Wednesday, September 28, 2011

fearless heart

She had been his wife for 26 years. She had moved out of their house fifteen months ago, and the machinery of their formal separation was set into motion and the paperwork was final eleven months later. I have already told you about the long, painful process by which they came to this final event. It had been so long in coming that they both had regained much of their emotional balance even before the deed was done and quickly found themselves working side by side at the tasks and challenges of parenting the adolescent victims of the collapse. They talked comfortably and were considerate and mindful of each other’s needs and expectations and sensitivities. They knew each other perhaps better than they knew themselves, and with the distance and detachment of the divorce, they began to grow a friendship grounded in thoughtful kindness and respect and the mutual ground of parenting.

Their relationship had clear boundaries. Both had emotionally released the other to live their own lives. They did not meddle, and they would not use the kids as spies to pry into each other’s business. They were committed to the protection of the kids, and that was the core of their interaction. This common commitment made room for them to live at the edges of each other’s worlds with a remarkable degree of comfort. As time passed, they became increasingly at ease there.

Many of their friends, especially those who had had difficult and bitter divorces, found their civility difficult to believe. They either felt that it harbored some deep repressed anger, or they resented it, feeling that it illuminated their own failure to separate cleanly. This was, of course, untrue. The nature of their interaction spoke only of itself, and could not cast shadows nor light on the tribulations and trials of others. A few of their friends were openly skeptical of their civility, and warned them of the impending collapse of this wonderful harmony. But these people did not understand the powerful magic that had occurred. They did not know the secret of the fearless heart.

Up to this point, he had not shared much of his emotional passage through the separation with her, and did not know if he ever would, although he knew that she might someday read his stories. He was comfortable with this possibility, but felt no calling to actively pursue such disclosure with her. He did not actively conceal his journey from her either. He had learned enough from the pain and agony he had endured to know that hiding is never an adequate means of protecting a wounded heart. Since she had left, he had found a new freedom to open his heart and welcome the sorrows and terrors that he had never before been willing or perhaps capable of touching—torments he could never before have embraced with such enthusiasm as he now knew.

He was often overpowered with awe and reverence for the remarkable creative force that settled around him and provided him with strength and capacity and insight to venture into the dark and fearful places of his heart during the past year and a half. He had learned to welcome and embrace pain for the healing power that it brought to his deepest being when he let it work freely and without resistance. He had discovered, to his amazement, that the most ferocious bloodthirsty monsters in his soul could not kill him—in fact wished him no harm—but rather were angelic visitations from the greatest healer. As this reality proved itself over and over again, he began to see a new thing growing up within himself—his very own fearless heart.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the rules of the game

Martin was one of the best, and most trustworthy friends he had ever had. He too was a Texan, and understood the magic. It was difficult to explain, and most people without ties to the Lone Star Republic were oblivious to it. The mystique of Texas is something that even Texans are not fully aware of until they move away from the great expanse of its flatness and wide open horizons. The geography of the land of the armadillo is most remarkable for the vastness of its monotony. North of the Cap Rock, the high plains stretch beyond seeing—”as far as you can point yer hand.” 

The closest thing to mountains in the whole vast spread of Texas is the Cap Rock, a sudden drop from the high plains to the gulf plains a thousand feet below. The Cap Rock cuts the state “half in two” as his father used to say. The eastern part of the lower step is covered with the muggy humidity of the old south and sports a handsome stand of southern pines—the great piney woods. To the west is the blazing, bone-dry desert of cowboy movie fame. And sprawling out along the Gulf of Mexico, the plain slopes so gently into the sea that a wader can walk half a mile out into the water and only be chest deep in the gentle rolling waves. 

Corn and cotton and cattle and oil fields and gas wells and jack rabbits and tumble weeds abound, and wide empty highways run into eternity as straight as a laser beam. The incredible scope of unhindered monotony in the geography of west Texas perhaps breeds a unique creativity of thought out of sheer necessity. Without this  special trait, Texans would probably just wither and blow away in the hot dry panhandle wind.

