Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Selections From The Collection II – Blog #174

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Life Happens

The man was facing a turning point in life, a change of direction, a bend in the road. It happens to all of us now and again. It happens sometimes with our consent, our intention even, and sometimes without it. But it happens. Some people end up being better off for it, and some do not. I don’t know all of what goes into that ultimate determination, only that it has a lot to do with character, and inner strength. Circumstances fall in place sometimes, and breaks emerge along the way, but inner strength seems to be the common companion of those who are able to make life work for them. It also helps to be flexible in one’s definition of ‘making it work’.
Some are afraid of turning points, changes in direction, or bends in the road. They do whatever it takes to avoid such an eventuality. Some consider the implications and become frozen in time, and, unable to proceed in life, they hunker down in a safe and comfortable place to ride life out like one would take refuge from a blizzard in a basement. But some face change with courage, head on, without reservation, or they embrace it like a hibernating bear might welcome the spring. Not to say that change is not hard, only that it is often welcome relief from something needing to be different. For whatever reason.

The man wrestled with change for a long time, and knew that he could no longer entertain the status quo. He made the decisions that he determined his life required of him. It was not easy for him, it never is. Other people are affected by those kinds of decisions, hurt even, but he was mature enough to know that what is best for him is, ultimately, best for those closest to him, whether they might agree with the direction or not. It is a sculpting of his own life, and future, apart from the expectations of others, and it enables them to consider their own lives in a framework that is independent of his. Though, undoubtedly, painful for those affected by such conclusions, the future holds opportunity for them that it had not revealed before, that would have been unattainable were it not for the mans change of direction.

Life happens.
As it has for him, it does for the rest of us as well.

His name is Everyman.
Perhaps you know him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Few of My Favorites

Some end of the year selections from ‘Musings of the Old Coyote’,
the home for many of my random thoughts and dangerous insinuations.


The creek rises up
to tickle my feet

Like a lap dog
licking my face.


The first time I kissed you I knew,
Tulips are better than one lip.

'A Warm Heart'

A warm heart cannot be broken.
A heart only breaks if it’s brittle.


He said
“I never had the chance
to hurt you
because you beat me
to the punch.”

She said
“I never had the chance
to love you
because every time I tried
you ducked.”

'Conflict Of Interest'

There’s nothing I would like more
than to grow hair on my back
to keep me warm for the winter.

There’s nothing I would like less
than to have to shave it
for the summer.

'Eleven Stars'

There were eleven stars
above my head last night.

Some might say there were
several billion more
that I could not see.

But to me there were eleven stars.
And I saw every one of them.

'I Asked For Shade'

The tree has grown up over my head
while I’ve been sitting on this rock.

'Bird Bath'

Quite active today.

Sparrows splashing around
like children
in a summer puddle.

Like adolescent boys
in a backyard swimming pool
trying to impress the girls.

Like men bragging about
conquests they never really

Like those women
flapping their lips every morning
on “The View”

'Selective Hearing'

The people lost their way
when they followed the sound
of their own echo.


Leave it to me
to leave it to you
to leave it to somebody else.

'Still Working Shifts'

I walked around outside of
this old factory, abandoned,
falling down from years
of neglect.
I sat beneath a shredded awning
on a weathered deck
to observe, and absorb
the ghosts still working shifts
on ancient lathes, machines,
and other equipment
long-ago rusted,
but left to do what they had
always done.

Like a heated disagreement
between neighbors
I can hear the metal on metal
in need of grease.

'For The Rest Of My Life'

Your voice on the phone,
like velvet
in my sandpaper world.

I could stay on the phone
with you
for the rest of my


lined up like soldiers
on parade, a full company
waiting for inspection.

Vineyard stretching wide,
like an army spread miles
across the otherwise barren valley
of Armageddon.

Grapes to be plucked by hand,
then crushed by feet stained red.
The vines will then be plowed,
buried like soldiers, once proud,
beneath the very earth where they
once stood . . . . . . . . . but now
have fallen.

The soldier for the liberation
of our nation.
The grape for the liberation
of our soul.


casting themselves long
behind trees,
leaning away from the morning sun,
making shapes of their own,
expressions of themselves
on sparkling grass
still wet with dew
from the rain.

Like we shape ourselves
each day we are alive.

'While I Ride Herd'

Clouds laying up gracefully
in an amber sky,
mountains tracing the
un-ambiguous horizon,
cows moving quietly
about the meadow

while I ride herd
from my hammock.

'At Your Window'

You buzz me,
like the best espresso,

or an overly ambitious

Like the shock of a young nun
dancing naked in a midnight mass.

Like lightning striking water
where I’m standing

peering thru the frosted glass
at your window.

'Writing Her A Poem'

I didn’t know it
at the time,
but she was drawing
my portrait
while I was writing her
a poem.

'It Made Me Wonder'

She sat on the grass
filing her nails
with a big emery board
closer to the size of
an ironing board
than an actual nail file.

And she had a bag
full of other stuff
in a support role.

It made me wonder
how men manage to get through life
with just a Swiss Army knife.

And a remote control
to change the channel.

