“And I heard it in the wind
And I saw it in the sky
And I thought it was the end
And I thought it was the 4th of July”
“And I heard it in the wind
“And I heard it in the wind
And I saw it in the sky
And I thought it was the end
And I thought it was the 4th of July”
I walk into the office, which is well lit, the afternoon sun pouring through the large pane windows.
My therapist greets me at the door, and gestures to the easy chair. He remains standing in the corner, assuming a serene stance, his usual approach. He simply waits for me to speak.
I exhale and begin my litany of concerns, fears, pending problems.
“Yeah, so, I’m about to leave for a place that’s familiar, yet not so familiar, you know? I think I’ll be fine, and comfortable, and I just don’t know if I’m going to realize my full self unless I head out there. And I don’t know if I’m just imagining my affinity for the place, or if it’s real. Things change. People change…”
My therapist listens, nodding slightly, and says only, “I am Groot.”
“Right, you’re right. I’m over-thinking it. So, I’ve spoken to lots of friends and family, and everybody agrees that the area will suit me, will help me to grow and develop the way I’m supposed to. But I don’t even really believe that I’m supposed to do anything — I mean, I don’t believe in pre-destiny, y’know? I just want to make sure I’m not feeling so…damn…alien all the time.”
Continuing to listen, my therapist lays a branch on the windowsill, stares into the sun, pondering, then continues, “I am Groot.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” I say. “It’s easy to think that we need to become something, or need to fit in with other people, but in the end, I really just need to do my thing, right? Just settle in and figure out my own groove, not overextend myself, and just keep on keepin’ on, right?”
I search my therapist’s face desperately, feeling like he’s really onto something now, and is helping me figure out a way forward.
“I am Groot,” he says, with finality, lowering his arm…or his branch…or his…stick-arm, back to his thigh. I can’t quite make out what I’d call a mouth, but I feel like I see a faint, peaceful smile appear on his face.
“Right. Right, man,” I exhale, relieved. “I’d never thought of that, really, but I think it’ll help me a ton, to try that approach. I’m going to focus on a new way to interact, maybe work on my pace of life a bit, hell, even change my expression to be more kind, more open. Maybe slow down and not try to multi-task so much. It’d never occurred to me, really, until you put it that way.”
I joined my therapist in looking out the window for a minute, resting a hand on the windowsill, feeling the warmth of the sun.
I then realized I’d been worried about nothing this entire time. I pulled out my cell phone, noticed the time, and realized the session was over. Without a word, I gave my therapist a nod and a small smile, and walked out of that office to embark on my next adventure in the galaxy.
Took a walk at Paul Lange Arboretum and other parts of the Comus Lake area tonight, a place I’ve gravitated to at different times over the past year and a half.
I usually head straight for the Ben Dibble trail, a rougher trail in the woods that provides a break from the wind.
Partway down the trail, all the familiar landmarks greet me. There’s the little forts that people have made with fallen branches, the tree that is bent out into the water, the sign at the end that announces private property beyond that point…
It’s been cold lately, so I braved the ice, walking out to finally get a 180 degree vantage point on the trail.
A little past where I would normally need to turn around due to the private property, there is a marshy area, with a hunting blind set up, which looked pretty cozy. During my walk toward it, I saw some tracks that were either muskrat or raccoon.
The tracks looked like freaky little baby hand prints.
At one point, I saw either fox or coyote prints that crossed the raccoon or muskrat tracks. It did not look like they were there at the same time, or I imagine the fox or coyote would have been chasing the muskrat. Instead, I’d say that the snow allowed me to see the predator tracks that I’d guess were older, maybe from last night, whereas I supposed the muskrat or raccoon tracks looked crisper, more fresh, maybe from this morning.
Walking back, some geese were heard overhead. They proceeded West, in front of a waxing crescent moon about halfway through its journey across the sky.
I decided to get off the ice for my return trek, back on Ben Dibble trail, noticing that somebody had completed clearing some of the fallen brush I’d started to clear myself a month or so ago. There’d been some branches blocking the path, so I cracked and bent them back. Over the past year or so, I’ve also tried to collect whatever garbage I can from the trail, such as plastic bags or bottles, to do what I can to contribute.
As I got back toward the Paul Lange Arboretum area, where I always take the loop East toward the water to complete the circle, I looked up and saw the moon had gotten brighter, clearer, and a planet sitting a little west of it shone bright. I always presume it’s a planet, when no other stars can yet be seen. I’m thinking it was Jupiter (from looking at my Skymap app) but could be wrong.
I’ve been thinking about Swamp Thing lately, and how to best incorporate my similar character in my story into the bigger picture of Leon and Brighid’s undertaking.
It didn’t occur to me until I was bracing against the now-freezing wind, toward my car, just how many forms he can take.
I’d had a dream Friday night that I was in a large cabin in the woods somewhere. As I approached the back door, there was a tall, hulking figure standing in the doorway. It wasn’t menacing, and it didn’t move. It was just there. My immediate thought was it was Sasquatch, or Bigfoot. I just knew that’s what it was. I turned to go get my axe, unsure what my intent was, but knowing I should grab something, and after I grabbed it and turned around, I saw the figure was gone.
