Impossible Dream
Henry Arnold as Quixote and Reuben Ruskin as Sancho

Impossible Dream

I received such an outpouring of responses when I published this story on my newsletter a month ago that I thought I would share it on my Facebook pages. I was lucky man to be born into the Bud and Bernie Arnold family. Here is a little “coming of age” moment when Dad and I did our first show together. Up until this experience I had been looking for a hero in all the wrong places.

I spent some years tossing about in the world. “He’s finding himself,” was the euphemism offered when explaining why I was expelled from or flunked out of more than one educational institution, or “let go” by employers. Not a time I’m proud of, and the strain on family relationships was evident. I needed rescue but didn’t even recognize it. My father did.

When he was cast as Don Quixote in a production of Man of La Mancha, Dad thought his wayward son might benefit from having an experience on stage. In my underdeveloped, idiot brain, Dad’s coolness factor was deficient, but he cast me a lifeline, and got me to audition. In spite of my being solidly mediocre (the bar was low), I landed the role of Paco, muleteer #5.

In the process of rehearsals and performances, I watched how my father took direction, how he paid attention to what was going on around him, how he reacted to what other actors gave him, how he made manifest his physical, vocal, and interpretive choices for his character. He was gradually transforming, and I began to experience my own small transformation.

Dad was leading me into a dream, an “impossible” dream of the possible. Night-after-night I saw my father transform from Henry Arnold into Miguel de Cervantes, and then into Don Quixote as he followed his beautiful quest jousting against evil, seeing the beauty in all things and in all people, even his enemies, until his eventual “stage” death.

When I was a child of four, I was traumatized when I saw my father’s stage death as Billy Bigelow in the musical Carousel. This time I was not traumatized. I was in awe of my father’s skill as an artist who used his imagination to create transcendence, a sublime moment of truth and beauty.

The reestablishment of the father/son filial bond after our Man of La Mancha experience was not an immediate success. Estrangement continued for a few more years. Some of us are not easily rescued. For some, the lifeline for rescue can require miles of coiled threads stretched to the limit. But in time, I came to realize my quest to find a hero was over. He was right in front of me. It was Don Quixote and my father, for they were inextricably linked.

Me as Paco watching Dad as Quixote vanquish a foe.

 

 

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Barry Scott Made Me A Better Man
Barry as J.J. and Chip as Mark outside the Cathedral.

Barry Scott Made Me A Better Man

My dear friend passed into eternity a year ago. We spent so much time together on and off stage telling stories, sharing burdens, dreaming of heaven. In this one-year anniversary of Barry shuffling off his mortal coil, I want to share the final story Barry shared with me just a few days before he left us.

The last time we spoke just days before his passing he said, “I got a story for you.” He was energized. His voice was a mere rasp of its former power, but the joy he was feeling at the moment gave him strength. “You ever heard of the Kings of Junk?” I told him no. “They came to my house today. I had a bunch of stuff in my garage and they came to clean it out. A few minutes before they were to arrive, I went out to the garage to open it up. I had to climb about three steps to get to the door to unlock it. I got to the bottom step and I couldn’t lift my leg to start to climb up. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t climb. I didn’t have the strength and my brain wasn’t communicating to my leg. So I sat down and used my arms and climbed up the steps backward on my butt. But when I got to the door, I couldn’t stand up. So I sat there and waited for the Kings of Junk to arrive.

Two Old Men Talking

When they arrived the man in charge came around to the side entrance and I told him the situation. He asked what he could do for me. I told him I need to be carried into the house. So the King of the Kings of Junk wrapped his arms around me and lifted me up and he helped me back into my house. Once in the kitchen, the King held me against his chest. He just held me, until he gently sat me down in a chair. Then he knelt in front of me and looked into my face, really looked at me. He saw me, saw inside of me, saw the broken me, and he said, ‘Can I do anything else for you, Mr. Scott?’ I swear, Chip, it was like I looked into the face of Jesus.”

