Days 14 & 15

“A vast swamp lies before you. Steady wading brings great breakthroughs. You may proceed.”

A lost tribe of Israel. The Second Coming of Christ in an African village. The Mormon’s New Jerusalem somewhere near Kansas City. Slavery. And a messiah who wants nothing to do with us.

This is the story of a barbershop quartet who’s not going to live forever. It’s the story of Pie, told in all its unabridged, unadulterated glory. It’s the story of a new world, where everyone is their own savior; and the New Jerusalem is an all-inclusive intersectional feminist paradise.

Ain’t that a hoot?

But it didn’t come in a day. It took time, and staying up past my bedtime.

I think what’s most wonderful about this is that I’ve rediscovered why I started this book; where it came from; from whence it bubbled and brewed.

‘Things grow and grow
But each goes back to its root.
Going back to the root is stillness.
This means returning to what is.
Returning to what is
Means going back to the ordinary’

‘The most difficult thing in the world
Must be accomplished through the easiest.
The greatest thing in the world
Must be accomplished through the smallest.’

‘People commonly ruin their work
When they are near success.
Proceed at the end as at the beginning
And your work won’t be ruined.’

-Tao Te Ching

The message I continue to get is this: It’s not about where this thing is taking me; it’s about being there now; relinquishing the desire to proceed anywhere and just sinking into the flow of things. That is the message of this book. That is the solution to the modern problem of differentiation. Outside the Tao there is duality, conflict, separation, paradox. Inside the Tao, all is one and moving.

So it is with my writing: write not to succeed but to write. A simple task; bland in its means. But I yearn not so much for success as I do for the flow of things; the true unobstructed cheese. Enter the stream, take my clothes off, my identities, my masks, and my socks. Become the stream. Let the illusion of individuality float down the river.

Write to write. Do in the end as in the beginning. Be here, Zoey. Here’s where the magic is, fool.

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Don’ Look Now, The Muse is Nekkid

Days 10 to 13

Don’t look now, the muse is nekkid! She crawled out of bed that way. Her nipples are straining in the afternoon chill. And the afternoon sun is peeling oranges all over the deck. And the afternoon wind is caterwauling like a goat. Meanwhile, to the north an orchid is sprouting through nonexistent snow, and high above, higher than where the woodpeckers like to peck, clouds are clowning around like drunk teenagers. One of them dropped their wallet. There is a hundred dollars in it and a ticket to Paradise. So I’m in Paradise now. Contrary to Eddie Money, there was only one ticket. So I apologize. But yes I’m here now and let me just say:

It’s not a new haircut.

It’s not a new relationship, but something!

Something has shifted. One wall goes up and another, more important one comes down. Three consecutive days of good writing. The kind of writing I’m actually proud of.

It has taken two weeks but I’ve finally found my groove. My muse finally got my letter that I’ve come to the OAC. She has found me here, where I have been waiting. Now when the Sun hits the amber hour, she splays herself nude on the deck tanning her translucent skin, giggling in the wind. She smiles at me, gives me the kind of wink to make my toes vibrate. She puts words in my head, vibrant words, neon sorts of words, electric; and they string together like daisy chains, like pearl necklaces, like spaghetti tendrils; they drip down my brain stem like a good apple whiskey, like bumps of Colombian fish scale, like concentrated morning dew. She tickles my third eye and causes it convulsions of cosmic proportion. She visits me in my dream, an old painter’s wife welcoming me into her garden upon a stage at an art exhibit. She is the telekinetic who moves my books and cooks my food. She is the steam that rises in the shower. She is the field mouse, and the mule deer; the installations of casted animal bones strewn about the forest. She is the Gasconade River moving north. She feeds me strawberries when no one’s looking, and tells me the secrets to my stories.

