Beginnings and Endings

The maturity of man— that means, to have reacquired the seriousness one had as a child at play. F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

I wrote the following thoughts in 1987, inspired by the Nietzsche quote. Revisiting them now, I wonder if I’ve lived by them. I try to fill up all the gaps in my life. Why? Mortality. Fear of death. It’s only natural. Yet the original intent of those words still rings within me, muted by doubt, tempered by experience.

The very verbiage with which we play every day, like a child in a sandbox, often reveals shiny objects. But isn’t luster lost with too much handling? And aren’t the shiniest of those mere reflections of light from elsewhere? Yet who would deny the child chasing a butterfly or a star? What of the mother-of-pearl shell we’ve found, taken home, washed and put on the windowsill, then forgotten? What really matters?

The sadness I carry while burying my departed dog is a reflection, another side, of the sweet emotion I use to wet my lover’s lips today. It is the beginning of some end.

The artist alone know the complexity of the blackest black. And only she knows where and how to use it in the shadows of the sunniest painting.

To tattoo our entire body with the greatest symbols of man would not begin to betray the seriousness of the cat sitting by the window watching snow fall. But who watches the cat? Who watches the watcher?

May you love the seriousness which goes beyond Good and Evil.

Nearly 20 years has passed. Almost half my life has been lived in the meantime, done with, finished. Yet endings are continuous, always revealing something new. I face forward.

A few days ago I had a large Bradford pear tree cut down. It was at least 22 years old, pretty old for that kind of tree. The older varieties, of which this was one, were known for splitting at the “crotches” of their many, heavy limbs. Depending on where and how a large branch fell, it could cause severe damage. I had taken measures to support the weaker joints over the years. I had even had the canopy lowered to relieve the top heavy weight.

Luckily this one had not yet split. But a large crack had formed in one of the larger crotches. Besides, I was tired of raking leaves in December, since it held its leaves very late. Its span covered my entire front yard, so its branches were slowly shading to death all the plants beneath its canopy. The time had come.
before tree removal
That tree was there when I bought the house 15 years ago. Now it’s gone. It’s unique and particular branch structure is no more. I thought about how it came from a single seed. For twenty some years it carved its way upward against gravity. It endured heavy winds, ice storms and bitter cold. It was a vigorous tree, covered with white flowers in Spring. In Fall it often glowed with bright yellow to orange leaves. Its branches housed numerous squirrel and bird nests. I had hung several wind chimes in its branches. My cats had climbed it hundreds of times, sharpening their nails on its stout, craggy bark. Most Winters, on a warmish day when I felt a bit of Spring fever, I’d get out the saw and prune its branches. I enjoyed the exercise and feeling of accomplishment. This tree endured many, many prunings. I thank it for its shade, for its vigor, for its life.
Pear tree gone
The day it was cut down, I was tense. Naturally, I feared some kind of accident, damage to my house or my other plants, or perhaps the climber would fall. All went well. Upon seeing the empty space right after it was removed, I felt anxious about having done it. I don’t like cutting down trees. Too many beautiful trees have been removed on my street recently. But I knew I had little choice.

As I stood looking at the open front yard, my neighbor came over and told me she had seen a red tailed hawk circling interestedly over my fron yard within hours of the tree’s disappearance. It seemed a healthy omen from nature. What do you think?

Now my front yard is open for the first time since I’ve lived here, a third of my life. The house, with its rich colors, will be more visible from the street. With more light the ornamental plants around it will now flourish. I can begin to replant the 100’s of crocuses which used to flourish with a burst of rich color in the small lawn area each Spring.

I’m already dreaming about which small, ornamental tree will fill that prime spot in my front yard. The shocking change has inspired me toward gardening for the first time in years. The loss of that pear tree will perhaps mark other new beginnings for me. If I allow myself the childish seriousness Nietzsche wrote of, I can feel it. Change carries both death and life. Endings and Beginnings.

