Suzanne

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30 Songs of Leonard

Leonard Cohen was primarily known as a singer/song writer. What is not generally known is that he turned to music rather late in 1967, at the age of 33. Before that he was a writer and a poet. The following lyrics are songs that are true poetry and I encourage you to read them in that way. My suggestion is to scroll through the list and pick two or three, without thinking about the melody.

1. “Suzanne”

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river

You can hear the boats go by

You can spend the night beside her

And you know that she’s half crazy

But that’s why you want to be there

And she feeds you tea and oranges

That come all the way from China

And just when you mean to tell her

That you have no love to give her

Then she gets you on her wavelength

And she lets the river answer

That you’ve always been her lover

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that she will trust you

For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor

When he walked upon the water

And he spent a long time watching

From his lonely wooden tower

And when he knew for certain

Only drowning men could see him

He said “All men will be sailors then

Until the sea shall free them”

But he himself was broken

Long before the sky would open

Forsaken, almost human

He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him

And you want to travel blind

And you think maybe you’ll trust him

For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand

And she leads you to the river

She is wearing rags and feathers

From Salvation Army counters

And the sun pours down like honey

On our lady of the harbour

And she shows you where to look

Among the garbage and the flowers

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever

While Suzanne holds the mirror

And you want to travel with her

And you want to travel blind

And you know that you can trust her

For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

2. “Master Song”

I believe that you heard your master sing

when I was sick in bed.

I suppose that he told you everything

that I keep locked away in my head.

Your master took you travelling,

well at least that’s what you said.

And now do you come back to bring

your prisoner wine and bread?

You met him at some temple, where

they take your clothes at the door.

He was just a numberless man in a chair

who’d just come back from the war.

And you wrap up his tired face in your hair

and he hands you the apple core.

Then he touches your lips now so suddenly bare

of all the kisses we put on some time before.

And he gave you a German Shepherd to walk

with a collar of leather and nails,

and he never once made you explain or talk

about all of the little details,

such as who had a word and who had a rock,

and who had you through the mails.

Now your love is a secret all over the block,

and it never stops not even when your master fails.

And he took you up in his aeroplane,

which he flew without any hands,

and you cruised above the ribbons of rain

that drove the crowd from the stands.

Then he killed the lights in a lonely Lane

and, an ape with angel glands,

erased the final wisps of pain

with the music of rubber bands.

And now I hear your master sing,

you kneel for him to come.

His body is a golden string

that your body is hanging from.

His body is a golden string,

my body has grown numb.

Oh now you hear your master sing,

your shirt is all undone.

And will you kneel beside this bed

that we polished so long ago,

before your master chose instead

to make my bed of snow?

Your eyes are wild and your knuckles are red

and you’re speaking far too low.

No I can’t make out what your master said

before he made you go.

Then I think you’re playing far too rough

for a lady who’s been to the moon;

I’ve lain by this window long enough

to get used to an empty room.

And your love is some dust in an old man’s cough

who is tapping his foot to a tune,

and your thighs are a ruin, you want too much,

let’s say you came back some time too soon.

I loved your master perfectly

I taught him all that he knew.

He was starving in some deep mystery

like a man who is sure what is true.

And I sent you to him with my guarantee

I could teach him something new,

and I taught him how you would long for me

no matter what he said no matter what you’d do.

I believe that you heard your master sing

while I was sick in bed,

I’m sure that he told you everything

I must keep locked away in my head.

Your master took you travelling,

well at least that’s what you said,

And now do you come back to bring

your prisoner wine and bread?

3. “Winter Lady”

Trav’ling lady, stay awhile

until the night is over.

I’m just a station on your way,

I know I’m not your lover.

Well I lived with a child of snow

when I was a soldier,

and I fought every man for her

until the nights grew colder.

She used to wear her hair like you

except when she was sleeping,

and then she’d weave it on a loom

of smoke and gold and breathing.

And why are you so quiet now

standing there in the doorway?

You chose your journey long before

you came upon this highway.

Trav’ling lady stay awhile

until the night is over.

I’m just a station on your way,

I know I’m not your lover.

4. “Stranger Song”

It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers

who said they were through with dealing

Every time you gave them shelter

I know that kind of man

It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone

who is reaching for the sky just to surrender,

who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind

you find he did not leave you very much

not even laughter

Like any dealer he was watching for the card

that is so high and wild

he’ll never need to deal another

He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

And then leaning on your window sill

he’ll say one day you caused his will

to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter

And then taking from his wallet

an old schedule of trains, he’ll say

I told you when I came I was a stranger

I told you when I came I was a stranger.

But now another stranger seems

to want you to ignore his dreams

as though they were the burden of some other

O you’ve seen that man before

his golden arm dispatching cards

but now it’s rusted from the elbows to the finger

And he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter

Yes he wants to trade the game he knows for shelter.

Ah you hate to see another tired man

lay down his hand

like he was giving up the holy game of poker

And while he talks his dreams to sleep

you notice there’s a highway

that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder.

It is curling just like smoke above his shoulder.

You tell him to come in sit down

but something makes you turn around

The door is open you can’t close your shelter

You try the handle of the road

It opens do not be afraid

It’s you my love, you who are the stranger

It’s you my love, you who are the stranger.

Well, I’ve been waiting, I was sure

we’d meet between the trains we’re waiting for

I think it’s time to board another

Please understand, I never had a secret chart

to get me to the heart of this

or any other matter

When he talks like this

you don’t know what he’s after

When he speaks like this,

you don’t know what he’s after.

Let’s meet tomorrow if you choose

upon the shore, beneath the bridge

that they are building on some endless river

Then he leaves the platform

for the sleeping car that’s warm

You realize, he’s only advertising one more shelter

And it comes to you, he never was a stranger

And you say ok the bridge or someplace later.

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind …

And leaning on your window sill …

I told you when I came I was a stranger.

5. “Sisters Of Mercy”

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.

They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.

And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.

Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.

It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.

Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:

When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.

They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.

If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn

they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.

Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.

And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:

We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,

We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

6. “So Long Marianne”

Come over to the window, my little darling,

I’d like to try to read your palm.

I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy

before I let you take me home.

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began

to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Well you know that I love to live with you,

but you make me forget so very much.

I forget to pray for the angels

and then the angels forget to pray for us.

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

We met when we were almost young

deep in the green lilac park.

You held on to me like I was a crucifix,

as we went kneeling through the dark.

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now.

Then why do I feel alone?

I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web

is fastening my ankle to a stone.

Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

For now I need your hidden love.

I’m cold as a new razor blade.

You left when I told you I was curious,

I never said that I was brave.

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

Oh, you are really such a pretty one.

I see you’ve gone and changed your name again.

And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,

to wash my eyelids in the rain!

Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

7. “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,

your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,

yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,

in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,

but now it’s come to distances and both of us must try,

your eyes are soft with sorrow,

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

I’m not looking for another as I wander in my time,

walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme

you know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,

it’s just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,

but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie,

your eyes are soft with sorrow,

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,

your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,

yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,

in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,

but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie,

your eyes are soft with sorrow,

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

8. “Stories Of The Street”

The stories of the street are mine,the Spanish voices laugh.

The Cadillacs go creeping now through the night and the poison gas,

and I lean from my window sill in this old hotel I chose,

yes one hand on my suicide, one hand on the rose.

I know you’ve heard it’s over now and war must surely come,

the cities they are broke in half and the middle men are gone.

But let me ask you one more time, O children of the dusk,

All these hunters who are shrieking now oh do they speak for us?

And where do all these highways go, now that we are free?

Why are the armies marching still that were coming home to me?

O lady with your legs so fine O stranger at your wheel,

You are locked into your suffering and your pleasures are the seal.

The age of lust is giving birth, and both the parents ask

the nurse to tell them fairy tales on both sides of the glass.

And now the infant with his cord is hauled in like a kite,

and one eye filled with blueprints, one eye filled with night.

O come with me my little one, we will find that farm

and grow us grass and apples there and keep all the animals warm.

