Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shame On Me

You probably thought I was never going to post again. I, too, was beginning to wonder. The thing is, I haven't wanted to write. I've been aware that I could. I've had plenty of ideas. I just haven't wanted to. I've been stubborn, as if daring The Muses to walk away in resignation. My reluctance has had me curious. Why the resistance? It's because I deplore being a slave to anything. Not that writing is slavery exactly. Still, I was beginning to feel that I was writing simply because I felt I had to and not because I wanted to. While there is some sense of innate imperative to what I do, my personality is such that I also have to want to do it.

Sadly, my artwork has been suffering much the same sort of demise. It's pretty much the same mental struggle I go through over wanting a clean house and actually doing the housework. Well, almost... but not quite.

And then I heard myself giving someone else hell for not using their abilities, for shrouding their amazing talent. Yeah, I'm a real piece of work.

Who am I to deny The Muses? Who am I to say, "Gee, thanks for the creativity and talent, but I'd rather not today." I mean, I've got all the toys I ever asked for and now I don't want to play?! Christ in a sidecar, but I can be insufferable sometimes.

I've been taking it all for granted when in fact, there is nothing that can't disappear at a moment's notice. Shame on me. I apologize.

We do ourselves and others a grave disservice when we deny whatever it is in us that sparks the fire. We rob the world of our essential selves, our own unique greatness when we refuse to do what we were born to do.

Shame. Shame, shame, shame.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Word Search

I'm back in the saddle with the Writer's Challenge II. I took a month or so off for various reasons, but I decided it was time to jump back in again. Yippee!

The folks at are always welcome to new people joining the fun. You can sign up to do it just once, or you can keep coming back week after week - no pressure, no huge commitment. If you feel like giving it a whirl, click the link here. Pairings are randomly generated, but you never know, you just might be responsible for giving me my next prompt!

This week my prompt comes from Jules, who writes here. The prompt is, "There just weren't any words..."


When I first read the prompt I felt my shoulders slump forward and heard myself emit a sigh that would make Napoleon Dynamite envious. Why? Because my first thought was, "Here comes another one of my posts about death." In truth, that would be a very easy post to write. I've been through way too many of those situations where someone I love has died and I end up without words to express my feelings.

But I'm not going there again. Not this time. I'm breaking the cycle. The dead can just leave me alone today, thankyouverymuch.

Okay, so maybe that's not entirely true, because I am going to talk about death. My death. My death lasted for over two years, from the time I was 33 until I was in the middle of 35. I almost didn't make it out alive. Because when you're not really living, alive seems like a very easy thing to shut off. In fact, it almost seems like the best possible solution.

Yeah, it was that bad.

It was that bad because there just weren't any words. I had stopped writing. Well, I don't know that I stopped so much as I couldn't. It wasn't there... at all. It wasn't that I had writer's block. To me, writers block is when you have at least some small idea or inspiration, but you can't get the thing to bloom properly. This was... this was death. Emptiness. Barrenness. As hellishly cold and uninhabitable as an ice field in Antarctica.

Something inside me had died, and it was killing me.

In retrospect, it's easy to see how and why it happened. One of my dearest friends had died of breast cancer and I never properly grieved the whole experience. I was stuck in a tepid attempt at a marriage and driving myself crazy trying to make him happy because I felt like a miserable failure for not making either of us happy. I was stuck in a job that was interesting enough, but where I couldn't really relate to the people around me (I was working in the theology department at a university... enough said). I felt like I was letting everyone down.

So, somewhere along the way I stopped writing because I felt that I didn't deserve to write. Writing made me feel good and feeling good was not something I had earned. Because I wasn't writing, I pushed my emotions and feelings and thoughts so far down that they became inaccessible even to me. It wasn't just numbness, it was deadness, as if I had severed some vital creative nerve. And for me, that nerve is so very vital.

And then a friend saved me from myself.

We were having a conversation about stuff, life in general, and I worked up the courage to say to him, "I feel dead inside. Lifeless. The wind blows through me and leaves nothing but dust." He asked me when was the last time I'd felt alive. I answered, "The only time I feel alive is when I dream that I can fly." He told me to hang on to that feeling next time I dreamed it. As The Universe would have it, I had a flying dream the very next night. I woke up, feeling that same old grayness start to seep in, but with trembling, unsure fingers, grabbed on to the remnants of the dream and held tight.

