Category Archives: Thinking About “Why?”

Thoughts on researching and writing about past.

Somewhere Beyond the Border

In the process of straightening up and trying to clean out my life, I came across these thoughts scratched on the back cover of a graduation program. It was the last in a series of 40+ that I attended.

Date: 5/19/18

The line arouses itself and begins to extend toward the future. One soul, twelve steps continuing into the fog of uncounted tomorrows. Hope plundering the shadowlands of uncertainty in the carriage of youth.

One last out and in. Grace in the cloak of repetition. The ease of innocence–some even genuine. Raging talent unprotected by the cloak. What pagans are gathering in the borderlands of the next sunrises? Or are the pagans sires to the Messiah? The chosen ones; but to what journey?

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History Lesson: Winter Term, February 8, 2019

Today, two hundred and twelve years ago the French were losing. They had slept in the snow on a freezing night. Irony personified, on the day before they had died in droves in the cemetery at Eylau. With failure a reality Napoleon unleashed the flamboyant Joachim Murat and his 10,000 cavalry against the Russian center.

The following day Marshal Michele Ney rode the field and noted: “Quel massacre! Et, sans resultat.”

Valkyries

in the darkness,
            I saw the Valkyries.
they are real.
their faces were my old lovers,
            pale and silent,
arriving on the sun bound side of darkness.
they came not for me.
they came for the Brave from the past.
To what Valhala?






Quick Thoughts On The Return

It has been over 30 years. It took a little time searching and futzing, but now it is revived. “It” being my turntable that plays vinyl albums. The recent trend to “return” to vinyl by “aficionados” who had never touched a real album before the year 2000 is not at the heart of this musing. Here, we consider the return to personal music as it came to my world in the 1960s.

The first album to bring me to the world of rock and roll was The Buckingham’s Portraits which landed in the album bins in 1967. I had to play it on my mom’s crummy self-contained stereo with fidelity somewhat better than the radio and an old “record player”. I went off to college sans stereo, but in tandem with the explosion of FM radio playing great music not available on day time AM radio. College revealed dorm mates who had real stereos. My friend who eventually was the presiding minister at my wedding introduced me to B.J. Thomas and Bob Dylan with the needle noting every imperfection and illuminating musical subtleties blotted out by the radio. Later another friend, who eventually became a nationally decorated poet, helped me find my way to Neil Young via the rotating table and album covers at his family’s home. (Yes, Andrew, I remember that the jeans on the back cover of After The Gold Rush look better in the picture than they do in real life.)

Unfortunately, just as I became initiated into the realm of significant music the 8-track tape proliferated. With a choice to be made, I took the seductive trail, and my early music collection was almost entirely blocks of plastic with no liner notes and ultimately limited shelf-life. Wait a few years and the tape rots. Yet, the music persisted in my life unchallenged by access to vinyl.

Finally, after the poverty of graduate school began to slide into the shade, I got my first real turntable attached to a real amplifier/receiver and great speakers. They came just in time for cassette tapes to sweep into popularity because they could be played in your car. Then came CD’s. My vinyl and turntable became objects moved from dwelling to dwelling with no use for over thirty years.

Now in retirement, finally settled with the albums intact, the turntable refurbished and tuned up, The Flying Burrito Brothers are pouring out of my new Klipsch speakers. Much of the impetus for the return to the table and needle is the gift of a vinyl copy of Neil Young’s Live At Massey Hall 1971 album from my friend Jack. I suppose, gentle reader, that one might scream “old man’s nostalgia”. So be it; but the sound, the feeling, and the ability to read about the construction of the collection is a combination not to be had from a streaming service.

Believe as you choose, listen as you will, but I am about to drop the needle of my Technics SL-BL3 on Side 2 of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Thanks Bruce.

Sailing on December Rain

December came four days late. She was dark, cold, saturated, and uneven. Your soul needed a boat. Magellan ordered the the mainsail reefed. Noah asked for Job’s advice. Darkness and water were locked in a connubial embrace oblivious to the needs of man.

