At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In Praise of Flowers

When I fall in love, particularly during that heady and heavenly infatuation phase, my senses come wildly alive. All six senses (yes, I meant six) seek to explore the inamorata. My senses carry on unique love affairs of their very own, their joyous exclamations helping to create that raucous cacophony called love. My nose, while relishing all to one degree or another, fell madly in love with only two.

The first is a wonderful human being and friend of mine. We’ve been close for a long, long time. There’s a story here to tell…but it shall remain untold. She wears a perfume that I solely associate with her. It’s a musky, fragrant and complex scent. I have no idea who the perfumer may be (she once told me, but I have long forgotten the name). I understand that it’s quite exclusive (i.e., expensive), so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a great many civets suffered duress for the sake of the wearer. All I know is that whenever I smell that particular perfume (and it happens once or twice per year), my mind immediately conjures thoughts of her. Isn’t that the perfumer’s holy grail? To create a scent that will indelibly, and forever, imprint the visage of the wearer unto the brain? Her perfume achieved that sublime goal. My nose remains awestruck.

And then, not surprisingly, there’s “Amazing Woman.” She smelled better than any human being I’ve ever smelled. I’m serious. It’s not that she wore some unique perfume. It’s not that at all. She simply smelled great. All.The.Time. It didn’t matter if it was day or night, it didn’t matter if she was glistening with sweat, it didn’t matter if she had not bathed recently. If Heaven has a scent…she exudes it. She ALWAYS smelled heavenly ("She smells like angels oughtta"). It wasn’t a particular fragrance. It was flowers, spices, magic, musk, fruit, hot blood, wine and incense. The aromas ebbed and waned, drifting in and out of my consciousness, filling me with delight...and an indescribable joy.

Now some of you may be thinking that, in the grand scheme of things, scent is but a minor consideration. Maybe so. Still, who among us does not wish to live surrounded by flowers?

* * *

Friday, March 24, 2006

At Waking

I loved waking to her. I loved those indeterminate moments when, at waking, my senses woke only to her. The room, the house, the whole crazy planet would eventually become incarnate…but later…sometimes much later. At waking, there was only her. Her heat (she always ran warmer than I) would draw me close…closer. Her scent was my life’s most beloved aroma. My eyes would invariably be drawn to her face and gradually come to focus. Hers was the only beauty I craved, for she made everything beautiful. I’d quietly revel in her breath and heart beat. I'd braid my breaths with hers until our two hearts found a single rhythm. I always woke to pleasure...and a craving to kiss her.

It is true joy to wake to a dream and have the dream be real. It is a blessing to wake to the world…when your entire world is lying there beside you.

* * *

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Hairbrush

She pushed herself up from the couch and walked slowly, head down, to the bathroom. Her movements indicated physical and emotional exhaustion…sorrow. She stepped into the bathroom but quickly turned back around. In her hand, she clutched her hairbrush. She returned to the couch, returned to me, and silently handed me the brush. She curled herself within the cushions and nestled her head in my lap.

She, in this vulnerable state, felt so very precious to me. How can I, with just this hairbrush, have her understand? I slowly began to brush and caress her hair. I sought to release each snag as gently as possible. Once the brush coursed easily through her hair, I softly brushed her temples. All the while, the brain and heart are frantic...telegraphing urgent prayers to Heaven that she may find peace…burning with hope that she could, somehow, feel the love emanating from the tips of the bristles…wishing that love, truly, could cure or conquer all...searching for the words to let her know just how much she means to me. It’s all a jumble of words and emotions. The only possible result – silence.

All the while, the hairbrush whispers love. Did she hear?

* * *

Apparently not.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thought Piece

For whatever reason, I sought out this poem today. Don’t ask me why – I really don’t know. It is such a delightful, subtle work. I enjoy it more with every repeat visit. How I envy the beasts that suffer no forethought of grief!