When I awoke, I was able to remember the dream so clearly; the image stuck with me for several minutes.
Sasquatch wasn’t there to hurt me, and I shouldn’t have felt I needed to grab the axe. He was there to see me, or to let me see him, and then he was gone.
Off to a new chapter tomorrow, but I feel like I can melt through the planet like Swamp Thing, pop up in marshes wherever I want, or perhaps appear in a forest in coniferous form. You can’t track me, you can’t identify my species. I am able to blend, to take the form I need to in order to survive. I can travel at speed of thought, be at your doorway one second, then gone without a trace the next.
They’ll make an X-Files episode about me someday, ha..!
Til next time (from a place further West), kampers,
Norbert Haupt has some posts that show Mr. Haupt is awake and active. I invite all to check out his blog.
It includes this speech by Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.
It’s kinda like the country’s new autocrat in chief is following the fascist playbook.
I was just listening to Iowa Public Radio on my laptop, as I tend to do while working on things.
The home page had an article about Iowa’s ranking in animal legal protection that was very sad to see.
What is sadly interesting, but not surprising, is the unfortunate connection between neglect and abuse of animals, and treatment of humans:
“…those who harm animals are five times more likely to harm humans as well.”
– Lora Dunn, Interim Director and Senior Staff Attorney of the Criminal Justice Program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund
I love animals, and have many friends who love them as well, ranging from those who consider our fellow Beings who have 4 legs as important as people, to those who believe in the Do No Harm to any Creature ethos. All respectable.
I am a meat-eater. And I respect responsible hunting; I admire those who hunt in a sustainable way and try to achieve their kill as cleanly as possible, but I have always felt disturbed by people who beat, kick, neglect, or otherwise abuse their pets, or any animal.
I did not see anything in the article that was a call to arms, but the Animal Legal Defense Fund seems to be one place to start, in terms of gaining information and ways to act.
I believe this cat is the one in charge of the whole program.
I wouldn’t mess with this cat.
How many times did I hike Oneonta, Triple Falls, Multnomah area and elsewhere, giddy from the sights and smells, the pure oxygen?
How many times did I tell myself to just stay on the trail, mid-hike, and melt into the underbrush?
I sent moss back to people, put moss in my pockets, hand-carried some back, selected samples of different species to compare and examine.
I’d hike out until dark, not yet at the waterfall or the viewpoint, darkness falling, not caring.
I heard somebody practicing the violin, once, near the Pacific Crest Trail, their exact location impossible to discern amid the damp foliage.
I met a nice slug.
I did pushups, took waterfall showers, did some extreme fartlek hiking, took … too many pictures.
I hope it is all still there.
Along one trail, I ran into Alex Olsen, who educated me on a few things:
“Bryophytes are the oldest of all lineages of land plants and are believed to be a vital link in the migration of plants from aquatic environments onto land. A number of physical features link bryophytes to both land plants and aquatic plants. Two distinct adaptations have helped to make the move from water to land possible and forged the way for plants to colonize the Earth’s terrestrial environments. A waxy cuticle covering the soft tissue of the plant provides protection and prevents desiccation of the plant’s tissues. The development of gametangia provided further protection specifically for gametes.
They also have embryonic development which is a significant adaptation seen in land plants and not green algae. Connections to their aquatic ancestry are also evident through their dependence on water for reproduction and survival. A thin layer of water is required on the surface of the plant to enable the movement of sperm between gametophytes and the fertilization of an egg.”
Until next time, Readers.
“We oppose partisan gerrymandering, and are working to ask the courts to implement a standard that can measure when there’s too much partisan gerrymandering, violating the Constitutional rights of the citizens of a given state.”
Check out this site if you would like your political power, through a vote, to actually have any weight.
Right now, it does not, when we look at the combined way our individual power is watered down by both the electoral college and rampant gerrymandering.
The way I see it, I had more actual power while voting in the Primaries, but then the way the conventions work, any new or non-mainstream voices are pushed to the side.
When districts are re-drawn, that is the politicians choosing their voters, instead of the voters choosing their politicians.
If we take a look at how a state like Iowa handles redistricting, it really sheds light on how many other states have it all wrong.
As it says in the article, their process ensures that “The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress.”
It is not just the recent election via our republic (not a democracy) that should frighten us. This has happened five times before, where the popular vote does not count. The idea is to prevent ‘mob rule’ but at this point, all it seems to do is take away the meaning, and power, of our individual votes; help lobbyists to control the outcome of elections by working the system to achieve the electoral win; and ensure that the Corporate States of America are alive and well.
We are not in a democracy…not by any means. What can we do?
We can start by waking up to the actual system we’re a part of, and by helping our fellow citizens, and our representatives, to wake up and drive toward a change.
It all starts with being informed.
Drove back from Des Moines tonight after seeing some friends, trying to show some small amount of appreciation to people who helped me in different ways about 15-16 months ago.
When I first arrived, it was after most had left the unit I was in. In a way, that was fine, because different, intense feelings emerged, even as I simply found a place to park and tried to figure out the best place to walk in. Aside from when I left, I hadn’t really gotten a great sense of the outside of that building, really.