Martin was steeped in the Texas arts. He was outspoken and brash and mostly from the non-Baptist branch of the dichotomy although he had not escaped it entirely and knew it well enough to be effectively sacrilegious and dangerous. He was a flaming redhead with an impish twinkle in his eye. He was intelligent and articulate and had a flair for exposing bullshit. Martin shared a trait that was common to Texans—he was a master of verbal creativity and wit. He always had an answer, and it was always compelling. His particular gift was in bringing clarity to a subject, and evaporating mists of confusion and uncertainty. Political correctness was sometimes useful to him but never sacred, and often a target for his amusement. He had a remarkable sense of balance, and equally enjoyed the sport in chopping both liberals and conservatives off at the knees when they offered him the opportunity. Martin’s outspokenness and willingness to poke the sacred cow had made both friends and enemies for him over the years, and he took it all in stride. It was just part of the game.

He moved in and out of contact with Martin over time, sometimes not seeing him for months on end and then shifting back into regular and frequent contact. The past couple of months had been a very active period, and it had been a good thing. One day he sent Martin e-mail venting his frustrations with women. He had commented in his note about how the rules of the dating game had changed since he had married and settled at the beginning of the ‘70s. Martin’s response was quick and concise and typically Martin:

“All rules are subject to change at any time by anybody.“Commitment is defined as one party wanting the other party to do as they are expected. Telling what the expectations are is optional. Most women do not seek commitment. They seek comfort and an end to their being afraid of being single.“Safe sex refers to preventing the transmission of disease only. Not having sex is not considered safe sex.“Tell the other party you are looking for commitment, until you get irritated by their behavior. Then tell them it isn't working out. This is how women do it to avoid feeling guilty about their just wanting a temporary good time. You can do it too. This is not dishonest, not really.”
Whether Martin’s assessment of the rules of the game was accurate and fair, he did not know for sure, but it rang true to the frustration and instability and confusion that he had experienced in re-entering the big strange world of dating and romance. And it was slightly reassuring to see it all in print.

Monday, September 26, 2011

memorial day again

It was Memorial day again—the second since he had been single. He supposed that it was like any other Memorial Day, but at the same time, it was a little different. He had planned no barbecues or picnics or excursions to the beach. On Saturday, his dogs had gotten out of his big back yard and wandered off to explore the much bigger world beyond the gate. He discovered that they were gone around dusk when he came home from a long afternoon of setting up a new location for his bees. He drove around in the fading light, confident that within a few blocks of home he would find the big shepherd mix and her scrappy little Shropshire terrier buddy sniffing bushes in someone’s front yard. His gate was broken, and he had run this drill with the dogs several times over the past year or so. But he didn’t find the dogs. They had escaped long enough before his return to have time to make their way out of the neighborhood—perhaps down to the creek bed on the edge of town, or off into another neighborhood. Thoughts of busy streets and foul play and dog catchers kept him from sleeping soundly that night.

Sunday he drove around some more, looking in vain for the dogs. They should be hungry by now and he had hoped they would show up during the night. Now he was truly concerned for their survival. He was most worried about the little one, who would not have gone far from home without his bigger friend to provide the carefree abandon necessary to get him into really serious trouble. Everything would probably be OK if they managed not to get separated and if they stayed out of traffic. He wasn’t confident on either point.

Finally, he gave in and went home. The mutts were gone. He would not bring them back by driving aimlessly around town.

The kids were planning an impromptu swimming party, and were working diligently at the tasks he had assigned them as preconditions for the party. The yard and house were getting more attention than he had been able to muster in quite a while. Late in the afternoon, half a dozen teenagers arrived with snacks and cell phones and cameras and swim suits and the party was on. He had little to do with the preparations and only felt obliged to be present and hospitable. The kids had planned it and neither expected nor wanted too much involvement from him. He barbecued some chicken that had been tucked away in the back of the freezer and needed to be used. It kept him busy and outdoors but without being too intrusive of the kids’ party and their space. As the afternoon and evening wore on, he found himself watching the street for the return of the wayward canines. They never came.

