Forgive me, but it has taken me a while to respond to an honor several of you have bestowed on me. You see, I’ve been nominated, on three (!?!) separate occasions, by three (!?!) of you for a...(ahem)... wait for it...: “Thinking Blogger Award.”
I’ve never been one to accept compliments well. My typical response is either “Huh?” "Duh?" or, “What the Hell are you thinking!?!” (Or reasonable variants thereof).
Gillette waxed poetic: “...because Mr. Jonas is a poet extraordinaire, his posts lyrical beauty. He brings me back home to the Suchness of Life. His writings remind me of Beauty in grief, love, loss, geese, the body, music, faith, redemption, sitting with what is and the Dance of Life.”
Roads cited “a Chicago poet and philosopher who expresses the lyrical meaning of life, love and loss better than anyone I know...”
And, Buddha presented his criteria along with his praise.
Um, what the HELL were you thinking!?!(Ooops. Sorry, that just came blurting out)
I’m truly touched, definitely flattered, by the kind sentiments. More so, given the fact that I’ve come to enjoy, respect, and learn from, these very same bloggers...and every one of you blogging Readers. It’s very much a mutual admiration society, no?
But something niggled at me. You see, I don’t consider myself much of a thinker.
Oh, my brain works just fine, thank you. I’ve been blessed/cursed with a high IQ. Processing information comes easily to me. Always has. I’ve been blessed with good teachers who taught me words, and the meanings and the power and the beauty of words. All of these were gifts bestowed with little work on my part.
So, what have I done with these gifts? Well, I’ve mucked up my life considerably...gargantuan portions of it anyway. You see, I’m not all that capable a thinker.
I’ve lived a life ruled by emotion. It’s one way of living. There are many other paths through life, to be sure. Some, no doubt, vastly superior to the path I chose. Still. I am who I am, and I’ve done what I’ve done. Believe me, there was scant little thinking involved. The thinking comes afterwards, while kneeling broken in some dark cave, or standing on a heap of smoking rubble...dazed and bewildered. I’ve gotten rather adept at looking back and reflecting. And what I reflect upon are the emotions and their consequences. I think to the extent I must to understand my feelings, rarely venturing from the Land of Emotion to the Land of The Wise to...say...plan and organize my life a bit better. Sigh.
I won’t be pasting the Thinking Blogger Award icon anywhere on these pages. I wouldn’t want to mislead some innocent into thinking I am possessed of something akin to wisdom. I’m not.
There’s one more thing.
The purpose of these Blogger awards is to introduce readers to other worthy reads. Well, being true to form, I won’t try to decide on what subset to mention. That would require too much thought, ya know? No, I’ll simply reiterate what I’ve already stated before. I follow the writings and the doings of all of you Dear Readers. I do. Why do we read each other’s blogs? Because we’re kindred spirits of a sort. We are spun and swaddled in emotion...and we share our feelings and our thoughts regarding that very fact. I cherish and admire all of you for your hearts and your willingness to share their contents.
One of the most appealing and healing aspects of my new home is that it is semi-rural. I now live in a low-to-middle class, predominantly African-American community; believe me, that is a treat in and of itself. Seriously. Better yet, I live in a rural county. My condo is bordered on three sides by cornfields. The area is ribboned with forested streams. The roads are mostly empty...beckoning. The air smells of earth.
If one is to reconstruct a life from the rubble up, this is a good place to start.
Each day brings unexpected joys from encounters with wild things. Do we not all react with an inner glee and touch of awe whenever we “brush against Nature”? I certainly do. I sit on the patio at dusk and watch a raccoon family amble by. I am filled with grudging admiration for these masked night pirates. The killdeer cry in the darkening sky. A gray heron wings its way majestically toward the far horizon. In these last two weeks, I’ve encountered a coyote, a red-tailed hawk (soaring majestically over its domain), a fox and more whitetail deer than I can count...some posing in “National Geographic-worthy” scenes that momentarily take my breath away.
I had forgotten how much I had loved living here, decades ago. It’s all coming back to me in a rush...
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The Peace of Wild Things By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Funny how a song appears from seemingly nowhere and captures the mood of the moment.
I sit in front of my new computer, in my new abode, windows wide open. Hope and tranquility waft in with every wayward breeze.
It truly feels as if I’m a million miles from yesterday.
Everything around me’s changed. My home is another world entirely. It’s an alternate reality, so vastly different in every way: culturally, economically and aesthetically.
I abandoned a house haunted with ghosts, where pain lurks in every corner, within every shadow. I can breathe again in these cramped, ramshackle quarters. This is where I’ll heal. I'm gonna brush the dirt and ashes from my bloodied knees. I'm gonna stand up straight and stretch my arms out wide. I'm not afraid to bare my heart to Heaven, and not too proud to pray for mercy. This is where I’ve come to make a stand and, in so doing, find myself again (the good parts, anyway... I hope).
I’m a million miles from yesterday, and I’ve a million more to go.
The minstrel sits curbside, singing his own true song. Just a minstrel with a simple tune...and a thousand shoes in passing.
