At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005


I really enjoyed Halloween this year. I went out and bought bags and bags of candy. I had no idea how many children would visit, and I wanted to be prepared.

It was the perfect Halloween evening. A grey, damp, gloomy lights glowing in warm amber tones...children’s shrieks and laughter echoing in the dark. Perfect.

Children amaze and amuse me. All evening long, I answered the door with a huge bowl of candy. I told everyone: “Take as much as you want.”

The littlest ones were the most endearing. They would invariably take only one piece of candy and then turn in a rush, breathlessly crying out “Thank you!” Modesty, innocence and beauty made visible in the form of animated, three-foot sprites...I was utterly charmed.

A young boy reached in and took two candy bars. He paused. “My sister is allergic to these.” I asked about her allergy, and pointed out that he has quite a few choices in the non-peanut genus of Halloween treats. His face lit up. I told him to take a handful for his sister. He looked me in the eye when he said “Thank you.” The youngest children were, most definitely, the best. I love their shyness and their innocence. Throw in a bit of courtesy and good manners, and I turn to complete mush.

As the night deepened, the older children began making their rounds. These children were different. Their costumes fell more into the “slasher” genre in contrast to the princesses and angels and elves I had greeted earlier. Most grabbed for as much candy as they could scoop up. Many ran off without saying thank you. I find that a bit strange, don’t you? When do we lose our innocence, our piety? Only a few short years separate the modest sprites from the aggressive “mini-adults.” What happened? Why this loss of innocence? When do we begin to think that more is always better? It seems to me that most children rush to become adults. Pity. I wish I could be a child again.

* * *

In The Name Of Love

It would appear that I’ve composed a trilogy of sorts. Perhaps I should call it my “Dreams and the Damage Done” sequence.

I have much to apologize for in my life. I may not have loved wisely or well, but I have loved (and still do). I am certainly not a wise man, but I am wise enough to know that much of what is done in the name of love has nothing to do with love at all.

It’s a bit of a sore subject with me. Last Thursday night, I received a bevy/flock/ brace/gaggle...whatever...of emails written solely to inflict hurt and shame. Purportedly, love was the impetus.


I am bewildered by all that we inflict on others in the name of love. Love confers no claim, nor grants a license to insult, belittle, ignore, harass, control, intimidate, mock or harm. Acts committed in the name of love that strangle the soul, violate boundaries, diminish the spirit or cause heartache are not acts of love. Far from it. We dishonor the very concept of love by asserting that hurts may spring from love. They don’t.

Acts of love are acts of generosity, respect, honor, good will, patience, charity, hope, humor, joy, appreciation, kindness, understanding, empathy and solace. Love elevates the spirit and fills the heart with song. The difference between love and everything else we experience in life is quite stark. There is no mistaking true love...but there are so many impostors...

* * *

Sunday, October 30, 2005

One Thought Leads To Another...

One of the few (trust me) benefits of insomnia is that I get to watch interesting TV-programming. There aren’t all that many channels that do not surrender themselves to offering infomercials or other mind-melting twaddle after midnight. The History, Military, Biography and Discovery channels have become my late-night mainstays. (I wonder if “Jeopardy” winners are typically insomniacs?)

Anyway, I’ve been watching a wide variety of programs relating to historical human activity. It may be summarized thus: Endless struggles for power...leading to destruction. That pretty much captures most of recorded human history. It’s easy to become numb to the outrages. Our wars have grown ever more nihilistic. We’ve devoted so much of our intellect and creativity towards making things either more lethal or more-efficiently lethal. We have squandered the lives of countless youth, generation upon generation, “eating the seed corn” if you will. It’s a pretty dismal history.

What stuns the most, hurts the most, are the tallies of civilian casualties. We have taken to killing everyone within killing range. The horrors of war are magnified beyond all comprehension, made unredeemable by the loss of innocents.

