“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ~ Maya Angelou
“No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes—forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection), but still unique.” ~ Neil Gaiman
From what I can tell there is no desire for understanding today. And I think how easy it would be to allow myself to drift, which would ultimately result in stillness, like a lump in the chair. But a good lump. Good because I know that the lump designation is rhetorical in nature. Not an actual lump. But the chair is real, and I spend a lot of time here, most of it to my benefit. I may do so today. I am feeling playful yet overwhelmed. But let’s not get into how tired I am. It’s like that for everybody. Right? How the heck would I know. Besides, I really get all rankled and stuff when people say that. It’s just not; it is not like that for everybody. If ya really truly gotta say that just don’t, just tell me you don’t want to hear it. Case closed. I suppose I could get up and push at life, but I also have no desire for efficacy today. Isn’t it a Buddhist thing to hawk the benefits of letting go of desire? Yeh, whatever. Take a deep breath, smile for no reason at all, pet the cat, drink water, eat food. Hey, maybe I should go out for breakfast. I have today and tomorrow and the next tomorrow off, and a fresh outlook looms on the horizon. The horizon is a funny thing if you lived by the ocean for 23 years. Certain qualities of light wash that horizon clean away to the point where there ain’t nothin’ out there but sky. The optics of that phenomenon are truly amazing. It reminds me of when John Lennon sang “Above us only sky”. I’ve been sorely missing the ocean lately. Even to the point, at times, of feeling sorry for people who have never seen the ocean at all, and may never do so. I should stop and note that where I once lived, where I once observed the ocean, waves are usually no more than glorified ripples. The sea rarely gets rough for there are flats all around those islands. Mud flats. You can thank the mud for the tremendous view. Smooth calm waters saturate my memories of that place. And like a sponge I can squeeze those memories to the point where they ain’t friggin memories at all, they are present and accounted for actualities. Lately I’ve been having trouble with that word “memory”. My massage therapist once asked me if I thought this world is an illusion. I told her that I have trouble with that word “illusion”. No flippancy intended. Sigh. If you ask me, this world ain’t no illusion and there ain’t no such thing as memory. Not today, not for me. Truth be told I ain’t even too keen on the idea of living in the present. I mean, did you ever try to do otherwise? Listen – it’s not such a good idea to mistake thoughts for reality anyway. Thoughts are currency, and I don’t feel like shopping today. And reality is none of my business. It’s just that kind of day. I can almost hear my mother responding to these kinds of ideas by simply saying “You’re just tired, that’s all”. And I’m like all “Hey, mom, is it really that simple?”. Maybe she was right. She used to say that pretty often in appropriate situations. I remember it well. And I reckon you know how I feel about memory. Whatever. I’ve had fun playing with these words and ideas this morning. That’s enough for now. Mom always knew what to say.
“The best teachers have showed me that things have to be done bit by bit. Nothing that means anything happens quickly–we only think it does. The motion of drawing back a bow and sending an arrow straight into a target takes only a split second, but it is a skill many years in the making. So it is with a life, anyone’s life. I may list things that might be described as my accomplishments in these few pages, but they are only shadows of the larger truth, fragments separated from the whole cycle of becoming. And if I can tell an old-time story now about a man who is walking about, waudjoset ndatlokugan, a forest lodge man, alesakamigwi udlagwedewugan, it is because I spent many years walking about myself, listening to voices that came not just from the people but from animals and trees and stones.” ~ Joseph Bruchac
“I have always longed to be part of the outward life, to be out there at the edge of things, to let the human taint wash away in emptiness and silence as the fox sloughs his smell into the cold unworldliness of water; to return to town a stranger. Wandering flushes a glory that fades with arrival.” ~ J. A. Baker
Weird. The world still looks weird to me this morning. I kind of like it although it is a bit disconcerting. This surprising perspective takes me back to indeterminate times when I had this same feeling; a feeling of depth and novelty. One case I can put my finger on is the 1800 mile solo bicycle ride I took from the Everglades to Tulsa, Oklahoma, of all places. I take no pride in saying that was no small feat. I remain amazed by what I did. So why now? Heck if I know. Like I said: it’s weird. That’s all.