There are those who choose neither to see nor listen. They shuffle and they scuffle in a seemingly endless procession. There are those who pause to listen, but cannot seem to hear. Shoes slow, only for a moment, then quickly disappear. There are those who stop to listen... and critique. “The minstrel’s just a phony; his songs are not unique...” They think they know the minstrel, they believe they've heard the song. Smug within their wisdom, they march resolutely on. Their shoes? Lost among those of the deaf and the uncomprehending.
In the end, there will simply be one pair of shoes. Silver coins cascade to cup.
“Sing to me again, minstrel...sing once more...and then again.”
OK, just so there’s no confusion, I don’t mean to praise PRAISE sinners…I mean, a sin is a sin is a sin. I don’t mean to praise the sinner for sinning (myself, most definitely included). No, what I want to praise is what may follow the sin...
Suffering, penance, reflection, atonement, redemption and (one can only hope...found wisdom) are useful things, no? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I am not innately wise. It would be far closer to the truth to describe myself as a passionate (sometimes arrogant) fool.
I have stumbled and blundered my way through life, tethered or led (sometimes shackled) by my heartstrings.
I’m not hopeless, though. With the suffering, penance, reflection, atonement and redemption came a bit of wisdom, a bit of understanding, some important lessons. I am who I am not just because I did good, but because I’ve sinned, too. If I were to weigh the ultimate import of living virtuously versus erring miserably, I’d have to admit that the road to redemption posed the greatest hurdles and eluted the most change. Then again, remember that I’m a pilgrim soul riding the “short bus” through eternity.
In a comment to a (fairly) recent entry, Laurie asked if I’d be willing to list ten songs that are important to me and explain why. That’s a TALL order for a man whose soul comes wrapped in a thousand songs. I didn’t think I’d find the time to contemplate, much less identify, the ten most important songs in my life. I had too many things to pack and move, too much work to do, too many miles to travel.
Last Thursday afternoon, I loaded the truck for the umpteenth time with sundry earthly possessions for transport to my new/old home. The sky had grown ominously dark. The wind howled and thunder rumbled. I had already entered the freeway when the deluge came. Oh, how it poured! Traffic slowed to a snail’s crawl. There was nothing to be seen but fog and rain, rain and fog. I could barely make out the flashing red taillights directly before my eyes. The world dissolved to clouds and water.
It was then that I began to hear the music…
It was 1964, when I bought my first long-play album, Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five (Funny, isn’t it, how so many of us remember the first album we ever went and bought with our own money? It’s a rite of passage, I guess). Yes, the British had invaded and found a most avid listener in me. But there was so much more going on than just the Beatles, the DC5, the Stones, Who and Cream (and countless others…).
Here on our own shores, in a place called San Francisco, other musicians played my heart strings. I was in high school. If someone were to ask me, then, to define myself through music I could hand them two albums: Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane, and the self-titled Buffalo Springfield platter.
Wait! Make that three albums.
I need to add Having A Rave Up by the Yardbirds. These albums defined the contents of my young soul. The Airplane had fused folk music with psychedelia. My two favorite songs, though - “Today” and “Comin’ Back To Me” aren’t psychedelic at all.
They’re simply beautiful.
Buffalo Springfield added political awareness to the mix (although my favorite song will always remain "Mr. Soul") and the Yardbirds set me afire through the rock pyrotechnics of the likes of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. From these three seeds, my musical taste buds exploded, my passions became incarnate.
The music I heard between 1964 and 1970 was absolutely incredible. My world spun on an axis of sound. There were so many artists, so many pivotal songs! My pantheon of rock gods and influences is filled to overflowing. Trust me on this, I can’t possibly list them all.
But as I sat on the flooded freeway, these particular songs and artists drifted into mind:
Jimi Hendrix burst on the scene in 1966. To this very day, I relish listening to Hendrix. He didn’t just play a Fender guitar; no, it was a conduit for his soul and what an absolutely amazing and creative soul it was! He was truly one of a kind.
I wish he had survived the turmoil of his career and the times. I still grieve.
Imagine the music he would be making today!
I had my own quirky favorites. Back then, I used to listen to a small indie radio station whose call letters have long since vanished into the ether. It was 1967, and the DJ would end his late-night program with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by the Iron Butterfly. Yep, he did that at the end of every broadcast. I would listen with rapt (often stoned) attention. Night after night after night. I loved Ron Bushy’s drum solo. It was musical. It helped a lot that it was also simple to emulate. To this day, whenever I sit down at a drum kit, I’ll beat out at least a few measures of that solo.
That same summer, the Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed. This album came back to me, as if in a dream. You see, that summer, my high school sweetheart had jetted off to California to live with her sister. She was kind enough to lend me her portable phonograph (oh, go ahead and scratch your heads and laugh, you crazy youngsters…). I experienced an amazing, mystical, and altogether extraordinary night listening to this album over and over again, with the small speakers pressed against my ears. Let’s just say that Timothy Leary would have been inordinately proud of me that night. It was a true “out of body” experience. I was transported to a world I could never again revisit. As I said, it was an amazing night.