She reminds me that each word is precious. That it’s okay to take my time. There is no rush; no reason for haste. She says, turn the faucet on and let it drip. The pipes are warming up. The water is starting to flow. Spring is coming. And the artist in me is beginning to stretch. Soon she will blossom. Roots will grow; reach deep. The decision has been like broth boiling in a boat; slowly then all at once I have decided to stay here longer. Until June perhaps, returning every so often to the city. I can save more money this way; have more time for the things that matter.

Thinking of applying to other residencies. Thinking I can live my life a bit differently. I don’t need much. Sure I want to save for my future. But I feel I have things to learn first.

And moreover, I have no clue if I’ll get into grad schools. It’s a shot in the dark right now; a suspended arc, a slow motion super ball, eyes closed, hand out, hoping. I’m trying not to think about it. Wherever I am, though–I know this–wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be; it is what’s in my best interest. That seems the one stable thing in my life. A positive correlation between time and events in my best interest.

Here’s a visual representation:

scatter2
Time Lived vs. Things In My Best Interest

So you see that whatever happens, every little ting is gon’ be alright. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t desperately want to go to Iowa or Michigan. I just feel like it’s the right next step for what I’m wanting to do. Let’s not dither or delay, I say. The time is soon at hand for an audience to be won; for me to delight people the way I delight myself. My Muse is here.

The flood gates have been opened. Silver glaze jelly is sliding down the luge. There’s a party in my prefrontal cortex, and everyone’s invited. Except Kevin. Kevin can’t come. Everyone else though is cool. And by the way, it’s BYOGOF (bring your own grapes and ostrich feathers.) Shit’s expensive.

But seriously. Let’s get serious for one minute. Can we do that? Can we put a look of cold detachment on our faces? Just for a moment? And talk about something important?

Can we?

Great. Thank you. So here’s the deal.

My Muse has gone to sleep. I have decided to join her. I am learning to be content with what comes of each day. Remembering her words: there is no rush; no need for haste.

I’m taking my time out here, and time is taking me; where I do not know. But the point is, we’re on our way.

Days 10 through 13. Change is good. Reports say I have trouble letting go of things that’re no good for me. Reports say I’m clearing my karma. Reports say there is a direct line between me and my inner child. We hugged for an hour today, and played with her action figures. She is looking out the window now while the sun sets over the neighborhood. Toys are strewn at her feet. Dinosaurs, and ninja turtles. Batman and company. There are stories percolating in her brain, and she’s itching to share them with me.

SOMEWHERE IN MEMORY (An Excerpt)

Home is not a place; it’s a feeling. Some will spend their lives searching for it. They will wonder if there’s ever enough time. Some will find it in the rain, or a bottle of gin. Some will go to the racetracks; others to the alleyways; still more to the stadiums and the citadels; the pews and the synagogues. Some will stay at the office. Some will find it on the road, amidst a band of traveling musicians blessed with eternal life. They will find it while they’re sleeping in the back of their school bus named Sadie. Smart guys, lucky guys. They will have each other. Some will find it on an island, away from the world; a fortress of jungle and unexploded ordnance, rusted relics of forgotten wars, and a kitchen they built with their own bare hands. He will have himself. Some will find it in the Earth, in the sun-soaked garden and the soil black as midnight, others in the water, in tall waves and frothy surf. Some will find it in the mountains among the fairies and the sprites, in Diana’s backyard where the old gods cavort. Some will find it in pie, or a good hard fuck. But some will not find it no matter how hard they look. No matter how much time they spend running around, digging, digging, digging. It will find them. It will dawn on them one day while they’re out walking and the moon is rising where the stars can’t shine. It will swell up inside them like balloons full of rainwater and helium jelly. Surprise!

Home is not a place; it’s a feeling. Lodged somewhere in her memory. Somewhere shy of six, before the family moved south, before it really started to dawn on her—the realization that she was different; that beneath Anna’s freckles, and curls, beneath that soft smile of hers, something was just plain wrong.

