2 Writing Publishing Opportunities

There is a new climate change-focused website that is publishing prose and poetry. It is called XR Creative and can be found at https://www.xrcreative.org. I got a message from the Joplin Writers’ Guild about the new site so I submitted a story called Golden Child about a young boy during the climate crisis. If you want to submit prose or poetry, they are accepting entries. Check it out! Great stories and great opportunity to get published and share your ideas.

Also, I submitted 2 stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Remember these fantastic books in the 90s? I had several of them and I still have the Mother edition today. Love these books. I wrote a story about Christmas and one about dogs. The submission deadline for most of the Chicken Soup books is around March or May 2022. The website is super easy to use. Check it out at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story.

More Enviro-friendly Vermont

We moved to Vermont from Kansas.

The first thing we noticed when we moved here is we had to bring bags with us everytime we went shopping. Gone were the days of Walmart plastic bags. I no longer store a giant plastic bag of little Walmart bags at the house. It took a while but we got used to it. Humans are creatures of their environment. Set the conditions right for them and they will adapt.

Second, we no longer found the fountain drink stations at the local gas stations. Those were practically gone too. They were replaced by water or coffee. We noted people are generally skinnier here too. Perhaps this is correlated.

Not a lot of people throw trash outside their vehicles here either we noted gladly as we live on a country road now in the mountains.

We started recycling more too. Most folks here haul their own trash and recycling apparently to the dump and station on Saturdays. We weren’t that motivated yet. So we paid the extra for trash and recycling pickup. At first, we piled a lot into the recycling bin. The recycling company had to send us a flyer more than once to be more discerning on what we kept. I think I’m still learning on this cause my husband now sorts through what I put in the bin and corrects it. Adaptation can be slower for some creatures than others.

The state of Vermont pays grants for homeowners to go solar energy. Other than that, we noted folks around here like outdoor activities: fishing, hiking, kayaking, etc. There’s a real pretty lake 9 miles away that has a beach for swimming but gone are the recreational boats like pontoons and ski boats. They must have some environmental law against them or something.

There are a few places with windmills but nothing like the quantity we saw in Kansas. As far as I know, I didn’t see the use of nuclear energy plants up here either.

Overall Vermont is quiet and peaceful. There’s a general feeling when you move here of do not disturb this pristine place. Now I understand why Vermonters are not superfond of tourists and especially folks from Massachusetts for some odd reason. The only Mass folks they seem to like up here are the Afflecks and Matt Damon. Everyone else…not so much.

Generally folks here seem proud of Bernie Sanders. I noted there’s not a lot of political discussion or angst or ire towards one party or the other. People are polite about differing political views. Being from Kansas, my background gravitates towards more conservative on the spectrum but I do appreciate Sanders fervor and passion to protect the working class folks’ wages and his fight against rising pharmaceutical costs. Just this last week, I was told I had to pay 1,400 for a drug for my husband for 1 month’s supply just because our annual deductible rolled over. Fortunately we used Good Rx but it still cost 560 out of pocket which was awful. I’m 5 miles from Canada. I wish I could go there to get my meds.

Yes, the only real downside here is also the upside….if you work from home. The snow and snow storms make daily commutes a challenge. But if you are a remote worker, you might love it here. Vermont has remote worker grants now and they are increasing their internet access across the state. If you like the environment and the outdoors and work from home, this just might be the ideal place to live. You can get reimbursed up to 7500 dollars to move here if you work for a Vermont business or work from home. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Working with folks from Vermont is ok so far. The work ethic is a little different from Kansas. Maybe it’s just me but people seem more chatty and less nose to the grindstone which is good and bad. Work seems less organized and at times on the verge of chaotic. Maybe it’s just me. When I am home for the weekends, I absolutely love this place but when I return to work…I sorta miss the easy functionality of work operations in Kansas. There’s less oversight there for business, less regulations, less extra red tape and bureaucratic slowdown, and paperwork filing. Working here feels like trudging through snow uphill all the way…a little frustrating and exhausting.

That being said, the worker laws are better here. We have something called state guaranteed sick leave. You can’t do random drug testing on employees without giving them plenty of notice. There are more union activities. I guess that’s good. My sister works at a labor law firm in Kansas City. She says Kansas is the “wild west” “anything goes” in terms of employer rights vs. employee freedoms. I think she might be right based on what I’ve seen in comparison. You wouldn’t know it because it’s not broadcasted much but the region of Kansas I came from, southeast, has some of the poorest counties in the nation cause worker wages are so low there. I’m talking lower than even West Virginia.