By Mark Van Doren

And did the animals in Noah’s ark –
That was of oleander wood, with cabins
Cunningly bitumined in and out –
Did all those animals lie quietly?
For months and weeks and days, until the dove
Came home, and they were dry on Ararat,
Did every bird, with head beneath its wing,
Did every beast, with forepaws folded in,
Did every reptile, coiled upon itself,
Lie sleeping as no man did, patiently?
A man might think this tempest would not end,
Nor timbers cease to creak, nor the light come.
These did not know it rained, these did not know
Their kind survived in them if it survived.
A thinking man might doubt it, and in misery
Listen. Did they listen? But to what?
They did not know of time, they did not count
The waves. Then did they cry out in their dreams?
Or did they even dream, those specimen souls?

* * *

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hearts in Hands

My Random-Thought-Generator of a brain keeps cycling back to the “hearts entrusted to another’s hands” image/metaphor. I’m pretty sure most of us have said something along those lines to somebody at some point. “You hold my heart in your hands” you say to your lover. I would guess that statement might mean different things to different people. I suggest that most of us are trying to say: “don’t hurt me.” Am I right?

The metaphor conjures up a flood of thoughts in me. We’re talking about a transaction, an exchange. It is an act of faith. It is an expression of love. It is a plea. It infers duties and obligations. It’s a complicated thing – this giving up of one’s heart. I don’t even know where to begin. As I sit here at my keyboard, I have absolutely no idea how to proceed. It feels futile to even attempt to array my thoughts into some logical construct. I will simply begin, and hope that what follows turns out to be something a tad more useful than mere blather or gibberish.

First, a bit of context: It is pain that initially brought the metaphor to mind. My heart has endured some rough handling of late. I’m not fixated on the pain aspect, though. Sh*t happens. Lovers hurt one another and get hurt in turn. Love is simply like that. No, there are so many other aspects of this that get me to mulling. Where to start?

I don’t entrust my heart to others all that readily (my parents fall into an entirely different category – with them it was fait accompli). I’m referring to my lovers. Now, I wasn’t always reluctant to love and trust. I was once eager…too eager. As I’ve said before, I typically only learn by failing. A few heartbreaks and a few years later, I was quite a bit more circumspect and cautious. Interestingly enough, I am quicker to trust now (well, not right now), but it’s only because I’ve come to know myself quite a bit better, and have a much better understanding of what I love and admire in others. I have a much better sense today of: what I need…what repels…what I can accept…and what I cannot. I also know what I can (and cannot) offer in return. I’m no longer a malleable youth striving to fit within the contours of another’s hands. I’m a craggy stone now. I’m mindful of my hard edges. I know my contours. There aren’t all that many others who can be comfortable with my heart. When I find someone who can…someone craving a craggy stone...well…surrender is easy.

Funny thing, though - despite all wariness and caution (I was engaged for five years before I married), it remains a fact that life will always throw curve after curve. No one can foresee the possibilities and the realities. Entrusting one’s heart into the hands of another will always be a risky business. It all comes down to faith and Fate. It surely helps if the hands serve as expressions of a truly good and loving heart.

What do I expect when I surrender my heart? I guess my expectations have also changed with time, pain and experience. My young heart begged to be made happy, begged to be loved. My young heart sought to be sheltered from pain.

My old heart has simpler needs. It just wants to be cherished. I can accept the fact that someone I love may choose to follow a different path (they all have). I simply accept that love is going to hurt. I can’t predict the what-where-when-and-how’s of impending heartaches. I just know they’re coming. No, I simply ask to be cherished. Learning that I’m not really the apple of someone’s eye does not devastate me. What devastates is the manner in which my heart is treated. People can return my heart when their hands get tired. I understand. People can decide my heart is not to their liking. I understand (believe me, I do!). People are free to do whatever their own hearts prompt them to do. After all, isn’t love about complete acceptance? It follows then, that one must accept whatever happens once two hearts choose to correspond.

