Fiddling with the Course of Human Events

“And so, once again, my dear Johnny, my old friend,
And so, once again you are fighting us all.
And when I ask you why, you raise your sticks and cry, and I fall.
Oh, my friend, how did you come to trade the fiddle for the drum?”

I am often fashionably late to the parade. This weekend is no exception. Not so when I was a drummer in the Adlai E. Stevenson High School Marching  Patriots Band,  (actually, I was an oboist, but oboes don’t march).  You can’t be late to anybody’s parade when you set the cadence. It’s impolite.  I can still tap the 48-bar pattern on a tabletop, and it’s been forty-four years. Tempus doth fugit to the strains of The Stars and Stripes Forever — in my ear and my hands and heart. A mere blink of the eye, Gentle Reader, and in that time I’ve grown into a patriot of a lonely kind.

I am blessed and grateful to have grown in the era I did, with its obvious benefits, graduating from AESHS in 1970;  also blessed to know a ‘security and freedom from want’ that myriad other people on The Happy Planet then and now can only imagine.  Because of the when and the where, I was able to learn beyond high school history and government books. As Red Riding Hood sings in Sondheim’s Into the Woods: “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit not.”

In the roll-up to the July 4th holiday in the US of A (the pre-game show!) and throughout the long weekend, I am reminded over and over of the young idealist standing decades before the ‘radical’ grandmother in reading glasses who types staccato rhythms — her solo cadence — on a laptop now.  I put the word radical in quotes because, like so many words, the meaning has been mangled and maligned over time.   Oh!  You’re one of those?  Yes.  But don’t mistake me for an inhabitant of Planet Politics.  I don’t live there anymore.

Since I hope to keep this short, (ever the dreamer!) suffice it to say this: what disturbs me most about Independence Day celebrations is all that’s piggybacked upon the birthday of a nation of diverse people who longed to live free of the  tyranny of kings. What the cultural loudspeakers blare today is nothing remotely about the bold experiment of the nation’s founders. It’s just not, and it makes me more nauseous as the weekend wears on. I won’t share my long list of soapbox perturbations here and now.  You can relax. Another day, perhaps,…

I work hard to keep chauvinistic fairytales out of my head-heart space. So much seems insane to me. I was near-to-bursting the other day, and felt compelled to pick up my old violin to fiddle the dissonance away.  I play you a magic, mournful and hopeful melody.  The peoples of the United States of America have a lot to learn and much to unlearn.  I have hope that they are up to the challenge, willing to take moments away from ‘USA,The Miniseries’ to refresh their memories on matters of freedom, nationhood, patriotism and gritty courage. It’s an often lonely place. A necessary place.

We might each begin here: We hold these truths to be self evident

I hope you’ve had a blow-out holiday weekend with full bellies and full hearts, great joys, inspired for the sojourn just ahead. See it, there on your horizon? **Fare forward, Voyagers, and watch out for low-flyin’ crazies as you go.

From my heart,
Cate ❤️

** a nod of my head to T.S.Eliot’s, ‘The Four Quartets’
– All images in this blog are created in the virtual world, ‘Second Life’.

Finely Feathered, Friends

Image created while in my virtual paradise, Second Life

The twisted desires of Phoenicopterus ruber

Excerpts from A Field Guide to Secret Dreams and The Self:

*Twisted – Joni Mitchell
“My analyst told me that I was right out of my head.
The way he described it, he said I’d be better dead than ‘live.
I didn’t listen to his jive.
I knew all along that he was all wrong,
And I knew that he thought I was crazy, but I’m not. Oh no!”

This is about my inner life and yours, about the inner lives of all our ‘feathered friends’. It’s about the down we wear, about genius and nonconformity and the future of homo sapiens sapiens. Maybe. I say this upfront, my disclaimer, if you will. A big job, but someone has to do it. I’ve called you all here for a chat about me and you and us… forever.