It was a spark, a tiny little spark. But it was enough to light a fire. I let it burn all day. When I went home that night, I lit candles and turned off the lights, got a blank notebook and a pen, and the following came gushing out...


I don’t care
about the women
you’ve taken to your bed –
don’t care to know
if they were
blond, brunette, or redhead,
if this one
came on like a whore,
and that one a shy little girl,
if their skin
felt like dandelion fluff
or leather,
used whips
or whipped cream,
left you limp,
gobbled you whole,
screamed your name,
or prayed for mercy.
Don’t want to be
compared to,
or an amalgamation of
all the names you’ve
slept with.
Won’t be your
first girlfriend,
or mother.
What I do want –
to throw you down,
go down,
take you down,
turn you inside out,
make you forget.
I don’t dare say,
want to be god to you,
hold you to my breast
until you lose
what makes you a man,
helpless in my arms,
content to be breathing.
Want to unleash
every screaming rage,
bottomless sorrow,
overwhelming joy,
and take the same from you –
walk all over you `til you beg my name,
treat you with such tenderness
you weep my name,
touch every aching part of you –
make you laugh, make you cry,
make you know.

What I want most?
(and this stops me cold)
I want you
to need all of it
from me.


I'm happy to say that the flood of words hasn't stopped since. In fact, it's only gotten stronger. Even though the desire to write can sometimes ebb a little more than I'd like, even though ideas sometimes lie around half-baked and inedible, the words are still there. Always. They keep me alive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Loving the Alienated

I once made the mistake of asking, "Why do you love me anyway?" He leveled me with a look and responded with a question, "Am I going to have to spank you?" And I knew he wasn't talking about any kind of fun spanking. He was irritated by the question. Annoyed that I would doubt his judgment, thereby doubting his love altogether. "Well..." I said, trying to buy time and possibly a way out of the hole I'd dug myself. "I'm just curious. I mean... I..." He rolled his eyes and said, "I love you because you like to hug me. There. Happy?" I dropped it.

But I was serious when I asked the question - not in a whiny, clingy, needy-woman way. I simply couldn't understand what it was about me that made him feel about me the way I feel about him. Because I'm a dork, that's why.

The thing is, I'm a dork like everyone else in the universe. This is not one of those Subject to Barb Only novelty ideas. We all harbor this... this ridiculous notion that we are, for so many reasons, unlovable by anyone who has a choice in the matter.

Yesterday Jessica and I got into a conversation (which I hope she won't mind me sharing some of here). We were talking about how we so clearly see our own faults. I said, "I wish I could hold up a mirror for you that shows you what a fantastic human being you are. Seriously... would I love you like I do if you weren't such an amazing person? Not bloody likely." The conversation went on and she revealed what I've heard from so many people, myself included, "I've just lived most of my life seeing everything that's wrong with myself, and thinking it far outweighs any good in me." At this point I assured her that part of why I love her is for her dark, twisty bits. I said, "Those of us who love you, love all of you."

Then I struck myself with a bit of profound wisdom that came shooting out my fingertips as I added, "Isn't it interesting that we love others unconditionally, yet we put so many conditions on ourselves."

Yes. Isn't that interesting.

A few years ago I heard lyrics to a song that struck me so hard it was as if someone had nailed me with a rock right between the eyes. The song is called Open Hearts and Doors by a (regrettably little known) group that goes by the name of Antigone Rising:

Once I was the big mistake
That one was hard to take
Draws its first breath with hesitation

Such truth. You know the unfailingly astute, ubiquitous They will tell you that the most difficult person to love is the one who needs it most. Wouldn't that be our selves? Imagine the peace we'd have within if we'd cut ourselves the same slack that we give others, if we'd shrug off our mistakes and say, "Hey. So you're human, so what. I love you."

We see evidence of others blooming when they're well loved. Why are we so illogical to think that doesn't apply to how we feel about ourselves?

If we could learn to like ourselves, even a little, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away.
~John Steinbeck

I'll take you one step further, Mr. Steinbeck, and wager that we'd also find ourselves in damned good company.


Unfortunately, I can't find Open Hearts and Doors anywhere, but this is a lovely new tune off of Antigone Rising's new album, 23 Red. Give it a listen - this group needs a lot more airplay and attention than they get!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lost and Found

You know how they, the annoyingly ubiquitous they, are always saying, "If you're trying to find something that's lost, stop looking."