I just wish that people wouldn’t crumple my heart and toss it into a trash bin in the process. I wish to be cherished, if only just a little. I wish to have my heart returned blessed with at least a few drops of remorse. I wish my heart would be treated as the fragile, crystalline thing it truly is. Take it. Keep it. Please. But if you wish to return it, do it gently. The pain will be unbearable as it is. It’s that much worse if I am made to crawl naked through broken glass. Sigh.

* * *

Oops. I guess I am fixated on the pain aspect…sorry.

Friday, March 17, 2006

To Cherish

Cherish is a transitive verb whose common meaning is: to feel or show great love or care for somebody; to value something highly; to retain a memory or wish in the mind as a source of pleasure or ambition. Its synonyms are: to treasure, value, prize, appreciate, relish, take pleasure in, esteem and revere. Its antonym is: neglect.

I desperately want to shed the pain of the last few years (and this past year in particular) long enough to contemplate the import of this verb dispassionately (is that even possible?). It seems as if so much of what I’ve felt and experienced, so many of my personal failings and abject heartaches, can be traced to this one word…or its antonym.

I’m struggling here…really struggling. It’s not just the near-futile challenge of finding the proper vocabulary. Heck, that’s the easiest hurdle. No, the struggle is to confront the reality of who I am, my own heart and my own actions…and to somehow come to understand and accept the hearts and acts of others, as well. I have been both victimizer and victim and it’s damnably hard, and excruciatingly painful, to sort through the rubble of my life in order to make sense of any of it. The struggle is both to redeem my soul and to forgive.

A therapist would nudge me to explore my “family of origin.” It’s a logical starting point. I can readily state that my father cherished me, and my mother did/did not. My feelings for them are a reflection of their feelings for me. How’s that for clarity?

I cherished my first love. She did not cherish me.

I did not cherish my first wife. I will go to my grave feeling ashamed of that.

And now it gets far, far more complicated. I did/did not cherish my wife of twenty years. She did, and then did not (does not) cherish me. It was the tragic erosion of two souls.

Oh, but it gets worse - I fell in love with another. I cherished her (still do). She did not cherish me.

It isn't easy to write this. It isn’t easy to be honest with others. Harder still to be honest with one’s own self. It physically and emotionally hurts to bare one’s soul, to lay proof of one’s own failures on the table. It is, after all, a fetid mess. Still, if I am ever to breathe easily again, if I am ever to love again, to cherish another (and, should Fate be kind, be cherished in return), I must come to understand the how’s and why’s of my failures and purify my soul. I must come to understand, forgive and accept the frailties of others. I must tear down my defenses, reject my excuses, and open the doors to my heart or, surely, I am doomed. I am a sinner struggling to someday become a tarnished, minor saint. Let’s just call the process Hell.

* * *

Mind Cramps

The wheels in my head keep spinning, but I’m not getting anywhere. There are thoughts, just beyond the edge of language that feel important…immense, but I just can’t bring them into sufficient focus to understand their meaning. My skull is filled with germs of thought (the soul’s neutrinos, if you will) that vibrate, merge, dance and disappear within a maelstrom of emotions. I’ve touched on them briefly…a vision of a heart being entrusted to another’s hands. And a feeling…a dream…a consequential notion: “being cherished.”

I’m already mucking this up. I suppose this entry will serve as an object lesson that one can’t write cogently about topics just outside one’s mental and emotional grasp. Still, I keep searching for insight and striving for clarity. I can be doggedly persistent when need be. I know that, this time, I must come to some understanding, for I somehow know that these twinned notions – giving up one’s heart and feeling cherished – have been the wellsprings of my greatest joy and deepest pain. I have to crawl out of my emotional foxhole and search in earnest, for I desperately want to know what these elusive thoughts mean. It feels as if my life depends on it.

* * *

Thursday, March 16, 2006


It appears there’s not much room for music in this battered heart of mine. I’m down to one simple song, “River of Tears” by Eric Clapton.

It’s three miles to the river
That would carry me away,
And two miles to the dusty street
That I saw you on today

It’s four miles to my lonely room
Where I will hide my face,
And about half a mile to the downtown bar
That I ran from in disgrace.

