30 September 2013

On the Cliff, By the Iron Sea

He usually only became aware of how long he had been running when the sun was high and the wind brisk off the water. His consciousness came into focus like a bubble popping, breath ragged between his lips. It was at those moments the runner would ask himself "How many years, Lord and Father, how many shall I carry you?"

The path led, as it seemed to always, along the edge of high cliffs. Green sod feathered itself out over hard lines of green-black basalt, the fractured planes of which slid sharp into the heaving sea. Slat spray and gulls engaged in a whirling dance of which the runner never tired. He looked forward to them when the sun would rise over the hills and plains after long nights of black and silver stars.

The cries of the gulls were as choirs to ears burned by wind and sun, years upon years of ceaseless motion with the relics upon his callused back. It had been so long since the stone cross in its thick ox-leather bag had been roped on to his back that he had no real memory of the occurence.

The sting of the whip across his calves he had never forgotten. The scars were still there, knurled ridges bulging from legs that resembled stones. The scars ached often, mostly at night when the runner entertained fantasies of walking, or heaven forbid, stopping to lay on the ground. He dreamed of it in his staggering sleep. The desire made him weep when it overtook him.

He cried less now. It attracted beasts in the night and made it difficult to breathe. Outrunning the one and overcoming the other were luxuries he could no longer afford. He grew terrified at the prospect of not making it to the mount, where he had been told he could lay down his burden forever. But the mount seemed no closer than the day his trial had begun.

He saw it now and then. Mostly in dreams. It was there shrouded in mist, far away along a curve in the coast. On this day, he saw it so clearly jutting up from a headland like a giant's fist. A fist that shook itself in his weary face.

"But why, Lord, does it grow no closer? I've run so long, endured so much, yet you offer no solace!" he yelped, wheezing. He was seized by a pang of regret soaked in fear, thinking he might be struck down for such impertinence. The cross in its leather sack hammered the knobs of his spine. He groaned and spat.

The wind continued its low moan over the grass. The sea mumbled and groaned on the rocks below. Neither offered comfort or counsel. The runner's feet continued their slow shambling run along the cliff. He did not hold his breath waiting for a sign.

The sun slid a few minutes of arc down the dome of the sky. The runner looked up as a passing shadow glissaded across his path, tracking over the shiny grime of his face. It was a gull, huge and gray, flying in a slow figure eight pattern just overhead. It seemed to be watching the runner. Its eyes luminous in the afternoon light remained fixed on him.

The runner grunted, shifted the weight of the leather bag so the straps would not dig in so deep. Off in the distance the mount was slowly fading into a mist rolling in off the ocean. The runner grunted, an idea taking shape in his head.

He watched the mist, waiting for it to swallow up the mount whole. His pace remained constant, but somehow he felt lighter on his feet. He felt the fear lifting from his belly and his heart. He raised his sunburned hands up to grasp the straps of the sack. Thumbs under the stiff rawhide, he waited still. The mount was nearly gone, only the tip showing up above the cloud bank. The runner allowed himself a faint smile.

The gull swooped lazily back and forth, eyes intent on the runner. The setting sun flashed on the tip of the mount, then it was gone, swathed in the thickening mist. The runner smiled openly. He lifted the sack off of his shoulders, veering closer to the edge of the cliff. Below he could see a cove where the water seemed deeply blue-green where it met the slick basalt knifing down in to it. Perhaps it was deeper there, he thought. 

The sack slid off his back, dangling by a strap in his hand. He ran faster, feeling lighter, and began to slowly whirl the sack in a windmill arc. Faster, faster, it spun, the sweat-stained leather looking like a giant heart in the blood light of the waning sun. The runner roared, a bell toll of pent-up anguish, and flung the sack over the cliff. He stopped, suddenly, almost falling over with dizziness after years of running.

The sack pinwheeled its way down to land with a subdued splash, sucked under by a huge wave that had come crashing out of the far sea. The gull shrieked and spiraled over the head of the runner, who hunched over panting with fear and relief. His legs trembled, as did his hands, but he had never felt so free as he did then.

The gull landed on the path some yard away in the direction of the mount. The runner turned to look. He saw that the mist was approaching them even now, dimming the sun and muffling the wind and sea. The mount was invisible.

The runner straightened up. He stretched, the lack of weight on his back novel but welcome. He waved to the gull, who then launched itself into the air with a squawk. It circled twice, then headed off into the mist towards the mount.

The runner grinned. He took the gull's flight as a sign, and began walking to follow the bird. Walking, he told himself. Walking. After all these years, he would walk to his meeting with Lord, and carry upon himself no burdens cast upon him by anyone but himself.

His heart began to slow. Peace was upon him, even as the sun slid below the edge of the sea.


27 September 2013

Letting Them Slip

Of the things that get my goat these days, the conflict between art and duty is at the top of the list. I kvetch often when I cannot seem to find, or to make, the time to attend to the acts of creation that I claim I need to sustain myself. It would seem to be inconsistent with my goals. It makes me wonder when I truly am going to pull a carpe diem and satisfy my intention.