Lately I've been searching desperately for my inspiration, particularly when it comes to writing. I had misplaced it somewhere and couldn't figure out where I'd left it. So, I've been digging everywhere. And coming up short. I know, you're going to say that you can't tell from my recent posts (except that maybe there's a waning in productivity). Trust me. It's been a bit of a trial for someone who is usually so overwhelmed with ideas that I have to tell my Muses to just shut up for a minute so I can concentrate.

The trouble is that sometimes I'm a lot like Dorothy when it comes to creative inspiration. I go looking for that other shiny dimension, the one fraught with oddities and interesting inhabitants. I forget the simplicity of sitting still on a bale of hay and appreciating my own back yard for the beauty that it possesses. More's the pity, because once I'm in that frame of mind, it all opens up. I can't look at a single dewy spider web without appreciating the movement and diligence of the spider or its colorful markings, or marvel at the frustrated boogie of the fly as it tries to escape.

When I stopped paying attention to my own back yard, I lost my inspiration. I lost my ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

So, I gave up. I quit looking, quit trying. I decided that I wasn't going to search for inspiration any more.

Of course, that's when I found it. They are nearly always right, are they not? Rat Bastards.

I woke at 4:30 this morning (why is irrelevant, waking is good). I was just in time to see the sky begin to lighten behind the mountain. The stars were still out against a deep blue velvet sky. Slowly the sun pushed its way into the morning, first rimming the mountain in golden fire, then casting a brilliant pink glow on the feathery clouds as it outshone the stars and turned the sky the color of faded denim. The trees, wearing the low fog like swirling skirts, stood out as black silhouettes against that backdrop.

I could say it was gorgeous, but the word would fail to capture the entirety of the view. I could say it was a knock out, but that would make it sound like a cheap show. But I will say that it was breathtaking, and this is true.

Fully awake after that show and a couple cups of coffee, I had to make a run to the store. A couple of blocks from my house, I had to stop so a doe and her fawn could cross the road. They slowly made their way across, right in front of me. I spoke quietly and said, "Take your time. You're beautiful." Once to the grass on the other side, the doe turned to look at me. Through tears, I smiled and said, "Thank you."

Then I realized what was happening. I'd quit looking and found what I was looking for.

The same thing happened when I met Steve. I'd quit looking and found who I was looking for. Or he found me. Or we found each other. Regardless, the rightness of it came as naturally as watching a sunrise.

People often ask me how I found my seeming inner contentment. And I am fairly content. I found it when I stopped looking at everything that I felt was wrong with me, and everything that I felt I needed to fix (and fix now, because there's no such thing as patience when it comes to self-improvement, is there?!). I found it when I stopped looking at myself so harshly, when I stopped searching for perfection that wasn't ever going to be there. I found it when I noticed the good in me, when I got excited about the things I was doing right. I found it as naturally and suddenly and as surprisingly simple as coming upon a doe and her fawn crossing the road in front of me.

I only needed to slow down on the path and pay attention.

'Cause it's the journey, right? The journey and not the getting there.

Of course, right.

Monday, August 15, 2011


“I thought you were the glass half full kind of guy…?”
“There’s a glass?”

I woke up at some uninhabited hour. I know this because it was deep dark and the world was quiet. I was parched. Evidently I’m a mouth-breather by night. I shambled into the bathroom and turned on the tap. As Murphy would have it, I’d forgotten to bring the cup back upstairs after washing it. So I did what mankind has done instinctively since the necessity for water was discovered. I cupped my hands under the flow, captured a good half cup full, and drank.

I stumbled back to bed thinking, “Screw the glass, who needs it anyway?” Of course, it was enough to get my brain gears tacking along. I wondered when it was we began to measure life (and all its little details) in a half full or half empty increment. Optimists will proclaim, “The glass is half full! And there‘s room for more!” Pessimists will dourly complain, “It’s half empty! We‘re running out!”

By now, fully awake, I thought about the movie Steve and I had watched the other night -a beautifully made film called, The Way Back. The movie is about a group of escapees who, after running from a Siberian prison camp in WWII, trek on foot into Tibet and then India. In one scene they barely made it across the Gobi desert when they stumbled upon the remnants of a puddle. Without second thought, they fell to their knees and began slurping up the muddy water.