I told Barry this story would be added to his collection of great stories. He needed to tell that story. He said I needed to come to church and we would tell our stories together. I said, who would listen to two old men telling stories? He said, “Men need to hear our stories together. Men need to tell their own stories to one another. Men need to hear and know that they are loved by God and that they are loved by us. Men need to look other men in their eyes and ask is there anything else I can do for you? Men need to know that in weakness they have strength, in pain they have power, in sorrow they have joy, and in God they have love everlasting.”

I miss my dear friend, but I will see him again. Death has its sting, but it is not forever.

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Whole Lotta K-LOVE
The K-LOVE Summer Reading List for 2021

Whole Lotta K-LOVE

How many times have you said it or heard other people say they don’t like surprises? This phrase is as common as the head cold. Merriam-Webster defines surprise as “an unexpected or astonishing event.” I’ve had my share of those events, and not all of them pleasant.
Front Cover of the novel

 

I love author Alice Walker’s quote, “Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.” So when the occasional surprise finds me, and it also happens to be an enjoyable one, I try to “live” on it sparingly and appreciate the joy that comes with it.

I received some news that was totally unexpected and it astonished me. The K-LOVE Radio Network has placed my novel, “A Voice Within the Flame” on it’s recommended summer reading list. So grateful for the shout-out, and I am humbled and honored to be on a list with such esteemed authors. I will live frugally on the pleasurable taste of this surprise for as long as I can.

 

The K-LOVE Summer Reading List for 2021

If you are still looking for that summer read, then “A Voice Within the Flame” might be your cup of tea. This is the first volume in my historical/biblical fiction series entitled “The Song of Prophets and Kings.”

In this first volume, we take a 3,000 year leap back to the tenth century B.C., when prophets and kings vie for power in ancient Israel. Royal dynasties clash with prophets of God in a brutal and bloody time; a time of conflict between religion and politics, between God and man. “A Voice Within the Flame” is now available in ebook, print, and audio book wherever books are sold.

Look for the second installment in this series, “Crown of the Warrior King”, to be released by WhiteFire Publishing on December 1, 2021.

Also, it’s never too late to sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter: http://henryoarnold.com/subscribe/ 

Enjoy your summer. Stay curious. And keep reading.
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A Family Tradition
Whitland Ave. July 4th, 2021; Photo by Michael Scott Evans

A Family Tradition

Nantie singing her heart out.

A family tradition began 44 years ago on Whitland Ave in Nashville, Tennessee. My father and mother were a part of a small group of people who wanted to celebrate each July 4th in a special way. Over the years the program varied, which included my sister Nan Gurley singing patriotic songs.

But there was always one constant: my father would read from the Declaration of Independence while members of the Nashville Symphony would play Aaron Copeland’s “Ode to the Common Man.”
When Dad departed this life, the mantle was passed to me. I still wear the shirt he wore, read the same words he read, and experience the same thrill he experienced each year. I could not be more proud of my parents, Bud and Bernie Arnold, and the great legacy they left their family and the community they loved.
A shout-out to Wayne Gurley for the photo of Dad at the July 4, 2000 celebration (his last time), Nan Gurley in 2018m and to Michael Scott Evans for this cover photo of me at the 2021 July 4th celebration at Whitland Ave.
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My Fiery Gizzard Epiphany
Pre-Epiphany

My Fiery Gizzard Epiphany

It was a Dad/Daughter time to celebrate Father’s Day. Our hike had been planned for weeks, and I had dreamed of taking this trek forever. A few years ago one spring, I did a solo hike from the Fiery Gizzard trail-head, beyond Sycamore Falls, up to Dog Hole trail following the ridge to Raven’s Point, and then down into the gorge circling back along the river. This section of the trail is beautiful but rugged. The ranger warned I’d be climbing over rocks and boulders beside the river, and that the trail was not well marked. He spoke truth. A few times the path disappeared into the landscape and I had to backtrack to find the blazes marking the trail. On one of my wrong turns, the ground was so wet from spring rains, that what I thought was a trail began to give way, and I had to grab a sapling to keep from sliding down the hill into the river. All a part of the great adventure.