And when the morning light comes streaming in we get up and do it again. ~ Jackson Browne
Thank you, Mr. Browne. I share this quote from “The Pretender” as I stand ready to head off into the workaday world. This will be four days in a row at work and I am friggin exhausted! I can’t remember the last time I . . . oh never mind. Luckily it has been 98% fun. Like the opening photo I have come, nearly suddenly, to metaphorically go out walking in some cold place, perhaps if only to be reminded of what is missing without warmth; yet the sensuous immersion in a cold and snowy world doth appeal as well. Maybe I should go for a walk soon. Out by the gorge in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Well see. There is a lot to do in the next three days off. Three in a row. But practicalities first, right? Right. There’re the new glasses I need to order tomorrow morning, then psychotherapy in the afternoon. Massage Thursday morning followed by a follow-up review of the blood work I had done from the annual checkup. It will be fun to walk into the Nurse Practitioner’s office all limp and mellow from the massage. This all is falling into a kind of novel place when I look at it from the perspective from a new concept I learned recently: the concept of interception. Basically this is how we sense the world from within our body. I have discussed this with my massage therapist but I never had a word for it until now. She noted once that I have a strong sense of body knowledge. It will be interesting to go at it again, now with a really really cool and compelling and intellectual concept to play with. I am coming to explore a place I have been before, but from a more adventurous and playful POV.
Right now I shall go out and look at the mountains as the morning rises ever so slowly behind all that stone. Then grab myself by the ear and move me along into Taos to get the work shift done. Got me a little agoraphobia goin’, but who can blame me after three days of immersion in that corrosive psychic environment in the market place. So says the strongly introverted homebody.
“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
Weirdness abounds, these days. When I looked up the word “wyrd” it was really no comfort. In fact I found it to be annoying. With very little effort I could find most anything to be annoying this morning. Let’s just say that the weekend was challenging. No, wait – I would prefer to say it sucked overall. It got nightmarish at several points, enough so that I had to break out a tidbit of rationality and remind myself that there is an inescapable physical component to mental illness. That reminder itself doesn’t in any detectable way actually change the physical component. Ya jest gotta deal with it. There ain’t much chance of running away when you have your lead boots on. Besides taking my meds last evening I also treated myself to some humor, in the form of “Get Smart”, the movie. I was a big fan of the old TV show, so maybe I’m a tad prejudiced, but I really enjoyed the film. Besides, it gave me a chance to observe Anne Hathaway (Agent 99), and she always makes me smile. No, it’s not a great movie. Trust me when I say that, mood considered, I would have found a great movie to be annoying. But underneath it all runs that deep and abiding current of calmness. Annoyance can’t really corrode that because the calmness is on a deeper level. I’m gonna stick with the calmness today because the day promises to be annoying, simply because I am alive in a weird world that’s seemingly gone mad. As for the wyrd, it kinda sorta means a fate, karma, destiny, whatever. Yeh, whatever. I’m finding my typing to be annoying right now, so I am going to find something else to do before work.