There was no putting a finger on it. No clear indication of what ailed her soul. An unnamed specter loomed over Anna throughout her life. Faceless. Haunting. Five years old. She was five years old when she first started asking. Asking the big questions, the unanswerable questions.

“Daddy, what happens when I die?”

“Mommy, where did I come from?” And her mommy would answer, “You came from me, sweetie. You came from my belly.”

“But what about before that?” And her mommy would answer, “You came from your father.”

“But what about before that?” And her mommy wouldn’t have an answer. She’d pause, direct her green eyes toward the ceiling fan. And say, “Honey, that’s where it all started.”

But Anna knew better. “Really?” She’d say, rolling her eyes as little girls are wont to do. Deep down, she knew better. Five years old. That’s all. It doesn’t take a fifty year old to understand the world. The child sees it as it is. The child looks out; she looks at all the faces, the misshapen expressions; all the colors, and forms. She looks at the world through the eyes of truth, through the eyes of a beginner. And she knows. Down in her heart, she knows what’s real. She can’t tie her own shoelaces, but she knows what’s real. She can’t butter her own bagel, but she knows what’s real.

So she paints. She sings. She walks in the woods behind her house. She writes stories about eleven year old wiccans and ancient ghosts, about hawks named Lewis, and bearcats named Jessie, kingdoms of priests who stare at the sun; creatures who breathe fire and always seem to have heartburn, gems that glow at night, clouds that prefer willows to hickories. She writes about a three-legged mongoose who can never seem to keep his balance, about a hamster with invasive eyes and a cold fusion motor in his belly. She writes about secrets. She writes about the Moon. And the sea. She writes about Volcanoes, wonders if they get lonely. She writes about an old Shaman who cries alone at night, ‘cause his family is gone. She writes about flames, the way they crackle and hiss, the way they swallow everything important. She writes about the Sun falling on the purple hills. She writes about the red red woods, the way they creak and shuffle in the wind at dusk. The wind, that perfectly invisible force, perfectly audible. She writes about things she doesn’t understand. She writes about clocks, and walls; shadows and pastures. She makes a life up there in her head. It’s easier that way. More her speed anyways. She was not meant for this world. But she’s got to come down some time.

She knows who she is. But she is young. Too young to understand what she faces. What stands before her, poised to unfold. Her blue eyes can only see so far. She squints to make things out in the distance. Maybe she needs glasses. She sends her imaginary friend off like a hunting dog. “Go into the future, Bob… and tell me what you see.” She waits, and waits for him. But he never comes. He never returns. Not yet at least. The time is not right. There are things she must face alone. Trials and revelations. Transformations of flesh as well as mind.

She is not ready for the world to crash around her. She is six years old. Still a boy in the eyes of her mother and father. Still a boy in the eyes of her big brother, William, her little sister, Eleanor. She will grow up a brother and a son. In time she will forget what’s real. She will forget who she is. She will forget what is wrong, though it will remain inside. She will stop writing. Stop singing. The kingdoms will crumble; the witches will perish at the stake. Everything will die. A slow death too. Taking its damn time. A family will collapse. Friends will leave. Lovers too. It will be then. Then, and only then, that she remembers what is real, what gives her heart its beat and rhythm.

 

~<>~

 

The imagination is a fragile thing. The question of the human condition is simple: will we lose our imagination to the gunky buildup of time; let it atrophy like neglected muscles; shrivel like the cosmic carcass of a dying red dwarf; wither away slowly then altogether into the abyss of the lost?

Or will we retain it? Will we seek it out? Will we seek to remember what is real and what is right? Will there be enough time? Is there ever enough time? And will we hold it forever in our minds? Keeping the big questions with us. The unanswerable questions. The questions that follow Anna her whole life, tacked to her shoes like shadows bending in the light.

Her dreams will get more vivid with each passing night until they merge with the day, until the veil has dissolved completely.

She will wash ashore. And she will ask the old Shaman what happens when she dies? Where does it all go? And he will tell her. He will tell her to have a slice of pie.

