Imagine Peace

“Imagine Peace”, the card says.

It is a simple message with much deeper meaning.

I often complicate the simplicity of the action by over thinking. By over reaching. Peace is a global hope but a personal commitment. It always begins with our Self. With strangers at the grocery store. Cashiers at the gas station. Our coworkers, friends, family.

I imagine peace residing in me, ready to spread like a virus to anyone I come in contact with. I sneeze peace on others. I exhale it. It slips off my fingers when I touch someone.

But it has to live in me first first. If I do not have peace within then how can I spread it? And I must lovingly care for it, nourish it, for it to bloom.

“Imagine Peace”, the card says.

I’m trying.


Image by author. Print by Yoko Ono.

Return to Mobile Redux

I’ve really let myself go. I haven’t meditated regularly since before I went to Montana, or practiced yoga or worked out or hiked or even walked much.

In fact, for the last three months all I did is drink too much, smoke too much, and watch movies.

I was giving up. In self destruct mode. I just didn’t know it. Funny how that happens.

Why would nature give us a self destruct mode anyway? Is it a part of the evolutionary process? Perhaps it’s a way to filter out those less willing to succeed regardless of their genetic traits. A way of leveling the playing field.

Whatever the reason I need to terminate it because two days ago, just a week after arriving back in Mobile, I loaded up my car and started driving back north in blind obedience of that instinct.

I had a list of “valid” reasons for leaving, like being in a place I felt like I didn’t belong while struggling with a strong need to belong somewhere, feeling stagnant and nonproductive and wanting to do something about it, and the deep emotional pain of loss, loss of love, loss of dreams, loss of hope, loss of Self.

Wah.

The entire list is made up of excuses that justify the urge to self destruct.

I have a home. It doesn’t matter that I live 2,000 miles away in NE Montana, Mobile is my home. The job in Montana is just a means to an end.

I belong in the world. Not in a little trailer far away from anything that can hurt me in front of a big screen with a drink in my hand while I binge watch Game of Thrones and give up on my dreams.

I feel stagnant and unproductive because I’m not doing the things I should be doing and I can do those things anywhere.

Okay, the pain is real but it’s not fatal unless I allow it to be. So I’ll keep reminding myself that pain is where the light gets in and offers the lessons I need to learn. I have so much to learn yet so I’m grateful I’m getting the opportunities.

It took a whole day of driving, 1,100 miles, to begin to understand these things. To admit to myself what I was doing and to apologize to the people I hurt by running away, because that’s all I was really doing.

I reprimanded myself, cried, forgave myself.

Then I turned around and began the long drive back home.

When the weather changes and the work season begins again I will drive back to Montana to follow through on the goals I’ve set, but not until then.

The first things I will do when I get there are throw out the TV and the ashtray and find my yoga mat.

Loved

ravi-pinisetti-loved

Happiness
That divine right
Borne at the moment of conception
Ravaged by experience and suffering
Lost through too many moments of anger
Masked by pain and fear
Found again in a moment of acceptance
Shining like light from a tower
Beyond the broken rock and roaring waves
Beyond this self imposed solitude
Guiding me
To the lush green fields
On an island of One
One life
Joined with All
One Soul
Shared across the endless miles of unknown
One heart
Loved

 


 

Image by Ravi Pinisetti

One Pearl Longer

On the eve of each new year I reluctantly don a necklace
of melancholic nostalgia
the significance of which envelops me.
Strung from pearls of wisdom gathered by my former selves.
One per year.
Each radiant globe a diamond of priceless memories
compressed by me into a diminuve crystal ball.
Offering up reflections of immense happiness
tempered by devastang tragedy.
Each precious gem a hard-worn, hard-won epiphany
of the ebbs and flows of life.

Midnight revelry trumpets
auditory triggers of inescapable images.
With each mind’s eye vision comes anew
the heartbreak of loved ones lost forever.
The chain grows heavier and heavier,
constraining tighter and tighter.
Joy and pain, light and dark
intermingle to murky fog.