One of many scenic waterfalls

To be able to trek the length and breadth of the trail required us to park a vehicle at either end. From the Foster Falls entrance to the Fiery Gizzard trail-head is thirteen miles, and when you add the spur trail to Raven’s Point, which we did, the hike is fourteen miles. This trek offers the verdant splendor of forests so thick that the sunlight struggles to get through, scenic overlooks along the tops of mountain ridges that inspires dreams of a homestead with a back porch full of rocking chairs, and gorges that descend so deep you swear you’ve stepped into the imagination of Jules Verne in “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” What better companion to take on this Father’s Day hike than my daughter, Lauren.

I am a firm believer in preparation, especially when it comes to planning hikes. While no Boy Scout, I do study maps and watch the weather, and try to anticipate any possible contingency. I will bring plenty of water and food, walking sticks, braces for my aging joints, mole skin, extra shoe lace, matches, Swiss Army knife (I still carry the one given me as a wedding present). I even have duct tape wrapped around my walking sticks in case something needs binding; preferably a shoe or an article of clothing and not a broken body part, though a splint could be fashioned if necessary. When trekking solo, I stick my phone in my backpack, but on this day, I chose to leave it locked in my car since Lauren was taking her high-tech phone for picture opportunities. And since we were going to have a vehicle at either end of the trail for our shuttle, I brought along my extra car key.

My car was left at the parking lot at the end of the trail, and we drove Lauren’s van back to the starting point at Foster Falls. Before Lauren locked the van I took out my car keys and dropped the first one into the pouch beside the passenger seat. I remember holding that second car key in my hand and thinking “Aren’t you clever.” Both keys would be safely locked inside Lauren’s van. No chance of losing them on the trail.

One of the deep gorges on our “Journey to the Center of the Earth”

Over hill and dale, down into gorges, huffing and puffing up the steep ascents, fording streams, traversing ridge tops, and continuing on the winding path through thick forests, Lauren and I were having the best time sharing family memories, dreaming of future travels, and solving the world’s problems since we decided for this day our troubles did not exist. Oh, the hubris.

We stopped to have our lunch at Raven’s Point and enjoy the stunning view. It was at Raven’s Point that we learned a significant difference between men and women: when a woman eats a fresh cherry she will politely remove the pit from her mouth with her fingers and discretely toss it away. When a man is ready to discard the pit, he just spits it out, and for extra measure, aims to hit something with it. Some lessons I tried to teach my daughters just didn’t take. Except for the cherry pits, we left our lunch site with no carbon footprint.

It was around mile ten when the epiphany struck. Lauren was in the lead, and when she didn’t hear my footsteps behind her, she turned around to see me frozen in the middle of the trail with an addle-brained expression on my face. Now let me be clear. What I was experiencing was nothing akin to the light that blinded Paul on the road to Damascus, or the flames of the burning bush that lured Moses, or Jacob’s dream of the stairway to heaven. No, my manifestation was more similar with Balaam’s talking ass.

The vision was so vivid: I saw myself standing inside the open passenger door of the Niedlov’s van removing the first car key from my pocket and dropping it into the pouch, and then removing the second key from my other pocket, holding it in my hand for a brief second and thinking, “I sure don’t want to lose this one on the trail, so let’s just leave it with the other one.”

The Resourceful Daughter

Out of concern for her father, Lauren asked what was wrong, and I confessed that I had administered a self-inflicted blow to the back of my head with the stupid stick, and through no fault of her own, she was collateral damage. We were six hours into the hike, so there was no turning back. After expressing some non-church words of self-incrimination, we marched onward. Now was an opportunity to apply the art of solvitur ambulando and solve our dilemma by walking.

There was a lot of daylight left, but still our pace quickened as we played out the worst-to-best-case scenarios. Worst case: hike an extra seven-plus miles at the end of the trail back to Lauren’s car. Best case: hope to find a sympathetic hiker who might be willing to give us a ride. Problem was, we had only seen a couple of people on the trail all hiking in the opposite direction.