It’s All Good

double wedding ring quilt
This evening I meditated for the first time in awhile. I sat for over an hour in a chilly, dimly lit upstairs room, facing a north window, staring mostly at a desk I hardly use anymore. (especially since I set up this computer facing south in a different room on the first floor) I’m not sure why I meditated now or why I hadn’t for many months. I think I needed to reconcile the distance I feel from blogging, from words, thoughts, ideas. I needed to just experience, clean out.

Years ago I found a source of power in the detachment I learned from focused meditation. (I’m talking 15 years ago.) Detachment freed my fears, allowed me to breathe new air, new life and ideas. I felt free to grow and learn, to improve. Then I began to cling to that feeling, that essence of detachment. I began to mythologize it. And its power quickly faded. I wondered and searched for why it faded. I didn’t have a regular practice and soon “gave up”. (I don’t have a regular practice in anything, except irregularity.)

Sitting tonight, I tumbled with thoughts as I settled my posture to relieve the discomfort it caused. I tried to slow my breathing, which tends to become over excited and then I hyperventilate. I tried to calm my mind. Calming the mind is like trying to calm a restless sea. Doing less is better. So I just let. And let.

And let. The desk before me occasionally revealed itself directly in the swirl of words and images, the monkey mind flitting as a moth in the garden on a summer night. The desk’s wooden structure is as simple, platonic as it gets. Square angles, average proportions, no frills. Utilitarian. Probably oak, or some other hardwood, I’m guessing it was made in the forties of fifties, judging by the deco-ish drawer handles.

The three drawers at the right of a cubby hole for the user’s chair have been stained blackish, perhaps from thousands of touches by human hands. What of the lives of those hands? What of their fate? Did doubt tremble in some? Did sex film those fingers? Chocolate cake? Perhaps this desk was used in a factory office, where soot or other noxious particles permeated the building. Perhaps the lungs which breathed while sitting nearby have expired. Unknown, these possible histories flex in my imagination. What of the forests from which the wood came, each individual tree? And on. All this noticing happens in a second.

I shift my focus to the objects on the desk, which tell tales of my own recent history; a Japanese handmade paper candle shade, decorated with dried flowers within the fibers of the paper. It was given to me by a friend years ago. So simple and timeless and fragile. I consider its value, which soaks beyond its paper structure. Nearby sits is a small ceramic pot to burn fragrant oils. Functional, round, glazed white, it heats a few drops of oil by a candle placed below. Both remind me of past habits, now faded, to practice yoga and meditate here by candle light and (often lung-clogging) oil scented air. A tiny pocket notebook lies open, unused for months now, where ideas for poems or posts were noted. Other objects litter the desktop, adding to its history heap.

This bit of noticing brought me some clarity.

When I notice the ephemeral state of any thought or life, none of this matters. The pain and cold in my body are only temporary. Is any level of pain unbearable when considered against nothingness? Such awareness frees ties to the frail body. I can see so many choices, so many words, so many possible lives fanning out from here. Each choice excludes millions, and creates others. Yet just one is me just sitting. So I sit… and sit. I notice. I am older.

Long ago I read Sartre’s “Nausea” and was profoundly affected by it’s cynical, existential tone. I often feel the nausea of not knowing who I am, not really knowing, only placing meaning, choosing from the emptiness. Nothing matters in the long run. It’s all relative to the vast space and time we are so good at ignoring. I don’t behave so cynically, but inside, I still feel it’s all just illusions, temporary patterns. So I choose to live the illusions, the subjective experience in general, of beauty, happiness, food, love, sex, trust, music, family, friends. These are what I rely on to compose and anchor my detachment. Otherwise I would just float away.

This sitting session helped me. Detachment is powerful. Frightening. Enticing. A burden and a gift. I am responsible for how I live.

I have work to do. I have goodness to share. I matter. I know. It’s all good if I breathe in synchronicity with the heartbeats around me.

The photo above is part of an Amish “double wedding ring” pattern quilt, from OH, 1930s. The interwoven circles could symbolize the inter-relatedness of all life on this fragile sphere.

