Muses on the Storm

Muses on the Storm

A dear friend of mine recently thanked me for being here because she said it makes her feel like she isn’t alone.  It caught me off guard.  For quite a few days.  The aloneness is something I always just figured was balled up and stashed only in my own turtle shell.  It got me thinking about life and about people.  It’s teaching me how to see everyone from a different vantage point.  A bittersweet one.  Maybe we are all just trying to do our best with that feeling of being alone and it just looks different for everyone.

Sometimes the inconsistency of the sharp edges of this world is overwhelming.  Trying to be a good person doesn’t always make sense now that kindness doesn’t have much currency.  When I get too deep and lost on the backroads of my own heart, I grab a pen, close my eyes, and let it write.  The voice that comes through isn’t mine but it always brings me comfort.  Whether one calls it a muse, God, higher Self, etc., I think the voice is there deep inside of everyone.  Waiting.  I don’t bother much with placing any ranking or importance on which metaphor gets people through this life.  There isn’t any one way or place to shelter from the storm.  Mine finds its way through fluent chicken scratch.

I’ve never shared any of the scribbly storm writing before.  Today, for some reason, it feels like a good time to start.  I tip my hat to all of the gentle wayward souls navigating your way in a place without rules or maps of places to hide.

‘If you’re not getting a clear answer or picture, sometimes you must simply tilt the question on its ear or try to paint your story upside down.  Perspective is never constant.  For the right words and colors stem and flow through that which is sacred or stemming from joy.  Leaves fall, whether or not there is any wind to guide or push them from their silent places.  They merely fall in their own time.  One needs to allow these things to transpire of their own accord, like water gently finding its way through tree roots and the myriad birds that rise up in a resounding YES!!  More life please!!

So breathe Child with yourself and through your soul.  Allow life to happen within you.  The feathering of new dreams takes place in the stillness on the head of a pin.  Know that the world is stretched wide and ready to catch you at the slightest hint of tumbling toward dark places (though they are there necessarily).  Light or trembles of time struggle to narrow a gaze on brighter things to light the footfalls before you.

There is reason without rhyme, but when rhyme and repetition cause muddled thought or muddied pools, we ask that you smile.  Breathe deeper still.  Allow yourself to be caught by the eager hands of your own heart in a world that, at all times and in all ways, adores you.

When feelings become echoes of lives already lived, it becomes time to allow yourself to change and to herald that transformation of belief as do the smallest birds at the breaking of dawn.  You will never see a leaf drift upwards and cling to a past season of tree.  So too should you not create a wind that would carry you back to where you’ve already been.

Life is meant to be a journey.  Shifting and drifting.  The completion is not the focus of the soul- but rather a culmination of all the good you bring to this world just by breathing and stepping light-footed where the path is lit before you.  Tears, like leaves, are bound to fall in their own time.  Allow them to water the seeds of better days.  There we will find you.’

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Finger Barometer

Finger Barometer

I’ve always had a fascination with profanity.  Its uses, origins, etymology, versatility, etc.   There are studies that show people who swear more tend to be smarter and less stressed, albeit less likely to be hired to corporate America.  Where’s the downside?  Not to say that I channel my inner pirate on a daily basis, but sometimes said pirate has to effing Rawrrrrrr.  And sometimes she lets out the aforementioned Rawrrrr in Vietnamese, or Korean, Spanish, French, maybe Italian.  Somehow those were the things people wanted to teach me along the way.  I never particularly wanted or needed to know how to say “F%$# your mother” in Vietnamese but that’s what I was taught at the dry cleaners in high school.  I’ve never used it in a situation where someone might understand, but I’ve been known to mutter it in traffic.  If only for myself and my stress level.  I imagine that opens up a strange door into my psyche but nobody has the key but me and, as the Count says,  ‘Aaah  aaah  aaaahhhh’.

Anyhoo

I’ve learned by comparison American English has fairly boring and nondescript manners of profaning.  Sincerely.  I didn’t really know that until I moved to Italy (heretofore known as the mothership of all kickass profanity).  Animals, the virgin Mary, God, the world, inanimate objects are all brilliantly quilted together into phrases that really can’t translate well.  Pig Mary for example.  If I were to say that to you, unless you (or someone close to you perhaps) is named Mary-  no effect.  Other than probably cutting short our conversation.  Such it is.  Most conversations are lost in translation even when the same language is being spoken.

But then there’s the exception.  The finger.

I had an Italian friend who had one of the most colorful ways to express anything at any given time even without hand gestures.  Whenever he’d ask me how I was doing, if my response were tilting anywhere towards the negative axis, he would always reply:  Meglio di un dito nel culo.  Whether it was the weather, my job, the state of the world, my Alfalfa cowlick- meglio di un dito nel culo.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ll spare the Google translate.  Meglio di un dito nel culo means:  it’s better than a finger in your ass.  Crude?  Crass?  Yes and yes.  True?  Absolutely.  In almost every situation.  For me anyways.  I don’t pretend to know how anyone else rolls.

