At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Yin Yang of Silence

I’ve been told that I am loud. I could not believe it initially, given that my inner voice has always been rather shy and quiet, but I’ve heard it said enough times by so many people that I accept it as fact. I suppose it is my birthright. I am, after all, the child of thespians.

I have certainly lived loudly. There are, first, my drums. They are not subtle things. I have boomed and crashed my wilder rhythms, ‘til windows shook and neighbors wagged their fingers. There was the hair that touched my waist and billowed in my wake as I rode unmufflered cycles down country lanes and byways. I’ve always loved the raucous throats of my machines, the squealing tires and the roaring wind. I prefer to listen to all music loudly, delighting in the waves of sound and visceral subsonic thrumming. My damaged ears confirm that I have lived loudly.

But I’ve long loved silence. My mother told me I was a tranquil baby. As a child I used to play placidly in silent worlds of my imagination. I’ve lived alone for many years and may, in fact, spend my remaining years in solitude. I feel comfortable shrouded in silence. I am at home in the stillness of a winter prairie. I can sit for hours contemplating the hushed midnight sky. I feel sublime freedom as I sit on a hillside watching dawn emerge from dark. I find peace in the quiet.

I have feline instincts. I work and read and run in silence. I find my truths in silence. And when I hurt, I seek only dark quiescence. I prefer to suffer in silence. The quiet has been a faithful partner, friend and healer.

Still, there are times when silence burns and gnaws with unrelenting fury. There have been times when I’ve been abandoned, simply tossed aside. No explanations given, no questions answered or resolved. Silence mocks a broken heart. Silence, in times like these, is salt on these open wounds of mine. These are the times when the quiet feels like a curse. When a heart burns with questions and is met with only silence, it dies a bit…and then a little bit more. I feel my heart slowly turning to dust in the quiet of these winter days.

* * *

Friday, November 25, 2005


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas is actually a tie, but the two holidays are so very different in their feel and meaning that comparing or ranking these two holidays seems almost crass. Thanksgiving is warmth, simplicity, piety and joy...the joy of breaking bread with family. Christmas is celestial magic, with all Creation peeking through frosted windows. The stirrings in my soul on these respective days are so very different, but both are essential to my well-being.

It was thirty years ago, exactly, when I began a family tradition. I had just purchased my first home. I was single then (divorced, actually), young and hyper-enthusiastic. I invited my parents, my sister and her husband to celebrate Thanksgiving in my modest abode. I pored over recipes for weeks, selecting each course, dish and condiment only after great internal debate and countless revisions. I shopped. I cleaned. I decorated. I spent the days preceding this inaugural Thanksgiving feast chopping, grating, slicing, dicing, mincing and scurrying to achieve perfection. I woke before dawn and began the final preparations, impatiently waiting for my esteemed guests to arrive.

I searched through tomes of poetry to find a work that would express what I so dearly wished my family to hear/understand before we sat down, lit the candles, and began to sup. By all accounts, and by a variety of measures, the day was deemed a success. I insisted that I would always host Thanksgiving dinner...and so it came to be that I always did.

The years came and went. There were different homes, different decorations, different dishes, different poems, and additional participants (wife, in-laws and a niece), but Thanksgiving always remained a day reserved for me to nourish my family with as much love as I could muster.

That great thief, Time, winnowed the guest list until very little family remained. Somewhat by circumstance and somewhat by choice, there was no dinner last year or this. I spent these past two Thanksgivings with my mother at her permanent and final home...her nursing home.

My mother dines solely on high protein/carbohydrate shakes. The few remaining teeth that wobble so shakily within her jaws cannot manage anything more. I did not eat at all. The ward she calls home is reserved for the those severely afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the suffering are certified appetite killers.

Now that it’s cold outside, I wear my crimson knit silk scarf because she likes the color and the feel of the material on her paper-thin, translucent skin. Although the ward is oppressively hot, she wears thick knit sweaters and is swaddled in shawls. The fire that once blazed so brightly within her petite frame has been reduced to embers. Her hands are always cold. And so I sit with her for hours, clasping her hands in mine, transferring the fire she sparked within me to her. There’s not much more that I can do. I caress her head, so sparsely covered with a few wisps of silvered hair. I drape my scarf across her neck and arms. I kiss her hands, her cheeks, forehead and lips. I lay her head upon my shoulder and I sit, saying little, for she cannot hear or understand. She mumbles incoherently, but that's OK, because she smiles and relaxes and basks in warmth. And so I sit, trying to nourish her with as much love as I can muster, until the visiting hours come to an end and I kiss her goodnight...

