Grey Pine: T. Lloyd Winetsky
Everyone views the world in his or her own way and sometimes through clear eyes and at other times clouded. Clarity, vision seeing the world and people as imperfect and not meeting his own standards, Phillip Stark falls prey to his own anger, disappointments, regrets and fears. This story is about a young science teacher who somehow loses his way. The story begins with a ride with a cab driver and close friend named Freddy as the author describes the landscape, the beauty of his home called the Ponderosa and the decline within his life as St. Helen’s erupts, takes away the amazing sunshine and leaves in its place, a grey mist, ash and film that not only clouds his thoughts, vision and his emotional atmosphere creating a landscape filled with Grey Pine.
The story centers on Phillip and his relationships with the people where he lives, dealing with an abusive father who berates him every step of the way, is a drunk and plays in his psychological fears, flaws and insecurities making Phillip not only doubt himself but coming face to face with this true feelings for his father. A young man who was supposed to work on a specific science project dealing with the Lynx that got pushed back and leads him to question himself in many ways. Depression anger, fighting others that try to help him and pushing those that care aside, we follow his story as we learn about the death of his mother which took a huge toll on his father causing him to drink to excess.
Phillip has his own view on how people should act, react and play their roles in his life and in their own. Thinking at times his father was like as the author relates: Dr. Jekyll one minute and Mr. Hyde the next, you might think that Phillip has more than two personalities like Sybil or Carrie at times. Caring and trying to deal with his father’s drinking, taking care of him and then watching him self-destruct tore Phillip apart, changed his relationship with his girlfriend Lupe and often forced others to not want to be around him. From Mickey his neighbor with his odd personality, the ash that he spent cleaning from his home, his yard, car and eventually a special tree that he needed to care for before it died, Phillip’s life was on a downward spiral from the moment his mother died and the volcano erupted. Blame is hard to take on your own shoulders when it is you that is to blame and no one else. He transferred it to everyone else.
As the area fills up with ash, many leave but after his father’s apparent suicide he decides to remain, sell the house and then come to face a sister that he barely knows. With his ulcer medication not working and his mental spirit declining he appears to be on the decline and an accident forces him to be admitted for psychiatric help. As the remnants of the volcano envelopes the area and the blanket of green grass turns to grey ash, he spends hours on end trying to clean it up but it always returns. He thinks it amazing and as a science teacher loves what he sees while others do not.
As the ash increases and Phillip’s job is postponed he becomes more agitated and eventually is forced into counseling. But, the cab driver seems to be his constant and when together with Freddy he is able to express his true feelings. Meeting the first counselor he becomes belligerent, rude and does not want to deal with his positive approach to life. It’s as if anyone positive will take away his anger and anger is at the root of his problems and lack of self-esteem. A statement that I have heard before is that people that are older and are ill are expendable and I think he feels that way about himself too. This is a story about a bright young science teacher who relishes every experience dealing with the environment, shares his knowledge of his project and the subject matter at which time this is when he comes alive. Pushing everyone aside what will his final fate is and what realization does he come to at the end. When Freddy tells him about his wife, how she loved the seasons and how she would appreciate the changes, he once again comes alive. When the second analyst explains the many definitions of distortions and how they apply to his way of thinking something snaps in him. Will he ever find his way? Will Lupe come back or will Phillip forever live within the confines of Grey Pine. A story that is well told and a character that is quite compelling and an author that teaches us those obstacles can be overcome if we want to overcome them or we can get stuck in our own private vacuum.
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine