Category: wanderings

Kind of meditative, kind of reflective… not all who wander (you get the picture)

With a wink and a clink

Things, well, they’re things lately. Nine out of ten physicists would agree on that, right? These things have been wild. “Wild” means we need to call in either biologists, behaviorists, botanists, or Maurice Sendak. But take it from me- they’ve been wild, to put it mild(-ly), and child, getting through this gauntlet underscathed has been enough work. So below, I have some toasts for you. Perhaps that’s good enough for now. But it’s what I’ve got to give today. Get your water, “special water,” or poice of choison ready.

Noble Banner of the Globe Tooting Unicorn

But before I get there, let me tell you about Friendistan. It’s a country, located kind of all over the place, but mostly here in Asheville. It’s a group of superfriends, besties, beloveds, and our kindred and ilk, who are ever present for each other. While there is a Founding Politburo of five benevolent overlords, there are many Friendistanis. We have our own flag (pictured), our own national anthem (we’ll keep that for special events, but let’s just say it involved metal overdubbed with critters, it’s just not right), but most importantly, our own official toast. It’s not the toast I have for you, but it’s a toast that has been spoken on many an important occasion:

Here’s to ourselves; none better, damn few as good!

It’s a proud sounding thing, but all of us have been through a lot in our crazily bestowed lives, so we’re privileged to have made it through all this to say it. Joshua

, my Best Friend of 29 years, 11 months, and 4 days-ish, through his research of ancient Nordic traditions some time back discovered that ancient toasts included Virtues and praises to the best things in life. So the above toast can also be phrased with elegant and honest simplicity, as we say…

To Friendship!

And that by itself is enough. It’s the truth. It’s what we have, no matter what. That man is meine Beste Freunde and so much more, and had it not been for the very first act of friendship between us on Bus #33 driven by Patsy, our futures would be some weird meshy unknown blown out across the multiverses. As with all of the Friendistanis, and all our relations. This is where we could say among the most ancient toasts of The Americas…

Aho Mitake Oyasin,” Thank You, All My Relations.

Felicity and I often just say “Cheers!,” perhaps followed by a good exhale and the satisfying pronouncement of “fuck” in its many uses, variations, and inflections. Cheers reminds us, that even in the worst of times, that it’s always a cheering thing to be in the company of friends. It’s the bottom line. My compadre and mentor Howard will say, “To all good things!” which for the time being keeps the beasties at bay because all things, wild though they may be, all things are created, and that creation was not a bad idea at the time, and thus all things are inherently good. It’s been a “week” people, let me stretch it a little.

So that brings me to this rather long toast. Ok, it’s not really written for drinking (unless you’re a patient person). It’s more of a back deck or front porch staring off into space kind of toast. A moonrisen, cicada chanting, thinking out loud sort of toast. But as I’ve said in the beginning, it’s what I’ve got.  If this week were a hit and run driver it’d be the kind of uninsurable person who reverses and backs over a couple of times for good measure. This toast is my way of saying, “I’m not dead yet,” or “the tire tracks come out in the wash.” It’s through the power of friendship, community, and the sweet sweet Unknowable Source of Cosmic Coinky-dinks I’m already back on the road, and waving this week and its terrible driving buh-bye.

So, whatever you have, raise ’em if you got ’em:

Here’s to things that happen for a reason, or no good reason, but you make something reasonable out of it anyway.

Here’s to chance encounters, sudden reminders of old but deep connections, and the unabashed power of friendship- old, new, or mended.

And here’s to holding on;
-to your values when faced with devaluation,
-to that which serves and deserves you,
-and to each other, for each one of us is but a tempest tossed spark of life, lit for a second, bright as all get out when we stick together.

What a difference a YAY makes!

To friendship, love, the paradoxes to come, and living life on overkill!


Reality Bites

[Edit: Thank you dictation software- just sayin’, typing isn’t coming easy, but it never really has]

Everything that happens to the I that is you is an opportunity to evaluate: “am I passively receiving, am I for whatever reason turned off, or am I passionately active?” When an out of the blue thing happens, even something unpleasant, there’s a choice in what to do with it. Just as you have a choice to face down a test with an “I’m gonna fail” mentality or its opposite, and see which one turns out. In my practice, (I can actually say practice now in the full sense, as I’ve passed my Boards, yay) I spell it out clearly: Victim or Victor, what’ll it be? But we’ve got to get beyond the duality-beast that always hangs us up, so up comes a third option, the Viewer- the passive observer of a reality that can bite, or bless, or blah.  It’s a step away from the falsehood of dichotomy and a step closer to the broad spectrum of gray that is much more apparent to our gray matter than our materially-oriented gazing.

But what the hell, let’s throw more Vs in there with this Latin charge to claim your cosmic oomph: “Vi veri veniversum vivus vici.” What’s this about? “I, while living, have [conquered] the Universe,” wherein the bracketed can also be translated as “won, triumphed, or mastered.” That phrase goes way back, and has its roots in ancient mystery schools and in modern culture is a gang sign for uber-geeks that read comics about revolutionaries. Winning doesn’t have to be an Alexander the Great kind of deal, it can be an “I made it through some difficult hours or days,” which for so many of us is conquering enough. Breathing clearly for a day can be winning. Taking a damn walk- yes, a damn walk outside your house- can be winning. So can any odd thing, at least I believe it so; a clearly damming and awful thing can get ya, sic ya, mangle you up a tish- and you still come out smiling, because as the Mynabirds sing

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, you choose the perspective:

“What we lose in the fire

We gain in the flood;

What we lose in the fire

Is never gone.”

Last Saturday night, something happened that caused me great physical pain- but I have a choice- succumb to pain and seek pity, ignore it and lose a chance to experience, or accept it and engage the interestingness and novelty of it, pry into the being-ness on this organism that can dare say for a brief moment in cosmic time “I Am.” There’s meaning, lessons, poetic metaphor, and a bunch of jokes which accompany the latter choice- and most of the jokes I make are pretty wrong. As for me, I revel in the opportunity to feel, even if it’s pain, because this thing called “body” is a reminder that existence is an entropy-dance, but one that can be so mesmerizing. There’s aspects of this that event suck, sure, but what takes more energy- pursuing to un-suck the suck out of a situation, or making use of what’s already there and learning about pain, nerves, skin, and a bit of animal psychology? Specifically, canine psychology, and my human arms are so tasty and tender?

Cheeks in tongues aside, dog maulings have affected me before every personally, but even worse many children and other vulnerable people are killed yearly from large aggressive breed dog attacks. Just last week, a 6 year old boy, not far from here… this is just my arm. Context changes everything. Whatever I’m experiencing, which is novel anyway, does not compare to that family’s suffering. The holes in my arm are not to fret over, especially where there’s holes left that are not remotely as easily mended. Every day we wake up, we’re lucky to be alive, as we are just a cellular player in the thin living biosphere’s life cycle, not ever it’s Top Dog.

Maybe it’s just me, I’m a bit weird, but these occurrences give us a chance to unplug from victim mentalities (it happened to me!) and thinking errors that we are somehow independently segmented from Creation. Then willingly, we plug into the power of being the Universe and all that comes with it, and maybe that rewrites the script of big canine jaw punctures not as a horror or tragedy, but just as thing that happens, an “existence tax,” a consequence of being here/now on a biological level. As such, it’s a reminder that we belong to an immense reality, by way of an OH HELL NO FUCK THIS HURTS LIKE A SUMMBITCH GET IT OFF NOW kind of way.

Reality does bite, but it’s how we eat.