Then Lauren had a brilliant idea. My dear friend Steve Brallier and his wife Lynn lived just up the road in Sewanee, Tennessee. I could give them a call, and if they were around, they could meet us at the trail-head and drive us back to Lauren’s car parked at the Foster Falls entrance. Yes, brilliant.

“You’ve got his number, right Dad?”

“Yes, Daughter, Steve’s number is in my contact list on my phone SAFELY LOCKED INSIDE MY CAR!”

We paused once again for a second application of the stupid stick. Another few non-church words expressed, and we walked on in silence.

After a few moments it was Lauren who stopped on the path. She thought she might have Steve’s number saved on her phone when he had called her to place a special order at Niedlov’s bakery back during Covid. She whipped out her phone, found a “hot-spot” for the connection, and voila, Steve’s number appeared. The call was made. Three rings, and we heard Steve’s incredulous voice, “Lauren, is that you?” Yes, my friends, Steve had also saved Lauren’s number. All hail technology.

I quickly make my confession, and just as quick, Steve laughed and said, “Sounds like you hit yourself with the stupid stick.” Nothing like the insult of a best friend to keep you humble.

Steve Brallier, our rescuer, though he doesn’t dress like one.

Steve was finishing a round of golf, and Lynn would pick him up. They would meet us at the Fiery Gizzard trail-head.

Speaking of best friends, I want to digress a moment and plug Steve’s book “Mitaka’s Secret.” Six years ago Steve and Lynn sat at our table, and over a long dinner, told us how they came to this incredible story. In the ensuing years Steve would occasionally read me a new chapter that he and Lynn had researched and written. This is a true story, brilliantly told. Release date is July 20, 2021, and will be available wherever books are sold.

The lesson learned from my Fiery Gizzard Epiphany was that all the preparation I need for these hiking adventures is to include my resourceful daughter who knows how to take care of her old man. And, of course, be lucky enough to have a best friend who lives nearby and will happily come to your rescue. Priceless treasures both.

Dad/Daughter – After rescue

Kay is always my first reader. When I came in this morning from exercise, I heard laughter from our bedroom. I walked into the room and found her holding the draft of this story. She looked at me and said, “This is so you.” I guess after all these years I have become predictable.

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The Interview

In the early days of 2021, I had the privilege to doing a podcast interview with Alison Treat. Ms. Treat has a wonderful podcast devoted to historical fiction, and she invited me to talk about the publication of my novel, “A Voice Within the Flame,” on her show. It was a free-wheel conversation about a writer’s life, and the long and winding road of bringing this novel and the book series “The Song of Prophets and Kings” into the world.

So if you’ve got a few minutes to listen and are curious about the process of how this novel made it into publication, click this link below and listen while you are cleaning the house or taking a walk in the woods or just relaxing. As always, I appreciate your time and interest in my work. There is a special pleasure I have when I know something I have created has brought a little joy into someone’s life. Thank you.   http://alisontreat.com/2021/06/17/biblical-fiction-of-prophets-kings-with-henry-o-arnold/

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I Married a Queen
Kay Patton as football Homecoming Queen, 1970

I Married a Queen

I married a queen, not one of royal pedigree, but of the hometown variety. She was Homecoming Queen not once but twice at her local high school. I began courting the queen about eight years after she wore her crowns, and within six months of courtship, I started plotting and scheming my marriage proposal.

Renoir

I’m a romantic by nature so it was important to set the right atmosphere for the occasion. I got out of rehearsal early that day and went by Kay’s office to get the key to her apartment. She had a fireplace, and I wanted to take full advantage of the ambiance a fire would offer. It was her birthday, and I planned to cook the one dish I knew how to prepare, Beef Stroganoff. Weeks earlier, while cruising antique stores, Kay had pointed to an early 20th century, American crafted nightstand she liked, and while her back was turned, I bought the piece and picked it up a few days later. (This nightstand resides on her side of the bed and holds a stack of books a foot high.) I placed the nightstand beside the fireplace and set a scroll of a sonnet I had written on top tied with a strip of lace. I’m no Shakespeare, but I could improve on the greeting card doggerel for this occasion. I believed what I had written would up the “wow” factor and help seal the deal along with a bottle of Merlot, some Grover Washington (the stereophonic sounds of a scratchy LP and the crackly popping of burning logs in the fireplace were perfect mood enhancers), and candles.