My husband loves the snow here. He’s a remote worker. On his days off, he just sits inside on the lazy boy in the warmth and watches it fall like we live in a snow globe. Yesterday we tried cross country skiing and rented a snowmobile. He’s dropped 25 pounds since our move from the Midwest. Me, not so much, maybe 5 lbs. But we are starting to adapt more, slowly but surely…him faster than me but we’ll get there eventually.

The Locket

By J. Speer

Photo by Bruno Castelli on Pexels.com

(This story was written for a dystopian writing challenge. The short story had to be 600 to 2,000 words and involve a silver heart locket.)

Part One


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this…


That was the last thought entering Dawn’s mind as her shocked eyes pulled away from the rearview mirror. In the reflection, she could see the slow pool of blood flowing out from her sister’s abdomen. Liz was crumpled in an unmoving heap on the ground 15 yards behind her. That was as far as Liz had gotten before the robots fired lasers at her fleeing the vehicle.


LIz was dead for certain. Dawn knew this already in her shattered heart. The shadows of drones flew overhead targeting her renegade F390 truck.


Her eyes darted to the glove compartment briefly and then drew back to the gathering robot border patrol guards. Dawn thought of the only weapon she had, an ancient Colt 1911 that had belonged to her father before he was euthanized by the People’s Republic in 2064. This was 17 years prior to this moment….her Dad euthanized at 50 to fertilize soil for the republic crops……euthanized by state mandate like all the other 50 year olds that surrendered their bodies for the greater good. State survival…it was necessary.


The laser sights flickered briefly to show the robots were on to her movements, armed and deadly. Dawn swallowed harshly.


A brief text appeared before her.


“You know what to do.” scrolled the incoming message left to right above her briefly on the digital windshield.
There was another pause as she considered the weight of the silver heart locket on her heaving chest.


“You know what to do.” the message repeated only this time it was followed by a slight command strong enough to stop her beating heart.


“Remember your family back here in Teyhanna.”


A solitary tear fell down Dawn’s right cheek as she continued to stare at the border crossing now filled with reinforcing robotic sentries. No more messages appeared.


Dawn reached quickly for the heart-shaped locket with her left hand. The laser lights flickered again. Four robots forcefully came forward.


“Halt!” They ordered. “You are in violation of ordinance 517.”


She thumbed open the tiny clasp on the locket. Her eyes were glued to the robots coming forward now, fast approaching the vehicle.


She felt the small pill fall into her cupped hand. She remembered what the cartel man had told her. You can’t allow yourself to be captured. If you do fall into their hands, you will wish you were dead anyway. They’ll never let you go. Slavery…prison….fertilizer….worse. You know what to do.


The robots slammed their fists into the hood of her car. Dawn closed her eyes and brought the little pill to her mouth. Then, she swallowed it down. Cyanide. He had said it was cyanide. It will be quick he had said as he had handed her the lockets and walked away from her little brother’s graveside in Teyhanna, the brother that was executed by the same cartel. He had gotten in over his head with the wrong sort of people.


Minutes later, robots yanked open the locked driver side door of the truck. Dawn’s limp, lifeless body fell in a crumpled up heap onto the dry, parched desert ground. When her head hit the ground, her soulless eyes stared towards her sister. A sort-of bluish foam pooled out from Dawn’s breathless lips.

Part Two


One week prior, Dawn was heading out the hatch door of her apartment flat in Drose. She was going to be late for work if she didn’t hurry. She activated her truck from her watch and noticed an emergency alert intercept from her older sister, Liz. Liz – the wise and strategic one who had married into wealth and fortune despite her upbringing…..despite the days of their youth trudging illegally across the desert wasteland between Drose and Teyhanna to reach the promised land. Days without food and barely any water…..days they survived by each holding tight to the hands of their father who kept the little girls safe, alive, and kept them going.


Drose, or rather The People’s Republic of Drose established in 2036 after the nuclear wars and eventual climate change desertification of 3/4 of the Earth’s top soil, depletion of the fresh water sources, and final death, destruction, plague, and general famine of the Great Eradication of 2041 through 2043. It took 3 years for nearly 7 billion people to be wiped off the planet.


