I’m pretty sure no one ever thought of Petty as philosophical or scientific but…
… I’m listening to him sing about a freeway running through his yard as I sip a cup of once hot coffee now going cold and think about that freeway.
It is Life and it is constantly moving at millions of miles per second through the cosmos with no particular destination. It just is.
The yard is my life. A tiny pasture that interacts with the much larger, empirical, Life. It would be easy to think that my tiny corner of Life could not have any impact whatsoever on that mass of energy. It can feel like being a single molecule of water in an ocean and, in a way, it is exactly like that but it is also more than that.
Here comes a quick geology lesson:
Epigenisis is an accumulation of a mineral mass without loess properties, perhaps with a high silt and lime content, which under weathering and soil formation acquires loess properties and is transformed into loess (seriously, I swiped that from some geology site).
Eolian: the winds ability to shape the surface of the earth.
Loess: silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust.
Syngenesis: the accumulation of a mineral mass that is mainly of eolian origin and the acquisition of all loess properties occurs simultaneously, under the influence of soil formation (also swiped because I have no memory for such things).
So what the hell does any of this have to do with Tom Petty? Well, nothing. He just got me to thinking. Free falling, so to speak.
Here’s where I landed: Life’s affect is eolian. That is to say that we are often blasted by it. It throws us this way and that. It wears us down until we are like loess. Tiny silt-sized sediment. Infinitesimal in that ocean.
But we are in syngenesis with that energy. You and I and my dog and the chair I sit on and the trees outside my window and the coffee I drink and the keyboard I type on… all flow in that river of Life. All part of it. One with it. The ocean simply can not exist without all the separate molecules of water. You. Me. The attendant at the gas station. The grass. The air in our lungs and the dust on the street which accumulates and coalesces and one day becomes the stone and soil upon which we walk.
My little yard, that tiny pasture in the great green field that is the Universe, is also the Universe itself. It exists because we exist. We exist because it exists. It is us and we are it.
It’s raining outside. Pouring, actually. Flash floods. The fan in my truck has stopped working. I bought a little 12 volt fan to plug into the outlet but it is nearly useless. The windows fog so much that I can nearly wring out the towel I use to keep them clear.
I find a place to park. A little coffee shop downtown called Serda’s. It’s your typical hipster café though maybe a little more uptown. Leather couches barely a year old instead of the usual second hand store leftovers. Tile floors. High ceilings. Urban music, the same you hear in coffee shops from coast to coast, plays softly. The place is non-descript. Middle of the road. Harmless.
The wi-if is fast. The coffee is good.
There is a middle aged business couple to my left. Happy to not be drinking alcohol as they get to know each other. They are obviously trying to get to know each other. She is dressed in business clothes. Has a nice rain coat. He is wearing khaki shorts and a polo. His day off. Not hers. His foot rests on the crossbar of the high barstool she sits on. He speaks with his hands just enough to touch her often. She smiles when he does. They will each go home alone but with hope.
The couple to my right, young and enthusiastic about a business venture, collaborate on a web page. They focus on the logo. She plays with her hair. He absent mindedly puts his stylus in his mouth. She is holding back. Left leg over right. His feet are both planted firmly on the ground. He plays with his long beard. They laugh.
The woman at the window, a massive textbook open in front of her, does her homework. Stares out the window. Dreams of how her life might be when she graduates. Wonders if it will be worth it. It will be.
A young man across the room has EarPods jammed into his head which rocks gently as he plays on his phone. Another taps away one-handed while he texts. Another, more engrossed, furiously stabs with the thumbs of both hands.
I sit and drink a double cappuccino vanilla (dry, of course, there is no better way to enjoy cappuccino) and witness this small grouping of humanity. Safe from the rain. Out of the humidity. I watch their hands. Their eyes. Mouths. Their movements. Their silence. And I wonder.
What do these people have in common aside from a taste for expensive coffee in a trendy cafe?