Renoir

Dinner finished, the fire at a nice glow, a glass of wine consumed, the antique nightstand “ooed” and “ahhhed” over accompanied by a nice kiss on the cheek, the sonnet read followed by another kiss, this time on the lips, and did I detect a little moisture in her eyes at the tender care I was demonstrating on her birthday? O how she was in for the biggest surprise of all. It was carpe diem time, and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. I sat down on the carpet in front of the fireplace, shifted around to face her, our legs crisscrossed beneath us, and took her hands in mine.

Now here is the moment in every romantic film where the music swells and the characters speak the predictable dialogue and respond with predictable reactions. But my “Would you marry me?” moment did not end with the joyous leap into my arms or the burst of joyful tears. Kay didn’t leap or burst into anything. She didn’t even say anything. Too much shock and awe to her system, I surmised. She bowed her head and her lips began to move. What was that? I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Was this prayer time? Was she consulting God? Couldn’t she have given me the “yes” I expected and then we both could pray? Sure, I wanted God to be a part of all this, but on my terms and in my timing. I had set this stage. I had scripted this scenario. God should just rubber stamp it, right? The romantic mood I had so careful orchestrated seemed to be disintegrating like the crumbling logs in the fireplace. The longer Kay continued in this silent and pious moment, the more my heart began to fill with anxiety. Was she talking to God just to avoid answering the question? Was she talking to God for an answer to the question? A wiser man would have sat quietly and waited. Instead, I blurted,

“Either tell me now that you’re going to marry me, or I’m leaving.”

STOP SCENE!

Here is a perfect example of going up to the edge and jumping off, and to make it worse, using a terrible line of dialogue to launch myself into this abyss of my own design. What was I thinking? It is as painful to recount as it is to watch, however, watch we must.

RESUME SCENE!

There was no mistaking the tears in her eyes this time. The moisture on her cheek glistened in the firelight as she raised her head and whispered,

“Well, I guess you’ll have to go then.”

A wiser man would take a step back, take a deep breath of clean oxygen to clear his head, and maybe, just maybe, if he had only a fraction of the wisdom of say, anyone above middle-school age, he might admit that his brash and hasty, and BRAINLESS ultimatum, was spoken in jest or make up any excuse for blurting out something so outrageous. You would think that, right? Wrong. “Hoist with his own petard,” as Hamlet says of his Uncle Claudius’ knavery, which is to say, “He shall blow himself up.” Subtlety of action is not my strong suit. In my mortified condition, I untangled my legs, grabbed the half-empty (not half-full considering my state of mind), bottle of wine, and stormed out the door. I would finish the Merlot alone, thank you very much.

For what felt like an eternity, I remained in the “cone of silence.” Not only did I not speak with Kay or any of our friends, I stopped going out all together. I only went to the theatre for rehearsals and performances and then back to my cabin in the woods where I would look out my window and lick my self-inflicted wound. I shed a lot of tears. I uttered a lot of prayers. I walked for hours through the woods and pastures where I lived. The isolation was discomfiting and only contributed to my gloom.

At some point in my misery the intervention came; a call from my sister. The news of my abrupt departure had traveled through the grapevine by way of mutual friends. Does my dear sister ask me how I’m feeling? Does she commiserate? Does she inquire after my side of the story and stick up for me? Does she offer encouragement? No. After all this time I can still provide the exact quote of her brief statement: “Big brother, you are the biggest fool in the world if you let Kay Patton get away. Get on your knees now and crawl back to her and beg her forgiveness.” Click, and like that, the phone line was dead.

