spare the dramatics and DANCE!

Wise and foolish alike reach birthdays and look back on life lived, both well and not so much, and into the pointless abyss of hopes left unrealized. I’m no exception, but what’s best to say now? A mosquito buzzes around seeking blood. Scotch slides down the throat and imbues with a gutteral, undeniable truth. I was once attached to my mother via the belly button, but I’m nobody’s baby now. { Cheers, Nick Cave. } My face, bearded and weathered after a decent thirty-seven years, is not quite the face of my great-great-grandfather, nor is it the face of some future grandchildren, but these eyes, man, they burn with fucking starfire! Getting old is of little concern when merged cheerfully with the magnificent cosmic frolic. For shit’s sake, spare the dramatics, it’s time to dance.

DANCE DANCE DANCE!

boxes full of mementos and trinkets

I have boxes full of mementos and trinkets. Correspondence from people I haven’t seen in years, testimonials of love between my wife and I, postcards from far away places. Meaningful, some, but lots rather trivial. Trifles and treasures all jammed together. Much is a veritable time capsule of noteworthy moments, echoes from outings with old friends. And here’s my learner’s permit— look at that proud, young face and the thick hair. Wow, 16 years young. Look at this, a garish bracelet of unknown origin. Chintzy, and such gaudy faux gold luster. This isn’t mine, how did it get here? How did any of this get here? Ticket stubs, too, so many of them. The Tragically Hip at the Fillmore, great show! Such a haphazard collection of remnants from the past. Is it me? It certainly is not NOT ME, not entirely. Still, even memory has become a reverberation of experiences once bursting with vigor.

The time comes, again, to seal the boxes and put them away, let them contentedly take up dust. The question still remains, what am I?

Much is left to come. How much of my life is hopes and plans for what lies ahead? There are wishes for mountain vistas with sun on my face, the great journey to reach such reflection points, the loving thought of my daughter and what she might achieve. All who I love and even those I’ll never know, a prayer for their peace and well-being. More immediate, right now, the desire to write something clear, honest, and resonantly shattering our ill-perceived separation. Something to build towards, perhaps.

Lofty goals aside, hunger grows in my belly— not a metaphorical hunger, but a “it’s nearly lunch time and I’m ready for a sandwich” kind of hunger! That brings me to cravings, their emptiness and misleading allure. All of these hopes, wishes, and the seemingly pointless cravings, where am I in the whole tangle? I tend to only crave what I’ve felt passion for, like freshly-baked brownies, scotch, and beautiful women! Each has had their place in my life, at times, but each quickly leads this fool astray.

What of my roles, career and other obligations? Nah, let’s skip that for now.

So what else? What of God and his plan? The Bible and other holy books have much to say. A grand, unified purpose for humankind. An ultimate arrival at peace for those in the know. That’s tempting, but my core yearns for an undeniable truth and, frankly, anything written and bound can be set aside and overwhelmed by the ordinary and extraordinary comings and goings of this life. Life happening shakes us in our boots! What of those unable or unwilling to move beyond the tremendous distractions or inescapable pain and suffering of this world? The worldly red dust has gotten rather thick despite repeated attempts to brush it away.

Here I am now, still not knowing much for sure. Yet, deeper into now and more thoroughly accepting THIS, what is here? What is undeniable? The tap-tap-tap on the keyboard, a warm home on a cold day. Gratitude. All my being coming together in pregnant thought, trying to clarify “what am I?” Thought alone will not get me there, that much I can see. Despite all that is and is not me, this oft insignificantly grumbling guy, being this and that on an ever-changing path of personhood, the picture remains incomplete.

Outside, winter still. Those last leaves barely twitching in the treetops on this calm, bright day.

Regarding me, not knowing for sure IS enough for now. Looking within and without, some of this self-bigger-than-any-knowable-me is subtly reflected in my surroundings, my relationships. Even in all that I can’t see or hear, like in the big old river down in the valley, there is something of me and all that is so much more than I will ever be. I trust in the river, in its movements and guiding voice not apart from my own. We’re intricately linked, the river and I. Such a grand, satisfying thought! Yet I am also bound to starving children, war, explosive diarrhea and other ugly things. The ugly bits are not what I’d like keep in boxes, but maybe I ought to. There is much to take on, starting here!

to relate

I’ve something to say. It’s about my life, all it is and all it is not. Lots of times I’m a mess of a human being, doing the bare minimum to scrape by. I’ve been lethargic. Other times I’m inspired to great works and huge swoops of focused activity—maybe there’ll be more of that soon. Often I don’t quite understand what I’m doing or clearly see where I’m headed. Much is cyclic. There’s been a lot of thinking about purpose and meaning and in the end, well, I don’t have definitive answers. Hopefully I’m far from the end. Hopefully this conundrum of a life continues allowing me to puzzle along for awhile longer, because it feels like something special. I’m grateful to be here.