As you can clearly see from the above expeditionary photo, phoenicopterus ruber are not just pretty plumage. These are birds of substance with profound, if not slightly bent, desires to be more than they can be. The feathers they show to the world betray none of this, unless — unless you happen to pop in on them suddenly, or catch a glimpse in your periphery when they assume you’re not looking. Today, imagine that these flamingos, like me and you, learned early in life to keep a lot to themselves for a host of very good reasons. The flamingo cultural loudspeakers chant to them from cradle to grave: “YOU are a bird. It is important that you think and behave as a bird or we will all surely die. Woe,… WOE is us!”  

You know the drill: You , child, must have no other yearnings, no twisted non-“us” aspirations, and IF you should have any, because of some genetic anomaly, or the dastardly influence of evildoers, we don’t want to know. Excel as we tell you to excel. Social psychologists and other earnest studiers of life on The Happy Planet reinforce this by telling us that these injunctions are critical ingredients in the glue-stew that holds all societies together. (Woe, woe! As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Can I have an ‘amen’?)

“My analyst told me that I was right out of my head.
He said I’d need treatment, but I’m not that easily led.
He said I was the type that was most inclined,
When out of his sight to be out of my mind,
And he thought I was nuts. No more ifs or ands or buts.”

Thankfully, the studying castes have discarded the long-embraced idea that younglings come into this world in a blissful and malleable state of tabula rasa. We bring something else with us at the core of our magical genetic code – let’s call it: Self. Over our lifespans Self may dress in the feathery robes of family and cultural units – or go into hiding completely, but time and time again for as long as we’ve been recording such things, Self resists absolute assimilation. Scratch a “good child” who has learned that boat-rocking is dangerous, and beneath breathes Self who holds protected all dreams, all fantastic longings and genius desires. Self is genius, and it’s not an anomaly. Hear this again: Your Self is the genius that has over countless eras lived at Vanguard Central of all goodness on our Happy Planet. Yours and mine, Friends. Resistance is never futile.

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed. – Albert Einstein
Today, as the loudspeakers whisper and bellow that to speak of Self and celebrate Self is somehow harmful to family, community, nation and world, other wisdom knows better. Woe, woe, NO! Don’t even get me started on the negative connotation of “selfies”. I see that as just a feigned attempt to please our internalized parental units. And if I don’t stop now, I’ll digress again. Incorrigible!

“They say as a child I appeared a little bit wild with all my crazy ideas.
But I knew what was happening. I knew I was a genius.
What’s so strange when you know that you’re a wizard at three?
I knew that this was meant to be.”

You’ll read no scholarly pronouncements from me here, not today. It’s just not the clothing I wear. I need feathers. But, I love symbol and metaphor. I adore that human beings are hard-wired that way. I’ve come to tickle and tease you with my twisted nonconformist meanderings. It’s my ‘genius’. I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for something else. Disappointment sucks.

Today I celebrate You — your sparkly Selves — each and all, and mine! Did you get any on you? I hope so!

“My analyst told me that I was right out of my head.
But I said Dear Doctor, I think that it’s you instead,
Because I have got a thing that’s unique and new.
To prove it, I’ll have the last laugh on you.
‘Cos instead of one head, I’ve got two!
(AND you know two heads are better than one…”)

Feathery salutations from my overlook, my friends. I’m off to don my unicorn suit, dance on the moon in time eons forward. Unlike my flamingo I found my Self. See? I’m right here.
Cate ❤️


 

* “Twisted” is a 1952 vocalese song with lyrics by Annie Ross, originally set to a tenor saxophone solo of the same name by Wardell Gray, and one of my favorite pieces by The Lady Joni Mitchell

All images used in this blog are created in the virtual world, Second Life, unless specified otherwise.

the stream I go a-fishin’ in*

The Stream photo-art by Cate Storymoon

“Einstein said that he could never understand it all.”
(James Taylor)

The secret o’ life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothin’ to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill,
But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride…” **

It’s all about time, the great equalizer,  that ineffable stratum that caused even Albert Einstein to scratch his wooly head.  It’s Tempus, who fugits about without our permission. We write about time, we sing about time. We save it and waste it; we worry about it, oh lawdy-lawdy how we do that, and to little avail.  Time is. It’s my cocoon, my mansion, my prison and my playground. Yours too, depending upon  the head-heart space you inhabit at any given moment. And if Einstein can’t figure it out, how in the blazes are we supposed to reckon with it?