'Valentines Day'

How did Mr. Valentine
get his own day
when I can’t even get
a window table
at the Broken Heart Café?

'Moving Earth Around'

An old red tractor
tearing up the field,
digging up the rocks,
filling holes,
moving earth around,
turning it over.

Like your therapist does
for 50 minutes
twice a week.

'Left Unspoken'

There’s something
to be said
for not saying
anything at all.

'An Autumn Day'

An old red barn
standing in a field.

An old chestnut mare
leaning on the fence.

An old oak tree
providing her shade.

An old creek bed
winding it’s way by the barn,

by the horse,
by the tree.

An old farmer
sitting on the porch,

half asleep.

'While I Was Watering The Roses'

A spaceship landed
in my front yard
while I was watering
the roses.

I gave the windshield
a squirt with my hose,
a good wipe with a squeegee,

and they were on their way.

'Two’s Company'

I got out of both sides
of my car.

Imagining I had arrived
at the party
with a friend.

'The Last Time You Walked By'

If I had
just a couple of minutes
left to live
I’d close my eyes
and breathe in the fragrance of
the last time you walked by.

'They Will Stand Together Gladly'

I watched you gathering weeds,
and cuttings, from the overgrown
stream bank,
choosing carefully the wild,
but dying, stalks and stems
knowing, by your movement,
by your style,
that you would somehow breathe life
into an arrangement to be made
of these otherwise forgotten
and decaying

They will stand together gladly
in a glass vase, in the sun,
on the floor, in the corner
of your day room.

'If You Follow In My Footsteps'

I left footprints
on the beach,
then walked backwards
in the same impressions,
leaving no trace
of where I went.

If you follow in my footsteps
you can only walk
to where they end,
then you’ll have to figure life out
on your own from there

my friend.

'Henry and Leopold'

The old bulldog
did a practiced imitation
of his ageing keeper,
but he still had a jump or two left
in his hind legs.
And a few frolics percolating
in his otherwise tired disposition.
Whereas the old man had all but
exhausted his own.

What they still shared, however,
was that common, but uncanny
physical resemblance
honed quietly, but carefully
through years spent living alone

And barking at the TV.

'4th Of July'

Everybody loves a parade.

Nice to see people all moving
in the same direction

for a change.

'The Demise Of Vanity'

She left herself
too long under the

And died an ignominious


She did a Google search
on herself

And discovered she didn’t

'In Poor Taste'

I was looking at
the back of your head
imagining it was attached instead
to someone else’s face.


He said “You’re getting better.”
She said “Whatever!”
He said “Don’t say “Whatever”.
She said “Don’t say ‘You’re getting better’.”

'Moss On A Rock'

A soft exterior.

Like a down coat
on a hard man.

'Afternoon Nap In The Grass'

you just relax.
Sleep peacefully.
Don’t worry about a thing.

And I’ll keep my eyes peeled
for snakes.

'Looking For My Brother'

I’ve been wandering around this graveyard today
looking for my brother.

I knew I wouldn’t find him here.
They burned his body
down to ashes,
and scattered them to the wind.

But I thought I caught a whiff
of his cologne.

'Silly Reasons To Smile'

Your teeth might like some fresh air.

The frown police are in the neighborhood.

Your life could actually be an audition
for a network anchor job.

'The Vultures'

A single engine plane
chased all the vultures away.

I was just beginning to enjoy them.

Even though they were hoping
I would die.


No matter how old
I get

I will piss
standing up.

'In Your Shoes;

It would be difficult
to walk a mile
in your shoes

since your feet are stuck
in the mud.


I didn’t brush my teeth
before bed last night.

It was my small way
of saying fuck you

to the world.


We can’t believe
everything we read
in the papers.

What we really need
is a newspaper
that tells us
what we can believe,
and what we can’t

in the other papers.


doesn’t give much
or turn to offer
some pretentious resignation
upon it’s departure.

It just walks
quietly through the door
with a furtive glance

and is gone.


The ubiquitous stares
of strangers
hunt me down
and stab me
like an arrow
pierces deeply
the tender
and vulnerable

of a disconsolate


He died
at the end of his life.

'Affordable Truck'

Shopping cart.
Rusted from the weather.
Utilitarian companion of the

An affordable truck
on it’s route across town
in the morning fog
in the emerging dawn,
in the anonymous cloak
of solitude.

The early riser
the 4 wheel driver
in search of sidewalk treasures
discarded like bad fruit
by those of us

who own too much.


I’m alive.
The wind stirs my soul
at times.
The beauty of life
an occasional


Read more at the "MUSINGS" page of The Old Coyote website

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pieces Of Jesus

Never has there been a person divided into more pieces, for more purposes, than Jesus.

Never has there been someone as universally exploited, as loved and hated, as embraced and rejected. There is no other man, or woman, who even comes close. There has never been one who has elicited such contempt, and such sympathy, who has aroused such a volatile reaction, or provoked such personal change. And he disappeared, supposedly, over two thousand years ago. That’s a lot of emotion carried, uninterrupted, through a lot of years. You’d almost have to be God, or the Devil, to transcend time in such a profound manner.

