229. Summer, Glory has arrived

poppy field of poppies flowerIt finally got here, sum-sum-summertime. And how glorious these first few days of June have been– crisp, clear, perfumed with honeysuckle and fresh cut grass, and all the various trees in fragrant flower. The glacial ice of my marrow is melting unconsciously, just as it had dried and frozen in December. Tension grew in all my cold muscles and achy joints as I clenched up in the long cold months of winter. But now the days are like cream cheese and butter oozing across a toasted bagel, seeping into every pore, healing the squinty-eyed mood moles hidden within. Hold that thought, bloggums: now slather some freshly made strawberry jam all over it. Man! That is exactly what I’m talking about. The simple delights of daily desires quenched. Fire engine red poppies the size of grapefruit halves are standing proudly outside my sunroom windows facing south. No wonder opium is magical; the poppy flower in bloom is a fantasy on a tall stalk all by itself… half balloons pulling themselves high above the garden’s gravity. The fish pond waterfall  behind them gurgles out a call of nature, water music accented by the many birds that happily chirp around our yard. There’s a purple martin sipping a, well, a martini, of course. Awesome. Ohhhh, feel the mountain of tension slide off your shoulders, my tired blog miners. Summer has come like a cold draft beer to our parched senses…aaahhhh!

Glory hallelujah.No, that’s not a picture of my fish pond, but it’s close. Mine is bigger and clogged with maple helicopter pods at the moment. Who cares? It’s summertime and the living is easy. I’ll clean it before you visit. Okay?  So the sun seems to provide psychic energy all around, don’t you think? Not only does photosynthesis stir up the greenery, but something like psycho-synthesis stirs in humans throughout the summer. They get more sensually connected by spending extra time in nature. They sweat away toxins. And happiness shows up like a gold finch or a hummingbird one warm morning. You can’t help but smile at these glorious creatures and their beautiful busyness. They make frenetic two year olds look lethargic. Joy rises as surely as a poised iris in June…magically.

Just articulating these summery things causes my guts to untwist while all the little muscles in my face relax. Deep breathing feels right now and not at all forced. Inflammation deflames somehow. It’s not scientific but beatific. Feeling blessed. There’s a major difference between feeling blessed and feeling happy. Happy just happens. It’s root is hap, or luck.  Blessed implies a Blesser and a relationship; it’s no accident to be blessed or anointed. Imagine walking down the street and finding a hundred dollar bill under your shoe. That’s luck or hap. Now imagine a lovely card with a hundred dollar gift in it from a loved one. That’s a selected, intentional blessing. “I was thinking of you on your graduation, birthday, anniversary.” Naturally you react differently to these two scenarios. The expression “Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then” reflects luck or happenness. However, if you feed your beloved pot belly pig totally organic Asian red oak acorns from your sanitized hand, well, that’s a swine blessing. Don’t do this at home by the way without diapers on. And look under your shoes. See any Benjamins?Ben looks so dour in his dandy puffy pirate shirt. He could use a double shot of summer’s tonic. He needs to shed some layers, maybe shave his head bald for the season. Wax it.  Tan. Get an earring. Start surfing, Dude. Flow like David Crosby. There you go.

Just flow. “I almost cut my hair… but I didn’t and I wonder why, may be I feel like letting my freak flag fly.” Freaky!

Okay, enough non-filtering about. I have a season to paint like Monet. Hey, how about this one? It’s a beauty.Words don’t do such a painting justice anymore than words capture music, but that’s all I’ve got to offer, blogsmiths. Exotic colors explode in the light better than consonants can explode into mental concepts in one’s neocortex without hallucinogenic flares. Other parts of the brain process color and music, which is only right, far from accounting and bookkeeping functions. And that’s what summer continues to pulse out at us weary humans– colors, warmth, textures, tastes, sounds, smells and sensuality that have lain dormant since last fall. Out they come, not frozen and merely defrosted, no. It’s all fresh produce. So let the bullfrogs croak like lusty blokes. Let the crickets chirrup their little clarinets. Let the neon lightning bugs blush bashfully in humid air. Let the cicadas ge-ge-ge-get going like they da-da-da-do. Big copper moons will rise in the eastern night skies and set like fried cheese by the early morning light. Let wonder wash over us again and again.

 I fully realize that my style of writing is associative and tangential, vinelike  with a cornucopia of images at each tendril. Such growth can easily get out of control and require an editor to prune back the verbiage… come fall, perhaps, but not today. My kiwi licorice limbs are reaching out for support, clinging even to one another in their urgency to thrive before they helplessly collapse. When I was younger I didn’t even possess this much discipline and often drove my sentences into mineshafts and off cliffs while trying to capture elusive moments, feelings, and epiphanies. My artless word bouquets often drooped and decayed without direction or notice. I’m not so sure it’s any different today, I just lack the worry about others’ approval now, which is freeing. I hate having to explain myself to folks who can’t get it to begin with.

So let me finish with a big crescendo, bloggles. In the beginning was summer, and it was good and pure like childhood. And the rest of our lives are spent returning there.




