‘Life contains infinite possibilities. Each instant contains infinite possibilities. Each isolated moment a random piece of time sampled from everything at once in possibility. Poetry selects a thread, and the rest is waste.’
This is raw thought. This is how it comes out of the pipe. It’s not edited for form or for consideration of audience; it is imagination, invention, and jotting of thought. These are samples from the sources I go to when I need to build a character or the condition of the sky on some imagined day.
At what age does a person stop playing the ‘would anyone miss me game?’ When does that naturally fade? Late adolescence I think. The understanding that life is greater than your own insecurities. To be engaged enough in the wonder of it all (completely, or just a little bit is enough) that you forget this game and go on with your business. There are flowers and drink, parties and women, sailing and flying; all these things that take you away into the maze, the labyrinth of love, observation, commerce, creativity and participation. And then — wait — you’re feeling symptoms of something and it’s one of those that bode particularly poorly for your kind. So a thought begins somewhere behind the immediate. You begin to see faces — I wonder if the order matters — of people you know. Familiars and distant unknowns. That person at the store, will she ever wonder where I’ve gone? The friend of a friend with whom you shared a joke — not likely.
What a time we live in where one can be acquainted a few times a year with the prospect of not existing anymore, presently.
Waiting. I keep waiting for writing to become a friend of mine. I’m peeling this onion. What kind of choice was this? Some task. Some desire, a series of layers and veils that appear as challenges, taunting, deceitful, even hateful, they show themselves disguised or enticing – and you feel this document slick or slimy in your fingers, wipe away the snotty grease and it reveals some little value or none. There is no guarantee. Is this an addiction? I have so many and I can no longer differentiate between the things I would like to examine, and the ones that pull me from some satanic back story that can never reveal except in its deceit.
What is the addiction to? Is it to an imagined result of the process? A complete story? An explanation? A confession? Undefinable need? Is it addiction to the observation of things or to the resolve of finding the perfect word to describe all of it?
There is this result — an imperfect map of a distorted view of a swirl of happenstance. When it’s finished, whenever they are finished, the sheets of paper are one more leaf on the stack of uncertainty. I am a filter for the world observing itself and a vehicle for adding more substance to an inexplicably beautiful reality. All I have left really is the power of observation and the desire to be kind.
There’s something that used to happen long ago. Sunlight through a bedroom window, split curtain crack open to daylight into the afternoon. Old guitar and new strings. The act of unwinding the taught bind of the wound and the squeak of fingers over the length. Turns of a key at the machine head, winding on and feeling the tension slowly build the length of the new strings. Alignment, squeak over the bridge. Why that light? Why that feeling and that sound? Sitting on the edge of a bed with a guitar on my lap, strings lit by the pillar of light through a boys bedroom window. This six year old, this ten year old, this fifteen year old boy sees the woodgrain face and the acrylic pick-guard, the bronze wound E string, the silver of the D, G, E for the split sharp penetrating high notes.
Something is coming. Images vague and compelling are forming. There is a familiar essence talking to me. Hands making veil fabric scaffolding – asking for word games and colour. Signs forming from some imagining. A conversation forced upward into consciousness – mixture of intent or whimsy or celebration or simply a rambling born of forgotten voices – eyes, mouths, shrug or signal – no one could be sure. But they are all begging to be real. To be written into real.
The kind of distance between people now. It’s understood. The mask, put your arms out and don’t touch hands. Can you tell if I’m smiling? Dance right or left on the sidewalk. Give way. Walk on the snow, walk on the grass or cross over on the street. Hell, stay in the middle.
I don’t share birds anymore. The trees still reach for me and I still watch their signing limbs on clear sunset evenings. I like the silence.
It’s too cold to go see the river but I bought a motorcycle and spring is only a few months away. You can’t be in a car with people now anyway. Sometimes I wonder what the folks I used to know are doing. Names. Lots of names to think about.
There is lots – I don’t have to worry. I worked hard for this and I’m there. I did it. I won’t worry about food, or my house, or gas or anything. Ever again. It’s done. Jesus. What a fantastic feeling. Freedom.
And now after all that, someone wants to fuck with it. I’ll tell you one thing, that will not happen. This is mine – I earned it and no one is taking it away. I will die on this hill.
This feeling. What kind of joy and comfort is this? It can’t get better.
They don’t want to take yours, they want to experience the same feeling. They’re trying to get there and never once have they been close.
You have two things they’ve never possessed – that much abundance and the feeling of freedom that accompanies it. They don’t want to unseat you – they want to join you.
This is one of the hardest things I know. Follow me. Siri Hustvedt wrote (and I paraphrase) …this is my Picasso, yours is different. The existing content and quality of your mind is the map for your perception and ideas.
Her point was that every idea, from his misogynistic behaviour, the unique quality of his inventions to his place in time influence an observer’s image of the man.
Now, I see a quote or a post somewhere by someone commenting on something and the context is so thin. I haven’t any points of reference, but based on spelling, grammar, subject and my inference concerning the payload of the remark, I make a judgment. And sometimes those judgments hurt me. I don’t want to dislike people. I don’t want to categorize and dismiss based on broad, general strokes of a brush, but at the same time I am insulted, disheartened and even driven to despair that people can live in places that seem so utterly worthless to me.
And so – the hard part. Can I possibly imagine holding the hand of a person like this in some critical situation and giving comfort to them? It’s so unlikely and it’s challenging, but it seems to be the right thing to conjure. At once I feel a sense of responsibility and a revulsion. It is very difficult to abide, much less feel compassion for many pieces of my society.
It takes energy to be happy. It takes work to stay positive in the face of assault by ignorance and hate, it takes great effort to stand in the face of stupidity and arrogance and resolve to believe in human dignity – the righteousness of knowledge and justice. And it’s tiring.
I think if you’re not tired then there is something wrong. If you’re connected to the current zeitgeist or monitoring it in any way and you find nothing about it disturbing, if you’re just sailing calmly forward, then it seems to me by default you are a contributor to some dark thing, the evil of which you have no capacity to understand.
You tire me and you anger me because I am working so hard to keep my sanity.
I remember a derelict farmhouse —so far from home in the middle of a wildflower field of prairie grass, at the end of a dirt drive. Calico paper walls, floor deep with scattered magazines —detritus, treasure. Secrets in bedrooms and collapsed cabinetry. Aquamarine granules of cleaning product spilled from a punctured pouch onto peeled linoleum. Newspapers, broken glass, and in a back bedroom the leg of a stuffed animal, and pastel color crayons scattered about the floor.
Nancy Ford’s father. The memory of a woman and a street and a house – her parents, distant, uninterested. And the feeling that in this time period the whole thing seems a kind of warning. Was this a picture of what might be in his own life? Some kind of desperate alarm.
It feels like all this writing that’s going down is frivolous. Strange that is, now that it’s spilling onto the paper that I should occasionally look at it with suspicion. Whims really. I’m not sure if it’s even valuable, but it seems to keep going.
And owls. What is it with the damned owls? I’m seeing them everywhere. Images on social media, signposts, and then yesterday cycling away from the kids and I had her on my mind. She was in my mind for the first time in forever and I let it roll on. I let her dwell there and I talked to her and told her something. And at that very moment an owl appeared from behind me, just over my head and it dropped a few feet so that it was gliding directly on my sight-line directly down my path receding into the darkness. This huge wingspan and just visible gray silhouette against the black night. It was spectacular, and I thought -Jesus, I was thinking of her and thinking of saying something to her and then a Goddamned owl. What the hell is being said to me?
According to archaic documented Nez Perce beliefs it takes three times for a lie to become a sin. And not in the Christian biblical sense. The first time a lie is told it holds no sin. The second time it holds little, but the third time a lie is told it becomes cardinal.
This is a new picture to me and I find it fascinating. So many questions – both introspective, personal – and global. What a finely detailed, laced path this is.
The first thing that occurred to me is that this allows a grace period wherein an individual can monitor the result of their action and self-correct prior to the cementing of judgement – either sacred or secular. It allows humans time to see the error in something. Is there value in that? It feels so.
Also – it should be academic to anyone pondering this that the implementation of such a rule must have been an involved process. It would have taken much time and consideration. It makes me want to investigate the lawmaking record of the Nez Perce.
What was the impetus for discovery here? Why was it necessary to outline the evolution and the ramifications of lying, and then delineate the result in pieces, as more or less favorable according to the scope of repetition? And what direction did the thought process take? Repetition first? Level of consequence? Size and number of people affected? The breadth of influence? A more global sense of how the whole of the group is affected? It’s fascinating. An entire world of threads waiting to be gently tugged – and who knows what they would reveal about the individuals who convened a series of meetings dedicated to drawing this map for the benefit of all concerned. Even the liar.
The advent of ‘daytime’ – this being the vulgar term – is viewed as one of many sacred spirits. In this way we are encouraged to be enthusiastic about it. We observe this life with apparatus – eyes – one of the seven holes in our head. The creator allows you to carry life because you are like a medicine that has a purpose.
Do you believe in God? No. I believe we as humans are beautiful, individual, isolated flashes of brilliant light that have the choice to shine in gratitude and kindness for our perception and love in the universe, or to broadcast fear and dark deeds outward in order to echo-locate and cement a false sense of importance. We are an accident of evolution, and these are the two choices. There is nothing more.
Just because you carry it well doesn’t mean it’s not heavy. Someone once tried to tell me my alcoholism must be a mild issue – because I’ve never once faltered in my resolve.
This person needed to be better than someone, to minimize another’s courage and pain in order to justify their place. I didn’t ask what place. I didn’t ask or say anything.
This is a person who doesn’t understand. Someone who can’t see hell – someone unaware that hell has no favourites and that all visits are equal and that the only attribute useful for differentiation of those who have been there is the resolve they muster to never return. Some of us may be more afraid, some may be stronger, but we’ve all been to the same hell. For that fact we are equal.
Some days seem tied to others. A day from far past can pass over a mind like a veil. Every detail is there – the day itself and all the pieces that make it up. Even time slides away and feeling takes its place, conjured or crept in by the hiding of it. These two days – then and now – are they preordained to be thus? Could you have looked this far ahead from that place had you the mind to try, and is it only on days like these – invisibly connected – that this is possible? Perhaps all the other days are missed, you miss them because you don’t understand – you’re not aware that it’s you who can sew them together. You cobble a life together as it is passed to you scrap and parcel both. You stitch it piece by piece, hour by hour, your tools the properties of awareness and want. I wonder if a mind is all of these things – needle, thread and effort and it’s all just a vehicle for the want of something other.
I found some notes this morning – notes left on my windshield in 1998 by Erin. They were tucked between sheets of clean paper and crisp envelopes – in a package she bought for me as a birthday gift over twenty years ago.
I can picture the street, the time of year, the morning sun on green leaves, the brick of the buildings, and the stone and cement wall adjacent to my apartment, up a steep climb on a street two blocks from the restaurant where she waited tables. I can smell the day and I can feel the happiness of the surprise. Even before I read them on those mornings, I knew what they would say. Blue ink on the inside of a cigarette package. Just enough room for a line or two scribbled quickly and placed beneath the wiper blade.
Now, I feel the excitement of those moments and I’m grateful for all of it, and it’s amazing to me that the gratitude is enough to quell the shame that stayed with me for so long after quitting her. It’s possible I’ve forgiven myself for that, or maybe good feelings are stronger, more important, and they are all that’s left after so long.
Shame – I can bring it back just by thinking about it.
And this. I’ve been waiting a long time for this. I felt that if I just let things ride, someday I would understand. Something would come out in the wash. She’s the one filling out divorce papers because… well because it makes sense. But she called me. Had to ask where I was born. We were together, what? Twenty three years I think.
What counts now? Good deeds. Good thoughts. Well – inside – yeah, you can cultivate something as a foundation – a place you know you’re right – doing the right thing. But nothing counts on the outside. None of it. It doesn’t matter how good a man you are – you can’t take it to the bank. No one wants to hear your sad story. No one wants to hear about your bad luck. No one is going to trade anything that can help – solid things, money, time, for your good foundation, your integrity or your track record. When you run out – you’re on your own.
Jesus won’t work at the bank. God won’t intervene with a landlord. Nothing is available on credit. I talked to a crow today – I was walking the alley on the way to the grocery store and I heard it high up on a wire. So I stopped and looked right at it and asked it to intervene in a place where I could use some good luck. We’ll see.
Were I to go to anyone I know and ask for enough money to help that situation out, they might well say – go ask a crow. See where that gets you.
There are a hundred birds outside the window, tickling the air with their wind-up mechanics around the floor of the feeder. When he sits down, they start and scatter away, and he hopes one day they will recognize him – this huge being – all eyes and hair – and remain calm, go about their business of feeding, preening, and indulging without worry or alarm.
I had this thought today. That I should call someone, or text someone, maybe Dara, maybe Lisa, maybe Ross or Bob, and tell them this plan, my plan to sell the stuff and move away. And then, almost as fast as it came, I decided maybe it should just be a private thought.
I wanted to say, if I waver here, if you catch me finding excuses or waffling please set me back on course. In my head this is insurance of some kind; the advice and good sense of a friend helping me to stay on track. As fast as that thought came, I rejected it and all of those fine people – each for historic, personal reasons, and I realized that every one of them is aligned with a different purpose in my mind. Historical purposes. And there is that word – it keeps coming up – purpose. Where is it? Purpose has been missing for a long time.
But then this; I don’t know if it’s purpose I need. I keep looking for it and failing. Maybe it’s freedom – from myself – from this box I live in – the one I built with the broken pieces of my last life.
It’s those pieces that I have to abandon. I’ve been here too long.
Maybe purpose is out there somewhere along with newness.
I started making plans – lists. All of them hurt.
Victoria was chatting last night about her desire to get back to Toronto for school and her worry that once she’s there it might not be everything she needs and the weight of that would feel horrible. Last night I had all the wisdom and advice anyone can muster under those circumstances – I only supplied about half of it – she needed a listener, not reasoning. Just comfort.
Where is that comfort now?
The picture I have of everything that’s held me in this apartment, a lifetime collection of records and books and audio equipment and computer stuff, when I picture it gone I feel some strange alarm. When I picture myself sitting in a little place in Naramata it doesn’t matter – imagining the grass, sand and pebbles at the lake-shore and the weeping willows and the air of that little town are enough.
But if I get there and there is no little place and I end up in a basement suite across the alley from a loud tavern and the view from the window is the tailpipe of an old truck, and I’ve sold my music and my books and all the things that made the hours pass in Calgary and I’m sixty five years old, well – then what?
I said to Victoria – you’re doing something, you’re moving forward and the best you can do is imagine it the way you want it, move toward that, maybe concoct some kind of contingency plan in case things fail miserably and be content that you’ve had this marvelous intention – go with it and I’ll be there to talk to you if it fails.
But she is twenty two years old, and I am sixty four. What kind of a man sells everything at the age of sixty four and goes somewhere without a safety net or a contingency plan?
That’s probably the thought that prompted the feeling that I would like to have a friend to talk to and some encouragement. But there isn’t anyone left who can be that person. They are histories.
You see I’ve been sitting here for about five years. I’ve been sitting and listening to music and battling a never ending existential crisis concerning writing and self worth and validation and laziness and commitment and guilt and what must be a disconnect from my interior. Purpose. I have no purpose.
I have wasted all this time. Any one with a connection to drive and motivation – centered and committed would have been able to put together twenty short stories, finish a novel – maybe two.
I have tried. I keep trying and I keep losing. I track it down eventually to the idea that I have no ideas. And then I take a course or I read for a while – or go back to one of the writing books to find some direction – and I do – I find direction but it’s not enough. There are no stories in here. There are no plots. It’s all just a wasted man who didn’t do anything with the gifts. And on it goes.
I don’t want to sell things. I wish I had money and a truck and a drivers licence and some savings and I wish I could make a decision and rent a place and just move there with these comforts I’ve accumulated. But it wasn’t until the damned power amp failed and I tried to fix it, and I fucked it up that the prospect of living without it became a possibility.
Opportunity. Not listening to music all day has opened up a hole. So if I make the hole bigger and knock down some walls, maybe something will come by that looks a little more like reality.
There is no fool like an old fool.
Believing in miracles and believing in magic. The former is associated with a sacred air – the latter with that of witchcraft – and these two places are opposites – in today’s world. What kind of education would it be – if they could look at invisible history with a kind of time-magnifying glass – to find out that magic is the loving parent of the miracle, and that the two are inseparable.
There is a story of how land in the North gained some of its features. As it turns out, one of the spirit people lives there and can’t be seen – an old woman beaver person/spirit. One of the story tellers recounts a visit to this place when she was looking for relief for leg pain. She said, “It’s a place where you think you don’t see the spirit person, but you do.” And she asked, “If I’m going to live, help me.” What a beautiful prayer – issued with respect and understanding of the flow of power, but with the expectation of a reciprocal understanding, and affirmative action in return. If I’m going to live, help me.
Instead of supplicating oneself, existing in servitude and expecting nothing in return, there is an understanding that as a part of this planet you are a contributor and you are owed the same respect you’re offering.
Our memories work in a discontinuous way. We can be selective of facts in a temporal way just as we can embellish favorable remembrances – or take unfavorable ones and twist them with our preferences, to satisfy thirst. It’s only after this examination that he sees that his memories of this love are not concentrating on the moments they were together, but instead on moments that came afterward. All the attempts to picture it exist as something that might happen again, something that might be possible, something that needs serendipity in order to exist.
The very immensity of clouds – bulbous, crisp white relief framed by crowns of cottonwood. Grey scud fingers proceeding these massive ships, rolling leeward from home. Fingers of prescience – cool reaching in the summer heat and brushing against a calm vista – stirring leaves, inciting time itself to breathe in and pause for the coming storm.
It occurs to me that the time allotted here – in this bubble of observation – is time that wouldn’t exist except for isolation. That the words forming in here aren’t those of a person connected to their world. In fact that they come to me is testimony that there is too much time spent alone, and that in a world engaged, involved, and maybe even in love, these words and paintings might go by unremarkable – even unborn – in their place would be the incidentals of living, ideas and impressions of something more precious.
At Erin’s to hang out with Vic and there is some time to spend on the deck in the backyard. It’s a different feeling today – less anxious and I decided to go to my book cases and pick something out to pass the time. A bunch of titles present themselves, familiar and worn but they all conjure memories – images that can’t help here.
I see The Source by Michener and it has just the right feel – an intuitive this might help air about it. I open the front leaf and there is the signature of the original owner – initials S.R.B. and her name written – S—— R— B——. I was nineteen when we met. The last time I saw her I would have been around twenty five.
I can see her eyes, engaged in smiling – earnestly declaring her approval of a comment or a revelation. It was required that she approve of things in her life, and I found that to be in love with her and to be her lover required tacit understanding of her superiority while organizing oneself to follow along, maintaining an air she could find interesting, or better yet challenging. An impossible balance to maintain.
Still, it’s lovely to see her handwriting and remember the good things we shared.
This is probably my fifth read of the book. It’s always a great journey.
I keep trying to get this right.
I think I’d rather hang on to feelings than the reality of situation – in order to feel. Yes – I am a bag of feelings, and I do enjoy immersion. Right or wrong the beauty of the feeling, perhaps its intensity draws me to repeat it in memory. Particularly the beauty of love. Not surprising – there is noting close to the immersive, infinite, celebratory dance of love. A lifted heart is as close to God as a person can be.
I was born with it. I clearly remember early experiments with this awareness and the private reward system it represents.
Substance abuse has two draws; it enhances perception by creating comparison – this feeling is different (usually sweeter) than the one I experience without chemical enhancement – at the same time it separates an individual from the reality of a situation. This second draw is not obvious to the neophyte.
At the beginning, likely around twelve years of age, I reveled in substance abuse – it gave me focus and allowed me to celebrate and refine my observational self – my participation in the purified me I felt as a result. I wouldn’t have been able to identify this cause/effect. It just was.
My parents divorced when I was fifteen and then less than a year later my father died. I was set adrift. I think that if there’s an age that represents my habitual wandering as an awestruck observer, it’s somewhere between, or a combination of these two places. Twelve and fifteen/sixteen.
What is a persons heart like at those two fragile, developmental stages?
And if that’s where I stayed it’s not surprising, it’s not wrong (I tell myself this – I think it’s true, it’s certainly necessary) and I am grateful for it.
One thing I learned, and it took a very long time – is that it does no one any good to hold on to the feeling of someone leaving your heart in order to bathe in the melancholy beauty of it. There is no satisfaction to be gained whatsoever by holding loves feet to the fire. That thought is hard to get to because of the compelling love of feeling, but part of the draw is that in imagination, you aren’t alone, you’re about to be.
On the other side of it there is freedom, independence, purity and possibility. Reality I guess.
And there is the thought that this self examination is an attempt to find forgiveness for a human situation. Then there is the thought that it shouldn’t be necessary – that humans are fallible and every journey is worthy. And then – is there a perfect place?
I think I could share this with someone. I think I would enjoy company, but all the physical drive and any other impetus to find a companion is gone. All that’s left is me, as I am. I think I might even feel like a reward for the right person, maybe I could grow into something reliable and welcome. I’m OK with that, but I don’t have the desire to search for it.
Also – I am more than all of this, and it all changes moment by moment.
Here’s a recent dream – three locomotives – train engines abreast on a platform spanning a huge deck that stands out into the roadway from the rails their entire collective girth, like a ship of engines being hauled impossibly forward, and lengths of great stretched orbs – black oil cars and rusted boxcars tethered backward forever from the driving of it.
All of this mass and gravity inching up-slope tenuous and horrific. I can sense the impossibility. Its very existence is a warning; I feel that it’s possible my apprehension or disbelief could be a trigger and I try to think around it.
Surely, the whole thing slides and shifts and begins its backward ride into calamity – upended, side-thrust screaming – jack-knifed hell coming toward me – carriers and wheels thrown up and appearing above the tree line and the tops of distant trees whipping and splitting in the tornado of whole train pieces and then the bridge wide span of that engine-deck with its three-across dead-weight locomotives ass-on and unstoppable plowing earth and trees and wind directly at the locus of my vision and through both sides peripheral.
It’s a four engine train wreck and there is nowhere to run.
I’m looking at a woman – standing, sitting, in a shopping center, across a table at coffee, or three rows away in a restaurant.
She is unaware of my glance and my subsequent inner query.
I ask – what is it like in there? You have these eyes and this hair and you stand or sit just so. One hand moves and your brows are aligned thus. Your glances are like mine – directed somewhere, perhaps with intent, or maybe unconscious, as some whim occasionally directs us all.
What’s it like on that ride? I know mine. I have years of experience with it and I have a common history with brethren of this sex.
Ahhh, you say, there’s your issue – you divide us.
That appears so – and I am guilty. I examine my insides and try to reconcile this desire for investigation, but the thought – the question remains.
I see a person with the same mind as me riding a different animal. Some angled beast with a familiar brain and interior entanglement of piping and guts, but outwardly of differing makeup, holding air and time at bay with an entirely unique gravity.
What’s it like in there?
The sound of heels draws my attention. Animated white silk blouse, black slacks and heels, high. A woman struts past and my head follows — there is no stopping this, no nod to propriety — this viewing, sampling is intrinsic to the dress. A universal law. Normally I am less overt. I am polite as a rule. Glance sideways.
But this time — perhaps it’s the day — the sun, even the length of this past winter, but I’m careless — unconcerned and piqued as well. And as well I am discovered.
The plain girl — hair up in a two-second pony — is smiling at me from across the patio.
There have been a lot of books and a lot of audiobooks that have thrilled me over the past months, but this one is my favorite so far; But Beautiful – A Book About Jazz – Geoff Dyer.