Well, one thought leads to another, and I found myself thinking about the catastrophes in my personal life. I knew my previous entry about the pain of dreams had not captured even the half of it. I can stand pain; it’s a well-deserved penance. Heck, I was raised a Catholic. Self-mortification and personal suffering are hard-wired into my brain. It’s the collateral damage that haunts. Our lives are intertwined with countless others. The acts of one affect many. Pain radiates out and hurts the innocents as well as those whom we love the most.

It’s not easy living with the knowledge that you’ve hurt another. Harder still to consider that you’ve hurt innocent bystanders as well. That’s a wound that may never heal. I cannot truly forgive myself until others have forgiven me. Some may forgive readily, others never. Life goes on, but it’s all a little colder...a shade darker.

What else can I do, now, but try to live a good and loving life? What’s done cannot be undone, but I hope and pray that, on balance, when others assess my life’s final worth and meaning, they will concur that, despite my faults and failings, I may have done a bit more good than harm. It seems like a “stretch goal” at this point, but it’s all I have.
I think it’s safe to say that beatification is not a viable option.

* * *

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Back to music...

For the past month I’ve been listening to the same eight songs. That’s not a typical pattern for me. I guess I’m still feeding on the marrow within each tune.

My listening habits offer me precious clues into my soul. I picture a soul as something real, yet far beyond the realm of words. I picture molten magma at my core. As in Nature, the molten core is ever present, yet only expressed through intermittent, wildly unpredictable eruptions...a geyser here or there, a warm river fed by geothermal springs, a shifting and a rumbling force powerful enough to destroy everything...yet mostly benign. It’s hard to know what’s going on so deep inside, but music offers a tiny ear hole to that core. My soul lets me know (in its own mysteriously magic way) what it needs to hear, the music necessary to pluck the right chords, transforming ineffable emotions into something I can ponder, grasp and appreciate.

So here I sit, headphones squeezing ears, and I’m listening to a precious handful of tunes. The songs resonate with devotion, grief, hope, joy, gratitude, exhortation and remorse. I listen to these few songs over and over again. The soundtrack to my life is stuck on auto-replay.

I’m starting to think I may be living in this state for quite a while...teetering between ecstasy and abject grief. I cling to my dreams. I’ve reached an age when my true joys and desires make themselves known to me, and bloom, in dreams. I’ve awoken from quite a few dreams in my day, as I’ve learned by doing what I need to do, learned what it is that I so desire. The dreams I clutch so fervently now are the only ones that truly matter. I will not let them go.

But dreams don’t come cheap. To find your heart’s only desire, and then to find that you will never satisfy that desire, is to suffer true agony. So it goes. It’s all a Kozmic Krapshoot, isn’t it? So be it. I’ll pay the price for dreaming, for it was through my dreams that I discovered ecstasy, purpose, meaning, rapture and hope. I will not let these dreams go, let the wounds bleed as they dreams are worth the agony.

* * *

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Midnight Vocabulary

My internal vocabulary becomes more interesting as the night progresses (actually, everything becomes more interesting after dark...but I don’t want to drift off topic here). After midnight, my brain begins searching for nuanced words to describe my thoughts and emotions. My vocabulary is far more pragmatic and utilitarian when the sun is shining. The day requires facts and prosaic adjectives. The night elicits poetry, ambiguity and depth. Take the word darkling, for example. It’s an old Dark Ages word, seldom encountered nowadays. Its plain meanings are: 1). lacking clarity: dark, dim or obscure; 2) occurring in darkness. Darkling is the language of the night, I would never use it during daylight hours. Dark suffices then.

As I said, I struggle to find appropriate words at night. It’s not easy. Simple nouns and simple adjectives fail to do justice to the language of the soul. It takes words such as darkling to at least hint at the emotions that lie submerged below.

And so it came to be, as I stared up at a pitch-dark ceiling, with words as obscure as darkling dancing in my weary skull, that I wrote what is, perhaps, my darkest poem.