Kick a guy while he’s down. No mercy; a trait my sister will use anytime she is confronted with her big brother’s foolishness. I waited a few hours allowing her words to stew, and finally, I did get on my knees, I did crawl, but only back to the phone, and dialed Kay’s number. After admitting my idiotic performance that night in her apartment was a huge mistake, I did ask for forgiveness. My groveling was the most honest actor’s performance I had ever given. No fabricated emotion. I was “in the moment” as we actors say when actor and character are unified in perfect harmony of expressing truth, and this moment was raw and real. And Kay’s response? She was gracious enough to accept my apology and allowed an opening for a second chance.

Then…
…and now

Our reconciliation led us to the altar six months later, and on May 12, 1979, we were wed. Now forty-two years later, we get to celebrate a designated day. But I count myself a most fortunate man to have shared a million joyous experiences with this lady since given a second chance. Oh yeah, and much thanks to my sister, Nan Gurley, for her take-no-prisoners’ phone call, or this day might never have happened.

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Cultural Exchange
Dapper Dad

Cultural Exchange

Most of you know I love being outdoors and hiking on trails both foreign and domestic. Beside the joy of walking through the beauty of nature, I look forward to encounters with fellow hikers. I remember teasing my father once when we were headed out for a day of hiking that I thought he looked “too dapper” for the trail. His reply, “You never know who you might meet on the trail, Son.” Words to live by.

The beautiful Hosts of our Asian feast

We are all smiles in this picture, but I met five of these ladies under a difficult circumstance. On this particular day, I had led a group of men on a nine-mile hike. As we were walking out we met up with two of these ladies who had gotten separated from the other three. They expressed some concern about their friends, but felt the stragglers were not far behind.

Virgin Falls waterfalls

These ladies had read about the great waterfalls on this trail, but had no idea of the length or difficulty of the strenuous hike. When we got to the parking lot, I sent the guys in my group on home. The sun had set and the fading twilight was barely getting through the thick summer foliage of the forest. I told the two ladies that had walked out with us that I would go back for the other three. If I had not returned by dark, they were to call the rescue squad.

Fortunately, I only had to walk a mile when I found the three of them resting on the trail. They spoke little English, but enough to realize that I had been sent by their friends, and those friends were waiting for them in the parking lot. I was able to explain that I was familiar with this trail, and that even in the fading light, I would be able to escort them back to their friends.

It was completely dark when we made it to the parking lot. It was a happy reunion for everyone even in our exhausted state. Before I could slip away, they ladies insisted that I give them my phone number. “We cook for you. We cook for you and your wife.”

I was not sure this would happen, but within a few weeks, I got the call with the invitation. And so, Kay and I spent an afternoon with our five new friends along with some bonus friends. We feasted on a meal of Asian cuisine fit for royalty.

The blessing of a “chance” encounter led to the pleasure of new friendships. Dad’s words took on new meaning, a deeper almost prophetic meaning. “You never know who you might meet on the trail, Son.” Yes, words to live by.

And if you still would like to sign up to receive my bi-monthly newsletter, launch date is April 1st (No, it is not a Fool’s trick) click: http://henryoarnold.com/subscribe/ 

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Conversations at the Crossroads
Moi at Lake Huwea, South Island, NZ

Conversations at the Crossroads

There is a well-worn path in the back field behind our house. When Covid shut down the world, including our local gym, I took to doing laps around the perimeter of our acreage. The gym has since reopened, but I have enjoyed cutting large repetitive circles on terra firma and not jogging on machines with conveyor belts or on Nordic tracks so much that I have yet to re-up at the gym. May not for a while…may not at all.