Some call him a Pauper, and some call him a King. Some call him the Lord, and some call him a Servant. Some call him a Blasphemer, and some call him a Truth Teller. Some call him a Political Subversive, and some call him a Prophet. Some call him a Mystic, and some call him a Martyr. Some call him the Son of Man, and some call him the Son of God. Some call him a Sinner, and some call him a Saint. Some call him a Visionary, and some call him a fake. Some call him a Preacher, and some call him a Puppet. Some call him a Teacher, and some call him a Student. Some call him a Man of the People, and some call him a Man of God. Some call him Religious, and some call him Spiritual. Some call him Self Righteous, and some have called him Humble.

What other person in history, besides Jesus, has his own anti-character? There is Christ, and there is the long anticipated anti-Christ. What other historical figure’s name is used as an expression of anger, hostility, resentment or exasperation?
With whose life did time, as we now know it, begin again? We are living in the two thousand and ninth year ‘of our Lord’.

There have been many people who purport to represent Jesus, who profess to speak for him, or who even claim to be him. There are those who follow those who claim to be him. There are many who run to him, and even more who run from him.
And there are those who cannot even bear to hear, or speak, his name.

Is there another child in all of history who’s birth was so feared by the powers that be (King Herod), that he ordered all the male children, in and around Bethlehem, under the age of two, to be murdered to ensure that the baby Jesus would also be killed?

His birth has been celebrated, exploited, and reviled. The commercialism that has grown up around its remembrance has surpassed any expectation that even the most jaded Madison Ave. executive could have embraced. The credit card debt accumulated by average families around the occasion continues to give testimony to our having gone terribly off track in the supposed commemoration of his arrival on this earth. Ironically, the Christian belief system is based upon Jesus dying to pay our spiritual debt so that we could be reconciled with the one to whom we are in arrears. And we are now leaving Jesus completely out of the celebration of his own birth. Imagine, if you will, not being included in your own remembrance. True, nobody seems to know the actual date, but that is not even germane to the issue.

Jesus life, on the other hand, has been studied; it has been examined, scrutinized, and minimized; it has been stated, related, inflated, debated, imitated, devalued, debased and denied. His words have been used to support a particular point of view, and to refute that very same point of view. They have been printed in the bible, and on a plethora of posters and other Jesus junk that you can pick up in churches, or religious bookstores in just about any city or town in America, the world even, with the exception of a few countries that dictate certain religious expression to be anathema to the laws of the state.
His life and works are used as examples to be emulated; his parables are used, to this day, to communicate basic spiritual truths, laws of nature, and codes of behavior. His wisdom is quoted endlessly by those who know it belongs to him, and by those who don’t. Churchgoers use his early years in the church as evidence of the church’s importance. Non-churchgoers cite his teachings about the Pharisees, or his turning over of the moneychangers tables in the temple, as reason to avoid the institution altogether. But, people of each belief point to the importance of the underground church of the New Testament, which was formed secretly around the teachings of Jesus. It continues to this day. It is something the Institutional church acknowledges, but really knows nothing about. It’s funny though, how the small, invisible home gatherings of Christians (the underground church, if you will) aspire to grow, but in so doing inevitably, and predictably, end up joining the ranks of the existing institution; further evidence that man has a difficult time even getting out of his own way.

When Jesus was alive, some people were attracted to him, and some were not. A group of men, individuals really, began wanting to be with him, sometimes at great personal cost. They came to be known as disciples. He did not go around looking for these men, finding them and then appointing them as disciples. He just went about his life and people followed him, enthralled by his teachings, and the spirit he embodied. Many people were envious of him. Some pretended to know and love him, and some really did know and love him. Just like today, I guess.

He told the truth to people. He did not placate, assuage egos, or indulge dishonesty. He always spoke to the core of every situation, sometimes directly, and sometimes in parables. Many people did not like that about him. It made them uncomfortable, and it left them with no place to hide from themselves. As least that’s what the New Testament seems to indicate. Many people worship him today, in songs of praise, in the raising of hands, and in the speaking of tongues. Some people want nothing to do with the Jesus drug, but embrace him in spite of it all. Some people want nothing to do with him. Many people take parts of him that they need, or can use; his character, his persona, his imagined spirituality, but reject the totality of who he was (is). They do this because they have nothing of their own that compares. They pretend at spiritual, they play Jesus, rather than actually emulating him, rather than facing the vacuum of their own lives. They mix his teachings with their own compromises. They find it to be more comfortable than what his teachings actually require of them. They want the love, but not the selflessness. They want the enlightenment, but not the path to its attainment. They want the blessing, but not the sacrifice. They want the glory, but feign humility to acquire it.
People choose which pieces of Jesus they can live with, and which pieces to discard like leftover bones from a plate of well marinated spare ribs.

Some say Jesus Died and has been Resurrected, and some say he Has Not.
If the truth be known, however, he IS alive for some, and he is DEAD for many others.