They didn’t give a second thought to how much was there or where they’d find more. They only knew that for the moment, their needs were met. It was enough. Alive was enough.

Does it really matter who’s right? Does the whole half-full vs. half-empty argument hold any weight when we have what we need; when either way the equation ends up equaling life; when in truth, we really don’t even need the glass? The glass is simply a tool, invented somewhere along the way, no doubt, because some caveguy got tired of his cavewife bitching at him for slopping on his loin cloth. So, if we get rid of the glass altogether we lose the necessity to justify it as either half full or half empty. Because what we’re left with is water. What we’re left with is that regardless, we’re alive. What we’re left with is life.

Of course, I’m aware that the whole argument is a metaphor for attitude. And of course I’m aware of how important an optimistic attitude is. What I’m getting at is that there’s no need to push either attitude into or out of existence if we realize that what we have in front of us is enough. What we have will get us to the next step.

Would a dying man in the desert look at a half glass of water and say, “Is that all?” or perhaps, “Surely there’s more!” No. The man drinks it. The man walks on. The man is grateful for alive and the glass itself is an afterthought.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mood du Jour

It's another rerun Friday. You can thank the fact that my motivation seems to have gotten lost with a sock in the spin cycle (thank you my facebook friends for the help with that little snippet of metaphorical prattle). Why, I barely had the motivation to go searching through old posts, much less all the harrowing physical anguish of cutting and pasting. Blogging is no place for sissies.

Anyway, today you get to read (or maybe reread) one of my fun (and a little bit funny) favorites. It's from last year when I was doing the 30 Days of Truth gig. Day Twelve was an assignment to write about something that I never get compliments on. I had a blast writing this one... actually, it had more to do with listening to the voices in my head (along with their maniacal laughter) than actively writing. I merely transcribed.


Day Twelve - Something you never get compliments on.

Hah! Um. Sorry, but the topic is just making me laugh. So, okay. I'm ready for a good laugh... especially after 11 days of soul spelunking in this friggin' emotional 30 Day Roller Coaster Ride. Christ in a sidecar... enough already!

This reminds me of an incident a couple of decades ago. While my Mom was visiting me in Maryland she went out for a walk. Upon her return, she looked a little shook up. Concerned, I asked, "How was your walk, Mom?" "Oh... well... it was okay." "Really? You look a little upset..." "Well, as I was walking, a woman approached me from the opposite direction. I smiled at her like I do with everyone when I'm out. She got within a couple of feet of me and gave me a nasty look. Then she said, 'You've got skinny arms, lady! Skinny, ugly arms!' I just... I'm... I didn't think my arms were so bad..."

Oh! And another time. Someone once told me that I reminded him "of his cousin who died. In a good way." I've never bothered to parse that one out.

Something I never get compliments on. Too easy. I thought this was supposed to be a challenge. How about twelve somethings? One for each day of Day Twelve. Why not?! The Twelve Days of Somethings. Woo. That'll be quite enough caffeine for you, Barbara Ann!

Twelve Somethings I Never Get Compliments On
How To Be As Sarcastic As Barb In 12 Easy Lessons:

1) My ass. I mean. C'mon. Like Rudolph's red nose, it's going to take an extreme circumstance. Songs will be written, movies will be made.

2) My moments of indecision. Can't someone just once say, "I love it when you can't make up your fuckin' mind! Do it again!"

3) I never hear, "Damn, woman! That is one righteous chin hair!" No. Instead you've got to absentmindedly do this niggly wiggly thing at your own chin while staring at mine. Okay. So I'm not a consistent plucker. Truth is, those little pluckees are sneaky.

4) "I know you don't get these mood swings often, but when you do, it is awesome to see! Watching you go from happy to pissed in 5 seconds flat is just cool!"

5) "You're an atheist? How absolutely admirable! You go, Girl!!!"

6) "Thank you for making me feel guilty. I'm so pleased you did that."

7) "Sweetheart, I love that you're such a somnambulantly amped monkey. I adore you all the time, but particularly when you manage to toss all the covers off of me during your middle of the night frenzies. Really, My Love, there is nothing that endears you to me more than when I wake up freezing my ass off."

8) This is not going to happen. Ever. "I love how artfully you've arranged all the dust in your house! It so finely coats everything. Just beautiful."

9) "Clearly menopause has done wonderful things for you, Barb. Bravo!"