I have traded in the sounds of heavy-metal cranked up to motivate faster fat-burning, or multiple screens of cable commentators or infomercials, or the audio spillage from the personal earbuds used by those on either side of me, not to mention the huffing and puffing from their accelerated heart-rates, for the early-morning sounds of the outdoors. I hear the wind in the trees, the chirping birds, lowing cattle, the scolding honks of Canadian Geese as I pass by the pond—it must not register in their little goose brains that they are the trespassers—my own footsteps crunching along the worn path. Funny how my soul wakes up a little brighter with sounds of nature. From this clarity has come a plethora of ideas, and voila, a newsletter is born. What? Another newsletter you didn’t know you wanted and can’t live without? Too much oxygen to the head, you say. Well not so fast.

Yours Truly on the Routeburn Trail, South Island, NZ

The title “Conversations at the Crossroads” comes from the prophet Jeremiah in chapter six, verse sixteen: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” Who of us does not face daily crossroads, desire good and wise council, and need peaceful rest for our souls?

My world-view is seen through the lens of an artist. It’s the way God cut me out of the miry clay, and I was offered two skills on my way out the door: acting and writing. I’ve tried to use those skills well, keeping in mind the physicians’ oath to “first do no harm.” These talents were not given to me solely for trade-craft as I slogged through life making a living. Through these gifts, I believe the Almighty was offering a wider, more inclusive vision for my future, if I chose to walk that path.

Ah, the good old days when the typewriter was the only technology I needed

Beginning soon, you can receive my bi-monthly newsletter. Click onto my website: www.henryoarnold.com  or sign up directly here http://henryoarnold.com/subscribe/  The first and fifteenth of every month “Conversations…,” will arrive in your in-box. The content will be wide-ranging: art, literature, insights into biblical themes and narratives, theatre, film travels, and family dynamics, each one written through the lens of my personal stories and life struggles. The newsletter will offer updates of my literary and acting projects, and first-look scoops of content from my books. For videos promoting my books and performances, I will use my Facebooks pages and my YouTube channel.

“Conversations at the Crossroads” encourages considerate engagement via email. Send comments to: henryoarnold3rd@gmail.com  

But remember, thoughtful brevity goes a long way should you choose to comment. With an open mind and heart toward others, I take the responsibility to be kind, genuine, vulnerable, and forgiving, practicing the “treat others as you would like to be treated” principal. “Conversations at the Crossroads” will be an honest window into my life as human being. You will read about many stumbles and struggles in my life, but my hope is that we might affirm one another as we trek those “ancient paths” together. I love a good conversation while walking, so I hope you will join me.

Design by Jillian LaFave/Robotic Fox
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Ancient Voices; Part Trois: Walk With Me

I have written often in the past of my hiking adventures. Taking journeys on my own two legs is a preferred choice of travel. Themes from “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman has always fueled the wanderlust in my bloodstream.

Walt Whitman

I love the company of other trekkers, but also enjoy the solitary walk. There are those trails that are favorites that I go back to time and again just to be among the familiar: the landscape, the water falls, the rock formations, the twists and turns of the path through thick forests, but mainly I return to remember. To remember and process the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings that might have driven me to this trail. To remember the companions who walked with me, our conversations, our laughter, a shared meal.

Father and Son

A cherished memory of hiking my favorite trail is with my two brothers and our father. It was a few years before he died, and he was struggling to make the final ascent at the end of the trail. We had to stop more often than usual for Dad to catch his breath. In one of those restful moments, Dad said, “Boys, this may be the last time I can do this trail.” It was, and since then every time I make that final ascent on that trail, I think of my Dad and my brothers.

There is always an extra thrill of finding a trail that is new to me, every step taken into the unknown, every view is new, every smell and sound is fresh and different to my senses. I am able to imagine myself (or trick myself), into thinking that I am the first to trod this path, to see these wonders of nature. There is a heightened expectation and a marveling. There is also a level of trepidation with each new trail taken: come upon some scenic wonder that would take my breath away by its splendor or come upon something that might do me harm. To be awed by the sight of an avalanche tumbling down the snow-capped mountains or to freeze in fear at the rattlesnake stretched across the path. I am blessed with wonderful collected memories of trekking adventures. Still there is so much I have not experienced in the creation of God.