Never in history has there been a person divided into more pieces, for more purposes,
than Jesus.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Deja View

-Regarding Tiger Woods, as you know by now I’m not someone who has worshipped at the altar of golf, and even though I have been critical of Tiger’s narcissism and mega-ego, I have wished him no harm. But he seems to be taking quite a beating lately because of his supposed extra-marital relationships. And quite frankly, I don’t really like to see someone get beat up when they’re already down, whatever the reason. Nobody knows his relationship with his wife except him and his wife.
I just have one comment, however, on the whole unflattering situation.
‘It seems as if the Tiger is lost in the Woods’.

-Global Warming. If you recall, I have been telling you since the very outset that this whole global warming fiasco is nothing but a fraud, a means for very wealthy and powerful men to accumulate even greater wealth and power, internationally. It is also a protocol to bring the UK, the US, and other wealthy progressive nations, to their respective knees. Look at the treaties we have, and are, being pressured to sign. Look at all the new taxes on products and services that you are being forced to pay to ‘accommodate’ global warming. Then take a look at exactly who has their hand in your pocket. Take a look at Al Gores recent Gazillion dollar income from his Carbon Credits business. Anybody willing to get their head out of the sand would be able to see the deceit, the manipulation, and the greed associated with the whole movement. They have even conditioned the children to believe that they need to save the world.
And now some in Congress want to investigate the leaking of emails that have partially exposed the fraud, rather than investigating the perpetrators of the fraud itself. But if they were to really look into things wouldn’t that mean that Congress would actually need to investigate itself?

-Well, Obama promised ‘transparency’ in his administration, and it is becoming quite apparent that he is interested not so much in what the people want, as he is in what HE wants FOR the people. He has become very transparent in that respect.

-Sarah Palin, as you may have noticed, has been on her never-ending book tour. I actually kind of like Sarah Palin. I think she’d make a good Den Mother for our country. And God knows the country could use a good Den Mother. (See Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts). No emails about sexism, please. I’m serious.
On the other hand, I also think Joe Biden would be a good Den Mother,
just not as good as Ms. Palin.
There you have it.

-I think Obama would be a good contestant on ‘Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader’.
He certainly sounds smart the way he reads all those grandiose clichĂ© laced speeches. However, he does need to work a little harder on trying to hide his arrogance with fake humility. Doesn’t come easy for him, I know.

-I like Obama too. Actually, I’d like him on his own never-ending book tour.
Anywhere but in the White House.

OK, I think I’ve angered enough people by now.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Afraid To Face The Preordained

We’re born, we grow up, we get old, we die.
We’re uninformed, we learn, we teach, we leave.

Why is it that so many people have so much trouble with that concept?
As if it were a sentence, rather than an opportunity?

Chasing the brass ring of youth has become the biggest business in America, and the greatest social indulgence. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research, open your own eyes.

What if everybody in America quit spending money on ‘Youth Enhancement’ products and procedures, and donated those billions (yes, billions) to a general fund (not the government) that would provide education, health care, and other social services to the general population? Seems like everybody is always complaining that there is never enough money for those necessities, but Americans always seem to have enough money to get their hair colored, their teeth whitened, their faces stretched, their lips plumped, eyebrows plucked, nails done, bodies tanned, breasts enhanced, cheeks implanted, wardrobes updated, personal trainers paid, and gym memberships extended. When it comes to trying to look as young as we once were, the sky seems to be the limit.
Women carry the torch of this phenomena, always have, but men are just as vain, and just as compelled as women to morph their own reality into a look and image that has long ago passed them by (the ‘red sports car’ syndrome). There are just as many products and procedures for men these days as there are for women. And men take full advantage of their availability. Hair implants, calf and peck implants, facelifts, hair dye, male enhancement pills, creams and pumps. Moisturizers. MOISTURIZERS. Please!
The list goes on.

In this bourgeoning youth culture, everybody is so afraid of being left behind that they jump on the wagon as quickly as a life-long-alcoholic might fall off it. But hey, I got an idea. How bout’ if everybody over forty stand up, and in unison, throw a middle finger in the face of the creators and marketers of this ignorant and fallacious belief that youth is greater than age. Throw a finger in their face, then take your cupboard full of Youth Enhancement products and throw them on a collective bonfire in the middle of Madison Ave., and in a similar pile on Hollywood Blvd.
Then, take the middle finger on the other hand and throw it in the face of all the people under thirty who actually believe that they’re smarter, more experienced, more valid, and more valuable than those who are older. People need to stop acquiescing to the stupidity, the inexperience, and the ‘potential’ of youth. Youth is just that, ‘potential’. Just because a twenty four year-old, or a five-year-old, can text, send a picture of himself from his cell phone, and pick his nose at the same time does not negate his disturbing inability to engage in critical thinking or meaningful self reflection. Just because he’s technologically connected 24/7 does not necessarily mean he’s able to connect with another human being in any kind of meaningful way, or that he will even understand that he is actually just being led around by the technological ring in his proverbial nose.
For those of you over 40, (or 50, or 30 even), how about having the courage to accept your age, embracing it with dignity, realizing the privilege of your experience, and wearing it proudly without apology?