My peace of mind depends on it, don't you think? And if peace of mind is that important it would seem imperative to follow those notions and impulses that feed it. I had the chance today. Make that two chances. I failed to act on both, and now I am disappointed.

The chances were nothing earth-shattering. There was no flash of insight leading to the cure for cancer or ending world poverty. No, these chances were more humble, intrinsic to me and me alone. Well, unless you consider that the chances had potential for me to gather something to share with the extrinsic world.

I had an assignment wherein I had the opportunity to do something constructive with my camera and earn payment from the results. The assignment was in a semi-rural area somewhat south of my current abode. When I had left the house earlier, on impulse I put my film camera in the car, in case I saw something scenic or interesting out in the rolling fields and farms. So it wasn't like I didn't have any equipment.

The assignment took longer than I expected, and I was tired, hungry and hot when I finished. My thoughts turned to getting home and finishing the task. I was in a hurry, for what in hindsight turned out to be not so pressing reasons. So I get in the car and head home, thinking too much about what I needed to do.

I passed a concrete plant at an intersection of two roads and what seemed like four cornfields. The interplay of light and shadow on the industrial structures was fascinating. I thought about the black and white film I had, but shook my head and muttered to myself "No time, gotta get home." I kept driving.

Nearby and across the road the top of a slightly derelict silo peeped up above a deep cornfield. Next to it were some barn buildings, also in need of sprucing up. Peeling paint, an old tree, cornstalks waving in the foreground. The light was hitting it all just right. The mood was of opportunities fading away, hard work needing to be done, and the unsettling openness of the prairie sky above it.

Perfect photo op, right? Great shots to be had, yes?

I watched it recede in my rear view mirror. I didn't stop. The velvet shackles of duty, the sure thing, the chore to be done, all convinced me to keep going by laying on the old saw of "There will be other opportunities, move along." What really bothered me, the farther down the road I went, is that the creative soul in me raised hardly a peep. It just let it happen.

The question turning over in my mind and heart while I sped down the highway back to the "city", was one of "If not now, when?"

Indeed. Opportunities may exist, but to assume a guarantee is to take them for granted. The voice in my head told me to drive, to follow the call of duty. My artistic life is in danger of atrophy, all because sometimes I listen to the wrong voice.

26 September 2013

If Only I Could Stop...

If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics,
I would tell you that music is the expression of emotion
And that politics is merely the decoy of perception.*
Yeah, well there is the problem. I can't stop thinking about music and politics, even when I so desperately desire it. Part of that is just my own weirdness, part of it is the incessant yammering of pop culture and social media not giving it a rest. There is so much going on that I feel compelled to comment on, so many distractions, I cannot get it together. If I was paid for each reaction I have to the latest nuggets about gun control, Kanye West, Syria, or Miley Cyrus, I'd probably be wealthy enough to be "financially independent".

But I am not paid for my exertions. Thus, I am not wealthy in that regard.

I have been silent for weeks now because I am overwhelmed by the blathering that passes for discourse in our shared media environment. So many things I could comment on, but I do not have the time or energy. So I'll leave it to the pundits, talking heads and chattering masses. Politics lately is making me tired, and music, well, music is making me slightly sad.

Do-nothings and twerking are not the breakfast of champions. Right now, so much has been said by others I feel there is nothing I can add without shrieking or weeping. And no one, especially me, wants to see that debacle.

I believe this state of affairs exists because of the tensions that bind me. Politics I can ignore to no great harm to my psyche, but music means too much to just set it aside. Coupled with my obsessions about food, I am all set to be uneasy in the media environment these days.

So, I won't use this post to rant about music and politics. As to food, let me say that I have been thinking about it in the gaps where I was not thinking about music and politics. About what other people are eating, what I want to eat and where I can get it. This has given me the urge to write about food, which I must say I have been doing, just not here.

And that is a story for another time. I'll keep you posted on that score.

Suffice to say that all this mental meandering has left me in quite a state. Thinking about food often leads me to thinking about travel, because much of what I am curious to eat is better experienced in its native surroundings. Plus, there are people I want to meet in those places I want to eat. Here, there, and everywhere, food is often better when shared. My difficulty in traveling, meeting and eating is that difficulty common to the modern era: the lack of time and money.

So what is this all about? Ladies and gentlemen and those in between, I really do not know. This ramble of mine had no specific agenda, I simply felt the need to communicate to you where I my head and heart seem to be. Where they are, is somewhere between the poles and the equator, wishing I could break bread with you all.

That, and wishing I could stop thinking about music and politics.

*Lyrics quoted from "Music and Politics" by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

25 September 2013

Bed of Moss (Memento Mori)

May I stay awhile with you,
as you lay upon that bed of moss?
Picture frame of a decades' rest
among the hush of the departed

(see, it will be just like that when you are dead)

I kneel, dappled with sun,
Tears and sweat my only choices
for caressing the stones, cleansing them
of desecration by leaf and mud
(you'll be over there, I'll be over here)

On the bad days, 
your silences louder than hell
On the good days, 
memories ringing of peace

(we just can't see each other)