Author Archives: Tom Schultz

About Tom Schultz

Was there ever a time that I did not love writing? If so, I can’t remember back that far. A decade or so ago, along with other life changes, I started exploring fiction, memoirs, and creative nonfiction to complement my essays. For me, writing is always about the melody and the rhythm, as well as the light and the image. Around the same time, I went to law school as a “nontraditional” (read middle-aged) student. After a couple stressful days in an auditorium at Michigan State University, packed with 1,000 other folks taking a bar exam, I survived and joined the Michigan bar as a newbie lawyer. I have the opportunity to write a lot at the day job, but felt the need for a place to express more creativity than is allowed within the four corners of a legal brief, and to share my feelings with others. Voila! Blogging. When I began, I thought my posts would be all about writing. Serendipity is a gentle goddess, though, and I soon rediscovered my passion for photography. With the aid of my fellow bloggers, I have worked on presenting a vision and, hopefully, conveying a sense of spirit through pictures as well as words. Politics has always been my passion, but not what passes for politics in our time, poisoned as it is with partisan rancor. No thanks, not interested in that scene. Only as we as a society can reintroduce spirituality, in all its emanations and wonder, into the political process (in the broadest sense) can we really extricate ourselves from the swamp and find a path forward. And it would surely help if we could in our journey find faith between men and women, too. The arts suggest to us the hidden potential for change in society. In the distemper of these times, beauty can be subversive. In my writing and photos, I hope to evoke some of the spirit in my favorite art, of all forms.

Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made on

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Hartwick Pines, Michigan

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Summertime Dream on a January Day

In the icy grip of the polar vortex,  a Michigander’s thoughts turn to Spring…

And who shall say–whatever disenchantment follows–that we ever forget magic; or that we can ever betray, on this leaden earth, the apple-tree, the singing, and the gold?

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

Matthaei Gardens, Michigan

Our Toils Obscure and A’ That

The green Armstrong plaid  had once been a fearsome sight along Scotland’s  border, being  the tartan worn by rustlers and ruffians.  Reluctantly adopting a more settled life, later generations of Armstrong men went down into the coal mine dungeons near Edinburgh to eke out a  living for their families.  The course of my family history began when my grandfather Armstrong  glimpsed brighter days in Canada’s West.  His sense of adventure may have been inspired by his cousin’s letters back to the old country from the Canadian frontier, filled with yarns spun from scouting a passage for the Canadian Pacific Railway through the forbidding barrier of the Rockies.

[It’s the birthday of Robbie Burns, Scotland’s national poet. In celebration, I believe I will forego the haggis, but perhaps imbibe a wee dram. There’s also this re-post, a sketch of family history, maternal (Armstrong) side.]

Tam Armstrong secured passage for his family on a ship out of Glasgow, bound across the wine dark sea for Nova Scotia.  Along with various Stuarts, McEwens, and Smiths, they traversed the Atlantic, the convoy dodging U-boats during the First World War.  Upon arrival in Halifax, they took a train across the verdant  farmlands of eastern Canada to Toronto.  From there, the CPR tracks reached to the north shore of Lake Superior, left that great inland sea behind, and struck out through the tractless pines and muskeg of Ontario’s wilderness.  Finally, the train took the Armstrongs over the prairie, golden with wheat waving in the summer winds, to a coal-mining town on the eastern slope of the Rockies.

My mother often reminisced to me about her home town of Nordegg, an outpost of human activity encircled by the dark green  silence of the forests.     Over the years, I heard a hundred stories, and remain convinced that a few at least were true.  Cougars sometimes strayed into Nordegg’s streets, and family legend held that one cat chased Uncle Andrew into his house.  The Stoney Indians often showed up in town, and later disappeared back into the wilderness after having beguiled the white man in the Indian barter.

Yet, this mining town’s frontier brashness often yielded to Old Country courtesies.  Nordegg was no rough-and-tumble mining camp, my mother insisted.  A golf course, albeit with sand “greens,” followed the Saskatchewan River, grey with silt from melting glaciers at its headwaters.  My mother’s Uncle Jock soloed on trumpet, when he was not anchoring the Nordegg brass ensemble.  Proudly, my mother recalled the Literary Club, where miners discussed novels and plays, naturally with a Scottish burr.  As her anecdotes sparkled, I imagined that the cultural life provided a welcome tonic for the deadening drudgery of mining coal.

But not all her memories spoke of the promise of spring.  One October day, the mine’s whistle had screamed.  Terrified wives and mothers ran to discover what they really did not want to know.  Twenty-nine families mourned.  Nordegg wore black.   Uncle Jock, a pit boss whose warnings on hazardous conditions went unheeded, was among those who did not come up from underground.  The newspaper articles about the disaster mentioned that Jock himself had lost a brother to a prior mine cave-in.

Beneath an autumn sky the color of lead, the funeral procession descended the hill along main street, black flatbed trucks each bearing six flower-draped coffins to the special cemetery plot.  The entire town turned out, many trudging behind the trucks, while others mutely watched from the sidewalk, men and women with bared heads bowed, their faces ashen.

Sometime after the empty trucks returned to the mine, and the sidewalk witnesses retreated to the privacy of their homes, to the privacy of their sorrow and despair, the mine workers’ union built a monument at the cemetery.  The simple stone sentinel bore the names of those lost.  Thirty years later, on a family vacation, I had watched my mother weep at the grave site.  “Jimmy McLaughlin, he was only eighteen,” was all she said.

The Nordegg mine, no longer profitable, closed after the Second War.  The town soon followed, and cougars met no people in Nordegg streets.  My grandparents, hoping to start anew, moved to nearby Edmonton.  Neither my grandfather nor his descendants ever went into a coal mine again.

Invincible Summer

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Albert Camus

Kensington Park, Michigan

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

“…and pondered them in her heart.”

And they that heard it wondered at the things which the shepherds told.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2: 18-19

May we all ponder in our heart the things of special meaning to us.

Fleming Creek, Michigan