Does anybody get that when parents are competing with their children in the ‘youth and attractiveness’ arena that the children are building a continuing resentment towards those same parents? When parents put self-emphasis on the external, rather than the internal, do they not understand that they are subjugating themselves to the myth of youth, rather than embracing the dignity of age? Do those parents expect their children to admire them, or want to be like them? The natural evolution of family is that children grow up wanting to be like their parents . . . . . . . . . . . if, in fact, they respect them. When a child sees the parent wanting, and trying, to be like the child, what is there left for the child to respect? Mothers competing with their daughters produce daughters competing with their mothers, rather than giving the child a mother she can rely on for wisdom and guidance. What’s so good about that? We’re robbing the children of the traditional role models they would have, otherwise, been able to trust . . . . . the parents. And what does it say about a 40 year-old parent wanting to look like her own 15 year-old daughter? I won’t even get into that.

You say, “But I don’t have any kids, what’s wrong with wanting to look young?” And I say “What’s wrong with looking your own age? What’s wrong with not deceiving the people you meet? Why does that scare you so terribly?” If you want to continue contributing to the age, and mentality, reduction of our culture, fine, then you will continue to live with the personal frustration of your search for the unattainable Fountain of Youth. And you will continue contributing to the dumbing down of America for the rest of us. Maybe that’s where you’re comfortable, I don’t know. But some of us have more respect for the rest of us than that.

Don’t be afraid of how you look. Be afraid of not being yourself.

“We’re born, we grow up, we get old, we die.
We’re uninformed, we learn, we teach, we leave.

Why is it that so many people have so much trouble with that concept?
As if it were a sentence, rather than an opportunity?”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where Mountain Meets The Sky

My wife and I worked together yesterday around the property, dragging branches to the burn pile, cutting, hauling and stacking wood for next years winter. It was a beautiful sunny day beneath miles of clear blue, a small corner of paradise where mountain meets the sky, gateway, to be sure, to an equally profound, but still mysterious universe. It was cool at 3,300 feet, but not really cold. A storybook crisp autumn morning, ushering in, by design it seemed, a warm lazy afternoon. My dog, Chica, was darting about, jumping over logs, running the length of them, on top of them, like a squirrel on a Conifer highway, then leaping to the ground like she were auditioning for the lead role in Adventures of the Amazing Log Dog.

In the evening, after a satisfying meal, we sipped wine, and soaked our weary bodies in the hot tub on the deck, absorbing the starlit night sky while it worked its ethereal magic like a private light show just overhead, barely beyond reach. A blanket of blinking, pulsating luminescence as far and deep as is humanly possible to even realize, beckoned our attention, and captured our imagination. We counted shooting stars until we ran out of numbers. I looked back through the window, into an otherwise dark house, to see a quaint fire crackling romantically in the wood-burning stove throwing red and amber hues around the room.

Throughout the day, and well into the night, I would stop for brief moments to reflect, to try and understand how I had landed here in such a place, how it became entrusted to me, how it has all been laid at my feet like treasure being brought before a king. I do not, did not, feel like a king, ever. Life was never easy for me. And it was never about the pursuit of pleasure, never even about the pursuit of comfort. This place, however, gives me pleasure and comfort beyond what should even rightfully be mine.

When we first found this home, I remember telling someone that I had done nothing to deserve this. I did (do), however, acknowledge that no blessing, or gift, is ever really deserved anyway. Good things are given out of love, to the deserving, and to the undeserving alike, just as how the rain continues to fall on both the just, and on the unjust.

I am thankful for this gift.
And I am humbled by its impact on my life.

The sun is rising slowly this morning, just beyond the ridge, bathing the sky in warm color once again, like the fire did last night on this side of the window.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shapes And Shadows

It’s foggy here this morning, overcast and cloudy, gray as the shade of my own perspective. The sun has yet to rise, with this thick generous shroud reminding me of a down blanket having been thrown lovingly across a quietly emerging sky. The trees, however, otherwise green and brilliant gold, are silhouetted now, dark against the sky, illuminating the private side of their mysterious existence. They reach heavenward, as all living things do, but loom menacing in the darkness when reduced to only shape and shadow.

Night creatures tend to reduce themselves to shape and shadow in order to co-exist with the darkness.
I bet you think I’m going to make some comments now about human nature.
Who me?

All things become self-evident in the light. Trees display their color, their texture, their leaves or needles, their bark, their acorns, their pinecones or buds. They exhibit the most general, as well as the smallest detail of their species, their structure, their age, their personality even. The light glistens and dances off the leaves when they’re damp, and reflects their brilliance like the sound of the trumpet echoes the passionate breath of Miles Davis. Every scar is revealed in the light, every new growth, every bend from the wind, every broken branch, every area of death or decay. The health of the tree is made manifest by its patent visibility. You cannot see the tree and not see its condition.
But even the humbled, the broken down, the splintered, the fractured, the diseased and dying, they retain an inexplicable splendor.

And so it is with people.
It is the innate character of God.

The night hides that character like a burka hides
the beauty of a woman.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Against The Wind

As has been said, “Kites rise against the wind, not with it.”
Against the odds men (people) find strength.