Memorial Day started quietly and still without dogs. The kids slept late, having moved the party from the pool to the movie theater after dark. He got up at dawn to move his hives to their new location before the field bees started foraging, and was home with a pot of coffee by nine o’clock. It had been long enough now that Animal Control might have picked the dogs up, so he picked up the phone. The only number in the book was for a county office in Morgan Hill, twelve miles to the north. The shelter was at a different location without a phone listing and he suspected that the office location would be vacant for the holiday.

As humans are inclined to do, he turned to a familiar solution, even though he thought it to be an unlikely one. The Gilroy Police dispatcher had called him dozens of times in the past three or four years to pick up honeybee swarms that citizens had called in to the 911 operator, and he knew the dispatch number from memory. He would call just to see if they knew who the right agency was, and how to reach them on a holiday. The police department certainly would know, and were many swarm calls in his debt.

Tina answered the phone, and to his surprise, she thought she knew his dogs. She sent an officer back to the kennel in the back parking lot at the station to confirm their description, and fifteen minutes later he was at the station getting the jailbirds released on his own recognizance. It was really good to have them back. He didn’t realize how fond he was of those dogs until they were crowded into the passenger seat of the Honda next to him, shedding on the seat and smearing their wet noses and drooling mouths against the windows and dashboard. They carried themselves with an enviable innocent nonchalance and carefree enthusiasm even though they had been caught red-handed and spent 2 nights in jail. When they got home, he fixed the gate.

He spent most of the rest of the day with his daughter, shopping for clothes for her and having lunch at Chevy’s and seeing a matinee of the latest Dennis Quaid movie. It was very good to spend the day with her and to know that the gate was secure and the dogs were safe. And so, this Memorial Day turned out to be just like any other—a vivid reminder of the fragile grasp we have on what we most take for granted—a tender moment to take time for those about whom we care most while we still have them with us.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

the Colt and the canopy

It was 1978. He had been welding for about three years. He had known Gary for most of that time and they had worked side by side for much of it at Ace Tank and Equipment Company when it was still located on Elliot Avenue north of downtown Seattle. Gary was about the same size and build as him but with sandy blond hair that hung straight and limp to his shoulders. They both were Texans and shared lots of esoteric and colorful Texas culture and knowledge that the Washingtonians around them could not even imagine. They decided that language and thought were slightly different processes for Texans than for most other people, and the two young ironworkers formed a bond of friendship around their common heritage and slightly off-center Texas grit.

Gary was actually very lucky just to be alive and working. Both of them had done time on the bending rolls in the small-tank shop rolling shells for 500 and 1000 gallon tanks. Gary had achieved near legendary status the day he left his boot print pressed into the skin of a 500 gallon tank. He had stepped onto the flat sheet of steel as it fed into the rollers where it would be transformed by mechanical pressure into a cylinder. His attention had wandered, and suddenly his steel-toed boot was feeding into the rolling mechanism with the sheet of steel. Somehow, Gary managed to reach the cutoff switch just as the machine rolled to the back edge of the steel toe-cap in his boot. The footwear was destroyed, but Gary was unscathed except for his pride and his pounding heart. A fraction of a second more in the rolls and his foot would have been crushed, throwing him off balance and out of reach of the switch. The huge machine would have crushed every bone in his body if given the opportunity.

The tank was made, with Gary’s footprint clearly impressed in its shell, looking as if he had tried to kick his way out of it. Lectures on safety were given, and Gary was ridiculed and castigated for his absent-minded stupidity and congratulated for his big adventure. His boot print was the talk of both the large- and small-tank shops for weeks. The newer guys were impressed and a little more reverent toward the impersonal power of the massive machinery they worked with. The old-timers just shook their heads and chuckled grimly and swore quietly to themselves.

