Beguiled

“Like a wise man chasing stars, I looked for a child.  One asleep inside of me.  When Christmas was beguiled.” – – Michael Johnson

 

I had no idea how much of a rut I was in.  I had not run outdoors since September of last year, when sciatica began to have its way with me and put the kibosh on my marathon plans.  So when I managed a slow four mile jaunt on February 10th, all was bliss.  Truly.  I know it sounds so cliche to say that something defies description, but it did, and I had been unknowingly homesick for such events.  And so of course, when done running, I ranted a bit on Facebook about my heavenly experience.  But not a lot.  Sometimes a beautiful experience not shared can leave a wondrous alchemical residue.  And so it began a little over a week ago.

There is a beautiful medley written by Elton John years ago called “Carla/Etude/Chloe” that is almost my favorite song written by him. (“Your Song” can still bring me to the brink of tears) As I ran it took me a while to notice that the medley was playing in my head, complete with my fantasy arrangement and a vision of a friend of mine dressed as Groucho directing the orchestra.  When I got home I was craving my guitar and singing.  Then I ran the next day and fanned my fantasy flames again.  And then I set it all aside.  For a few days.

When a spark comes alive in me it usually won’t leave me alone until I give it some attention.  I live with some regret that the sum of the sparks I ignored over the years may have produced enough stars for a van Gogh painting.  And as I continue to live beyond “middle-age” and into my late sixties, I am now feeling how precious that little spark can be. And how resourceful.

My unconscious can be very playful as it is.  There was a period in my thirties when I would go through stretches of not eating particularly well.  McDonald’s would look like gourmet dining.  Then my dream self would kick in.  When my habits were causing obvious damage, I would start having dreams about Julia Child.  I’m not kidding, doctor. These began in the years when I was finishing up drinking alcohol, and even waking up hung over I knew what ol’ Julia was trying to tell me.  Bring on the veggies.  In recent years my tricky mind has resorted to Christmas references to direct my focus to a new beginning.  Usually a song or two, but most of the time a snowy scene.  The Christmas tunes have a way of playing in my head during my waking hours for a while before I actually notice them.  I love the birth metaphor, and they are happening more and more frequently lately.  Ok, Mr Unconscious.  You have my attention.

I played a show at the Underground Cafe in January of 2014 that I still think of often.  I get a shiver when I remember playing “Life By The Drop” along with the entire audience clapping.  What I remember more is I think, the real reason why I play.  Every now and then during the night the music coming out of me almost seemed irrelevant. It seemed like we were all joined at the hip spiritually (I’m trying my hardest to steer away from cliche) and literally in joy.  Enjoy.  The music had been the vehicle.  I felt that show for weeks after it was done.  The memories of that night seemed to be my reason for being for a while, and yet its not a “thing” that I remember.   It was that brilliant sense of nothingness.  I’m guessing that whoever wrote the screenplay for the movie “Cat Ballou” didn’t know what a profound gem of a line she or he inserted at one point, when Lee Marvin’s character says “I’m an ex-citizen of nowhere and sometimes I get mighty homesick.”  I hear ya, Lee.

In 1973 while at my aunt’s house, I flicked on her tv and watched a PBS concert of a guy named Michael Johnson.  I was mesmerized.  I was sixteen years old at the time, and became best friends with my guitar.  It would be years (and some sober time) before I would work up the nerve to play publicly, but Mr Johnson had me.  I even tried to sing like him, and much to my enjoyment my niece told me once in the early nineties that I sounded very much like him.  I had not told her I was mimicking his voice.  Tonight I pulled out my guitar and noticed that it may need a little hospital time.  It sure didn’t sound like it wanted to be played.  So instead of playing I searched You Tube for Michael Johnson concerts.  They weren’t easy to find. After watching sprinter Michael Johnson (sigh) run a few races, I hit paydirt. I found a two hour show.  Michael may not have made it very big on the music scene, but he did manage some chart hits when he was signed by a Nashville label.  He was my inspiration, and tonight he rekindled in me the flame of a sleeping child.  I was pretty choked up listening to some of his beautiful ballads, hearing some of his off the wall humor.  Its been a long time.  I’ve been mighty homesick.

I had no idea a four mile run was going to trigger a greater need to write, or bring me back to feeling so deeply affected once again by my musical life, past and present, hopefully also in the future. My long stretch of down time was really like trees in the winter.  Their leaves are all gone but there’s a whole lot of unseen activity going on in them.  A run. Some writing.  Some Christmas dreams.  And now back to music that had never left me, I had just forgotten.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have songs to practice and a set list to prepare.  I’m once more beguiled.