10) "I love, love, LOVE your snoring! It completely drowns out the incessant, obnoxious noise of the leaves rustling on the breeze. And jets."

11) "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's watch a musical together! There's nothing so heartwarming and lovely as you singing along to... every... single... song."

12) "That's not part of a Hobbit costume for Halloween? Those really are your feet?! How cool is that?! Damn. I'm jealous."

If by chance this leaves you wanting to read other entries for the 30 Days of Truth challenge, feel free to dig them up over there on the sidebar under archives. They were all posted in October of last year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gathering Hoards

Hi, my name is Barb, and I'm a hoarder. Oh, not like you think. I don't have stacks of old newspapers hanging around, or an obsession with clothing I never wear, or kitchen gadgets that don't get used. In fact, with the exception of cast off socks (his, not mine) you can pretty much walk through the entire house unhindered. No, my collection is a mental hoard. I accumulate pet peeves.

Well, I accumulate them for a while, until what's bugging me bothers me less than the fact that I'm bugged at all. Generally speaking, I'm not one of those people who gets enjoyment out of griping about useless shit. So, on a regular basis I cull through my peeve hoard and toss a bunch of them out. Why not toss all of them, you ask. Because a few of them are valid. A few of them keep the fire of dissatisfaction lit under my abnormally content demeanor.

Which ones? Fine. Here's a list of my keepers.
  • People who say "I love (my children, spouse, friend, etc.)" and then qualify it with the word "but." Love is to be unconditional. Unconditional love has no room for the word "but." If you have issue with the person you love, then it's necessary to discuss it and reconcile it, even if the discussion and reconciliation is only within yourself. Regardless, you're driving me nuts. So, please stop saying, "I love _______, but...."
  • Leafblowers. Sadly, there is no way around this one. The only remedy is a universal ban on the wretched, noise-making fuckers. Yesterday I sat through two hours of the noise while some dude blew pine needles off of the parking lot at the school next door. Really. Pine needles on a parking lot. Who gives a shit?!
  • Having the first sheet of toilet paper glued down so that you literally have to rip the thing apart and take a couple of turns around the roll before you get to a clean edge. No, it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's maddening. The fact that it happens, more often than not, at 3 a.m. when I'm barely awake and my hands are still numb from sleeping on them doesn't help matters any.
  • Rudeness... lack of common courtesy. It's just sad that common courtesy seems to have become an exception worthy of surprise. Is it really so hard to show some basic thoughtfulness? Do something nice for someone else. Say thank you when someone does something nice for you. Teach children that this is normal behavior.
  • Why has a second shift trash pick-up never been instituted? Who decided that trash pick-ups should be between the hours of 4-7 a.m.? Why not 6-9 p.m.? Seriously!
  • Clearly I don't like noisy stuff. So while were on the subject, how about we yank commercials that come on at 5 times the volume of the program we're watching. They still have to pay their sponsor fees, they just don't get the air time. That'll teach 'em. Since we're talking about commercials, let's just roll this peeve in with the other (you see how easy it is to amass them?), not every product needs a jingle, in fact, most products don't need a jingle. And quit stealing all my favorite classic rock n' roll tunes, ya skeevy rat bastards! Enough said.
  • Companies that over charge for shipping, just who do you think you are?! Thanks to the great promotional material put out by the USPS, we all know about those nifty flat rate boxes. You're not fooling anyone. Mostly you're pissing of some of us who land a little more on the astute side of things, thus losing sales. Sure, I'm in business too. I know it takes a bit of manpower to package things up and you have to compensate for that, but (for example) charging $10.00 to ship a $3.00 piece of rubber is silly.
  • Y'know what really curdles my cheese? People who don't or won't listen. There are so many sub-categories to that one that I could blog about that subject, and nothing else, for a year. What is the deal anyway? Are you simply afraid that you don't know everything? Or that someone else is going to know something you don't (thereby swiping the Nobel Peace Prize you feel you deserve)? Give it a rest already. Shut up and listen.

These are just a few of the things that rankle me. There are more of them, but they're currently stuffed under the sofa pillows.

You can lead a hoard to water, but you can't make it sink.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Ghost Story

Through the darkness on the heavily wooded path, the travelers can see the remnants of a once good-sized bonfire burning low. On the far side of the fire sits a woman wrapped in an old Indian blanket. “Hey… over here,” she beckons. “Come warm yourselves. Pull up a log and sit a spell.” So they do, casting off their heavy packs with relief.