Texans fall into two broad categories: angels and devils. They tend to be staunch morally upright Baptists with rigorous ethical boundaries and taboos, or at the other extreme, hell raisin’, ass kickin’, bad-ass cowboys. There doesn’t seem to be much grey area in between. But oddly enough, even the most righteous Texas Baptist has a streak of that good old fallen nature that surfaces at unguarded moments in safe company.

Gary was impulsive and distracted and restless and a little bit off in his own world. He represented a different slice of Texas culture than his friend. There were no Baptists in his heritage. They were all white trash cowboys, preoccupied with drinking and shooting and driving trucks and big fast American cars and womanizing and cussing. Gary was outgoing and friendly and charming, with the impeccable formal manners that every southern boy learns from the cradle. He could charm the skin off a snake. But he was the most creative, prolific, uninhibited user of profanity that his Texas Baptist friend had ever met. He had a remarkable way of weaving genitalia and disease and perversion and insanity and violence and excrement into a descriptive phrase. His expressions were so vivid and original and revolting that he stirred admiration where admiration seemed immoral and reprehensible. “Cussin’” was an art form for Gary. He rarely lost his temper, and didn’t swear nearly as well when he did. Nothing delighted him more than to out-swear a hardened old irondog welder. And he could do it every time. The vivid disgusting imagery flowed freely and smoothly off his boyish tongue, his sparkling blue eyes smiling victoriously as the competition was reduced to stammering and open-mouthed, revolted admiration.

Gary was also a bar fly. He had been divorced shortly after the bending roll accident, and had taken to closing bars every night and chasing women and sleeping in his pickup truck. He was homeless, not out of necessity, but rather because he just didn’t have the motivation to find a place. It would have cut into his carousing too much. But the truck was a bit cramped. One day, the Texans were sitting around at lunch, talking about Texas, and guns, and what not, and Gary said, “How much you want for that crab-infested, diseased excuse for a canopy on the back of your truck?”

His friend studied him for a little while, picturing Gary living in the camper shell through the long wet Washington winter.

“It’s falling apart.” he answered.

“I know, so how much you want for it?” Gary shot back.

His friend thought about it for a little while longer. It really was falling apart. It didn’t leak, but it was real sloppy in all its joints and seams, and probably would leak soon.

“How ‘bout if you give me that little Peacemaker for it?” he finally offered. He thought Gary would balk at the thought of trading for the pistol. His father had given it to him for Christmas a couple of years before, and it was a treasure to him.

“I’ll bring the puss-licking slut in tomorrow.” he said without hesitation. “It’s a sweet little piece. You won’t be sorry.”

So they traded the dilapidated canopy for the classic western revolver in the parking lot the next day, and for several weeks, Gary had a home on wheels. Then one day they were sitting out in the parking lot on their break and his friend noticed that the canopy was gone from the back of the truck. He knew Gary had no place to store it, so he asked, “Where’s the canopy, Gary?”

Gary looked sheepish and didn’t want to say. He shuffled around as his friend pressed him for an answer. Finally he gave in, but did not swear at first, and then only halfheartedly. “I forgot to bolt it to my truck.”

You didn’t bolt it down?”

“No, I didn’t bolt it down. I was just cruising down the road the other day and I went around this big-assed hairy curve and the bony-assed sorry bitch flipped off in the ditch. It was gone— splinters and shit—nothing worth trying to pick up, so I left it there by the fucking road.”

His friend looked at him incredulously, starting to feel angry and sorry for Gary for being such a half-wit. “What were you thinking!”

Gary had nothing else to say. He was broken and hurt by his own foolishness. He was a little frightened with how out of control and on the edge his existence had become as his marriage had come unraveled, but he could not talk about it. He didn’t understand the hard feelings of heartbreak, and scarcely allowed himself to feel them. He would never ever talk about it. Like so many men, he had no tools with which to understand or take advantage of his struggle in order to propel his personal growth.

They finished the break, and Gary went on living in the cab of his truck for several months longer until his frazzled, broken, lonely heart began to settle and some semblance of sanity and stability started to show up in his ragged cowboy jeans. Eventually, he was a little less crazy and a little more focused, and a little less dangerous to himself. But he was always a bright-eyed charmer who hid behind his wild, putrid gift for making even the woolliest bad- ass boys feel like they needed to go take a shower after talking to him. Gary was one of a kind—yet kindred in spirit to so many hurting, debilitated men in the throes of divorce.