Lots of reasons – but two of the things that give me the greatest joy – reading and listening to music are together here. He’s taken a handful of well known anecdotes about Jazz legends – and some photographs – and used these to imagine scenes from their lives. This way he reveals the reason for Jazz. That’s a tall order, and no one can say it’s completely accurate, but for me it’s a solid connection that was not entirely clear before I read it. It’s very well written too. Lyrical and fine.
Also, I purchased it at City Lights in San Francisco, and read it in installments at Washington Square during a week when it was hot and sunny and I was surrounded by life.
Social media is mutating into an advice column. It’s always been a vanity mirror, and the information there will always carry its hidden payload of want, but now – face value – that condition is becoming more and more transparent. All these little tidbits of help or suggestion or advice share some universal want – it’s like humanity inadvertently wearing a path onto soil – individuals tread the ground unconscious of the global intent. Value – its meaning – people are being introduced to the most profound choice, and I’m not sure they’re aware of it.
Value is being re-defined. And this is uniquely unprecedented. The world economy is stopped. Personal, political and social focus has entirely shifted. There is the opportunity to re-calibrate the definition of value, personally and on a global level. While we find ourselves isolated and I see all these pockets of humanity being gifted with time to breathe, I wonder what they are noticing.
Foremost there is survival instinct – a fear-based reaction. At its least intrusive it manifests as people just taking care of themselves – putting on their own oxygen mask first. That’s never a problem. At its worst – hording and selfishness. That behavior is obvious and for the most part rare I think, regardless of what’s seen on social media (the ratio of people hording to those acting normally isn’t available for comparison).
There was a group of men today in the middle of the street outside my house – they had put up lawn chairs in an empty parking lot (even there – the need to stipulate that there were no cars is still new – but if you walk any urban street now, the lots that were full, day and night – are now abandoned – just one small, noticeable change from last week) and these men were having a conversation – eight or ten people most of whom had probably never exchanged more than a polite greeting in passing. I’m certain it wasn’t a gathering of insurrectionists planning to rob the gun-shop.
These words come out – they approximate feelings – they explain, while at the same time dissolving solid intent and you’re left with the air between them – a breath that might hold in the dark and appear a like an elusive piece of the thing you tried to convey.
But the world is turning outside of its standard, reliable spin. We walk paths out of habit and now we can’t be sure the route is reliable, or even there.
When this is over you should have learned something, and it’s impossible at this point to imagine the scope of what it might be.
This existential crisis about writing. I’ve been told I’m very good at it. I have no issue with flow. When I sit down to write – it comes, I’ve never been blocked for content.
The only joy I can find, isn’t in story telling. It’s in the possibility of validation. There are so many questions that accompany this feeling, but I can’t seem to find any answer.
What do I want? I want writing to feel like a joyous game. I want writing to feel playful – I want my mind to wander and I want to feel the same happiness when writing as I do when listening to music – which is my greatest joy.
The thing is that when people throw heinous accusations around they can usually be confident no one is going to look into their past to find any threads of rot. The accusation itself acts as a kind of shield. No one wants to delve into it. No one can find the courage to pause and ask the accuser if they are real. The ‘realness’ of the accusation is enough, especially when any questioning of it might put you in the same category as the accused.
I’ve had a couple of bad days in San Francisco. Yesterday had too much amphetamine and today not enough. That’s the thing with amphetamine – it’s prescribed for emotional or mental issues but doesn’t play well with coffee, cigarettes and high blood pressure. A sixty three year old might find himself wondering which heartbeat is the last. That’s an uncomfortable feeling. You see a hill between you and your destination and you walk up regardless and you remember the doctor saying exercise is good for high blood pressure but you feel remiss for not mentioning the cigarettes and coffee. Well – if I make this hill I’ll quit.
Also – spending a day without it and living out the beats is always accompanied by the idea that a dose would feel good right now but it’s one in the afternoon and that commitment would fuck with tonight’s sleep.
Round and round we go.
So, put Miles on the earbuds and watch the people walk dogs in the park.
Goddamn that’s a beautiful tree. Hope it’s not my last.
Are you Markus?
Lanky six foot, aviator shades, Brillo pad black hair and beard. Gold beads and a skin tight white dress under a black satin frock. Ripped nylon stockings and a wool winter scarf.
So you mean to tell me you’re not Moya’s Godfather?
I was offered IBM.
Have you seen Kit Kat? Is Kit Kat out of jail?
Tall dude wrapped in a rug.
They’re all on recess – a twenty year fucking recess.
I feel I’m on the wrong bench and perhaps these people would like their space back.
Yesterday in the evening when I arrived at the park there was one acceptable place to sit. This in consideration of the proximity rule – that unspoken nod to personal space and decorum shared by high-tone and human substrata alike.
At the other end of the bench two well dressed tech-work dudes sharing a crack pipe. Another thread common to all and evidence that substance abuse isn’t limited to the destitute – economically speaking.
Bluetooth earpiece and a fork in one hand.
I can smell it on a woman – every time – you line up fifty of them I’ll get them all right. It’s breath – it’s on their breath – hormonal.
They take dogs into seniors homes to smell. When I was in insurance I could do it. I can smell it.
Shit. I’m gonna start cooking – we gotta get this thing started. Time we’re done it’ll be happy hour.
I had masks on the wall in that place. The girls would wear them and I’d take pictures. Had the pictures up too. Girls would come over and say hey that’s my friend – that’s her. They could tell by the lips or nose or some shit. They’d want to wear the same mask.
We’ll let it heat up for five more minutes and throw on the meat.
I told you let it sit Franco.
You know what else is really nice?
I have to go in person – before eleven.
I’ll go with you.
There’s a reason – I have to go there.
Watch the meat. I’ve got it all – I got the whole package. Boston – it’s an east coast thing.
Ohhhh – Bob Roberts.
You always get the cheap stuff man. I spend twenty five – thirty bucks.
I love her. I’ll talk to you a little later.
You can do scooters and shit – bikes – takes 10 minutes to sign up.
We have a guy in the building who does that.
I’m gonna go all blazing saddles here after I cook this.
Cause my bird makes seventy thousand a year on that.
You gotta bring proof of id – don’t say a thing about working. Not a fucking thing.
Who cares? You’re not with her.
He should not be involved in your shit.
Put em on there – you only turn them once. Lay them on. Lay them on top – roll that beautiful meat over.
You write it out – he okays it – pro persona. You have to not fucking figure out the whole world at one time.
Exactly – you know it.
She’s young – that’s got it – Jesus Christ.
So here’s how you tell – you push down with the fork – it’s gotta be squishy. It’s done.
See that rubbery – to the left. Flip it.
Put em parallel. Back and forth back and forth. That’s how you do it. Then flip em.
Is that your last piece?
Wash your hands.
Where are your slices?
I put some on there – and sauce too.
The skinny one walks by on the way to cleanup , under his breath mutters – fuck off.
She’d be interested in coming on board…
Touch – touch it with the lid. Put that raw one here?
Hey – Sandy Grossman’s one of my good friends.
I don’t know what misdemeanor avalanche they’re refugees from, or the bare room fuckings they pump out. I can’t picture their morning ablutions, but they’re in this park – the fat one pushing his half-wrapped gut out of a blue t-shirt, muttering ‘sabout ready – ‘sabout ready. And the skinny, lanky guy with puffy eyes – like the bad end of a boxing match and four days or so unshaven – they occupy a long green bench with foodstuffs and crap from one end to the other. On the pavement at their feet a one square foot propane cooker piping out baked chicken. Clatter of lid, the fat guy mutters, “It’s a good hot-shot way to do it.”
And in 30 seconds it’s all in a plastic bag and they’re walking away across the park. They stop one at a time in front of a grizzled geriatric on a bench exactly like the one they left. and bend close to pay their respects. King of bench squatters.
You’re all whores
You’re already in hell
You are whores in hell.
As soon as he sees the park ranger walking the path he chooses silence and slips into the crowd on the sidewalk, and screaming guy disappears into the throng of common suicidal whores.
What makes a mans mind begin to dwell on past events and reminisce instead of plan gifts into the future? There must be a line in time somewhere – a defining moment when the focus shifts, but it passes unremarkable and we find somehow that our time is being spent remembering instead of planning.
Our pleasant dreams have become paintings of memory instead of designs for new experiences. And we don’t notice this.
So – when the tasks have been accomplished, sobriety achieved, some idea of an acceptable future mapped out, a scaffold of comfort on which we agree, then – there must be a new invented risk.
I envy your first listen – that’s impossible to recreate – it’s beautiful – at times though I found it uncertain even threatening, but it always resolves to something splendid, palpable and entirely forgiving. And immediately after thinking that it occurred to me – maybe that’s what death is going to be like.
There are two types of thirteen year olds. Ones who were fucking in the basement during summer holiday when their parents were working, watering down the liquor cabinet and sneaking out the window at night to wander parks and 3am streets for adventure.
I have no idea what the other type was entertained by.
Observe, project light, and don’t be afraid. The boy – 12 years old – remember this boy – a poet folded into a middle class cocoon – he sees solid truth – school work he can’t grasp – some unfathomable fear – moments of parental decisions pile up outside and the strings connect to his hands and joints and feet and he dances correctly tethered but self conscious, and when his father asks what he’s going to do all summer he admits that he has only one focus and her name is Corrine. But there is something he can’t vocalize – it’s not even a conscious thought; the fear will require attention – if he can figure a way to hide the puppet strings he might have a shot.
I wonder – does no one else see this coming? The theater of absurd, partisan bickering that pervades all discourse. The under funding of education, corporate ownership of information feeds, the baboon puppets in charge of the keys and the absence of any concrete solution, like a circus of anarchy it allows one to watch and wonder when and how disaster will inevitably manifest.
Were you to manipulate time and sit at some future table gazing at passers by – swing the pendulum from today’s insanity – past tomorrow’s hope – and farther you might finally understand what is being formulated now. Is there respite there? Resolution? I think not – rather, an equal absurdity – planted by poison shrapnel that can’t be extracted – today’s stupid bomb glowing with a half-life venom inside the best wishes of whatever takes over from the idiot in chief.
We will have a hard time repairing damage being dripped into the veins of stupid human beings. People deprived of education (a solid foundation from which to detect bullshit), will become a poor fabric on which to hang any kind of progress.
I believe in people, but there is a generation – an entire brood of babies about to be born that need educating before real change is possible.
And we will bicker over the content of that education until no one can figure the difference between right and wrong.
It feels like I should have saved some drug and alcohol indulgence – abuse – for later in life. I could use a dose of forgetting, medication, and meaningless existence right about now. I think of doing that and all the instantaneous moments of freedom ring in memory. None of the tragedy.
The home I need to return to that I deeply love is a place where there is genuine interest in the process of working at a project. What happened? It seems that I’ve trained myself out of a kind of joy. Whatever series of events or thoughts or feelings that got me here has disappeared. I can’t see cause / effect. So there is no way to repair this. I have speculated that addiction may be the root, but awareness of that fact is no secret solution.
And this is becoming a silly loop. Go back twenty years in these journals and find this same dissatisfaction noted every month or so. It’s not new.
There are exercises available now, after this ‘Poetry to Prose’ workshop. I will dedicate myself to those and perhaps become unstuck. I first typed that as unsuck. Yeah, that applies.
How are you? I’m lonely but I’m where I need to be. The trade off isn’t unexpected.
A cliff overlooking an ocean – a great stand of pine – a river racing at a shallow bank – all these things – and a place to sleep nearby – a way to be mobile – maybe a fast car and an empty highway. But this woman I’m thinking of – she’s never there. Think I’ll conjure a new one. No memories, no apologies, no history. How about – I can see her open her heart and accept this and even better I can see myself just let it be. And maybe it will be the best ever and we will be in love with each other at the same time and I can give all of it right back.
Picture a piece of land. A piece of disputed territory —maybe a few or a dozen acres in size at the edge of a downtown city center. On that land the owner has decided to draw up an agreement with the local indigenous band council that allows anyone to stay on the land during what would be the regular migration season for their people. Early spring when they would be on the way through heading north and then again in late fall —when the winter snows and wind chase them back south for the months when the sun rises, pauses just above a grey horizon, and then sets not even six hours later.
During this period travelers settle in different corners of the lot —by agreement —near the stream that carries away waste and near the stands of dense birch and aspen —just enough to harvest firewood at a respectable rate.
She can see the tips of the Tipis and the blue curl of smoke from their camps —population usually amounting to ten or fifteen souls at a time as per the agreement.
She will bake pies and leave them at the stumps nearby the camp, covered by an inverted wooden box to keep the critters out until they’re discovered. Blueberry and Saskatoon berry in spring and apple pie in the fall. Sometimes when she gets up in the morning there will be bannock or fry-bread on her balcony – just on the bottom step – wrapped to protect from the animals as well and once there was a gift of some feathers, bead work and leather; a pouch with some stones in the bottom, perhaps from a stream at another location miles away.
She imagines that this offering of land might inspire others, that these people might find a route opening from the most southern limit of their traditional migration routes, through the states, provinces, counties and countries —and across borders without guards —all the way to the northern plains where their ancestors used to summer and convene with nature. She imagines that she is the owner of this idea and that it’s been given away as recompense and is used with respect and gratitude by all of the participants —settlers and travelers alike.
That collaborative journey which arises from one’s own trust of selves and desires and freedoms and courage. It leads to the individual. It’s a distillation. It’s not some badge or a flag – it doesn’t require validation. It seems to be its own reward.
I’ve always needed to fight with the adage ‘I wouldn’t change a thing.’
I want that to be true and yes, I know the value of my life as it stands —the solid reality of this and I love it. But there’s a part of me that needs to entertain the idea of ‘…yeah, but what if…’ I think that fight is part of the definition of me. And for that fact, it’s has to be included as a piece of ‘wouldn’t change a thing.’
If some other man ever wins her affection…
That is a book title.
At the age of sixty three I found myself naked on the sheets quoting poetry to a prostitute. Just now I can’t remember the lines, but I will.
Just like the fascist who believes he is righteous, who is unable to see his own moral betrayal, I expect there are places and pieces of me which will be called to account in time. I believe I am right with compassion and understanding but this confidence in itself might be some kind of symptom. It must be. No person is completely clean.
Days for him were so unremarkable that he would close his eyes for sleep and it seemed as if only moments had gone by since his last waking, and that the sun would oblige him laying down again by rushing to the horizon, getting dusk out of the way in order to hasten another dark, dreamless night. The world served as an avoidance and the nights came more rapidly with age – themselves tired from his disinterest and wishing to get it all over with.
What was the first entertainment? What was the first thing that was intentionally presented? What mind first thought – ‘I’ll step up here and be another thing than what I am and provide a metaphor for those over there to take up.’
If you are the eyes and ears and the conscience of the universe – step it up – commit to experiencing life and delivering its money’s worth.
It’s hard to look at these people. I should pay attention to that alarm. The mouth breather idiot – the simpleton, the cheese-bun chewing know it all. You can read it on their t-shirt if you don’t believe ‘em. The insecure – the small thinker – compelled to vocalize everything they notice; ‘ooh, soap.’
Somehow I’ve got to knock the difference away and find common ground. Maybe that’s the issue. I fear having anything in common with these people.
I keep meeting these moments – the skin crawling swirl of dread, disappointment, regret or betrayal. There are two paths in consideration here. The one I left and the one I took. I will never know what that abandoned path might have become, but I worry it nonetheless, and I let it haunt me. Maybe it’s all a mistake. Maybe no one else would feel that way. Maybe no one else would worry it.
10 am summer, Edworthy Park. Just before day heat. Colours; wheat straw, silver green, dry earth bare rock mottled gray, yellow green peeled poplar bark, tree shadow on forest floor with hiding tint flowers, whitebluestreakedsky – sun at left shoulder.
Late evening in a backyard somewhere in Wildwood. Colours; grass edged sandstone wall, rusted BBQ at golden hour, black sap ringed holes in birch trunk, worm loam and shorn lawn, approaching nightfall seeping from beneath low leaves.
Imagine watching someone watch you perform the steps of falling into a play where you’re the lover and they are the loved. An exchange of authorization. This person allows theatre of the heart to sprout from idea to performance in the space of a piece of music selected for its compelling rise and its representation of tenderness. In a room of incidental poetry, leftover love notes and books collected after the breakups.
Patient and physician.
Blood collecting tubes.
Coaxing heartbeats from a dangerous stasis.
Needle in vein.
Here is an exercise in awareness I came up with a few days ago. It interests me, and it keeps coming back. I’ve decided to describe it. I was imagining the containment that our brains represent —as a physical thing —as a volume of ‘stuff’. I don’t know why. And I put my hands on my skull, one on the right front side and one on the back left side —fingers and thumbs splayed out trying to touch each other. This distills; the size of this head, and its volume are the ideas that immediately become forefront inside my hands. And I made myself understand —everything is contained herein. All of my joy, all of my thoughts, feedback and therefore understanding of the outside world, all of my experience (arising now in memory), all the love and all the fear —all of it has happened within this container that might be six square inches in size. A small fish bowl containing over sixty three years worth of wind.
All of everything that has ever been, as far as I can prove has happened inside this small appliance. That’s fucking astonishing.
I began to speak to it. I gave it comfort, some love, appreciation, understanding —all the while holding the container in my hands, feeling it’s size and it’s weight.
This is comforting to me in some unquestionable, solid, reliable way. It’s a focus unlike any other. There you are. All of you that’s ever been. You can hold it in your own hands.
He sat in the back of the van on the way to a restaurant to enjoy dinner and celebrate my youngest daughter’s graduation. The family was all there – my wife (separated) my other daughter, a family friend and my wife’s sister. He is their father, my father in law – from Idaho up for a visit.
He began to identify people of colour on the street – attempting to guess their country of origin.
‘That one’s from Somalia. There’s a light skinned one – probably Jamaican. That one – Africa proper.’
I’ve known him for twenty years. In all this time we’ve never spoken politics. We’ve never breached the subject. I suspect it’s because we both know there is no reconciliation. We are both smart.
Most of the passengers laughed at him, and gasped a kind of outrage – but tempered by his position as patriarch – he’s the ‘generous dad’. Beloved on Facebook, Instagram, and in conversation involving the siblings and children of his immediate family.
I had nothing to say. I was dumbstruck. I wondered immediately about motives.
There is a defensive broadcasting of subcutaneous resentment that comes up when the privileged are scratched, and this was the first I’d seen of it in person. It is a symptom.
Motives. Again, I had nothing to say, but now – at least a month later, inside my head I engaged him in conversation; ‘Have you ever looked directly in the eyes of a man who, through no wrongdoing – no action on his own part, was afraid for his life?’
‘Answer the question – yes or no.’
‘What would that prove? What does it matter?’
‘You’re deflecting. Deflection implies you no longer wish to learn anything. That’s fair. So here’s another question. Are you done with learning? Yes or no.’
‘This is stupid. I’m entitled to my opinion. I was just having a little fun. Don’t be so sensitive.’
‘Yes – of course you are. But you’re not just having fun. You’re defending something and you’re asking us to defend it with you. It’s a way of testing our position, you’re broadcasting in order to solicit response. You’re categorizing people as something other than what they possess as part of humanity. You’re taking the humanity off and giving them something else. Country of origin, locale, geographic centering. You’re sitting in a van with people you love and people who love you and experimenting with their tolerance of a strange game.
Hidden rules – unstated motives. You need to be accepted for this – a condition that only applies when a soul is unsure. To you that acceptance is the suggestion of participation, the sanctioning of this point of view by others – loved ones. The search for that acceptance is presented as an innocent game, whereas in reality it’s a signal. It’s a sign of your experimenting with the idea of dividing people – separating them from their birthright as humans and giving them labels. The labels seem harmless – they are presented as such – and maybe they are as applied to inanimate objects, but when you consider humanity and history, the separation – that separation matters – it is the ONLY thing needed to push a diseased society into wholesale violence and murder.
That tiny, innocent thought. The segregating of people into categories. The dehumanizing of individuals.
When you label a being as anything but human, it’s easy to target the label and then you can justify ignoring the fear you will see in the eyes of a man who through no wrongdoing – no action on his own part, is afraid for his life.
It’s a coffee shop – 9:15 am. People are here – working, purchasing, sitting and yet it’s quiet. It’s strange – there is sound in the room – even music, but there is no noise. If you speak you become an audio focal point – people don’t know why they are looking at you – but all heads turn at any uttering of a human voice- so incongruous is that disturbance.
I want to describe the subtle change I’ve been experiencing inside this mind over the past few days. But I’m not sure I can put it in words. I feel like I’ve awakened in a different brain. Suddenly there is a story – good forward impetus for the character in my novel.
There are other changes as well. More interest in incidentals – food, reading, I want to say it’s because of spring, or that I’ve had a decent sleep for a change, but it’s not those things. I always sleep well, and spring is nice but this is bigger.
I wonder if some physiological change has occurred. The tiniest burst blood vessel in my brain – a stroke technically – but one that destroyed a piece of fear or uncertainty instead of some critical connection between this mind and its interface with reality.
This scares me a little. I’m afraid of reverting.
I’ve gone from thinking I have all the time in the world (young and free) to thinking time passes too quickly (marriage and children) to believing it’s short and running out (older and single) to not really concerned about the issue (resigned?).
I just remembered a dream. One I used to have sometimes.
Again – couldn’t tell you when or how long ago. I feel like delving into the unique quality that seems to surround my dream habits, but that’s another discussion.
Here it is;
There is a road near the border of the Northwest Territories in Canada (Nunavut now I suppose) that runs parallel to it – from west to east for our purposes, and this story always concerns its progress from the western part of the province of Alberta, and supposes a need or purpose that includes some destination to the east. This dream story begins and it wonders about the quality of trees that line that road and what colour they are when you drive by them at six or seven in the evening on your way somewhere a couple of provinces over.
There doesn’t seem to be any rush. This dream, like some of my others, seems dedicated to the quality of the dream only. It skips urgency and regret and all the other ridiculous occupations of other dreams and gets right to the good part; unfettered wandering and the prospect of arrivals at strange places.
I can see the deep greens, I can see spires of fir in late daylight – at the same time I can see as if from a couple of thousand feet up, the length of the road lain down like a promise.
And the feeling of this good dream, that’s the thing. When I first remembered it a few moments ago it was the feeling of it that made me smile and want to try these words.
It’s like a thick, freshly cut piece of cedar wood on a hot August evening by a perfectly calm, deep lake. Pebbles at the edge of the water. Hills to the sky on the other side, the sun just below them to the west. And there is a dog and maybe a cigarette.
Some more of its qualities:
In the dream I know it’s time to travel but it’s never too late.
Somebody said something about the conditions up ahead but that doesn’t matter.
I’m standing at the beginning and I can see the end and everything in between, but there doesn’t seem to be a vehicle, I’ll get there anyway.
It goes far enough back into memory that it doesn’t matter what happened – it’s all forgiven.
Look at that colour.
Feel a dream.
So – this: how/why is it that I’ve saved these dreams? Why can’t I place them in time? And why are they coming back to me like gifts? I’m not ungrateful. I want more. But it feels a little lonely in a way. They are like apologies from some place in my past where secrets were born and then hidden away – pieces of omniscient self-understanding for future needs that a human can’t see or imagine.
I wonder when the next one is coming and what it looks like.
I tried to talk sense into a right-wing leaning woman on the Internet today. The whole thing was fruitless and left me feeling despair for humanity and for our future. It’s true the factions we’ve created are well rooted and the gulf between them huge. So much so that I doubt there is any hope of reconciliation for the concept of humanity as a whole.