And if by chance I wake at night and I ask you who I am,

O take me to the slaughterhouse, I will wait there with the lamb.

With one hand on the hexagram and one hand on the girl

I balance on a wishing well that all men call the world.

We are so small between the stars, so large against the sky,

and lost among the subway crowds I try to catch your eye.

9. “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong”

I lit a thin green candle, to make you jealous of me.

But the room just filled up with mosquitos,

they heard that my body was free.

Then I took the dust of a long sleepless night

and I put it in your little shoe.

And then I confess that I tortured the dress

that you wore for the world to look through.

I showed my heart to the doctor: he said I just have to quit.

Then he wrote himself a prescription,

and your name was mentioned in it!

Then he locked himself in a library shelf

with the details of our honeymoon,

and I hear from the nurse that he’s gotten much worse

and his practice is all in a ruin.

I heard of a saint who had loved you,

so I studied all night in his school.

He taught that the duty of lovers

is to tarnish the golden rule.

And just when I was sure that his teachings were pure

he drowned himself in the pool.

His body is gone but back here on the lawn

his spirit continues to drool.

An Eskimo showed me a movie

he’d recently taken of you:

the poor man could hardly stop shivering,

his lips and his fingers were blue.

I suppose that he froze when the wind took your clothes

and I guess he just never got warm.

But you stand there so nice, in your blizzard of ice,

oh please let me come into the storm.

10. “Story Of Isaac”

The door it opened slowly,

my father he came in,

I was nine years old.

And he stood so tall above me,

his blue eyes they were shining

and his voice was very cold.

He said, “I’ve had a vision

and you know I’m strong and holy,

I must do what I’ve been told.”

So he started up the mountain,

I was running, he was walking,

and his axe was made of gold.

Well, the trees they got much smaller,

the lake a lady’s mirror,

we stopped to drink some wine.

Then he threw the bottle over.

Broke a minute later

and he put his hand on mine.

Thought I saw an eagle

but it might have been a vulture,

I never could decide.

Then my father built an altar,

he looked once behind his shoulder,

he knew I would not hide.

You who build these altars now

to sacrifice these children,

you must not do it anymore.

A scheme is not a vision

and you never have been tempted

by a demon or a god.

You who stand above them now,

your hatchets blunt and bloody,

you were not there before,

when I lay upon a mountain

and my father’s hand was trembling

with the beauty of the word.

And if you call me brother now,

forgive me if I inquire,

“Just according to whose plan?”

When it all comes down to dust

I will kill you if I must,

I will help you if I can.

When it all comes down to dust

I will help you if I must,

I will kill you if I can.

And mercy on our uniform,

man of peace or man of war,

the peacock spreads his fan.

11. “The Partisan”

When they poured across the border

I was cautioned to surrender,

this I could not do;

I took my gun and vanished.

I have changed my name so often,

I’ve lost my wife and children

but I have many friends,

and some of them are with me.

An old woman gave us shelter,

kept us hidden in the garret,

then the soldiers came;

she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning

I’m the only one this evening

but I must go on;

the frontiers are my prison.

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,

through the graves the wind is blowing,

freedom soon will come;

then we’ll come from the shadows.

Les Allemands étaient chez moi (The Germans were at my home)

ils m’ont dit “Résigne-toi” (They said, “Surrender,”)

mais je n’ai pas pu (this I could not do)

j’ai repris mon arme (I took my weapon again)

J’ai changé cent fois de nom (I have changed names a hundred times)

j’ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)

mais j’ai tant d’amis (But I have so many friends)

j’ai la France entière (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)

pour la nuit nous a cachés (Hid us for the night)

les Allemands l’ont pris (The Germans captured him)

il est mort sans surprise (He died without surprise)

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,

through the graves the wind is blowing,

freedom soon will come;

then we’ll come from the shadows.

12. “The Old Revolution”

I finally broke into the prison,

I found my place in the chain.

Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows,

all the brave young men

they’re waiting now to see a signal

which some killer will be lighting for pay.

Into this furnace I ask you now to venture,

you whom I cannot betray.