Twenty-two years later, and twenty years after he lost track of Gary, he found himself in a similar struggle for his own sanity, safety, and peace of mind. For the first time, as he thought about the wild, charming Texas boy, he understood the lostness and pain and vulnerability that Gary had floundered in. He had always known that Gary’s wild, reckless, craziness was related to his personal problems, but it was all understanding without empathy until now. But things had changed. He was keeping his exterior life intact much better than Gary had for the most part, but the turbulence and restless distraction within him seemed just like what Gary had been through so many years ago. A certain degree of craziness seemed to go with the territory of divorce and there was just a little comfort in this. He would give it time, and maybe go just a little easier on himself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

man of war

Sacred soldier, 
Dark destroyer, 
Avenger of sorrows. 
Manchild— frightened, faithful, strong, and true. 
Life’s blood, his currency. 
Life’s blood—his own if need be! 
Down to the valley, 
With brothers in arms, 
The conflict fierce and raging, 
All in smoke and thunder 
And terror and screams of the damned, 
The holy, hallowed, hollowed lost. 
What sacred hopeless folly, this children’s crusade! 
What bitter treachery, moonrise over hell, 
Brother against brother, 
In service to the gods. 

He had always known that there was something powerful and holy in the bond and love of brothers in arms. It was neither noble nor base, but profoundly sacred and mysterious. It was the root of the heart laid bare and naked before comrades. No pretense, no bravado, no clever devices. It was total dependence on men who held your life in their hands and utterly depended on you for the preservation of their own. It was the brotherhood of those who have laid down their lives and walked side by side into hell, their only hope resting in each other. It was the haunting hollow comfort of shared horror—of secrets too brutal, too dark, too painful to speak, or ever to reveal to the uninitiated. It was the haunting emptiness of death shared between those who slipped lost and alone beneath its shimmering blackness and those who held them in their arms as the last fading light ebbed away, only to carry their death with them long and unmercifully to elderly graves.

He had known countless Viet Nam Vets over the years. Each seemed to have a strategy all his own for carrying the sacred burden of his membership in this tragic thing. Some managed better than others. Some did not manage at all. But none would speak of it freely. He understood this. They were the sacrifice laid down before the gods of war. They were the unclean thing—anathema to a self righteous culture that had no sense of its own unclean heart. They were scapegoats for the unexamined darkness of our own black shadows. They dared not share their hell with us. Neither we nor they could hope to bear it. All of us were far too insecure, much too fragile, hopelessly unconscious.

Brothers in arms found no rest. No one could or would comfort their crushing sorrows and tortured hearts. And so, they have carried on, shrouded in secrecy—silent in condemnation, forbidden and unclean, but by no means profane—holy dogs of war, the sacred hounds of hell, set loose among us to torment our complacency and to mark the way of shadows for those of us brave enough and strong enough to venture to the edges of our own moonless black night.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the nuns

Strawberry Point was a wonderful place to be a kid. The tiny peninsula had a great view of Mount Tamalpais, which had taken the silhouette of the love-sick Indian maiden who had leapt to her death there long ago, and of Sausalito, with its houseboats and quaint beatnik mystique to the southwest across the water. Ferries floated out to the south from Sausalito toward the San Francisco skyline. Alcatraz was out there, and he often wondered if any of the dangerous criminals who had unsuccessfully tried to swim to their escape had been eaten by sharks off the shore of his little peninsula. Further off he could see the Oakland Bay Bridge leapfrogging over Yerba Buena Island. And around on the back side of the point, just a big league stone’s throw across Richardson Bay, were more houseboats at Tiburon and more ferries levitating across the hazy expanse toward the City.