A year and four days later man was still marooned in the darkness of Winter come thirteen days early.  The sky settled in as hammered steel with no hints of azure to be imagined and darkness closed to ink.   Job had no answers save ideas.

The sails were unfurled even as the wind accelerated. The voice in man’s darkness was Ishmael’s: “Steer in the wake of the Rachel. Ride the edge of the storm, faith requires neither sun nor a port.”

Salt Water Time

"The dissonant bells of the sea
As they sing of the ages asleep
not so near or so far"
-----Gene Clark, "Spanish Guitar"

I grew up loving the Gulf of Mexico. It defined salt water for me even though most of my salt water activity occurred on and in Perdido Bay. As a boy the bays seemed tame and even boring unless we were near the mouth of a creek slowly unfurling its contents into salt water. The intersection of waters offered the fascination of life in collision and symbiotic embrace.

But bays lacked the rolling waves, blinding sunlit white sand, and eternally distant horizons.  Big water launched a boy’s testosterone driven  romantic dreams of the beyond. The Gulf was the lord and owner of power and wonder. A lifetime of distance from consistent contact with that lord witnessed the ebb and flood tides of those imagination driven dreams. Life powered by the throbbing engines of routine, mini-dramas, and adult- imposed ambition stained the dreams and blurred the soul’s vision of wonder.

Retiring to the rim of Mobile Bay reestablished consistent interaction with a big constrained body of salt water. Here the horizons are not so distant; the waves lack the size and power of the Gulf; the beaches barely exist. A less restless old man now refines his focus on the wonder of the small, the quiet, the confined life of the Bay. Life on the Bay lacks the noise and bustle of Gulf Coast beaches. Humans populate the waters of the Bay with less density and less noise than their brothers and sisters on the Gulf beaches. The worst offenders rip the waters of the Bay with jet skis when the sun and clear skies turn them steel blue. The offense seems great when one contemplates the virtues under assault.

The Bay impresses with subtle shifts in an otherwise stable world. Ever present gulls congregate in diverse formations always stimulating the question of “why?” Pelicans generate a persistent feature with wonderful behaviors and enigmatic personalities.  On occasion they find repose on the surface of the water like 18th century men of war. Their lines are elegant and unmistakable as  they ride at anchor or sit becalmed. When the survival urge drives them to flight they emerge in the 20th century like WW II dive bombers circling a target, calculating the angle of attack then penetrating air and water as if they were in pursuit of a terminal meal. 
You have seen nothing until your eyes behold airborne pelicans on the edge of a storm.They ride the stiffening breeze like helicopters, often turning into the wind and adjusting their wings and speed to hover in a solitary piece of sky oblivious to the bombastic peals of thunder driving the wind.

Weather in the world of the Bay provides another nuanced experience. Squalls sweep in from the Gulf and attack one shore or the other or engulf the entire basin. The anger of a squall can drive north, up the Bay, with its gloom lingering even as it surrenders to the late afternoon sun. Such days are not beautiful, but they are authentic. Low tide; sun sliding in and out of the clouds; breeze washboarding the surface of the water; a gull clinging to one isolated piling; and a pelican owning the next nearest post. The squalls can seem to surround the Bay with lightning flashes challenging the weak but persistent sunlight.  Angry thunder expressing the lightning’s complaint that the sun will not yield.

Finding an intersection of land and salt water is an enduring reality on the Bay. There is a mystical and hypnotic effect stimulated when viewing tidal pools and cuts when the bright mid-day sun allows the careful observer to see the sand bottom through the clear water. Wind on the water leads to optical realities that contribute to nature’s message.

The Gulf will always be the most important gateway to the things that stir my soul, but I have come to love the Bay and appreciate the mysteries it holds.

HOT FLASHES

“Entre la espada y la pared”

The fire descends on the head like Diablo’s hand.

No choice.

Fan blades ruffle the air,

No noise.

A mild chill glides across the body on the bed,

No relief.

The burn moves south to the thorax,

No light,

Just a flash as the treatment continues.

Just a reminder.