“I don’t mind not knowing. It doesn’t scare me.” ~ Richard Feynman
“So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for. Then in the shadowy solitude my longing for light grew so frantic that I could rest no more, and I lifted entreating hands to the single black ruined tower that reached above the forest into the unknown outer sky. And at last I resolved to scale that tower, fall through I might; since it were better to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without even beholding day.” ~ H. P. Lovecraft
“The question of what exactly we remember when we listen to old recordings, or whether it can be called remembering at all, becomes less and less answerable over a lifetime.” ~ Geoffrey O’Brien
There is, each day, much to read, and . . . there’s a lot. The internet is ready to exhaust you then bury you if you choose to attempt to satisfy your hunger for reading within its menacing grasp. Wow. No, I didn’t become overwhelmed this morning, though there are days when I flirt with that feeling. I was not feeling so flirtatious this morning. Two articles satisfied me before the web could get it’s paws on me. One was about “holding space” with/for loved ones undergoing active bouts of mental illness – in the case of the author it was her husband’s anxiety attacks. These attacks, for me, are relatively rare anymore. I’ve learned to manage them, though not to disarm the triggers. I’m not even sure such a thing can be done, though I am certainly open to the possibility. Admittedly my triggers are feeling a little twitchy so far today. Comfort lies in the fact that I haven’t had one of those heart-crunching attacks in a long time. Yeh, little ones, and even more so attacks on a micro-level. Of course I do not know what the day will bring, but if it is relatively smooth, status quo, whatever, I will return home this afternoon, exhausted from dancing, ever so slightly, to evade the effects of these micro-triggers, and a pint and a toke will detrain me enough to also evade feeling weepy come bedtime. I don’t know for sure if I cry in my sleep but I suspect that I did last night. The struggle is real – and I do not mean that in the snarky self-satisfied way it is sometimes used in the vernacular. Soooo . . the other article was a brief discussion of new research which seems to be equating near death experiences with a ketamine trip. I dunno about that and I don’t want to get into it right now because I am going through one of those phases where I distinctly feel that I am wishing the NDE never happened. That is silly, of course. Listen, I didn’t choose to crash my bicycle that evening, nor did I choose to acquire PTSD. It just kinda sorta happened. The paranoid in me believes that someone did it to me, and there was some evidence that the paranoid is correct in that suspicion. Paranoia does not always preclude truth. But it feels to be a good day. I will have fun with it, maybe even flirt, maybe even turn the inevitable groans from my aching shoulders and arms into vocalized pratfalls – whatever that means. In the immortal words of James Tiberius Kirk – it sounds like fun.
“Coincidences link us to the unknown and weave us into it.” ~ Doug Dillon
“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t. ” ~ Pete Seeger
“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.” ~ Jacob Bronowski
“Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word ‘understanding.” ~ Werner Karl Heisenberg
It’s a weird feeling catching up on sleep you didn’t even know you lacked. Last night was a 10, ten hours of sleep, on a scale of one to “Like Dude, wake up, you got stuff to do, dude”. Yeh, there is truth there, I do have stuff to do. I did yesterday as well. From a process point of view, I think I done wore myself out yesterday frettin’ ’bout going to the eye doctor, of all things. Soooo . . . eyesight has been about the same for just over ten years now. Go figure, right? Yeh, right. Cataracts, no problem, likely never to be so. And because of the cataracts being a medical diagnosis my health insurance covered it, which was a great relief because I don’t have vision coverage, and I reckon I saved about $100 on the deal. No, I obviously wasn’t losing sleep over it, or anything else for that matter. I’ve been gaining sleep. Good for me.
I just stepped outside to look at the world. The morning sky is lackluster. There is smoke in the air, from who knows where. And pollen. I read this morning that the prehistoric levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are essentially a potent form of plant food. Well fed plants do what they do, and we get to deal with the pollen. I reckon that anyone who denies Global Warming, at this point and place in time, likely also believes that Elvis is alive and pumping gas for a living in some rinkydink town in Mississippi. They never stop to think that there an’t no gas station attendants anymore, except for the ones who sell you products rich in high fructose corn syrup, and coffee, and Red Bull. Thankfully, mine also sell me IPA.