The Darkling Quiet

Broken wings
That tried to fly
Left by each
And each on fire
Burning in the darkling quiet

Shadows running
Bleed and die
Witnessed by a thousand eyes
Fading in the darkling quiet

Madness fills
The cups we drink
Poisoned lives
Give up and sink
Drowning in the darkling quiet

* * *

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Cherokee Parable

A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight - and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil and ugly: He is anger, envy, war, greed, self-pity, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance."

The old man paused.

"The other wolf is beautiful and good: He is friendship, joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, fairness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, gratitude, and deep VISION."

And then he said: "This same fight is going on inside you...inside all of us."

The boy paused in deep reflection. He finally cried out; "Oyee! Grandfather, which wolf will win?"

The elder Cherokee replied: "The wolf that you feed."

* * *

Units of measure

We humans seek to measure. Whether angstroms, meters or miles...seconds, fathoms or furlongs...hours, kilometers or kilotons...we measure the dimensions of our world and our lives.

So, tell me – how shall we measure the endurance of the human heart?

I need to know.

I know that I can love for a lifetime. But there is so much more I need to know. How long can one heart bleed for another? How long can a heart be vilified and abused before it turns to stone? How long can one endure unrequited love? Is the appropriate measure months, years, decades, a lifetime or eternity?

* * *

I need to know.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Three Ages

I read somewhere that the human experience can be divided into three distinct ages: Learning...Doing...Being.

The First Age

Learning is the heart of the First Age. As a child, I looked upon the world with absolute astonishment. I existed in a state of constant awe and perpetual wonder. I spent my days studying…everything. I wanted to taste everything – not food so much - but snowflakes, rain and grass. I wanted to touch everything. I marveled at the beauty of insects, snakes, flowers, leaves, fish and all furry mammals. I sniffed the air, the soil, my pet dog’s breath. The sights and sounds of life enchanted me. Everything was magic.

I loved school. I loved history, biology, geography, literature, geometry, art, music, astronomy, earth science, physics, chemistry and philosophy. Funny, I knew more at age twelve than I do today. The First Age is the age of insatiable curiosity.

The Second Age

Doing is the heart of the Second Age. There comes a day when diplomas are stuffed in a box, and a suit and tie become the day’s apparel. I was eager to venture into the world, earn a paycheck, marry, start a family, make a life for myself. The sponge morphed into a researcher, manager, musician, photographer, artist, carpenter, mechanic, citizen, investor, consultant, athlete (sort of), lover (sort of) and adult (sort of).

I hardly slept. Curiosity provided an impetus...ego, coffee and cigarettes provided the fuel. There was so much to do! I wanted to challenge myself, find the limits of my skills and abilities. I spent decades doing...until a weariness of body and mind signaled that perhaps I tried to do too much. I found myself staggering into the Third Age.

The Third Age

Being is the heart of the Third Age. Simply being. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.

As I mentioned, we enter the Third Age a bit worse for wear. In my case, quite the worse for wear (courtesy of two near-fatal vehicular accidents). Joints ache, eyes grow dim, ears ring incessantly. This is the age of constant compromise...striking bargains with the body. There is less energy in general; an appreciable loss of vitality...Viagra begins to make sense.

The Ego grumbles. Doing is all about “making things happen.” I was taught that action and achievement are noble endeavors, and I was handsomely rewarded for making things happen. As I grew older, much of my Second Age activity just wasn't satisfying me any more, even with the accolades and the dollars. But I kept doing...and I found myself growing more cynical and depressed. Still, there will always be a part of me that misses the praise and the rewards. Old habits, old patterns, old ways of doing things are hard to change. I think the wise Dr. Einstein was right:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a culture that honors the servant
And has forgotten the gift.

