Soundtrack of 2020


I kneel in the grass and breathe in the cloying fragrance of the earth. Head bowed, eyes closed, veil of hair stirred in the warm breeze, I inhale the quiet and clutch at thorny stems that remind me beauty and pain can coexist on the same flower.

Far in the distance, an ambulance announces passage between the narrow streets. The sirens have become more frequent…or perhaps I’ve simply become more attuned to their wails. For many years, the sound evoked a deep sadness in me. The herald of Death. The final notes of a stranger’s life muting to white noise and then silence on the hard, bloody concrete as a slate-gray sky fades to black.

But in the newfound lull of the world, I now find the sirens inexplicably soothing. I like to think that they are not the wails of Banshees mourning a death, but rather the hopeful horn of the cavalry, the lifeline tethering a drifting soul to this world—something to focus on as the senses sputter between planes like a radio tuner seeking notes between the static. A promise that help is on the way. Just hold on a little bit longer.

Contagious restlessness seizes the neighborhood dogs, who tip their noses skyward and accompany the shrill notes with long howls as if devolving back to their wolf ancestry and serenading the Cold Moon on a winter’s still night. Birds take flight—robin and blue jay, nuthatch and finch, the fleeting cardinal a brief ember glowing against the browning foliage, a symbol of orange skies and a chorus of sirens to the burning West. The birds have celebrated our isolation and reclaimed the skies and backyards with a dry rustle of feathers, and flapping wings, and varied trills and chirps lending to the ghostly orchestra. Above, in the treetops, the cicadas crescendo and recede in waves deafening at their apex. The pieces of this song bring back memories.

The dogs—a reminder that a piece of the wild survives in every soul and yearns to emerge, even if for only a moment.

The cicadas—the sound of childhood summers, of hunting for their discarded shells and collecting them in a shoebox.

And the sirens, once a foreboding and heart-dropping cry breaking the peace, but now…somehow…the sound of hope in this disease-ridden turn of the new decade.

As the sirens fade away on unknown course, I lay the blood-red roses on the base of a new gravestone. It’s one of many new stones in this resting place. The breeze whispers sweet nothings through the crisp-edged leaves. The cicadas begin their clicking buzz again, oblivious to the woes of humanity.

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

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