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Garnet, Elsewhere

I’ve had a few things put up on other blogs in the past week. The first is a tiny story about a particular photo. The post with my story, among others is called An Eye. The Synchronicity of Indeterminacies puts up a photo once a week and asks for stories about it, just as he does on his blog. The stories are published on another blog, called The Indeterminacies of Sychronicity. Check out his blogs. I like ’em.

The other place I’ve had something “published” is at the Science Creative Quarterly. They asked for literary works with the keyword “evolution”. I wrote it as a joke. The other featured works are listed, including the winner of the contest.


indiana puzzle quilt

Outside, I hear the gay laughter of youth.
They laugh at anything.
They laugh freely.
The humid air resonates
with their bellicose mirth.
Laughter soothes a need…
the need to…burst with pleasure.
Perhaps they flee something,
maybe life.
They live lighter, laughing.

When the world turns inside out,
laughter remains.
One must really look.
One must really listen,
but it’s there.
It’s a quality of life which always exists,
but you must find it
in yourself.

The red bellies jiggle
against the white emptiness.

I wrote this poem many years ago, around age 19, while at a summer music “camp” in Nice, France. Not a bad place to practice! They were productive summers. (I went twice) I practiced. But I also spent many hours on the beach, and many hours in cafés, speaking broken French with my french friends, who spoke broken English. I’m sure we solved all the worlds problems, if I could only remember how. I love the creative beauty of the language and culture of France.

I also translated the poem, since I studied French while there. But I won’t bore you with that.

I remember the fields of lavender, one of the main scents in french perfume. I remember the late night pizzas in crowded outdoor restaurants along pedestrian shopping areas. I remember the Nice and Cannes jazz festivals, where I snuck in to hear Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Stephan Grapelli, among others.

For some reason, I got to visit heaven early in life.

Stranger Ken

Today I found myself reminiscing about Ken and about the furtive nature of blogs. Blogger time is different than real life. It’s more ephemeral, unreal. It’s like a dream world come to life. It exists, it has consequences, but it’s not tangible.

The blog ofStranger Ken, titled Dark Sparks, disappeared a few months ago. Suddenly. Apparently for personal reasons. Yet the spirit of his blog is still with me.

Since he deleted the entire blog, my experience of his character and poetry is quickly becoming mythologized.

First, there is the intensity of his blog and user names. Dark Sparks conjures something primal, the spit from the bubbling cauldron, effervescent fireworks. It implies beauty, complexity and change. The name Stranger Ken evokes another edge, a hooded mystery. Stranger in the dark. And ultimately, he was a stranger.

Stranger Ken’s photo further belied this alluring enigma. He looked like a character from Lord of the Rings, a shaman of sorts, perhaps a wizard. The glint in his eye was a resigned stare with a latent sparkle. White hair and beard further obfuscated his interior.

The layout of the blog was a standard Blogger style sheet, but in black. A shadowed cave in which to place his poetry.

His poetry was focused, clean and intense. All his poems were well written, timeless, accessible. His subjects were varied, including animals, a carved box from his time in the far East, a destitute woman in a market, again from the Far East, and the city of London He also wrote poems poem about himself, as an adult and as a child, which outlined a complex, moody soul.

Occasionally he achieved a mythic quality. A simple, detailed description went from the personal to the universal and left you hovering. I often had to read his works several times to hear it more deeply.

Unfortunately I can only remember a poem or two, particularly the one about some kind of hedgehog (what was it?) His words gave resonant depths to the character of the animal he wrote of, gave it a unique life.

His comment strings were filled with relevant discussion of poetry and well deserved praise for his work.

I write about Ken because he made an impression on me. His poems were high quality. He was one of the few male poets to give me any consistent notice. I appreciated that attention. He always gave generous and meaningful comments. His blog etiquette was gentle and honest.

I learned from his poetry. He offered clear explanations of any question about his poem.

I miss Ken. He was a poet through and through. With a living edge. I wish him well.

On a related note, I’ve noticed that most of the poet bloggers I associate with are going through a dry period right now. Syncronicity in a ghost world…

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