It was 1959 and he was eight years old. His family lived in student housing at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The Southern Baptist school had bought several hundred acres on Strawberry Point that had previously been a game reserve. There were open rolling hills and huge stands of pine and eucalyptus and marshlands and gravel beaches. There were red foxes and deer and cranes and herons and redwing blackbirds and skunks and bluebelly lizards and cottontail bunnies and garter snakes and raccoons. When he was not in school, the Point belonged to him. His parents were consumed with work and study, and he was too young to be responsible for his little brother and sister, so he was free to roam. Often he hunted for snakes or lizards in the woods, or for sand crabs under rocks along the beach, overturning stones to see what he would find underneath. As often as not there would be one or more of the little crabs hiding there. They ranged from the size of a BB up to about three inches across, and he often came home with dozens of them in a bucket. He was allowed to keep them overnight in an aquarium with gravel and a little sea water, but then he must return them to the bay.

Once his father had put his feet up on the coffee table and tipped the aquarium over onto the floor. It was a great adventure! The whole family scrambled and hunted for the scurrying little crabs for the rest of the evening. There were several dozen of them, and they rapidly scampered for cover in every corner and under every object in the little apartment.

Strawberry Point School was about a mile up East Strawberry Drive from the east entrance to the seminary on the Tiburon side of the point. He rode the bus to school most mornings, waiting at the bus stop and doing his best not to be mortally wounded in the perpetual rock fight that preoccupied the half hour before the bus arrived.

In the afternoon, he only rode the bus when the weather was disagreeable. He much preferred to walk up the road between the tall shaggy eucalyptus trees, sometimes taking a shortcut over the hill behind old man Mason’s place. There was adventure in this, because old man Mason was the head grounds keeper for the seminary, and it was he who usually interfered with the mighty deeds of valor that young boys embark upon in such a pristine wilderness as a seminary campus. He was the closest thing they had to an enemy. All the other adults were engrossed in studies and rarely were seen in broad daylight except when rushing from the housing complex across campus to classes. In reality, Mason was not particularly concerned with the kids on campus, and rarely interfered with them, but he was legendary—the campus ogre—and to cut through his back yard was an extraordinary feat of bravery, and worth all the adrenaline his glands could produce. Usually he was not all that brave. It took an encounter with the nuns to push him to such extreme measures.

The road to school was also the address of a huge old boarding house that was home to a large contingent of Catholic nuns. It was years later when he learned that the place was a retreat center where nuns came to rest and replenish their strength. As a child, he had no idea what went on in the nunnery, and the place filled his little unexamined Baptist heart with fear and suspicion. He had never been around Catholics before. The heartland of the Texas panhandle was home to his family for generations, and Catholics were few and far between in the little farm towns where he had lived. His parents had ventured out from the Texas high plains a couple of years before seminary to live in south western Washington, but even the northwest lumber town of Longview had not exposed him to nuns.

Now he found himself sharing the road home from school with nuns on a regular basis. The eucalyptus trees that lined the road were enormous, with trunks exceeding three or four feet across. They reached up to join hands 70 feet or more above the road, forming a dark, cool tunnel that rustled and creaked and permeated the air with mystery and pungent invisible vapors and secrets. The sounds of traffic and city life were swallowed up within this passage, and it held its space in a timeless secret stillness that was rarely interrupted except by its own rustling and the barking of squirrels and the still small sound of an occasional seed pod falling onto the pavement. The nuns made no sound at all when they walked along the road, unless they spoke pleasantly to him in passing. But he was careful not to allow this to happen.

As he walked up the road toward home, he was ever watchful for nuns. If he spotted any of them in the road ahead of him, he would climb the hill and risk capture by old man Mason. If he turned and saw nuns coming along the road behind him, he would quicken his pace to get past the nunnery before they caught up with him. On nice days, it seemed that there were always nuns lurking somewhere along the road.

One of the most remarkable things about the nuns was that they were so stealthy and swift and seemed able to materialize out of thin air. Countless times he had suddenly and unexpectedly found a pair of silent nuns swishing past him in their black robes and speaking softly and kindly to him as they passed, regardless of his most diligent efforts to watch his back as he made his way along the road. Their ability to appear right behind him in the road was uncanny, and absolutely terrifying.