I recently spoke with a middle aged woman who had survived a battle with cancer, and now, at a most inopportune time in her life, is needing to sell her home because of the accumulated medical bills. As we all know, it is not an ideal time to be selling ones home. It will mean a major change for her, a change that will most likely take her out of her own familiar community, and a change that she will go through alone, without the help of a supportive spouse.

I have recently been getting to know a middle aged man who, after a multitude of misfortune, self-inflicted, and otherwise, finds himself to be his own best resource for getting by. A man who survived a horrible accident, and the succeeding ravages of drug addiction, he has been an inspiration to me in the few short days since making his acquaintance. This man is not interested in placing blame, or in complaining about how different his life might be were it not for the accident. He is a man who has had a hard life, but a man of gratitude for the life that he does have. It is the difference in his world. His attitude and perspective, I must say, make a difference in mine.

I did not know either of these people before their circumstances, but it is clear that they have risen like a kite against odds that would provoke many others to just succumb to the wind. The wind has enabled these people to discover who they are beneath the surface, they have tapped into the essence of being that kite, into the fullness of being themselves.

In our culture, it has become very difficult for many of us to tap into our own essence. Some of us have been brought along pretty comfortably in life, without the kind of challenge, or misfortune, that these folks have had to face. In a way, we can count ourselves lucky to have avoided such happenstance, but on a deeper level, maybe we’re just a little weaker for having done so. I do know, that were I ever again in a challenging life situation that I just could not seem to manage on my own, I would try and tap into the strength, and the courage, that these two individuals have so clearly demonstrated by their continuing lives and attitudes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Bitter Wind

A bitter wind has come up this afternoon, a gusty, blustering blow from out of the north.
It arrived unexpectedly, without the courtesy of a formal warning. Caught unaware in the chill of its grip, I was suddenly conscious of being very naked beneath my light autumn clothes. I could feel my skin as if it were a thin layer of ice encompassing the rest of my brittle body. And I was feeling very cold. If the chill had wandered in slowly like a vagabond meandering through time, rather than rushing in like a bandit, I would have worn clothes under my clothes, and maybe even more clothes beneath those. But I didn’t. Even my dog was shivering.

Life encourages us to be prepared for whatever endeavor we choose to undertake, but it also teaches us that we ought to be prepared for the unexpected as well. We cannot predict every eventuality, but we can prepare for the unexpected by our experience of the past. There is almost always a lesson from the past, our own, or somebody else’s, that we can draw upon as a likely predictor of things to come. It’s just that we don’t always take the time to consider the totality of our existence. Too busy with the day to day, the moment to moment demands of carving out our own lives. But I don’t think we were designed to live this way. It’s not that we can’t, or even that we don’t, do a relatively good job of it, it’s just that I think we were meant to have more contemplative time, to observe, to ponder, to learn, to awaken, and to appreciate.

I’ve been very busy lately preparing my house and property for the coming winter. So busy, in fact, that I was caught unaware by this bitter wind. But there actually had been signs of its coming. Not profound signs, and not the usual blather from the meteorologist on the local news, but there were signs, nevertheless. They were subtle signs, they were invisible to the unaware, but they were there just the same.

Had I been paying closer attention to the bigger picture, to the understated indicators, I would have known it was coming, and dressed a little warmer. Life is like that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Am Being Guided

Sounds egocentric. Delusional even.
If you don’t recognize that life speaks to us in a myriad of ways.

Ears do not provide our only means by which to hear,
and eyes do not constitute one’s only source of vision.
To believe that would be delusional.

I am being guided, not by voices, but by signposts, by circumstance,
by conscience, by that still small voice.
And yes, by the Divine.

I believe that we are all being guided by the Divine. Some of us pay attention, however, and some of us do not.
There is an element of trust involved in the process that is not dissimilar to trusting that the roads drawn on a map will actually take you to where the map indicates they will. One must trust the map, as one follows its indicators. And when you think about it, why would we use a map, or even have one, if we did not first trust that it would, ultimately, do us well?
And so it is with guidance, in life, with direction, with moving through any situation, or set of circumstances. A humble recognition of the guide is sometimes all that is required of us to move into the slipstream.
That, in and of itself, is an acknowledgement of trust.

There is a significant difference between being ‘guided’, however, and being ‘seduced’.
There have been many times in life when I have wanted to, even chosen to, embrace a seduction, when I have wanted to believe that it was actually guidance. That, after all, would enable me to feel better about being seduced. I’m not talking about sexual seduction, although that could certainly be included in the equation, but about the kind of seductions that present themselves as ‘for our benefit’, as ‘just what we need’.

They usually come appealing to our ego, to our sense of financial or social insecurity, to our need for appreciation and recognition, or our desire for wealth and success, to our desire to ‘be somebody’. Seduction also often comes in response to ones perpetual craving for independence. Seduction always recognizes human need and presents itself in a form that promises to meet that need. Seduction, however, is a dishonest lover who never keeps her promises, who never lets on that she is not working in our own best interest.

Besides the times in my life when I have embraced seduction, there have also been many times when I have actually mistaken seduction for guidance. It is easy to do, particularly at an early age, at a stage in life when we are more driven by our needs than by our intention to get things right.