Gone.


Drose had survived and so had the badlands of Teyhanna, south of Drose through the searing hot desert. Anything goes in Teyhanna…so they say. It was the wild, wild west of drugs, prostitution, murder, mayhem, black market deals and so on. Teyhanna fueled the abundance of Drose. Drose, for its part, drove the decisions of the overlords of Teyhanna.


Drose, The People’s Republic of Drose, on the otherhand was a model of thinly veiled democracy underlined by totalitarian extremism. There were no families, so to speak, in Drose….not according to the state. Bioparents birthed children who were sent immediately to boarding schools of advanced technology, science, and medicine. Rules were strictly enforced. Slavery and debtor prisons were re-introduced. From the age of 10, all were expected to work together for the greater good of survival and all were expected to help the crop cultivation and soil/water conservation through all means necessary…ALL means necessary.


It was a harsh reality but one much better than life in Teyhanna. Dawn knew this, so she grew up to service the plant industry cultivating seeds in labwork. She was a hard worker…like her father. LIz, on the other hand, due to beauty and charm…caught the attention of one of the higher class. She was not completely like Dawn, a proletariat citizen.
Dawn checked the message. Liz seemed upset which was rarely her outright nature, given that she was quite guarded emotionally.


“John has……I’m sorry to say this, Dawn……John has passed away.” There was a pause on the line. “Mom…she wants us to come home, to come back to Teyhanna for the funeral and to see the family. The funeral is Wednesday.” Another pause on the line followed.


“He was executed by gunshot. Bullet to the head. I’ve decided to go….to go back. I know it’s dangerous. I know this already. I’m going anyways. It’s been years. We need to be there for Mom and the others.”
Liz sighed. “Dawn, I want you to come with me. I need you to come with me.”

Part Three


She could see them from the graveside, the men in black. Everyone was dressed in black at the funeral but they stood out from the rest, these men that had murdered her brother. They had pulled up their entourage of vehicles 100 yards away from the little service among the crowded tombstones of the clustered graveyard. The preacher gave a brief sermon. Others cried tears of hardship and loss feeling the injustice of a life taken violently and too soon.
But Dawn watched the men quietly.


They eventually approached. They offered their condolences to the grieving mother and family. Dawn and Liz looked cautiously at each other as the leader of the group motioned them to follow him to a more distant spot to converse. Knowing this was Teyhanna, knowing the way of life here…..they reluctantly followed. The others from the family were leaving group by group back to their little homes and little lives in the barren, crowded wasteland slums of Teyhanna.
“My condolences to you for the loss of your brother,” he offered in feigned respect. “We had concerns regarding this situation…your brother’s allegiance and fealty to our….operations.”


Dawn felt a rising anger inside herself that she knew not to expose. Without missing a step, the two women fell in line with the overlord’s assistant. He walked a ways in silence and then turned abruptly.


“Our needs have not been met yet,” he said deliberately, cocking his head to one side. “When you return to Drose, you will be required to carry something onward for us….a gift for the magistrate….a package. Do you understand?”
The women said nothing.


“Consider your brother’s debt to the organization cleared when and if you cross the border successfully,” he stated.
He continued to walk and they followed.


“This package will come to you,” he said in a low voice as he motioned to one of his bodyguards holding an assault rifle near the vehicles.


Then he smiled. “You will deliver. Your family here will be counting on you. Understood?”


“It’s simple really. Just deliver the item. If however, you face….opposition…,” his voice trailed. “We will need you to wear these.” He gave the women each a silver plated locket. “There will be no compromising of the course of action. Come, follow me further and we will discuss in more detail.” He motioned once again to his men.


Liz and Dawn continued to listen quite carefully as was to be expected in a violent, notoriously black market place like Teyhanna. A few days later, the package arrived at their mother’s house. Shortly afterwards, the two said their goodbyes and made their way with the package to the border of Drose. Both women had a deeply unsettling feeling of fear but they did exactly as they were told.


They just didn’t anticipate what would soon occur. The package was hidden carefully in the truck undercarriage. But it was not secret enough to avoid exposure to the vehicle imaging scans of those silent, deadly drones overhead.

Part 2: The Importance of the Redneck

I’ve been watching news in India of the farmer protests with some concern. India is one of the big four producers of food for the planet: China, India, Brazil, and the United States. We should be watching what happens more closely as it may impact the world quite a lot.