She hands them each tin cups filled with dark, steaming coffee, merely nodding as they thank her. Settling back with her own cup, she muses aloud, “A wise man once told me that a campfire is useless unless there’s a story told by it. As the universe would have it, I am in possession of a story. A true story if you believe dreams have any power.” She pauses for effect. “And if you believe the dead still have something to say.”


At first I didn‘t realize it was a dream. I was back in the old Kirkland house and my late mate, John was in the bedroom dying, just as he did in waking life a little over four years ago. I felt all the old dread and sorrow so clearly. I went into the living room where my friend Jessica was reading and told her it was time, that he wasn’t going to linger much longer. She followed me into the bedroom where he lay. Jessica went to one side of the bed, perched on the edge, and took his hand, I did the same on the other side. We sat there, silently, listening to his labored breathing as it slowed, slowed, slowed. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at me. His voice was a rusty whisper, but I heard him clearly. “Alchemy,” he said. “Make it golden.” I heard Jessica gasp, but I couldn’t tell if it was with wonder, surprise, sorrow, or what. I didn’t look at her to see which. My eyes were riveted on John as he took one last breath and then died. Again. I felt my heart once more shatter into a billion tiny shards. I began to sob as Jessica rushed to where I was sitting, held me and rocked me. “Why did he do this to me again?! Why? I could barely take it the first time.” “He needed you to hear that,” Jessica said calmly, although through tears of her own. “He needed you to hear.” And she kissed the top of my head the way one kisses a forlorn child.

I left the dream at that point. It was too painful. My chest felt heavy and I could barely breathe. The oppressive familiarity of those feelings were enough to give me the lucidity I needed to, although still soundly asleep, leave the dream. And fall right into the next.

I was in a very well appointed kitchen cooking with Laurence Fishburne. Yes, the Laurence Fishburne, he of Animatrix and CSI and what have you. We were cooking together. I was making chicken paprikas and potato dumplings, Laurence was making dinner rolls. The air was redolent with the scent of good food. We finished cooking dinner and served it up, taking our places at a small table at the side of the kitchen since it was just the two of us. “This is nice,” I said. “We work well together.” “That we do,” Laurence responded with one of those hooded-eye, enigmatic traces of a smile he’s so well known for. There was silence for a few moments as we ate. I groaned as one does when does when eating a particularly good meal. It’s almost an involuntary reflex, is it not? Laurence gave me one of those famous Fishburne smiles again, raised a gravy soaked dinner roll in my direction and said, “Alchemy. Make it gold.” I was startled. “What made you say that?” I asked. “I just had a dream that my mate who died said those exact words to me right before his last breath." “Huh,” Laurence replied, head cocked as he pondered my reaction. “Seems that I heard those words from a dying man myself. I don’t know what made me say that.” I left him there in the kitchen. I had to go upstairs and get ready. I had no idea what I was preparing for. That part of the dream was yet to be revealed. I only knew that it was to be a somewhat formal occasion.

I stood on stage, microphone and podium in front of me. I was wearing a simple light blue dress, adorned with a silver and sapphire necklace and matching earrings. I held a book in my hand. I recognized the artwork on the cover as my own. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I was the author. I quickly thumbed through the pages, trying not to look too stupidly lost in front of my audience. It was a book of my artwork and poetry. I blushed, feeling a little undeserving and completely put on the spot. I looked up from the book and out at the audience. I recognized many faces - all of them people who’ve passed on from this life, from my life. They sat, attentive, a copy of my book in one hand, and a cocktail in the other. I opened the book and quickly selected a poem, immediately realizing that I didn’t at all remember writing it. I began to read:

Autumn presses her lips
to the breast of Summer.
I will feed from you
‘til you are no more,
then shepherd you in death
to a crystalline shore.
The old man waits
as surely as you burn.
There is a time for everything
and in everything we return.
In light and in shadow
beyond woodlands, beyond sea,
there is no golden promise,
only alchemy.

The audience stomped their feet in applause. I saw my long dead father rise from the third row, holding his glass high over his head. He grinned at me like the proudest proud papa ever, and shouted, “To Alchemy. Make it golden!” The rest of the dead rose from their seats, all holding their glasses aloft, and echoed, “Alchemy. Make it golden!”