Lord, how long have I got to keep on running,
Seven hours, seven days or seven years?
All I know is, since you’ve been gone
I feel like I’m drowning in a river,
Drowning in a river of tears.
Drowning in a river.
Feel like I’m drowning,
Drowning in a river.

In three more days, I’ll leave this town
And disappear without a trace.
A year from now, maybe settle down
Where no one knows my face.

I wish that I could hold you
One more time to ease the pain,
But my time’s run out and I got to go,
Got to run away again.

Still I catch myself thinking,
One day I’ll find my way back here.
You’ll save me from drowning,
Drowning in a river,
Drowning in a river of tears.
Drowning in a river.
Feels like I’m drowning,
Drowning in a river.
Lord, how long must this go on?

Drowning in a river,
Drowning in a river of tears.

* * *

This song fits me well, except for one thing – I hurt way too much to cry. Someday…someday…maybe the tears will flow. Strange, isn’t it, that I should find myself yearning to drown in a river of tears?

* * *

* * *

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here...Take My Heart

She was impressive. Smart and sophisticated…beautifully dressed, groomed and polished…good-looking, too. She was an environmental activist and I was her natural enemy: “the government.”

We met at a conference in the mid-70’s. We found ourselves on a panel discussing pesticide use/misuse. I liked her immediately. She exuded strength and confidence, and presented her views fearlessly. She was a lot like me (although I’m a shy introvert at my core, I can be hellacious on a stage). I enjoyed locking horns with her. I adore strong women.

She began calling me at my office, asking for data to support her research. I helped her as much as I could. I welcomed the repartee. I was delighted that she was such an ardent activist. The world can use a great many more idealists.

She invited me for lunch (we both worked downtown). Sure, why not? I was divorced, living alone and, as I’ve said, she was quite good-looking. We had a delightful meal, and walked for a bit along Michigan Avenue. It was a gorgeous spring day, so we sat down on the steps of the Art Institute to indulge in a bit of people watching. I was enjoying myself, and she seemed happy, too. She took my hand in hers and began tracing the veins on my hand and arm. She looked at me and said: “I love you.

I was too surprised for words. I was completely and utterly flummoxed. This was too easy, too fast, too incongruous and unexpected. I kissed her on the cheek as I soon took my leave.
I’ll admit I felt somewhat flattered, but she had scared me.

She continued to call me, and I continued to engage in friendly banter. I liked her, truly liked her. In fact, I couldn’t (still can’t) point to a single flaw…except for the fact that she scared me. I couldn’t understand how she (or anyone, for that matter) could surrender her heart so haphazardly. Why would she just thrust her heart into the hands of a virtual stranger? I fear what I don’t understand when it comes to matters of the heart.

We remained friends, and I was always scrupulously careful to keep our relationship on a “friends-only” basis. I enjoyed her company immensely whenever we got together for an occasional coffee or lunch. I always found her interesting (and intriguing). She moved to Madison to pursue a doctorate in toxicology. We stayed in touch, talking once a month or so. She would call whenever she came to town, and I would have dinner with her, or spend an afternoon simply wandering about. I came to regard her as a genuine friend.

She invited me to visit her in Madison. I didn’t exactly jump at the offer but, on the other hand, I knew I would enjoy spending a weekend with her. I intuited that sex would be offered. I felt ambivalent about the prospect. It’s not that I had some deep, moral reservations about casual sex. I had been casually dating for several years and had more than a few rollicking experiences. No, the ambivalence stemmed from deeper concerns. Although we had studiously avoided the subject of “love” ever since our first luncheon date, I always felt her pressing. I always sensed her need.

Sweeping my fears into my suitcase, I came up to visit. She had a modest student apartment, but it was elegant. She came from wealth, and her refinement and wonderful aesthetic sensibilities were well displayed in her furnishings, art, music and the general ambiance of her apartment. I particularly loved her taste in music. She introduced me to a wealth of chamber music that I’ve enjoyed ever since. She, herself, looked marvelous. We talked and laughed and dined and talked some more. She is glorious company. I was not oblivious to the fact that her conversation included a good deal of sexual content and innuendo. It got to the point where I could not help but laugh. “I get it. I get it!” I smiled, after she informed me at dinner that she wasn’t wearing panties. Several bottles of wine sipped in the glow of candlelight later, we knew the moment had come.