Although agriculture represents a very small percentage of our GDP, here in America food producers make a large portion of the total world food supply, enough to feed approximately 10 billion people.

Wait a sec. The current world population is 7.84 so why are there famines all over the place?

I’m not sure. There are probably a myriad of reasons including a need for better food systems that prevent spoilage.

The U.S. is first in the world in corn production, third in wheat, fifth in potatoes, tenth in sugarcane, and twelfth in rice production.

Why is the U. S. such a powerhouse for food supply? The geographical and atmospheric conditions for farming here are some of the best in the world and we have the quickly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest groundwater resources in the world. It lies under 112 million acres of land and under 8 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska has the bulk of the aquifer and the deepest areas. The aquifer can go as low as 1,200 feet. About one third of U.S. agriculture is irrigated by this great aquifer. Once depleted, it will take 6,000 years to restore. We are taking way more water out for irrigation than is sustainable at this rate. Expected complete depletion year for the aquifer is around 2060.

America used to be plagued by dust bowls and drought or even severe flooding in the Midwest. Two adaptations after WW2 fixed some of this: dam systems to control flooding more and also central pivot irrigators for better irrigating of crops. Many of these dams now are very old, at least 50 years and were created under the great infrastructure plans of FDR and Eisenhower.

Maybe the answer to our joint economic and environmental concerns here is to initiate another set of infrastructure improvements that will hire many men and women to build or repair civil engineering and environmental engineering projects.

When you look at Kansas, my state, it is still called the bread basket making 400 million bushels a year with two thirds of this shipped to other countries. Kansas is ranked third in cattle and produces the majority of the grain sorghum. In 2017, Kansas produced 5.69 billion lbs. of red meat.

Texas leads the states in number of farms with around 247,000. Missouri is next with 95,000. Iowa is third with 85,300.

When you think of farming, you imagine the Midwest probably. But the top supplier of a whole lot of farm food is California.

The U.S. makes 139.5 billion in food exporting but, as I said earlier, is just one of the big four: China, India, Brazil, and United States.

We should really watch what is going on in India with the farmer protests because it may impact us all. Also, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is a major issue. 2060 is only thirty-nine years away.

How do we sustain a growing world population of 7.84 people with depleting resources, older dams and infrastructure in need of repairs, and political strife involving our food producers as well as our food pickers? This topic involves labor issues in regards to immigration policies too. How do we take care of these immigrants that work in agriculture? How do we create more efficient food systems? These are important issues for the upcoming years.

Can We Just Talk?

By J. Speer

No one knew what caused the green algae to spread across the pond, threatening the lives of the turtle pile.  It happened rapidly.  Some turtles suspected it was the rising temperatures.  No one really knew for sure but what they all knew for certain was that they could no longer stay in the pond as the green algae spread out like tentacles seizing nearly the whole habitat of the pond. 

The green algae were first spotted from the top of the turtle pile and orders were directed down amid the ranks of the turtles to watch that portion of the pond more carefully.  It was also ordered from the top that each turtle, one by one, must climb down from the pile and evacuate to the safety of the embankment.  At the embankment, the turtles assembled into groups based on familial connections.  Meanwhile, Yertle the Turtle at the bottom of the pile in the mud was feeling the pressure of trying to balance the turtle pile as they came down one by one.  He too was looking forward to escaping from the green algae that even he could see now from his low vantage point. 

Yertle had stayed at this low level most of his life.  He was used to the mud and over time he accepted it as his lot in life even as the other turtles shifted up and down all along the turtle pile all day every day.  Yertle really didn’t move up nor did he expect to.  His expectations had grown exceedingly low.  He was used to taking orders and he complied with little resistance. 

When the final turtles had climbed off his back and moved to the embankment, Yertle was happy to perhaps join them as well.  He felt an enormous pressure had been lifted for a time being.  He eyed his family of turtles happily as he trudged forward to the embankment. 

But the top boss stopped Yertle.  He said to Yertle that he needed to stay in the pond.  It was essential to the safety of the other turtles.  They needed food to continue feeding the turtle community and Yertle needed to bring the lilly pads from the pond one by one to the embankment for the turtles to eat. 

Yertle looked reluctantly back at the pond and the lilly pads near the spreading green algae.  He eyed the algae with concern and looked back to the top turtle. 