I happened to enter near the cafeteria, so that was my first familiar point. I passed through, down a hallway that has the 1955 “Don Quixote” on the wall, then simply followed signs. Passing toward where my unit was, I saw the Lynne Cutler Park where I had first gotten a breath of fresh air. Due to some stories family members shared, and pictures I later saw, I knew I had been out there previously when I was still out of it, but once I was more dialed in and cognizant again, I remember enjoying trips out to that park, even when it was very hot outside.
Strolling the walkways of it, around the sculptures, gardens, and playground, I appreciated that I was walking it instead of rolling through it in a wheelchair, or navigating it on a walker. I remember how amazing it had felt to go out there and simply look at the sky, smell and see the flowers, see aircraft overhead…it’s part of what started to help me feel more human than hideous.
I remember admiring the sculpture in the center, four nude women dancing, or sort of standing gracefully, in a loose circle in honor of a Life Flight crew that lost their lives in 1980. An inscription in the hallway next to the park reads:
“Dedicated to the memory of Lynne Cutler who was killed an automobile accident in 1975.
Family and friends of Lynne funded this memorial for the benefit of patients, visitors, and staff at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.”
“Life Flight Crew Memorial.
Rebecca Ekstrand created this sculpture that symbolically captures the spirit and dedication of:
Hallie Burns, RN
Maureen Griffin, RN
and Nick Roetner, Pilot
who lost their lives on a life flight mission in the service of emergency air transport in 1980.”
It brought so much back to be in that park again, only this time in single digit temperatures, with no flowers. I sat on a couple of the chairs and benches, and listened for the sounds of the life flight chopper. Thankfully, it was silent.
After seeing some friends, I then returned the next day to see some staff, both in the CCU and the Rehab unit. It was a Tuesday, and everybody was busy, of course, but those I saw who remembered me were great to talk to, especially Pat, my recreational therapist who got me going on some therapeutic coloring. I gave her at least two hugs, and we chatted for quite some time about things in general, and I couldn’t stop telling her how important I think their work is.
As we recollected some of the colored mandalas I had sent her digital pictures of last year, she even pulled them up on her phone, as she had a ‘Jon File,’ which was touching. We had shared some thoughts and resources on Yogic seated stretching and the like. I told her that while I’d slowly tapered off on my mandala coloring (although now I feel a need to resume those, since I have some pretty awesome coloring books, including a Star Wars and Halloween book, to use), I’d somewhat replaced it with creation of my Ranger Beads. I explained to her what those were (pace count beads) and why they are therapeutic to make, and also mentioned that I think the beads themselves could perhaps be beneficial, especially for military vets who might know what they are.
She loved the idea that they could be used to count blessings, prayers, appreciations…as well as pace count. I happened to bring a few extras with from my stock, so I left all of them with her, asking her to pick one for herself. She graciously took them all, and said she looks forward to spreading them among their patients, especially veterans, as time passes. She also said she thinks it might be useful for somebody like me to participate in something called the ‘Peer Partner’ program, where I could help encourage people who are where I was at last year, maybe just share my story, or — better yet — listen to theirs.
She said she hopes I figure out where I’m going to be, and what work I’m going to do, and we both agreed that it’d be great to get back to Des Moines. As I wandered around a little bit today, I remembered how much I had been making Iowa my home, and I told Pat that. She said that if I get back there sometime, I need to contact her about volunteering as a Peer Partner.
I couldn’t believe how I felt when she said that. It sounds amazing, and just what I need. I felt like no matter what I do for an occupation, participating in something like that would help me to feel more fulfilled. That conversation with her, alone, was very comforting, especially during a time when I feel somewhat uprooted, aimless, and ‘floaty,’ as I’ve put it to many lately.
I walked around the Pappajohn sculpture park briefly, as it was very cold out, and admired some new sculptures, while also seeing that downtown continues to develop, with some interesting shops, studios, and businesses, including some new building just south of Iowa Methodist.
All in all, a great visit, and while I was able to drop off some curds, some fruit basket items, some cards (one for CCU and one for Younker Rehab) and a small evergreen plant — such small tokens compared to the work the staff does there — it was really just an excuse to see some faces and environments that were, for me, part of coming back to the world again (yes, probably from Pluto).
I was also able to see two old coworkers, dudes I hadn’t seen since before I quit Wind in 2015…both of whom had selflessly helped my father move some of my stuff from WDM into a Uhaul to bring to Wisconsin. They’re both great guys and seem to be doing well. I miss them and other friends from that area, and hope to see them again soon.
My drive back out of Des Moines, the moon rose yellow and large on the horizon, and as I proceeded West, it continued to rise quickly, as it always seems to when close to the horizon, the sky clear and speckled with stars.
Most of the fields on the way back were covered with some snow, so everywhere I looked, details were visible, and it appeared like daytime to me.
In the darkness, light.
Probably a religious quote, but I prefer to think of other things related to that phrase, like the Phial of Galadriel from Lord of the Rings; that glowing crystal Frodo is given. There was no Shelob around, and I wasn’t in Mt. Doom any more, but it felt serendipitous to have such an illuminated drive back to Wisconsin after being able to see some people and show appreciation for those who helped me.