I wanted to please her. I wanted to thank her for her gracious hospitality. I wanted her to know that I valued her friendship. I wanted to comfort her. I wanted to do whatever I could do to make her feel good…no, make that feel great (more than a hint of male ego,no?). But I knew I didn’t love her. She still scared me.

We had sex. She said it was wonderful. I felt…sad. I knew that I would never sleep with her again. I can’t explain it. I really can’t. I knew I did not love her and would never truly love her in the way she hungered to be loved. I wanted her to discover the real thing, not settle for some pale imitation of love.

Anyway, we remained friends for many years. She continued to press, and I continued to regard her as a close friend. She once came to stay with me, but I announced at the outset that, while we would be sleeping together, we wouldn’t be having sex. She was taken aback by that, but acquiesced. In the next few days after she left, I found several pairs of her panties in a variety of creative locations. She was nothing if not creative.

She graduated and moved to Washington. I would visit her every time I came to town. We always had a good time together, but we never bridged the moat between us. We never slept together again. Eventually, my career offered fewer and fewer opportunities for visits. We rarely saw each other, and eventually stopped calling.

* * *

As far as I know, she never found a mate.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Are You Experienced?

We were at a party, my sweetheart and I, and Jimi was soulfully throbbing in another room…

“If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We'll hold hands and then we'll watch the sunrise
From the bottom of the sea

But first, are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have…”

She gently took my hands in hers as we sat, cross-legged, facing each other. We were stoned. I gazed into her eyes and she gazed deeply into mine. We didn’t speak. We were both too awed for words. We were dreaming the same dream, she and I. We somehow knew and understood that we both shared it...felt it...Perfect Joy. Our bodies swayed slowly back and forth as our unfettered souls danced joyously in Heaven. Tears filled our eyes and coursed down our cheeks. Time stood still. To this day, I cannot say how long the moment lasted. It may have been hours; it may have been only minutes…it felt like eternity. The room, the music, and all the revelers dissolved to nothing…simply disappeared. What we felt, what we shared, defies all description. I was hers. She was mine. We were lost in each other, lost in love and rapture. It was the most profound moment of my young life.

I crashed violently to earth several months later.

Funny. Decades later, we discovered that we both remember that moment vividly. As it turned out, neither one of us ever again felt so cherished as we felt that night. Pity.

* * *

* * *

Love Inchoate

So I’ve been thinking…and thinking…and thinking…about love and faith and love. My heart bursts with feelings (with almost every heartbeat, it seems) that my brain simply cannot process, or grasp in their entirety. There is so much to ponder - a lifetime’s worth of experience. Thoughts race in my brain throughout the day and night, but I can’t seem to catch them. I see glimpses of truths, only to have them obscured by bitter thoughts and painful memories. I fear I am ill prepared to discourse about love. Wounds gape and bleed. Pain overwhelms.

Who am I to speak of love, anyway? Other hearts, throughout all of human history, have tackled this subject with far more grace and art than I could ever muster. Libraries are filled with books about love. Want to listen to a love song? There are billions to sort through. Love is mother’s milk to poets, artists, playwrights, composers and every human being who ever walked this earth.

Still. There is an image in my head that calls to me incessantly. I see a heart placed in the hands of another. That image (dream) haunts me. It begs for words. I am trying…desperately trying…to find the words my dream elicits…

* * *

(to be continued)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

On Love

So, I've spent quite a bit of time (and a bit of yours) talking about Faith. I've actually been pondering matters of Faith my whole life. It is one of my primary concerns, obsessions, mainstays. Love is another. Faith and Love are inextricably intertwined, don't you agree? As I pondered my Faith, I pondered Love, as well. Perhaps I'm ready to find expression for feelings that have swirled in my head for as long as I can remember. It's a complex subject. Maybe I won't find the words, maybe I will.