I want to go back in time to see if this despair has manifested before – if it was as profound – if it was crippling to contemplate and if it was ever really resolved.
Today’s despair might be just an old habit.
Are today’s comment threads just a repeat of town hall coffee-shop banter? Is it any easier today to divide humans with unsubstantiated drivel? What are the sides? I’m apparently a libtard – to the dismay of the other side of that coin – I’m distant by stupidity and not worthy of consideration.
The walls are up.
They are immersed in philosophical bubbles, so am I. I’d rather pull my fingernails with my own teeth than engage in any discourse with people who rely on sweeping generalizations and memes to make their case, but half of that sentence is hypocritical.
There seems to be one difference though – my attempts – gentle explanations with facts and evidence are seen as attacks. Their replies are condescending.
I typed this last week and it’s well suited here:
‘Where is the fight right now? What piece of disturbance is calling for action?
It’s no longer a man or an ideal. It’s not a tract of land or a supply of goods. It’s the veil. It’s an ether. You can’t bear arms against it, you can’t isolate it and choke off its supplies.
It’s the wall of ideas – flooding over a broken dam – the confusion and immersion resulting from a hydraulic overload of other people’s opinions.
When the internet was an infant and people started to imagine the potential for change the discussion focused upon human growth and understanding – sharing of experience. What other than this are we here for – if not to share and help?
I don’t think anyone foresaw that the ancient, trivial, self serving habits of hubris and greed would see more light than any useful, positive shared experiment in social awareness.’
I’m sitting on a bench by the river typing (can it be called that?) on an iPhone text pad and the whole train of thought is lost to a black bird suddenly screaming ‘emergency!’ repeatedly until I stare at it and it quits.
Times are hard for dreamers.
Where was I?
Listening to a lecture on the works of William Faulkner – the speaker is making a point – how disconnected we are from the motives and the secret lives of others; ‘…and so we get this written character who demonstrably doesn’t get it right – he cannot figure it out. …we have no metric of knowing how often this is our own fate – no one ever comes and taps you on the shoulder and says “You know for the last ten years here are the various things you’ve misconstrued.” …we never ever get this data. It has nothing to do with intelligence – it has everything to do with race, it has everything to do with upbringing, it has to do with being on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out and not knowing the inner logic of the actions you’ve seen and are trying to gauge.’
The next series concerns Borges – a Spaniard – and the lecturer recounts a story in which it’s revealed that when God came to earth it wasn’t in the form of Jesus, but instead as Judas. The reader is allowed to see a completely unique grand design, one based on a solid motive – that of making this story – the passion play – gel and exist as the road map to purity rather than leaving anything to chance.
Last week I watched a film; Elizabeth – the Golden Age – in it the Spanish monarch allows an intrigue to develop which includes the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots in order to justify the invasion of England. The end-game being that God wouldn’t allow the death of a good Catholic at the hands of an infidel (Protestant) bastard child to go unpunished.
These pieces gave me great joy and I can’t explain why. I can’t nail down a description of the distance between my every day floating state and the beauty of these thoughts.
This was not the intention but there are moments from our past that haunt us with regret. The poison instants that return and replay in memory – a child betrayed – a friend insulted – a lover spurned or an act of violence.
What is this ghostly record worth? And why so powerful? A skeletal shock rendering good conscience impotent, and making any wise, worthy man cower in his own grief.
I spend most of my life locked in my own head. I can’t seem to find either a way out or a compelling reason to try harder. Music helps sometimes and this seems counter-intuitive.
You’d think that the songs would reinforce the hiding place – but instead they give this moment of reflection that allows me to see in from the outside. Sometimes I wonder- is that respite or reinforcement? All I know is that it feels different.
I’d like to say I’m not much for symbolism, but this would take some examination to prove out. I know that Dylan’s most obscure lyrics give me joy just for the sound of them – or for the practice of imagining the room in which they’re composed. Visions of Johanna for example, is a perfect photograph of a New York night, and Tangled up in Blue is best as a list of lost loves – not necessarily by the same person – but it works if you substitute the word love for each use of the word blue.
It makes me wonder if all of my words can be sliced into differing worlds with just the judicious placement of a blade.
I wonder if symbolism is some lost entity’s attempt at communication by the hand of its host. A parasite from another dimension inhabiting our brains – screaming between the lines.
I’m raking dog shit off of the back lawn – a years worth – and all of the reasoning that ran through my mind and my heart returns – all the broken thoughts, all the wants and needs, and I have to stuff it all into the bags of leaves and grass and garbage and shit, and put it out back for collection. Again.
Mothers and children and fathers and training – preparation for life – contribution, help around the house, control fights, theories, beliefs. They all mattered and now they don’t.
There can’t be any judgment – there’s no room for that. The world stands as it is and no amount of looking back changes it.
This must be the middle of the ocean. Although it might be any point from which there is no sign of land.
I say this not because of cognitive awareness of place – but because of an understanding of how much time has passed since I’ve felt the earth beneath my feet.
Where did I think I would be? At the divide when the decision came down – or even before that – where did I imagine this was going? The truth is – I didn’t imagine anything. I just left it up to best wishes, hope – and the mistaken belief that love was in and of itself the most noble purpose. I believed that because I loved every thing would be fine. Everything would work out just fine.
This is a better place – moments of real awareness and acute vision are possible here. It’s hard though in its own way. I haven’t found a cure for procrastination – I haven’t found the big reward – unless it’s nothing more than gratitude.
I can feel the depth of the ocean – this ether in which I’m floating. I can see to the horizon in all directions – I can feel the depth I’m suspended in – and although possibilities seem unbounded, this place is not for the faint of heart. There is literally nothing to hold on to.
I was speaking with Eliese the other day and we touched on the subject of relationships. Specifically growth and the propensity for people to change over time – that a person should celebrate this – you should know going in that it’s possible the person you’re in love with will not be the same person years down the road. I didn’t have a chance to say – ‘yes, this is one of the reasons I’m single now.’
And that paragraph is a painting of a good man. A person who moved forward and found himself in a place where the examination of self made it impossible to stay. But that’s not everything. I change. I think I grow. But when I watch myself all I see is struggle. There has been no plan. I don’t have even the remains of a map. It’s all been accidental and if you try to paint it in a way that makes it attractive – that would be a lie. It’s never been attractive. This is not a life to be envied. It’s full of doubt, sadness, loneliness and pain. Those are the battles fought every day. I say that I’m content, and I think it’s true. But the struggle to reach that place is never ending. If you rest – if you let one of those emotions reign – you will lose. Each day is a new fight.
However, I am a traveler. So each moment is made by my hand. I wish you in here but if you’re a traveler too – what is the end of that?
All we can do is try to understand and go on.
‘…at some point everything we’ve been taught about writing papers, producing reports… is false. The mind works by free association – the mind itself is a slippery character… it’s mobile and fluid… that’s how thinking happens… language is equipped to deal with this… but language we experience in novels is docile – it behaves – it takes those familiar frames, and this is reasonable for thesis and analysis – but it’s not the way the heart moves or the brain moves… if you eavesdrop on yourself – what it actually sounds like inside yourself, then it may not be nearly as orderly and cogent as traditional prose or traditional analysis would suggest…’
It’s strange that I continue to feel and make record of these moments – realizations – tiny snippets of thought, and each time feel the same sense of disappointment that they’re not more substantial, not part of a grand project.
I read to allow understanding of the scaffold and styling I lack, I listen to discussion on the merits of short stories – hoping to find impetus there. I try various tricks and abandon them as affront to the truth and still – all that ever happens is this flow of reality as I see it. I have the gift of taking pictures of myself and my surroundings but try as I might I can’t seem to invent a story – a skeleton on which to sew skin.
Remember all of this is infinite and exponential in scope. Vague? Yes. But there’s really no other way to capture beauty. David Deutsh said that the beginning of infinity is our ability to find good explanations and extrapolate from there. So – when you’re watching geese move slowly overhead in formation and you realize their weight and watch their vector, the glide and the form of wings that lift these meat vessels, remember that they are made up of the same stuff as all matter – at the most elemental they are strings of quantum possibility – they are pieces of the universe that are at once static and exist in infinite variety unless observed. So – because every possibility may be considered, then every possibility is real in some place that is separate from you at this instant in time, but just as true in possibility as your feet on the floor.
You exist infinitely and in an infinite number of times and places – all at once – as does every person and beautiful thing you’ve experienced or thought of. We/this/all of it – are the personified imagination of a universe/multiverse that is and will always be.
Over time and at this late hour while I watch sand run through my fingers I think I finally hear the messages whispered by lovers who wanted more. ‘You’re always looking to extract every feeling from life. You go deeper and travel to the end of a path instead of finding peace as a part of it – or for the journey.’
“There is an ache in you that I know shall never quite be soothed. A thirst, a passion, a fear and a doubt. A need to transcend the confines of a perfectly pleasant and respectable life. A need to fully grasp the exquisite and the beautiful. To flagellate yourself with the purest tortures and divine the nucleic truths of existence. I could be wrong…. but I do not think I am. I feel it from you… I feel it in you. I want you to find bliss. I truly do.”
And at this late date as I perhaps begin to mellow I start to realize the losses. I begin to calculate the colours of the paths and weigh them against the actions that kept me from stopping to allow the images to set; merely glancing and acknowledging a moment – reveling in immediate beauty – on to the next, rather than holding on to something in order to enjoy it growing.
It’s like there is a machine that runs on the energy created by love. It gains immeasurable power when lovers first find one another – millions of volts of electricity for each love that begins. And then the machine churns with this energy for a while – but the real drive – the billion volt injections of power – these are transmitted by the collapse of broken hearts – like the collapse of stars that release immense pulses of power – the breaking of hearts is the biggest surge of energy the universe knows – and it’s these recurring events that make this machine continue unstoppable – into the future where nothing is certain except a sustained flow of power – from hearts that will not stop entertaining the notion that love, perhaps this one, will finally last.
If you’re never going to amount to anything I don’t think it matters much when you decide to settle into it. Although by design – the earlier you do the less trouble you’ll go through – in theory. It’s another day where everything has begun to feel shitty. A day of amazing potential. But I begin to judge – that woman with neon purple hair – why would you do that?
If everyone gets a pronoun nothing can make sense.
Jesus – she’s staggering – it’s the middle of the afternoon – drunk.
Why would that fucker walk so far ahead of her. If he doesn’t open the door..,
All that child wants is another single minute on the slide – cool your jets mom – relax.
And the things that occupy my mind – flashes of the past – beautiful instants and then regret that they aren’t still on me, or that I didn’t give them enough.
Education – I failed completely at education and I wonder daily if I’m an example of that – I am pretty sure my limits have tied me to expounding pieces of observation as if they were discoveries for mankind – when in fact people are noticing them with a kind of tolerant pity that someone could go so long without having seen them in textbooks.
So – colours – concentrate on colours.
Light shining on new grass. The sandstone side of the school. A tan squirrel on a power line. Deep green fir tree. And the light through that woman’s hair in the evening with the sun just so at the edge of downtown. Just look at colours and turn off the rest. From now on. Until forever gets here.
Maybe the thing that has you in this state is a trick – maybe it’s an old unsatisfied anger or maybe it’s a fucking desire – something that you haven’t been able to kill.
Maybe it’s a mural of a moment created in your memory a lifetime ago -something that can never be fixed.
Goddamned self doubt. I fucking hate it.
I remember listening to a song or two just after my father died – I was living in an apartment with my mom, and refinishing a table – it was turned over on its top in the dining room – onto newspapers – I had stripped the finish off with steel wool. I was feeling even then that I had no idea what I was doing, but I just kept going – thinking that the end result might somehow be improvement. And now I can feel that space and the music – but mostly the air in the room. It was heavy somehow. I’m connected to it even now. That was a singular time. Strings were being cut and I would soon fall alone and free into the world.
What a time that was.
I do not have a problem looking in the mirror. There’s no fear of what I’ll see looking back – teeth and claws from the past – yesterday’s embarrassment nipping at my heels. I just go forward – maybe that’s all we need. I’ve never had a problem with justification – in any of its guises – I’ve come to enjoy using the term ‘accumulation of experience’ as my get out of jail free card.
I suppose I want to say a truth. I have no idea why. Well, I would have had an idea years ago, but now there is no holy truth and nothing to reveal and no reason why.
I watch the little children across the road at the playground and I wonder about their attributes. Some are gentle – some seem dominant. I wonder if any are destructive – I wonder if any are being driven by lack or by violence they’ve witnessed done against someone they love. I wonder if any of them are terrified and just show up at different places in life because they’ve been dressed and fed and have no other choice.
I think about you and the promise I made years ago to come to your side and be the thing that you could lean on – fall into a bathtub with when it all got too absurd.
And I feel like a life criminal – a thief of remedial possibility, some taker of life medicine – or at the least – a person who didn’t keep a promise to someone he wants to love.
I think I see you happy at times – I think I feel you at times feeling for me across this great distance and I hope you’re seeing the love in my heart for you and only for you.
I hope – if nothing else – that you know how much I loved you.
I looked up and saw some birds so high – so far away that they were just specks. I don’t know how I even saw them except that they’re moving. They are so small. What if you were a bird and you got even a little dizzy with heights – you couldn’t be could you – that just couldn’t happen. No bird could ever get even a little dizzy – for any reason at all. There they are – in front there are sunbeams playing off of clouds – so bright and fanned out over the sky – and between the different layers of light in the sunbeams and at the edges of the clouds glowing from the light behind, birds are playing – so high up that I feel dizzy.
People begin to topple over from reading the website into the world I occupy. They came from whatever place and fell into this room. Glasses, drink, cigarette, iPhone, laptop, all of it. My complaints about people and things has them falling from the sky into their places. And I’ll write them all back out again.
The sky from the day of the funeral stays with me – as does the layout of the house – the sign at the door – ‘please place your belongings where they belong’ and, ‘there are times set aside for singing and such, and there are times set aside for quiet – please respect each in their place’…etc., the shoes inside and the smoke and all the rules. I recall all the people around me that day – real and imagined and both the living and dead being each represented in kind. I recall Frank Hill living and singing a group of folks through the door and his little brother Jack from the other side – sitting in a chair with a wooden piece of memorabilia topped with a blue fabric – all the dead had these and I still don’t know what they were.
I woke up from this dream coughing from the cigarette smoke although I haven’t had one since thirty years or more – you wouldn’t be holding any would you? No – folks generally aren’t these days.
Eyes like goddamned fire. Dark hair curled around fingers. Mine or yours. Laugh. Reach. Test. Lets stand right there and watch. Lean a little. Feel that hand. Lean a little. Lean a little. Twist a little that way. Say a couple of things and laugh again. Feel that hand. Sweater. Hair. Mouth. Hands.
I’ll lie later. Send a little something to calm the troops. The heart troops and the mind troops. What kind of thing. What kind of time was that? Don’t go to strangers. Woman. They’re all strangers. Look at the words. I’ve filed some of the edges for you. Or for them. Some are filed and some aren’t. They’re all the same price.
Lean a little. Gotta run.
Life is a guided tour of everything that’s possible in a dimension where comfort and safety are afforded by a benevolent source of control and projection. Imagine asking to be shown all of it. Imagine being dropped naked into complete possibility without driver training or safety rules. A wild-card participant in eternity and infinity. That would be terrifying. But to be shown a small slice of the whole – just enough to see how intriguing the ‘all’ is.
Now – that’s life – that’s what we have here – it’s a slice of everything that’s possible in time and space. That’s all it could be. It’s amazing – it’s unfathomably complex, beautiful and deep – and that’s just this little slice we get to see.
Sometimes I wonder how much damage I’ve done to the us that doesn’t exist, just by thinking about you at times when it all comes on and I can’t/won’t stop it.
Jesus Christ – how many lives are rushing by in the city? All of these people on the way to work on bicycles, and I can read their minds and hearts. Just by looking at them I can tell which ones don’t care about all of it.
They don’t care about this thick, wet wealth.
I can tell which ones are mistakenly invested in an office mate. I can tell which ones are hell-bent on self improvement and which ones are just gliding – content in their posture, their vector and the mark they leave.
Goddamn, I can smell worms on the wind. I can smell a day fourteen years ago when someone made an impossible wish. I can see a face that was a dream then and smiled on me with the possibility of touch. I can smell fifty-five years ago – comfort of a mother and the roast beef Sunday meal that heralded the beginning of a new week of school and strangers and sidewalks connected by touch for miles across the city and back to this neighborhood – just down the block in fact – to a girls house where that telephone number might work.
Can you tell me how to dampen this? The smells. The images. The street shadows. How do I dumb it down?
Afternoon nap dream:
It was elongated – a beak three times the length of its body – both were blue and the beak was edged with yellow – a spoon at its tip. The bird’s legs were spindly and dangled down beneath it like a bee – it was equipped with four of them. I wanted desperately to get close to it and it seemed to suddenly know this and it wished to comply. There was someone else present. Someone young – I asked them if they could see it and if flew near them and they were joyful. It came back toward me and when it flew close I put out my finger and began to talk to it gently – inviting it to land. Eventually, cautiously it did. I could feel the small wind when its wings allowed it to hover and alight, and that moment I noticed the feathered, yellow, conical skirts around each of its talons. I felt the grip of them on my finger and felt the same possessive joy you do when feeding a Whiskey Jack – or a Chick a Dee. I knew it was hungry and I talked to it – told it if it was patient and not afraid, I’d walk into the house and find food – it could just stay on my finger. It was willing to do this, but as we got close and my one hand reached to open the door – the idea became too much for it and it flew away.
Today’s thousand words
There is a type of therapy that takes into account all these things that are wrong. James is going to the doctor today. Getting fixed isn’t as difficult as you think. It’s pills, sure, but that’s just the start. The dances and the nights running down the street with your friends, that’s what you aim for. That’s what you come for. 1966 at sundown. Come out of the house and connect with the big brothers and sisters from up and down the street. It’s easy – they make the decisions and the rules, but you know it’s going to be fun because you’re outside and the air smells like that, and the sun is gone and soon the streetlights will check-in with their veils and tornadoes of moths and bugs. What is it tonight? Track down? Joey’s brother has a spotlight – they mount it on the balcony on nights like this – you have to go out in the dark, no farther than Boothmans house – and hide. They’ll countdown and when it’s time you have to sneak from bush to steps to bush to tree and finally you have to wait until the light is looking for someone else and run up under the balcony and ring the bell before you get lit-up. First one in wins – you have to try, you can’t just hide in the spot you chose. You have to advance with the swing of the light. And no one tries to cheat anyway because it’s such fun.
So you take the pill.
I was talking with Brent over coffee today and he told me about Frank – down in Arizona with his girl – got run over on the street – just like that. Fifty six years old and knocked down on the pavement and killed.
‘Life is precious’
I said, ‘yeah. It is’.
And we went on and he told me about all the people at the celebration of life. It used to be funeral. Now it’s celebration of life. Because funeral is shitty I guess. No one wants a funeral, but sure as hell – you’d do just about anything for a celebration of life. Doesn’t make sense though, when it’s the same thing.
And then we talked about something else and then we were talking about taking morphine for pain and then we talked about a pill for general malaise for the general piss of it. Just take it and change everything. So James went to the doctor. Jim went to the doctor. Brenda went. Tracy too. Melinda said she’d never go – that there was always someone to talk to – someone you could trust instead of resorting to pills.
Nobody knows everything. This person knows these hurts. This other person knows some of your hurts as well. No one person knows all of your problems, hurts and the wishes that come from them. You don’t tell one person all the things.
This pill – two years. Go back to before that job fucked up and your daughter got pregnant. Two years. A summer and another summer, and a bus trip, a bad hotel room. Three meals out for birthday dinners. Two of yours, one of hers. That fucking speeding ticket just this side of Revelstoke – the discussion in the car about how fast you should be going with kids in the car. Someone else’s kids – camping and guess who was going to tell their dad when they got home and then the whole neighborhood would know.
This pill – five years. A missed opportunity at the firm that wanted a Project Manager. Doesn’t matter that the whole thing blew up three years later anyway when the bottom fell out of oil. But, there would have been enough time for a couple of years on top. Savings. A pretty decent savings account can happen in two years.
Here’s the pill; twenty years. How big is that fucker? Remember Adrienne? Maybe she’d still be around. I’d like to go back to that night after the movie and the time spent talking at her apartment. We sat on the couch talking. Facing each other. I went home. I just said goodnight and went home. She was surprised. What a Goddamned fool. Hurt so many people. Arrogant Goddamned fool. No pill can fix that. No one can forgive that.
How about a handful of pills? How about fifty of these? Fifty of anything will fuck you up though.
That artist girl. Maybe you could have saddled up with her for a while.
Dawn. That was her name.
What kind of pill takes care of that? What’s the drug? What’s the active ingredient? Side effects?
These are new – they’re not advertised on T.V. Inside of it is time. Pills filled with time. Time that could have been spent better. Time that you missed entirely because you were somewhere else. Or time denied entirely. There you go – that’s it. Pick the time. Pick the place.
There they are. Walk in. Pay the doctor and off you go.
Time pills. Place pills. Person pills. Trouble pills and out-of-trouble pills. Food pills. Sex pills.
Join the fun pills.
Most of what happens in there you wouldn’t believe. And it’s just a matter of money.
You got money? You can get the pills.
Your sorrow saw the light of day.
Today’s one thousand words; didn’t happen.
Tiny seeds of pollen are arriving on the breeze, and the only reason I know this is because they’re sitting on the surface of my tea. I can count them – so few – if you look up at the right time you’ll see some – or one go close by. Tea doesn’t taste like anything and it hasn’t for a long time. I have tried numerous blends, stronger and stronger until I think I can detect flavour – but for the most part it’s just hot water to me. It’s nothing like tea I remember when I was twenty years of age.
Maybe it’s because I smoked for a while again. Maybe it’s just age.
It makes me a little sad every time I take a sip but I keep trying – you can’t give up easily on anything that gave you that much pleasure.
There is a fibrous black cloud sitting against the background of grey overcast today. It’s like a hand – fingers – moving across the upper layer – scratching its belly. The lower layer slowly grows – it looks peculiarly repetitive. Like a quilt or a screen over a front doorway or a patio. It slowly descends until it’s about ten feet above the ground. People who are above that layer – people who go there instead of finding lower ground or those who, as an experiment stand up and have their heads ascend above the layer become frozen in place – they don’t move and they don’t react when spoken to. They can’t be extracted and they don’t seem to be either harmed or aware. They’re just ‘stuck’. When it recedes in a week and disappears, the air – the entire depth of the atmosphere is completely clean – scrubbed free of all the pollutants released over years, and the people who were ‘stuck’ come back to reality believing they were aware the whole time, and that they were told, ‘you don’t belong here’ and were released immediately – with no more than a couple of seconds of duration between when they ascended into the layer and when it disappeared and they returned to their normal place.
There is a moment in my mind and I don’t know if it’s real or if it’s invented. I may have dreamed this. There is a path through tall deciduous trees. Earth and growth slope up to the crest of the path and on its level top is a road of greasy railway tracks. The trees reach all the way to the sky and their tops are sunlit with a shock of blue sky between the edges – the blue trail follows the path of the railroad a mile or so away and then turns. I can smell the railroad ties, the grease from the rails, the dirt on the ground and the leaves from the trees – all heated from the afternoon sun. There is no place to be. There is no human expectation. There is no past or future to this day. There is the movement of the trees – the perfect summer afternoon temperature, not too hot, not at all chilly – the temperature you feel on a hot summer day when you stand in the shade of a thousand green trees. There is the scent. It makes a person stop, close their eyes and breathe in slowly to drink it up. It’s cemented so well – so vividly in my memory that I can retrieve it at will – yet I can’t tell you if it’s based on a moment or a dream.