I can’t help but list Led Zeppelin’s debut album. I swear that, in 1969, every party I attended had that record blasting all night long. I kid you not. Page, Plant and Bonham made us want to tear our clothes off and ravish each other. Whenever I hear the Zep, I am transported to those feverish hormonal and drug-fueled times. “Dazed and Confused” is an apt anthem for those heady, turbulent times.
It wasn’t all drugs, sex and rock and roll, though. Believe it or not, Cat Stevens arrived on the scene at almost the same time. I can still remember hearing Cat (Yusuf Islam) for the very first time. The song was “Trouble” from the Mona Bone Jakon album. I fell in love with that voice instantly.
Tea for the Tillerman followed shortly thereafter. It may just be my favorite album of all time.
A few years later, I was visiting one of my close friends, he of the incredible taste in music. It was 1974. He said: “Jon, you’ve got to hear this!” He inserted a tape into an incredibly expensive player that was connected to an even more richly-valued pre-amp/amp that was connected to speakers worth more than my condo. I heard a woman’s voice. She sang like no other, and she sang of love in a way that grabbed my heart and never let go. I was listening to Joan Armatrading’s "Dry Land", and I’ve loved her passionately ever since.
In 1980, Dire Straits released their third album, Making Movies. I was already a big Mark Knofler fan, but this album positively thrilled. Here's my story: One fateful day, I brought the record home and gave it a spin. I immediately fell in love with the heroine of the "Skateaway" cut. I mean I really fell for her…HARD!
I seen a girl on a one-way corridor Stealin' down a wrong-way street For all the world like an urban toreador She had wheels on - on her feet Well the cars do the usual dances Same old cruise and the curbside crawl But the rollergirl - she's takin' chances Just love to see her take them on
No fears, alone at night - she's sailing through the crowd In her ears the phones are tight and the music's playin' loud
Hallelujah - here she comes - Queen Roller Ball Enchante - what can I say? Carry on You know she used to have to wait around She used to be the lonely one But now that she been skatin' around town She's the only one
No fears, alone at night - she's sailing through the crowd In her ears the phones are tight and the music's playin' loud
She gets rock n roll, from the rock n roll station In a rock n roll dream She's making movies on location She don't know what it means And the music make her wanna be the story And the story was whatever was the song - what it was Rollergirl - don't worry DJ play the movies - all night long
She tortures taxi drivers just for fun She like to read their lips Says: "Toro, toro, taxi - see 'ya tomorrow my son - " She just let a big truck graze her hip She got her own world in the city - yeah! Ain't that true - Lord I know - She got her own world in the city The city's bein' so... rude to her
Slippin' and a-slidin' Yeah, life's a roller ball Slippin' and a-slidin' Skateaway - that's all Skateaway Shala shalay, hey hey, skateaway She's singin' shala shalay, hey hey Skateaway
Yep. My kinda gal. I was in a swoon when I noticed the turntable was introducing quite a bit of wow and flutter. It was, after all, an old “college-days” relic. I rushed to the audio store to buy a new turntable. I rushed home to listen to the record again. Ah, beautiful rendition…but…my receiver was too weak to REALLY bring out the sound. Long story short, over the course of the next three days, I replaced my receiver with a powerful monster, bought a new cassette deck (need to listen to this album in the car, dontcha know), and lugged two huge Bose speakers into my home. Rollergirl cost me plenty but I’m still crazy about her (although I will say that over the course of the years, "Romeo and Juliet" became my favorite cut).
Peter Gabriel had already formed Genesis by 1967 but, to this listener, he didn’t come to full flower until the 1986 release of So. Although ALL of his work resonates with me, So blew me away. It was my all-time favorite Gabriel CD until he released Secret World Live in 1994. If you haven’t seen the performance video, do so. You will be a better person for it. Tell me you don’t feel sanctified, somehow, as Paula Cole’s voice soars to the rafters and Manu Katché drums his rhythms through your soul.
As I grew older, I drifted towards “roots rock.” I guess that’s what I am, a roots-rocker at heart. I never tire of listening to the likes of the BoDeans, Rusted Root, Subdudes, Sister Hazel, Better Than Ezra and many others.
I truly don’t know how many songs/records/artists I just mentioned. I wasn’t counting. This is the music that reverberated in my head as I sat in the car in the thrall of a deluge. These were my blessed reveries, coming at a time when blessed reveries are most welcome.
So, there you have it, the music that popped into my head that day. Songs that shaped me, defined me, thrilled me and accompanied me throughout my entire adult life.
The clouds disgorged their rain and rolled on. I turned my attention to the road and sped towards my new home. I knew where I needed to go. How so, you ask?
Because I’d been sitting at a red light for far, far too long…
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Whew! I do believe this is the longest entry I've yet posted. Um, Laurie, don't make me work so hard, OK?
My friends...just in case you've been wondering if I've disappeared... I have not. I have, however, moved. I still do not have a phone or Internet service at Casa Jonas. In the fullness of time (soon), I will reconnect with the world. In the meantime, I wish you all peace and happiness (I hate to think that your "clicks" here have been wasted...sigh).