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

* * *

Monday, November 21, 2005

Angels Among Us?

As I sat down to write about two rather extraordinary individuals, I realized that I had never, in my entire life, talked about them with anyone. I was rather taken aback by that, and I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been silent. I think about these two often, several times each year at least, and have for about the past thirty years. I have pondered their presence in my life and what it could possibly mean.

I want to tell you about two people whom I’ve never met. One, a man, was someone who I passed on the streets of downtown Chicago fewer than a dozen times. The other, a woman, stood before me for approximately one minute at most. But neither ever left me. I’ve carried them in my memory my entire adult life.

* * *

The man was of average height. He appeared to be in his mid-30’s. He had a normal build, skewed towards the thin side. He walked with a pronounced limp. I assumed it was either due to a prosthetic or polio. He always wore a gray flannel suit with black shoes. In cold weather, he wore a dark gray topcoat. His hair was prematurely gray, trimmed short. His complexion was always pallid. His features were nondescript, and he always seemed tired. But there was something about that man that is hard to describe, yet very real. He felt radiant and beatific to me. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? I’m searching for the right words (and failing). He felt radiant. Every time I encountered that man, I felt peace wash over me. Regardless of what was churning in my brain as I walked to or from work, I would see him and I would experience a feeling of complete serenity. Really. I’m not making this up.

* * *

It was a cold, drizzly autumn evening. I stopped at a convenience store on my way to the train station to pick up the evening paper. As I stood at the checkout counter, a woman entered the store, and bent over to fold her umbrella. I remember that she wore a long, brown camel hair coat. She, too, was in her mid-30’s. She was attractive, but not exactly beautiful. She appeared to be tired. I glanced at her and immediately felt at peace. I wanted to reach out and embrace her. No, it wasn’t a sexual thing, not at all. It was this overwhelming feeling of wanting to hold goodness in my arms. That is all that I remember about her.

* * *

What was so striking about these two individuals was the way they made me feel. It was as if I was in the presence of something extraordinary, some otherworldly sanctity or grace. Every time I think of them, I feel better somehow.

I believe I met two angels.

My rational brain insists that what I experienced was probably the result of some weird chemistry of tangible features and a hyperactive imagination. That could be. Perhaps, if I had talked to them, gotten to know them, I would have found that they are just like everyone else. I never wanted to talk to them. I have no desire to prove my rational mind is correct in this.

I prefer to think that I met two angels. The world is, after all, something of our own creation. I am glad that my world is peopled by angels.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pain Is Relative

I do not profess to be expert in pain. I may have suffered more than some, and far less than others. A quick survey reveals that I have been struck by two cars and one bus. I’ve been kicked mercilessly until I heard my ribs crack and felt them collapse. My jaw has been broken (twice). My scalp has been lacerated, and I’ve been pummeled until my eyes swelled shut and I spat blood from cut lips. I shattered a few bones in my wrist (in an absurdly Wagnerian display of teenage angst). The skin on my knuckles has been split...repeatedly. I’ve been flayed with chains, and I’ve been shot in the knee.

Granted, I have a scar or two to show for all that. My face is badly misaligned. Still, bones knit. Technicolor contusions fade with time. Scars form over wounds. It’s called life and, while I may have experienced a few moments worthy of inclusion in the “learned wisdom” file, there were no lingering consequences.

Wanna know what really hurt? What really hurts today? I reached out and clasped my love’s hand. She pulled it away. I felt a pain beyond words, beyond tears. In one splintered moment, dreams came crashing down. I was too numb to speak and too hurt to cry.

Some wounds never heal. Even now, I hurt too much to cry. Tears will flow once time dulls the memories, but the wounds will never heal. A broken heart hurts far worse than a broken limb.

I’ll take physical pain over heartache any day.

* * *

Birthdays and Moms

Children’s birthdays are the best, are they not? Not counting the very first (which tends to be a bit of a happy muddle), children relish their annual fetes. I smile when tykes breathlessly tell me their ages...never failing to add when the next birthday is due. Sprites are eager to count the years. It’s as if they are digging their toes into the earth and raising their arms to Heaven to proclaim that they are here to stay...that they are worthy humans...veterans. They have much to celebrate. Life awaits with all of its possibilities.

Age twelve is tough. It feels like such a long year. Somewhere along the way, becoming a “teen-ager” assumes the highest priority in the child’s hierarchy of needs. Teens believe that being a teen-ager is to live in an exalted state. Exciting years those.