But all that having been said, there has, for me, never been a more clear indication of the difference between guidance and seduction than with a series of events that transpired around me almost forty years ago. I have never forgotten it. I had just begun singing my songs publicly when a man appeared in my life out of nowhere. He came bearing promises of recognition of my music, record deals, tours, and royalties. A means to make a living was no small part of the seduction. He booked studio time, we did a session, but then he took the master tapes and disappeared. From the beginning I had wanted to believe that I was being guided, but I had actually known all along that something was not right with this guy. I had an inclination that he was a liar, and a user and manipulator of people. My internal barometer indicated that the barometric pressure surrounding him was off the charts. I was actually being guided in another direction at the time, but chose to ignore that still small voice, the signposts and the circumstances. I chose instead to embrace the seduction, hoping it would lead to some satisfaction down the line. Of course it never does. Seduction requires too great of a degree of personal compromise to ever return the kind of fulfillment one would hope to find.

I recovered from the situation by recognizing, and admitting, that I had compromised my own integrity in search of some recognition. I’m much more careful today to pay attention to what enhances my life, rather than to the constant lure, and empty promise of temporal gratification. It’s a much better, a more satisfying, and, ultimately, a more fulfilling way to live.

Guidance never leads you to a spiritual level beneath that which you have already risen to. It always leads you toward the light, and away from the darkness. It is never followed by regret, or recrimination. One way to differentiate between ‘being guided’ and ‘being seduced’ is to understand that guidance never comes with a carrot. It presents itself, internally, and often confirmed by circumstances, as simply the right thing to do.
The reward comes in the satisfaction of being in the slipstream.

I don’t know what ever happened to those tapes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Complicated Tree

I watched a man (Ric) climb a tree the other day. It was my tree, and it was an old Oak (he said ‘maybe a hundred and fifty years old’). It was well over one hundred feet high, and leaning precariously towards my house. It was a complicated tree in that it was intertwined with some other trees nearby; one of its limbs was even growing through the trunk of a Douglas fir (Conifer). It had to come down. Either that or I was going to wake up dead one night with my house crumbled down around me like so many worthless matchsticks.

Ric had been up in the branches for over thirty years, so he knew what he was doing. He was an artist, and a magician. It was a pleasure watching him work. Still, it made me very nervous. He had to dismantle the tree little by little from the top down. Too dangerous, and too messy to fell it from the base. Probably would have taken three or four other trees down with it. He hoisted himself up about fifty feet in a bucket, and then climbed up and out onto the limbs from there, using ropes and a harness.

Intertwined with others that are not a good fit for them, or influence on them, I’ve watched people get torn down in much the same way, falling apart limb by limb from the top down, ending up on the ground, wondering what happened. Some people are called to a higher standard, and do not exist well in the stupidity of the crowd. They sacrifice their own beauty, and wellbeing, to grow among the clutter.
Oak trees need space, room to spread out. This one was growing amid a small grove of tall, straight Conifers, crowding its growth. Having to reach straight up for the sunlight, rather than being able to spread its branches, it became top heavy, and began to lean in a direction uncharacteristic of its nature.

Although a skillful climber cut the branches, and ultimately felled the tree, you could say that this Oak was really brought down by being made to conform to the narrow, one-dimensional, growth-patterns of a crowd of less formidable trees.

I will miss that old Oak tree, just as I have missed the company of some who have fallen under the influence, and idiocy, of the status quo.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There's A Slow Train Comin'

I was driving through the mountains the other day just going from here to there.
I put the Bob Dylan CD “Slow Train Comin” in the dash and sat back to enjoy the ride. Dylan is an artist who always takes me back to my roots, to beginnings, to my less than subtle introduction to some of the most amazing music ever performed, or recorded. It got me to remembering so many of the major musical artists I had the good fortune to have seen and heard live, in their prime, and in the full scope of their influence; artists who have not only changed the course of music, but who have melded their own style, and their own thinking into the stream of our continuing consciousness.

One of the most powerful shows I have ever witnessed was the trio Cream at the height of their brief, but profound affiliation. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. Musical Gods joining forces to will the world into existence. They nailed my head to the roof and pummeled me into a willing submission.

I attended the Who’s first American performance of ‘Tommy’, the seminal rock opera.
Pete Townsend, John Entwhistle, Keith Moon, and Roger Daltry. A stunningly emotional, and profound performance, accompanied by all the wild-man theatrics they have become so well known for. The Who would not be denied their place in the pantheon of rock royalty.

I saw Pink Floyd perform the rock opera “The Wall” in its entirety while, over the course of the night, an actual wall was being constructed from each side of the enormous stage, eventually meeting at center stage to completely obscure the band from view as the final notes of the performance wafted out over the wall, settling disturbingly over a captivated and, to say the least, stunned audience.

I absorbed Jimi Hendrix, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience on many occasions prior to the world getting clued in to his transcendent talent, prior to Monterey Pop even, and his explosion onto the international stage. “Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” There was never a more indulgent performer, and never a greater artist at combining raw sexuality with dripping and blistering chops.