Day 9

Day 9.

Right.

No novel. But something’s cooking. In the mean time I’m racing to finish Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. It’s teaching me a lot about writing. She’s very down to earth in her prose. Vernacular, but poetic. And she deals in the realm of human beings; real, live human beings. Or at least that’s what her characters become: real. 

She has situated herself at important intersections with this work: race, class, religion, immigration, technology, sexuality, growing up, getting old. She has packed it all into this book. And honestly, it amazes me. She has a way with words, you know? A way to bring it all to life. And then there are these moments where she comes out and says something brilliant, or downright hilarious; where she takes a whole page to talk about what it means to be involved with people. I find her challenging me in ways I didn’t imagine when I began reading.

I shall have it done tonight. Other than that, there is nothing new to report.

I have spent another day completely alone inside my studio. The room is made of hardwood. Near the middle, there is a thick line of white paint running end to end. On the side nearest the kitchen, there is a couch–which I’m lying on now. There are two desks. One a dark walnut color. The other… well whatever wood is light–like you might see at IKEA. They face opposite directions. I mostly spend my time at the walnut desk, facing the river and the tree line. Although for the past three days it has been the couch. There’s a broken chair in the corner facing the wall. Large bay windows stretching all around the studio. Two plants that add something to the space. I’m not sure what. I’m not sure if I really like them at all. They seem lifeless. Stupid adornments. At the foot of the couch there is a rug with the sorts of designs you might see at a rug store in New Mexico; sort of desert-looking, tribal in a sense. Behind me is a lamp. It’s the only light I use in here.

Not much to talk about, folks. Depression. Bouts of crying that usually last ten seconds with multiple-hour intervals in between. Silence, pretty much the whole day were it not for the tap tap of my fingers on keys. And the huffing of air vents. I went outside for all of forty five seconds today. This place is really feeding my more reclusive tendencies, and I’m not mad about it.

There was a lot of mooing from distant cows today. I suspect they’re across the river; that or the Bessies up the hill are learning to let their calls resonate and reverberate, bounce off and through the endless trees.

I find myself in limbo. A liminal space. In between places to live, in between on my novel, in between with the one I love, in between on finding out about grad school. It’s a lot of uncertainty.

Not to mention I’m out of weed so my dreams are getting more vivid, more intense. Last night I dreamt that I was kidnapped. The night before I was at some sort of assembly, and among those waiting in line to enter were my friends from high school, towering over me because they had all strapped bean cans to the bottoms of their shoes. And the night before that, I dreamt I was given two eggs that hatched into kittens and a baby boy who I apparently sired; he was half black and I named him Prince. There is a lucidity to these dreams–and yet an equal sense of confusion. They are just so real. Last night I woke up mid-dream some time around 4am, sweating, my heart racing, my body filled with a strange distant fear.

The images in my mind are indistinct, blurry.

I only know it’s Thursday because my computer says so. Otherwise I have lost my sense of time.

Sometimes you set out to accomplish something and you have to take some detours to get it done. You have to accept that things can’t be forced. It’s like creative constipation. But it’ll come out. I know it will.

For now, this is it. Nothing else to report.

Day 9. Peace. Calm. Quiet. Gentle dejection. Wishing things were different. Grateful for how they are. Missing the old. Craving the new. Sitting here. Not so much waiting as living.

Limbo.

But hey, at least I’m on my own, right? Least I’m following my star. That’s got to count for something.

How to Make Love Stay

What is there to say?

Ultimately, no matter how intimate two people are, they can never know each other’s deepest secrets.

They can sit together, hand in hand, while ensconced in two completely separate and distinct worlds.

Perhaps that is what’s to be said: that these same two people, on some profound level, yearn to share all the words with each other.

But it is only a suspicion, a hope.

I can settle my bets, my debts, my longings. I can acknowledge how little I know of the world beyond my world; how sometimes listening is not merely enough; how one must really pay attention if they wish to catch the truth in action.