227. Four leaf clovers

She said in her e-mail, “I asked God for a sign today, a simple four leaf clover would do, to show me that I am cared for. Then I reached down in the rich May grass and found one within my first glance and plucked it. That was an awesome little moment of reassurance which I will cherish because I realized that I am… well, cherished. I am known, noticed, heard, and loved. It feels so good to know the God of the universe knows one of his sparrows has fallen. I tend to forget this when I get off my knees and walk too proudly like a peacock. I go to jail tomorrow.”

In early Christian Ireland St. Patrick used the shamrock as a demonstration of the Holy Trinity, to show how three beings could coexist in one form… Father, Son, Holy Spirit… separate but united at the stem. What struck me about Shelly’s simple request was the extra symbolism. Who is represented by the fourth leaf? Immediately I surmised that she is the fourth leaf, connected at the stem by her faith in God. She was grafted into the Trinity long ago as a little girl, before her fears and addictions led her to rehab, psyche wards, and jail. This realization of connection and provision brought joy to her on her way to jail. It must have been odd for the county deputies to see a lovely, refined young woman smiling approvingly about her incarceration–so gracious, so polite. In an even odder way it was like A Tale of Two Shellys as the enlightened one sacrificially served time for the fallen one. However closely the jailers looked, only one young woman stood before them, yet she was two, no, four in one.

Shelly had been a light to others in her previous rehab stays and psyche ward commitments. She loves easily and deeply, recklessly it turns out sometimes; the same way she drinks. Always in her wreckage she finds her Bible and hits her calloused knees, toddling back to God. Her soft catlike persona charms tough tattooed girls into tender conversations they never intended to  have again. They open up to this quiet clover leaf fairy of a girl.  The staff also notice her special spirituality and engage her there. She is much loved in rehabs, which you can’t put on your resume.  Shelly has that effect on others. She’s a fallen angel who loves too much and guards too little; who listens much and wordlessly speaks volumes. The alcohol serves to moderate stress and pushes back against a feeling of being overwhelmed. Long ago she associated this warm relief with alcohol, her lucky potion.

 It was 2008, maybe. Shelly came to me with a former boyfriend, as if  she was on a skydiving date. After her boyfriend turned the spotlight focus on to her, I joked that he’d pushed her out of the plane at 22,000 feet and said, “You’ll get used to this. It’s easy.” on the way down. She laughed nervously without a parachute. He got better and moved on without her. She evaporated into unanswered questions in my mind. Five years later she contacted me. “Do you remember  me? Can we start again?”  On the phone later she said, “Well, I’m an alcoholic now. I guess that’s what’s new.” I was stunned. How does a beautiful, intelligent, talented, educated, artistic young woman become an alcoholic by age 27?  One drink at a time. Those attributes had only hastened her descent. She had not learned to fly but knew too well how to crash.

Blogginis, if you don’t process today’s pain and fear and trauma today, you begin to slip and lose traction in your life. Plus, if you are abandoned and neglected by those who are supposed to care for you, you become lost in your tractionless state… like a car on ice in a night blizzard. Accelerating just makes the vehicle spin wildly and the driver gets crazy dizzy without a horizontal line for reference. Vertigo sets in. It doesn’t matter what gear you are in or if your brakes work. You simply spin counterproductively. Dizzy, spinning, lost, drunken, fallen angel. Tragic beauty. It broke my heart to hear of her crashings, and made me wonder if she was pushed or fell into the abyss. Was she still falling?

Luck and faith have nothing to do with one another. Luck comes and goes; it just happens and cannot be pursued or preserved. Faith, on the other hand, is cultivated. It can be planted and harvested like strawberries. It does not  just happen like a scratch off lottery ticket. Instead it is built systematically from how one interprets experience and develops moral structures. Luck ties in to superstition. Rabbits feet, horseshoes, crystals, and charms are vain attempts at controlling or altering one’s destiny. Faith is more about accepting one’s destiny by understanding spiritually how the universe works. Faith involves some accountability but provides a map for doing life; there is no accounting and no map for luck.

Shelly has a deep faith like a fountain that does not run dry. Unfortunately she has another fountain that pumps out wine until blackout time. Guzzling like a camel at the wine fountain helps her escape the consequences of  her life, but blinds her to the causes of her  problems. She comes to, alone in the desert with a fevered cotton mouth and a migraine. Life just happens to her as it does to all addicts who have urgently surrendered their responsibility. Especially when young, a good thought doesn’t stand a chance against a good feeling, don’t you know? Far away from the wine splash zone there is hope, beyond the good feeling and past the nausea, the cravings, and the illusions lies her broken sobbing self looking for four leaf clovers.


8. however explosively

On The Road by Jack Kerouac is a novel that inspired me at 17 years of age. Somehow it made sense to my late adolescent herbally influenced mind. Several guys racing back and forth across 1940’s America, outrunning consequences. Living large without any money to speak of. Drinking, smoking pot, talking philosophically, having freewheeling sex, and always leaving somewhere for somewhere else before dawn…it all seemed so real and true and magnetic. If I had been a steel bb I’d have rolled right into that fictional magnet. Well, I guess that I did.