I fought in the old revolution

on the side of the ghost and the King.

Of course I was very young

and I thought that we were winning;

I can’t pretend I still feel very much like singing

as they carry the bodies away.

Into this furnace I ask you now to venture…

Lately you’ve started to stutter

as though you had nothing to say.

To all of my architects let me be traitor.

Now let me say I myself gave the order

to sleep and to search and to destroy.

Into this furnace I ask you now to venture…

Yes, you who are broken by power,

you who are absent all day,

you who are kings for the sake of your children’s story,

the hand of your beggar is burdened down with money,

the hand of your lover is clay.

Into this furnace I ask you now to venture…

13. “You Know Who I Am”

I cannot follow you, my love,

you cannot follow me.

I am the distance you put between

all of the moments that we will be.

You know who I am,

you’ve stared at the sun,

well I am the one who loves

changing from nothing to one.

Sometimes I need you naked,

sometimes I need you wild,

I need you to carry my children in

and I need you to kill a child.

You know who I am…

If you should ever track me down

I will surrender there

and I will leave with you one broken man

whom I will teach you to repair.

You know who I am…

I cannot follow you, my love,

you cannot follow me.

I am the distance you put between

all of the moments that we will be.

You know who I am…

14. “Famous Blue Raincoat”

It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold, but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert

You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older

Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder

You’d been to the station to meet every train

And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life

And when she came back she was nobody’s wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth

One more thin gypsy thief

Well I see Jane’s awake —

She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer

What can I possibly say?

I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you

I’m glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me

Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes

I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear —

Sincerely, L. Cohen

15. “Joan Of Arc”

Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc

as she came riding through the dark;

no moon to keep her armour bright,

no man to get her through this very smoky night.

She said, “I’m tired of the war,

I want the kind of work I had before,

a wedding dress or something white

to wear upon my swollen appetite.”

Well, I’m glad to hear you talk this way,

you know I’ve watched you riding every day

and something in me yearns to win

such a cold and lonesome heroine.

“And who are you?” she sternly spoke

to the one beneath the smoke.

“Why, I’m fire,” he replied,

“And I love your solitude, I love your pride.”

“Then fire, make your body cold,

I’m going to give you mine to hold,”

saying this she climbed inside

to be his one, to be his only bride.

And deep into his fiery heart

he took the dust of Joan of Arc,

and high above the wedding guests

he hung the ashes of her wedding dress.

It was deep into his fiery heart

he took the dust of Joan of Arc,

and then she clearly understood

if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.

I saw her wince, I saw her cry,

I saw the glory in her eye.

Myself I long for love and light,

but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?

16. “Is This What You Wanted”

You were the promise at dawn,

I was the morning after.

You were Jesus Christ my Lord,

I was the money lender.

You were the sensitive woman,

I was the very reverend Freud.

You were the manual orgasm,

I was the dirty little boy.

And is this what you wanted

to live in a house that is haunted

by the ghost of you and me?

Is this what you wanted …

You were Marlon Brando,

I was Steve McQueen.

You were K.Y. Jelly,

I was Vaseline.

You were the father of modern medicine,

I was Mr. Clean.

You where the whore and the beast of Babylon,

I was Rin Tin Tin.

And is this what you wanted …

And is this what you wanted …

You got old and wrinkled,

I stayed seventeen.

You lusted after so many,

I lay here with one.

You defied your solitude,

I came through alone.

You said you could never love me,

I undid your gown.

And is this what you wanted …

And is this what you wanted …

I mean is this what you wanted …

That’s right, is this what you wanted …

17. “Lover Lover Lover”

I asked my father,

I said, “Father change my name.”

The one I’m using now it’s covered up

with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me,

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

He said, “I locked you in this body,

I meant it as a kind of trial.

You can use it for a weapon,

or to make some woman smile.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

“Then let me start again,” I cried,

“please let me start again,

I want a face that’s fair this time,

I want a spirit that is calm.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

“I never never turned aside,” he said,

“I never walked away.

It was you who built the temple,

it was you who covered up my face.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

And may the spirit of this song,

may it rise up pure and free.