Sometimes things just seem so hopeless. You pray for something that never comes. You dream of a revelation; it remains hidden.

You try to spill your soul; to tell them how you feel; not for any other reason than to show your hand; to reveal what matters to you. You say something like, “I can’t believe we’re still here. Two years go by, and we’re still here. Feels like I’ve known you forever. Feels like I met you just yesterday.” And there’s no response, nothing. Your heart sinks. You wish they would say something; reveal something of their heart; something more than telling. But there’s nothing; only silence. So you stand there feeling like an idiot, left in the dust; talking to pigeons, expressionless animals; conversations with the wind. That perfectly invisible, perfectly audible force. You allow yourself to grow sad and even a bit angry; you feel jilted, stilted, abandoned.

But we don’t make contracts; no dotted lines. You do not initial here, here, or here. You do not sign or date. There are no file clerks. No witnesses; no binding agreements; no one to notarize the documents. Abandonment only means so much. And one cannot be faulted for living their lives; for rising into themselves.

But still, the sadness lingers. There’s a knock on the door, but no answer. There’s a message on the wall, but no reading. Your clothes are stained with tears; your hair a tangled mess. You spend your days in solitude, writing until your wrists creak and your fingers gnarl. You stay inside. You linger in the woods; run your fingers on the barbed wire they’ve built to separate their world from yours. You look for an opening but there isn’t one.

So you learn to keep your feelings inside. You learn never to be vulnerable.

What a world which is so hard to love in. Nothing hurts worse; nothing feels better.

Who knows how to make love stay?

What say you, Tom? What say you?

Well Zoey, I’d say it’s complicated. But here’s my advice:

“1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

“2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

“3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”¹

But here’s the truth, Zoey:

“When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.”²

You’re right, Tom. It is hard work. It’s so hard. More often than not I will tell you this: I’ve not a damn clue what I’m doing.

Somehow I have been gifted with a blessing of blessings. I have been gifted with writing; with an urgent need to write. It is not something I got to choose for myself. It just came with the package; it just came as part of the deal. Like breathing and eating. It is by my writing that I’m able to create any magic at all. It’s my wand, so to speak.

And with a wand comes great responsibility, to mix Harry Potter and Spiderman metaphors. Harryman… no that doesn’t work. Anyways…

Words are powerful, yeah? To stay on topic with this whole love dilemma, I’ll say this. I want to learn how to use my power wisely; how to speak with vulnerability, sincerity, and detachment. But here’s the rub: I am not enlightened. I am the awareness that is aware there is attachment. So when I use my words, I am inherently tainted, am I not? Tainted by the presence of attachment; of desire?

Listen…

I love you.

That’s it. I will never not love you. I’m sorry if that hurts. I’m sorry if that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true. I don’t know how to express or suppress it. I don’t understand it. How do you love someone who wants you around but withdraws whenever things get too close? How do I make you feel safe?

Things could be great, you know? We could rise above this. We could make our own magic; each of us. Pee out windows; buy cheesecake from Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn; make mustaches of each other’s hair (although if I’m being honest, Tom. As hilarious as I find that, I think it’s also a little creepy.) We could be balloons, remember? Side by side.

I believed in us. I did. I still do, if I’m being honest. Even if it does take more than listening; even if it does require us to pay a little more attention. Even if it does require hard work; time spent making our own magic, summoning our own sources.

But one must acknowledge the hard, sandy truth. One must swallow it like the Cinnamon Challenge and force it all the way down. One must keep from upchucking the whole thing.

Which is this:

Love may not stay. It may steal out in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping. It may even take one of your favorite t-shirts and that bottle of wine you were saving for a special night. It may call a cab, and ride it all the way to San Francisco. It may board a plane to Barbados. Or Yugoslavia… but preferably Barbados. Love may find new interests. Love may cut its hair, or put it in cornrows. Love may turn into a vegan without telling anybody. Love may start writing poetry every day, but it won’t be about you.