The following year was election year. Shortly after his ninth birthday, Eisenhower’s term as president expired. He had never known any other president, being an infant at the beginning of the Eisenhower years. The election was the talk of all the campus kids. None of them had ever known another president either. Most everyone was intensely concerned with the outcome, and uniformly pro-Nixon. On the other hand, his teachers, and most of the kids from the community outside the campus favored Kennedy.

On the night of the election, everyone suspended their studies to focus on election coverage. His family did not have a television, so they sat around the radio until late that night.

“Why don’t we want Kennedy to win?,” he asked his mom as she finally tucked him in an hour or so after his regular bed time.

“Well, the problem with Kennedy,” She explained thoughtfully, “is that he’s a Catholic. And Catholics answer to the Pope. The Pope is the head of the Catholic church, and whatever he says, they have to follow.”

He lay there in the dim light filtering in from the hallway, the muffled sounds of election coverage in the background. She continued.

“We’ve never had a president before who was a Catholic, and many people are concerned about what a Catholic president would do if the Pope asked him to make a decision that was not good for our country. The Pope is not an American.”

The gravity of this situation slowly sank in.

“Can I stay up and listen to the radio?” he asked, now seeing just how serious the Kennedy threat really was. Now he had good reason to fear the nuns, and the Kennedys, and the Pope.

“No, dear. We’ll let you know how it came out when you wake up in the morning.”

He lay very still after she left the room, hoping to stay awake, and to hear enough detail to follow the fate of the nation as it unfolded on the radio. But all was in vain. Long before the night ended, he was deep in sleep, and America had fallen into the grasp of the nuns and their Italian Pope.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

maker's song

Night still, 
Warm glimmer of moon, 
Green leaf, 
Inked black in shadow. 
Her heart pounds, 
Quick breath drawn short, 
Held long. 
Night still, 
Warm glimmer of moon, 
Green leaf 
Trembles in dark shadow. 
His heart pounds, 
Veins beat cadence to 
The maker’s song. 

For a month now, he had been alone. It had been a tumultuous moon cycle of troubled feelings and anxious fears and surprising quiet and stirring inspiration. He had not entirely sorted out this business of being whole. He didn’t have a clear sense of what role another person could safely play in his life. He didn’t really know for sure where to stand in his own space, much less how to let another stand beside him. He had been addicted to the pursuit of intimacy for his whole life. Withdrawal had been cold and hard and wrenching, but felt clean and healthy.

As this first month drew to a close, he began to settle into the exploration of his own creativity. He began to have a more settled sense of his belonging and presence and place in the expanse of creation. Spring had not officially arrived, but the weather had turned already, and rebirth and joy were everywhere around him. He bought some fancy daffodils, and puttered in the yard. He began to turn his attention toward his art and his bees, and found a base of peace and power and contentment that was grounded and secure as it had not been before.

His own place in the expanse of creation—what a mystery this was. He was a maker—one who is not content to merely pass through this world, but must participate in its ongoing making and unmaking and remaking in order to be whole. He had known for most of his life that he was a maker, although he had not always had words or awareness of what that meant. Now it was at the precipice of his understanding, stretching, trying out unproven wings.

He had spent nearly two years in the throes of spiritual awakening, his head spinning at the pace at which insight and transformation had propelled him along. He had not known from day to day where his journey would take him, and he had entrusted himself precariously to his own emerging heart. His journey had uncovered monsters and terrors, and his heart had engaged each one, not taming them, but learning their place and their gifts. Now, it seemed that the journey would take a new turn—the maker was ready to stand up and get to work.

With this new sense of purpose and identity came a calm assurance about relationships and intimacy. He could scarcely understand the way that he had been bound and compelled by his need for intimate relationship all his life. It seemed so foreign and strange now. He still looked forward to the blossoming of a good and whole relationship, but it was no longer his grail-quest. It would take its course in due time.