Sunday, December 21, 2008

Doctor My Eyes

In 1972 a young man of 24, who shares John Lennon's birthday, released his initial album entitled Jackson Browne. That year began a 36 year (and counting) career for one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Jackson mixes the poet and the musician to produce a melancholy potion that never ceases to affect me...and amaze me.

His debut release included the top 10 hit, Doctor My Eyes. He asks the question: "was I unwise to leave them open for so long?" He's wondering if "seeing all the evil and the good without hiding" hardened him to the point where he permanently damaged his ability to be sensitive and caring...even to truly see others, or anything.

Like many others, exposure to evil and hardship has seriously messed with me. I've experienced events that people just shouldn't have to experience. Traumas have struck and struck again, violating my little world like angry lightning in a violent storm. And yet I believed again and again (eyes wide open) that the end of all difficulties waited just around the next corner...only to be disillusioned by the next dose of reality. After years of this steady rain of brokenness, I identify with him when he writes/sings that he "cannot see the sky." At least, not without serious effort and focus.

Is there a point where the lost innocence cannot be restored? Where the health or wholeness bus forever struggles to find traction on the slippery slopes of life? I've been asking that very question of my Doctor...let's call him Dr. J. This Dr. J has some serious reputations...almost chameleon-like wearing the millions of different personas projected from the deepest needs/desires of our hearts.

My favorite characteristics center on Dr. J, the carpenter. What does a carpenter do? To name a few things: he restores, repairs, fixes, and creates beautiful and functional new pieces. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate that to my life situation: he restores me/others, repairs me/others, fixes me/others, and creates beautiful and functional new pieces in my/their life...or is that just my deep-seeded neurosis talking...begging?

Last week I took a drive down highway 101. Watching the gentle wine-country hills roll by, I heard Jackson’s voice on the radio. Along with him I requested a response from my doctor to the fear that runs to and fro in my soul - "just say if it's too late for me." I don’t think my life is over, by any means - au contraire. Up for consideration was whether or not I may, in this world, see the sky the way I used to…or smell the roses…or believe against all odds that the carpenter can fix the mess that we’ve made of things, in me or in others.

With a few minutes of Jackson’s help, I’d done it. I had reached the melancholy abyss where many poets (and writers and artists) live and breathe…the place I hate to visit because my own emotional-health bank account can’t pay for the gas to get there and back. And then the miracle happened: my senses resurrected from their death-like despondency. I surveyed the polluted scenery – broken lives, shattered dreams, and the lost innocence. The smell of despair rose from the burning Sterno cans. I heard their cries…and I cried…and the carpenter cried.

Doctor, my eyes…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grinch called - wants Christmas back

Perspective changes everything, don't you think? This morning I read through a couple of my favorite blogs. They talked all about the christmas stuff - gifts and family and parties and food and shopping. Busy, busy, busy. Kind of hard to tell whether they were complaining, bragging, or something else altogether.

Sitting in our "luxury" motel room, trying to understand displacement (physical, emotional, etc.), it occurred to me that I no longer know what christmas should be about or more to the point, how to do it. I do get the whole God-in-the-flesh-saving-the-world thing, but I'm talking about the rest of it, or the living out of it, or receiving of it. The flurry of activities boggle my mind...literally overwhelm me. To be clear, I'm not pronouncing judgment on anything. Just trying to understand it.

Does it seem like christmas and busyness are synonymous? Are we trying to hide from something or hide something in us from us...or others? Maybe the difficult economic times or family dysfunctions or even tragedies that weigh on our hearts and minds. Or is the busyness simply a celebration of all that is good?

On a different note, I do like the goofy Christmas movies about estranged family members who are reunited at the end of the story with the ease of spreading soft butter on hot toast. I watched a really corny one last night about a girl/woman who turns out to be Santa’s daughter. Sort of an interesting situation with several built-in complications, like how does she get close to anyone when she’s not really supposed to let the whole my-dad-is-kris-kringle cat out of the bag. Unfortunately, the storyline suffered from too little imagination and too much formula. Even so, the required and predictable reconciliation scene toward the end of the movie touched me. I love that stuff.