Or, to give this one a title: MoonSnow.
Stay warm out there, readers.
We all sat around the campsite picnic table near Keystone, unwinding after a long ride. It was hot, which we expected. Felt fine in some shade provided by trees. The plan was to check out Keystone first, then venture into the main event at Sturgis the next day.
This was in 2008, and feels like more than a decade ago.
Keith sat at the table, running a comb through his long, gnarled, blonde hair, practically ripping chunks out as he tried to straighten the mess. I mean, it was sort of brutal and shocking, and I wondered if he was injuring his scalp. It was that bad. I think I just said, “Jesus!” and he just laughed.
Even going his mellow sixty-five mile-per-hour speed had taken a toll on him, and we all felt the exhilerated exhaustion of hundreds of highway miles since Sioux Falls. Our loose convoy had proceeded like a slinky, stretching the distance between the fastest of us, the slowest (Keith) and the Goldilocks (me). Like I told him last month, I’d tried to be the glue, but had to give up after awhile, realizing that he would go his speed, and my uncle would go his.
At one stop on our way West, we sat outside a restaurant, watching other attendees roll through, pass along, stop and cool their heels. During this time, I remember him sharing stories about previous rides, and we talked about the military a little. He was Air Force. I was Army. I sensed and enjoyed a sort of gruff intelligence about him. It felt familiar, unedited, no bullshit. I either already did or was trying to embody this as well. Certain types tend to drift together.
Although I thought of myself as laid back at the time, I know now that I totally wasn’t.
I wanted very much to be relaxed, but found it difficult in some social situations or any large groups. Too self-aware in a world where I felt not enough were even remotely aware. Keith, on the other hand, just had the confidence to Not Give a Shit. Not in a rude way, but simply in a way that knew what he was about, kept things simple, and knew he would not have to explain himself, because he felt fine as he was.
The event called Sturgis is full of all types. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but figured on the usual collection of shiny-new black leather Harley guys, a range of seasoned and new riders, perhaps a small smattering of other types of bikes, but mostly Harleys of course. I rode my Honda Shadow. It’s just what I had, and it ran fine. Contrary to what I hear from many non-riders, it really wasn’t frowned upon or sneered at to “not be riding a Harley.” In fact, if anything, any comments I received were to the positive, people admiring somebody who rides what they ride and doesn’t care about brands. Oh, the irony…of a group of people considered ‘rebellious’ to themselves be part of the assumed hegemony of rider identity, where anything but H-D is considered inferior. But like I said, while there was a more common brand being represented, it’s not like anybody was being a dick. Shit, kind of disappointing, in a way.
But whatever. In the end, anybody who cares too much about that is missing the point. And the glad observation I made was, again, that more kindness was shown upon me than not. Probably 90% of the folks who attend are all manner of civilized brutes, perhaps only dressing up for this Halloween called the Sturgis Rally before returning the leathers and motorcycles to the mothballs.
One element of biker culture is the ‘wave’. It’s probably got all kinds of other terms, and there are plenty of articles describing this social phenomena. The basic idea is acknowledgement, the brotherhood/sisterhood. To me, the idea was always a simple “I see you,” that indicates you’d be available to help, even, should they encounter mechanical trouble, or that, unlike many drivers of other vehicles — hey, you actually See them. Just plain Safety.
Sometimes things are communicated, such as hand signals to indicate some police down the road. The wave can range from full-on, palm-forward waves, like a child waving at a parade, or more commonly is exhibited by a low, almost-lazy drop of the hand, angled slightly outward, in the essence of casual howdy-doo. Plenty of variations.
There are times you don’t wave, or shouldn’t, such as while operating your controls, going through a curve that requires both hands and concentration, while proceeding through towns with stoplights, or any other complicated setting where it just doesn’t make sense.
In more recent years, I’ve definitely noticed people waving more often when it generally does not make sense. Just through pure observation, I’ve noted it historically tends to be deployed on the open highway much more so than in traffic. Again, the idea is that it’s conducted when you might not really need that hand. Hell, sometimes you drop that left hand anyway, just to give it a break…so it’s already at the ready; some people just barely lift a finger to point, while that hand is already dropped, to indicate an acknowledgement. Hey, man, lazy is cool. Right?
Riding through Sturgis, Keith rocked this big, black, sleeveless shirt with large, white capital letters on it. The letters ran from neck to waist, from shoulder to shoulder, and it said:
To many viewers– and to me, initially — it screamed sort of a big ‘Fuck You,’ both antisocial and a command to focus on why you’re riding, to not care about who the hell sees you.
That could very well be what it’s about, and that’s it. I sure as hell know that I was sick of giving ‘The Wave’ while still about 100 miles outside of the rally, and given the constant presence of fellow riders everywhere you looked, it of course just didn’t make sense to keep waving. Makes more sense when you see another rider on some back road in the Iowa countryside in early Spring…like, “Whoa! What’re YOU doing here?”…but seems plain silly when you’re at an event that’s crawling with so many riders, you’d never be touching your left grip. Suffice to say, plenty of people still gave the wave in giddy joy near everywhere we rode.
