Pugilism has been a part of my life since I first donned the pair of red, vinyl boxing gloves my dad acquired using my mother’s S&H Green Stamps. My journey continues today through my involvement with the Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil, Haiti. It might not have been that way if it wasn’t for that brash boxer from Louisville who became a great Peace Hero. To him, I fashioned Chapter Four, The Boxer. May he rest in eternal peace.
The first book I penned – The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas – is about the value of a human being told through the experiences of a boxer and a poet – Theagenes of Thasos who won the boxing championship at the 76th Olympiad in 480 BCE and the Greek poet Simonides who wrote the immortal words, “Go tell the Spartans …” I did not choose the story. The story chose me. Ten years after I put the first words of The Olympian to paper, I published a novella – The Sixth Day, A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting – a story of faith told through the exploits of a young boxer in a small, New England town. Again, the story chose me. I am drawn to boxing and the stories that are born in the violent world of pugilism.
A Man of Conviction
Months before my intimate involvement with Team Guepard and the Guepard Boxing Club of Cité Soleil (GBCCS) in Haiti, I had completed a chapter in Tree Rings inspired by Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali was a man who happened to box. Far more importantly, Ali was a man of conviction and a Peace Hero. He inspired millions around the world, he inspired them not to be boxers, but to be men, women and children of conviction. I count myself among them. I think of Ali often and remember how important he was to my life and to the lives of so many others.
Things You Should Never Forget
At nearly 4,000 words, The Boxer is the longest chapter to date. I look forward to presenting it to you next week. Indeed, as Elie Wiesel tells us, “To forget denies the relevance of the past.” I sincerely hope that the images I include in Tree Rings, encourage you to remember images from your past and to recall things and people that should never be forgotten.
As a young boy the first thing I ‘wanted to be’ when I grew up – other than a cowboy, of course – was an archaeologist. Things ancient and old have fascinated me since childhood. I believe there is a spiritual connection between those who created things we now call antiquity and us. I can look at this mural from Lascaux and be one with the person who painted it.
The resiliency and strength of women have always amazed me. I dedicated my first book The Olympian to my Babcia, the strongest person I ever knew. The inner strength of a woman faced with challenge is most evident in this photograph of Florence Owens Thompson taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936.
In 2011 as I was writing Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, I was commissioned by Black Mesa Publishing Company to write a West Point football trivia book. The book is divided into five sections, and each section required a short introduction. I decided to write about five West Point football players who graduated and went on to make a more important impact on the world stage.
- Dwight Eisenhower
- Omar Bradley
- Douglas MacArthur
- Robin Olds and
- Bill Carpenter
I offer these stories on this 2017 Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Stories
“The mother is adept at many things. She is very good at making babies, better still at caring for them. She has, does and will continue to do whatever is necessary to provide for their needs and to secure a future despite how hopeless that endeavor may seem at times like this. She will not allow Desperation a foothold.”
from Tree Rings
I am pleased to present the first installment of my new book Tree Rings. There is not a man I know born in my generation who did not at one time in his youth yearn to be a cowboy. Chapter One is inspired by the work of American painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer Frederic Remington (1861 – 1909).
A decade ago, I first saw the photograph commonly referred to as “The Last Jew in Vinnitsa.” It rekindled my interest in things Jewish that was first fired when I was a young boy. My father’s best friend, Louie Green was a Jew and we shared Passover with his family, and they, Easter dinner with ours on those few occasions when we weren’t with Babcie, Auntie and Aunt Sadie.
Within months after first staring into the eyes of the would-be ‘last Jew,’ I learned about Witold Pilecki, the Pole who volunteered to infiltrate Auschwitz, and his report led me to Bronisław Czech. Three years later, I published The Hamsa in 2010.
Early in 2017, I found myself staring into that unnamed man’s eyes once again, and I remembered something I read by Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel.
“To forget means to deny the relevance of the past.”
Inspired by Elie Wiesel’s words, in February, I initiated a new manuscript I’ve titled Tree Rings. I explain it this way …
“Life lives in images. In photographs, finger paintings, watercolors, petroglyphs, oils, and charcoals …. Pictures embrace memory like tree rings, memories held not as captives but as free spirits willing to reveal their secrets to those who care to examine them, to relive them, the good and the bad.”
Tree Rings is a series of essays inspired by images.
As I complete chapter eight, I’ve decided NOT to publish the manuscript as a book. I’ve decided to present it on this website as a series of monthly essays. Beginning in May 2017, I will post one chapter of Tree Rings every month as a downloadable PDF so that you can read it on your tablet, computer, smartphone, etc. whenever the muse moves you.
Thanks for your continuing support. I hope you will enjoy this series of essays. The eight chapters I’ve completed range from 750 words to 2,500 words and each is accompanied by the image that inspired it.