I haven’t spoken to that friend in a few years since our paths diverged.  But somehow that expression decided to stay behind.  It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized it had somehow permeated my mental membrane and, unbeknownst to me, I had been using it as a gauge for life’s progress.

So for today I can honestly say I have 99 problems.  A finger up the bum ain’t one.

 

Red Truck/Black Stallion

Red Truck/Black Stallion

If bin Laden is still alive, he’s living in a green Acura on a back country road turnout.  It seems as good a place as any since it’s the last point where civilization drops off.  I only know it as the point where wifi and fast food delivery ends.  The wildlands begin thirteen minutes before the dirt road that carries me home. I pass him sometimes at night.   In the front seat, his beard is intermittently lit up by the blue grey haze of a dying cell phone battery and the brief orange inhale of a fading cigarette.  Sometimes I want to pull over and ask what he’s searching.  I never have though.  Somehow I don’t think bin Laden’s who live in their cars want to be interrogated about anything.

There’s also the man with the scooter.  He never rides it, but he wears a helmet.  He grips its handlebars and walks it to and from town.  Together they maneuver their way through potholes and hills and lazy bending roads.  He wears earbuds but I don’t think he plays anything.  He can somehow hear me coming long before I see him and takes care to guide his mount to the shoulder of the road but he never looks back.  One afternoon we accidentally made brief eye contact and half ass waved at each other but it was embarrassing for both of us.  I don’t imagine that will happen ever again.

This is what life becomes when you live beyond Domino’s reach and work from home.  When your closest neighbor is two cow fields away, people become a curiosity.  A precious novelty.  Every human interaction becomes a brief story you watch unfold and fold up again into an origami angel that floats away into the vast silence of no city lights.

There’s a small corner store down the road that I drive to when the vast expanse of space/time into town becomes as daunting as the face of the Himalayas when you’re wearing flip flops.   Usually it’s for cat food or tin foil or the occasional salt and vinegar chip that can’t possibly wait another day to hit my belly.  It’s now the rootstock of all stories and my favoritest of all small corners in this world.  I used to take my dad to a dispensary.  One day we went on a Friday and I mistakenly thought I’d found the happiest place on earth.  That truth held until I first walked into the corner store.  If you could meld the two together there would be world peace.

The Indian owners are learning Spanish.  The Spanish speakers are learning Hindi. Everybody knows everyone’s name.  There is a guy in a wheelchair out front that picks through the garbage can.  He sifts and sifts like a miner but never pulls anything out.  I tried to give him some recycling once and I think it offended him.  He doesn’t acknowledge me anymore so I must have broken the rules.  No matter the time of day, he passes his story by the can and waits for his friends to come and go.  Friends like the ever tanned shirtless Sammy Hagar with a Spicoli voice who gets his daily dose of wide mouth Coors.  The impossibly tiny Russian man that stuffs his Stoli pint into his pocket and laughs like I’ve never heard anyone laugh before.  From the tips of his toes to the tip of his nose, it bubbles up and out of him like carbonated joy.  Even getting handed change makes him throw his wee head back and snort into the air above him.

I thought I’d gotten a fair sense and glimpse of the tiniest stories of everyone who passed through or lingered.  Now there’s a new story unfolding.  I’ve seen him three times now and somehow, no matter how much time I linger in the candy aisle, I always end up right behind him in line.

Crisp snow white T-shirt.  He must buy them in packs because they always have slightly off center fold marks…the non manmade kind only left behind by plastic wrapping.  Worn jeans with a mark on the back pocket where chaw resides.  Slightly damp hair so he must show up freshly showered.

**at this point I should probably point out that I am not stalking the jeans man.  The owners of the store like to talk…and talk…and talk some more.  Linear lines don’t exist in this plane.  There is one counter and one register but people just stand around and filter slowly ahead one at a time, from every aisle and direction.  Waiting for your turn is like a hobbit trial so you have time to survey the surroundings.  18 times at least**

In his right hand, slung low by his waist, he carries a bottle of Red Truck wine.  In his left, he has a bottle of Crystal Geyser water.  He never interacts with anyone there which sets him apart.  Just waits quietly and stands perfectly still without shifting his weight.  Water wine, wine water.  Tobacco circle on the pocket.

Three times now I’ve watched this part of his story.  He gets to the clerk and points to a plastic case on the counter.  I’m all about personal space so I haven’t seen what he’s having pulled out of the locked abyss.  Twice the story ended with him walking out with his secret wares.  Yesterday, because of the trajectory and random placement of people in line, I had a different vantage point.  Black Stallion herbal enhancement capsules.

Plot twist!

I don’t know where he’s going or who is waiting for him at the end of his travels.  All I know is that in this back country life of fleeting faces that come and go, he is now the most interesting man in the corner store.  I hope whoever is waiting appreciates that.

The Bicycle, the Pope, and the Sundress

The Bicycle, the Pope, and the Sundress

For some reason, I chose a sundress.  In retrospect I should have been more concerned about other matters, but up until that point I’d clung to the idea that clothing is the closest thing we have to armor anymore.  It keeps people from poking, prying, and digging too deeply.  They see what they want to see and move on.  Maybe sometimes it’s just a good place to hide.