I read it again recently. Actually I finished it while I treaded on the treadmill this morning. What a bunch of crap! I kept reading through the poorly written feverish prose looking for the meaning and power that I believed was held in that novel. It wasn’t there. It was like hearing the jokes and conversations that brought you laughing to your knees in high school and realizing that is was just self indulgent dew that evaporated long ago. It had no substance, no lasting power. Wow, what a disappointment.

I suppose that I wanted to fit that wild life of drinking and smoking and sexing and talking and experiencing life at full bore minus any negative consequences. In other words, I was a charged up, impulsive adolescent enamored of older, fictional adolescents who, I believed, were inspired adults. They were on to a sort of wisdom that existed beyond rules and convention, traditions and culture, so I thought at 18. Now I see the main character Dean Moriarity as a bipolar maniac who bullshat his way past some easily impressed guys who were desperate to be misled. It’s embarrassing for my adult self to read the words that I thought meant something deep, and come to the conclusion that at their deepest simply dig a shallow, sophomoric grave.

I wanted to be older when I was younger. I missed the hippie era by a few years. I felt slighted to be in between generations. I thought I would have enjoyed Woodstock live rather than the movie and album. I went to anti-war rallies in D.C. but as a curious spectator not as a participant. I guess that I have been a curious spectator most of my life. Reading about others and watching movies, these are spectator activities. I recall my buddy Mark was always at the movies or reading and writing. Well, he was a writer. And that’s what writers do– espionage reports to the larger world. I always wanted to be a doer, however. Writing was the fall back position.

The older I get the more I see the wisdom in age requirements for government service. Young folks don’t yet know what they don’t know. They can’t, anymore than I could explain why we were “studying” the rock opera Tommy in my high school English class.  The sexy young student teacher blathered about Marshall McCluhan and “the medium is the message” to high school boys who just liked to watch her jiggle. We understood that she was the medium and the message all at once. She could have been speaking Mandarin Chinese, but we got the message… “I desperately want to share my Jiggles with you.” Well, that’s what we each came away with. She desired us. This is why we could not even drive a school bus, let alone command others to do difficult tasks.

This is also why you don’t cook on freshly ignited charcoals. They are flaming and full of toxins that have to burn off before they are safe to cook meat. But adolescent boys would cook with Bic lighters or propane torches if you let them.  This is probably where I should tell  the gas explosion story.

I was 19, I think. I moved into a huge flat with three friends. We stayed up late talking, smoking and drinking beer. In the morning only one roommate was around when I got up to make breakfast. Paul sat across from the kitchen nook in a stuffed chair. I started mixing up pancake batter. “Hey,man, want some pancakes?”  He was very interested in anything that did not come from a can. “I’ve been eatin’ canned food for months, Man. Yessss, I’d love some pancakes.”  I got busy and turned the gas on in the oven. I carelessly put a cookiesheet in the oven.

What I failed to do was check to see if this new gas stove had a pilot light like the old gas stove in my parents’ house. It didn’t, which meant that I had released several cubic feet of natural gas into an airtight space. It was all good until I turned on the front burner. As the burner jet puffed into flame, there was a microsecond delay and then an explosion that I will never forget. The oven bounced and expanded in air. The oven door slammed open and the cookie sheet shot out across the room at Paul, who must have thought a poultergeist had flooded the place. “Aaaaahhhhhh!!!”

In one very long second that lasted for ten minutes, simultaneously the glass panes in the old double hung window beside the stove blew out onto the sidewalk and the steps below on Grace Street. The apartment door blew violently open into the hallway. The hair on my arm singed and smelled that nasty stink like burning nylon. The old plaster ceilings reverberated and little trails of plaster dust fell down like fine snow all around the huge room where the bomb went off.

I didn’t know what to do first. Paul stood up shakily. Okay. I went to the window to see if folks were impaled by falling glass shards. Okay. All clear.  I began to laugh nervously when I realized that no one was injured or dead. I shut the apartment door and noticed that the frame seemed to have grown a fraction of an inch. Not so bad as it could have been.  I knew what I’d be doing for the rest of the day. I had to find a hardware store in Richmond and buy glass, a couple of tools, and some glazing. Before dark I had repaired the blown out windows. The stove remained swollen but empty like a woman who had recently and violently given birth.

We laughed a lot about the explosion, but not nearly as much as when a couple of days later my other roommate Bruce was taking a shower in the small bathroom adjacent to the kitchen. It had been in the blast area.  While he was lathered up and shampooed fully, the horsehair plaster ceiling collapsed on him, sticking to him so that when he came screaming and coughing out of the bathroom, he looked like a mummy in mid processing. Oh, my, did we laugh till tears came. We had Old Mr. Rhone the fix it man for the landlord come repair it. He knew we were up to no good, but he didn’t say anything and we didn’t offer any explanations.

Mummies - monsters Photo

So, this is why teenagers don’t run the Senate or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA or much of anything.