Here we go again. I just stopped to feed the cat, give her water, and scoop out the stinky old litter box. Now I can settle in and totally enjoy the second cup of coffee. The tinnitus is screaming just about as loud as it ever gets. A couple of days ago I ran into a friend at the Post Office. We worked together at the animal shelter. I feel a familial bond to most of the people I worked with there, but this friend and I connected a fair piece deeper from a run-in we had when the anxiety was off the scale one day. We both have anxiety issues that have required both treatment and hopefully preventative maintenance. After the peak heat of our run-in passed we dropped everything and went outside to have a smoke together. I could go deeper about what happened that day. A run-in with someone is a rare thing in my life. So it was a meant to be kind of thing. At least I have made it so. It was good to see my friend and catch up on the animals who are dear to us, before going on to talk about our mutual human friends. Priorities, don’tcha know. But I ain’t goin’ no deeper right now because I reckon I gotta set my sights on the laundromat and then do what it takes to get me there. The rest of my errands for the day are either phone calls or brief efforts online. But something tickles in the back of my mind, brain, whatever. In 36 days we reach the 50th anniversary of the very first Moon landing. 50 friggin years! I mean, come on. Shouldn’t we be golfing on Mars or something by now?
“Why do we think love is a magician? Because the whole power of magic consists in love. The work of magic is the attraction of one thing by another because of a certain affinity of nature.” ~ Marsilio Ficino
“Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.” ~ John Maynard Keynes
“Why do we think love is a magician? Because the whole power of magic consists in love. The work of magic is the attraction of one thing by another because of a certain affinity of nature.” ~ Marsilio Ficino
“That’s the beginning of magic. Let your imagination run and follow it.” ~ Patricia A. McKillip
Sometimes I wonder at all of the ads that appear here and there on my computer screen. There are pop up ads, of course, and what they don’t know is that I ain’t buyin’ none of it. Ads that appear on my Facebook newsfeed just annoy me. I ain’t buyin’ none of that either. But these I can remove, hide, whatever. One such Facebook ad tried to sell me a seminar by Neil Gaiman, which can enlighten me to the business of writing. Cost: $180 – if it hasn’t already gone up. It seems the less money we have the more they try to sell us. But the Gaiman seminar – I love his writing, but I don’t think I need his help with mine – not at that price – likely not at any. I mean, I read his novel American Gods. I know how he writes, and that novel plays a significant inspirational part in my nascent novel. What more do I need to know? Do I sound cocky here? If I do, so be it. I don’t have $180 to spare. As to Mr. Gaiman’s approach to the concept of the gods interacting with humans, I got a lot of that from reading Roger Zelazny. And if you really want to go back to 1935 or so, check out The Nightlife of the Gods, by Thorne Smith. Smith was a witty fellow, it seems. Twain touched on it, Thurber too. In the more modern ‘Urban Fantasy’ genre I have to go with Charles de Lint – specifically The Onion Girl. That book changed my perspective on the world, life, whatever. But it is all about magic. All of it. I highly recommend The Onion Girl, BTW. All of this said, I really must be running along. It makes me smile and chuckle to think of myself as one of the nobility in Zelazny’s Amber series, stepping into and through a Tarot card, to return to my workaday life in the “real world”. It is all well and good that I can step into these worlds of wonder and magic, but I have to return eventually. In my workaday world there is not much magic to be had, though it does surface once in a while. Mainly through the smiles from pretty women. Yeh, there is that. And so it goes.
“That’s the thing about magic; you’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.” ~ Charles de Lint
“Magical places are always beautiful and deserve to be contemplated . Always stay on the bridge between the invisible and the visible. ” ~ Paulo Coelho
“M is for magic. All the letters are, if you put them together properly. You can make magic with them, and dreams, and, I hope, even a few surprises” ~ Neil Gaiman
“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” ~ Nora Roberts
Perhaps it is true that something changed last night. In dreams, maybe? I don’t know. It just feels like it. That’s all I seem to know. Sometimes it is best to step back and just watch and listen when something amorphous comes along. You don’t have to always do something; to analyze, to pencil it in. I guess I am talking about go with the flow. To do nothing. Just watch, just wait. It’s all so confusing. I wish I could remember my dreams. My psychotherapist would love that. But I have been recently experiencing a kind of enhanced propinquity with these dreams. They are running closer to the surface. And when I awake I don’t feel the anxiety that is almost always sponsored in dreams. You know, like thrashing about in my sleep; stuff like that. I hope this continues. Times like these usually suggest that I am coming to feel the Magic again; that ever elusive goal. Other than that . . . the cat is on my lap, the coffee is good, and the skunk seems to have complied with my wishes for her to go away and stay away. It’s a workday promising to be challenging and tiring. Yesterday was like that. About work: I feel it is best to not place work in a separate category from the rest of life. It’s all life and magic is real. Kind of a clunky way to end this post, but I gotta get to my day, writerly obligations notwithstanding. See ya.