Whatever words I may find will never compare to the beauty and sagacity of May Swenson's poetry. Here's the proof:

In Love Made Visible

In love are we made visible
As in a magic bath
are unpeeled
to the sharp pit
so long concealed

With love’s alertness
we recognize
the soundless whimper
of the soul
behind the eyes
A shaft opens
and the timid thing
at last leaps to surface
with full-spread wing

The fingertips of love discover
more than the body’s smoothness
They uncover a hidden conduit
for the transfusion
of empathies that circumvent
the mind’s intrusion

In love are we set free
Objective bone
and flesh no longer insulate us
to ourselves alone
We are released
and flow into each other’s cup
Our two frail vials pierced
drink each other up

* * *

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Beauty In Passing

I was in high school when I came across this quote (attributed to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky): “Be ashamed to die until you have achieved some victory for humanity.” The words immediately stuck in my head. They made perfect sense, and gave me a sense of purpose (although I’ll confess that I placed heavy, heavy emphasis on the word “some”). It was my personal mantra throughout my adult years…until about six years ago. I had reached a point in my life where I was exhausted physically, intellectually and emotionally. My ambitions had waned as my inner flame flickered. New words began to echo inside of me: “I will be dust soon enough, I just want to leave a little beauty in passing.” This has been my mantra ever since.

* * *

I’ve been reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s a masterful, delightful telling of a Greek family’s tale. I’ve enjoyed every page, but I find my mind constantly drifting to thoughts of C.

I met her in a yoga class almost six years ago. Now, I don’t wear my glasses while practicing yoga. I rather enjoy having the world in soft focus as I practice my postures. I noticed her standing at the other side of the room. I was struck by her physical beauty. I couldn’t discern any details; all I saw was a tall, lean and beautifully proportioned figure. She moved with killing grace. I enjoyed the poses that had me face to my left, for she would then fall into my field of view. The curve of her hip was simply exquisite. We never spoke. I never saw her up close, but I relished her presence. It always felt as if she filled the room with beauty.

I subsequently enrolled in a noon yoga class. Imagine my delight when I discovered that she was one of only five students! She and I stayed on opposite ends of the room, but I would always say hello to my classmates, and I smiled each time I saw her. I noticed she would sometimes gaze at me as I unrolled my mat. She made my geezer heart flutter. She looked awfully young, though. I assumed she was in her twenties. Still, she was music. She was poetry.

The instructor and I became close friends. We would leave class together, taking a few extra minutes to talk (mostly about music). One day, as he and I were leaving, I mentioned to him that I had reservations that weekend at a particular restaurant. She looked up and exclaimed, “That’s one of my favorite restaurants!” We paused to give her time to join us. I was wearing my glasses this time. As she came close, I realized I was looking at the most beautiful woman I had ever met. Honestly. Her hair was jet black; her complexion olive, her eyes were dark and her face was finely carved. She was almost as tall as I. She could easily have had a career as a model. Yes, she was that striking.

She literally took my breath away.

So it came to pass that the three of us became friends. We talked of music, mostly. I would burn CD’s of my favorite songs for my instructor (he was a masterful guitarist); I delighted in introducing him to new music. I began burning copies for C., too. We would share our thoughts about great bands, great concerts, great experiences.
I learned she was Greek, incredibly shy, formally trained as a ballet dancer, age 30 (I was 50), a single mom with an infant daughter.
I didn’t feel quite as flummoxed after learning she was older than she appeared, but I still had trouble breathing around her. I can’t explain it…she always took my breath away…always.

I became a gym rat. I’ve mentioned that I entered my 50’s an absolute wreck. I slowly (painfully) began working my way back to health. C. often joined me in the gym. We didn’t speak much as we went about our exercises, but we would smile, exchange pleasantries, or share a thought or two about life. I guess it was a matter of self-defense that led me to mention often to her that I was old and married. She never revealed details about her personal life, other than to talk about her daughter. She was a doting mother. Her daughter was her life. I loved hearing her talk about her child and her motherly concerns. She was also incredibly quick-witted and funny. She was a delight.

