27 May 2018

Stonemason Blues

On the shore of a personal ocean, black stones of the past clutched in hands scraped raw. The palms ache. The back, the legs, tremble to support all the weight. Gravity fills the bones, pouring from a heart overflowing from the rains of memory. Saltwater washes over bare feet sinking into the sand from the current. The stones are heavy. Heavier than physics would seem to allow. Dark matter denser than blood and iron carried so far, so far.

A journey of decades led to stumbling down this path ending on the strand. Years of confused struggle against things rarely understood crystallizing in a vitreous, drawn out slice of infinity. Time gels and breathing slows. Tears may well but do not fall. Life thickens. Ghosts whisper in the back of the head. They win, sometimes, in their efforts to coerce the mind into believing it will never be whole. They speak occasionally of hearts forever sundered. Deep in a cold night of the soul, victory against such slanderous propaganda seems unattainable. Why would it not? Belief and stamina once led a verdant existence in the valley of the soul. Now there is desert.

Drought happens in life. Rivers shift in their channels, rain ceases to fall, clouds become precious memory. To be human is to know a sere existence upon enduring loneliness as a rule rather than an exception. In the mirror maze of the heart there is no mystery to this loneliness. It is in the world, like gravity.

What is the seeker to do? The soul cannot sustain this constant cycle of wandering and returning with nothing but stones of experience. To build a shelter from them would be to take up residence in longing and bitterness. Terrible feng shui to be sure. The advantage to such housebuilding is that at least the shelter would be a known quantity. No guesswork, no fevered wondering at where one would lay one's head to get out of the weather.

The waves continue their liquid caress of the shore. Listening closely to their sibilance arising from sheets of water gliding over sand the heart may hear voices, offering encouragement or warning is difficult to ascertain. On the beach for miles in each direction no one is visible. No one to turn to, except perhaps figures in the mist whose advice may be as ephemeral as their presence. The questions to be answered, of course, are of what to do with these stones. Throw them in the ocean to let the tides carry them away and out of memory? Or find a green, quiet place to lay them down as a foundation of experience upon which to build a new life?

The head and the heart debate these questions at the edge the world, watching the tide recede.  They will have their answer soon, turning over and over the stones in the hands.

20 May 2018

Divine (or Something Akin To It) Intervention

The rain poured down as a fitting tenor for the day. I pulled my car into the parking garage just like I do most days of the week. The distinctive voice of Matthew Sweet pealed from the radio, with lyrics I already knew but could not help but feel as needles under my skin.

I cannot understand my God I don't know why it gets to meOne day my life is filled with joyAnd then we find we disagreeAll depending on hisDivine intervention*

In the space. I hesitated before killing the engine. I had no real desire to hear the next verse, yet could not bring myself to turn off the radio. It was going to start with that line, you know the one, where Sweet sings “Does he love us? Does he love us?” Gets me every time. The question haunts me often, as it has starting in particular about fifteen years ago. That was the time when I lost my first two children. It seems cool, rainy days have a penchant for resurrecting memories.

I toughed it out through the end of the song. For what it’s worth I actually do like it. Matthew Sweet has pulled off the rare trick of writing a song about God that is neither cloyingly adoring nor furiously critical, and thereby appealing to me. The approach and the style I find interesting. I can listen to it with no eye rolling or agitation.

Certain days, however, with their combination of mood and weather in conjunction with a certain song can really land a punch on me. Rainwater slid with languid grace down the windshield as I waited. The parking garage had the feel of an aging mausoleum. Grimy surfaces, dim light, cold echoes of traffic and machines. The song ended, the engine sputters out, my head sags to the wheel under the peculiar weight of my five-plus decades on earth. I was having trouble breathing.

The steering wheel was cool on my forehead. I held it there for a few moments, listening to my breath while I meditated on the necessity of exiting the car and walking to the office. Rain continued to fall. The world continued to turn. Memories swirled together with weariness over a life gone akimbo, a little dizziness took hold and I wondered if maybe I should just turn around and go home, go back to bed.

But I didn’t. Work to be done and the need to eat got me out of the car and headed for the street. The song echoed in my head, lyrics messing with my heart. I did look around, and what I saw was far from destruction, yet I could not help but wonder how much longer any one of us can keep counting on divine intervention.

Lyrics from "Divine Intervention", from Matthew Sweet's album Girlfriend, released in 1991. 1991, damnit!

13 May 2018

Darkly Sweetened

A dive through the notes, this stormy evening by the sea. Hail pecks at the windows. In the aureate glow of the desk lamp, this fragment surfaces from the depths of the past. Date unknown, intent unknown. What was in my head?

How’s that coffee taste, knowing the custom of adding sugar has its roots in the blood of slaves? All that violence and cruelty just to keep the palates of the wealthy and the mostly white folks satisfied. Maybe it’s easy to look the other way when you don’t pay the true cost for your desires.

What’s the difference between molasses and blood? Coffee and flesh? Rum and bones?

A drink more than bitter even with the sugar, refined as it is from the lives of the oppressed. Tell me, do you feel communion with them as you sip?

06 May 2018

Short Circuit

Circlets of pale jade and verdigris white shimmer up the sand sloping out before the headland. The warmth of the day fades as the sun eases down the bell jar of the sky. Ebb and flow, the tide knows the shore like the blood knows the veins. Whispers fill the air. Barely heard, the words unclear, but meaning is known in the heart. The sea speaks of connection. The hands, the mind, the skin knows this is belied by the distance between the water and the flesh. All feel keenly an ache that growing inside at the speed of trees.

The ache is not dominant. Not yet. It can be displaced. Lungfuls of air seem therapeutic in that regard. Drawn in deep, exhaled to the beginnings of collapse, the pain is muted and pushed back. The soul gains respite in that slice of infinity. Do this again. Repeat.

Between the pulse beats the mind extends its paws yet again, reaching out to pat and pull at the thoughts and fears laying near motionless in the night. The paws retract, bearing with them the singularity that occupies a central position in this life: how to endure such an asymptotic relationship with human connection?

The program seems simple. Reach out, break out, go beyond yourself to make it back to the land of the living. Learn that it is possible to overcome the jagged-edge damages of the past. Fear exists. Anxieties sprout like thistles in the meadow. Prickle and burr are unavoidable. As with many simple things, the program is difficult in its implementation.

Therein lies the rub. Overcome the self and its hand-made chains, step into the light despite your shortness of breath! It is exquisitely hard to cast ones’ self out of the nest. The hope is for an easy victory, or at least a guaranteed one. But life will show you that is very rarely the case. The universe cares little for your particular hardships.

So it is out of the nest for a brief taste of flight, pure joy to soar, enough to engender belief that perhaps the odds, the self, will be overcome. There is a surcease of fear until the ground rises up yet again. This seems cruel if unsurprising. The breaker trips again, the clocks slow and stop. The house of the heart grows dim again at the lack of power.

The sun is kissing the horizon. Green waves begin to fade into indigo and purple-black streaked with fire. One can feel the urge to reach out. Stand up, perhaps. Walk the weary bones down to the tide line and dip both hands into the cool sea. It is by such short journeys that a path can be found back to connection. If only weariness could be overcome, with the memories of loss and disconnection expunged. If only the breakers could be reset and the circuit be short no longer.