult Bible classes for over forty years.  She began prayer and share groups for women in two area Churches and hosted a teenage “rap” group in her home for four years.  She counts among her mentors college professors, authors and ministers. Donna blogs at Mindsinger.