Now, I need to mention something about C. that I, myself, had failed to notice for almost one year. One day, as we were leaving a yoga class, I found myself walking behind her. She was wearing a tight tube top. I was admiring her shoulders when I realized she had a huge scar that completely rimmed her left shoulder blade. It looked to be a gruesome injury. The next time I saw her I mentioned that I had noticed the scar. I apologized for my impertinence, but then remarked that she must have suffered grievously at one time. She very calmly told me that she had been diagnosed with a rare bone cancer at age thirteen. Three ribs had to be removed. For the first time, honestly, I realized that there was, in fact, a large notch in her torso, and an awesome scar that must have coursed across her rib cage and around her shoulder blade. I had never noticed it before, but I came to understand that her near-death experience at such a young formative age, and subsequent scarring, had had a profound impact on her. I should also mention that she was covered with tattoos.

Something changed in our relationship from that point on. We drew closer, more intimate. I would guess that my initial reaction may have endeared me to her. I wasn’t repulsed by her wounds, I simply grieved that she had suffered so. I suspect that my reaction may have been atypical. I noticed that she always kept her left arm cocked at her side, as if to hide the wounds. She evoked thoughts of a wounded swan. I believe the tattoos were a form of camouflage. I found her to be no less beautiful…simply more fragile…a poignant beauty.

The years passed. I saw her at the gym several times per week. There was a warmth between us that kept growing. We were kindred spirits. Much was left unspoken. We both tacitly understood that this was an unusual relationship…a deepening love that was never expressed verbally or physically, but it was obvious and palpable. We never dined together, or even had coffee together. We only met at the gym, and only spoke for minutes at a time (OK, sometimes longer...). Still, we both came to relish these moments together. Our shared thoughts were intimate. Thoughts of life, death, heartaches, joys, beauty, worries, wants and needs…conveyed in few words, but echoing in both our hearts for days on end. I let C. know, by deeds far more than words, that I loved her – not for the pleasure that she could (never) give me, but because she deserved to be loved. She unwittingly helped me to love again. It was the purest love I have ever felt. Love only for the sake of love, with nothing asked, or expected, in return. I had never experienced that before, will likely never experience it again. C. was unique.

She moved away about two years ago. We didn’t speak much about it beforehand. It was understood that she had to live her life and I had to live mine. Still, it was a bittersweet parting. My last words to her: “I hope you’ll remember me as someone who tried to leave a little beauty in passing.”

* * *

Someday, many years from now, I may write about the most amazing woman I have ever met. It'll be a long, long, long while before my wounds heal...but she was really something...

* * *

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Personal Theology

It is time to close the circle. I’ve described my early faith and its subsequent erosion. The story does not end there, not at all. As I’ve aged, as I’ve gazed upon the world and contemplated Creation; as I’ve loved and prayed year after year after year, I’ve come to find and feel a personal theology. It’s as deep a faith as any I’ve ever held, but it does not lend itself to words. I cannot point to a specific text for reference. There is no church, no altar. There are no priests…there is just this acolyte of one.

I already know, as I sit down to write this, that I will fail miserably in describing my theology. I have not the art, nor the words, to describe my belief. It is a feeling, a song, and an awe that I know to be true, but that I cannot prove or limn for others. Sigh.

Let me rest my head against a broken marble pillar, some vestige of an ancient Greek temple, and allow my river of thought to flow. Perhaps (if I am lucky), my theology may find crude expression here.

I’ve come to believe that all religions are an expression of awe. We humans struggle endlessly to define the mystery inherent in all of Creation. We have always done this, and we will never stop. I imagine the first proto-human staring at the starlit heaven and experiencing the same awe I felt that one magnificent night on the mountaintop. I imagine that our earliest forbearers heard The Song much more clearly than I. After all, my world is filled with the clanking of machinery, explosions, sirens, the roar of jets, the blasphemies of gunfire and screams, honking horns, curses, the grinding screech of industry and the anguished groans of empire. It was not always so. All was quiet once. The Song was there for all to hear.