 “Repent!” demanded Harlan Ellison’s relentless, ruthless Ticktockman.  I try to resist, but wristwatches are my “Catcher in the Rye”. More on this in a tad.

My Left Brain is obsessed with time. I creatively sublimate her beastly preoccupation by transforming those concerns into scientific and artistic investigation and play.  Hey!  It works for me.  At least, that is the story I tell. Call me Ms. Valiant-for-Time. It’s not a perfect solution, but, but knowledge is power, I tell myself.  Between you and me, I know it’s only a sneaky way for Lil’ Left Brain to pretend she’s bested it.  I’m not fooled.  Time will pass whether I turn it into symbol and art or not, so damn those chronometers,…  into the breach I daily go.  It’s my way.

Time-hoarder me  amasses books on the subject. And there’s that embarrassing  collection of timepieces in both Second Life and in that other so-called real life paradise I call:  The Happy Planet.  Every day I navigate shelves and boxes full, piles of  hit-me-over-my-pumpkin-head symbolism.  I also have personal relationships with my timepieces, naming them  Harlan, Isaac, Pema, Pablo and so on.  When one is damaged or goes missing,  I grieve.  That sort of on-going loss sucks, so to remedy it I have imposed a years-long moratorium on new acquisitions.  Avoidance and denial are  friends, and I challenge you to get through one day without a little snuggle from one or the other.  Chuckle if you will, gentle reader.   Even during my intense collecting period, I rarely wore them.  I have not worn a watch in more than thirty years.  Maybe an hour here or there, okay? I don’t understand the mechanism, but possessing them calms me. Flying in the face of this, when I’m  well and rested, I always know what time it is, plus or minus five minutes without a glimpse of watch, clock, cel phone, news channel ticker, or microwave oven. It’s a nifty trick in today’s world, where those digits leer at us constantly.  My internal metronome whirrrrrs on just fine without anything strapped to my wrist as a reminder, thank you very much. I’m tick-tick-ticking, sixty beats every adagio minute.

I am a timepiece, see? because I am a musician. Musicians are all from another planet where time is concerned. On top of that, Life’s Little Soundtrack plays within me — incessantly. I’m capable of annoying random people  anywhere on the planet with my finely-honed talent of breaking into song to match every moment, every mundanity.  Call it a character defect if you must. Trust me, there is music for every tick-tock of life. I’ll apologize in advance now for waxing musical while blogging.  Bless you for your forbearance. It’s me.  My beloved ones in all worlds accept this about me with compassion and knowing smirks.

Music is the math one does without knowing one is doing math.  It’s one way to master Tempus while running our human race.  I began to learn how when I was very young.  So young, in fact, that I remember few details of my early training.  I don’t recall it ever being difficult.  Mind you, I don’t think I was a prodigy. Virtuosity is rare, but mastery is not.  Short story — I didn’t quit.  Time passed.  Ease and mastery came. And the music-time dyad lives at the DNA-level of my being, “to soothe the savage breast, soften rocks or bend knotted oaks”. (William Congreve)

Bear with me now as I climb out of my tangential hole.  Perhaps it’s not a hole at all, but rather the natural course of any effort to speak meaningfully about the slippery entity we call time.  Our great equalizer. Really, I can only jabber about time from my overlook.  I’m not qualified to do anything but recite the hard science I’ve read, and what fun is that? The fun for me is in the creation of quirky pictures rife with metaphor.  And sometimes — in some moments — I can peek out from my temporal cocoon, and stretch into time-space to blow kisses into the Cosmos.  I like that our experiences wearing Time like a comfortable garment are unique to each of us.  So cool! I hear you singing with Albert and JT and me:

“The thing about time is that time isn’t really real.  It’s all on your point of view.
How does it feel for you in there? (Yeah).” 