When I saw Keith last month, and again the other day, I remembered the Don’t Wave shirt, and considered how much the sentiment fits with many other meanings.
While DON’T WAVE connotes Screw Off; that one is too busy to wave; or perhaps is just lost in the Zen concentration of riding, it can also mean you’re not saying Goodbye.
DON’T WAVE is the ultimate see-ya-later, essentially a statement that all like-minded spirits are bound together regardless, so there’s no need to waste the motion.
I gave him one last hug the other day as I was about to leave him to a nap.
On my way out, we looked at each other one more time, and I’m not saying that he was telling me Not to Wave, but his look right then, and some looks earlier that afternoon, said, “It’s okay, man. Just keep your focus, keep on riding, get out there and do it for me.”
Right on, Keith. I’ll see ya down the road. Might give you a barely discernible nod, but no Wave, brother.
And thanks for the gift.
He doesn’t take the bait of the ‘what if’ thinking.
Forward. That’s the only attitude we can have.
Oh, and time to do some Christmas / holiday shopping for your loved ones:
“Lilly awoke in an evening dress and an opera cloak. In her hand were five playing cards”
I woke up to confusing questions, dizzy, disoriented.
Trying to rebuild the pattern. The briefings are absent or inadequate.
Her voice appears as though through a speaker, official and tinny…I respond that it is probably sometime in July…
Each waking is a re-tread, trying to recall who I am, and what is going on.
Even after death, circuits remain open for a certain length of time.
Short term memory goes back roughly 8 minutes.
This is some of the underpinning for the Sci-Fi thriller called “Source Code” and it’s a movie I watched on TV last winter, just happening upon it while bored, unaware of its themes, its setting. I watched it and it hit me harder than “The Martian” in the familiar feelings it invoked.
I awoke in what could have been a simulation, a dream, an isolation tank. Initially just voices and glimpses, no immediate recall.
Over time, and still going forward, the pieces come together.
Or they do not. Some pieces are simply gone, and the dirges fill the space.
* * *
I lift my lamp.
What is the work that I can do after this experience, because of this experience…despite this experience. What is the work that I can do in a way that does not repeat the pattern. Do I want a full briefing to recall who I am, where I am, what is going on?
Or is that another cage?
Perhaps forgetting is freedom, just as forgetting is a form of impermanence.
* * *
I recently descended from a tower and stared at the red gauze of a recently disappeared sun. I knew in my bones it was my last time, that things were twisting away from the center, and away from my breath. I visualized that I was emerging from a dry corn field, floating toward a marsh. The corn has all been harvested, but I emerged from it anyway, and knew it was giving me some sort of resolve.
I haven’t heard the coyotes once this Fall. That tells me I’m spending my time in the wrong places.
In the end, I need to still engage with the world, still transact my labor for currency, but the work I need to do is in that other realm, the area just outside the pool of light afforded by my lamp. There are things there to illuminate in other ways, impossibilities to conjure.
In the house with the old ghosts, the ancient thing, the crashing of bells, the musty shag and shadows, there is light to allow in, through the cracks.
Compassion is going toward, not away. It feels like what I need to move toward is that ancient thing, the realm outside my light.
I spoke to a friend the other day who urged me to go see Dr. Strange, the new Marvel movie.
Yes, it’s just a movie, but sometimes the themes and spirit of a movie, seen at the right time, just absolutely resonates.
One theme in the movie is that while there is work to be done in the physical world, there is equally important work to do in the spiritual realm.
In the wake of this election, and — never mind — the conditions of our country’s injured spirit, dysfunctional discourse, and division that LED to the narrow views presented as ‘options’ in this election (FeelTheBern)…I feel now more than ever that we need the poets. We need the musicians.
We need the social workers, therapists, spiritual leaders, teachers, librarians, stay-at-home mothers and fathers with time to raise kids with reasonable, responsible values.
We need the artists, the thinkers, the meditation practitioners, and the compassionate to continue doing what they’re doing, because the spirit realm feels lacking.
Maybe it’s not, and maybe this is just my personal feeling for a shift in my world… the shift to do something to pay the bills, but to make sure I keep the time for art alive, and maintain the time for friends and family.
This friend who urged me to see that movie, and to carry forward the mood and message of that movie, also urged me to watch this video of Jack White at the White House in 2010, at an event in honor of Paul McCartney. Jack White doing a creative medley / interpretation of the McCartney song “That Would Be Something” and Lennon-McCartney song, from 1968: “Mother Nature’s Son”
It’s a beautiful song, and a writing prompt. I’ll be riffing on this in the future, and invite any collaboration on this, or any theme.
“I’ll meet you in the pouring rain”, my brothers and sisters.
“Meet you in the pouring rain.”
* * *
I’m back in the dark room, with the musty shag carpet, the smell of old artifacts, light peeking through at odd angles. I can’t find the way out, and am unable to move, only able to mentally search, to imagine where the exits may be. I cannot find them physically, and feel my breath getting short. My pulse quickens and the gaze narrows — not quite the tunnel. Not yet.
At this point, any door will do, even this door to an outdoor employee smoking area that is still surrounded by walls.
Even a door to a roof, a door to a basement. Anything out of this endless maze will be better.
