385. finer details

I’m getting obsessed with my wall mural, folks. I may need a paint night intervention with a fire hose to separate me from my paint brushes.  The big forms are taking shape with large dollops of desert colors. And there is sort of a pattern coming into view, a 360 degree panorama of the Catalina Mountains plus some poetic licensed violations of nature. My sun actually sets on the west wall just like at my  daughter’s back deck in north Tucson, but in my office it’s behind the seat where most of my clients choose to sit. Having defined the parallel universe thusly, I dare not introduce another sun… unless I want to go full Dali. I am tempted to paint numbers on my white sun as if it were a clock face, no hands though. Why paint yourself into a time corner when you live in a circular world? Time is not flat or square, right? Columbus proved that, I think. I think a bird’s wings would be sufficient to suggest the clock hands and “time flies” theme on my bone white sun’s face. It’s not photography or realism that I’m going for. It is a dreamscape instead with a condor of consciousness swooping across.

On the east wall is open desert with some stone towers and burnt orange foothills to frame the emptiness, borrowed from a DeGrazia painting I saw. I placed a small rising moon opposite my enormous setting sun. Not sure where it’s going to end, but the process of working on such a  huge scale is very freeing, exhilarating even. However, I have to calm my exploding creative flatulence as clients arrive, expecting my full focus. So far, one took a picture to show her husband, and one gave me constructive artistic criticism. “You might want to go impressionistic and just suggest mountains, you know? soften the lines.” No, I’m going for surrealism, mate, but thanks anyway. None of this stuff actually exists except on my walls. In a way it’s like walking into my 12′ by 12’mind matrix. Terrifying. Strange. Beautiful.

Most folks hardly even notice the grandiose overhaul, which is pretty amazing to me. In my old office bathroom I smeared dark maroon paint on three walls of the claustrophobia inducing room. My billing lady said it looked like someone had been hacked to death in there. Not a word from anyone else for six years. Maybe they thought I was a mafia “cleaner” and they were too scared to raise my suspicions. Perhaps I should have littered a plastic finger or two in the corners, you know? Maybe a bloodied watch or a shoe for the full noir effect. Wait, it’s supposed to be warm and fuzzy and safe in therapy bathrooms, no masks, clowns or tool company pinups. Drat! boundaries kill all the funny folks who will kill you without boundaries.

So now come the long hours of detailing the big shapes, adding dimension, shadows, textures, suggestions, contrasts, etc. In some ways, I suppose, it’s like language in that I have the nouns, verbs and tone of voice, mood, vocabulary, theme, and some sense of symbolic narration on my walls. Does that make sense to you? The main nuts and bolts are in place, but now I’m tweaking the subtleties, adding nuances and hints. Adding adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases, clauses, only with paint instead of consonants and vowels. I think you are following me, right? Nod here. Thanks. So I add a stoic cactus, or a hundred cacti, an abandoned adobe house, some sage and agave, and parched washes crying out for a single drop of rain.

Or take a song, you musical peepers. You lay down a rhythm, develop a few choruses, a bridge, then write some snappy lyrics that capture the feel you were after… and eventually you play it over and over, adding the bass, the drums, a keyboard, maybe guitar, a sax or harmonica solo along the way. You jack up the vocals, perhaps add harmony, steadily moving toward a sound you know you’ll recognize though you’ve never heard it before. A vague, shadowy template floats in your head like a goddess until one day you meet her in the flesh. How does that work?

What is that? Creative spirit echoing back from the hidden caverns of the cosmos. Inexplicable to scientists who insist on repeatable proof in line with the holy grail of the scientific method. What sad boys and girls they are. How do scientists explain falling in love with one special soulmate? It’s not reproducible; instead, falling in love is anecdotal and eccentric as all heck. Probably irrational at many points, but ultimately it keeps the species viable enough to produce other little scientists who don’t believe in what they cannot prove repeatedly. Mystery, my friends, mystery defies scientific investigation. The revelation of creation is still a mystery.

Details, all details, follow the big picture, my blogadillos. They hang on the larger slabs of reality. You get your dirty car detailed; you seek details to understand and sometimes to believe or remember; you ask for details when you smell a rat. Details trap the rat on little slivers of truth.  Smaller strokes made by tiny brushes move like little creatures underfoot. In this case they are under my grip. Baddabing:  a cinnamon line appears to define a random ridge from a purple mountain against a sulfur yellow sky. Intuition rules this palette of endless color selections. The paints talk to me, persuading me not to wash them away but rather shift the hues I had in mind. I comply because there is no right answer, and wrong answers scream immediately. “You can’t have pink cactuses… or can you?”  I need to explore that further.And when I figure out how to transfer my photos of the mural project onto my computer and then upload those to the blog, I’ll share the inner workings of my brain with you, my fine, fine seekers of truth.  Aloha for now.