I’m trying to find my way back to that gift. What truths and revelations does the Third Age have in store for me that weren't available until I accumulated the years, the scars and the experience? I've taken a few faltering steps in my search for serenity and wisdom. I’m beginning to trust my intuition again. My intuitive mind is the part of me that “knows” what makes sense at any given moment. It doesn't seek approval from others. It doesn't get confused by criticisms and judgments (well...OK...there’s still quite a bit of confusion to work through...). I hope to use the wisdom of experience to give me uniquely personal guidance. I’m slowly turning to my intuition to tell me what I need to Learn, what I need to Do and when I should “Do Nothing.” I’m beginning to discover a clarity about what's really important to me. Robert Frost put it this way:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

I want to stop dancing round in rings. I want to sit in the middle and know. I want to reclaim my ability to simply Be. Clearly, I had it before. As a child I could let go and Be almost any time. Then I learned it was “unproductive” and started to hide it. After a while I'd forgotten where I put it, and didn't know how to get it back. I’m trying to learn how to become quiet enough to hear my intuitive mind. I want my intuitive mind to give my rational mind the guidance it so sorely needs.

* * *

I wonder where the Third Age will lead me? Will I ever become a soul at peace?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Three Kisses

My memories fascinate me. I think that, in large part, it’s due to the fact that so many of my family have suffered and died from Alzheimer’s. I fear that my memories will disappear soon enough as well. I continuously plumb the depths of my mind to explore the imagery that still lingers.

Last week (to my great delight) I discovered that I distinctly remember my first meeting with each of my closest friends. I found that comforting. I then tried to recall my first kiss. Sad to say, I came up empty. I was rather surprised by that. One would think that a first kiss would be a transcendent experience, forever captured in the mind’s eye. Apparently, mine was not.

My lips have enjoyed their fair share of kisses. Alas, most are lost to me now. Only three vivid kisses remain:

I was nineteen, sitting on the floor at the Student Union, enjoying a free concert courtesy of some long-forgotten band. A woman (fertile child, really) I had spied once at a distance came up to me and cradled my face in her hands. She leaned down and kissed me...hard. Her lips were ravenous. I was stunned...struck dumb. It was as if a lightning bolt had burst from the heart of a clear summer sky. She thrust her tongue into my gaping mouth. My synapses crackled and smoked. Although I had lost my virginity several years earlier, I still considered females to be exotic, exquisitely mysterious creatures. In this one explosive moment, I realized I understood nothing at all about the “fairer sex” (I still don't, and I doubt I ever will). I knew that I would let her have her way with me. She did.

“ spinning, swinging madly ‘round a rising, falling sun...”

We stood in the vestibule...two badly wounded hearts. She and I had talked on the phone many times, for many hours. We had dined together on several occasions and spent long evenings conversing. The hour was late. It was time to say good night. I reached to kiss her. Her lips were full and moist. She clutched me closer, pressing her body into mine. It’s not so much the kiss that I remember (although I recall it was a fulgent experience). Rather, it was her warmth and the contours of her body that I still feel. In one brief, sublime moment I knew we would become lovers and partners. We did.

“...rains coming, disappearing (tears of sorrow, tears of rage) celestial clock ticks on...”

I pulled the car up to the hotel lobby entrance. We both knew there would be a kiss good-bye. Our lips touched. Hers were thin and strong, but the kiss was a mere whisper...the flutter of a butterfly’s wing. This kiss was followed by another...and another...and then a few more. Each kiss was a gift.

Time stood still.

She placed my hand gently upon her right breast. In that late hour, I knew my life’s trajectory had ineluctably shifted. All of my long-held assumptions crumbled and disintegrated as I was flung on a course uncharted. In that seismic moment, I knew that I would sacrifice my heart and soul and life for her.

And I did.

* * *

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Poetic Musings

I started writing poetry in high school. I was a quirky sort who always sought to express...
I dunno...something. I sketched, played a variety of musical instruments, painted, sang, danced, photographed and wrote poetry. Bad poetry. Very bad poetry. At that age I was rather enamored with the idea of being “poetic.” It degenerated into a wanton orgy of quantity over quality. I wrote poems by the hundreds. After a few years, I had amassed quite a collection of doggerel. I was rather proud of their sheer bulk. Sadly, the only weight those poems carried was the weight of the paper itself.