I close my eyes for a second and look back in time, If I look back far enough I can see connected relatives. The woman and man to my left come from the same ancestor as the young man to my right. If I look farther back I see that those people came from the same family of amphibian that first crawled from the sea. The same bacteria that, through some bizarre molecular hiccup, became something more than bacteria. If I look back even further I can see that everyone here, everything here, the chairs, walls, coffee, even the air, all came from a singularity. The entire universe compressed to the point that it could no longer support its condensed self and explodes into trillions of trillions of trillions of tiny pieces that hurtle through an ever expanding void of darkness. We are literally star stuff.
How could I ever feel alone, ever feel singled out, ever wonder if there was something more to life, knowing this?
The thumb tapper is gone. The head rocker remains as does the daydreaming student.
The young couple to my right finish their business. Hug uncomfortably at the door. Go opposite directions when they step outside.
The middle aged couple will be here long after I’m gone. I silently wish them luck.
I will stay long enough to post this and then drive home.
There are basically only two Paths in life: Reactive and Proactive.
The Consequential Life is primarily an Unconscious Path. Shit happens and you instinctualy respond. How you respond dictates where the Path leads you. This is Reactive.
The Intentional Life is a Conscious Path. Shit happens and you choose your response. Other times shit happens because of your choices. Your intention and the choices you make that arise from your intent guide you on the Path. You guessed it, Proactive.
Either method is a choice. We either choose to be aware or we choose to go through life with eyes and mind closed.
Most people live a reactionary life. Here’s a few examples of living a reactionary life while on an unconscious path:
A goat shits on your path. Step in in, rub it in your face, sleep in it, don’t wash it off. “Good things come to those who suffer.”
A goat shits on your path. Make a shit sandwich and eat it in silent gratitude. “What good things?”
A goat shits on your path. Its a sign! A goat has been here. Hang around and pray for its return so it can be sacrificed. “Good things come to those who wait.”
A goat shits on your path. Its a sign! The path is unclean because you have sinned. “Sinners don’t get good things…until they die.”
I’ve known many people who suffered to the end and gained nothing. Known people who turn their backs on the good things in their lives because they can’t believe they either deserve them or that they exist at all. And I’ve never met a person who didn’t feed themselves…. something.
Personally, however, I prefer a proactive/conscious way of living:
When a goat shits on your path I say gather it up, mix it with sand and straw, and make bricks to smooth the path. Or mold menagerie from it, bake them in the sun, and give them as gifts. Or use it in a floral arrangement. Or turn it into incense.
There must be a million great things to do with goat shit and none of them have anything to do with moral causality or a reckoning of the scales.
What it comes down to is this; if you can’t find a good use for it, simply walk around it.
In the end, its a goat doing what a goat does. It shits. And shit happens.
There once was a man who wished to prove his love to his god, the god of wind.
He thought hard for many weeks. How could he, just a man, prove his worth to the mightiest of gods?
The wind doesn’t care if you eat or sleep. It doesn’t care if you cut wood or read books. Doesn’t care if you fast for weeks or pray for months or meditate for years
He sometimes even wished that his god was water. It would be easy to please the god of water, he could simply give up bathing.
But how could he show the wind that he was worthy?
Then it struck him one day as he watched a leaf, played with by his god as it fell to the ground, twist and turn. Lift and drop. Spin. Then finally touch down.
He could give up breathing!
It wouldn’t be easy but he convinced himself that he could do it. Surely the wind god would love him for sharing the limited wind with others. To not take the wind within and corrupt it. To not alter the breeze or the scents of the air with his own breath.
He practiced daily. At first he could hold his breath only seconds. Then minutes. With each day he could go longer and longer. But there was a problem, even though he got to the point where he could hold his breath for record breaking times there always came a point where darkness crept in and he passed out. When he awoke he would be panting. Gulping down the air like it were food.
He cried at the thought of the darkness invading his spirit. Possesing him. Taking him away from his god and making him consume even larger amounts than he normally would.
But he persisted.
Day after day he would hold his breath, pass out, then awaken and start over until, one day, finally, his persistence paid off.
He held his breath until the darkness tempted him with sleep but pushed it away.
He fought with the darkness for what seemed an eternity until, at the verge of giving up, a bright light dispersed the darkness.