308. Climbing Everest

So I was chatting with Andrea at the coffee shop the other day. She told me, “Have a lovely day”, to which I replied, “NO!!”  She was confused, which is nothing new in our interactions. We are in a year of self imposed détente, by the way.

“Why not?”

“I am going further or farther, my dear one. It depends on whether it’s a process or a measurable destination we are discussing. Either way, I’m going way, way past lovely.”

“And what would that destination be?

“The little village of Expialidocious. It’s an abandoned uranium mining town in the mountains of northwest New Mexico.”

“Oh, Burrito. You are so Special.”

“Thank you. I’ll add the liquid sincerity later to that freeze dried compliment.”

“What about exploring Supercalifragilistic. Don’t you need to go there first?”

“My child, did I ever tell you about the time I summited Everest?”

“No, I must have missed that episode.  Was that before or after you led the Redskins to the Super Bowl?”

“Before. I put conquests of nature before gladiatorial exploits.”

“As it should be, I’m sure. I know I am going to regret this, but tell me about summiting Everest.”

“Well, I was a younger man then, to be sure. Just out of Oxford and looking for a non academic challenge. Frankly I’d grown bored of smoking pot with Bill Clinton that summer after graduation.”


“Bless you.”

“I didn’t sneeze.”

“But I could swear you inhaled.”

“I’m too young and pure to get the meaning of your last comment.”

“Sad. Anyway, I put together a plan after watching The Sound of Music. I was inspired. I thought ‘If those Austrian kids could climb the Swiss Alps for their freedom without so much as a rucksack, then I could climb Everest without a plan.”

“So you’re gonna do a mash up of Mt Everest meets the Von Trapp Family?”

“Why not? You think it can’t be done?”

“No, I think it shouldn’t be done. There is no market for such a crass cross over pairing.”

“And that is why you are on that side of the coffee bar, shackled to an espresso machine, and I am out here in the Big Game World of Fantasy Adventures.”

“Oh no. I could be arrested as an accessory to reckless imaginings.”

“Unlikely. But humor me. The movie version opens with you falling out of a Soviet helicopter at base camp, around 9,000 feet. You can be Maria from, uh, Needmore, but we’ll have to change your name to Sharia. Okay?”

“So I’ll have all the big songs in this shameless copy of the story?”

“Yes, certainly, absolutely. This could launch your singing career.”

“Have you ever heard me sing?”

“Have you ever heard Rod Stewart sing?”

Image result for rod stewart pictures

“True, but he’s the exception.”

“And why can’t you be the second exception? Is there a quota on exceptions? Are we rationing exceptions now and no one told me? If you cut me, do I not bleed? Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria’s?”

“Okay, so I start with ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music’. But isn’t that copyright infringement?  Plus I’ll need some time to adjust to the thin air.”

“What are lawyers for, Debbie Downcast? We’ll give you a half hour to acclimate. Your lungs are small; it shouldn’t take long at all.”

“Can I have a word with you about your personnel management skills?”

“No time for all that mumbo jumbo, my girl. We need to get you to costuming for an apron fitting. And then hair and make up.”

“I haven’t agreed to anything yet, nor have I signed any contracts.”

“Contracts schmontracts!!  You have my word.”

“That’s the problem.”

“Moving on… instead of you being a refugee from a convent, we are going to go for the transgendered approach and make it relevant to today.”

“I’m lost. You’re making my character a man?”

“No, a tranny man. When you fall out of the helicopter, you will sing that ELO song chorus, ‘Don’t bring me down, Bruce’. The audience will get it. Trust me. I have done my market research.”

“And then I sing ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music’?”

“Yes, so far so good. Then we must launch into you being a tranny nanny so that you can baby sit the captain’s six kids at 9,000 feet while the Sherpas are rounding up the likely suspects.”

“So the whole Nazi thing is going to be Tibetan now?”

“Well, duh. Of course.”

“I am so confused. I need a break from this barnstorming brainstorming, Burrito.”

“No time, my dear. Production costs and all. We have to get to base camp 2 at 18,000 feet by the time your future stepdaughter sings ‘I am sixteen going on seventeen’ to the Nazi Sherpa mailman boy.”

“No, no! This is wrong. All wrong. I can’t go on with this ludicrous charade.”

“Good, cheeky, but good. This is where the Chief Buddhist Monk, played by the Dali Lama, calls you into his office and tells you that you must go back to the captain and his pile of kids, have confidence, think of your favorite things, and climb every mountain. Oh, it’s all coming together now, gloriously baby!”

“I’m afraid I cannot perpetrate this fraud on the public.”

“What the Do Re Mi are you talking about? You are going to do something good and you are going to like it, Edelweiss it’s all over.”

“You can’t use Edelweiss, a mountain flower, as if it were a coordinating conjunction just because it sort of sounds like other wise.”