“A myth is a metaphor for a mystery beyond human comprehension. It is a comparison that helps us understand, by analogy, some aspect of our mysterious selves. A myth, in this way of thinking, is not an untruth but a way of reaching a profound truth.” ~ Christopher Vogler
“Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture. The forces of imagination and the Apollonian dream are saved only by myth from indiscriminate rambling. The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, ubiquitous but unnoticed, presiding over the growth of the child’s mind and interpreting to the mature man his life and struggles.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“Instead we have to understand that even lost and forgotten myths are compost, in which stories grow.” ~ Neil Gaiman
Fourteen long months . . . for fourteen months I lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, as if in a dream. Perhaps it would be a tad more accurate to say that I had one foot in the Dreamtime and one on the sidewalk. It was myth that was sustaining me in those days. My apartment was on the third floor of a triple-decker at #8 Plum Street, just next door to a Moonie safe house. I’m not sure how he found me, but some guy from the Moonie place showed up at my front door one day and proceeded to dress me down over my parking the car on the street. It was my roommate’s car, and I rarely borrowed it, yet one time the guy saw me parking the vehicle and he saw something wrong about my parking the car where it always was parked. On the street, dude. Between the appropriate painted lines. There was nothing wrong. Anyway, I sent him home dissatisfied. Poor l’il fella. This was back in 1987-8 and I was only four years out from having the lower left portion of my face torn off little, and my brain was jolted around inside my skull as well. Moderate to strong head trauma was the result. Four years out and recovery was just beginning to show. These many years later I have come to learn that there has been no recovery for me, just adjustment and reorientation. Back then I became an avid reader of Magical Blend Magazine. It was a mix of magic, myth, metaphor, and shamanism. Good stuff, well written, New Age stuff. One article slapped me hard enough to get my attention. It was an analysis of Joseph Campbell’s take on “the Hero’s Journey”; the spiritual quest within the world of myth. I was hooked. The idea of questing from mythos had me in an instant. I’ve been walking that path consciously ever since. In the article the writer used Luke Skywalker as an example. I could live with that, happily. As for now, the morning is windy, with some impressive gusts blowing through. It has been at it all night long. The second cup of coffee sits before me on the desk. I made the pot late. The cat is asleep on a paper grocery bag on the floor. I am craving a return to feeling the magic once again. For the past maybe ten years I have mostly strayed from mythos, but not for lack of striving. See, I wandered into the dark side for a few years and I am now headed back in the other direction. Good on me, right? It is in part a troubadour’s quest, for love and all that good stuff. Another part is the striving to retake my place at the foot of the spiral bridge that ascends into the Celestial realm. To this very day I wrestle with the lingering effects from head trauma. What remains is a feeling of perpetual disorientation, and I smile to have realized years back that just the admission of disorientation implies that I still remember how it was before the accident. That implication is incorrect, for the most part. Well, I do remember, but what I remember is also incorrect. The accident was a big pebble in a ginormous pond. The waves spread out in all direction, ring upon ring, outward, all along the timeline of my life. Everything changed in an instant, memories included. Now I think of the future. I haven’t got a friggin clue what will come. I got a large taste of Fate and Destiny back in 1984, when the trauma began. My inclination is to follow Destiny. Mythos and head trauma is what I’m talkin’ about. But it’ll hafta wait ’til after work, right? I’m due in at 7:45 AM, then out at 4:45 PM. But no, that ain’t right; I cannot will not in no way suspend the journey while on the clock. I will subsist on the smiles and gaits of pretty women, and the other good things society and retail commerce have to offer. I say subsist because I am still in Hermit Mode. Been in this space for too many years . . . no, wait . . . not too many . . . it just ain’t time yet. I like what Castaneda’s Don Juan said about a warrior knowing that he’s waiting, knowing what he’s waiting for, and waiting patiently, all the while looking, looking breathlessly. There is beauty, love, and magic, all around, so I can afford a little patience. However long it takes.