So maybe that’s what christmas is all about. Reconciliation. Something returned to its rightful place. The place it belongs…its home.

In that spirit, maybe the Grinch never stole christmas. Maybe he just wanted it to be his for a change. Maybe it used to be his. Maybe, just maybe, the keys to the christmas house belong to him. Maybe the Grinch alone understands the truth of it all. Maybe he just wanted to be reconciled. Find the place where he belonged…his home.

Starting to feel a bit sorry for him? All I know is: the Grinch called and he wants christmas back. We can hold the keys to the season in our over-booked, super-religious, exhausted, my-way-or-the-highway hands, OR we can have a new set made...just for him. I for one want the Grinch back. I believe there's more to him than we will ever know.

Grinch! Grinch! Grinch!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prolific and Productive

Wondering around a small, dust-filled used bookstore in a tiny NorCal town, I stumbled upon a substantial collection of books by the British author, John Creasey. This guy wrote books...tons of books...around 600 books with over 20 pseudonyms! His mystery-thrillers have been turned into movies and television series and just about anything else you can turn a book into. I’d never heard of him.

Anyway, I'm reading this article pasted on the wall next to a section dedicated to his works and I’m thinking to myself, "Self, this guy's pretty damn successful. Maybe I should pick up one of his books and give it a try. Maybe he’ll rub off on me." Not one to ignore those inner conversations, I acted accordingly and purchased my first John Creasey novel, A Shadow of Death.

If you're hoping for a review of the novel, then you’ll have to wait. I just started it last night – I read the first two chapters. However, in finishing this initial read I believe that he knows what he’s doing. I must admit, I’m a little surprised. Part of me thought a guy who wrote this many books probably sacrificed quality in the process. I’m not saying he’s Shakespeare…for that matter, Shakespeare may not even be Shakespeare. And, I’m sure John doesn’t need my affirmation or input or feedback or critique because he’s more successful than Hanna Montana…also, he’s been dead for 35 years.

So what makes a person that prolific and productive? How can any single man or woman possibly produce around 600 novels in only one lifetime? I have written one complete novel, The Father’s Child. It took several years working part-time to finish it. I have submitted queries to many agents looking for representation and that’s time-consuming as well. By the way, if you know a good agent, please send her/him my way.

I believe that finishing ONE full-length novel is a significant accomplishment – I’m proud of myself. Seriously! I mean it! Creating a new world, at least in part, and creating new characters, at least in part, and creating a new story, at least in part, and putting that all together in 80,000 words hopefully in such a way that it might not only make sense but even interest another person to the point where they would one day spend $25 for it, is pretty damn impressive. I do enjoy it, so it’s not like I’m digging ditches. But considering the fact that no one asked me to do it, no one paid me to do it, no one promised me anything regarding success or notoriety or even a pat on the back, I think it took a lot of intestinal fortitude (no, that is not a digestive disorder) to produce something that only a few people may enjoy.

On top of all that, I’m planning on doing it again. However, not too long ago, in the midst of one of my many no-one-gives-a-shit pitty parties, I’d considered, for a brief moment, giving it up. Okay, it was probably only a tantrum-induced delirium cutting off the oxygen from my brain. A day or two later I stumbled into that wonderful, narrow-isled, jam-packed with pages, maze of a bookstore and discovered the 3x4 article pasted on the wall about John Creasey.