He felt warmed by the light. He smiled and he cried. The darkness would not win.
As he moved into the light the first thing he noticed was that he felt the wind differently. Smelled it differently. He moved through it in a different way. And he was saddened by this and found himself wishing he had spent more time in the presence of his god while he had the chance. But the sadness gave way to a slow moving joy and soon the joy consumed him and he was no more.
A friend of the man’s who checked on him from time to time was there at the last moments and witnessed the smile on the man’s face emerge then, silently, fade.
With a deep sigh, he said a short prayer then turned and walked towards home. He felt comfort in the warm night breeze. As he thought of his friend, no longer able to enjoy the presence of the wind, he breathed deep. Deeper than he ever had before. He swung his arms as he walked so he could enjoy the wind even more. He blew at the leaves as they fell in an effort to keep them aloft longer and he sang songs as loudly as he could.
As he did these things a slow moving joy came over him and soon he was consumed by it as if becoming one with the wind and he was happy.
Image: “The offerings of Cain and Abel” by Duncan Walker
If someone had told me several years ago that I would drive into a hurricane to be with the woman I loved I would have smiled at such a romantic notion but denied the possibility. I had, after all, sworn off love. I was not ready.
So I spent those years preparing myself. Learning what love is. How to express it. To share it. I took the time to learn what it is that I wanted from love and from life. To become the person I am now so if I ever had the chance to experience real love I would be ready.
Last week I drove into Hurricane Nate to be with the woman I love.
At the same time, I also drove out of the hurricane that was once my life. Hurricane James. I left the last remnants of that former life with the furniture and bed, still made, dishes washed and left in cupboards, keys left to a friend as a gift of my former home in North Dakota as I broke free of the chrysalis where I transformed.
I spread my wings and, for the very first time in my life, knew exactly where I was going and what I needed to do.
It took a long time to get here. A lifetime. It is a journey I would gladly make again because it has led me to a place of love and of hope.
My future, while still uncertain in many ways, feels more sure than it ever has. Every step I make is made with faith. With courage. With the knowledge that those steps are no longer made alone. Every step is made with “Us” in mind. It makes a difference.
My heart feels large. Expansive. Enveloping. Full. It has been joined with another, my Beloved, in ways I could only imagine before now. Ways I knew existed but had never experienced.
I have travelled a long way to get here and I have a long way yet to go, but I am, finally, home.
The night is long
The bed large and empty as a vacant lot
I raise up as if from a depth of heavy water
Gasping for breath
Reaching like a tangled weed for the sun
Which has yet to reveal itself
The morning progresses as if through setting concrete
Each second passing slower than the one preceding
Yet with each impermanent second
The day becomes brighter
The air lighter
Time begins to move swifter
The sun flies across the cloudless sky
Until the excited barking of the dogs
Announces your arrival
as if under the influence of divine magick,
You step inside
accompanied by your own brilliant light
to replace the sun
now frozen and pale
I meet your smile at the door
with my own
Our lips touch
and time begins anew
keeping pace with our unhurried
yet urgent advance to the bedroom
where we lay close
Soft words are spoken between kisses
and hold each other close
firm and sure
as clothes fall away
to allow skin on skin
Urgency becomes passion
Breath becomes heavy
and tangled in the other
It’s okay, Love
Lean back into me
Let me wrap my arms around you
Rock you gently
Kiss your neck
Silence the day
With wordless passion
As we watch the Moon
Now round and full
Light the clouds that gather
and will away the worry
I’m not sure when I scribbled this poem on a loose sheaf of note paper (now in the “Final” file along with empty cans and banana peals as all illegible scribbles later clarified end) that suggests there was at one time more to it. Still, it stands on it’s own as a contemplative piece.
Catching on the web of it
Hurtling through the thick of it
In to the past
Hanged on every word of it
Passing through the heart of it
By the act
Bleeding with the pain of it
Shooting past that part of it
To someplace better
that stepping to the side
of the ongoing ride
to watch it rolling by
frozen in a space
about the size of nothing
at the slowly melting something
leaving just the core
while the unreality of it all
just makes me want to smile