Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yin Yang - Hidden Treasures

I don't recall the dream that instigated this particular painting. It was painted in the fall of 2005, when I spent a few months in Oklahoma, 15 or 20 miles northeast of Tulsa. It was something how I stumbled into the place. My uncle, my father's oldest brother had passed away and I returned from Europe to be near my father. Just a few days after my uncle's funeral, my good friend Turner called to say he was moving to Oklahoma and asked for my help. My father was born in Oklahoma, as was my uncle. They were from a family of 12 children and had come to California in the dust bowl days. That's right, they were real live "Grapes of Wrath" sojourners.

What the heck I figured, what better way to honor my long lost heritage than by helping a friend move back to 'my' origins? So, off I went, on yet another adventure, and a few days later, I was kicking around in Oklahoma dirt and staying with Turner's father-in-law, Paul. A week or so had passed and I really wasn't sure what I was going to do, where I was going to live . . . to tell the truth, I wasn't sure about much of anything. While driving down the road with Paul one afternoon, we approached a drive with a sign that said: "Okra & Zucchini for sale. Come to the far house up on the hill."

"Turn down that road, Paul," I said. "Maybe there's a place for me to live back there."

Without the least bit of hesitation, Paul turned right and passed through the gate. It was a farm, an old native pecan orchard, and there was a small bungalow nestled under some trees about a quarter mile past the front gate.

"That might be just right for you," Paul said, observing the home that appeared to be occupied.

We drove on past the bungalow, on up to the house on the hill, which wasn't really much of a hill, but it sat up higher than the other home. There were a few ponds and two garden plots. An elderly gentleman greeted us as we pulled up to the home.

"Howdy, neighbor," Paul said, "Is that little house down there for rent?"

"It's already occupied." the man explained. "Fellow's been living there for about six years now. Got some okra and zucchini, though..."

We followed the man through the garage and into the home. They bagged up some okra and Paul handed them five bucks. On our way out the door, Paul told them, "Thanks alot neighbor. If that little place ever comes available, you be sure to let me know." And on we went about our business.

A week or so later, I drove to Memphis, to visit a brother, and then on the Northern Alabama to spend a few days with friends on Wheeler Lake. Then it was time to head back to California, or so I thought. I drove back to Oklahoma, to say goodbye to my friends. When I arrived at Paul's place, he told me that his neighbors had phoned and said the little bungalow would soon be available. We went and had a look. It would need some cleaning and a few repairs, but the price was right and I gave the landlord a deposit.

I stayed at Paul's until the current tenant vacated the property. Then the old man who owned the place and I cleaned it up, painted and all that fun stuff. And this is where the story gets to be really something. Right as we were finishing the renovation, he asked, “Well, how are you going to earn a living?” I told him that I’d written several books, had published one with a print on demand publisher and that I had learned it was a bad choice and not the way to properly publish and sell books. Then I told him, “I think I need to start my own publishing company, but I’m not quite sure where to start.” He casually tells me, “Well, I was in the publishing business for 20 years. What do you need?”

All this from turning down an old dirt road on an intuitive hunch, in a very remote setting in the middle of Oklahoma . . . unheard of, yet it makes completely good sense when one is open, when one is on their path. The old man went home to eat lunch and then phoned me within an hour with a list of contacts.

At this point . . . well, one chooses life or death, to me it is life or death, anyway - no way could I thumb my nose to the gods. I’d suffered far too much over the years for not listening and following the signs and knew that if I didn’t follow what was being laid out before me, there would be too big a price to pay. I'd been in contact with Jackson Fisher since returning home to the States. He knew about my frustrations with print-on-demand publishers and he had been encouraging me to pursue publication elsewhere. He wanted to see my first three novels in print, the Malcolm Clay Trilogy, and he had offered to help see to it that this was done. I picked up the phone and called on Jackson . . . suppose you could say I asked him the famous question, "Whom does the grail serve?" then we bowed to the great spirit, followed fate and Fisher King Press was born.

Mel Mathews, is the author of several novels, including the Malcolm Clay Trilogy (Fisher King Press). His books are available from your local bookstore, a host of on-line booksellers, or you can order them directly from his website at: www.melmathews.com

© Mel Mathews - permission to reprint granted with a link back to www.melmathews.com

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