No, love may not stay. It may slip from your sight at the mall while you’re busy purchasing a giant cookie from Mrs. Fields. It may take up drinking, or ballroom dancing. It may fashion itself a necklace made of horse hair and give it to someone else. It may find itself a pet squirrel to take on walks through the woods, without asking you to join. Love may not like Apple Pie or any variation of it. It may one day decide that a Sham is a four-legged being with two heads, two brains, and enough power to win twenty five gold medals at the Timbuktu Olympics. A sham. Love may change its mind. It may come to find you’ve grown as stale as crackers left out overnight. It may come to look at you with a sneer. It may start making up words to describe you, or pass secret notes to homeless people about how much of a doofus you are.

So what is there to say?

Love may not stay. It may not believe you or trust you when you say how you really feel. It may keep you at arm’s length. Love may sneak into your house and read your diary while you’re sleeping. And love may not be there in the morning. And that’s okay. It is. Sometimes it’s just something you’ve got to accept.

 

 

¹ Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
² See Number 1.

Days 6, 7, & 8

I have fallen off haven’t I?

Well it’s not out of disinterest or lack of commitment.

It’s out of routine–a strange, strong lull has rolled in to the river house. A three-day lull.

The days are blurring together now.  Perhaps it coincides with the right old skunking the dogs received on Day 6. Our wood walks have diminished since then.

But I will not blame a skunk for my own actions. I am fairly certain I’ve spent all of the past two days in my studio–not necessarily writing much in the way of novels. Doing lots of thinking, though. Lots of honing my ideas. My theories. My beliefs. And a lot of reading too.

I have decided to let the novel come on its own accord. Digging is for coal miners and grave tenders.

I never would have thought I’d be so comfortable with so much solitude. With the exception of my roommate I am alone out here. And besides, he keeps to himself as well. Even now he is up the hill, drinking with the boys, checking his internet. I would rather be here, on this couch, with my book, and my water bottle; looking out all these big bay windows at the river and the sycamores and the wind.

Although I suppose I can’t actually see the wind. It is merely by its interaction with the sycamores that I am able to see it in action. Otherwise it is a perfectly invisible force. Auditorily speaking, it makes itself known in the slow gusts, and the distant chimes. Nature’s solfeggios. A perfectly audible force.

I imagine I could spend all my time out here, engrossed in my books, finding eventually the stroke of my own creative genius.

Alas, my Walden-esque dreams have been made possible by this place. My desire to shirk the burdens of society and move into the woods where I might do nothing but write, read, contemplate, and dissolve into a being of greater intellectual and spiritual import.

The old pain has returned; and right on time I might add.

What is the artist without a hearty sense of existential dread?

What is the artist without melancholy?

A tree without a trunk.

Ice without water.

Peonies without sunlight.

Catch my drift?

Tutus without ballerinas.

Radios without antennae.

Bread without flour.

Scottie Pippen without Michael Jordan.

Bacon without smoke.

Capitalism without China.

Okay, okay. You get my point. But it is to say that by clinging to certain someones, certain things, I seek to avoid the inevitable sensation of my aloneness. I reach out to reach in. But as an artist, as someone trying their damnedest to put words to the more ineffable experiences of the human condition, it is necessary for me to feel what boils and brews inside me. So I have decided to accept my fate. I have decided to plunge headfirst into this experience here. To not restrict myself. And yet to find the balance of a good routine.

Still, the past few days have been uneventful enough that a single three-day post seems more than appropriate.

Updates: Love is something you give out without expectation. Not just the givers, but the takers too. Everyone has to learn this in their own time. When you give love away, you give love to yourself. It’s a very strange thing, you know?

I love you. 

I love. 

You are merely the object of my life, the receiver. But the love is mine. It comes from me.