“A man with no enemies is a man with no character.” ~ Paul Newman
“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.” ~ Edna O’Brien
This could turn out to be a dreamy day. Like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, drifting all over the friggin place. I actually have no problem with a random walk throughout a whole day. I’ve had plenty of practice. Back in the Keys I had a thing I called “Quantum surfing” – I’d get on my bicycle, with zero goals in mind, and just ride around, up and down US 1, keeping an eye on traffic, simply because it was there. If something stimulated me ‘just so’ my untethered mind would fall in line, the quantum probability wave would collapse, and some event would – as Wittgenstein said – “undergo the formality of actually occurring”. A lot of those events were fun and, in retrospect, many a time it involved alcohol or weed, yet sometimes a truly deep, almost philosophical, conversation might arise, oceanfront – and even that might involve substances of some sort. Yeh, the Florida Keys is not at all lacking in debauchery. But not always. Sometimes it was clean fun. There wasn’t much imbalance involved; it could go either way. Like I said, the whole point of the exercise was randomness rather than coherence. One day I stopped by to visit my friend Cher, and we ended up just biking around on Plantation Key, rudderless, and ended up at the tip of a jetty alongside the marina at Plantation Yacht Harbor. I’d just returned from a trip to Massachusetts, about 6-7 weeks after Hurricane Andrew, which in the Keys did little more than nearly faceplant the coconut palms. There on that jetty, Cher and I fell into a deep, somewhat New Agey conversation, mostly centered on my travels. As we talked, sitting there on the hard coral ground, a commotion arose in the water. Several dolphins were passing by, and then suddenly there were two baby dolphins as well. Two baby dolphins in the wild, not even ten feet away! Randomness provided more blessings than beer. Cher was a blessing as well. Platonic friendship or not, Cher was and still is the sexiest woman I have ever met: intellect, body-wise, emotional being, and spirit. She kinda oozed goddess vibes, if you will. All that and an urbane Southern Belle suburban Atlanta accent. Anyway . . . sigh . . . I went home that afternoon, and instead of taking a nap before I went to work at the package store, I did a kind of semi-automatic writing, and came up with one of my favorite pieces of my own work. I’ve included it at the end of this post. Soooo, the sun just crested the mountains. Time to go out and look at the world out there. A little early morning gazing at the Sangre de Cristo peaks does this fella a world of good. Grounding. Connecting. Silently oozing gratitude. Feelin’ groovy. Tis laundry day, you see, and I ain’t in no hurry to do nothin’. I’ve got all the time in the world. There I go.
Chances are my spirit still walks the woods along the Seven Mile River in rural Spencer, Massachusetts. I must chuckle at the image of some psychic sensitive seeing the apparition of this grinning stranger with a Florida tan wandering the trail along Browning Pond, stopping on occasion and muttering, “Oh, wow”. Or greeting some fellow creature, “Yo, dude!”. And the psychic sensitive is wondering … who is this spectral pilgrim and why doesn’t he look dead? That spirit still walks those woods and I am not dead. I am alive and well and living in a concrete cottage on Windley Key, in a place usually associated with Bogart, Buffet, Hemingway, pina coladas and hurricanes.
The Seven Mile River has become my inner
sanctum, the place I go mentally when the stress is
running high. There is a lot of that these days. This is
South Florida, seven weeks after Hurricane Andrew.