Year 20 is another long year. Although, outwardly, we display ennui and cynicism, deep inside we are pleased to think that we are about to acquire the formal title of “adult.” We look forward to walking into a club or bar and ordering a libation that we can enjoy with a worldly sophistication. The annual celebrations become bacchanalia.

Birthdays in the third decade tend to be happy, although a bit more sedate. It is no longer a matter of getting gifts or getting wasted. We celebrate with those who helped us get this far.

There is a whole different feel to birthdays in the 40’s. They become more intimate, more personal. We no longer count the years with glee. We begin to mark time. Our perspectives about life and our selves begin to change. The years begin to take their toll.

Ah, the fifth decade. It has been said that: “The 40’s are the old age of youth, and the 50’s are the youth of old age.” How true. Birthdays are commemorated with personal notes and quiet conversations. They become days of reflection (sometimes atonement). The emotions are much quieter...but deeper. There is much to ponder.

* * *

While I was musing about children and birthdays and such, I came across this:

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. Because we're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home, and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

* * *

Monday, November 14, 2005

Current Playlist

I’m down to three songs. Oh well, I guess I still haven’t found my equilibrium. I’m OK with that. I don’t pick the music...the music picks me. Music tells me what I want and need to know.

I’m listening to:

Colin Hay – “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You
Remy Zero – “Fair” (both from the “Garden State Soundtrack”)
Mr. Big – “Wild World” (from “Mr. Big - Greatest Hits”)

All three are songs of good-bye. We humans are generally pretty lousy at saying good-bye. These songs do it well. “Wild World” has gotten the most airplay, but the other two are coming on strong.

Fair” warrants an observation: I listened to “Fair” quite often many months ago. It was a song of hope, then, and I enjoyed it very much. Today, it resonates in a completely different way. Now it is a song of acceptance and remembrance. Neat trick, no? I’ll give Remy Zero credit for coming up with ambiguous lyrics that work for me in different ways. I’m generally not a big fan of obscure lyrics. They literally scream hubris. I think it’s a rather silly device intended to give the impression that the lyricist is so “deep” that only the illuminati could possibly hope to understand (I, myself, prefer profundity expressed simply). Remy Zero seems to have pulled it off quite well, though. The song is like an aural Rorschach test. You discover what your soul is hearing.

Anyway, last night I was listening to these three songs over and over again while resting in the darkness. I fell into a fascinating reverie. I imagined I was riding my bike west on some nameless two-lane road in central Minnesota (hey! it’s my fugue and I can ride where I want…). It is the dead of night and it is raining. I pictured the scene in exquisite detail. I saw the rain sparkling and dancing in my headlight beam. I could feel the wind and rain lash my face. I was riding fast, and the motor was roaring from all four throats. I felt cold, but I was not shaking. The beauty of riding in the rain is that your movements must be gentle and fluid. Several square inches of tire-contact patch are all that are keeping you upright on that slippery surface. You lean gracefully in and out of turns, steering the beast with your knees more than your arms. A cloud of spray envelops you and the night invades your marrow. I wanted to taste the rain in my open mouth. I could picture everything with perfect clarity because I had experienced all of this so many times before. I hunger to find that road and ride in the rain through a dark Minnesota night. All the while, these three songs can play in my head...filling me with longing, melancholy and, ultimately, acceptance. I want to ride until I feel the sun begin to warm my back, see the road emerge from the misty gray. I want to ride until the day breaks fresh and clear and the road leads me to where I need to be.

* * *

* * *

An Empty Stage

My parents were classically trained actors, stars in the Lithuanian National Theatre. They remained active in theater as immigrants. Not surprisingly, I spent a good deal of my youth hanging around greasepaint, costumes, actors and stages.

An empty stage is magic. It literally throbs with potential. Add an actor or two, a stage set and lights, and the mysteries and panoply of the human experience come to life before our very eyes.

Here I the wings...stage left. I came to be here via a circuitous, tortured and wholly unexpected route. But now I’m here. An empty stage...lit by a solitary spot...awaits.

An empty stage...what an amazing proposition! All my life I had performed on stage in roles prescribed by others. The lines I recited were not quite mine. Now, the stage is empty. Sure, I still have my ever-present Greek Chorus of family, friends and former loves, but an empty stage now waits for me.

Opportunities such as these don’t come often, perhaps only rarely. My circumstances are uniquely mine (let’s just say I wish I had arrived here via a different route). I know this: I am free to live a life of my own a role of my own devise. I don’t want to waste the time that’s been allotted for this performance. I want to be genuine, affecting, enthusiastic and lovingly human.