Come dawn, a fresh new day’s light pierces the gray numb
clarifying each orb until only lightness remains.
The warm beads now comfort me with their familiarity.
Carefully I remove the gossamer strand.
No matter.
Once disturbed, the tenuous connection evaporates scattering mirrored circles of life to places unknown.
Hidden here. Tucked there.
Only to return in their circuitous configuration in 364 nights
to be worn hesitatingly, reluctantly once again,
yet with honor and thankfully
one pearl longer.

– Karen Brown

Image by Karen Brown

My midnight muse

C67B5873-25B5-4983-9075-754635FA392C

 

You dance within the twilight of my dreams
Whimsical and lithe
Lingering here
Darting there
A firefly in the dark
A flickering spark
Playful
Alluring
Enticing
Enchanting
A shimmering vapor drifting through shadow
Your heart beating in pyrophoric frenzy
A strobing cannon
A beacon in the cavern of my soul
Inviting me
Drawing me
Beckoning
Further
Always further
Always closer
Always just out of reach
So I climb
 and scramble 
and hazard these frozen depths
Careless of rope or harness or blaze
Because where you go
Returns us to the surface
And once in the light of day
We
Will mock the sun
Together


Image by Jonatan Pie.

These small hopes I carry

hope
 
 
“The shortness of our lives prevents us from undertaking long hopes.”
– Horace
 
 

To make it through another day with a smile
To lay down with gratitude
To laugh as often as possible
To share whatever I have
With whoever I can
Are held aloft
Against the crushing weight of time
Against the relentless tide of life
That creeps like a hidden assassin
Just out of view
They are held up by faith
Learned in patience
They are the air I breath
The blood in my veins
The whisper I offer to the wind
The never fading kiss I press against your lips
I have no enduring hopes
But to love
and be loved
To hope for more than that
For more than I can experience in this moment
Is folly
To hope for more than this moment
Is vanity
To lose hope
Is to give in to the ceaseless tide
Is to be crushed by time
To live with hope
However small
Is what makes my short time here
A miracle

 

A note about my recent posts

I know the reason most of you follow my posts here is because I unfailingly find good in even the most dire situations and that some of my more recent posts have been less than positive. This is done with intention.

I don’t talk as often about the difficulty and pain that comes before reaching those positive conclusions and in doing so I may be misleading or least sugar coating the pain that leads to those ends  but I don’t want to give others the impression that living a life of faith and hope, love and gratitude, is some sort of magic pill that makes everything easy.

There is no magic pill. No amount of meditation or breathwork or metta or exercise or healthy eating or yoga can change that. Life holds suffering for everyone. That is an inescapable fact. Nor would I want to escape it. There is a lot to be learned from suffering.

This is not to say that I actively pursue it. Just that I refuse to allow it to make decisions for me.

Having a positive outlook, living in faith, finding gratitude in even the most unbearable situations, are things that are cultured and nurtured. It isn’t natural instinct for any of us.

So here I am, in dire straights, and rather than share only the positive thoughts that are always there, even in the worst times, I have decided to take the opportunity in what I knew would be an extremely difficult and stressful situation and share those other things we all have in common and maybe in doing so I will be able to convey the methods I use to reach those positive ends.

I do feel pain. Fear. Anger. Self doubt. I am no different than you.

So stick it out with me on this journey. Stay tuned, as they say, and let’s find out together where this chapter leads. I have no doubt it will be someplace better!

Be well and know that you are loved.

James

Journal Entry: Thursday, October 4, 2018

 

When I left Alabama I was smiling because I felt like I have a home to go back to and I like that feeling.

When I got to North Dakota it was snowing. The work I will be doing in Montana is at the mercy of the weather. An early winter means less work. The smile began to fade.