All the while I devoured good poetry. The power and beauty of so many poems amazed me. I realized I could never be in that class.
I guess I was in my mid-twenties when I sat down to read everything
I had written. It would be an understatement to say I was appalled. How trite, how maudlin, how juvenile! Worst of all, my words weren’t honest. I was posturing. I was full of adolescent angst and, often, simply stupid. There followed a mighty purge (mercy killings really). I whittled my collection down to a couple of hundred verses.

I continued to write poetry, but only intermittently. I tried to express my genuine emotions at critical junctures in my life (well, the sad times mostly). I wasn’t very good at it, but it no longer mattered. My poems became short notes to myself. Reminders of where I’ve been, what I’ve felt, what I’ve learned. I’d revisit my work every few years, only to cull a few more botched efforts. At this point, I’ve retained fewer than fifty poems. No one other than I has ever read them all. Friends don’t let friends read bad poetry.

Having said all that, I do have a poem I rather enjoy sharing. I am pleased with it. I know it’s the best that I can do. Furthermore, it has an interesting is mercifully short.

It started with music. I was listening to a lot of classical music at the time. I think it began with Chopin’s “Etude in E Major” but I’m not sure. I began searching for music that expressed a certain ache I was feeling. I struggled to translate emotions into words, all the while searching for music to inspire my reveries. The poem and its accompanying soundtrack evolved together.

Drowning in Beauty

From the depths of the night she comes
Moving like flowing water she comes
Your arms ache to hold her knowing
That in her warmth, her scent, her grace
You will be redeemed

In the dark of the night you surrender
Lips caressing lips passion rising
Breath entwined with breath soul trembling
You drown in her beauty

Here is the soundtrack:

Igor Stravinsky “The Firebird-Berceause”
Claude Debussy “Claire de lune”
Georg Philipp Telemann “Viola Concerto in G Major – Andante”
Sergei Rachmaninoff “Vocalise Opus 34, No. 14”
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky “Melodrama” (from the Snow Maiden*)
Giacomo Puccini “Un Bel Di Vedremo” (from M. Butterfly*)
Giacomo Puccini “Che Gelida Manina” (from La Boheme*)
Frederic Chopin “Etude in E Major”
Eric Wolfgang Korngold “Garden Scene” (from Much Ado About Nothing*)
Alexander Borodin “Nocturne” (String Quartet No. 2)
Gabriel Faure “Pavane Opus 50”
Jules Massenet “Dernier Sommeil De La Vierge” (from La Vierge*)
Giacomo Puccini “E Lucevan Le Stelle” (from Tosca*)
Johann Joachim Quantz “Flute Concerto G Major – Arioso Maestoso”
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky “None But The Lonely Heart – Op. 6, No. 6”

(note: * denotes instrumental only)

One is blessed if, even for a fleeting moment, the soul surrenders to another. In the space of a heartbeat, we become divine...taste infinity...experience rapture. One is truly blessed if these moments come again and again. But…even one thin slice of awe...can make all the difference in the world.

* * *

As a final aside, I imagine a parent cradling a newborn...Life offers many blessings.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Heavy Rotation

Now that music has returned to my life, I spend most of my waking hours listening. My soul has settled on a few songs for in-depth contemplation:

[I’ll use the following convention: Artist – “Song” – CD Title]

BoDeans – “If It Makes You” – Resolution
BoDeans – “Nobody Loves Me” – Resolution
BoDeans – “617” – Resolution
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – “Blue On Black” – trouble is...
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – “I Found Love” – trouble is...
Jonny Lang – “Red Light” – Long Time Coming
Gov’t Mule – “I’ll Be The One” – Deja Voodoo
Gov’t Mule – “Ballerina” – Deja Voodoo

* * *

Simple songs for a simple man. Make of them what you will. I’ll just keep listening until my ears bleed.