The occasional return, from the room of shag carpet and refracted light, to the world of nurses and whirring machines and glimpses of family members is like seeing that patch of sky in the smoking area, like the patch of sky over the gardens and playground in the middle of the hospital. Like a kiss while I inhabit the body of a monster. Even outside, there are walls, but it’s still better than the nowhere with the shag and the smell and the shadows. The fourteen zigzag rooms atop the chimney of Deershelter Rock has nothing on this place I linger between waking.
* * *
It is fifteen weeks after the oblivion, and I am walking up a grassy hill to a building for more sitting, more contemplative walking, after a silent, delicious meal. I need no wheelchair or walker. I have the strength for more than ten steps. I feel like I could run.
The silence is a good silence, not the silence of a nowhere without reference. The walk up the hill is momentous in its simplicity.
I’m walking, and the sun is on my face.
This is not a thought — it’s a state of being. I could be not walking, I could never again have the sun on my face. I’ll take a pain in my ankle, and the bitter cold with the sun, over no sun, over feeling nothing at all. The Pain, I’ve always known — and I’ll later hear again and again from various types of therapists — is Progress. It’s existence. I’ll take it.
Cheri Maples’ dharma talk covered many topics, including the fearlessness of true compassion. Compassion is going Toward, not away, she says. Not as simplistic as it sounds. A nice thing to contemplate.
Is it going toward desires? Moving toward fears? Exploring dark corners to bring light to them..? Also, how do we go toward parts of ourselves, versus the idea of going toward others all the time to search? Is moving toward others a form of running away from oneself?
* * *
[Notes from the Bigfoot pocket journal]
For a silent retreat, there’s a bit much chanting, singing, and group discussions. I guess the main point is to cut the usual chit-chat or ‘filler.’
Memory not feeling great. Sort of forgetting what I was gonna do, or had been thinking, minute to minute.
Forgetfulness = impermanence?
Wonder what Tom’s up to right now, at 1:30 Saturday. My guess is a power nap. I think I want to write collaborative haikus with that dude. (We later do)
Can we decide whether to ponder? What is, is. Problems of thinking ahead or not, that Something will definitely occur, no matter what we plan.
What does it take to get asked to leave? Not that I want that, but — would a food fight be out of bounds?
My left hip flexor Hates me. Du hast…
Practice of QiGong good for ankle. Felt it in legs, like doing T’ai Chi.
First time seeing Milky Way since late June 2015. Cassiopeia seemed to run roughly east-west.
Actually slept 5-6 hours second night, with temps above freezing. Dream recollection may arrive later. No coyotes that I recall.
I really wanted to hear them, but maybe they were getting good sleep as well. No pesky rabbits waking them up.
Thankful, today, that I can walk — up a grassy hill. Remembered, during that walk, from Fall of 2002, when Mike, Jesse, and I went up the hill from Arapahoe to CU-Boulder to see Thich Nhat Hanh. How we saw this girl stretching yoga-style on the floor not far from TNH; later, Mike and that girl, Rachel, hitting it off at the tail end of the event. I thought how funny it’d be to mention that to Mike.
[I invite Tom to engage in some writing as our small way to silently discuss this new experience. Tom writes:] “This month is the 15 year anniversary of our having met. Sept / Oct, Hostetler’s class [Linguistics]. Didn’t hang out until after some English Club event. / Crazy how I didn’t meet you / Lou until my last year in college, considering I see both of you more than anyone else from college.”
Do we all do the tea ceremony later? And if so, are we all then married to each other..?
* * *
In “Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry & Gary Snyder,” Snyder writes to Berry in July of 1976 about Mars, saying, “Opening up my imagination to Mars is like a real extension of brain-habitat.”
I like pondering that, at the time of my own birth, Mars was regarded as possibly having once been a “Gaia-like” planet. It’s sort of nice, and funny, to know that was a new, fresh concept at that time. Now, between rovers and better optics, and the potential to send humans there — after only forty years — it makes me wonder what my nephews will see develop in terms of space exploration. Not long ago, at my sister’s I got to chat with them about this sort of thing, and when I mentioned to EJ that the ocean is just as unknown as space, his eyes lit up. He sort of froze, and I could see him thinking. I love that about him.
* * *
There are many possibilities for where I was between July 2nd and the end of that month. Many things occurred that I can’t claim to be present at in this realm, due to lack of direct, subjective knowledge. I cannot say what else could have been happening with my consciousness. I am told that, for a period of about ten days, I was completely unresponsive, and can only imagine that I was deeply engrossed in a good book, or perhaps watching the instruments during an important mission.
* * *
On July 14, 2015, at 11:49 UTC, New Horizons interplanetary space probe flew 12,500 km (7,800 mi) above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet.
Most of the post-Jupiter voyage was spent in hibernation mode to preserve on-board systems, except for brief annual checkouts.
I feel something in common with this voyage. Details remain uncertain, but it’s simply a feeling of kinship I have with this craft.
* * *
Corn flies by my window
like an eagle on the wing
Corn flies by my window
like an eagle on the wing
I see turbines in the distance
and they don’t mean a thing.