The woman stirs the embers of the fire and throws another log on top of them. The log crackles as it settles and begins to burn. Aside from that and the wind rustling through the trees, there is no other sound. Everyone gathered around the fire is preoccupied, each with his or her own thoughts, and is mesmerized by the flickering campfire.

After many minutes the woman finally breaks the silence. “I wasn’t going to tell anyone. It was almost too big for me to absorb, much less share. But I believe it was meant to be shared. I believe the dead leave behind a bit of their soul energy, but only a little bit. So when they choose to expend it, it’s best to pay attention.”

She invites the hikers to roll out their gear and stay the night. They accept. None of them are ready to jump up and wander off just yet. As they drift off, they in their sleeping bags, she in her bedroll of blankets, like spokes around the hub of the dwindling fire, the wind whispers. “Alchemy,” it says in the hushed voice of a mother soothing a baby to sleep. “Make it golden,” the trees respond in the whisper of a father who loves his family.

Monday, August 8, 2011


It's been said that when L. Frank Baum was first telling the story of Dorothy and her special shoes, he was momentarily stumped when it came to naming the magical land. His eyes fell upon a filing cabinet across the room. The top drawer was marked "A-N" and the lower drawer was marked, you guessed it, "O-Z." I don't know how much efficacy there is to this story, but I've always liked it.

When Lewis Carroll penned "Jabberwocky," he wanted to prove that a writer could evoke emotion using nonsense words. In my opinion he did.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
One can't read that stanza without feeling something from it. For me it always brings up a feeling of something mystical and full of magic, but with a dark side just waiting to spring on the unsuspecting... a feeling of going for a walk on a beautiful, sunny summer day and stepping into something dead and rotting, but fascinating nevertheless.

Ever heard of the Voynich Manuscript? Anyone? Beuller? I've been aware of it for a number of years, but found a new fascination with it recently, sparked perhaps by the art journals of various friends. Anyway, the Voynich Manuscript is a handwritten book thought to have been written in the early 15th century and consists of about 240 vellum pages, filled with various illustrations and writing in an unknown language/text. No one knows who wrote it. No one knows exactly where it came from. Confounding scholars and codebreakers throughout the centuries, no one has ever been able to decipher it, much less interpret it.
I'm fascinated by it. As a writer and an artist, I can't help but be fascinated by it. Plus, I love a good mystery. And I love things that make people who think they know everything realize that they don't really know everything.

I'd like to think that the Voynich Manuscript is maybe the ramblings of some moderately insane, but ultimately brilliant soul who simply wanted to get the gunk out. I'd like to think that for some it was the art journal of it's day. To me, it's beautiful and should be taken just as it is - that the feel of it be interpreted rather than the meaning. In short, I believe that it is art and should be understood only to the extent that any art can be understood.

All that being said, I got myself in mild trouble today for questioning the syntax on someone's facebook post. Okay, truth be told, I did that on several posts. I can't help it. It's who I am. But I did stop myself for a moment and wonder if perhaps I was rather unceremoniously squelching the creative and/or philosophical fire in others - which is never ever my intention. And I never do it along with the claim that I'm perfect in any way.

*heavy sigh*

Perhaps I need to stop deciphering and simply catch the intent.

If only I were able to do so.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Be Prepared

We always prepare ourselves for the worst. We brace ourselves for the bad that is surely coming our way. The motto seems to be "expect the worst, hope for the best."

I'm sure, back in the caveman days, some hirsute dude with an overly large forehead walked out of the cave, club in hand, and thought, "I'd really like to bring home some dino-chops for dinner and serve them up with a nice piquant berry reduction, but with my luck I'll be chomped to smithereens by a t-rex."

No doubt Moses looked out on his motley crew and thought, "There's no way these people will get it together and get it done. We're probably going to be stuck wandering the desert for a decade at least."

Looking for the worst is not a new concept to humanity. We're used to it, so it's no wonder that we're always peering under the dark edges of gloom and doom.


What if we prepared ourselves for the best? What if we braced ourselves for good things? What if we stood in the doorway as dawn lightened the horizon and hollered, "Bring it! Bring on the good!! I can take it."

I know... you're reading this and already thinking, "Yeah, right. Take your Pollyanna shit and stuff it in the shady side of your sunshiny panacea." I get it. Sardonic looks are not lost on me... I practically invented them.