I don’t in anyway consider myself an expert on him or his motivations or his reasons for success (that never stopped before from forming opinions on anything). It did occur to me that a guy (or girl) who writes 600 books, give or take a few, writes…a lot. Not only did he write, a lot, but I can’t imagine him getting over-infatuated with any particular work or project. How could he have? He didn’t have time to think about or obsess over any one character, storyline, setting, or agent rejection (he had over 700 of those) until he had sucked the life out of it (unless he was working on a vampire novel). He was too busy, writing, and writing, and writing…

He obviously believed the old writer’s adage - Writers Write. Reading his bio kicked me in the butt. I mean, come on! If he can write 600 books, then certainly I can pen at least a few. Think about it. If I’m ONE SINGLE PERCENT as prolific and productive as John Creasey, then I have 6 books in me. Obviously, this discussion easily extends to any other profession or lifework - do with it what you will. For me the message is clear: I need to write more.

The desire to keep my head exercised in the writing way begat this blog. It’s not a novel, but its baby steps in the right direction. If he can write 600 novels, I can do this. I will do this. Thanks John for some perspective.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Leaves Turning

The rain ceased. Moisture still hangs in the cool November air. The leaves turn – green to orange, red, and violet. I’m trying to take notice…see it like a child.

Is life what you make of it? Does my state of mind have more to do with engaging the moment than money or the right job or (fill in the blank)? If I quiet my soul can I hear the maples, elms, and oaks sing of water from heaven? Or see their colors change? Can I connect with the creation around me and share its joy, its resignation to and even appreciation of being taking care of?

Is life only as complicated as we make it? If we take our feet off the accelerator, what will happen? I’m not talking about reducing speed enough to get around the sharp life curve just down the road. What if we do take our foot off the accelerator…permanently, or at least most of the time?

The fifty-something woman rides by on her once-blue Schwin, reddish-grey hair pressed back under a yellow bandana. She smiles, light dances in her eyes. This very moment enlivens and yet settles her being - a gently sprinkled myrrh of goodness, anointing her with love. I know she sees it…more than that she feels it, smells it…embraces.

The leaves are turning.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Close to You

A couple of days ago I pulled my sexy green Corolla, aka Curbie, into the oil-slicked parking place of a large shopping center in my local town. Not particularly fond of shopping, I hoped and searched for a distraction from the chaos. Out of nowhere this tiny bird appeared just outside of my window. A hummingbird! I hadn't seen a hummingbird in years and yet there he/she (didn't get a close enough look) hovered, wings all a blur darting around in quick, precise movements.

It seemed to be saying, "look what I can do that you can't do" but it could have been saying "anything you can do I can do better" or "now you see me, now you don't". Suffice it to say, it seemed to be flaunting its abilities...showing off for its audience of one. And it worked. I was impressed! I didn't understand how a bird could pull off that magic trick - disappearing and then reappearing. I could have googled it, but sometimes mystery is better than information. How does Hummie not accidentally reappear inside the concrete column supporting the shopping center? Or what about falling asleep at its invisible wheel and finding himself/herself one with Curbie's engine block?

I started thinking about Hummie's little bird life. Did he/she have a family? Was my shopping center his/her shopping center also? Why was Hummie in such a hurry? Late for humming practice at school? Or maybe little bird ditched school...Hummie Bueller's Day Off. Maybe Hummie is a writer with his/her own little blog. Just maybe Hummie's blog needed to be finished an hour ago and even as I watched he/she worked away in the quick, tiny Internet of the hummingbirds. Of course, all this personification assumes that Hummie's life reflects ours, but it could be the other way around. What if all that we know and do actually began in HumLand? What if we don't even have our own will, but are simply puppets of our superior hummingbird counterparts?

Occasionally, I have been known to overthink things. Without working at it, I can turn the simple into the complicated...or sophisticated. Yeah, I like sophisticated better. As the clouds of possible Hummie-Mark connections (are we related? do we know some of the same people/birds? does Hummie dislike shopping also?) floated through my brain, the sunshine of truth broke through my thoughts: "why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near? just like me, they long to be close to you." Obviously, the little bird named Hummie ditched school because he wanted to hang out with me, the new guy in town.

Or, maybe in Hummie's world the song goes, "why do people suddenly appear...close to you"