* * *
I’m back in the room of refracted light and dank smells and shag carpet. Instead of green or blue light, it is all red and yellow, complex and menacing, threatening to overwhelm if I don’t summon the void. If I don’t find the flame dancing on the still pond.
It’s the crashing and clanging of the Mortier pipe organ, kettle drums, and flutes, the crashing cymbals, rattling snares, jingling temple bells and tambourines.
The hooded hanging lanterns, and the enemy is at the gates.
The enemy is inside the walls, crashing outward from what was once a still garden.
They are already inside, and they know they have won.
I lift my lamp.
In the corner I sense something genuine and not packaged, not of modernity. It’s not an artifact of the past but an actual remnant of something once true, something unafraid.
[Most of the post-Jupiter voyage was spent in hibernation mode to preserve on-board systems, except for brief annual checkouts.]
I seem to recall the fourth of July fireworks from 2015. I am told it’s very unlikely, but I think I remember them. Or is it all in the telling, all in the knowledge that they occurred right there, blocks away from my hibernating system?
I very rarely choose an untrue thing just because it will make me feel better.
I chose, in August of 2015, to believe I had heard, or at least felt, the explosions, perhaps seen the starbursts through the glass, through the blinds.
Nothing about choosing an untruth makes me feel better, now.
I lift my lamp.
I hear familiar voices, hear the promise of things getting better, hear singing and the whirring of machines.
I extinguish the lamp and head into the depths.
I am heading toward, not away. Toward a thing that is both unknown to me, and at this point, all I do know.
I am heading away from an old promise, a promise that this world is the best. Perhaps it is because I have no choice, and the medications are simply sending me to sleep. All I know right then is it’s the only place to go, and I can’t fear anything worse than what I’ve already put myself through. I know I will be back.
The first thing I hear is voices, the patter of hail on glass and the faint mewling of a distraught animal.
I feel, on my hands and cheek, the shag carpet upon which I lay, its dank smell overwhelming. As I try to open my eyes, I find only darkness, except for a dim, blurry refraction of green light, as one might see through stained glass at a church.
Her voice appeared as though through a speaker, official and tinny, asking me if I know where I am, if I know the date, if I know my name. Of course I know my name. This person needs to stop wasting my time. She asks if I remember the date again. I respond that it’s probably sometime in July. She does not respond to that directly.
Next she asks if I would be okay with a visitor. My friend is in town, she says, and she wants to know if I would be okay with that. “I don’t even know where I am,” I respond. The Voice says, “That’s okay. We’ll be right with you.”
I feel restrained, and weak. My tongue feels dry in my mouth. Despite the mustiness and the shag, I feel like I’m being held down by something, and sense that there are wires of some sort attached to me — to my face, my arm, my throat.
Apparently, I drift off.
I wake up again. The same mustiness, the same dim nothing surrounds me. Still unable to see anything, really, I ask for a drink of water. The Voice comes back saying I cannot get anything to drink, but somebody will be right with me.
“What does that mean!?” I shout back, hoarsely. It’s not even a shout, really, just a dry gasp. It may only be a thought, an urge. I hear the whir of machinery, feel something cold trickling down my throat. A sweet smell, with a hint of plastic, overwhelms me.
“You cannot be trusted to take a drink yet,” the Voice says. I don’t know what that means, but am too tired to respond.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m alive.
I try to remember a kiss, a bite of an orange, the sun on my face — there’s a barrier between all of this and the thing I call Me.
Is this what people call a fugue? Dissociation? Is it remotely something spiritual, or simply a phenomenon in my brain?
It feels like a dream within a dream.
* * *
The musty smell has gone away, as well as the feel of shag. A dim recollection of ancient wooden figurines from the East linger on the periphery. Or maybe they are not ancient, but only cheap souvenirs, replicas. There are so many of them; they generate a feeling of crowded claustrophobia.
Instead of laying prone, I am now on my back, the sound of crinkly plastic echoing with my every move. None of my limbs can sway more than an inch or two, but the light has grown brighter, no longer a dim refraction of green out of the corner of my eye, but a clear, small square of blue, somewhere off to the left.
A familiar voice is there, in my ears — or is it just a memory? I listen again, realize I’m able to make it repeat, with a thought. Like lifting the needle to place it back on the edge…
She is singing something, but I can’t make out the tune. I feel generally self-conscious, knowing I don’t want the person behind the voice to see me, to see whatever state I’m currently in. This sense of shame, or discomfort, further confuses me.
From somewhere in my consciousness, I remember sitting in a cafe, writing a letter to a friend. I recall preparing for a trip. I recall taking a nap. None of these things comfort me, as I have no context for what they mean.
The sound of hail on glass returns, but seems different. Almost musical.
Brassy clanging, as of some discordant mechanical machines, crescendos until I begin to scream again. My scream is not a scream but another dry gasp, and I no longer want to put up with the entire situation.
The mewling returns, and I hear the soft step of many people passing by. I force my eyes open and only one complies. The other has something taped over it. The blue square of light has more defined edges now. I see vertical shadows drift by on the other side of its textured, translucent pane.
* * *
From where vertical shapes move past windows, my mind drifts into another memory of the sensations before everything went blank.