Testing Being Tested

I’m in Charlotte, in a monk’s cell of a motel room, the night before I take my Boards. I’m 50% confident in my studying, 50% surrendering to having to wave a white flag on the battlefield of multiple choice.  At my ordination, a compañera of mine in the wild and woolly world of Asheville clergy, Priestess Byron Ballard, reminded me that I will be tested, and boy howdy was she right (as I anticipated, but you never know how). Heading here I first had to swing up to Greensboro, travelling the same stretch of road both ways. It was a day job function; visiting a treatment facility, rubbing shoulders with many of the same colleagues who flock to such gatherings, handshakes, hugs, and well-rehearsed but nonetheless heartfelt spiels, all of us delicately maneuvering toward the door in batches.

On the way to Greensboro, I was taken by a graceful thing…  a white feather dancing above the endless pushing crowd of autos.  What an “Other” among everything within that eye-blink

, an exceedingly natural word among a chorus of synthetic language. Everything for that second- save for my own marginal “control” of my own crowd pushing steed- faded into that pirouetting white feather.  From our own personal memories and meanings derived from finding and encountering feathers, to their ancient connotations as symbols of communication made from this world to divine realms as traces left behind by Deities and Angels, feather-finding has significance. It subtracts the ordinary, just as it punctuated my otherwise NPR-soothed commute with waltzing other-worldliness.

My drive from Greensboro to Charlotte was not without some degree of anxiety, as it represented the final phase in preparing to take this test, one that has been years in coming.  All of the studying, the remembering, mnemonic devices and endless lists and of meaningless words I have in my head as garlands of otherwise unrelated letters designed to catapult me over a mythic yet bureaucratic boundary all come to some form of closure in this final stretch of road to the Queen City. I have been relatively calm about all of this.  I have come to a sort of peace, a degree of surrender, relief without even knowing whether I will pass or fail this test.  That perhaps is passing already.  Because it is so easy to become entrapped and beholden to a fate that has not yet revealed itself, leaving one helpless in the moment.  I’ve had my time on this planet wriggling in fear and worry, now is the time to breathe, to “know what I know… [to] sing what I said” à la Paul Simon:

“…I said who am I
To blow against the wind?

I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head.”

I was very much in my head on the drive to Charlotte on at same stretch of roadway.  Little did I realize until I saw it, but I was in the exact same place where that feather was dancing earlier.  How did I know?  Because I saw a white feather dancing in the wind, above the cars, this time on my side of the road.  And what was startling about all of this was that, in this space, I could see skid-marks , traffic cones, some shredded fencing, and a downed light pole. I’m not kidding.  Take from that what you will, total coincidence or some kind of psychospiritual happenstance, but I cannot deny that dancing feather was meaningfulness waiting to happen for all of the eyes watching it, for surely I was not the only one that caught sight of such brilliance. Just as graceful as that famous moment in cinema of the windblown plastic bag in American Beauty, just as ominous, but just as open to what you make of it. It is what it is, portentous or merciful, what have you. Because of that now completed image, a diorama of dance, I feel I’ve been offered a great preparation for the test, The Test, and being tested. So have all of the possible witnesses today. The answer to the question posed by the feather is not multiple choice, however; it’s fill in the blank. There’s no answer key to be found on the internet or in expensive books. It’s a thinker, and the correctness of your answer is only something that experience uncovers.

I’ll share my best guess, and strategically on tests your best guesses are “umbrella answers,” the most comprehensive. While this could be total bullshit, I think my answer posed by the dancing spectacle will be “it is.” Because that’s all I’ve got, that’s all I need to see that holy moment as; something transformative. How, in the course of three hours, can a single feather remain in one spot on a crazy highway where coincidentally there’s evidence of a violent car accident? I have no Earthly clue, other than, “it is.” And that is amazing, and more than enough for me to have confidence in Otherness lurking about.  “It is” exceeds the knowledge any clinician can display on a computerized standardized test, and a kind of knowledge that I cannot dare to fathom, but merely am left to marvel upon, jaw agape, on the same wavelength as a box of rocks.

Whether I fail or pass tomorrow, I feel good enough knowing that every layer of lacquer we brush on ourselves to make us look more important by way of positions and titles held is no match for a feather, which weighs nothing, and is shed from a being that knows in its blood and bone how to soar.

Let that be good enough.