Is it any wonder, then, that the ancient Greeks (and Phoenicians, Hittites, Mayans, Incas, Etruscans, Egyptians and many others…countless others) built their temples and prayed to the mysteries of Creation? They gloried in the sun and stars, the sea and the seasons. They were grateful for their sustenance and succor. They sought to find their place in all of this and they knew, just as we know today, that nothing and no one ever dies…all live on, in some form, if only in our hearts. They found words and symbols for all of this. They built their temples and created their gods because they heard The Song, felt the Awe and the Mystery.

We built our societies and came to believe in rulers. It followed naturally that we came to believe in one god…a king of kings, a god of gods, the "one true god". Never mind that different peoples found different names and different descriptions for the "one true God". It was/is all the same. The Song may have been a bit harder to hear. Perhaps we only heard it faintly, or no longer heard it at all, but the echoes remained and we still somehow sensed the Awe and we believed. We strove to define our beliefs. Sadly, our religions came to separate us. We each thought our one true god was the only true god. Some thought he wore a turban, some thought he wore a crown of thorns, some thought he looked, and acted, just like us. We seem to have forgotten there is only One Song, the Song within ourselves and every created thing...every living, breathing, loving, dreaming soul. The Song resonates everywhere, if we but had the ears to hear. The Awe remains, but we reduced the Awe to human terms. We defined it and, in so doing, diminished and demeaned it.

Science played a role in our evolving theology. The more we understood, the less the mystery, seemingly. We came to know the basic workings of Creation. We stopped gazing at the stars. Our eyes fell from Heaven and came to rest on text. Ah, text. Human terms and human words describing human gods and human values. We came so far; but found ourselves so very far removed from The Song and the Awe.

It was science, interestingly enough, that brought me closer to The Song. I came to learn that the marble temple remnant I chose to rest my head upon was metamorphosed calcite. The calcite came from the shells of primordial creatures once found teeming in primordial seas. Billions of creatures lived, loved and died and floated to the ocean bottom. Their remains rested there for millennia until the earth moved to crush and bake their shells into beautiful, malleable marble before heaving the stone to the surface of our lands. Nothing truly dies. All is transformed and born again. Human hands fashioned the stone into statues and pillars and expressions of faith. Millenia transformed beautiful life into beautiful stone into beautiful objects of faith. Awe expressed in stone, ever beautiful, ever changing…The Song contained within.

I’ve only scratched the surface, so to speak. Let’s peer deeper into the marbled stone. Let’s gaze upon an individual atom and contemplate what we find. Once again, there’s Awe. We’ve come to learn that the atom is comprised of amazing things (neutrinos) that both are and are not. Each atom is infinite space and infinite possibility. Its constituent particles come and go (where, I wonder?). They are, then are not, then are once more...the very idea takes my breath away. Nothing real is real. The Awe transubstantiates itself constantly in every atom in every thing, in every heart and every soul. How can I possibly define God when I cannot remotely comprehend the infinity contained within a single atom? Science brought me back to Awe, The Song, The Mystery.

I cannot describe my God. I cannot define Awe. It simply is…and I feel It. My God is song and mystery and awe. My God is infinite and pure. My God demands that I revere all of Creation because all comprise The Song. My morality flows from song, the knowledge that all is sacred and infinite and magnificent.

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As I write this, the Andromeda galaxy is hurtling towards our own Milky Way at approximately 600,000 miles per hour. The collision is inevitable. And when that fated collision comes, approximately 7 billion years from today, all will be transformed into something new, and different and magnificent. I hope that I will have the eyes to see the end of what is and the beginning of what will be. Imagine the night sky a billion years before the inevitable! The heavens will be filled with an infinite number of stars, burning bright, looming large, moving close, then closer still, until we are all enveloped in stars.

Imagine, if you can, The Awe.

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