I am absolutely lost. I have no compass other than my own experience of what feels right and what feels wrong. There are no reference points in the field of view. I do what I wish on days where I have an idea and otherwise I sit and look at a vista, from one side of a window or the other, depending on the weather. I’m not at all disturbed by these facts, although I wonder occasionally if I’m not crazy.
All of the running forward to try to write, all of the worry about where money will come from. All the guilt about my family and how I left them. My history with love and with sex and with humanity – all of this is now just ‘the past’. I don’t know whats coming. I am absolutely lost. It should be the perfect place from where a person could begin a painting. There’s nothing at all on the canvas right now.
Today’s one thousand words;
Sally is a grocers daughter. She loves French jazz from the 1920’s and regardless of how people label her, make fun of her and give her trouble, she wears cloche hats – in the style of Anais Nin, long, black sleeveless sweaters with fringes – and utilizes a cigarette holder when out back on her break.
If you come in on a Saturday early when she’s responsible for opening, the speakers throughout the store will be blasting Sidney Bichet, Django and the Hot Club, and whatever other pieces of prewar treasure she’s managed to find over the work week – squirreled away in the trunk of her car and setup on tape at home in preparation for this moment at the weeks end.
The girl isn’t a misfit – she’s dedicated, intelligent, witty and insanely detailed and organized. It’s almost like the organization genes for the whole family got squirted into the batch that made Sally – and there was a lot – and it became engaged with organizing an entire genre of music and culture and can’t find its way out.
It’s funny because home isn’t like this. She lives in a side by side on the highway – out by the reserve and the casino – and it’s a tidy bit of property – backing up onto government forestry land – her backyard goes all the way to the coast if you look at it that way. No one’s ever building anything out there – and sure as hell, you could walk in a straight line to the pacific ocean from here if you set your mind to it.
Her house is completely normal. All the trappings of a twenty year old woman, just fresh out of college, independent, happy, successful and the only thing missing by conventional standards or by anyone else’s idea of what’s normal – is any evidence in any way that she is interested or looking for companionship, male, female or other. There is just no hope chest visible – metaphorically or otherwise.
Her brother Dan has always been one of the most disgusting samples of humanity in the county. At an early age the child decided that pissing in his clothing was comfortable, firstly for the warmth, the feeling of fluid finding paths down pant legs and even into boots gave him a temporary connection with temperature. After that, when the liquid began to cool, he became aware of the scent of his own piss. It bothered him at first, this stink that came with such a good feeling, but after a time, after he’d begun to become used to it, he started to like it, and he began to connect his intake of food and drink with the associated scent of his urine so that some foods he would seek out during times of stress knowing that in a couple of hours he could calm himself with the resulting smell in his pants, and some foods he avoided altogether because no matter what was happening at the time he couldn’t abide the stink that particular substance would generate after it had gone through his digestive system and was let loose in his trousers.
The boy pissed himself daily for months and was taken to the doctor for a year or so – as everyone tried to find the source of the habit and break him of it. In the end, he decided that rather than have them win, he would change his approach and while being less overt about the practice, actually allow it’s continuation in a more stealthy manner.
When he was fourteen years old, he began taking jam jars from the recycling – from the shelves when they were almost empty. In the mornings when he was roused and made to get out of bed to get ready, he would go to the hidden boxes in his closet, extract a jam jar containing Monday’s, Tuesdays, yesterdays or last weeks piss sample, and dip a piece of handkerchief into it. The torn piece of fabric, small – easily hidden he would pin inside the leg of his pants – at the cuff on the bottom – and thus the familiar scent would be around him during the day – occasionally he could smell it – but mostly it was the knowledge he had a piss soaked cloth marking every and all territories he occupied through the day that gave him comfort.
He didn’t completely forgo the habit of pissing down his legs either. He saves that now for days when he can get away with it. When his pants are going into the laundry machine immediately – by his hand – or when he’s alone in the woods in the summer – back up in the hills with time enough to piss himself, throw the pants into a stream and then up onto a tree branch to dry in the afternoon sun.
To this day, if you walk by Dan you will wonder what it is about him that makes you want to both avoid his presence, and try not to look into his eyes. It’s the molecules of piss that follow him everywhere he goes, and have since he first discovered their utility at the age of ten, in elementary school grade four.
Getting a little bit worried about my opiate ingestion. I remember the lyric ‘When life feels like easy street there is danger at your door.’ And it definitely feels easy right now. What – four bottles of pills later and there’s still a full one in the medicine cabinet. But there is hope – there is a new drug on the way. I don’t remember the name – but it is a pain killer that works on phantom nerve pain. We’ll see how that one works. In the interim, I’m trying to integrate Tylenol into the regimen in order to lower the dose of oxycodone I’m ingesting daily. I keep thinking though, as I sit here on afternoons – occasionally writing – occasionally reading, napping – drinking tea and thinking; I have never had it this good. Life is truly a gem right now. And if I could transport this living situation to Penticton. Do this in the valley with the lake nearby – it would be as close to heaven as I expect I will ever experience.
I’m at the point where the high gets interrupted by flashes of guilt for being high. As I recall this is a bad sign. It’s an indicator that the use has been going on a little too long. I’m not spending the family retirement fund, I’m not late for work each day, slobbering drunk or incapable of doing any of the things expected of me, but – I’m high on opiates from about 3pm until sleep every day. That’s an issue.
When this bottle of pills runs out it’s time to go on that other regimen of drugs – I’ll see what it has to offer. No doubt less addictive than oxycodone. And after they’re gone – I’ll just use Tylenol. Be done with it. The place where the revered Charles Bukowski sat – that table he set for himself and few others – it’s not welcoming at all to the soul. His prose and his poetry is electric beautiful – stunning – but it comes from a train wreck.
Gail Anderson Dargatz has been trying to pry conflicts out of me in my writing for some time. I’ve always had trouble finding natural, easily believable obstacles to throw into story or in front of characters in order to make things more interesting. And now – this piece – this suggestion from an editor who’s social media feed I’ve recently subscribed to. Do this; use time as a conflict. Set an alarm in a story and see where it goes. I was working on a piece that seemed to be stuck. I took this suggestion to heart and put in a quick mention of a deadline, something that this character would be affected by. Naturally, out of that inclusion, a situation arose, a result was possible and the opinion of people concerning that situation and the possible results drove the story from an incidental conversation about a room with three people in it to a cauldron of embarrassment, betrayal, bullshitery and power struggle. All because of a simple deadline introduced and the reaction to that deadline by a set of characters I had invented. I love this – it’s a perfect example for those who don’t write of the adage; the story – these characters – I have little control over them. They seem to do whatever they please. It’s true – they were people in a room talking – I invented that – but when I added the alarm, the time issue – things suddenly began to write themselves. The problems invented themselves, the solutions and the reactions of the characters invented themselves. I just typed. It’s gratifying when that happens.
So – build a list of obstacles. You can’t. Well, you can but it’s not reasonable to label these before a setting is established. Money can be an obstacle, but it’s unlikely to be one to someone in space. Sugar can be an obstacle. Water. Clay. A facial twitch.
But – build a list of obstacles anyway. Maybe a list of universal obstacles.
These are universal pieces that have huge implication. Or small. Depends on the story – the involvement and I supposed even the acumen of the people involved.
I’ve come to the point where a day and a night will consist of thought mostly of this ilk. Some reading. Some walking – some thinking and a few hours at the keyboard. Inevitably something of value comes out. It’s always worth the trouble.
I’m gonna count all my regrets and smoke a hundred cigarettes.
It’s funny – the difference between how important life seems from the inside of this mind and how little the pathway is between the lives of all the others on this planet. The tiny tracks that make no noticeable impression – cutting through air and not leaving a mark. My life has all these insistent noises echoing inside – bouncing outward and coming back. Yet it’s just noise really. Little of it is of any concern, and that only to a small group of people. That’s OK I suppose. But it’s surprising. Not in the way that I wish I was more influential or more broad in the stroke of my incidence, but the feeling of being lost in the soup has a certain anonymity about it that paints the nobility of just being human a little more profoundly. I am a perfect observer. That’s OK by me.
Narcotics; …and it’s not like Towns Van Zant’s ‘waiting around to die’ – it’s more like just fueling the machine enough from the healthy side and the experimental side so that the burn happens at a rate where it’s fun to watch and mostly harmless. Each day has a little guilt for the ingestion of substances, and they’re running out and the temptation is to do a whole bunch at once in order to make it rock and roll one more time, but that’s not practical and not recommended. At every moment there is the idea that you could be emulating a Tom Petty move – or Prince. It is a form of roulette. That idea is not enough to stop it.
I recognized you long ago and I regret now that I didn’t have the time to say so. You were never able to fit perfectly into the places I saw you. Your eyes and something in your manner always spoke a little differently than your words. Waving out the window from a car full of friends on a sunny afternoon – so engaged in going somewhere. Registering kids for a class – surrounded by people but able to pick a Leonard Cohen quote out of the air. Knocking at my apartment window in the early morning. I wasn’t able to say – I see you – I recognize you – you’re one of us. I regret that now. But if I know anything I know this; you’ve never let it stop you – not being recognized. It’s something we just live while no one else sees.
Walking the river path in the evening after the heat of day – it’s a reminder of holiday beaches, languid afternoons and the anticipation of evenings on a balcony with no care. Is it the air? Is it the season? Is it the moment spent in space and time that has no attachment? The hooks that pierce skin and psyche drag at us in ways we’re unable to release. The setting of these hooks – a result of nibbling at something that has value – the bait – and the line that will connect us to our fate is held by the hand of some unknown agent. But sure as hell – the motivation to troll that morsel in the stream in hopes of picking out a fat one – this motivation doesn’t have our best interest in mind.
When he sits by the river the evening light enters him – asking to be remembered. He scans the bank from north through east and then south – across the water where the cottonwoods stand tall – a deep green wall. Why do these things insist now – this mark on me? Maybe some calm change is coming – something that feels one with the flow of a river. The hunter appears over his left shoulder – squat body on stubby dihedral wings – it gains height – sets itself on wind, folds and dives straight down – leaving no trace of itself where the water boils over its moment. He used to wonder why he had no ambition – why the days would go by and there would be no pages typed. He would compare himself against others – a woman driven – a man who went every night to play music. Until he calmed down – found his best time to write – and reconnected with the idea that the moments spent noticing were all part of it – the time on the riverbank or walking the streets was all fuel. The people and the way they look at the world and his joy at watching the ospreys – the river hunters – or the seagulls moving slowly on the breeze in huge, wildly spaced flocks – all of them at random moments pausing on the wing to pick bugs out of the air.
I don’t know if this change of schedule will alter anything, but one thing it does feel like – I have a chance. I’ve given myself permission and time to let the words out. And it’s funny. Whether they coalesce into something valid or not doesn’t seem to matter. It’s this wonderful feeling of fingers on keys that seems to be the reason to continue.
How do you define the different shades of green that present while the sun rises through the boughs of poplars early in the morning? You can’t – there are myriads of terms designed to differentiate, but they are clinical – invented to pass information in a clinical way. These colors are emotional and have no names. There is night shade, fibrous gleaming silver, spring time wet, and the whole of the feeling – earths skin tone bathed in pure light – reflected from the golden blaze of the sun into air – a gift for anyone prepared to see.
These ladies that ride bicycles – cruisers – sitting straight up – head tilting a little or rotating to take in the day as they breeze by legs pumping for forward motion. And the Lycra encased fat asses of the executive lot – imitating bicycle racers – heads down and proud – like children emulating heroes. I wonder what the conversation is like at the coffee shop lineup between these two. What kind of exchange happens when the poser in his tights – balls presented forward as a lump in the pants – and the demure cruiser riding realist attempt their morning greeting.
“Hi Sally – don’t I look speedy in these tights?”
“You’re transparent and you should be locked up Frank. No one wants to look at your ugly ball-sack squeezed into a black spandex sausage skin – and your ass – from the back you look like a vacuum packed French loaf – what are you thinking? ”
There is a pink in the sunrise that I swear isn’t available on any color palette. Maybe it’s because I’m seeing it through the depth of the leaves of a giant cottonwood. Cold air moving across my body from the open window – the scent of dawn and of autumn. Empty streets on a Saturday morning the orb of the sun glowing through yellow leaves. Hands feel the keyboard and the very fact that typing happens is joyful. In the end – this is the only thing I feel I’m good at. Stringing together words.
So – it’s a feedback – isn’t it? Am I happy because I see me taking form on pages? Am I happy because there is a chance these words will be read and understood? Am I happy because there is possibility of validation of these thoughts? Am I happy because this is unhindered communication? Time goes by. A single soul walks (Traipses? Trudges? (correct that spelling!) Waltzes?) up the street. Thirty seconds of frozen impression. The water bottle dangles from her right hand – fingers – and it sways on the off beat as her arms move in rhythm with her step. Blue jean baby. Blond hair – but washed out blond. Not the sunshine, California girl blond you think of in a bikini – the barfly blond – the smoky room blond – and you know she swears like a sailor – spits the word cunt – whether or not it’s required – into conversation. She makes people notice by embarrassing them inside their own skin. She has become adept at it and it serves her in moments when she feels there is not enough juice in the conversation. That huge poplar she walked by – it’s my morning companion. It’s twenty five yards away – trunk three feet thick – two of you couldn’t join hands around it, and the volume of the crown – so substantial. Great pie plate leaves – grown from scratch in the spring – and not a wobble from any of them on most mornings when the air is so still a single exhaled breath might sit in front of your face undisturbed. Its little brothers stand nearby in awe. All the grass is brown. Dead. But there may be rain next week.
When I take a break to enjoy the flavor of coffee it’s a real reward. There is something accomplished and I can rest. Truly feel worthy of the taste and the moment. That moment becomes, again, something that is worthy of words. And the words are reward. And the reward is more words. It’s an ego feedback loop that, when it’s working, gives me as much joy as any that can be found in any living human on this planet. Bonus – I don’t have to go anywhere to find it. It’s right here at my fingertips. And yet some of it – much at times – feels masturbatory. I, me, in here, this, over there. It’s mostly observation and must be both a product and a revealing of the observer. Free flow – it should be many things, this is one of them, but I feel I need to force myself down into the balls of the thing. Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the blood.
Flash of sunlight through trees – as the ball ascends if finds holes in the great crown of leaves and flashes of brilliance break the green wall – blinding in peripheral vision, a reminder that the world is turning and change is ubiquitous and eternal. Now there’s an observation. Untranslated from nerve to paper. That’s the goal – untranslated from nerve to fingers – flow.
Trains wheels are screaming on the tracks and, high up washboard cloud is back lit by the rising sun.
Step step step step – runners scuffing on the sidewalk – arms pumping at hips with fists pushing little punches into the air. Runners begin to populate the sidewalk. They leak out of houses at 7:30am checking watches and heart rate monitors – an hour or two of commitment sealed with the tightening of laces, one last mouthful of water, and the latching of the porch door. Hurry. The sun is up – soon it will be hot – too hot to run. Fat guys with headphones, bouncing man-tits and sweat-dark spots on bellies. The comedy of the image breaks empathy for a few moments and then it’s back to – you go partner! A little redemption by way of encouragement.
From here I can see your balcony window and the railing on the porch it overlooks.. The paint is old, peeling and faded – spotted with dirt from seasons of wind, rain and dust. The blinds on the window sag at the middle where strings bind the sun-heated weight. One is tipped – a string caught somewhere – the occupant unable to figure out a formula for straightening it. Behind the blinds – underwear, a sink with dishes, maybe a television – muted and running some daytime news channel or shopping event. What air in this room needs cleaning? What kind of neglect has seeped into these walls? Some bulbous, leaking weight that draws the desire to participate out of occupants and leaves them unable to decide, or even look outside. From somewhere a seed was planted. “Not today. Maybe later, I’ll get to it some other time. I give up”. No bicycle, no backpack, no books, no writing pads, no canvas, no paint. Those things are hiding behind the wall – even the idea can’t manifest. Not in a room constructed out of denial. And over here – I can lift binoculars and watch that window, that balcony, those blinds and I could do that for weeks on end and never see a shred of evidence there is anything living in that room. Not a change in lighting, not a movement, not the faintest hint of anything alive or possibility thereof.
The urgency to create. I’ve mistaken the pieces of this. Creativity comes naturally to me. I create easily. I’ve spoken to the reliability of muse in my life. So – it’s something else that is defined as urgent. And I created that too. The urgency for validation? The urgency to make a book? Urgency to be recognized. These are urgent things. The pleasant pastime of noting – observation and commentary – these things are my natural flow. When I attempt to corral them into some universally acceptable platform for delivery – that’s where I falter. And I don’t know why.
She moves across the periphery of incidental conversation hoping to be included. All her comments are self defaming. A mouse expecting to be trapped. She will sit where she intuits people will congregate – where will they be next? And when they turn the corner and see her they shy and stop their conversations and some of them turn around and others hesitate before changing their minds about that location. Others go on resigned to her presence – planning already a polite exit – soon – as soon as an opportunity might present. She has a sadness and apology about her that places her where no joyful thing can happen.
Clouds the size of a fist held up to the sky – scattered from from horizon to horizon evenly north to south as east to west and you could count them all in a few minutes and none would change. Knee deep grass hisses against itself in waves and with the grace of winged insects and even the sound of dust blown against the earth hissing and breathing into the heated afternoon air.
I keep sitting here in this perfect space – all the trees and clouds set out for me in the spot I have chosen to heal – and I wish to write something wonderful. But there is something not here yet. I have been so good – so patient to let it stew. I have tried different avenues – forcing things, practicing things, tricking things in aid of making the real thing come out. It doesn’t want to yet. There is time left to heal I suppose. Or there is something I’m not seeing. Patience is good. But I worry sometimes that the daily journal entries and the observational incidentals are all I’ve got. That maybe there is no story here. Or there is no story in me. Regardless – I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this place and these moments typing – observing onto paper – are the most comfortable I have felt in years. And I truly love me. I love this man. I love this boy and the boy inside loves this man – he’s being taken care of now. He’s being paid attention to.
I snarl and scratch at people who push at the boundaries. Then I forgive them and I drink a cup of tea, and I write some more.
If you choose to walk a line on the pavement you can do it – but if while doing it you begin to examine why – you will falter.
I construct a diagram in my imagination – what is your reality- you pick it – here’s how you do this – it’s how I can control shit; Imagine some circles on a page – they intersect at places and at others they hang free. These are influences and impressions. They are circles drawn by others on this sheet which is your experience of life. The day starts OK but someone walks by commenting and it goes to shit.
Is it their demeanor – that lack of friendliness – undefinable – just lacking enough to make you wonder; is that person someone I should avoid?
Can they see me from the back door?
Why are my little failures always being pointed out?
Feeling so Goddamned powerful – full moon? Or is it because I’m in feedback mode – analyzing.
Am I documenting a slide into paranoia – or insanity?
Which things matter.
I’ve stopped writing – something is happening – I’ve kind of done it on purpose. Questions – I stopped in order to ask questions. It’s taking a long time.
I think this might be where it’s going; Which Things Matter.
The impostor – how valid are your actions and passions. Are they someone else’s? A lover? An agency? A collective breath? Is there ever a time where you sit – maybe tired from a days work – in the chair you settled for, with the drink you decided is best for times like this – and things kind of swell. A note or phrase from a piano or the movement of a tree bough wakes you into a feeling of nothing but now.
That’s you – and only you. Pieces of it were stolen – sure – from somewhere/someone – but everything is. All the stolen bits you’ve accumulated are there on shelves, in the air, on the walls, in your cup – everyone is a cornucopia of stolen bits. All of us. They’re just mixed a little differently in each case. Take some time – don’t look at the pieces – look at the whole – no one on the planet has the same gathering of feelings, ideas, wishes, hurts or possessions as you. No – not an impostor – you’re a completely different mix of all things human – powered by an infusion of magic.
Those who start and stop love – both of these things in their proper time, those who see love and commit their heart to its mythical substance – not to a person or a thing but to the essence – the oeuvre of love itself – allow it to flow – toward or away – into or out of their grasp (it’s all the same to them). They might live forever. They might be what love needs.
They might be invisible. And don’t mistake them for uncaring. Shame on you.
They whisper; don’t hide. Don’t cover up. Don’t run away. Start love whenever you can. Stop love when it’s time. Don’t hide. Don’t run. Don’t cover up.
Observe love. Share the words if you have them. Share the picture you took. Show the painting. Recite the poetry. Start. Stop. Each in its time.
Keep watching. Don’t hide. Don’t run. Don’t be fearful.
Don’t hide. Don’t cover up.
A quote from Robert Pirsig: “When one isn’t dominated by feelings of separateness from what he is working on then one can be said to care about what he is doing. That’s what caring really is – a feeling of identification with what one is doing.”
So – Which Things Matter
I’m tired now and I want to know what the answer is. The secret. That one-liner that ties it all together. You know the one; it’s been some incredibly long, convoluted story or joke – you just can’t make sense of it – but when that line is delivered – the punch line – you understand. You see all the clues line up and you wonder why you couldn’t put it together by your own account. That’s the one I want – the diabolical, entire life punchline that ties it all up. I’m waiting for that.
It’s been snowing for the last few days. Tree boughs wear their dusty sleeves, and the tracks of hares – the rhythmic three and one notes of busy leaping trail through the brush at rivers edge.
The wind is from the north today. This means there is some force driving air from the west through a great curving arc into the north country and then expelling it downward across the plains – its natural flow – carrying the frigid breath of winter from dark places and laying it out over the land where it presses down and holds all things silent.
On the bank where the huge cottonwoods reach over the ice, a puff of wind breathes loose a few pieces of snow from crisp leaves or the great arms of the sentinels and the flakes float downward – you watch them descend – a flight of sparkling wishes that skitter past your face to alight softly on the path somewhere at your back.
You’ve been watching the geese, ducks and magpies, sparrows and chickadees too. All intention concentrated on feeding, digging through to the ground or uncovering berries and seeds, dunking heads and necks in the shallow river, repeating nudges at the stones below to loose vegetable matter – scraps of sustenance. You wonder how they survive – how a heart can hold its furious promise with so little fuel.
On a bough way out over the river a magpie is barking. They argue all day with the wind – a mindless narration of trouble and strife. But this one – its sleek black cape, shimmering blue edges and stark white breast lifts from the perch and flies toward you – teasing, then cutting air at the last second to present belly and talon – and it flies upward to the peak of a great fir behind you, and it knows something you don’t. In its beak it carries a twig – as long as its own body and it disappears into the gray-green secret at the center of the limbs.
It’s the first time this year you’ve seen it. The purpose has changed – something else matters – this single bird felt a call and began a new task today. Gather, hide, weave. Build a nest. Spring is here.
When you fall into addiction – when that disease manifests – you slowly release all that you are. It’s a degenerative thing and not noticeable from the inside. Over time you dissolve. At the end the process looks like this – you’ve descended, crashed, awoken, found the strength to recover and rebuild using the pieces left on impact. There is nothing of the human left – this rebuild is all done on speculation. You build a scaffold of what was – expecting that sometime in the future hopes, dreams, interest or joy will appear from some magical place and begin to fill it back up again.
I heard a man who lived through this once say – ‘Yes, I am here, but I’d much rather be in the center of a storm of cocaine and scotch. That’s where I belong. That’s where I’m alive.” He had been recovered for twenty years.
So – it’s now a parallel universe. Somewhere out there is reality – and this place – where things appear normal is a substitute – by giving my life to that experimental analog, I’ve created a separate me and then abandoned it, but it’s holding all the celebration – all the joie de vivre – the spark. I have the tools to succeed, but they are just tools, aside from them I have empty hands.