* * *


Have you ever met an “old soul”? I have, and I’m not the only one. Many cultures have expressions about people who are wise beyond their years...the sages, shamans, rabbis and mentors. They truly do seem to have “old souls.”

Now, I don’t know if souls are ever reincarnated or not. I’m skeptical. But then, I’ve been so wrong about so many things that I know I could easily be wrong about this. Maybe souls return again and again until they possess all the wisdom to be gleaned from experience. They walk among us. I believe I’ve been tutored by a few (not that I actually listened or anything like that).

If there can be old souls, can there then be new souls? I think I’m a new soul. I possess no wisdom whatsoever. I’ve learned every important lesson in life by sticking my hand in fire...doing all the wrong things at the wrong time...and suffering the consequences. I’m just a total goof, a naïf, a clumsy puppy. Maybe I was a good-natured, but slightly daft tapir who just got his first crack at being a human. Perhaps I’m just a novitiate at this.

What scares me is the other possibility. Maybe I’m in the “remedial human” class. That could be. Perhaps I’m a soul who’s been around the block a few times, but still doesn’t grasp the basic concepts. Have I been held back a grade or two? This notion troubles me.

Am I doomed to muddle through eternity?

* * *

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Do You Love Me?

I hear voices in my head. There. I said it. I hear voices often, even when I wear my tinfoil hat. I ask you, is that truly weird? I would be quite disconcerted to someday learn that ONLY crazy people hear such voices. I don’t think I’m crazy...but, then, how can one really be sure?

Anyway, I hear voices. And what I hear most often is a question: “Do you love me?”

Do you love me?” the voice asks...quietly...yearningly...imploringly. The questioner has no face. The question comes at the oddest times, most unexpectedly, at any time of the day or night. I may be thinking of a childhood incident or a former lover. I may be passing a beggar on the street, standing in a cathedral apse, or staring at the night sky...only to hear the question as if it came from Orion’s very lips.

Do you love me?” I always answer “yes.” The answer is always “yes.”

Still, the Faceless Questioner keeps questioning, and with ever greater frequency. This has been going on for more than thirty years. I think I’m finally beginning to understand. It is not enough to say yes to love. It is simply not enough. “Yes” is just a word (and a rather abbreviated one at that). “Do you love me?” can only be answered by living love. Ah, now it gets difficult. Love is an act of will. Love is deeds and actions and understanding and compassion and reverence.

Love is a mighty endeavor.

I am beginning to think that if I ever learn how to live as a truly loving human being, the question just might disappear. I would simply know the answer...and know that it was true.

* * *

The Music Returned

Late, late Saturday night, I absent-mindedly pulled Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue from the shelf. I slipped the CD into my player. It was not premeditated. It was simply something I felt the urge to a dark 2AM…

I skipped strait to “Blue in Green” and then “Flamenco Sketches.” My 75th Anniversary reissue includes an alternate take on “Flamenco Sketches.” I love this version best. I listened to the three cuts over and over again until morning. The music had returned, but it was a curious return. Then again, the whole “summer of silence” was exceedingly strange and discomfiting. I was relieved to find myself lost in music again. Still, I would have never guessed that the silence would be broken by jazz.

You see, I don’t listen to jazz all that often (quite rarely, actually). Jazz is the music of the metropolis...Manhattan...3AM. It is concrete, glass, velvet and smoke. It is the music of white linens, booze, women and heavily lidded eyes. It is music for a gritty urban realist, and I’m more of a pastoral daydreamer myself.

There are times, though, when jazz resonates within me. There have been nights when I found myself sitting in some nameless hotel bar...double scotch and cigarettes for company. It’s late. My throat is raw and my eyes are red. It doesn’t matter if the business of the day was a success or failure. There is only weariness and wistfulness. It is then, and only then, that I can truly hear and understand a Davis, Parker, Coltrane or Mingus. It’s a soundscape I don’t wish to explore all that often.

But there I the dark...feeling weary and wistful. Davis and Coltrane and company were playing for me.

The soundtrack to my life had resumed.

* * *

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