I found a few answers this weekend...answers to questions I’ve been pondering for years. I concluded that I want to teach. Teaching is a form of theater, is it not? Granted, the audience is captive. It’s up to the teacher to captivate. I want to be a teacher.

I found the answer I was looking for when I stumbled across a web-article about alternative teacher certification programs...proving, yet again, the old yoga adage: “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come.” The article provided a link to a database of teacher certification programs. My goodness! There is an amazing array of programs. Most have been developed with the goal of making teachers out of older careerists who now wish to teach. Perfect. I will become a teacher.

OK, a fundamental question has been answered. New questions now require answers. Which students do I seek to teach? Grade-schoolers, high-schoolers, adults? I’m not sure yet. Which subject(s) do I wish to teach? Not sure about that, either. I have a love for many subjects: biology, earth science, writing, art history,’s a lengthy list. Where do I want to teach? Inner-city, Indian reservation, overseas? I have to figure that out. I’ll take my time. I have to plumb my heart’s depths to find the answers that resonate the most and the loudest. I want to find the best answers...the right answers.

* * *

I also decided that I want to ride my motorcycle again.

* * *

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Clinging to Life

We cling to life with wildly variable tenacity. It’s part of the mystery of the human experience. I see it during my visits to the nursing home. Some hang on to life with a madness and a fervor that I simply cannot comprehend. Some merely close their eyes and let go...

My mother clings to life (I’ll probably write more about that later).

* * *

You can count the days I spent with my grandfather on the fingers of two hands, with a leftover finger or two. Those were precious days, filled with serious talk. He mentioned something that keeps bouncing around inside my skull. He said that he and his fellow Siberian gulag inmates could identify who among the newly arriving prisoners would die quickly. He said that he and his mates were always right. Some were obviously sick and weak. Within the group of the relatively healthy, there was an ineffable something that served as a clue to the individual’s will to live. Intriguing thought, no? Those well versed in suffering and death apparently develop a sense of an individual soul’s will to live.

I do not cling to life. I wonder if my grandfather saw that in me? He never said. I know that I’m not one to cling to life because I’ve been tested...twice.

* * *

Years ago, there was a tragic collision of commuter trains in Chicago. The carnage was truly gruesome. I rode those trains to and from work. A year or so after that tragedy, I was riding on an early morning train. It was a frigid winter day. I was seated in the lead car. Suddenly, the conductor burst from the engineer’s cabin, screaming, WE’VE LOST OUR BRAKES. WE’RE GOING TO CRASH!!He bolted from the cabin. Several commuters burst from their seats and followed him. Others began to scream, sob and wail. The clacking of train wheels added to the cacophony.

I looked outside the window. The winter landscape was gray and barren. I closed my eyes wasn’t in words so much as in emotions...I said good-bye. In my heart I said good-bye to family and friends and the beautiful world. I sat silently waiting, hearing only the clacking of wheels...I was at peace.

Well, we crashed, but it was a relatively minor jolt. Our train had slowed enough, and the train ahead had sped up enough, to minimize the damage. As I walked away from the train, I knew that I was not one to cling to life.

* * *

I was riding my motorcycle on an open road. There was an intersection ahead. A large sedan in the on-coming lane had rolled to a stop as if waiting for me to pass. I was cruising at 45 mph and I had the right of way. As I neared the intersection, the sedan rolled slowly forward across my path. I could not avoid the collision. Time slowed down. I did everything that decades of riding had taught me to do. Apply the brakes firmly...avoid locking the wheels...lay the bike down...give in to the impact...

I was calm. I figured this was gonna be really, really bad. Once again, I felt myself letting go...(after, admittedly, first thinking: ”Ooops!”).

I survived.

* * *

I can’t say if it’s useful to know the degree with which we each cling to life. Our life force is what it is neither good nor simply is what it is.

I’m comfortable with my lack of tenacity. My amorphous personal theology is such that I find life and death intertwined throughout Creation. It is all of one piece. There is no beginning or end. There is no Heaven or Hell (except those we’ve created in our own hearts). There is only Creation itself...and it is beautiful and it is good.

I hold onto life as I would hold a young bird...gently, within cupped hands. Life amazes and inspires. It is precious. The beauty of it all is mine to enjoy until the hands grow weak and the fingers become frail. When it is time to let go, I will simply let go. Life will continue...the majesty of all Creation will forever remain unblemished. I was, and will forever be, part of the Whole...and it is all good.