I recall a few years ago a friend came by the house and remarked that whenever she visited she missed hearing music. There was this ten year period where I was afraid to listen. I was afraid that when I left that wreckage, I left behind my ability to hear and feel joy in a perfect musical phrase, a harmony, a line of notes – all the things I used to cherish. Music has been the most important form of artistic fuel in my life. And so – I wouldn’t listen for fear that I would not be able to connect again. I rationalized this decision by thinking/feeling that no one around me would understand my taste – that I would be embarrassed to admit I liked certain genres or songs or artists – whatever. I felt I couldn’t play what I wanted so I would not listen at all. That was wrong – I was afraid I couldn’t hear – so if I didn’t try I couldn’t be disappointed.
Just now – almost seventeen years into sobriety – I find myself listening again. I can sit and go through a stack of songs – one after another, all different genres, and I can hear again. I can feel it all again. It seems to be OK. That part survived seventeen years of separation.
…is a slimy little cunt of a man who is able to go back in time. He discovered somehow that his feelings about a particular song, melody, can isolate him and allow a repeat – the little raptures he feels – if he generates one – thinks about it and then leaves it for a time – a short time say five or ten minutes – he can can generate it again and find that the piece of life between those two moments has disappeared. It doesn’t work outside of eleven and a half minutes – that’s the most he’s ever done – but no matter – in the time it takes you to shower or eat a sandwich that little bastard can relive a moment in time knowing full well what the outcome will be. Imagine.
How could a simple pair of worn, scrubbed, cleaned and treated black boots give me comfort. The only thing I’ve looked at today that’s not been loaded with foreboding – the only thought that hasn’t been usurped by uncertainty – a pair of thick leather boots standing on heavy rubber soles tilted toward each other by wear and ready for forward motion. Polished by hand – comfort, protection and movement – simple.
No matter what happens – I have to remember that I’ve given myself a chance – I’ve allowed that something good has a place – that I’m in a place where freedom to exist is part of my spirit. It’s the last thing I have.
I sent some words yesterday. They were of, and for a pair of hearts. They’re flying on feathered breast – they can smell sweet earth from far beneath them. Last night they might have followed stars and this morning on tired wings maybe a sunrise – or a mist and the scent of spring and salt water.
I don’t know if they are resting or if they’ve lost their way. I don’t know if they found a home. But last night just before I slept a dreamless sleep I sent words on their way. They’re gone now, and my hearts hope follows them on a long, long wind.
I don’t think the end result of discussion should be to change someone else’s mind. I think the idea should be that discussion enlivens the air with possibilities, that the variety of thought allows people to go away to their private corners and have their subconscious minds ponder differences so that when gifts arrive in the middle of the night in little stories or songs – they are more broad and present more breadth in possibility.
I think I’m looking for my honesty. I think that’s what this is all about. Happiness is wonderful but it may not be much without authenticity. It’s taking a long time – or seems to be. The thoughts gifted in slumber have been valuable – small clues present themselves when my brain and heart are calm. Little pictures and songs grace the dark and I’m compelled to remember them. They are valuable enough to demand my attention, and in the light of day they retain their substance – puzzle pieces held and turned in the air – examined for beauty or integrity and placed – awaiting others – enough to make something recognizable.
If I look at people on the street I’ll see any one of a number of things. I’ll see a couple walking – just close enough together that you feel them trying. New to each other by a couple of weeks or a month. She – tall, slim – dressed in a light wool knee-length beige overcoat, undone on a warm winter day. Deep red hair. And him – a little gangley, with awkwardness covered by hipster clothing. She’s laughing a little too hard – it’s a display – they are trying. But I smile at both of them and receive one in return.
There might not be much passion left in me. Sapped by experience? Sapped by addictions? Rendered irrelevant by age – or a combination of all these things. The conversation starts with soul searching. I mentioned it’s difficult to get motivated – I suspect it’s age. I just don’t care that much anymore. I have no story to tell. He was in agreement, as we get older the need to care disappears. Or the circle of meaningful issues shrinks.
‘I’ve done that. I thought that, I tried to explain that, I cared about that. Never ‘I was talked out of that’. You stand up for your beliefs and live your life with dignity and fight the good fight, but someday you wake up trying to write about something you care about and the steam, the fury that would have driven that story years ago is still back there. It doesn’t carry forward the way you think it will. So, when I go to write about somebody they become by default an observer like me. It’s the only place I feel natural.’
‘Why not do that?’
‘There is supposed to be conflict. There is supposed to be some kind of interest and the books say – conflict is the key. The lack of passionate opinion about anything kills that. See that dumpster over there. It’s green. It has a black top. There is rust on the flanges where those great iron arms from the truck squeeze its sides and upend it – spilling its guts into the hole on top. Stink, liquid, rot and paper – compressed in the back by hydraulic rams until even the grease comes out solid.’
‘I’d read that.’
‘Not if it didn’t go further.’
Two ambulances park and stay parked down the street for an hour – lights flashing on one. A police truck pulls up and parks angled in – two officers go into the house. The ambulances drive away. An hour later – two grey dodge caravans pull up – a dark suited young man exits the drivers side of one and the other pulls off the road a little ahead. The young man opens the rear door and the other driver joins him. They extract a gurney from the back, drop the wheels and push it to the house – they lift and fold it and walk in through the front door.
Ten minutes later they come back out – a dead body covered in a grey tarp – head, chest, feet – on the gurney – followed by a police officer and a middle aged woman in a red coat – black hair up in a bun – and push the body feet first into the back of the van. They disperse to their vehicles and sixty seconds later they all drive away and no trace or breath of their presence is left on the air or on the street.
Tomorrow morning I’ll walk by that house on the way to work, the bicyclists in winter gear will pedal downtown and the cars will go by in both directions and no one will know. I wonder who it was.
I want to take a picture – but the woman has dignity. Worn out shoes – huge breasts – dewlap- sweatshirt – rectangular sunblock shades (Portuguese) – sitting sideways to me and her sweatpants are down far enough on the seat that her beautiful fat feminine ass is visible for consideration. Big luscious brown skinned flank, bracketed by pink panties and the crack and cleft hidden down there somewhere. She’s contemplative – reading a book and smiling. She has dignity today.
She is a fantastic glint in the galactic varnish.
There is a murder of thirteen crows across the way. Individuals, little groups of two or three – their barking echos bracket the ravine to the east. They hunch shoulders, hop and herd each other, occasionally taking to wing for a moment to dominate or retreat. The group moves like a scattered herd, strutting, gurgling and chucking – migrating left then back, these incidental pass-times held within the whole – and all quickly up into the trees for a conversation until the dog and walker pass and the group settles again into the unknown business of the morning.
A single seed from a dandelion appears at my left – close enough to touch – suspended in a breath it moves against the backdrop of greenery – slowly – so that the tiny sunlit canopy and dangled seed pause cynosure, and it descends perfectly erect onto the earth at my right. The sun is blazing on my arms and face.
The overwhelming memory I have of my childhood is that of feeling out of place; “Am I supposed to be here?” Wildwood community center – a film for kids on a Sunday afternoon in summer. We were given quarters for admission and sent for the afternoon – walking ten blocks from home to sit in the hall on stiff metal chairs and watch cartoons. I don’t recall being with anyone – I only remember the black and white screen and the fear that I was going to be found out. There were bottles of soda and potato chips and I’m sure I had enough money. I recall sitting and eating, crunching them one at a time and sipping the orange sweet drink and the thought foremost in my mind was, ‘Someone is going to find out. I hope I don’t have to explain.’
I don’t know why new things – new freedom should have been questioned so. I don’t know what I would have said to justify my presence.
Now I think this state of mind might have been the beginning of a thread. Who knows what kind of ghosts drive inexplicable behaviour. Has a switch been thrown? A path chosen? “Here little boy, I’ll give you this uncertainty and you will wear it until you get tired, and then you’ll either die under its weight or you’ll go on. Everybody gets to choose.”
For anything to be established as concrete in reality (physical, mathematical reality) it must first be tested and testable – science must have its way. And as part of that process – the legitimizing of statements – the result of proof must be repeatable. This is respectable – it should be. But what is it we should be testing with our hearts? What must be repeatable emotionally for it to be valid? What should be avoided? What is patently untrue? What is simple arithmetic?
If a person sits and calculates the probability that an idea may be correct – that a supposition gifted in the middle of the night has any business being vocalized, applies comparison from past experiment – can they have a moment of epiphany? Might they find an example of the repeat-ability of happiness? Or proof of love? What about a unified theory of mirth – even hilarity – and the attraction of laughter over a distance.
Someone needs to start working on this right away.
Old promises – made on paper – in between living and rest. I’m here – right beside you. Look up at the sky with me. Your hair is on a pillow for my fingers to feel. Breathe into my mouth. Your legs are bare in the sunshine or naked on sheets. Say something. A word or two of worship. Breathe with me again – at the same time. Want this thing we can’t have and forget that people let you down. I said I would come to you so that you would never be alone again – I said my heart was yours forever. So lie here with me now, a thousand miles away still – my promise is as good as my strength.
If we are who we protect then I am you and I entwined.
I had the strangest dream. Strange not because of its content but because I honestly can’t remember when I had it. Here I am in this day, this perfectly normal day – except that unlike any other I remember a dream. This is real – this is a memory, yet it’s as if something is speaking to me – something has built this memory in aid of establishing a thread between reality and some analog – between this life and a metaphor for it. It’s the strangest feeling. Why should I remember this now when I have dreamt it and I know both how strong it is and how much it pleased me? How can I not remember where in my life this dream was placed? I couldn’t tell you if you tried to force it from me whether I had this dream as a ten year old, or as a full grown man. I have no idea. But right now I remember it clearly.
Here is the dream; there is a valley somewhere west of here and it contains an entire world of beauty – like another planet – the entrance is attained by traversing upward an innocent path that leads to a cliff – the view from which is a picture perfect vista of lush forest, satin sky and a known destination – just there at the horizon on the other side – a most desirable and perfect place – at the top of the other side of the valley. At the entrance on this side, the decent isn’t difficult – if you choose to use it, and at the base where you end up is a place where the walls are terraced stone and shrub – one end slopes up in a giant bowl – like a coliseum or open cathedral, but huge – the size of a mountain. The valley itself is so large that mountains exist within it – the slopes up to the foothills are immense.
I have taken people to it – my brother – some friends, but I can’t remember exactly the time or which friends. I know the other side is perfection without peer – it’s the reason the valley exists – so that you can go there and look back to where you have been – that spot is perfect in a physical way, an emotional way, and in every sense – in every way it’s perfect. Although I know this at the outset – at the peak of the commitment – at the top of the path that descends – the idea always pleases and at the same time disturbs me – the depth of commitment to going there. I always hesitate, but I know both that I’ve been there and will go again. I know the draw of the place will overcome my trepidation and I will end up where I want to be.
The feeling of wanting to share this place with others is afterthought – it seems incidental.
It seems now that the quality of the place is the whole point. The draw of that place is paramount. As if the dream exists as a map to itself – reminding one that a perfect dream was had.
She walks from the trees down to the waters edge, twists her hair into a pony tail, ties it up, drops her pants to the sand and wades topless into the lake. Cat Stevens – longer boats.
Tan-brown skin dripping lake-water. Standing on the sand with a red cloth crumpled in her left hand. Québécois French. She wipes running water from her legs, thighs, face, and breasts. Hair lifted from her back she raises arms to ring it out. She turns, sees me. Smiles, self aware, self assured. She gives this gift. Muscle, tendon, bone, and breast shining brown in the sun. On her back on a towel. Chest and belly rising, breathes life, eyes closed, toes up, legs parted. Ripe.
About the film Pigeon Sat On a Branch;
People being herded into a huge cylinder laying on its side – great comical bell horns issuing from its sides – men in pith helmets bar and lock the hatch shut on the front and one puts a torch to the huge pit beneath. Flames lick the bottom and sides and you cringe at the fate of its prisoners. You wait to hear screams from the horns – keep watching – who could invent a machine like this? And then it starts slowly turning – clockwise – and you imagine the people inside walking up the sides – trying to flee from the heat – their weight causing the girth to spin – high side falling toward the heat. A boiler.
Fifty yards away on the side of a building a pair of sliding doors open to reveal a crowd of twenty or more elderly observers dressed for dinner or cocktails – they filter out onto the balcony and stand watching – ambivalent – disinterested. The rich stand outside the problems – smug, insulated and watch the poor cook in their own juices, struggling to turn from within the great machine that’s trying to kill them.
I’m thinking of belief systems. I’m thinking of the nature of humans and their ideas and their self-assured, composed opinions. There are occasions which allow discussion and contemplation, but the insinuation of ones beliefs on another of a different opinion is something that seems both a basic human need and at the same time an impossibility. There is an intrinsic cross-purpose in the idea.
I have come to the following thought – you must break this phrase into two parts; belief and then system.
Belief is a solid form. A belief is something held as certainty – the very definition of the word is enough. It is believed – it is self-contained. It is by trick or by trait a singularity, not gray, but a solid, formidable truth. As such, there is no reason to poke at it, there is nothing left to do but define it.
System: I imagine a web of complexity – a circulatory system of feeds, tendrils, whimsy and purpose which, as a support system bolsters the belief and keeps it fed. The system also incorporates protection devices – perhaps its most important function – that the belief has been established in some fertile place and the seed, worthy of growth must be protected, nourished and let to grow by encouragement and of its own volition – then defended.
Simple. An elegant, isolated system, concocted out of necessity, work and strain or by accident – a product of inertia perhaps. These belief systems are our comfort. They are our bubble, our protection. We love them, unconsciously feed them and they feed us in return.
There is no fault in this. As humans we exist, perceive and opinionate in order to transmit our invisible streams of radar outward – expecting echoes – thereby cementing our place, our vector and our velocity.
A man walked forward ripping pieces off his addictions – dropping garb by request or by reckoning. He’s become skinny; the inside is at the surface now, and by necessity his actions are designed to resemble human-normal. The drink dissolved it all. The cocaine discovered him. The heroin killed all the pain. The cloths are draped and sewn on a skeleton standing – grown from a boy and screaming to his dead father to please answer, or stop being mad at him for something he can no longer remember.
He stands now – have a look – he’s smiling – his eyes are alive while he maneuvers to see the difference between what he’s invented and what he should be.
He looks at a woman – a thousand miles distant – crazy in his mind but forgive him – you could live a whole life and never have that kind of hope. Not with natural skin – not stripped and skinny – not brave enough to stand on the fertile earth like no one else and just like every living soul who ever was or ever will be.
If life takes, and all you have left is a scaffold of bone, why would anyone give its smiling eyes a second thought. I could wrap this thing, but even with a dozen sweaters and pair of pants you’d still hear it rattle. I wish I knew more – I wish I could cover it over with literary device and biblical allusion so that it would unravel with more weight or be more pleasing to the ear.
Wine equals blood – wafer equals bone. I stood once and decided to call on all the power of nature to fill the spaces – plaster over the gaps. I can feel trees from twenty feet away. I can hear grass sing. When it filled me up I held my breath, imagined all the people I love, and I blew all the good out and across the ether to them to spread joy – left behind was the bone rack standing in clothes – but with smiling eyes.
It’s a circle – if you give good thought and joy it will return to you, but either wind blows between bones or he doesn’t have enough blood to feel the rise in temperature. Dry your eyes – he is confident he will in time – he just needs to stand there a little longer.
Charles Bukowski – the quotes I see from this brilliant man always make me measure myself. I love that he expounds such meaty truths. But when I take this measure I am cautious of the power of elation, of his highs and deep thinking – the source of these things feels familiar – and I remember well the stuff that flows when a man is connected with his drug. In the grip of any tar-boiled personal disaster, malaise or grief one can find solace under a blanket of opiate, alcohol or psychoactive comfort. And when I see light reflected from a particularly brilliant set of words I am reminded of some of my own thoughts – fueled by exotic intoxicants that can calm your guts and convince you that “regardless – my veins are throbbing with life – I can feel my own blood and I know that someday the sun is going to shine on me with all its magic – with redemption – because fuck it, I’m so alive right now,” and then you write that wish out with great power and conviction.
I don’t mean to diminish him or his work in any way, but I recognize him.
All of this heartache – all of this growth, this destruction, the betrayal and hope. So many emotions – such a domino fall of circumstance – hidden reason – secret wishes and in the end what caused what? I have documented so much of the feeling and in retrospect it becomes plain that the reasoning I was able to conjure in aid of understanding was in the end shrouded with whatever worldly intent existed in that moment. I had little to do with any of it. Moments of action and moments of thought – no map, no intent except to free the feelings themselves. It’s as if hidden feelings were manifesting human action – the breaking of chains.
As I attempt to find comfort – to define myself in relation to the rest of the world – I have in the past felt a little lost. Like the rest of us I have spent a long time wondering if I’m OK. OK just being, living and expecting that I will be understood, that I will understand, and can be just by moving forward in accordance with decisions based on this moments whim.
I rail against this at times. I’ve been trained to. If I look back I can see that I’ve been unsuccessful at maintaining calm about it. The world has attempted to move me in various directions. It has attempted to educate me to a standard, it has attempted to isolate me in a monetary system, it has attempted to emotionally form me and to sand off the edges in accordance with a predefined standard.
If there is any solid substance for me to be proud of it’s only now becoming apparent. It seems by accident or by stubbornness I have managed to avoid placement. If there is an attribute it’s this – I’ve recently come to see myself as valuable in this skin exactly as it exists; with limited means, with limited conventional success and with a solid, intact imagination – an undamaged perception – one that feels like a stable platform from which to document my ideas and my joy. I am a retail clerk who finds pleasure in writing. That is it. That is all.
Summer night air is different from springtime air – it’s the scent itself and a boys memory imprinted on stillness. Less flowers; it’s an acrid sweetness – grass and leaves or some remembrance thereof. I could lie down here, watch the moon shadows for an hour, look into the trees – deep secret holes in the sky, and expect to stand up twelve years old.
It all started this way.
Looking back now
As time passed, changes came
I was able to live without expectations
I was able to function with just the power of now
I watched myself falter
I saw the world change around me
I came to believe the impossible
Outside – all things form and flow
Inside the heart and mind battle
Time has its way with chance
Wishes and hopes fall
In still air leaves wobble
A river runs tossing white peaks
Nothing written stands forever
Life is no more than a simple affirmation of beauty. Flowers, blossoms, leaves, trees, birds – even the language used to illuminate this thought – simple acknowledgement of perfection. All these things in and of themselves are perfect. That its existence might be subordinate to observation is an unfortunate piece of trickery – perfect beauty exists without objective awareness – indeed perfect beauty must be insulated from awareness, from desire, from interpretation, perfect beauty must be like perfect truth – an entity so immaculate that the observer can only diminish its place by applying opinion.
And yet there’s this – observation of these simple things brings one closer to the observed – beauty emulates itself – or tries – as it infuses the senses.
Perhaps the most perfect a person can be is to attempt to meet themselves in the middle.
The wind out here has legs. Its stride and stories are easier, with room between words. It’s come from who knows where and it’s spoken to grass, birch, poplar and scrub, the tops of round hills and even the hounds-tooth ridges of the mountains where it got its first ideas.
It will dry out yellow ponds in ditches, pat clods of moss and steal away banks of dust, pulled from the edges of dirt roads before it turns right – reaching for the south Saskatchewan and a valley it can lay with all the way to the border.
Up high clouds ride its crest, hurrying on the edge and boiling their short lives over, those ideas – shapes shifting – pictures gained and lost – as if someone might see or remember.
She fiddle-fucks around with a quality of indecision bordering on spiteful.
Her meticulous ordering of incidentals, her insular existence in her surroundings and a joyful articulation of every vaporous idea in her head spreads this confounding web about her like a cloud of wait-time, through which all ordered being and human commerce must pass.
To be behind her in line is vexatious.
She’s from Texas recently and New Orleans originally. Mother of three twenty-something year old girls.
“Axe in the attic. My grandfather gave us an axe for a wedding gift – you’re not supposed to give knives and we wondered, but in the old days everybody kept one. When you got flooded – you had to climb – and you’d need a way out if it got bad – so, an axe in the attic. Everybody has one you know.”
How the subject came up I can’t remember, but her mark on the day has changed everything.
Power, like some future law bolted to her shoulder – articulate appendage – a source – abiding, mythical thing – illustrated in thick organics – a wash of thumbnail scales, parrots in symmetry – wings folded, heads down – two Koi (top view, the bodies torsion and the mouths gape with flexing tendon).
And knuckle work – words – a masculine musculature – chainmail visible at her neckline, and vine-like creatures play down the bulge and cleft of breast. The back of her hand is a blue-green rose.
A suffered purpose held together with the wash of color – ideas and time scraped from the palette, a conjoined bone, and a flower at the inner elbow hinge, then covered – petals splayed with the biceps curl.
Thirteen men in love. Their years and hearts soar and issue that glue – in exaltation or tragedy, a painted sleeve. Her self-creature moves, invented by the girth of tendrils, gut-string attachments, rawboned dance – engorged, twisting, falling forward, but ever forward.
Beneath the skin blood issues all ways. She is a sentinel and a soul interned – pulse – liquid travels – each thick artery encased – nothing wasted.
In the alley tire marks on a skiff of snow skirt beneath tin walls, rubber seals leaking vehicles in the morning. Machine cacophony, shafts of eyeball glare illuminate the wires and poles. Garbage monster marked and issuing rank liquid lumbers alone, all hydraulic and noise – swallows the silence. Three ravens argue their territory, hike shoulders and flee.
Her eyes open to the pillow slip, lace, curtains, paintings, and the streetlight. Scent of fog through an open window, her heart awakens beautifully, calm, alive and thirsty for breath. Water, fire, earth and air pull her up – vital – her desire rises with the sun.
Hank Stoat used to keep pigeons. There is a coop on top of the out-building made of chicken-wire, two by fours, three-quarter inch plywood, and shingles. It’s filled with dry-rot straw, pigeon shit and not much else. Against the wall of his garage and open to the day, a flight of stairs scales to the flat roof. There is no railing, no hand-hold and you have to turn sideways – right – at the thin top step. Twenty feet of air awaits anyone not cautious about it.
He lives comfortably in the front house with routine and simplicity, speaks occasionally to his deceased wife, and ventures out back to sneak the odd cigarette, always chewing gum afterward, as if she were still puttering around the kitchen and able to detect the smoke on his breath.
On Monday afternoons at about one he leaves the house for a weekly outing to the coffee shop. It’s three blocks away, across two side streets and one main thoroughfare, the busiest moments of his day are spent waiting to cross in either direction on the sidewalks or the boulevard between lanes.
Hank is pretty much blind, but refuses to admit it, although he has allowed himself to give up on the garage stairs.
Television has become an aural event held in concert with a pleasing wash of dancing light and over time he has adapted to other concerns in his life with a kind of resigned ingenuity. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of his yard, walking, ordering and enjoying an expresso at the café on the corner all take place mostly by rote now and no-one is really the wiser – his participation is machine-like and his movements so slow that without realization people move around him, considerate, allowing enough space for him to exist unimpeded.
He enters the café, turns left, walks to the newspaper rack, folds a copy of the top-most offering under his left arm, advances to the counter, orders, pays and takes a place at the tables adjacent to the windows at the same time every day. And every day he thanks the fuzzy shape at the cash counter with the same courtesy. He is always pleased to guess and usually surprised to discover its gender.