So just think about it, okay? Set aside the We're-Screwed-Before-We-Even-Start attitude for a day or two. Give it a try.

I dare you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Size Matters

First of all, I'm the featured artist today at Indie Ink!

I apologize for my absence yesterday. It wasn't intentional. You can thank our glitchy monitor for that. We now have a new one that is so huge it makes me feel like I'm typing up a Reader's Digest article for old people. Which is to say, my eyes are completely comfortable and I can see what I'm doing. *Sigh* I am aging. No denying it.

Yesterday I was watching a show on TV when the football team showed up for practice in the field behind our house. They started counting off push-ups and doing their team spirit rah-rah crap. I strained to hear Guy Fieri's secret to his beef brisket marinade while glowering in the general direction of the football team. Then in a moment of brilliance, I turned up the volume.

I'm slow, but I can be taught.

So, I'm thinking... sometimes it's good to see things bigger, sometimes it's good to hear things louder. I'm not denying the necessity of a microcosmic view. I know that if I get too close to a Seurat painting, I'll lose the focus. I'm not unaware that Chopin's Nocturnes require a soft, finessed touch.

But there's also a time when we need our socks knocked off by something grand, when we need our teeth rattled by some booming tunes, when we need to be immersed in the thing we're seeing, or hearing, or doing to the exclusion of all else.

Jumping and becoming one with the sun and the wind makes kissing the ground that much sweeter. Spending the day gazing at a huge mountain range makes roasting a marshmallow by the fire that much more luxurious.

There's a saying, "Go big or go home."

I say, "Go big and go home."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bring Out Your Dead

The other day a friend applauded me for using the phrase "deus ex machina," which translates to "god from the machine." Don't ask why I used the phrase - the content of the conversation is irrelevant here. The point here is that he applauded my use of a high-fallutin' foreign phrase. It always surprises me when people react to such things, either to applaud me or to sneer at me for showing intelligence. Really it does. To me, stuff like that is just standard. I don't expect everyone to know everything I know any more than I expect to know everything everyone else knows. But I'm not going to not use what I know, y'know? Yes, please pass the aspirin - that kind of cramped my brain too.

Many thousands of years ago as I was approaching my freshman year of high school, I met with my assigned guidance counselor. We reviewed my grades, talked about possible careers (as if the average 13 year old - I started school when I was 4 - knows exactly what she wants to be), and discussed the course work that I should plan on taking. There was never any question but that I would be taking some sort of language course. I wanted to take Latin. My guidance counselor said, "Don't be foolish. It's a dead language. No one speaks it. Take a language you can use."

So, I chose a three year course in German and a semester of French. I also chose to study Latin on my own.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a polyglot. So shoot me.

What I really learned in the process, besides the basics of three languages, was that my advisor was full of shit. Latin was hardly dead. Latin is used in legal terms, medical terms, scientific terms and is the basis for many other languages. Knowing Latin as a base language opens up all other kinds of other knowledge doors. An understanding of Latin almost always gives me at least a shot at understanding English words that I'm not familiar with.

Anyway, I got thinking about all of that last week when my friend did his little joy-joy dance over Deus ex Machina. That little bit of Latin is actually a phrase I learned way back in my drama class days. It comes from the days of Greek theater when the authors of plays would introduce a god to explain overblown and/or intricate plots. Point is, I've known that phrase for probably 35 years. I simply haven't forgotten it the way I've forgotten, to paraphrase what Paul and Art so aptly sang, all the other crap I learned in high school.

I'd really like to go back and have a conversation with that idiotic counselor, who at this point, if he's still alive, is well into his geriatric years. I'd like to tell him that I've used my autodidactic Latin far more than I've used the German and French that put A's on my report cards. I'd like to tell him that his thinking was likely deader than any language out there. Mostly what I'd like to do is reprimand him for ever telling any child that what they really wanted to learn was useless or pointless. Shame on him for saying, "Don't bother learning it unless you can use it."

I'm a fortunate kind of stubborn. I took his advice and went with his suggestions, but said to myself, "Oh yeah? I'm going to learn it anyway." And so I did. My knowledge of so many things is greater and richer because of that attitude. However, I can't help but wonder how many other kids he discouraged from learning something that would have enhanced their knowledge base, or at the very least, simply brought them joy in learning.

Learn and the use becomes known.

Or if you prefer it in a not-so-dead-after-all language:
Disceres atque usum innotescit.