There are many words I love to speak and hear spoken, but there is one simple phrase that elicits a special thrill when I hear it or speak it: “Walk with me.” It makes me feel like a kid again when my friends would come to the house and shout, “Come out and play.” With each invitation, I bolted out the door knowing anything could happen that might bring pleasure or danger, and for me, growing up, there was plenty of both.

God shows Abraham the path of a new journey

Such an invitation was given to Abraham, through whom the nation of Israel would come into existence. In essence, Yahweh said to Abraham, “Come out. Walk with me.” It was an invitation to leave behind everything and everyone he knew and take a new trail with new landscape, new skies, and new companions. All that was familiar and comfortable would be abandoned, yet for Abraham the invitation was irresistible.

Some two thousand years later Jesus made a similar invitation to a couple of guys walking a familiar road after the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. The two men were discussing the recent events of what they had assumed and hoped might be a big change in the fortunes of Israel. These two had put their hopes on a “prophet, powerful in word and deed…,” who they believed would set Israel free from oppression. Instead, the prophet was crucified. “Walk with me,” Jesus offered, and they did. The two men had no idea as to the identity of their companion. They accepted the invitation of a stranger. Turned out this unknown person was a Master Teacher who put into context all the biblical writings “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,” why this “powerful prophet” they were lamenting had been crucified. The peripatetic lecture given by a mysterious stranger along a hot, dusty trail proved life changing for these two men. And it began with a simple invitation to walk.

Hiking with Jesus

In the Old Testament Bible, between Abraham and Jesus, Yahweh extended many invitations to the prophets to “walk with me.” These prophets were not just mouthpieces giving forth oracles. They were the equivalent of artists in our modern day. Certainly they were artists in their use of language, of having visions and explaining them, of giving performances that revealed the truth of the times, and of affecting culture. Those who witnessed these artistic performances by the prophet/artists had various reactions to what they saw and heard like any audience at any time in history when witnessing a creative work of art. What all these prophet/artist had in common was full-scale devotion to the truth. The words they spoke and wrote, the visions they described, the performances they gave were saturated in the truth. All artists are devoted to the truthful expressions of their observations of the world that come in a variety of art forms. So, in a way, all of us who live artistic lives could be considered prophets.

Forty-five years ago now I heard in my heart what I believed at the time, and still do, to be an invitation from God to “walk with me.” I chose to accept (I’m no special case, the invitation is inclusive), not really knowing the One who was offering me this invitation and certainly not knowing where this long trek would take me, or who my closest companions might be along this journey. Many of these companions have been and still are my fellow artists, and we have created some beautiful and always truthful works together. Many of them have been companions in faith, and what wonderful and enriching activities we have done together to extend grace, mercy, kindness, and compassion to the world.

Chip and Kay; best traveling companion ever

For forty-one of those forty-five years my closest companion has been Kay. I could not have created all the works of performance and literary art without the infusion of her love and devotion. It is impossible to overstate the value of her companionship. The best thing to come out of accepting the “walk with me” offer from God, aside from the personal invitation of rescue and redemption, was the gift of Kay. She was a total surprise. Kay had heard her own “walk with me” invitation, and I had the great good fortune to be included in the deal. We were given the opportunity for our separate paths to become intertwined, at once still separate and yet interwoven; a work of art in itself. All the other works of art I have created pale by comparison.

So the journey continues. At times the traveling has tried my soul. I have felt abandoned and battered. I have been bewildered to the point of anger. I have grieved from loss and cried out from my wounded heart, but I have not once regretted accepting the invitation to “walk with me.” From such experiences true character, deeper faith, and steadfast belief are chiseled into the soul and frees the prophet/artist to shape his and her creations. Future prophetic/artistic creations are ahead for me. Future volumes of “The Song of Prophets and Kings” are in the making as well as other books. Future performances with my fellow artisans will be witnessed. And I leave you with the last lines from “Song of the Open Road” as my own invitation to “walk with me.”

Illustration by Lewis C. Daniel

“Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

 I give you myself before preaching or law;

 Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”

Cover Art by Lewis C. Daniel

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