At the table Hank sits with his coffee, unfolds the paper, holds it to his face and reads word by word, moving the broadsheet in front of his face like the carriage of a typewriter, methodically from right to left, up a smidgen, back – repeatedly until he’s satisfied about the content, then sits back and refolds the paper, his fingers slowly set the creases and it goes beside the cup headline up and facing him.
Three more sips of coffee, he sits and runs the return trip home through his head.
All troubles and all busyness – worries – hover in the dark above sleeping boys. Even those with old bones and favorite failures fall away into children when their eyes close and their hearts turn over in the deep, private night. They breathe, and that is all.
Sitting erect, one-handing his bicycle through morning traffic – a styrofoam cup of coffee in the other. You can feel spring in his veins, freedom of movement, carefree locomotion, and you can feel the happiness, the deft articulation of incidentals by the barista, the animated conversation of patrons, the world’s awakening on the right side of the bed. These supposed imaginings infused into being by the casual pedal strokes of a stranger on a busy street.
Nothing feels familiar – the world seems displaced, out of time. It’s all dreamlike – if you could adjust the the contrast on a sense of isolation you could create this at will. It feels like the inside of a movie, or the essence of memory. Bulbous clouds, bare reaching branches, the red brick walls of buildings feel artificial, muted somehow.
Colours become whispers – the trees hesitate in still air, and although I can hear gatherings of birds in the hedgerow, they are hidden from view – it’s an impenetrable tangle of twisted limbs.
A boy walks past me, alone in the afternoon, his chubby face is hidden by stringy locks, and this mystical light on his hair seems painted – an impressionists opinion – as if I saw him at my school forty years ago.
He hasn’t paid any bills and his computer has failed. He goes to the basement and digs in a box, a puzzling arrangement of contents thrown together, stored after the flood, and at the bottom, sees his remembrance – an untouched yellow pages, thick and heavy – directory listings of businesses for the entire metropolitan region.
In the dim light the pages are blurry, difficult to make out. He holds the book by its spine rotating it and aligning his head to its face, flipping pages with a wet digit turns to d’s and runs his finger down a page. The listings go by unremarkable. Physician-Surgeon of this and that until one listing, incongruous, piques his interest. “Jenra Synton, Doctor of faces and desires”.
This is what I’m looking for.
Doctor, what is this? I have this marking. It came a month ago. Here, here and here.
What were you thinking the day before?
I had lain on a sofa – closed my eyes and saw these things; a gargoyle – anchored to a battlement by cement wings, talons clawed into solid walls waiting, gaze locked downward over an empty courtyard, sentinel. It dreams – floating embryonic – eyes open and senseless, limbs curled in to hold heat, some vestigial kernel of soul, waiting through time for an unknown end. Or floating, silent, infinite, stasis – focus uncertain or unattainable. Nothing multiplied by exponent, no tragedy, no empathy, awareness with nothing to be aware of. The opposite of emotion.
I had a very bad night that night. My heart was raw and angry. I could not wrestle control from it, and my mind reeled with rage at the images it painted. Impotent, foolish old man. Laughing stock. Loser.
And before that?
Something happened to me – that day I was stalked by despair. In the end I had to abandon myself. I couldn’t be inside – I folded. I don’t know what it was – I haven’t been able to name it yet. And the next day my face began to itch.
You have disease of the mind and disease of the face. I don’t know which is cause and which is symptom, but one precedes the other in all cases. Here, look. He throws a book of medical examples on the examining table. It is open to a page of four pictures. The images are old – like polaroids, terrible images, angles, studies of what seems to be a single head, shaven and held in delicate feminine fingers, still for the camera, eyes closed against their own experience, looking inward for tactile comfort.
Few people are afflicted – you are the only one I’ve ever seen.
What do I do?
Where this has happened before they believe you can think it away. Not with wishes, but with focused intent. And it has to be thought in a dream. Somehow you have to dream this intention, Sleep, be in a dream, think these things as I’ve said and it will heal. Both mind and face – but the face will heal first and the mind will follow.
Who are these people? The ones who dream like this? The ones who have cured themselves?
I’ll find out for you. Come back later.
Later. That’s all I can offer.
Two men approach the crosswalk, wheelchair and walker equipped. Grey and disheveled, in baggy, greasy coats – purple fabric soaked to black at the cuffs. Wheelchair is fearless. He one-hands the machine, weaving onto the street crunching gravel, piston forearm and elbow jerking. Crazy motion wheels slip and grip – other hand clutching a bag of kit to his lap, urging over his shoulder some command to his companion.
Walker is tentative. He waits at the curb, head rotating raptor-like attempting to sense reliably, hesitates, and then pushes his aluminum caterwaul onto the pavement, lifts its wheels and runs headlong past his partner across the road.
When they’re established on the other side they stop and laugh together, sharing surprise and pride at their acumen – their survival.
Aside from myself, there is no other human visible, and no vehicles. The streets are completely empty.
You don’t think you’ll be able to choose the time of your own death, but you will. You think of accident, disease or old age. But the moment you expire will be determined by your will.
Your spirit will either relax with participation in life, in which case you will generously give yourself a certain number of years, or you will fret your way through some other decision. Your voice will be heard in either event, it will be taken as your word, and even if uncommon violence is visited upon you, you will somewhere in the back of your mind know, “This was coming.”
Right now you are thinking of exceptions to this rule, and on the surface they seem valid, but whether through neglect, intention, coercion or spite, that moment is variable – voluntary – it’s a spirits choice, to be or not to be.
I know this because I have been awarded that gift consciously – Galahad’s gift – the gift of the choice of that time, and contemplating its advantage has provided a certain window on the facts. When you think in a place no one else goes you can sometimes find jewels – untouched gems that haven’t been extracted. The diamond I found is this – people live, think, love, fear, and toil in shells that are unique in only one way. They are containers that hold a wonderful gift and the only fault one of these containers can manifest is the leaking out of its contents. All other faults are the illusion painted on its surface by our ego – especially in comparison to other containers.
The containers are perfect – fault can only be found from inside, and the only thing that can rot this container comes from that. The universe will reward one who through frustration or weariness, or by the entertaining of any one of millions of other human foibles begins to tire of their container.
Zara is drunk.
I first saw her at an intersection facing a green light, and emerging from the wide-swung passenger door of a small sedan, still moving – one brown boot extended – her heel scraping on ice as if to slow it.
She stepped out swinging a purse and some other kit, treading unsteadily toward the curb on noisy snow. The male driver cursed – yelled and pulled ahead turning left into a side-street as the light switched to yellow.
I opened the passenger window and backed up – the storm is rude and wild. Her intention is to walk home to Kensington. I told her it couldn’t be done. My wife talked her into the van gently, and as she was entering the man from the car appeared beside her – appealing to her to return to his vehicle, “…you don’t even know them.”
I told her to close the door and we drove away.
Zara reeks of rum. She is Irish, petite, pale skin with raven-black hair, amazing green-blue eyes – albeit drunk, and possesses the mouth of a sailor.
“I work as a recruiter for people from home, and on the street they say I’m thieving their jobs. ‘You’re thieving our jobs ya cunt!’ But I’m not – I say if you won’t work then fuck you,” All spoken with a lovely, soft Irish lilt.
She thanks us a thousand times in a fifteen minute drive and speaks of her time in Canada – between one and four years depending on the reference. She’s twenty years old or so, found herself bailing out of a shitty situation in a violent storm and awakened next day with some remembrance of kindness instead of freezing her ass, or worse. We drove her to her door.
I want to hear more. She has the spark – the right mix of crazy – an angel at her shoulder, and not afraid of life.
Don’t get me wrong. None of my past was wasted. The entire thing burned into me like polished sparks while I spun writhing through experience and desire. I launched skyward and hell-bound with purpose – the feeding of something I wasn’t even remotely acquainted with; a defined commitment – afforded, demanded by my own perception – its frenzied writing, indelible and exacting, etched, scratching deep enough to find blood. Each piece of me was carved, running cavalier and unconscious through friends, lovers, situation and landscape – most of it left in dust or discarded by attrition. And at the end, here I stand – a fourteen year old psyche – just that long sober and consigned to stay that way. How does one drop those tools so readily? My hands shake for remembrance, and the tools are an arm’s reach away – glowing – emitting howls and grunting like some shackled locomotive. What’s more my brain is used to them, they were the experience fuel, the grease on the skids. Dialing back into a more reserved place sets off alarms that a normal person would never relate to. You boring old fuck – you old man. Old. I have learned not to listen, but the voice never fades. It takes concerted effort to track straight forward. I have looked for a long time for some kind of guide or map. These simple words – this line; ‘…and shelter for many,’ registered – held me. It stopped me cold and brought with it consideration.
I remember a thousand moments. I remember a thousand people and hundreds of days and nights spent on these hills, paths and plains.
I remember sitting in cars with numerous girls doing many things, and I remember different girls and different days and paths down below in the trees where the quiet was a part of the dream.
I remember vistas and timeless images – long, languid afternoons. What I don’t remember is any raucous boyhood insanity. There are shared moments of wonder and there are people all around, but the memories that stuck are the quiet ones. The places where my mind was let to allow an impression.
I dream of this place regularly – I dream of this path in particular – the one that rings the sandstone quarry – it’s a dangerous path for a man. I would be hard pressed to keep my balance if I tried to navigate over the edge. But as a boy and in my dreams I can run up and down these cliffs – there’s plenty of grip at the edge – the bushes and the rocks jutting up out of the earth make hand and foot holds, an easy grip if you need one.
In my dreams there is no purpose to the visit here. I am not running from something, I am not afraid of anything, I have not lost my pants and there is no reason to be alarmed. There is no paradise here either. There is no feeling of having arrived at anything, or any special anticipation of completion. There is just now. A sense of full awareness of what is, a deep perception of the ‘everything’ surrounding me. There are no birds or insects. No sound. The dream has no purpose. There is no theme or conflict. There is only setting. An editor would insist that there is no value here – that some sort of story, issue, problem or simple action should be invented in order to inject interest.
But the dream itself keeps coming. Like dreams do, it doesn’t promise anything and I suppose someday it will stop. However, its quality exists such that when it no longer comes there might be some time before that fact is noted.
I remember trains at the bottom of the hill – just loud enough to become a part of the background and complete the atmosphere required to properly raise a boy’s imagination – low rumbling and distant noise in the middle of the night in a warm room, beneath blankets, window open to the air. The rocking rhythm of a huge intention travelling with determination to somewhere west.
I remember sitting in a clearing across from the home in which I grew up. When I was young the park was wilderness. Prairie grass and white poplars. A path leads down from the backyard and terraces the hill to the road below. A steep scramble up the other side and you can sit just inside the trees and look back to where you started, into the kitchen window across the valley.
Just inside these trees is a place where time stands still. The path ends at a patch of thick green grass, The scent of poplar bark, white berries on sliver bushes, and soft light shining through dappled leaves untouched by wind, yet moving as if happy to paint the ground with dancing shadows.
In this place you can see two views. That one – out there where the world is busy with activity; neighbors and undefinable business. Puzzles to the mind of a little boy.
And this one. Where you sit alone and break a branch from a poplar, rip the leaves and the twigs from the stem, take out your pocket knife and begin to trim down until you’re left with a stick – one foot long – half an inch in diameter and when you bring it up to your nose and inhale deeply because you’re curious, smells exactly like a freshly sliced piece of watermelon.
The life I am writing is falling onto paper at a wonderful rate. My word-counts are spectacular – daily – a thousand a day – two at times – enviable word-counts – I know that. And these are polished, finished sentences.The one I am living, however, is tearing at the edges of my shell with insistence, yet I have no way of ordering it neatly in lines. It swirls inside, generating new things, thoughts, imaginings, possibilities, plotlines and wishes at an alarming rate, yet not one word will form outside.
It needs to be solidified into something that has a temporal thread through it, and I fear this will never happen. It’s not possible to write this. It’s too tentative. And even If I had the space or the inclination to start, it seems too fantastic to put into words.
My life has become a whorl of circumstance for which I have no description. It is an explosion of threads, each one of which is a possibility wound back on itself a thousand times, until a thick universe of quantum possibilities rides back and forth in likelihood – some incalculable complexity of wishes and ideal leanings; a soup I am inclined to test with unfailing regularity, and one which I have no idea how to manage or master.
The feeling I sometimes get – the speculation concerning the destination of some individual on a bicycle or the likely next steps for someone walking just out of view around a corner – the feelings of melancholy – or emptiness on someone else’s behalf – these puzzle me – they always have.
These don’t come as reflections. Not consciously in any event. More often they occur when I’m engaged and intuitive. Creating – at a location and with a freedom that dictates my mind or my soul can afford a bit of free range – an opportunity to either run in a direction unimpeded – or allow the vapor of someone else’s demeanor to influence the palette – change my feeling from something focused inward – dabbling – to something pointed outward yet allowing flow of some kind to manifest a feeling or an idea, either invented or intuited – I don’t know.
The upshot of this is that I wonder now, more often than not, why? Why do I either impress my speculation on innocents or allow my peace to be altered by whatever scent or hue happens to be issued from some anonymous character?
I wrote a long time ago, in Portugal, that these things can be attributed to one thing only that is never harmful; muse. They are gifts. That they speak with a certain feeling, or contain a payload intended to mark my heart is something I should maybe just ignore. I think the writing out of this stuff, whether cathartic or simply the flow of character sketches dished on a golden platter – is the object, and I should continue to be grateful and let it happen.
That thought feels comfortable – instead of some inner turmoil – these visions are gifts – and I have always suspected as much – when I write them I have no great tragic wind blowing around my shoulders, there is just a very focused and intense interest and desire to ‘get it right’ – a search for specific words.
Desire – reality – action and consequence
children laugh, fight and cry
sandwiches – dirty hands, skinned knees
flowers blossom, live and die
the vines remain to expand their purchase next year
the wind takes secrets – hides away.
flow, ebb, tide and time
the sum of folds, the product of all wishes abandoned or fled
that breath expired, winter remains.
palimpsest – a soul defeated has bones holding him up.
When the sky is this clear and the air this warm, and with a handful of stars background to a half moon – crystal enough that Jupiter and Mars are shining on the ecliptic, it feels like the purpose of the night is simply to comfort. Looking up, you’re presented with a map that can’t be misread. A sure path to wherever you choose to go. It says, ‘your life is safe, your way is clear – don’t hesitate, just enjoy and be grateful.’
It’s an absolutely spectacular night sky out there tonight. It’s the kind of sky I love to sleep under.
Sometimes it creeps up on me. Without warning, I will glance up and there it is – hyper awareness. The vista is giggling like a little kid – with shared secret joy. A flashing pedestrian sign is a beacon for a circus ride. The people on the streets display a kind of bounce in their step. The music in the headphones is pure joy – no matter the subject of the poetry – tragic, manic, disturbed, no matter – it’s all celebration for the wonder of it all. A man goes by the window immediately adjacent to me – his mouth working a piece of gum and lips smiling in conspiracy with my awareness.
There is a beautiful blue sky, the coffee tastes very fine and morning light reflected from windows high up on the populated spires bounces around the streets lending rhythmic vibration to a perfect moment in time.
I have a hard time finding balance. I always have. I possess a restless imagination – one with no real anchor. I love play, I love wondering and wandering. I know there is no value in polishing only one facet of the gem, but there is so much resistance from within that I rarely get joy from anything but idle dabbling. Either at writing, cleaning, reading, organizing or just looking about.
So – if pursuit of a single thread is an attribute – a demonstration of persistence instead of a symptom of simplicity or disregard, then I have success in my future.
This window this morning has given me a vibrant paragraph or two, the coffee shop contains a feeling and I absorb that through my eyes. It’s mixed inside. There are other things in there. Guilt for sitting still – who knows where that originated, satisfaction from the flavor of coffee, muffin, bagel, etc., curiosity – likely product of alchemy no human has privy to, and the feeling that I should be working, accompanied by the strong desire that what I am currently up to should be considered work, or a facsimile at least.
Words are work aren’t they? If you take someone who is not used to doing this – someone intimidated or without training for the typing, the process or especially the mind-flow prerequisite to making this productive, would they not tell you when grilled just how hard this work is? If that is the case then I should be able to look anyone in the eye and feel confident to point out to them that ‘I worked harder today than you will know’.
Demeanor – fuck – demeanor is so important. The placement of hands on a keyboard, the tilt of head – revealing query. A stiff back and wagging boot – telltale symptom of low-level distress. Arms carried bent up at the elbows so that hands extend forward just from the waist in a fast walk – balanced, purposeful.
A disturbed look – sheen on the brow evidence of concern over the rising pressure of a frustrated bowel.
Tall, lean woman, with perfectly carved features, confident, stark beauty, wearing the burqa. Fully covered from head to foot in black flowing fabric. The spiritual ghost of this garment is completely betrayed, lost in allure, exotic and compelling. She walks, appearing to float – feet moving beneath the fabric, her arms folded beneath her breasts. And pressed against the left side of her head, an iPhone peeks out – half hidden and held firmly to ear by the hijab – a utilitarian adaptation for hands free conversation.
Sometimes I think my unreined urges guide me across the border of good taste, or outside the reach of propriety, but a beautiful old gentleman’s countenance begged a photograph today so I snuck one across the book table in the mall. His face was immaculately wrinkled, folded on itself at the edges. And that in itself may not warrant comment, but he was engrossed in reading a chapter entitled ‘Diarrhea’ (he seemed in no rush). That to me, made the picture complete. Is that unkind? I certainly mean no disrespect, and would not be put out by a switching of roles (other than the digestive piece).
The whole thing had a kind of lavender scent to it Endearing.
The silhouette of trees against the night sky conjures a sense of foreboding and dark deeds. But a thin curtain of clouds, the stars resplendent patterns through and behind them, and the sense of life in my own veins won’t allow me to feel fear.
Instead I see the depth of the night sky and feel the insulation of my own soul against the weight of cold air.
My heart celebrates the gift my eyes deliver no matter the color, and the cycle of seeing and realizing this feeds a human heart with joy. There is awareness and a yearning for more. There is a sense that the good of this, its volume, becomes infinite when fed with simple acknowledgment or enjoyment.
The storm to the north sucks air from here down the valley. The trees – the huge maples at the beach twist at their waists, skirts flying and dropping with the gusts as the storms’ desire whips them like puppets. Gulls hover stationary in the wind.
Little boy and girl in swimsuits, towel and shirt flapping. Teeth clenched and skinny arms gripping elbows and sides, hands clasped against the cold. Shivering in shadow – the sun behind a cloud, wind from the storm taking the wet hair from their foreheads.
Later when the evening air is still, heat will breathe from sun kissed skin.
There are as many ways through life as there are lives. We are totally isolated in the shell of our single soul, yet I don’t think there are many new ideas. Out of necessity people manifest some whim which allows them easier passage from one day to the next and then discover that someone else either thinks or thought the same thing.
So they cling to this, and rightfully – because we’re stupidly cautious of being isolated from the world – and then join with like-minded others to celebrate and ease the pain or increase the joy in themselves or someone else.
All the angels are borne of, or arrive in, all the minds – and all of them find each other in time, in this lifetime or the next or the next, and they celebrate that they exist and that they can recognize each other by these common deeds. All kindness done before and to be done again, over and over again.
So we dream of love and give it until it flows around us like an invisible dance.
Is it the form of the mold that I object to – the implication, or its existence in the first place? The individual rebels, but against what? That he doesn’t fit, and can’t, or the existence of something he is expected to fit into?
Why be afraid?
Life is a beautiful thing on any level. Whether you are locked into someone else’s agenda or you are walking free – the beating heart in its chest is the birthright. The flow of life around you. The air through which you pass and that which supplies life inside, beside the heart that pushes its product through veins.
There is of course preference. And then there is perception and judgement; imposed by the world outside or imposed by one’s own participatory conscious on itself in order that it may feel a part of something.
All these things provide in an instant this feedback loop of determination, on which one may or may not rely for happiness or self-acceptance.
Fuck the mold. But don’t hurt anyone.
I want to feel like this at every moment – I can’t determine the cause and can’t foresee the duration but it’s acute awareness and it occurs at random on a grand scale. Movement of any type is ecstasy. Birds through my vision or my own passing through a scene, all refined and perfect. A three dimensional squeeze into reality. Sensation – perception is a fine ballet – every molecule choreographed by a being possessed of whim and wit. Beautiful immersion into a secret, complex cadence. Joy and wonder on a simple breeze.
The trees on the highway, covered with snow are carved individuals – conical fractal faceted spires. Crystals carved from olive green, black and shaded white piles of snow – bending boughs and pressing weight onto tired limbs. A shift inspired by the alighting of a raven and the snow spills from a pinnacle, captures the entire side of the sentinel on the way down and the avalanche reveals the dark interior, shaded trunk – soul depth – a rip carved out of the air by circumstance.
This mother walks out of a store holding a newborn in her arms, swaddled, wrinkled face with closed eyes facing. She is kissing its tiny mouth. Little pecks, little coos of affection – her hand cradling its head like a fragile baseball. She smells the bald pate and smiles. Her own mother is at her side pushing a double stroller. An infant is asleep in the right seat, the rest of the vehicle is piled with all the accouterments of parenthood and infancy, mixed and represented in chaos. They laugh together at some shared moment, the older one is a full foot shorter than her daughter, squat and shriveling early – probably only sixty years old.
These are the people populating the earth with human beings. How the hell can these things possibly turn into miserablists – hateful things, when their beginning is so immaculate, so infused with love? What the hell are we doing?
Two women walking in a market side by side – one is signing. The other walks neck cranked in order to see the conversation. Relaxed and comfortable they exchange remarks. The amount of motion surrounding these two is substantial. More than a normal container of two humans, and it draws my attention accordingly.
I can’t look away – it’s visually loud – an elevated level of reward.
The real world killed my father. I don’t know what he was really, but I suspect there was an artist in there that didn’t have a chance. I believe he was frustrated by, and died without the realization of a single artistic or creative endeavor in his entire life.
A kind of unconscious, whimsical sense of investigation and my speculation concerning cause and effect lead me to these conclusions. The Sherlock Holmes sleuthing of what exists in reality and an understanding down to the finest detail, a route backward to its origin.
His lot didn’t result from his valorous commitment to anything. It was the worlds uncaring, certain train-wreck reward reserved for the gifted who refuse to jump off the treadmill out of fear, disillusionment or twisted sense of responsibility to something else. The biggest mistake a soul can make, and an unconscious commitment to slow, painful self-destruction.
My father must have had some huge underflow of brilliant creative juice, otherwise where did mine come from? I know my mother was ultimately practical – she was the rooted one. My father was a wanderer, a traveling salesman – the most cliché occupation possible for the terminally unsettled, but absolutely perfect for his constitution.
When I am the most dissatisfied with my life – when I rail against the world’s strict rulebook and can’t find my way to joy – I sound just like him. At those moments I am at my absolute worst.
He died alone, and unrealized when I was 16.
Doves glide above the train-yard with wings locked upward in perfect V’s. Without effort they cut the air in circles, repelled by the ground – trying to find a place without noise – a safe perch in some hidden corner, anywhere there is quiet and calm.
You have a case of the ‘late John Garfield blues’ – the only cure for which is to go out and kiss a girl. Be a gentleman about it – you might even try explaining the condition, but at the same time don’t be a pussy.
Done properly – she will be flattered. It’s of mutual benefit and everybody knows this.
You probably know her, but a stranger will do.
Buy some flowers – tell her, whoever she is, ‘I’m beset with ennui – I need to kiss you’. If you fail at one person, you cannot go to another within earshot, and this should be obvious to you.
Strangely enough, in some instances the condition is an attribute, it feeds something – but you can’t make it habitual unless you have some trait other men don’t.