When I was forced to settle for a less than optimal camper to be “base camp” while I’m working because the camper I’d lined up was sold to someone who offered more money in cash the smile faded more. That happens. I don’t blame them for getting as much as they could but it left me without options. The only other camp trailer I could find in my price range (read: cheap) was half the size (a mere 12 feet long), missing windows from hail damage long enough that there was mold and mildew and some of the wood was getting soft, it had neither cushions nor mattress nor bathroom nor propane tanks (not that they’d be of any use since neither the fridge nor the heater worked anyway), and no title. Yep, less than, and it cost more than the complete trailer I had lined up.

When I got to Montana, where I’ll be working, it snowed some more and I was told to expect at least one rain day. It is day two up here and I just got off the phone with my new employer. We are in for an early freeze. All work is canceled until or unless the weather breaks but the forecast for the next week is heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

The smile is gone.

I took a gamble and lost. I should never gamble. Being homeless in Austin, TX is one thing. Being homeless in Fairview, MT is something else entirely so I can’t let that happen. I pretty much depleted my funds getting here. All my cards were maxed months ago, that’s one of the reasons I decided to take the risk, I need to catch up.

The man I’m supposed to be working for feels horrible about it and is making some calls to see if he can line me up with some work. There are plenty of panicked farmers around here working around the clock to get their sugar beet harvest in and he knows many of them. There’s a good chance I can get on with one of them and earn enough to either get me by until the weather breaks, at which point the rock haulers will be in a panic to fulfill their contracts and be working around the clock too, or move to Williston or Watford City and pick up a water or oil hauling job. Not even the worst weather stops production.

If faith was food I’d be fat but I’ll need more than faith to pull this off. A little good luck would go a long way right now.

Home

I left Mobile with a smile late in the afternoon yesterday after a last reshuffling of plans and unpacking/repacking of the car.

The original plan, based entirely on cautious habits acquired over the years, was to bring everything with me in case things didn’t work out.

I’ve gotten very good at eliminating all but the essentials. When I left ND to come here I left a fully furnished, down to silverware, toilet paper, and made bed house behind.

This time something had changed. I found myself wanting to load up everything and that wasn’t going to happen because it seems that when the wiring harness in my SUV melted down a few months ago it took out my trailer lights and I wasn’t about to risk another meltdown by attempting to repair them, which meant I couldn’t rent a U-Haul.

There was no way I was going to take everything with and that bothered me.

It wasn’t until a friend stopped by to send me off with a hug and a smoothie (Thank you, Professor!) and began pointing out things that I shouldn’t bother bringing with that it all began to make sense.

I was attempting to pack up something that is impossible to get into a box or a bag and I could spend the rest of my life trying to squeeze it into every available space I could find and never get it all in because its is larger than a $20 blanket or a rug I picked up from the curb:

Home.

I’ve spent so many years without a home that I forgot what it felt like. I even developed this inner philosophy that said wherever I go I’m always going home because the only sense of home I had for so long was the one I carried with me.

Over the last dozen years every time I’ve headed off to a job in the oilfield it eventually lead to another. Then another. And another. Until I ended up alone and isolated.

These things I’ve felt over the last week, the things that have kept me up at night, that frustrated and irritated, aren’t there because I feel alone.

I am not alone.

I have made strong friendships and have the support of people who love me as much as I love them.

The feeling isn’t that of being alone but of becoming alone, again, which is something that scares the crap out of me and keeps me up at night.

I had forgotten what it feels like to belong somewhere. I never would have guessed that place would be Mobile, Alabama and maybe it won’t be forever, but there it is, home.

So I unpacked everything and moved it all to the attic of the mansion I rent rooms in, much to the delight of the owners who were so honestly relieved and happy to know I would be coming back that they hurried to help me.

I left later in the day than I wanted but made it to Missouri around midnight.

When I looked in the back of my little Rodeo I saw that I brought so few things I had room to arrange a makeshift bed. I walked Brown Dog, the best traveling partner I could ever ask for, offered gratitude to the powers that be, shifted a few things to make enough room to stretch out in, then lay down and slept better than I have in days.