Are these actual memories, or simply my imagination trying to fill in the blanks?
The vibration of the engine through my hands. Glancing down, I see that, for some reason, both of my index fingers are cut off at the first knuckle. Like Frodo at Mt. Doom, but on both hands. Nothing seems wrong with my hands, functionally, otherwise – just an old injury.
The next images, which are probably only my imagination fleshing out people’s storytelling, are about gripping tight on the handlebars, trying to melt into the crash.
And by melt into the crash, I mean probably trying to have the softest landing possible. Apparently a witness — perhaps the witness who called it in — saw me go into the off-ramp at much too high a rate of speed, ending up in the ditch — or if not a ditch, then more like the grass between the exit ramp pavement and the rest of the highway.
* * *
At some point, I become comfortable knowing … that I do not know, may never know.
I keep returning to a shuttered house to visit old ghosts, to pay respects to some ancient thing. The feeling is that I do not want to stay there. I want to make it brief. Light the incense and run.
The doctors believe I’ll be able to move, and think, again, she writes. I find this later, long afterward, and it helps me put pieces together.
I try to write from the place with the mustiness and shag carpet and shadows, but cannot. I simply want to respond to what I’m hearing, or ask basic questions, but it’s futile. Nobody can read the scrawl of my sloppy cursive.
It is more than likely my motor skills rewiring themselves. Inside myself, I laugh and know the entirety of me, the part of me that is a grumpy curmudgeon and a whimsical joker, is alive and well. Alive and well and feeling out of time and at the other end of a wormhole. Alive and well and assembled from pieces of the past.
Deep inside the delving I do, the dirges in the dark continue. An aspect of my musings concerns coyotes, and the cold.
* * *
Months after all of this, this phenomena of which I still have only pieces of direct knowledge, I am camping, double-wrapped like a turducken in two sleeping bags on the edge of a forest in Wisconsin. It is in the teens and creeping down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, which I knew would happen, yet I stubbornly did not change plans. I looked forward to pushing out to the edges, to see what I could take.
Against all reason, three and a half months after the darkness, and two months after my release into the world, I am looking for more silence, more cold, more darkness. I believe it’s a homeopathic experiment to see what comes forth. It’s also, less dramatically, part of an excursion with a brother in the best form of therapy I can imagine.
Coyotes yip, bark, and howl three times in the night, between 10:30pm and 5am. I wonder to myself whether they do it to keep warm, or if it is due to the excitement of finding prey. They sing to each other as whales do, figuring out what to do, and when. Feeling proximity to each other with sound, communicating with each other at a basic level, they head in the same direction, move with the same purpose — like flocks or schools.
Thoughts of my friend, gone in the night to attend to Life.
Thoughts of comfort.
The lack of wind.
The whoosh of about three jets.
The time that is missing.
Mind wandering, I return to the coyotes, like my breath.
* * *
This is in very early stages (like, just an idea right now, really) but I’ve started an Etsy page to sell pace count beads (AKA Ranger beads) that I make.
There is a link to it in my sidebar, here, and I’ll put it here as well:
Here is an article I wrote on LinkedIn back in March when I started on these.
Back in the mid-90’s, I was fortunate enough to receive training at Ft. Bragg, N.C. in land navigation. The Base Exchange had these ‘Ranger Beads’ for sale, which was basically a pedometer-abacus for keeping track of how far you’ve gone.
I’ve since lost the ones I’d purchased, but they are made of basic materials, typically: paracord (550 cord/parachute cord), and beads.
The principle is this: 1) your phone’s battery is dead, so GPS is not available, 2) you have your wits and a means of determining azimuth (either a compass, the stars, the sun, tree moss, etc…), you know your pace count (how many every-other-steps [only count on Left or Right foot]) that fits into 100 meters; perhaps it is 68 left-foot-steps per 100 meters, and 3) you know the direction you need to go, and how far, but could use some help in Not Losing Count.
Paracord / 550 cord is available nowadays at many sporting goods stores, or even many hobby shops (where you can also find beads of different types); while I figured I knew how to make some Ranger Beads, some tips I found online were helpful, to include the fact of taking the ‘guts’ out of the paracord (to reduce volume, if desired) and my own realization that you want beads with an ID (inside diameter) of not less than about 1/8 inch. I used my pocket knife to hollow out the holes on some wooden beads so they would slide more easily.
The main idea in sharing this is twofold: firstly, I have time on my hands currently to engage in such projects on a whim, and secondly, I believe that the manual, non-digital techniques are disappearing in general, so I want to perpetuate skills and tools that help people do things when their handheld’s batteries run out.
As long as you have a paper map that helps you determine your current location in relation to, let’s say, the nearest coffee shop (or general knowledge of the area from staring at your phone’s GPS app too often); know the azimuth (direction, i.e. West, or 270 degrees on the compass); and distance to your target (let’s say 600 meters) you can use your compass, or other methods of determining cardinal direction, such as with the stars or sun, in combination with a handy way to track your distance via pace count (pace count beads), to get within distance to visually identify your target (coffee! coffee!!) and accomplish the mission (drink coffee so you can buy hobby materials and make survival instruments).
We are all lost, I say…
But we don’t need to stay that way…