And don’t think women will ‘fall’ for this. It’s not a pick-up line. They will occasionally allow it and that is part of a woman’s gift – the ability to calm the beast that is this creative animal at its worst, most fragile – drained.
Also, and importantly – If you get lucky it is only because you’ve been allowed that consideration in deference to awareness of the existence of creative muse. It’s not exactly you being served. Get that straight.
His gait is broken somewhere between his unconscious mind and this concrete world. He steps offbeat with a cane that points instead of planting. Concentration broken, he will stop, assess, and his limbs will cycle through a series of hesitations until a pattern lends itself to his hopping back on board the moving vehicle of his intention – before it can accelerate out of reach.
This process and consideration is repeated every fifty meters or so – a solitary, confounded navigation.
There are two bands of cloud today. They are both strati-form, layered. The closest – lowest – is dark grey and opaque. It is broken overhead, sliced, and at the edge of this cleft visible behind the great dark sheet where the sun leans is the upper layer, an iridescent sliver of the finest delicate lace – translucent, nacreous.
It makes me want to be there. I want to ascend and touch this veil, reveal its secrets with a gentle backhanded brush of fingertips.
I don’t like the cold and I don’t like the washed out, colorless world of winter, but on a clear day in the morning with the sun at the horizon and the air so cold you can hear the snow scream beneath your boots, the light will sometimes paint a thick, vertical rainbow from the rooftops up into a crystal sky.
If you stand in the calm air you can feel its sting against your eyelids and fingertips.
I stood still for as long as I could, closed my eyes and let my mind wander, feeling the weight of the cold. You don’t sense it in your lungs with indrawn breath, rather, it sets on your lips and your nose like peppermint.
At the top of the hill on every road is a horizon. The place which defines and divides what cannot be seen with the familiar. It is human to want to see past that point. To achieve the reward of vista, over which one may gaze at a new place.
The current view – up to the top of the hill is rarely considered adequate.
My father was a violent voice from the basement room,
he railed against the bars with rage thrown wild.
The words got on us all – collateral to his anger,
or perhaps a piece of his wall.
I remember the color of his trousers
Khaki leg against my face.
My arms wrapped around his knee for dear life,
and riding giant elephant-steps down a paste-wax hallway.
“…drown who might, they did not forget that this (sea)weed was a valuable manure. This shipwreck had not produced a visible vibration in the fabric of society.” H.D. Thoreau.
Thoreau writes in a day when you could open a book and read a description of the land you were about to pass through. Hills, stands of trees, landscape. And if none existed, you could fund your journey by publishing yours. All that is left to us now is the practice of describing the inward landscape as we journey life’s roads. There is too much external noise to expect anyone to be open to an addition to it.
It’s interesting to me that I have such little recall of my early childhood. As an example, and for comparison, Simone de Beauvoir in her autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter expounds on details that are brilliantly complex. How is it that some people have almost total recall of these early years (age of three onward)? The earliest clear details I can remember are from the age of six or eight, and none exhibit the self-awareness described in her works. I suppose one person is not a reliable sample, but I come across this frequently. There are many people who talk about memories. They all seem to have great recall. Perhaps it’s because the very nature of our filing system keeps only the most vivid, and as I can’t see inside someone else’s mind to count the occurrence of these, I am mistaking quality for quantity.
I could have missed this my whole life and not been worse off for it, but I feel privileged to know the sound of turtles eating bugs off the surface of a pond. It sounds like this; ttthup, tttthup, tttthup, tttthup. Repeatedly.
Whirlwind vortices of water lifted dancing from the wet pavement by automobiles. It doesn’t matter what happens, whether you see it or not, all of this is there to be seen.
You won’t change – if you can see, you will always see. This vision can’t be diseased into blindness. It is soul deep. It’s not the gift of writing that I possess. It is the gift of vision. The writing comes from god after I acknowledge that there is something to be observed; that the universe is attempting to communicate. Then the words flow through me, but they aren’t mine. They are gifted to me. I don’t even think of them. I ask for them and they come. It doesn’t feel notable. It just feels familiar. Habitual.
And then when thoughts or visions are few I will become anxious, despondent, afraid that the beauty is betrayed somehow. But then I think, maybe it’s just a day off.
Still, this feeling can be disconcerting. I own it sure as hell. To be left windless, becalmed in still water, is a helpless, empty thing
If the issues that bother you can be labeled as inconsequential (even in theory) then you should try to look past them to see the overall picture. In the grand scheme of things if you can reconfigure them in your mind and actually see the pettiness of these grievances, then it’s time to wake up and feel some gratitude for what is really around you.
You may feel slighted by the filing practices of your immediate family, or their propensity to feel that garbage belongs on a ‘maybe’ list prior to finally making it to a receptacle, but no one is making you behave in the same manner. If you grow up a little, you can put these tiny things away, no matter their ability to erode your peace of mind over time, and go on with life looking only at the beauty of this world instead of its minor irritations.
Try to keep this in mind. Over years these issues become more than the sum of their individual selves – they can wear a man down and become dangerous.
She strides, appearing from the parted crowd in the middle of the mall to drop her bags and sit at a leatherette bench across from the breasts, lips and sex at Victoria’s Secret. Tawny, lithe – sure, lean hands, long legged in jeans, raven hair to her back. She alights comfortable, straight up. Heads turn to view the angular beauty of jaw and brow. Fine, marble features perfectly painted, lashes and eyes beckon. She lifts and turns a leg at the knee to reach and strip the flat from her foot to leave it dangling naked in the day.
From the closest bag she pulls a box, sets it on the bench beside her, turns the lid, and extracts a sleek high-heeled pump, slowly dressing one foot in tight, jet-black elegance. There is a pause for indulgence, a moment spent in appreciation, and the other foot is attended to in turn.
She re-configures bags and baggage to suit her plans, smiles and shifts, lifting her body to step onto this new balance. Standing full height, long by will, she checks her reflection in the display window; mannequins behind the glass stare back, blush. Her hands grab waist, then thigh – tug pants downward to fit for length, she turns to check the back view, smiles and walks away.
The challenge is to trust awareness enough to pick pieces out of the noise. To become curious at the turn of a phrase, alert to significance. And instantly. The instant that the universe reveals these clues to its intent. No one can teach this – it’s learned by allowing it to exist. It’s a type of faith, but without cost or expectation.
This is intuition.
I sit on a bench outside the vehicle registry in Riverbend, my son is inside writing an exam. I am reading, my arm over the back of the bench, the opposite hand holding a paperback aligned exactly to its own shadow against the sun.
I begin to see myself. Slowly as reading takes my mind, reality sways slightly, the page and this life begin to blend, the reader begins to see a story, the story crosses over behind the eyes and the focus of life itself swings from first person to third.
In a breath I find myself watching from outside, this isolated creature alone in the air across the pavement.
He sits at peace, reading. Patient, solitary, and aware. The sun blesses his hands, his face and whiskers. You can sense him, at first solid, confident, absorbed. Then as the writing takes hold he begins to fade. His features begin to blur with time and circumstance. People rush by pulling strings of matter from his bulk and the rails of the bench on which he sits leaning begin to show through his faded shirt. Time speeds, wind twists around him and the vapour of his thoughts disperse – the breath of some forgotten angel, curling upward and away.
A piano sounds like individual taps of peaceful pressure on the lobes of my brain. Each note is a beautiful color and a sweet release of tears as its echo rolls backward and flows down the base of my spine. Human voices in choir harmony issue from the mouths of immaculate ghosts, single syllable rises from out of the music and covers the host in drapes of lace. Folds, and fluid, opaque whisper that raises the hair on the back of my neck.
Seville was beautiful – fast paced and a little arrogant. Some of that feeling may have been a reflection of my inability to communicate.
I wonder why this lack of sleep? I can’t see a reason why I should lie in bed every night until 2am before drifting off. Also, I can’t remember my dreams which is unusual.
The uncultivated foothills of Andalusia, north of Cordoba, that is the place to live.
You see and feel so many things and have so many thoughts about all of this. It’s impossible to believe that a small slice will remain as days go by, but the beauty wants to make you believe otherwise. There is beauty beyond our grasp all around us.
The churches are bastions of history. Wherever they stand you can sense the past. The countryside is littered with crumbled buildings and walls. Forgotten habitations, forgotten builders, forgotten dreams. Craftsmen’s work tipped sideways by the hands of time.
Everyone has moments where they have been awestruck by beauty. A vista, a painting, music, church or historic monument. I have had the privilege of seeing myself humbled seven times in the past month.
Our existence has come to be surrounded by the vibration of other people, representations of ideas, of possibility and records of experience cataloged by our information feeds. There are websites, blogs, newsfeeds, visual, aural samples of ideas, values, wishes, best practices and examples of evolving mythology, embryo of thought ready for insinuation into our consciousness, by our command or by adventure.
These things you look at, the web, the email, the news, the facebook feed – they ultimately consist of an atmosphere of your design. You select items to include on the page, you approve of this one, ‘like’ this item and share another. Comment here and ignore there. You create a question and ask for participation.
Through this selection process you become a filter for, and ultimately a cataloge of the things you find valuable or even acceptable in the realm of possibility for your experience.
And in the air, in the unseen magic, something is being constructed. Something bigger than a facebook feed, a twitter or email trail. You are building reality as you wish to see it, and it will be almost instantly fed back to you by the rules you dictate.
Has this always been the case? We have always chosen our friends. We have always, through neglect or precise planning chosen our own paths. With the good or poor advice of parents, teachers, contemporaries or influences picked from history or fiction we have constructed lives that follow paths by design or chance. Information whether provided by minstrels or newspapers, there has always been a choice or at least a signpost that advertises such.
The electronic alternatives may be more prevalent, and maybe they are more persistent, but humans have always been surrounded by choice in a manner representing the speed of the existing experience of life.
We’re capable of choice therefore we are capable of good choices. And this cataloge, this facebook feed ultimately represents your best side presented after your review and acceptance of what exists on that timeline.
Sarcasm, criticism, joy, kindness, acceptance, celebration, trial, triumph, or tragedy, you have accumulated and noted only the noteworthy. And at the outset, my commenting on this seems excessive, and I’m not going to hold any behavour of mine up for example, but I think the temptation is to take it lightly, it’s no big deal. However, it’s dedication of sorts. It’s your word.
I have to hope that I show a decent profile to the world.
I am not responsible for the happiness of my fellow travelers. Their well-being is a variable; a measure, the origin of which I have no power to control. We are all angels; forgiven and divine, we wrestle only with the mirror of our experience, the wishes we can’t reconcile. Beyond that mirror others dance with their own demons, or shout through the ether for the beauty of it all.
I wish only to celebrate, perhaps spark a similar kind of joy; by either imitation or inspiration – it doesn’t matter.
Words are meticulously kept inside her heart. Slightly shy, articulate, artistic savant. Everything she says is of or for the creative force. And her heart as it turns out, is a place where the embers of thousands of lives have shed their sad smoke, hoping to kindle a sympathetic flame.
So she celebrates; a cyclic dance for the air around her that resonates with private music and surprises which whisper thanks in scents and visions.
Luckiest can also be defined as ‘most accurate’. Accurate can be further defined as precise or well crafted.
What must it be like to feel a sense of lift? We feel tilt and velocity along with the idea of gait. But birds have pitch, yaw, roll, and this wondrous feeling of how much physical resistance they are offering to the idea of gravity; how much ‘push up’ their wings are exerting against the ‘push down’ of nature. Not wind, not resistance to air, but lift. A measure of exactly how much they are flying
An elderly woman cautiously moves, step-by-step down a long embankment toward the river. She’s dressed in a red t-shirt and white shorts and carrying a shopping bag made of canvas. She looks out of place, as if the line up for tickets at a bingo is displaced to the woods. I look away for a few minutes and when I turn back, I’m astounded to see her coming toward me on this side of the river. I look carefully at its course but I can’t determine where she might have crossed.
My books are all around me. There are individual pieces of my history, their history and the history of the world. A library like this represents a man, his place, his journey and his planet. It’s a big picture when you see it from all the angles.
Places traveled, ideas introduced, pieces of light, pieces of darkness. All the words and all the paragraphs, all the thoughts sit there like little bombs. Hundreds of volumes of little bombs. Some delightful, some terrible, all of them thought by people like you and me and crafted with care into the perfect vessel to deliver this single shattering truth to a mind a hundred lifetimes away.
Delivered through space and time to another seeking mind. All minds that read must be seeking in some way. The only mind not of this ilk is the Buddha, or Jesus or some god so holy that life itself is enough. And there are books about him here too. Many. Books about how god exists and how god can’t possibly exist. All conjured into being by people of mind, people of creation. From the bosom of milk and honey or from the random slime of the universes most wondrous machination.
When my fingers begin to type I expect them to default to some dry poison. But when I’m out by myself this doesn’t happen. Jesus. What is that all about?
I remember being young and dangerous. What was I really? I was self- assured there is no doubt about that. Arrogant. Likely dismissive. Rash, I loved though. I’m certain of that. I held people close and treated my friends with respect mostly. I was great in crowds. Crowds of like- minded people. If I was at a restaurant with my people you couldn’t beat me for conversation, form and bravado. Friendliness too. But put me in a bar with idiots that I was expected to impress and I would clam up. The radio crowd. The vultures and the hunters. I couldn’t pretend to be one of these men that hung out trying to pick-up women. Although at the time I thought that might be an alternative, I couldn’t make it happen. I believe the problem was my conscience. That approach just seemed too cavalier to me.
And that’s funny because I remember numerous times when a glance across a room ended up as an all-night agreement. No questions asked. I guess it’s just the people and the expectations. Especially the style. This false bravado they would display, the pack mentality, the bragging, the hunting. I found it much more noble to approach people with intentions borne of consideration; discussion, awareness, celebration of life, humour, intelligence. And as it would come to pass, practice of these disciplines, and expectations of that caliber served me well.
I used to move in a fast crowd – misguided for certain, but exciting. “Twisted”, we would have bragged. These people I’m expected to socialize with today seem less engaging. The conversations require invention instead of innovation. I always have to try. Time passes – and I have calmed myself out of necessity, but I question whether this exercise has left behind some balls.
Your understanding of the machinations of the universe is not insulation against its caress.
The collective memory of mankind is effectively fifty to sixty years, about the life expectancy of an impressionable twenty year old. It’s this fact that God counts on to renew the world and the devil counts on to play the deadly games.
It’s in this domain that good and evil battle for the scraps cast from history’s table.
I feel an urge to describe events of three hundred years before I was born in order to clarify the image of how much humans have endured over such a short period of time. How many generations is that. Six mother’s lives ago we were doing ‘this’.
God, ego, fault, forgiveness. I had a thought on the way home from Bragg Creek; what if it’s all pure chance? What if there is no ‘ego’, no ‘god’ no forgiveness? What if it’s all just billions of dice rolling constantly, falling through infinity, changing from one result to the next. A cacophonous ballet of spinning white cubes and tangled dots each pausing for whatever instant it takes to have their results cataloged, and then spinning, rolling and cascading again to foretell the next random result; tragic, comedic, virtuous or fortuitous that determines the life-path of you and everyone you touch from the instant of creation until eternity.
How much freedom would I feel if I didn’t hold the weight of responsibility for any of this? If my good judgment was enough to let my conscience lie in peace? And why is this not so? Where is the truth that solves this question? I invite this, and have for some time.
Go down the path. Walk with a backpack don’t look back. Where is this place? Where is this mansion of soul? This expanse of free thought. What is holding the reins? Who is this black specter behind me riding my back with leather straps and cruel bit wedged to the back of my throat? Get off of me fucker. By whatever means necessary I will buck you off. I will tear these straps and use them to garrote your vicious bastard neck. How did you get there in the first place? How was I so complacent as to allow this ball-rope tugging fucker to steer my life.
I bet it was want. I bet while I was wanting clothes, shiny shit, car, sex, the bastard rode in on the side of a truck filled with adolescent necessities and while I was dreaming of some beautiful cunt, it tied me with spider webs until I thought I could see truth. I ate and drank this desire, I willingly walked through the gate. It’s the same gate the crowd is rushing toward. It has no sign on it.
There is no door number two.
Oranges in the sun. Red clay soil. Backwoods railroad track with the sky slice of air above, trees obscuring the rest with their wisdom and grace. They silence the entire world around with stature and leaves. Birds know this place. And little animals, insects of course. But men don’t come here except to burst mechanically through sparking upset and trauma with their wheels and diesel and oil and screams of metal plates objecting to their very manufacture in the face of a world so gentle and filled with beauty.
What is this dark pull. This weariness that creeps over me in the early afternoon. A quick lunch and then watch the world for a few minutes while my brain begins to feel the weariness of the day. A cup of tea is hot and still steeping by my right arm while I type and try to come to grips with what my mind may want to say. Is there any path here, I ask? Is there anything but complaints?
How about some gratitude today. I am grateful. If I go to the pit for the last bit left-over from days of repetitive slogging on this topic I will find that I am very grateful for my talent at writing. Issuing thoughts to paper. I think I am very good at it. I also think it may be the reason I’m so dissatisfied with the status quo. I want validation.
Now validation may be a valuable gift for every human on this earth, but I wager that validation for a writer, as far as needs go, far outweighs the average person’s level of want.
And I have no way to prove this except with circumstantial evidence, but I think that the requirement for validation in my life may be another exponential step upward even from that.
I don’t know why this should be. Insecurity? Maybe. Again, I can’t be sure.
But, I’m grateful for the talent. I’m grateful for my sobriety, certainly. It’s why I have use of this over electrified brain instead of being saddled with a mass of underpowered, squishy gray matter.
I am grateful for my connection with beauty. I appreciate music, art, fine writing, and the female form in a way that borders on infatuation.
I am grateful for my children, although I have a very tough time trying to get past the place where they won’t listen to a goddamned word I say.
I am grateful for my dog. My dog is pure joy.
I am grateful for sitting in the back yard reading, smelling wood-smoke and sipping on a cold drink.
I am grateful for the moments where I lay in bed at night and read, and the moments just before sleep where I can close my eyes and imagine things that can’t be spoken out loud to any living soul on earth.
So, I am an artist. I just decided this is so. Maybe I’ve fallen into the decision, maybe I’ve grown into it. But now I find myself satisfied to accept it. I’m reading about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Her journey allows me to give up the fight. Stop trying to justify the belief. The fact is, I see as an artist sees. I see things differently.
This is no choice and there is no cure or training that can change it. I’m not about to put on a beret and saunter around in elbow-patch sweaters or a smock, but the world that surrounds me shows itself in one way. I perceive that things exist as beauty in some fashion – that is, in some manner all things are inviting interpretation, or standing on reality restless in order that something recognize them. It’s an unexpected communication from inanimate reality that invites participation, and rewards with curiosity, trust, joy, frustration, and something to do.
On a new day when a bright sky holds promise
clouds angled from the horizon – up, then overhead
dome hesitates, half blue – orange, red, grey and white – brush at arms length, throws color
heart wills a weightless day and it appears – sun burns through the palette and leaves a brilliant light – shadows pass time and point effortlessly
their targets rest – steal moments, then fly up into warm air.
Be a man – write about it.
This is essentially the contract I’ve struck with life. There are varying definitions of both of these things. Writing and being a man. The man part is a moving target, and something that has to be learned. Here you can self-define, or be wrestled into someone elses’ cage. Self definition will take into account point of view, the company you keep and any other influence you are inclined to allow in your life at the moment. Balls too. There are balls involved. I’m not going to get into a discussion concerning the attributes of one sex as applied to another, whether this point of view is questionable, threatening to anyone, or even valid. This is about me. About a deal I’ve struck. These rules were handed out, not invented.
Writing is documentation. So that piece would seem at the outset to be the simple commitment, but it takes training and a great deal of practice – your desire to make it happen will never put words on the page.
There is a symbiotic relationship here. If you can develop both, they seem to feed off of each other. They play nicely together they’re complimentary in a specific, rewarding manner. There is room to move, and it’s endlessly gratifying.
Language and writing consist of symbols. Life consists of experience. Experience can be represented by symbols but symbols will never be an accurate representation of life. You cannot see in here.
As days pass and lines accumulate, the sketch of Doug McCormick becomes slowly more clear. Some shading here, a piece of outline there and in the center the beginning of an as yet uncertain hue. But it may be that from the outside this picture will more readily become recognizable. From in here the shapes and lines appear distorted. Form won’t take from this angle. This is a poor point of view from which to see any hint of the artist’s idea.
Over a café au lait in the morning I see a tiny black cat sneak into the café. It is fragile and gaunt, the right eye oozing liquid and the surrounding skin stripped of fur. It leaps onto a chair – hiding, barely visible beneath the table cloth. You can see it lick one paw and wipe at the damaged side of it’s face, head turning to keep aware of the surroundings. Wounded, afraid and vigilant.
Vulnerability. What the fuck is this manifestation of? The very idea is a bit of an intrusion. Humans have hearts and they have nerves and they have bodies and minds. These minds are affected by every touch of influence. Every gentle stroke or each strike of a nerve makes an indelible mark on the psyche of a watcher, a lone mind on its journey.
And all these strokes, all these strikes, what do they add up to? Is there a formula that can define what will be left of a man past the point of breaking? Past the place where the scales still work?
Hair parts in the wind.
Is it a problem that I think that I only exist in the minds of other people? Is this the perfect example of insecurity?
The smell of tobacco smoke is pungent from behind me. This autumn wind animates flowers, trees and all the hair on this sun blessed patio. Women lean in to share details, type onto smartphones, or, eyes closed, sit back in the chair to allow the sun to warm chest, face and arms.
There is such an exquisite feeling of secret pleasure in this time I spend alone. Each keystroke is a treasure when I have it all to myself. A jealous sword guards this privacy. This moment curled inward.
These women sit near me. These beautiful, deep eyed pieces of flame. How is it that I am so drawn to this essence? Can I not distance myself enough to have an original thought?
Creativity. I wonder if writing is enough? I wonder if I need deeper and more immediate feedback. Music, some kind of first-person active return on investment.
Is this investment? Do I expect to profit from this immediately as a condition of its existence? How does that make anything come easier? Jesus Christ.
You can smell these people’s problems. Millions of darting eyes.
Nirvana lithium screaming from the midway fireball.
Pretty young girls. Cleavage and gum.
Stained shirts sunglasses and screams.
Slack jawed boys. Dullards in baseball caps, fat and t-shirts.
Desperate drunk phone calls. Where are you cunt?!
Lights, machinery, twisting and dangling feet.
Tall hair, green hair, tattoo chain mail,
Native Asian Rasta Sikh White-trash Cowboy Lesbian Fanboy Punkboy Blind man Strongman Superman.
Leather fringes and whack a mole.
Dewlap flattop winner winner winner.
Tight shirt Stetson. Coke in paper cups.
Rank grease stink nacho cheese floor hazard.
I love how small things insinuate ritual into your day and bring you closer to life. Last year I couldn’t have told you whether this was an issue or a pleasure, but for some reason this winter the task of sitting with my dog and taking the ice pebbles out from between the pads of her paws after a long walk in the snow is pure joy to me. I talk to her, rub her limbs with the towel, pick at her pads (the depth of these crevasses astounds me), and she is absolutely taken by my attention. She leans into me, nuzzles me and it feels as if she’s glowing, smiling. It’s the most rewarding feeling ever.
You can’t sell your soul. It’s a myth. I’ve tried it and I now know. A few paragraphs above this is my official request. And it’s been quite some time. Over two months. So, it’s not an option. It’s a made-up ‘freak you out’ type of religious allegory.
That, or maybe my soul is just not worth that much – maybe I priced it too high.