Here’s the most important thing to take from my experience thus far: I am so happy to be with the person I love the most. She is always with me. Always. She is creative. Imaginative. Intelligent. Vivacious. Strong. Sensitive. Deeply engaged. She is a seeker. A contemplator. A dreamer. She embodies every bit of what I look for in a human being. And yet, I don’t have to look at all. For she is in me. She IS me. And am her. At any given moment, I can let her know how I feel about her, and I feel her light up. I feel her heart warm. Her cheeks blush. Her lips pout. Her scalp tingle.

Lisa Dion, a renowned child psychologist, Gestalt therapist, and play therapist, once said, “If you are attached to yourself, you can be attached to anyone.”

So it is that I am here with the person I love the most in this world: myself. Gifted nothing but time. Nothing but quiet.

Days 6, 7, & 8. A chill has descended upon these woods. The Progenitor of the OAC has returned to himself. The river has picked up its pace. The streams have grown gunky with mud-sloshed leaves. The woodpeckers have quit their constant song. And the Sun. The Sun doth not come out but for an hour or two.

The other day I got lost on my way home from town. It was late. Stars-in-the-sky late. Ten PM to be exact. About the time when Zoey’s melancholia becomes most prominent. I drove over the bridge, past highway D, turned onto 89 and went toward Linn. I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I turned around. I went back. I found my way. I put Dark Side of the Moon on and let myself rage. I pulled over a hump in the road to its grassy shoulder, nearly overturning my Subaru at 50 miles per hour. I put the car in park. Turned the music up. And sobbed. Loudly, then quietly. Rising and falling like crescendos. Like clouds. Like the sound of the wind. I let myself miss her. Miss the sensation of closeness. The sensation of intimacy. The rest is simply adornments, ornaments, accoutrement. A soft voice, a gentle graze of my stomach, a cupping of breast, nuzzling of ass, a moment of prolonged eye contact. All very lovely. All very desirable.

But what I crave the most is an intimacy of self. A deep, unbroken communion with my own soul. And I am only days into finding it within my reach.

Where one blocks, something else unblocks. One door closes, so to speak. And the door of my soul gets slammed WIDE open, gusts billowing in, papers flying everywhere, bread crumbs stirring on the hard wood. A distant song infiltrates the room. The studio gets BLASTED with light. And suddenly the stars are sitting on the deck reading Sirian poetry. And the void has come to rest inside me. And a single blade of tall, golden grass juts into the sky. And… and… and something transfigures itself in the moon glow, transmutes in the low clouds, evolves into a full blown promise. A promise of what? A promise of what? 

Of nothing really. The promise of right now. The promise of presence. Of dealing directly with the present, the here-and-now, instead of the bramble of the past, the tangled mess of Christmas lights in the basement of your being. There are humans who deal in the now, who find communion in the now. They do not drag their haversacks along, shilling out old rusted pence, useless stories of times gone. They do not dream of a long-dead Golden Age. They make it. They bring it to life right in front of themselves. So maybe the specters on the wall will have something to dance to.

I was walking the other day and a memory was brought to my mind. By whom, there is no telling. But it was this: A waterfall descending into oblivion, slipping, sliding, and shooting over soft granite cleaves into the valley below. A girl tending to an afternoon fire, under cover of forest. Another girl, out in the open, getting as close to the edge as possible without falling over; talking to strangers; befriending strangers; missing the fire. Upon the return of girl no. 2, girl no. 1 is still tending, still stoking, still poking. She is wearing a big green sweatshirt and glasses. Her hair is in a bun beneath a ball cap. Girl no. 2 says something stupid, something unnecessary, about how she used to make fires; how different it was. Girl no. 1 gets upset. She storms off. The fire dies. Girl no. 2 sits in her own guilt. The waterfall, the cliff’s edge, they are permanent fixtures in the landscape. But Girl no. 1’s fire? A fleeting thing; a quick flash of heat and friction. Girl no. 2 should have stayed put. She should have gotten the franks out–the sausages they bought together at the store. How nice would that have been? How tender to share the warmth of Girl no. 1’s incendiary efforts? Simple as that. Girl no. 2 should have stayed. She should have gotten the franks out. But that is not how this memory goes. The fire dies. Only regret remains.