I sob involuntarily as I write these words and my eyes become misted with tears. Stress is pandemic. There is no being flippant. You want to shout to the world, “Look! This is horrible!”. When disaster strikes this close to home you want to cry. Go ahead. It helps. Meanwhile, the pilgrim is sitting on the rail of the bridge that allows Browning Pond to drain into the marsh where the Great Blue Herons nest. The river runs down from there and past St. Joseph’s Abbey, a Trappist monastery. The beavers have built a dam there at the foot of the hill on top of which rests the Abbey. Over the years this dam has caused the waters to rise in the valley where the herons nest high upon the dead pines which were killed by the burgeoning marsh.
The pilgrim is trancing out, thinking of
Arthurian legend, and trying to summon the Lady of
the Lake. He is cognizant to the fact that the Catholic
Church holds deed to this land and he is wondering if
the Spirit of Mary wanders this valley in her spare
It is late at night and a chill mist pervades the
valley. The pilgrim finally sees what may be a vision
of a lady in white. Contact is made. The man is
beholding a vision, humming a Dire Straits tune,
and – as James Taylor once wrote – “thinking about
women and glasses of beer”. Far from the path of
Andrew’s fury, he smiles. Then he rises and walks
back to the house, the real world, and a cold beer.
The weird part of facing your mortality is that when the wind dies down you are left facing your life! Life looks awfully big at that point. The phrase “larger than life” becomes a paltry waste of breath. You sigh, raise the storm shutters, and get back to it. You whimper for a few days, before the electricity is restored when you finally get relief from the tropical thrust of the August sun. You trade stories with friends and neighbors. This is another weird thing: at first, everyone that you encounter feels like a friend. You are dazed and thankful. Your home was spared. The winds howled, the waters rose, and you spent several hours contemplating existence and whether or not your insurance policies were safely packed in plastic.
Monday morning comes and your world is still
intact. Disappointment rides shotgun with joy. All of
that fear, worry, and trembling was for naught?
Meanwhile, thirty miles north, a million people have
been slapped silly by the wrath of Nature’s own
brillo-pad. Many have died. The sun is out. The day
is calm in an eerie way. No birds sing.
The shock has set in. It will not depart for a long
time. Andrew has spoken; “Get back to life”. We
were all frightened children at that point, gazing at
the brilliant blue sky and saying softly: “Oh, wow!”
My final human contact before Andrew showed
its full force was a phone call from my best friend
who lives on the banks of the Seven Mile River. The
storm’s eye had hit landfall at Turkey Point. She told
me that it was time to be scared. I laughed. I was
An airline ticket was safely packed in plastic
and stuffed in my backpack. When the storm surge
rolled through I would climb through the back
window and swim for higher ground. I knew that I
had to get to Massachusetts.
I never had to swim. But when she hung up the phone I knew two hours of sheer loneliness. Then I knew sleep. When I awoke and looked outside I knew it was okay. Three weeks later I knew that it was not okay.
The three weeks between Andrew and the Seven
Mile River were hellish. We were, and still are, a
little crazy. We were morbid, testy, and aggressive.
We were damaged. And we were just not right.
The ride to Miami International Airport would
be my road to sanctuary. That ride carried me
through the “war zone”. That is what it looks like: a
war zone. Only eyewitness contact can show you
what happened in Andrew’s wake.
My breath took a hiatus. Tears came, as did a
feeling of undeniable awe that left my lifelong,
previous emotional output in the dust. I cried. I still
The damage lessened, we arrived at MIA, and
the plane took to flight. I hate to fly, hadn’t flown in
seven years. Nature’s new version of South Dade
County had squeezed me into near-catatonia and
now I had to fly! It wasn’t right! I wasn’t right. That
night on the banks of the Seven Mile River I found
my first unblemished sleep in three weeks.
The pilgrim is again sitting on the bridge rail,
regarding the night shrouded marsh. A beautiful
woman is beside him on the rail. Florida is far away.
They talk. He is finally at ease. That afternoon
they had been roaring through the Massachusetts
countryside, singing along with the stereo, as the
high-powered ’68 Mustang convertible carried them
toward lunch. The day was beautiful. The tune on
the stereo was Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”.