* * *

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Leopard

I was maybe three or four years old. It was a hot, bright summer day, and I was at a zoo. I don’t remember much about that day...hardly any details at all, except: the leopard.

I was struck dumb by the sheen of the black velvet fur. I had never seen anything so rich. Then, as the leopard wheeled and the sun glanced across its flanks, I saw the spots! I was transfixed by the animal with the beautiful magic fur...(It was many years later that I learned that a black leopard is actually a genetic variant of the jaguar. The leopard is every inch a jaguar except for black fur covering black spots. I can’t count the nights I’ve spent pondering the paradox of “shades of black”).

I came closer. The leopard moved with an imperial grace and a fluid rhythm. I had never seen such poetry in motion. I came closer.

What a gorgeous creature! The taut ribs, the musculature, the soft, padded paws with diabolical claws. I came closer still to see its face. The head was sleek and well muscled. The beautiful muzzle barely covered fearsome fangs. There was a cold beauty in the beast. And then I looked into its eyes.

The eyes were dead. The pupils were jet black, but empty. I did not understand. I had never seen eyes like that. I remember feeling confused. I vividly remember wanting to hug the offer consolation (although that would have most certainly...and violently...eliminated any vestige of the naiveté I’ve struggled to maintain my entire life).

I stood there and watched as the leopard paced from one side of its small cage to the other, wheeling, pacing, wheeling. I now saw that its tongue was lolling as he panted with effort. I stood mesmerized and saddened by the “1,000-yard stare” in those lifeless eyes. I remember my parents having to drag me away.

This memory has stayed with me my entire’s my oldest reverie. I’ve gone over the imagery innumerable times, pondered long and hard this parable of the leopard.

My meditations on the leopard have grown deeper and more complex as I’ve aged. On that hot summer day, I had not the vocabulary to translate feelings into words. All I knew is that I had seen beauty and death inside one soul. I had yet to discover the meanings of terms such as insanity, stress, depression and psychosis

Nowadays, I wonder what it was that the leopard needed...what was that unrequited yearning that led to his death in life? Did he hear only screams instead of the songs of the jungle? Was it the confines of the cage that drove him mad? What does a leopard soul need...and want?

I hold the leopard close to me to keep me pondering long and hard about yearnings...and cages...and the consequences thereof.

* * *

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Moments of Clarity

We’ve all seen variants of this: Interviewer/host asks celebrity/guest, "When did you realize that you wanted to pursue/be [insert vocation]?"

Regardless of the specifics, I am invariably bowled over by the very notion that one could be so blessed as to realize one’s dreams. To know your heart’s desire and to achieve that desire seems like such a profound miracle.

I think we all have moments of clarity...startling revelations that simply come to us...our souls making their wishes known. And I would guess that for every blessed dream-achiever there are perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, of not-so-lucky souls who glimpsed their soul’s desire, but never achieved the dream. Achieving dreams requires a near-miraculous concatenation of genetics, mentors, courage, perspiration, kindred spirits, opportunity, timing, solar flares and falling stars. Achieving dreams is no mean feat.

I’ve had a few moments of clarity, although I never had one of the “vocational” variety. I never wanted to do one particular thing. I wanted to do/experience everything. My moments were more personal, my soul tugging on my sleeve to tell me something important, something essential.

After a bit of reflection, I recalled four specific moments of clarity. After a bit more reflection, I decided that my first moment (a revelation about gin) really didn’t count. I don’t think you can fairly describe any thought that comes to mind while hugging a toilet bowl as a “moment of clarity.” Let’s file that one under “learned wisdom.”

* * *

I was standing alone in the side entrance of the church, waiting for the ceremony to begin. As I stood there, I realized that I did not truly love my bride-to-be (it’s a long story). Yes, it was a moment of clarity; but I was too cowardly, too cowed by the moment, too stupid to speak what I knew to be the truth. The marriage disintegrated years later, grievously hurting both of us...and others. I have lived with deep regret ever since.

* * *

It was late afternoon on an early-winter day. The sky was streaked gray, and the wind was raw. I was driving on a county road through farm country, the stubbled fields shivering under a dusting of snow. A ring-necked pheasant exploded from the roadside cover and sailed across the road before me. It was all so bleak and so utterly beautiful. And then it came to me: “I am a child of the prairie.” Granted, my moment may not seem all that profound to any ocean/mountain/pacific-island-paradise types, but it meant a great deal to me. I somehow knew that my soul resonated to the rhythms of the open prairie. I find this soulscape beautiful.