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Yes,” said the top turtle.  “They need you to stay in the pond.”

Yertle was used to taking orders.  He looked again back to the green algae and then to his own family of turtles waiting on the embankment. 

“Ok,” he said and he slowly turned around to face the pond and wade back in. 

“You won’t be alone,” said the top turtle and he designated two other turtles from the middle of the turtle pile to also go into the pond.  It was a male and female turtle and they were designated the heroes.  They were told to find a way to stop the spread of the green algae on the pond.  The two nodded that they would do the task and then the three turtles went back into the pond together. 

The two turtles got to work right away.  They devised a smart plan to haul old and broken limbs from the nearby forest to the pond.  Using their teeth and working together as a team, they would drag the limbs across the green algae in the pond.  The green algae would then collect onto the limbs and leaves.  Carefully, they would work together to lift the green algae on the broken limbs out of the water and dispose of it far away from the pond in the forest.  They worked tediously day in and day out on slowly gathering limbs and clearing the algae and then disposing of the limbs in the forest.  The hot sun beat down of them as they worked but they never gave up.  They really were hero turtles. 

Meanwhile, Yertle was working just as diligently.  For being a turtle at the lower end of the pile, he was proving to be remarkably resilient and smart in evading the spreading green algae.  He swam about the pond all day long gathering lilly pads in his teeth to slowly take back to the turtle community.  He would get one lilly pad and drop it off at the embankment keeping his distance from the other turtles so he would not put them at risk of the green algae.  Then he would swim back into the pond and move around the green algae to get to another clean lilly pad. 

At first, he was greatly concerned about the threat of the green algae.  But as he worked and worked, he became quite tired and worn out even to the point he almost didn’t care if he got green algae on him.  But he was a smart little turtle and kept trying to be cautious and kept going. 

The three turtles would spend the nights on the embankment but away from the turtle community.  They looked often at their family during these times and their family looked back at them.  Sometimes, during the day, the three turtles would see the turtle community relaxing on the embankment and sunbathing.  They would get a slight twinge of envy but all three turtles kept going without much complaint. 

Things went smoothly until one day as the male and female turtle were dragging a limb across the green algae, the male turtle slipped and fell slightly into the pond very near to the green algae.  The female turtle called out for help as she gripped the end of the limb hard with her teeth.  The male turtle also clung on hard to the limb as best he could and kicked his little turtle legs rapidly to propel his shell away from the threatening algae.  She called again for help through her teeth but the other turtles in the community could not hear her. 

Yertle stopped collecting a little lilly pad and looked up from the pond to see the predicament.  He moved as quickly as a turtle can, which isn’t very fast at all, towards the two turtles.  Together, he and the female turtle backed up and pulled the heavy limb out of the pond. 

“Thank you,” said the little turtles and Yertle just nodded.  Then all three got back to work again. 

It took quite a long time to finally clear most of the green algae from the pond.  In the end, there was a great deal of disposed sticks deep in the forest away from harming the community.  The turtle community and top turtle applauded the three turtles for their effort.  They were all three rewarded with much praise although secretly they each would have preferred an increase in food rations for their families. 

The two hero turtles had erected a dam to hopefully contain as best they could the green algae.  It was not a permanent fix but at least the turtle pile could perhaps return to some semblance of normalcy.  The top turtles indicated to the others in the turtle community that they needed to return to the pile so the top turtles could scout the horizon for predators and other threats.  All the turtles, particularly the ones at the lower end of the pile, grumbled some but reluctantly agreed to go. 

Yertle the Turtle sighed to himself.  He was not ready to go back to the life he had before holding up the turtle pile while he sat in the mud.  It was not much fun and quite heavy and burdensome.  But, Yertle was used to that life and to taking orders so he headed out first from the turtle community to his place in the mud.

The other turtles from the community slowly one by one started to ascend the pile and Yertle could already feel the weight upon him.  He looked down dolefully into the mud. 

“Wait!  Please stop!” said the little hero female turtle and the male hero turtle beside her joined her.

“We’ve been talking an…we don’t think…..” and she looked at the other hero turtle for confirmation and he nodded.  “We think maybe we should talk and find another way to restructure the turtle pile.   And,” she continued slightly hesitantly, “Maybe we should work harder on protecting the pond.”