 

 

 

Identity & Worth: Requiem For A Racquet

The right hand pocket of the bag slouches open—-racquets protruding like some sick surreal Freudian statement. Dirty white grips with the vague odor of human sweat extend at various angles in defiance of Pythagorus.  The bag sagging on one side from the weight of the sticks. A pair of used-to-be yellow balls in repose adjacent to the bag on the grit of the green clay. A third one has attempted escape to the far baseline. A lone frame has found its demise six feet from the bag, a large twisted spaghetti strainer resting  across the mini-trench it formed with its final moments. The surrounding air still sizzles from the verbal expulsions of the destroyed racquet’s human assassin.

It was “just a game” like so many other matches on so many other days, and yet…. The emotional and psychological thicket those glib words camouflage make Stanley’s trek toward Livingston slide into historical insignificance. The murderer walks the streets without malice, is beloved by friends and family, and seldom ventures beyond the boundaries of propriety, and yet… Well compensated, praised, even honored by colleagues, the game has exposed a fire in the player that often becomes a conflagration.

A third double fault hard on the heels of a migratory forehand finding a home six feet beyond the baseline proves to be steel that strikes the flint in the player’s soul and generates a spark that detonates emotional plastique. The explosion is transformative. Self-worth is no longer bonded to true identity. Rather, in a quantum leap worth and worthlessness are to be found in the outcome of relatively meaningless physical interactions with inert contrived instruments of “recreation.”

Recovery from the dark hole of imagined lost worth requires much less time than the changing of the tides. Order will be restored, worth reconstructed with a screaming forehand return of serve that explodes the sideline and defies the speed of the opponent. Yet Dr. Freud’s statement has been made as the mangled racquet is interred in the court side trash can.

Old Tears

Old tears are heavy like spent uranium rounds for a 40 mm chain gun. They have a half life of a million years. They are sprung from wells that reach to the far side of the womb of all life. The echo of their fall roils the waters of existence into waves of meaning grinding pain into the beaches of peace.

Old tears wash gullies into the bedrock of souls who have witnessed more than sunsets. Old rodeo posters make ancient bucking bulls cry cold old  tears for torn cowboys who rose with dust scarred bodies and broken dreams from unremembered 8 second wars. All wore the clothes of defeat.

Old tears pour from each rock struck by every would be Moses after their verbal expulsions send yet another entranced dreamer into a mislabeled valley of hope. Old tears flood those deep slits with the heavy water of remorse and disillusion. No reservation required.

Old tears float weathered wooden boats carrying fishermen beyond fear colored horizons in search of one more net filled with immortality. The white whale swam in old tears. He cried them for Ahab.

Old tears fill watering holes in hot stinking valleys of death where nearly forgotten cuirassiers’ horses wander over heroes’ bodies from Platea, Ypres, Dunkirk, Saipan, Ia Drang, and other lost human efforts. The holes never go dry. The clouds rain old tears.

Old tears dry into the diamond hard foundation mothers perch their children on. Formed into crystalline jeweler’s loops that magnify the hope for a future they focus the light of the mothers’ souls into laser beams of purpose. All mothers’ tears are old. They taste and smell like eternity.

 

The Ronin’s Tale Part 8: Hawks & Crows

The Ronin nurses the final wound and watches.

Hawks and crows. What does it mean when they are together? Do hawks own the air or do crows own the ground from the air? Predator vs. scavenger? Monarch v. jester? Do  they live like pleasure and pain, health and illness? At times the morning mirror reflects Horus, god-like, eternal master of the sky; seeing everything from the cloud populated heavens and imagining that all seek shelter from our descent of conquest as we feast on life. Then comes evening and the dark mocking sound of life at a lower altitude; Corvus needing Horus’ leftovers when the altitude of life is history; the ground too close and littered with the scraps of memory from the power of the past.

Thus the Hawk perpetually attacks the Crow seeking to exploit the day and avoid living with the alternative reality. The Crow never retreats and defends with the persistence of time itself. Eternal aerial combat, symbiotic necessity.