* * *

I stepped outside to have a cigarette. It was a warm evening. I absent-mindedly lit the smoke and then felt as if I had been struck physically. This thought exploded in my head: “I’m in love with the most amazing woman I have ever met!” At first blush, that did not seem all that profound. Truth be told, I find any woman who claims to love a mutt like me rather amazing. This was different, though. This was both an objective and subjective truth. I truly had stumbled into the most amazing woman (based on an incredible array of criteria). The thought left me breathless. Can I truly be so blessed as to have a chance to love the most amazing woman I have ever met?

As I said, it takes a lot to transform desires into reality. Moments of clarity do not come with guarantees. Still, it is a good thing to hear your own soul and discover its verities. If nothing else, these moments of clarity serve as sacred cairns so that we may, someday, look back on our lives and see how close or how far we came from satisfying our souls’ desires.

* * *

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Slow Dancing

All you need is a soft, languorous ballad. You wrap your arms around your love and you glide, sway and spin across the floor. Two bodies meld into one. You bury your face in her hair and all the laws of physics fall to pieces. There is no clock, no floor, no walls. There are only heartbeats, warmth, motion and scent. The music plays on and on...and you glide and sway and spin...

Simple pleasures truly are the best. Slow dancing is one of the best of the best simple pleasures. We need these moments that feel like infinity. We need to hear our hearts beat. To dance with love is a sublime pleasure. It has been said that dancing is “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.” It is that, but slow dancing is far, far more. To sway and glide and melt and dream and flow with love is to experience pure rapture. It is a good and necessary thing to experience bathe in love. We were made to dance.

And should it come to pass that a ballad begins to play and you step out on the floor...if your steps feel strained and stilted, if you subtly draw away, if you find yourself waiting for the song to end...well...
you’re dancing with the wrong partner.

* * *

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Train of Thought?

I cracked myself up this morning. I stepped onto my patio, cup of coffee and cigarettes in hand. I settled into my lawn chair and lit up a smoke. I marveled at the light. The shadows were deep and long with the sun hanging low on the horizon. I love the fall light…I love fall.

The somnolent photographer in me lifted an eyebrow and roused himself enough to examine this thought more closely. Does fall truly offer the best light? Let’s see. Summer light is just awful…washed out and flat. Spring light? Not really. The light is bright, and can be mesmerizing, but spring is more about the scent of the very air itself. Winter? Hmmmm. Winter light resonates within me. It shifts from stark, steely-gray hues to the flash of diamonds. I thought about the painter Delacroix who wrote that shadows aren’t really black at all; they are…in I love the blue shadows on a crisp, bright, sparkling winter day. I love the serenity of the gray days. Winter light is a close second to fall light in mystery and beauty.

About then, I recalled how I came to see the world exclusively in black and white for a while. I was studying photography. I preferred to shoot in black and white because I loved the interplay of shadows and light. Without any conscious effort on my part, I gradually came to see the world in black and white. It was a most intriguing experience. There are many aspects of photography that please me, but developing an awareness of how we see, and what we fix our gaze upon, is one of the greatest benefits.

And then I thought about the photography exhibit I recently enjoyed at the Art Institute. The photographs captured Parisian life during the Belle Epoch. The photographs were lush and gorgeous. I then mused how sad that so few photographers use Amidol developer with Agfa cream matte paper. The resulting prints are velvet and smoke. And then I recalled the gloss black fingernails on Brett Weston's right hand, permanently stained by a lifetime spent as a photographer.

And then I thought how beautiful and wondrous Paris must have been at the turn of the century. Imagine...the clatter of horses’ hooves everywhere. The flair, the fashion, the contrasts, the café life...the whole grand majesty of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. And then I thought: I’d love to live in Paris, even in the present day. Paris is different, now. But it is still a magnificent experience to walk its streets. And then I thought that, although I would love to be a Parisian for a while, it would never feel like home. Why? Because I am a child of the prairie. Where did that revelation come from? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about my few moments of clarity...(more on that later).

With that, I cracked up. Does everyone think the way I do? I have absolutely no idea how different people think. I suspect we humans have incredibly diverse ways of thinking, of processing information and parsing thoughts. We often refer to “trains of thought.” Well, I just gave you an example of the terrain my brain traverses in the space of a cup of coffee and two cigarettes. My thought process doesn’t feel like a train of thought. It’s more a carousel, with hand-carved and decorated creatures bobbing up and down and round and round...while a calliope plays gaily on...

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