Sunday, August 28, 2011

Make It Your Friend

    Recently a  trustworthy, thoughtful, and loving friend lent me a book.  I'd heard of the book before but I had brushed it off as new age banter that somehow could never work for me.  The thing is that I have a great deal of respect for this friend and he does seem to have an aliveness and spirit about him that I both envy and enjoy.  If he is lending me his well worn, well marked up copy, there must be something to it. 

      At first, I had a hard time getting beyond some of the vocabulary.  I want real words, words with which I am familiar, words that make sense to me, that seem rooted in research.  "The truth is within you?"  What the hell does THAT mean? Or "Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death."  HUH? Or, one more, " simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being."  Oh no, I was thinking as I started the book, I can't do this kinda talk.  I am way too concrete for this.  But, again, given the respect that I have for the book's owner, I decided to put aside all my skepticism and read on.

       I read most of it over the weekend and the core message is 
- HA! - Be Here Now.  Be in the moment.  Whatever the present moment is, accept it as if you had chosen it.  Make it your friend.  Really?  and how am I supposed to do that?  Watch it.  Observe the moment.  Embrace the notion that it really is all that is.  The past and the future are not the moment and so they are not real.  What is real is right now.  Very tough to embrace.  I am  a thinker.  I have never felt particularly attractive or particularly gifted in any arena except, perhaps, intellect.  Genetics and a family atmosphere that valued reading, knowledge , and academic prowess made me strive hard to be an academic success.  To this day, I value reading, writing, thinking, intellectual conversation.  But, this book talks about the need to not be a thinker.  Rather, focus on being, focus on what you physically feel in the moment.  What do you see?  What do you hear?  What does your body notice?  Not so much what does your mind say but rather what does your body notice.  Perhaps that is why I enjoy my early morning bike rides so much.  On those rides I go FAST.  I must be completely present in the moment or I will not make it to the next moment.

     I am so fucking alive on those rides because I am in that moment.  I am all about what is around me in the now.  There is no thought to what was or what will be.  It is all about NOW.  And I am alive and loving it.  How can life be more like that all the time?


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Harpo's Blues


  Phoebe Snow is singing to me these days.  There is something so poignant in her voice and in her music.  Perhaps her poignancy reflects the years in which she first entered my life.  That would have been the mid- seventies.  I was navigating my way through early adulthood, learning more than I ever knew I wanted to know.  Her tender words and lyrical voice allowed me reach into myself and feel, at times, painfully alive

There is a vulnerability about much of Phoebe's music which still resonates with me.  Can you hear this?

            I wish I was a willow
            And I could sway to the music in the wind
            And I wish I was a lover
            I wouldn't need my costumes and pretend

     I've written before about masks and pretending, about being what I am supposed to be as opposed to being who I might really be.  Emphasis on might...... can't say as I know right now.  Odd, isn't it, that a person can get to be in her sixth decade of life and still not know herself.  But, even as I write that, I think that that is because who she is now is not the same as who she was five, four, or even one decade ago.

     Listen to this part:
           I wish I was a mountain
           I'd pass boldly through the clouds and never end
           I wish I was a soft refrain
           When the lights were out I'd play
           and be your friend

      Such confidence there!  That seems the opposite of the vulnerability about which Phoebe sings.  To be as strong and powerful as a mountain, pushing away clouds and being a focus of the landscape, to have such presence and know that you are seen.  And there is the confidence inherent in a solid friendship, where you know that your friend wants you.  It's as if she is sure that this person will always see her, always be a part of her.

      What I hear in my head these days is this part of the song:

          I strut and fret my hour upon the stage
          The hour is up
          I have to run and hide my rage
          I'm lost again
          I think I'm really scared
          I won't be back at all this time
          And have my deepest secrets shared

     The hour is up.  There is so much in those four words.  I am a passenger on the time train (we are all passengers on the time train).  It only goes one direction and there is no slowing that train down, no reversing it, no controlling it.   It rolls across my life's landscape at a steady speed and I can watch out the window or mingle with the other passengers.  I can sleep but I certainly can't be the engineer of the train.  Not my department.

     I'm lost again.  Powerful three words.  At least I know I'm lost.  And, lately, I am liking being lost.  It feels like an adventure.  I am really scared, for sure, but somehow I am believing that I will figure it out.  I am not sure about much of anything right now.  I am eager, however,  to find out where the time train is going.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Time to Listen

     Silence is quite the chameleon.  He wears different coats.  He can be welcome and even embraced.  Oddly enough, however,  within minutes,  he can become the most hurtful, empty presence in the very same room.  Such power!