My steed was a maroon Sears floor model mountain bike that my parents had gotten half price.  Whether they’d forgotten or overlooked my lack of cycling prowess, I don’t know.  I do know they drove home laughing.  All the way.  Choking back tears and pulling over at rest stops to walk off the stomach cramps.

Up until that point, I’d never ridden a bike without crashing it.  Not because I was a BMX pro daredeviling off the school roof tops or in abandoned empty suburban pools.  I crashed because my brain can’t seem to make the quick decisions it takes to steer them.  Garage doors, curbs, turns, changes in terrain shortcircuit my survival wiring.  I once crashed into a pole because I couldn’t decide whether to go left or right around it.  I’m not proud of it and mostly like to think I have other skills that outweigh the defect but I don’t know.  Maybe in the metric system.

Thus the battlegear of a 17 year old girl’s first day at UCSB was chosen in a world that smelled of eucalyptus, the ocean, shiny new rape whistles from our orientation package, and vague hints of last year’s Keystone trickling down the gutters.  A sundress, an empty backpack, and a godforsaken Sears bike. Luckily I found a reasonably slow and methodical rider ahead of me. I shadowed his every move like a bounty hunter and made it to campus alive.

First class- classical philosophy (formerly known as one of the only GE classes available in the Fall of 1992, now known as the fork in the road of my life):

Simple.  One job:  blend into the background, sit and listen.  The professor began the class asking for the class to call out names of people they admired.  One at a time they rattled off the usual suspects.  JFK, MLK, Mother Theresa, Einstein, Gandhi, Princess Di.  My brain frantically searched through the roladex of people I could mention.  I didn’t take the time to frame the question in the terms of the group.  In my mind then and to this day, I admire people who do necessary things I could or would never do:  garbagemen, the people who suck out the innards of port-a-pottys, people who sew buttons onto shirts day after day, the ones who make sure there are exactly 12 frosted Entenmanns donuts in a box, athletes, leaders of millions of strangers in countries I probably still can’t find on a map. Basically anyone that isn’t living in the trenches of my life, but managing to find the way through their own.

Sit and listen.  Simple.

I watched in horror as my arm shot up.  I didn’t ask it to move but anarchy reigns in the human body at times.  Professor McNamesForgotten gestures to me for my answer.  I felt my mouth open and heard my voice say “the Pope”.  In my mind it made sense.  He was someone whose face and bubble car everybody knew. He had a job I could never do.  Never understand.  One I would never want.  Not ever.  But his job was important to so many people trying to find a safe place to place their faith. That’s admirable.  80 heads turned my way in unison which was awkward enough.  I shrunk down into my sundress where they couldn’t find me.  Then the boos started.  Not kidding.  They effing booed me.  I felt the steam rising from the neckhole of my sundress and became a human sweat lodge for the remaining 45 minutes of class.

Once time ran up and the last of the others shuffled out, I slowly emerged from the dress and shuffled off to the bookstore.  As I was walking, I heard someone running up behind me.  Thinking I was in for a second round of boo’s, I doublestepped.  He ran faster to catch up and, for a fleeting moment, I thought maybe I’d be able to explain what I meant.  Maybe I’d make a friend and we would laugh and laugh over cheap coffee and burritos.  I turned around and he said “Excuse me”.  I smiled.  “I’m sorry to be rude, but I thought you’d want to know”.  Know what? I wondered. He pointed at my derriere.  Interesting development. My eyes followed the exact trajectory of his index finger to the sundress that had apparently been tucked into the back of my underpants for the entire morning as I walked the expanse of campus.

Awesome.

I removed the half dress from its hiding place, hung my head, and headed back to the maroon beast.  With a turtle shell filled with books I slowly rode back to the dorm.  I made my way onto the path and didn’t notice that the terrain was different in the opposite direction.  If I’d thought enough to be tracking, I might have noticed a rider ahead of me deftly steer around a stick jutting into the path.  But I wasn’t tracking anyone.

The stick jumped up and struck at my front spokes with its fangs, temporarily locking them up, eventually paralyzing them, and shifting all momentum in the space time continuum.  The bike stopped.  I didn’t.  I slowly catapulted over the handlebars like the winning throw you see in feel good sports replays.  Slowly, ever so slowly- “Concrete, I’d like to introduce you to sundress….and elbow…and knees.  I’m sorry, it seems as though pride has already left.  Ahh but here come tears.  How delightful!”

Nobody stopped.  They steered around me and zipped off on their journeys.  I scraped myself off of the road.  Ribbons of dress hem fluttered behind and around me.  My bike sounded like the one Debo rides in Friday.  Squeaking every third rotation. Rhythmically.  When I got back, I threw the sundress into the trash.  I opened my first philosophy book. And I read all of it.

The next day, sore and a bit wiser for the wear, I squeaked my way back to school.  I sat in that class and I listened.  And I learned.  And I switched my major to philosophy, and the road less traveled.