She looked down at that moment.  The other little turtles were in shock too.  They had always lived in the turtle pile.  They had always done things the way they had done them.  That is all they had ever known and they had never even considered a life beyond the turtle pile.  Nor did they know really what to do or how to start to protect the pond better.    

“I’m just saying, well……I don’t know for sure what to say or how to start this even.”   And she looked again at Yertle.  He nodded back from the mud. 

She cleared her throat and said finally what she was really thinking in her mind. 

“Well, can we just talk?”    

Golden Child

By J. Speer

The sun was dying.  The scientists predicted there would be 15 more years of light and then nothing, just pitch blackness.  The galaxy and everything in it would be swallowed within seconds into an ominous black hole never to return.  As a result of the dying light, our world was ceasing to thrive.  It was grey.  The sky and clouds no longer bore their blue brilliance.  The trees were nearly all gone.  The only plants that grew in this dystopian future were created and maintained artificially.  They were precious and few.  They were devoted to the harvest to feed the population.  No parks existed, no gardens, nothing but concrete and clustered apartment buildings in this portion of old Chicago.  The year was 3049.

The United States had long since divided into tribal regions.  Chicago resided in the upper lakes quadrant and was the capital of quadrant 4.  Chicago was one of the oldest and still most productive capitals among the 6 quadrants.  

The former United States capital of Washington D.C. had been blown up in the World War of 2025.    Much of the West Coast had fallen into the Pacific Ocean after the great rumblings and massive Super volcano eruption of Yellowstone.  Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and much more of the Midwest were obliterated.  What wasn’t destroyed by the massive lava flows was devastated by the ash fallout.  Chicago sat on the new edge of humanity.  It was the farthest city west.

The tribal quadrants were run by Councils rather than a Congress and House of Representatives.  Certain activities were not permitted following the great wars including the practice of any type of religion, even meditation.    

Chen Li knew this and he also knew the consequences of his actions in Apartment 502 of the fifth floor of 1417 E Centennial Drive in Southside Chicago.  Chen Li lived in what was popularly referred to as the slums.  All the housing was low income and each apartment was heavily populated.  Chen Li often looked out from his balcony at the despairingly bleak grey of the sky, the polluted smog, the grey apartment buildings as far as the eye could see, and the other tenants as they engaged in their daily activities of work and play.  Everything was grey.  The clothes were grey.  The rooms of the apartments were grey.  It was an entire landscape of grey devoid of much color. 

Chen Li worked as a book collector and book shop owner in the basement of a downtown Chicago building.  It was an older rummage shop full of musty worn books and other items that time had long since forgotten.  In the digital future, these artifacts of the past were considered undesirable or unnecessary.  So, Chen Li generally had very few customers.  Folks occasionally stopped into the shop out of curiosity and left quickly.  Others who shared Chen Li’s fascination with literature would, from time to time, stop in for a particular find.  But, otherwise, Chen Li was left alone which he actually preferred.  This gave him time to delve into the books with great enthusiasm. 

He had acquired a particular book through the underground market several years ago.  He read it in secret at the shop before and after work in order to not get caught.  Then, one day, he hid it in a leather briefcase and took it home.  It lay at the very back of the bookcase behind four other books on Architecture.  These were big and bulky books that were quite tedious reads but the hidden book…. that was the real treasure.  He had memorized parts of the book completely and begun to put it into practice.        

The door was locked.  Chen Li could hear occupants of the building run up and down the stairwell from time to time.  But he focused on clearing his mind, emptying out his thoughts and his being until there was nothing but the rhythm, the sound of the vibration emanating from his soul.  He went deeper and deeper into the sound until his third eye slowly opened. 

He began to travel in his mind through doorways and walls, through apartments and windows, searching and searching as he had done often lately.  He had stumbled upon this ability of recent and was still mastering the art of this meditative state.  He wanted to expand out his vibrations to others, those that would be receptive to the call.  He had been surprised to learn that the most receptive were the young children, ages 2 to 6.  So that day, Chen Li used his third eye to find the children that were alone in their grey dull rooms playing with their grey dull toys and dressed in their grey dull clothes. 