Merry Christmas

 

 

 

 

When I’m Sixty-Three

“They say that as you get older you gradually lose your mind.  What they don’t tell is you probably won’t miss it very much.” – – unknown

 

I turned sixty-three years old today.  Long gone are the days when people would look at me and say “Gee, you look like you’re in your thirties.”   I’ve watched technology grow by leaps and bounds and struggled to keep up with it.  I’ve learned more and more deeply that “honest politician” is an oxymoron.  And I’ve come to believe that even if we destroy the earth, Keith Richards will still be floating around somewhere.

I’ve heard it said many times including by my friend Dave, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.”  Indeed.  There are pros and cons to life as an aging human being.   I don’t recover as quickly as I used to when I go for a long run.  I don’t even run as frequently lately due to injuries becoming more frequent.  The list goes on, but so does the one for the pros of getting older.  I feel a wisdom that after so many years of life feels immovable. Like it can only be added to.  And as I told my chiropractor the other day, If there was any one thing I could go back and change it would be to somehow grasp the deepening sense of gratitude and peace that accompanies me much sooner.  It appears that as the form of my body is diminishing, the content is growing younger and more full.

One can go into the self-help sections of book stores and see scores of books titles about “being here now” until the nausea becomes too much.  It’s been that way for years.  If you ask me the actual experience of doing the same is beyond words.  “Being” has always looked to me like a directive: be in god.  Add a comma. Human, be in God. The phrase doesn’t say to seek or to look “out there” anywhere.  “Out there” is the manifestation of thought. Maybe pre-scripted.  It will pass, good, bad or indifferent. What I looked for so many years has been in the last place I would think to find it.  The “journey” has no distance.  All of this is so much more pleasant to muse on than my body falling apart, or how I’ll eventually die.  And the best part is that its real.

I’ll kid no one – if I get a hang nail I want to call 9-1-1.  Physical pain is no friend of mine.  I still remember the look of intense pain on my mom’s face after she died.  Its become quite obvious to me that some gateways to leaving the earth are accompanied by reams of hurt unless the person is medicated heavily.  On the other side of that lies the attention of my curiosity.  Bypass the pain and I might have left years ago. (Now, I’m just musing – don’t call the white coats on me.) What lies beyond is the perpetual carrot on a stick.

I was chatting via skype with a co-worker of mine yesterday and at one point she said “Thirty-one years of sobriety – I’m so proud of you!” My response was “aw shucks, it was nothin.'” I had to explain to her that I’m rather proud of the milestone I hit just a few weeks ago and I was just kidding.  I went on to finish part of my answer with “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life no matter what I’ve accomplished or not accomplished.”  If the statement was true I would have left off the last part.  I am not my accomplishments, yet there is certainly nothing wrong with having goals.  At age sixty-three I haven’t even gotten started on the writing career I would love to have.  I’ve spent hours fantasizing about cranking out a pair of articles a week for a newspaper or magazine.  Like many I still think of financial security.  I have no aspirations to be a millionaire but if money fell out of the sky I sure wouldn’t turn it down.  I’m talking more about having fulfillment in a world of form in which my physical self begs to do something meaningful and that I enjoy.  That I’m in-joy doing.  I’m so grateful to know now that choosing joy can be moment to moment.  That’s a lot of responsibility. And I get to pick the vehicle.

Every now and then I go in for a few therapy sessions to get my batteries charged, so to speak.  During one of my last visits a few months ago, the gentleman I was seeing said “Maybe its time to start thinking about your legacy.”  I had to look up the word just now.  So many of the definitions are tied up in money or what I consider misuse of the word “will.”  If I’m to have any concern about legacy, it would be to confirm that I’m affecting lives for the better.  In the movie “Bucket List” there is a scene in which Morgan Freeman (Geez, he’s everywhere.  Even in this article) asks Jack Nicholson rhetorically if he’s brought joy into the world of others.  Nicholson’s character is stuck for an answer.  He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s bringing it to Freeman’s character right at that moment.

Aging is getting me closer to my ultimate goal.  One Course In Miracles lesson states “My only goal today is God.”  It doesn’t matter what “God” means to anyone or what word is used.  When I first got sober I frequently saw a guy at meetings who said he was an atheist.  In my memory he’s one of the more spiritually developed people I’ve ever met.  Perception of a higher being is up to the individual.  What I’m saying is that we all carry a capacity for whatever that is to us, and its our choice whether or not we focus on it and bring it out in the world.  Want to change the world?  You already are.  Your life affects mine. Mine affects yours.  We are bringing each other back home.  I’m a year closer to my end, and yet a year closer to my Beginning. Thank you for the lift.

 

Peace