Lately I think I’m here to relate. People talk of finding their place in the universe, but maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps there is no place that stays put long enough to be found or is detectable by the eyes of the individual. For what are we separate from everyone and everything else we exist in relation to? There is no Gregory without all the rest—no me apart from deep, freezing waters and trees losing leaves; scathing displays of hurt alongside tender shows of affection;  a Swedish vocalist finding a pipe organ in New York City; and without you, yes you, your triumphs and failures. I relate to all of it, be it apparent or obscured by a complex fabric of unrecognizable connections. Even when I try to ignore how everything affects my being in this very place, here I am relating to the entire tangle.

I’m here at least, and maybe at most, to be good to this part of the world in the best way that I can. Not just those I obviously love, because that’s pretty easy most of the time, but also to those who rub me the wrong way. The obstacles, they deserve care. I probably can’t fix much. My principles may never overwhelm anyone’s shortcomings or injustices, not even my own, but that’s okay.

Love, patience, and wholehearted openness could be enough. We’ll see. I’ll try growing with an outwards embrace and that may be the best I can do. Compassion is not easily contained and compartmentalized. It spills over barriers and smooths rough edges. Sharing love and careful attention with all that surrounds is worth something. Besides, it’s all I’ve got right now, so here it is. Maybe it’s that simple. Maybe I am just a part, not apart from all that is. I’ll try to show up and meet my life right where it is now. I want to be an active, willing participant in this great tangle.

Hello, how are you today? … Please take care.

wisdom plop

venerable ancients shat
as the riffraff of today—
plop by plop, but in full absorption,
fully endowed with stench-essence

truly remarkable an adept
of this time and place
to lay waste without
designs of producing
everlasting effervescence
of rose and lavender

what a shame to not know
our true, wondrous shittiness!

Ask Me, by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Some Miles Around Our Wild Sphere of Life

A mix of roads and trails at an easy pace brought constant reminders of our massive tangle of being. Starting out in the trails across from home I sped around a corner and up a short hill. Gazing off into the trees ahead and above I saw a splash of red so bright its presence seemed to be for contrast and to get my attention. The scarlet tanager perched comfortably amidst the budding green leaves looked down on the slow, funny biped without concern. I stopped and watched for a few moments and then ran off again, winding around the path beside the creek as a belted kingfisher darted away. Another thirty seconds of running and I’d be near the kingfisher again, it’s call letting me know its proximity, but then it’d take off and follow the creek’s serpentine route until out of sight. Out of sight, not out of mind as its song echoed exuberantly— hidden momentarily, but refusing to be silenced.

Leaving the trails I cruised comfortably along the sandy dirt farmer’s road. Fresh smells of manure reminded me of waste and decay. A comforting wind cooled the sweat that came with my effort and the day’s intense sun. A mile and a half later I was on pavement again. Cars zipped by with their drivers shielded from the elements, alone in their cocoons of steel and plastic on the way to another place, away from here.

On that same road a little farther along, I came to a female raccoon, bloated and tits up. Within another quarter of a mile I found a young buck in the ditch beside bits of a car’s shattered signal light. The deer’s neck so twisted the body position defied any lasting peace from death. Fortunately a crosswind carried the stench of death away.

Heading for home and passing another farmer’s field I saw several calves grazing beside their mothers in the warm sun. Across the road a boy ran and played while his father mowed the yard. In the space of eight and a half miles and in a little over an hour I moved through so very much!

On this run I burned with all the living around and within me, spurred on by spring in all its grandeur. At the same time death gave me a nudge, not letting me overlook the fragility of our existence. Fullness of life wound round and braided tightly with death’s stark reality. Whatever daydreaming I may have considered letting myself slip into during this run was driven away with every sight and sound. With such clarity and resonance I heard and keep hearing: WAKE UP, WAKE UP, LIVE YOUR LIFE! DON’T WASTE A BREATH!