The pilgrim is reminded – now, on the rail – of a story in which a man is sitting on a bridge with a beautiful and magical woman. She shows him the magic of the night then sends him home to his wife. She has taught him the lesson of trust.
He walks home whistling “Walk of Life”. He is
thinking of the women that he loves. He goes home
and, again, knows profound sleep. The ghost of John
Lennon serenades him as he slides into a
dream…”Imagine! All you need is love.”
Meanwhile, back in Florida, the day is calm.
Autumn has brought its gracious cool nights. Seven
weeks have passed and Andrew’s legacy is one of
ruin. It is our minds that have been ravaged. The
counseling work that psychologists, social workers,
and bartenders will have to do is monumental in
scope. We are all still a little crazy. It will take some
time. It will take love to help us heal.
I missed my siesta while relating this tale.
Tiredness has become a way of life these days. I
know that I could feel much better but I feel fine.
It is time for work. The pilgrim is home. The
Seven Mile River will see him again. He will never
forget what it is to feel like a frightened child. The
frightened child is a kind of spiritual tattoo. He is
“When things don’t change any longer, that’s the end result of entropy, the heat-death of the universe. The more things go on moving, interrelating, conflicting, changing, the less balance there is – and the more life.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin
“I suppose I could understand it if men had simply forgotten unicorns, or if they had changed so that they hated all unicorns now and tried to kill them when they saw them. But not to see them at all, to look at them and see something else-what do they look like to one another, then? What do trees look like to them, or houses, or real horses, or their own children?” ~ Peter S. Beagle
“And I speak of spiritual suffering! Of people seeing their talent, their work, their lives wasted. Of good minds submitting to stupid ones. Of strength and courage strangled by envy, greed for power, fear of change. Change is freedom, change is life” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin
It is 5:30 AM. Cat in her bed to my right. Second cup of coffee, just poured, and perfect, sits before me. This is one of those mornings when I am not really sure if it is the coffee waking me up or if is it just a conspiracy to get me to alter my perception in a restrictive way. A way by which sipping something hot, over a length of time, gets me to sit still for a while before going out into the world. Sure, caffeine is a stimulant, but to what end? Just askin’. Don’t get all edgy on me, k? Like that guy ya see who had an extra shot in his Starbuck’s then moved on to Red Bull. And when he tells me “time is money”, I’m like “dude, it’s not. What are you thinking?”. But I don’t really say stuff like that. Not at work anyway. Off the clock I can be pretty pithy and stark. Or just downright annoying. I enjoy it either way; it’s the Trickster in me. And I hope it helps change the world in a proactive way, right? Yeh, sometimes, but I am not one to slather my day with hope. Just to backtrack here – I know a guy who had been drinking Red Bull all day and he ended up going to the Emergency Room with what might as well have been a panic attack. You hear people say they had too much coffee, but do you ever hear someone say they OD’d on caffeine? Try to imagine overdosing on cannabis. You’d never get to the ER in time, so you might as well just stay on the couch and watch Looney Tunes until you come down. Laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps I say this because yesterday I sent in the application to the State to get my medical cannabis card renewed. There’s a Nurse Practitioner down by the dispensary who specializes in helping people make their application plausible and compelling. My plight, my application, took little or no embellishment. And I respect the medicine. After seeing the NP I went to the Post Office and mailed off the app, then swung by and dropped off my recycling, all the while moving at a turtle pace, to bide my time until the dispensary opened. When I say “at a turtle pace” I am intentionally alluding to the great fabulist Aesop. Slow and steady wins the race. Our American culture is really suffering from a deficit of fables. When’s the last time you heard anybody mention Coyote and Roadrunner? That cartoon was a stretcher in that in realtime meatspace a coyote can outrun a roadrunner any day, yet it is a fable nonetheless. Now, boy howdy it is time for me to get my head out of cartoons and/or fables, then do what needs done to get me off to work. Bueno bye.