“I’ll do what I want, little sister. This is my blog and my rules!”

“No, not for me. It’s so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, and good night.”

“No, don’t try to bewilder me at my own game. Adieu, adieu to you and you and you. We are at 24,000 feet above sea level. We must Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream. The freakin’ Nazi Sherpas are coming to arrest your husband. We must flee now. There is no time for prima donna antics, Andrea, I mean Maria, uh Sharia.”

(Suddenly a bolt of reality hits our heroine.)

“I can’t believe you nearly sucked me into this black hole of phantasmagoria.”



It had to happen. All good things must come to an end, and here we are again, home in Turtle Town, south central PA. It’s not a bad gig, mind you. I  have a good life, a great family, work I enjoy, The Coffee Nation Summit, a solid church family, friends, purpose and meaning. So what’s the rub? Well, my mind keeps savoring those Tucson memories while our Mid-Atlantic sucky weather presents its cold, wet, ugly smeary face against my window panes like a slobbering Rottweiler puppy. I suppose it’s the same sort of vibration that nudged the settled folks of the American Colonies to ramble over the Appalachian Mountains way back when. Curiosity, maybe?  A growth spurt? Not boredom, really, as much as a palpable desire for change moves in me. “You know this is good. I wonder if there is something even better; not perfect, mind you, just more.”

One of my granddaughter Leah’s first words that she learned to demonstrate with sign language was “more”.  She put her little hands together and eventually said the word “more” for food she liked at first. Now it’s for books to be read again or songs to be sung again or floppy falls on an air mattress after singing “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”.  She calls for more when she’s delighted, and I suppose that is what her grandfather (me) is doing. I’d like more warmth, more sun, more empty space, more wild edge, which is what I experienced in Arizona, and more Little Leah.  This East Coast life is good, but I think I’ve found better… for me, bloglets. I am speaking strictly for me. Unlike a toddler, I can count the high cost of pursuing more then, by employing less now. Streamline, offload, get lean for the journey. Sell and divest. (Forget Bill Clinton, “INHAAAAALE”. Deep breath here as I consider this late middle age bungee jump.) The thrill of diving freely is ironically tethered to the securely anchored diving board from which I bounce. That’s nonnegotiable responsibility. It’s faith. You can’t launch effectively from an unstable place. So I guess the implication is that because we have firm enough ground beneath us here, we can roll out west and thrive once again.

“Amore” means love in Italian. It was the title of one of Dean Martin’s three most popular songs. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Well, I’m signing up for more amore.  That’s it. You know, if you’ve been to a decent concert, at the end of a good show the crowd often chants, “More, more, more” until the sheepish performers return and play their encore. So “more” seems to produce good results, depending on circumstances and context. Is it selfish? I guess so, but we don’t typically think of explorers or adventurers as merely selfish folks.  Or the guy who takes a pay cut to get to a team that contends for a world championship…he’s risking a bunch for a higher valued thing… the mountaintop experience. “Sir Edmund Hillary, you sir, are an egotistical cad!!” No, he climbed Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, my blog sherpas, in 1953. That’s impressive. He followed his heart’s desire after counting the costs and then paying them in full. The man was a beekeeper in New Zealand, for goodness sake. That’s  a pretty humble occupation and an unlikely though stable place from which to launch.

Every so often my wife and I have the deep meaning conversation about why we’re married and what’s in our future. It’s easier to explain past known reasons for getting married and staying married than it is to project the same into the unknown future. Fortunately, so far we have had a similar enough view and set of expectations of our future that it’s still one shared future script written like our kids’ names in chalk on the driveway. What do we want? More amore. Not the pizza pie and moony variety of love, but a mature, settled, wise love that can weather decline, or cancer, or dementia and ultimately death. In a sense we  have crossed the Appalachians and have rolled across the plains in our marriage. There have been many rivers and rough spots. Places to celebrate and to forget. But we’re determined to keep rolling.

Get this: in Arizona you get a driver’s license once, and it’s good for 50 years. Not sure why, but my daughter does not have to get hers renewed until 2060. Which freaks the TSA folks out at the airports not located in Arizona. “This can’t be right.” Just one more reason to live there– you’ll always be 26 on your license if you go now. If I get one soon, I won’t need another till I’m 108 years old. Now that’s what I call a good deal. I’ll be a centenarian though I don’t think I’ll check off the “organ donor” box. Who would want a hundred year old kidney? What’s that like?  A Honda with 300,000 miles on it? Then again, if it’s been cleaning happy blood for a century, it might be good enough for light local traffic. Beats dialysis anyway.

Ah, the closing thought? Let me defer to John Lennon’s “Mind Games” minus all the karmic wheel stuff…

“Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender you got to let it go

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower you got to let it grow”.

More Amore, my dear fellow life travelers, as the waves of time roll over us.