     When the room is the great outdoors and silence is the absence of technology and transportation, people and their toys, silence can be the most wonderful sound.  He can wear the most beautiful coat and his presence in that room can allow serenity and reflection to come in and sit down.  When silence chances upon that room, he can hear dreams beginning, stories evolving, and hearts breaking.  Sometimes silence sneaks into a comfortable inside room, perhaps a room already hosting creativity or sweet conversation.  If  he tiptoes into that room, he might be caressed and held tender, like a lover who knows just how to please his beloved.

     Silence can also wear a hideous mask, a frightful face filled with memory and blame.  Silence can be so loud that his voice is heard over every other sound.  He can hurt much worse than any physical assault and his presence can make the world feel so empty and hopeless.  He wears heavy stomping work boots and treads on all dreams, stories and hearts that get in his way.  He likes control and will dominate through his silent voice.  He will not touch his beloved, nor will he let his beloved feel his warmth.

    The thing about silence is he always brings a message.  Sweet and tender or scary and dominating, there is always a message.  Ram Das noted, "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."  I'm thinking it's time to listen.


Thursday, August 11, 2011


Hope. Nothing is more intoxicating.


     If by intoxicating, you mean exciting, inspiring, appealing, or lively, then I am with you, Cornelia.  Hope does have a captivating quality.  It makes me want me to go forward.  It evokes laugher.  It says hang on, life is worth living.

     The world is not a hopeful place at the moment.  Way too many tea party people.  Way too many people without jobs, losing their homes and their confidence.  Way too many children going to bed hungry around the world.  Way too much damage done to Mother Earth and way too little effort to stop the damage.  There is still global religious persecution.  There is still  hate and unfounded anger.  There is still greed and still far too many people taking advantage of other people.  Up close and personal, life has way too many moments of emptiness and disappointment. Sucks.

     Slivers of hope do appear here and there.  There is a greater acceptance of GLBTQ community.  There appears to be more tolerance for racial differences.  Individuals and nations do reach out to each other in times of crisis.  Baseball championships are won!  Babies are born.  Friends hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be okay.  I suppose hope does spring eternal, heh?  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Toe the Line

    So I've been talking to my mind lately before falling asleep at night.  I've been saying, "C'mon , mind, give me something with which to work.  Give me some cool dreams that I can interpret to my heart's content."  I was thinking something like cosmic dreams with symbolism galore.  For example, over the years, I have dreamed of my grandfather's house over and over again.  Things have taken place in my dreams which, trust me, never really happened (think little brothers and race cars).  And things have happened in my dreams which really COULD have happened (think big brothers and Bubble Up).  There is a house which returns to my dreams from time to time.  It is palatial and has a whole wing upstairs that is not known to anyone but me.  You have to access this part of the house by climbing a bunk bed sort of ladder and crawling through an attic but then you enter this peaceful, spacious, airy studio apartment sort of place.  There is comfortable furniture and big windows (with classic lattice panes) that have hinges and open up like doors.  There is a fantastic balcony which has a view of a lush and brightly colored flower garden. I know these dreams are packed with meaning but, for me, the meaning is obscured.  And, sadly, no house dreams have shown up at the nighttime movie house in my head.

     So last night my dream notebook finally got used.  I woke up around 1:30 and realized that Bingo! my mind was just speaking to me in a dream.  Thing is, it was very direct and to the point.  All I remembered was a huge sign that said, "Proceed with Caution."  So, I think to myself, well, that's not much to go on.  That's about as direct as you can get.  But I dutifully scribble it down (really, I can barely read it in the morning), take advantage of the opportunity to pee, and crash asleep again.  About two hours later I wake up again.  Bingo!  More messages from my mind!  This time there is also a sign AND a voice reading the sign:  "You should toe the line.  You have shoes."  And that's how it was spelled.  I don't know about you, but I always
thought that it would be "tow the line"  as in pull it behind a car, truck, or boat.  But maybe it is "toe the line" as in put your toes on the starting line.  Whatever.  The message was clear and, frankly, not a welcome one.  Damn!  I have been told to "toe the line" all my fucking life.  I do it well.  I demand a re-deal.  I want a new message.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More Voices

     Besides all those more personal voices that I wrote about in that last silly post, there are the booming voices of reality.  When it presents as despair, this voice can be a whisper, a hideous, frightening whisper.  When it presents as doom, this voice can be a roar, a heavy, head pounding roar.  Either way, it adds to the blend of voices that is the cacophony in my head.