Midnight coming out of the mountains west of Revelstoke onto the foothills of the agricultural spreads. The smell of cut hay – alfalfa – sprinklers and irrigation equipment gushing in the dark and the eerie glow and sweep of the tractor headlights. Moths so thick in the summer night air that they look like a snowstorm in the glow of the headlights.
The air is so hot and still that nothing is breathing.
The hummingbirds are beautiful and delicate. Their display is a wonderful reminder of the fragile thing life is.
I’m grateful for the sound of waves on a beach. I’m grateful that I’ll soon be reading Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance again.
I’m grateful for my son’s tiny high voice.
I’m grateful for the heat of this day.
The gulls are arrogant here. They’re used to humans and they behave badly. They fly over low and slow, gazing sideways with a daring attitude. You suspect them of conspiracy as you carry a huge load of french fries from the concession shack and they swoop low to disturb your balance enroute to the beach.
She wore the low cut back beach shirt with the tight silk slit skirt and sandals – she’s been waiting all day to walk away.
The beach is crowded with families, and the grass, shaded by the huge crowns of the poplars is crowded with fruit pickers and laborers sitting in circles smoking spliffs and swaying to music.
The pickers arrive before the sun peeks over the hills to the east. They converse in communities. French, Spanish and English emerge from different areas of the orchard in cascades of laughter or in barks of exclamation.
They dress in whites to battle the heat of the day. Except for the darkman. He’s in brown corduroy and a heavy sweater. I hear “bom dia”. Portuguese.
The girl loves the camaraderie of the pick gang; she finds love in the community and purpose in the work.
He drifts away from her – a victim of learned class distinction. He can’t bring himself to let go and howl when a bucket is full of cherries and ready for the pallet.
By noon they’ve put in a 6 hour shift. They retire to the shade of the poplars at the beach, eat bread, drink wine and smoke pot, then fall asleep and dream away the heat of the afternoon.
At the side of the highway there are ancient fruit trees with crowns clipped at 4 feet from the ground. The huge trunks support the crown over a clearing big enough to setup house. Beneath these tress is the perfect cool place to be in the heat of the afternoon and explore the wonder of two naked bodies. To look at those trees is to feel your lovers’ naked body rise against you.
There are not nearly as many people on the street this year. I wonder when I’ll read about that in a newspaper.
From below the steps are labeled – insecurity, jealousy, anger, resentment, worry, and you are deathly afraid of each in its own manner. It makes you angry to think you haven’t conquered anger. You’re afraid you don’t have the right stuff to conquer insecurity. But from the top of the steps you know that your reward is clarity – insight. There is no label from up here, it’s just a staircase that may have been intimidating, but the only concern now is the steps ahead that have no labels.
I would like to learn painting to try to reproduce on canvas that line of trees to the north. It would be an exercise in detail. Lovely.
The sound of a man hammering a nail becomes an event. The whack of the impact rings down the valley like a bird in flight, tilting and dodging the landscape.
There are a lot of thoughts, feelings or ideas that come to me from outside this confident personality of mine.
There are possibilities that color my current place as inadequate. There are wants that color this place as lacking. There are pieces of media, music, cinema, literature, art and others that make me reel with pleasure. There are friends that I long to be beside. There are a million pieces of experience that might be, or that insinuate themselves as absolutely necessary, all without the first bit of rational analysis by my conscious self.
It’s a cacophony of possibility from which I can pick places to be, imagine, think, or feel as I wish. Life is infinitely deep, rich, satisfying, dangerous, calming, beautiful or peaceful as I wish.
It comes to me and I ride it like a wild, spirited horse haltered with only the best intentions – running at a full gallop through thick, ripe air.
Sunshine on my back, river roaring like a madman and gleaming silver down its course through the whole of time from birth to final expiration of breath on this blessed earth.
I sit, hands on a keyboard in front of a computer monitor in a house in the middle of the coldest damned winter ever, typing, listening to a piece of music I’ve never heard before streaming from internet radio and grin from ear to ear with the wonder of it all.
He is a meek man who speaks in pleasant tones about the wonders of compost. He offers that he has lived here for 7 years, that he came from Burns Lake where they had 5 feet of snow the year they bought that snow blower. He is 75, has a failing back and donates all the produce from his considerable gardens to the food bank.
“He beats his wife”, Says Leslie.
His face is mousy, with white stubble. The thumb of his left hand is missing; a smooth stump is all that remains.
The south end of the valley is capped with smoke. It’s a wall of wispy white cloud. Different from the daytime buildups that bring gusts and sometimes turn into thunderstorms. It turns red at night.
Everyday the smoke moves slowly north until at 6:30pm your eyes begin to sting and you notice the hills to the east are now obscured. Then at 8 it recedes back to the south and by 10pm stars are glittering in the clear night sky.
The leaves on the maples are colored such a dark shade that they appear black in the twilight. Deep green – the deepest green imaginable – rich and thick – almost shining purple at the veins.
I walked across the grey slate dust of the baseball diamond today. A straight line from 1st to 3rd across the mound, on my way to the store and the coffee shop.
On the return trip I noted there were 4 other sets of footprints and 2 sets of bicycle tire tracks. I felt as if I had broken a taboo. I had to step into the dirt and examine my boot print to determine which set belonged to me before I could go home.
At the farthest bench south on the grass, where the gypsies sit, there are designs drawn from pastels. Intricate and beautiful. Colorful and delicate. A collaboration of creation.
I have to trust that the words I type have value. I can sit here and think paragraph out onto a page, consider carefully, or let the fingers type nonsense. But in the end this practice has purpose hasn’t it? It must or my expectations would disappear (and so would I). A thousand purposes can be invented for any moment spent writing. Story, something to impress someone, a moments inspiration, or the beauty of a sunny autumn morning begging inclusion – asking for validation through recognition by a human soul.
At this time of the year the sun shines at an obtuse angle through the bushes, so that one side is vivid and the other is sprayed with filtered light and scared with shadow. Snakes on the rocks. The laziness of the morning is such a beautiful place to reside. There is calm here that should be a birthright. Walking in this serene place is the perfect ambition.
Sprites of matter, insects floating in the morning sun between my spirit and the fields. A thousand light particles held aloft by the breathless morning air.
Activity begins with cars, people walking and the noise of life beginning all around. Is there a forest where no intrusion of man-made sound is possible?
These people make rhythmic noises. Music of life. Footsteps, machines working for conveyance, to provide, the squeak of a bicycle or hiss of tires on pavement. Air through spokes. Thud – a car door closes. Shuffle – there goes a pair of pants. Blades of grass turn to seek explanation from the unfamiliar.
The ground swells with sleepy thought, stretches awake and scratches at the claws of a coyote, a silly irritation at an unreachable spot between its shoulder blades.
…a fat bee swinging down on a hinged flower petal. Gophers wrestling in the green grass, screaming like a scissors fight.
You walk head up – not beaten – to find a new place to eat. Your stomach is empty and you feel your legs beginning to wobble. Hunger. You reach into your pocket for a cigarette. Shit, they’re back at the room. Then, turning corners – regulating your steps – hoping for a spot you can be confidant of finding a sandwich without too much trouble. A blister on the right foot now. You can feel it burn and begin to step gently.
Outside a bar is a cigarette machine. You manage to get smokes but it won’t dispense lighters. Miles later there is a tobacco shop and you mimic lighting a cigarette until the clerk brings out a selection of lighters. In this manner you discover the word for one hundred – Cien, and learn to listen. You can’t go further. There was a grocery store a while back and you can make that and pick up something to fill up on. Today you managed to change your money to pesetas, make a train reservation for Madrid on Friday, have the receptionist book a room there for three nights, buy her a small bouquet of flowers in thanks, write, find a cyber café to visit tomorrow and still, because you end up eating in the same place as yesterday you feel you haven’t done an adequate job.
Travelling as a lone male has a bit of a twist to it. No matter how you act I believe people tend to categorize you. All the rest of the lone males on this street are either dressed in suits, walking dogs, old or bums. I generally fall into the bum category. Except the time I bought flowers for the receptionist at the hotel: when you’re carrying a bouquet of flowers in Spain, all the women smile at you.
There is existence and there is an exercise. See the world through new eyes every day. See the sun and its offspring, grateful.
Try to quell fear. Try to stand inside this mind, typhoon raging and name stakes for a game of solitaire. In the face of silence the demons play wild; a word of comfort dies at their hand in empty air.
Ancient carcasses carrion torn, spill their terrible secrets, bring to life all the buried pain. Phoenix of blood and tears falls again and again.
Courage and faith are born here. But their essence pushed bleeding from this putrid womb has no life of its own. It must suck some invisible vital fluid from nothing, to build a skeleton from a dead idea – hope appears as a crystal flash, fragile, blinding in the moment.
So the soul takes one more damned step forward.
Who can bear this weight?
Who can imagine a course?
Who has navigated here?
What manner of courage does it take to embark?
What manner of fool? Or conqueror?
What heart has this brilliant strength?
And then, what heart can face the veteran of this journey? What mind or soul can understand this sentinel? This ugly, beaten captain – madman tied before the mast.
Who stands gazing at the pitiful wreck on the rocks – Anthemoessa, if not a siren?
The siren is not invented by the soul of a woman, it is not created from some fever. It’s not a specter, it’s not some vaporous ghost. It is a real, tangible beauty. Unmatched by any experience possible and more powerful than illusion or dream. A siren is invented in the heart of a man and there is no escaping the influence of something that is designed in its creation to be the undoing of one’s own self. You must watch this, experience it, understand it and go forward with a scorched soul in order to breathe fresh air in grace, upon the realization that you alone can hold this truth to task.
What gives you power? Where do you get your source? If you sit alone and need something – what is it you need? I can’t bring anything contemporary to the conversation, I answer ‘solitude’ to that question. And that’s not a quality, that is a place where quality can exist or be sought.
But I can remember what I used as a child, before the schools and a long time before the poison, the alcohol. It was dreaming. I would dream all the time. Day and night. Make up anything to insinuate glory or heroism into the day. Run with arms spread making noises like an airplane. To make me laugh, make me happy, make me feel real. I remember dreaming before I remember any reason why I may have become needy of it. I believe it’s a pre-existing attribute and not some symptom.
So dreaming came first, before any way to define its purpose. And it floated me until it was usurped by convention. Then, when it became unacceptable, I replaced it with drugs.
The spiritual lineage here is unimaginably deep. All the crowns of all the popes combined can’t touch the breadth of spiritual commitment and knowledge represented by these simple gestures of tribute to the earth and its inhabitants.
This comparison has been examined by as diverse a sample as Mark Twain to Hunter Thompson. The examination itself is trite enough that the words themselves have become hackneyed phraseology. Man and nature versus the corporate machine.
The corporate – the suit – the tie, the structure.
The First Nations – the tribal, the wisdom, the foundation.
From inside the corporate, the First Nations looks flighty – unkempt, unclean, disrespectful and dirty. It feels threatening. It feels like someone laughing at you in spite.
From inside the First Nations, the corporate looks comical. It looks like a dog chasing its tail. It looks like contrived effort in aid of nothing at all. It feels like a massive, grotesque insect buzzing around your head threatening some ugly sting.
At this native ceremony there is no fear present. There is no fear allowed. They don’t teach fear to their children. They don’t believe in fear. They believe in stewardship. Husbandry of Mother Earth. They treat the mother with respect. The information they share is purposefully pure to that end.
The sharing of information in corporate/capitalist western society has evolved into an unregulated spigot of fear.
The human becomes aware of itself. It seems to get a little weary at 10:15 in the morning. Just after the first ceremony. As if you could just rest for a little bit to catch your breath – you would feel a little better about the next couple of hours. Then, in the afternoon things would go a lot smoother broken by a nap at about 2 or 2:30. Siesta.
These natural rhythms are described as lazy or uninterested. Un-hirable.
It’s unthinkable to not give your body what it requires to make the day more enjoyable.
All the creeks, streams and rivers are surging to the shoulders – the Fraser River at Lillooet is a roiling cauldron of brown water a thousand feet across.
I saw these clouds. As soon as I left the house I wanted to run to the bike path where the street lights end so I could get a better look.They were like sails at first and they re-shaped so rapidly – it was like a movie or a poem. The pictures don’t do them justice, but they were magnificent – huge sheets of fabric and so completely smooth and razor sharp at the edges, with ripples at the center and tendrils descending where ropes would attach to masts or to the rails of a ship.The edges started overhead and they spread all the way to the horizon at the south.They were all lit by that giant half-moon. It was absolutely beautiful.
The quality of plagiarism is, I think, necessary. I believe it is unconscious and benevolent. This is why, or how; spontaneity is required to satisfy the muse. In the best situation there is no control over the creative process. To believe that this flow is uninfluenced by the past is naive. Every note has already been sung, every color has been used and all the brushstrokes on all of the canvasses and the thickness and depth of color are repeated. If you have creativity in you, it has necessarily been awake long before you were aware of it. All of your senses feed it and your soul feeds on it. And over your lifetime you have been building its reservoir.
Then, when you are called and you begin to look at the blank page, your soul takes its cue and opens the doors to these hidden stores of power. You only see your fingers on the keyboard or the brush in your hand, but your soul feels every painting and every melody that has ever moved you. It is the melding of these and the touch of your heart on them that makes them unique. A million strokes or a thousand tones are heated in your core and the resulting alchemy changes this mix of worn phrases into a suddenly unique and fresh expression, the likes of which cannot ever be duplicated.
Time goes by and you turn into something. There’s no reasoning into the future from this moment to guarantee what you’ll become, nor argument with the past to forgive it. There is only inexorable progress into what circumstances dictate must be. And there you are; stuck at this instant – an excuse threaded through time with an arrow head at one end.
Experience happens in moments threaded through our perception of time. Experience is fleeting. The moments that are past exist only as ghosts compared to moments that happen at the instant of life. That instant is real, tangible, full and vibrant. The moments passed are silenced or veiled with emotion. They may be colored with melancholy, jealousy, euphoria, desire for improvement, or guilt for not having been created exactly properly.
The first time pavement goes by under the tires of a bicycle, you marvel at the speed, the movement, the sound, the air moving by and the pure miracle of it. After 40 years it is difficult to find magic in the revolution of these spoked wheels.
If I could have any wish, it would be to be granted the joy of experiencing every moment as new. To saddle up on the bicycle and push-pedal start down the street, experiencing as if for the first time the act of moving in three dimensions through the wonder of the world. Each instant a new experience, and as illuminated over centuries in literature and art, with the eyes of a child.
We strive for this feeling. And perhaps the easiest way to be rewarded is to recreate it at whim. With the acquisition of experiences, the acquisition of things. New experiences, new stuff. Are we training ourselves to be consumers instead of training ourselves to enjoy moments? Are we evolving into a less satisfied creature by the accident of having invented capitalism, and giving in to the desire for more?
Evolution is experienced. It’s not a thing that you can see. It’s an accumulation of moments. Ghosts. Todays creature is a million moments removed from any point in the past, yet it can’t be seen as different because it’s the creature that is experiencing the instant. One of the two moments necessary for comparison no longer exists. Or at least, becomes unreliable with the passage of time.
We want for want of a solid grasp on gratitude. We pine for a static joy that can’t exist in a temporal universe, and we replace it with acquisition instead of meditation. We are being trained this way.
Here is a picture of what might be. There are two parts to this. It’s an experiment in defining possibilities. The first part is easy;
Let’s presume that time can be represented by an arrow. It’s straight and it originates behind you, passes through your head to exit from the spot where traditionally the ‘third eye’ would be placed on a representation of an east Indian deity. This arrow has no third dimension. It is not visible as a point from behind or in front. It’s only attribute is length and that is infinite.
Imagine then, that each decision you make initiates a jump from the line of this arrow to an arrow immediately adjacent to it. That is, a decision, whether conscious or not changes the timeline that passes through your life, or changes your life path to another timeline (or that your life is attached to). Each decision defines a new moment on a new timeline. Had you ignored the choice, or had made a different decision, your life would have remained on, or changed to a different timeline.
The number of possible timelines is, therefore, dependent on your definition of the term ‘moment’.
Where is the connection between greed and fear? What is the natural thread that holds these two ideas together. What universal force is in effect?
The greed that takes capitalism from a viable, hardy alternative and transmutes it into a soul sucking vortex relies on instilling fear into its detractors as the primary means of distraction from truth.
Fear is it’s camouflage. Is this a part of the masculine?
A palm-held accordion – a squeeze box…the sound is like puffs of punctuation, syncopated into the music’s mix. Music is like poetry in that the enjoyment doesn’t lead me to need to repeat the experience, but to seek fresh, new experiences. New pieces, new sounds, new ideas.
Literature makes me want to repeat the experience. Read the same book again. Enjoy the beauty, the marvel of a piece well delivered.
Your knowledge of truth and love is no greater or less than any other being on the planet. Truth and love are not quantified in size, either experientially or by extent. Truth and love exist simply. Their experience is the same for all, their availability is the same for all. No one entity has possession. No group or whole can disprove the truth or love of another.
This is why greed and excess flourish. There is no place an ego based soul can flourish, except to exploit the existence of another, so the peace of ‘being’ gives way to accumulation in aid of confirming worth.
No one can see that we all have the same ‘amount’ no matter our material worth.
You formulate a thought and it seems as if it’s a good answer. A step forward. The feeling is one of joy and it makes the surrounding air seem sweet and clear. From outside of this joy there is the reality that it’s really just a place in time. You’re actually a long way from clarity, but to know this would be discouraging. You need to keep believing in the moments of sweet thought in order to go on. If you could look up truthfully from one of these moments of sweet thought, you’d see an infinite number of layers of doubt above you. All the way to heaven.
It’s like wisdom. You can think you’ve achieved a piece of grace, but the bigger picture is that no one is near the place that could be called wise. It’s just escalating degrees of resonance. A spiral ascendance which although noble, still resembles a dog chasing its tail.
1066 The Year of Three Battles
I sat on the couch with a book in my hand and typed this data into my iphone notepad app. I took down the title, author and isbn in aid of obtaining a copy. The gentleman I had noticed leave the room while I was looking at the bookshelves returned to his armchair at my immediate right, a coffee table graced with nuts, a cracker and a dish of chocolates between us. He is about seventy years old I reckon, tidily dressed and wearing a scarf, perhaps because of the cold, I don’t know. Although it’s winter, it’s an unusually mild day.
His right hand is bulbous. Distended, as if effected by an insect bite, but there is no discoloration at all. Just a balloon-like swelling.
He remarks on the title of the book, and I explain my actions.
The conversation is on.
James; “I was born in Scotland, those battles were taught to us as skirmishes.”
Me; “We didn’t get a lot of European history, ours was mostly American and Canadian. Just the beginning of law – the Magna Carta, etc.”
Erin joins us.
The conversation meanders through teaching of history according to geography, differences in method of delivery, and then to the value of dictionaries and especially prescriptive dictionaries VS. descriptive, and the wonder of googles new ‘word origin’ function and its etymological reach.
James recommends a book; The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester – the story of the Oxford English Dictionary, and describes it as a labor of love initiated by a self-educated Scottish geologist hell bent on creating a monument to the English language.
We speak of languages, travel, geography, education and the conversation arrives at India, whereupon he speculates that the value of a box of tea in an insurance claim would be determined in the end by totalling each penny that went into its creation from the planting and watering of the seed, to the fraction of the value of the human time devoted to its nurturing, the value of the leaves, the amount packed, the charges for transportation, and in the end, the sum of all these things at the moment of its ruination.
He then notes he has a friend who was in the tea business in India in the sixties and he (James) became familiar with the process of the blending and tasting of various mixes of varieties ( the tasting is a vile process to watch – the gurgling and hacking and spitting that takes place is quite rude ) through his friends incidental conversation about his place of work.
“I went there by steamer in the 60’s, from England, all the way around Africa to work in Calcutta. I was a bachelor then in my twenties, there were a lot of girls on that trip. A wonderful time for an unattached man. I remember the work in India. I was involved in parties that would last for days. We just partied all day and all night. If I did that today on one Tuesday, it would take me until the next Tuesday just to feel better.”
Erin; “There, is a book”.
We both smile. Yes, the title, the players, the scent of tea, the beauty of air and sun. It’s all there.
The conversation ran into Spain, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia,
“I loved Andalusia, the hills and the towns.”
“Madrid, I went through Madrid on the way home to Canada”
“I stayed just on the edge of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. I managed the Picasso Museum, the markets and I was in Seville and I remember Basilica of La Macarena a cathedral that was built in the 10th Century – right beside my hotel.”
“There is a Cathedral in Cordoba that was a Mosque and now is a Cathedral – the foundation is from the same period – the eleven hundreds. I was there with a friend once and we missed the tourist window and entered the church just as a catholic service began. You sit and you watch the pageantry and your mind naturally wanders to the depth of the experience. How many people have been here in the last thousand years? The mind boggles and it’s fascinating.”
“I traveled from Barcelona to Lisbon, across Spain all the way and ended up on the Atlantic coast at Albufiera.
“Lisbon, Portugal that’s a renaissance that predated the European by 600 years. The Muslim mathematics of the Islamic empire.”
“There is an author you should read, Jose Saramago. My favorite of his is probably ‘Journey to Portugal’. He describes cathedrals and small churches in every district as he travels around the country. He is a novelist, but applies this whimsical delivery to a travelogue. It’s brilliant. His descriptions of serendipitous events which allow him after-hours access to sacred places, and the characters catalyst to his adventures are truly beautiful. He is a lyrical writer, his people are fantastic.”
“How do you spell that?”
“ Ess, Ay, Are, Ay, Ehm”….etc.
“Gandhi and Nehru and the splitting of India, the creation of Pakistan, that was a tumultuous time. The population exchanges sparked huge violence. Wholesale slaughter.”
“Thurso, Scotland. The northern most tip of the country. Right on the North Sea. We would have twenty four hours of daylight in summer. Twenty four hours of dark in the winter. That wasn’t nice.”
“Fifty-eight degrees? Thereabouts.”
“I worked for a time in the Canadian Arctic – above seventy degrees latitude. I recall flying back to Calgary in the winter. I’d take a cab from the airport into downtown intentionally, just to stand in the middle of the city and look straight up. I would laugh out loud. I’m sure people thought I was a lunatic. But if you come from a month on an Arctic Island in complete darkness except for the lights of a Quonset Hut generator, and you have the presence of mind to experiment by planting yourself in the middle of the dynamo that is a city center at night, you’re going to experience some exciting feelings.”
“What year were you born?”
“Nineteen forty. I’m Seventy Three. I’m a war baby, but I didn’t see any war. I remember being in the garden one day just before my fifth birthday in May. I saw a Spitfire roar over the town and pull up in a victory roll. I ran to get my dad.”
“I loved Pisa in the sixties, but it’s ruined now. You have to reserve a place in line to see anything.” “The trains in Italy are surprisingly high tech.”
“What I really like about Cordoba is the new infrastructure. This is the seat of modern Spain, from the middle ages on. And now their participation in the European union has brought a great deal of new construction, new roads.”
“I don’t know much about the individual countries involved. I do hear a lot about the problems. The banking issue and the destruction of the economy in Greece.
“Spain, youth unemployment is crippling. It’s at twenty eight percent.”
“That’s more than a social issue. It speaks to an entire disenfranchised generation. You can’t do that to a group of people like that. That’s just asking for trouble.”
“Greece is destroyed by it.”
“The banks didn’t just take the money from these people, they took the future of a generation. They took the ability to work honestly for a living and replaced it with instability, unemployment and mistrust. The people who did this are truly evil”.
Conversation on an afternoon at a Christmas party. I should get out more.