I saw Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company more times than I can remember. She pierced my soul like a double-edged sword, one side slicing deep to the core, and the other celebrating the incision. Janis didn’t just tug on the heartstrings, she grasped them tightly with both hands, and ripped my heart out of my chest with a violent tenderness never, ever, ever felt before.

Led Zepplin cranked the decibels to levels never known. They reached a vocal range I didn’t know existed, and a musical transcendence equaled, or surpassed, only by Pink Floyd. Phenomenal is the only word worthy of their performance. I could only stare.

I saw the Rolling Stones in their ‘Gimme Shelter’ days when they were at their baddest, when they were at their most narcissistic, when they were at their absolute best. The Rolling Stones at Altamont, perhaps the beginning of the end of the innocence.

I saw Little Richard. He started it all. Mick Jagger knew that. I saw him pounding his piano like a preacher making love to his congregation. Prancing, preening, shouting, screaming, the gospel of the rock, and of the roll. If Rock and Roll was Jesus, then Little Richard was John the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord.

I saw James Brown gettin’ down with dignity. And with lots of sweat.
“I feel good”. The feeling doesn’t get any gooder.

I saw several Buffalo Springfield concerts, from whence Neil Young and Stephen Stills came, and then Neal as a solo artist. I saw the Byrds, originators along with the Springfield, whose members went on to form Crosby, Stills and Nash, later adding Neil Young to become CSNY. I saw all those guys. They enabled bands like the Eagles to eventually emerge. Singers, songwriters, musicians with something to say. I loved those bands, rooted, every one of them, in the inimitable Mr. Dylan.

I saw the original Animals with Eric Burden on vocals, later to become Eric Burden and the Animals. “Bring It On Home To Me”, “House of the Rising Sun”, “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”, and a host of other blues-based gems that shook our insides like jelly. They were the first band I ever saw live in concert. They opened for Leslie Gore. Leslie Gore. Are you kidding me? Everybody was there for Leslie Gore. I was just a kid, but I was there for The Animals. I understood the Animals.

I found Albert King as a young man. Purity of blues, not as visible as B.B King, but sweeter than honey, and pure as an underground mountain spring. “I’m gonna call up China, and see if my baby’s over there.” He led me to the blues.

Creedence Clearwater Revival with the original southern swamp rock attitude. Their shows were just flat out guttural. As pared down as rock can get. As straight forward as a shotgun brought to an argument.

The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish. The roots of the San Francisco sound. I saw them all many times in their formative days, in the days when music was emerging in the City like weeds in the spring, or flowers in the hair of all the teenage runaways.

Canned Heat (On the Road Again), the greatest boogie band in the world.
Steppenwolf with John Kay (Born to be Wild), Arthur Lee and Love (My Little Red Book), Sky Saxon and The Seeds (Pushin’ Too Hard). The three greatest garage bands ever. The originators of grunge, the bands that made Nirvana (and everything that followed) possible. I saw them way back then. They were intense. And they were originals, all of them. Jimi Hendrix called Arthur Lee his ‘single greatest influence’.

I didn’t get to see Van Morrison until later in life, but he did not disappoint. Van the man can imitate himself better than anybody can.

I never saw the Beatles live, but I never wanted to either. They were a teenie-bop band in their early American tour days. And later on they were not really a live band any more.
I’ve seen a thousand other shows, but those I’ve listed are some of the most memorable.

I mention all these other bands to say this, that as many great shows, and as many profound artists as I have seen over the years, and particularly in the early days, there’s one concert that stands out far and above all the rest. Far and above all the rest. No comparison, no question. Bob Dylan, 1979 at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. The live performance of his new album ‘Slow Train Comin’. I relived the experience the other day driving through the mountains.

The thing that made this concert different from any other I’d ever attended was the degree of passion. Other performances I’d seen had been passionate, but this one had the additional element of the performer actually believing, and believing in (perhaps for the first time) what he was singing. Other performers I’d seen over the years may have felt what they were singing, they may even have felt very strongly about what they were singing, and very deeply, but they did not necessarily believe, or believe in, what they were communicating. Good songs, heartfelt words, clever words, passionate intent, dynamic delivery, but missing was the personal imperative of inner truth that registered deep within their soul and psyche. It was not missing in Dylan’s performance at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco back in 1979.

And it is not missing on the album “Slow Train Coming”. It is, in my view, the album that Bob Dylan may have been put on this earth to make. It is honest, it is inspired, it is prophetic, and it is, perhaps, the most important album ever recorded.

Dig your old album out of storage, or if you don’t have one email me and I’ll burn you a copy of my CD. I don’t think Bob would mind one bit.
I might even send him a copy in case he needs to listen to it once again.

But be aware, listening to this work comes with a warning;
“It could reduce you to tears”.
Listen to ‘Precious Angel’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘When He Returns’.
‘Slow Train Comin’, Change My Way of Thinking’, ‘When You Gonna Wake Up’,
‘Gotta Serve Somebody’.
Cuttin’ through all the nonsense, and relativity, and straight to the truth, to the heart of the matter.

There’s A Slow Train Comin’, my friend.
It’s comin’ round the bend.