But we are dealing with the present now. The present has no room for regret; has no need for it. The present asks us to take our shoes off by the welcome mat; it asks us to leave our bags outside, where the wind–that perfectly invisible, perfectly audible force–may come to whisk it away. The present says, sit here, stay a while, breathe to breathe.

And right now, the present is a long drawn lull, a blur, a smashing of days into one large theater of clouds and stars, sun and moon, peace and pain. Days 6, 7, & 8. A blur. A longing. A storm. A crush. A sadness. A need. A loss. A breaking. A torment. A joy. Yes, yes, yes, a joy indeed. A true, unfiltered, still-ripened joy.

And a getting back on, a saddling back up, so to speak.

But might I remind myself: that time is just space, and space doesn’t care whether it’s empty or full.

 

 

 

Sand Castles

Have you ever made a sand castle at evening time? When the wind roils the sea and draws gloom from its shadows? And soon the tide comes in and takes what you have built? Leaves only the sand? Always with the sand. It is the grain of the inevitable. The fragile pendant of entropy. Both the seed and the fruit of nothingness, to which everything returns.

That’s what became of us, didn’t it?

Did you know that there is a sick, terrified child inside me. There is a look in her eye. It is one of fear. She trembles. She shakes. She will not look me in the eye. She will not look at me at all. Don’t come any closer, she says. I won’t let go. It’s for your best, I say. She doesn’t believe me. She squeezes harder. She squeezes until her cheeks turn green. And her knuckles turn bloody and white. She refuses to give up what she loves. And yet she is terrified of it being taken away. While she clings to it, that which she loves dies. And without it, she too would perish. Her life. Her very identity depends on it.

But it does die. And so does she. And the fire turns to smoldering ash and embers. The fire turns back to sand. And isn’t sand so hard to get rid of?

It finds its way into your shoes, your crevices, your hard to reach places. It stays there for a long time without you knowing until your foot gets rubbed the wrong way and you become starkly aware of what happens when you ignore the fact of impermanence; when you ignore how everything changes; how nothing stays the same; how even memories are corrupted; how everything truly is lost; how that which we hold sacred starts to matter very little to others who once held it in the same repute; how slowly but surely we lose ourselves to the past and whatever it comes to mean; while in the present, moments grow stale and pathetic, wan and tight-lipped in the moonlight; thin, frail, and meaningless as many things are wont to do.

Loss casts a long shadow.

Loss comes looking for you when you’re out drinking with your buddies and somehow you manage to have one too many. It sneaks up on you while you’re peeing in the alley, or maybe you’re smoking a spliff. Then things really start to spin. The centrifuge in your puny human brain begins to dance wildly. It begins to pull forgotten strands from the bramble of your unconscious for you to unwind in front of everyone. You come back inside teary eyed without a sure reason why. And your friends go to greet you with consolation. They put a hand on your back and say it’s okay whatever it is it’s okay.  

But it’s not okay. Loss is not okay. Sure, it is a fact of life. But it is not okay. It is the grindstone against which we are made new, our wits sharp, our attachments smooth and easy to release. Loss is the pulp of our involuntary transfiguration.

You sit in a pasture of dead grass, grown golden in the winter sun, reading books, praying, praying, praying silently, ever so still, waiting, waiting, waiting, for something to happen. Anything. But nothing does. Nothing happens at all.

How many minutes does it take for transcendence to strike you while sitting in a field? The answer? Time does not care for transcendence; and transcendence does not care for time. One drags on, endlessly it seems; the other remains hidden, endlessly it seems. That is the sad paradox of life. The inescapable truth. Sand castles in the tide.