      The despair can be heard in the news accounts of lives cut down by gang warfare, in the sirens screaming to rescue hopeless victims of drunk drivers. It can be heard in the cry of a mother when her child is in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is the sound of a respirator as a dad fights his battle against cancer. And did I mention that despair can be heard in the sighs of those who have lost their jobs? And the crush of cash in the pockets of the rich?  Despair sneaks around corners, cutting into my consciousness, making scabs bleed and hearts break. Despair cannot be silenced.
     The ear splitting roar of doom is background noise on Earth.  The cracking of polar ice contributes to the roar as climate change breaks weather records.  Ocean waves crashing on polluted shores take the roar up a decibel while the sound of huge saws cutting old growth trees in equatorial Earth take the roar up an additional gazillion decibels.   Gasoline engines discharging noise and air  pollution make the background roar more personal and the the sound of offshore oil wells clanging add a metallic tenor to the roar.  Doom throws a dark cloak over my head, adding weight to my shoulders,  making muscles scream and minds crack.  As with despair, doom cannot be silenced.

     With all this noise in my head, it is a wonder that I can sleep at night. But I can sleep at night because with sleep comes silence. Holy and blessed silence.

Voices in My Head

Telling me what to do.
Shouting at what I should do, what I want to do,
what I might do.
Whispering what I should be, who I should be,
how I should be.
Chastising me, whining at me, marching me forward.
Drill sergeant voices
God voices.
Loud, shrill,
yelling in my ears,
Pounding on my eyes,
hammering in my brain.
Grinding my teeth,
forcing smiles from my lips,
and shoving words out of my mouth.
No wonder I have so many headaches.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breaking Patterns

"I think the purpose of life is to be useful, responsible, honorable, compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”
Leo Rosten

So this is Mr. Rosten's answer to the question posed to life a few days ago on this blog:  what is your purpose?  I like his ideas but I need to add more.  For one thing, Mr. Rosten's purpose is oh so serious.  I will add to his very important pieces that the purpose of life is to love and to learn.  I will also add laughter to the list.  Being useful, honorable, compassionate and responsible is all good but , for me, there must be an infusion of warmth, affection, playfulness, and passion.  Really, life is short and to have loved and to have laughed is what I want to remember.  I am painfully responsible and useful and that's all good.  But my life is really fed by laugher, affection, warmth - in a word, love.  Without those things, I can feel very empty.  In fact, I can feel dead.  I know my life must be rich in those experiences.  Sometimes I have to actually work hard to build in the lightness and playfulness and , frankly, that's not what I want.  But, here's something else I know:  it is hard to break patterns.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

White Hot and Passionate

White hot and passionate is the only thing to be."
— Roald Dahl

       I love the quote.  I love the photograph.White hot and passionate is the way to go through life.  How do you do it?  I suppose it's about attitude and temperament, about taking what life gives you and turning it into roses, red wine, and beach nights.  White hot suggests ebullient, open, and more than a tad hedonistic.  Passionate implies intensity and strength.  Put them together and you have a person who is engaging and engaged with life.  In a word, alive.

     The trick is in sustaining white hot and passionate.   Age can fuel passion.  A 25 year old person can be white hot  but the wisdom of a passionate 60 year old burns hot and turns the darkest night into cool flames.  At least that's what I want to believe.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Of Teeter Totters and Oak Trees


     I took this photo when I was up at Bell Springs this weekend.  The image makes my mind stop and my eyes water.  It speaks to so many things:  innocence, serenity, balance, simplicity, passage of time, pieces of life that are beyond my grasp.  I remember a time when the kids played out there and the adults sat on the deck and marveled at the views.  Now those kids are sitting on the deck drinking tequila and I am watching them with curiosity.

     There is an innocence attached to this photo that is poignant and tender.  Children used to play on the hillside, under the oak trees.  Their world was a secure one, full of imaginary heros and crooks.  There were safe adults everywhere to kiss the bruises and tell them that everything was going to be okay.  And maybe they believed it.

     The teeter totter also speaks to balance, to ups and downs in life.  It suggests trust.  I remember riding on homemade teeter totters as a kid and whatever brother was on the other side would delight in holding me hostage at the top and bouncing me around because he could.  And, frankly, generally speaking, I liked it too.  I liked being suspended up there, bouncing around five or six feet above the ground - a bit of a safe  thrill for a thrill seeking kid.  Now the ups and downs in life are serious business.  The willingness to take chances, to risk falling, is much more complicated than a homemade teeter totter.  Back then, silly me would trust that the brother would not drop me (and usually I was right).  But the world today bounces that suspended body all over and there is no telling when it will decide to drop me.
    This photo represents the peacefulness of Bell Springs.  There is something quietly tender about that place.  It encompasses family and the best of what the Earth has to give us.  If there is a god, he/she can be found here.  When I go there, I can hear myself think.  I can breathe.  I can be innocent and know, if only for a weekend, serenity.  I need to go there more often.