Chen Li first found a little 4-year old girl who was sitting on her bed and reading.  She had a very light blue aura surrounding her.  Chen Li raised his vibration to permeate the walls of the little room until the girl stopped reading.  She sat very still at first.  She could hear the ringing first in her right ear.  This had happened to her before.  She sat very, very still then because she knew if she listened harder and sat very still the ringing would increase and take over her body in vibration.  She did not understand it but she knew that it made her very happy and it felt like home.  She would sit still and let the vibration increase until her aura turned from light blue to blue, to purple, to pink, to rainbow.  The little girl felt the vibration for a good three minutes, holding it inside in a state of bliss, until it slowly faded away and then was gone.  Whatever it was, it made her feel better and she continued to her reading reluctantly, wishing the sound would come back.  But she was happier.  That was all that mattered. 

Chen Li searched for more children.  He liked to do this for them, to give them a moment of happiness in an otherwise bleak existence.  Throughout that evening, he searched the neighborhood raising the vibrations of 16 little children until they each glowed with a rainbow aura. 

Chen Li had been doing this in secret, in fact, every Saturday evening for several months.  It was not until he encountered the little boy in Apartment 133 of building 1419 that evening, that Chen Li questioned whether it was right or wrong.  He felt, however, in his gut that it was a noble thing to reach out to the little ones giving them happiness, that someday this would prove its merit.  He had no idea how important this would turn out to be.    

This little one had no family except his mother from what Chen Li could gather.  His bedroom was even more depressing than the others with barely any possessions at all.  The boy with curly brown locks sat coloring at a little table.  His aura was different from the others.  Chen Li noticed that it was even darker, almost to black itself.  Chen Li watched the despondent boy for a good five minutes before reaching out with his vibrations.  It took thirty minutes for Chen Li to break the barrier of the dark aura.  The boy paused his coloring and finally heard the distant sound.  He lifted his head and stopped coloring.  The vibrating sound entered his left ear and he held the sound in his mind.  The vibration filled his whole body.  He felt a strong tingling sensation from head to toe and traveling up his spine.  The dark aura slowly changed to light blue, and purple, and pink and……. that is when the boy started reacting differently. 

He closed his eyes in bliss and began to hum to the sound within him and all around him that enveloped him in happiness.  His humming grew louder and louder and Chen Li watched in surprise as his aura field expanded out further and further from the room, from the apartment, and from the building itself.  The pink aura changed to rainbow and then as the humming vibration increased dramatically, the color changed once more………a final time………to gold.  From that point, the aura field exploded into the sky. 

Chen Li’s third eye closed tightly.  He was thrown off balance and backwards.  In shock, he stood up and hurried to the balcony.  All the power in the city was out.  There was only darkness and the surprised and somewhat terrified voices of the other tenants.  Chen Li tried to look towards building 1419 but could not make out much details in the darkness.  He wanted to get a flashlight but was in darkness much himself.  He stumbled around the apartment until he found an old candle and managed to light it.  He went back to the balcony with the light but could see very little. 

He was worried that he would be found out.  The penalty of religious studies was imprisonment.  He stepped back cautiously into the apartment and decided it would be best to wait until the morning. 

The next morning, at sunrise, Chen Li woke to the biggest surprise of his life.  He stumbled out of his bedroom and into the side kitchen for some coffee and was startled to see a flash of green from the window.  He paused to go back to the window and re-examine more closely what he saw.  Outside the window was a small haven of green. 

Chen Li rushed to the balcony and looked down below into the street.  Many other tenants were out looking in shock at what Chen Li was seeing.  Trees.  There were trees everywhere in the little neighborhood for at least three blocks.  Trees and grass and more plants dotted the grey landscape.  He opened the door to the stairwell and ran as fast as he could down to the apartment building entrance.  Near the entrance, he stood in awe under the shade of one very large tree that had busted through the concrete. 

From a distance in another part of Southside Chicago, Chen Li could hear the sound of sirens blaring.  They were coming.  Chen Li looked to building 1419 and then began running towards it.  All around him the other neighbors were out looking at the sudden growth of nature.  He bumped into one person by accident on his way to building 1419.  He apologized as he kept running. 

The little boy with the strange aura was standing on the steps to building 1419.  He was holding the hand of his mother who could not believe what was happening.  Chen Li had been rushing forward but when he saw the both of them, he stopped suddenly.  He did not know what to say or what to do.  The sirens were getting closer.  He had to do something.  He couldn’t run.  Neither could the boy. 

Chen Li sat down on the new grass and broken concrete.  He tried to calm himself again, to clear his mind and empty himself.  He took up the sound again, the low vibration, and gradually his third eye opened. 

The little boy was standing in front of him.  He was smiling and began slightly humming too.  He sat down across from Chen Li and the two reached out hands to each other.  Their palms touched in the air, the little ones resting lightly on the big hands.  The vibration began to take them both over.  The little boy’s eyes were closed but he was smiling and humming.  The vibration was all around them and both their auras expanded out while changing colors.  Meanwhile, from nearby, the other 16 children were gathering from various homes throughout the neighborhood.  They gathered around the two bodies in a circle and raised their vibration too.  A bright rainbow aura expanded out from all of them.  The adults looked at them all with amazement but not truly understanding what was going on.  They could not see the auras.     

The humming from the little boy was getting stronger again.  His whole body glowed and suddenly both Chen Li and the little boy lifted into the air, levitating just above the ground together.  Chen Li opened his eyes in surprise and the little boy smiled mischievously back at him.  Then the little boy laughed slightly as if completely happy.  He then hummed much louder, and the vibration once again exploded out of the beautiful golden aura.  There was again a massive explosion of light and a giant rising phoenix of light and gold rose out of the little boy and twirled three times up into the air above them.  Then it shot right into the sky, through the atmosphere and hurdled directly towards the sun.  When it connected with the sun, there was a big bang of light.  The sun burst into enormous energy again.

 It was no longer dying. 

On Earth, suddenly, the grey was fading away as brilliant hues of blue and purple and yellow and orange burst into the sky.  All across the Earth, green was expanding out across the continents. 

Chen Li looked in wonder at the little boy.  Who just smiled back at him.

“Let there be light,” said the little boy.  He smiled at Chen Li.  Chen Li smiled back at him.  Everyone was looking at them with amazement.  Again, the sirens picked up in the surrounding city.

“We must go,” said the boy.  “We can’t stay here anymore.”  He stood up now and gave his little hand to Chen Li who, likewise stood up.  Chen Li took the little boy’s hand in his own. 

The little boy led him to his mother.  They exchanged smiles.  Then the three walked hand in hand, the little boy in the middle between the woman and man.  They walked down the street amid the broken concrete and trees and disappeared into the beautiful and colorful distance beyond.    

How Much Do You Know About Trees?

National Arbor Day was a few days ago.

Test your knowledge about trees with this short trivia quiz based on information provided by the North Carolina State University Coop Extension website, ncsu.edu.

1.  How many varieties of trees are there estimated to be in the world?

A.  23,000     B.  10,000      C.  16,000     D.  1,000

2.  A tree can absorb how many pounds of carbon dioxide a year?

A.  20    B.  30     C.  14    D.  48

3.  Tree parts are added to which of the following products?

A.  ice cream     B.  chewing gum     C.  coffee      D.  all of the above

4.  Each year, the average person uses how much tree wood and paper?  Enough for a tree this tall  _________.

A.  1,000 ft     B.  100 ft      C.  10 ft     D.  10,000 ft

5.  True or False.  Trees are the largest living organism on the planet.

6.  How old can a live oak live to be?

A.  84 years     B.  50 years    C.  100 years    D.  500 years

7.  True or False.  A tree is a natural battery.

8.  95% of a tree is composed of these 6 elements:  carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and ___________.

A.  iodine     B.  magnesium     C.  chromium     D.  sulfur

9.  True or False.  If a birdhouse is hung on a tree, it moves up the tree as the tree grows.

10.  True or False.  The age of the tree is determined by growth rings inside the tree.

11.  True or False.  The pattern of growth for a typical tree is root growth in Spring, foilage growth in Summer, and trunk growth in Fall/Winter.

12.  True or False.  Tree roots are deep in the soil.

Answers:  1-A, 2-D, 3-D, 4-B, 5-True.  Coastal Redwoods can reach 360 ft tall.  6-D, 7-True.  They are batteries because they trap sun energy and convert it.  8-D, 9-False.  The birdhouse stays where it was placed.  10-True.  Also, the spacing in between growth rings can tell the history of the tree, such as environmental conditions that affect it -fire, drought, cold, etc.  11-False.  Foilage in the Spring, trunk in the Summer, roots in the Fall/Winter.  12- False.  The roots are only in the top 12 inches of the soil.