I’m grateful for time, and not just because it’s the perfect cosmic solution to everything happening all at once.   How does it feel for you in there?

Cate ❤️

* title is a quotation snippet from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden:
“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

**  All lyrics quoted throughout are the work of James Taylor from his song The Secret o’ Life

Ask the enlightened. Go on… Ask them.

Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on.  Get drunk. (Rumi)

Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.
(Rumi)

“I’m so grateful for everything you’ve ever given me…” So sings Sir Paul McCartney in Gratitude .  Countless artists, some movers-and-shakers, myriad humble monks and mystics throughout ages of ages all seem to agree. Their words vary, but the message remains.  Gratitude is everything. We only need reminding.  I know I do.  The din of everyday can become an enormous weight upon our hearts.  Its cacophony cancels out melodies that ears can hear with ease when we are not immersed in ‘fear of’…  this calamity, that tragedy, this potential conflict, that bad guy… no!  THAT one, over there!  See???

I hear your objections already  — easier said than done to remain in a state of gratitude.  I disagree.  The difficulty is not about gratitude, it’s about the space we have each and all learned to live in, particularly in the so-called ‘Enlightened West’  As Mohandas K. Gandhi is quoted as saying when asked what he thought about Western Civilization – “I think it would be a good idea.”

How then to increase our own personal moments of gratitude for simple being, and for the miraculous beingness of others, when the cultural loudspeakers blare fear, distraction, savagery and banality at us from cradle-to-grave?  This is what works for me:

  • When I wake-up I take a moment to breathe mindfully before standing to engage the day.  My goal is to etch the day with what Buddhist’s refer to as “gap time”. The gap is now.  Every moment of every day is now. By setting an intention to freely move into gap time and gap space, I facilitate easier mobility into and out of a waking mindfulness and focused attention that is needed for the challenges of my everyday life.
  • Throughout my waking time I take moments to feel my feet on the floor or the ground, feel my butt on the couch, feel the water on my hands as I wash them, as I water the garden, as I wash the dinner dishes.  Again, it’s about mindfulness – focus, and all about purposeful breathing as I’m feeling all that stuff.  Such a concept.  It’s just breathe, breathe, breathe all the time.
  • When family demands, or traffic stress, or confrontational malarky with any walking wounded others, ad infinitum — at these moments, I remind myself to pause.  Pausing creates a gap where I can choose how I want to respond to the eddies of my ‘life’.

With these intentional actions in place I am constantly freed up to appreciate the miracles of being that are never gone, but for so many are impossible to see amid the distractions, or hear beneath the noise of what’s often taken for granted as “just how it is”.   My ability to appreciate without judgment what my amazing sensory system perceives is the foundation of my state of gratitude. Without this mindful relishing it is easy to fall into patterns of event-react-event-react that is all too common for our species here on The Happy Planet.  I’ve been there. I’m not going back.

The energy that comes from the center of mindful me, that surrounds me, and radiates outward from me changes everything.  I consider it my cosmic imperative to be centered in the gap while mindfully living with the people I love and the people I meet, and the people I’ve only simply heard about who live lands away.

I don’t glow with other-worldly light (at least I don’t think I do).  I don’t levitate. But, if you understand the interconnectedness stories of ripples in a pond, butterfly wings in the Sahara and such, my heart-mind-self knows that mindful and grateful moments change everything.  I’m not going to wax on about quantum affinities and entanglements, but it’s all about those too!

So, for right now, I am in gratitude for everything I can perceive, and I’ve made room for all that’s out of range for the moment.   Thank you for reading.  Thank you for being.  Oh! And don’t forget to breathe.  ♡

Cate