May it be a shield for you,

a shield against the enemy.

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me

yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

18. “There Is A War”

There is a war between the rich and poor,

a war between the man and the woman.

There is a war between the ones who say there is a war

and the ones who say there isn’t.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, that’s right, get in it,

why don’t you come on back to the war, it’s just beginning.

Well I live here with a woman and a child,

the situation makes me kind of nervous.

Yes, I rise up from her arms, she says “I guess you call this love”;

I call it service.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, don’t be a tourist,

why don’t you come on back to the war, before it hurts us,

why don’t you come on back to the war, let’s all get nervous.

You cannot stand what I’ve become,

you much prefer the gentleman I was before.

I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control,

I didn’t even know there was a war.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, don’t be embarrassed,

why don’t you come on back to the war, you can still get married.

There is a war between the rich and poor,

a war between the man and the woman.

There is a war between the left and right,

a war between the black and white,

a war between the odd and the even.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, pick up your tiny burden,

why don’t you come on back to the war, let’s all get even,

why don’t you come on back to the war, can’t you hear me speaking?

19. “Who By Fire”

And who by fire, who by water,

who in the sunshine, who in the night time,

who by high ordeal, who by common trial,

who in your merry merry month of may,

who by very slow decay,

and who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,

who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,

and who by avalanche, who by powder,

who for his greed, who for his hunger,

and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,

who in solitude, who in this mirror,

who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,

who in mortal chains, who in power,

and who shall I say is calling?

20. “The Gypsy’s Wife”

And where, where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight

I’ve heard all the wild reports, they can’t be right

But whose head is this she’s dancing with on the threshing floor

whose darkness deepens in her arms a little more

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?

Where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?

Ah the silver knives are flashing in the tired old cafe

A ghost climbs on the table in a bridal negligee

She says, “My body is the light, my body is the way”

I raise my arm against it all and I catch the bride’s bouquet

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?…

Too early for the rainbow, too early for the dove

These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood

And there is no man or woman who can’t be touched

But you who come between them will be judged

And where, where is my Gypsy wife tonight?

21. “Dance Me To The End Of Love”

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone

Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon

Show me slowly what I only know the limits of

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born

Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn

Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in

Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the end of love

22. “Hallelujah”

(“Various Positions” Version)

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain

I don’t even know the name

But if I did—well, really—what’s it to you?

There’s a blaze of light in every word

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though it all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah

23. “If It Be Your Will”

If it be your will

That I speak no more

And my voice be still

As it was before

I will speak no more

I shall abide until

I am spoken for

If it be your will

If it be your will

That a voice be true

From this broken hill

I will sing to you

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

If it be your will

If there is a choice

Let the rivers fill

Let the hills rejoice

Let your mercy spill

On all these burning hearts in hell

If it be your will

To make us well

And draw us near

And bind us tight

All your children here

In their rags of light

In our rags of light

All dressed to kill

And end this night

If it be your will

If it be your will.

24. “Everybody Knows”

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking

Everybody knows that the captain lied

Everybody got this broken feeling

Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets

Everybody wants a box of chocolates

And a long stem rose

Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby

Everybody knows that you really do

Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful

Ah give or take a night or two

Everybody knows you’ve been discreet

But there were so many people you just had to meet

Without your clothes

And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it’s now or never

Everybody knows that it’s me or you

And everybody knows that you live forever

Ah when you’ve done a line or two

Everybody knows the deal is rotten

Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton

For your ribbons and bows

And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming

Everybody knows that it’s moving fast

Everybody knows that the naked man and woman

Are just a shining artifact of the past

Everybody knows the scene is dead

But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed

That will disclose

What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble

Everybody knows what you’ve been through

From the bloody cross on top of Calvary

To the beach of Malibu

Everybody knows it’s coming apart

Take one last look at this Sacred Heart

Before it blows

And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Everybody knows

25. “Take This Waltz”

Now in Vienna there’s ten pretty women

There’s a shoulder where Death comes to cry

There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows

There’s a tree where the doves go to die

There’s a piece that was torn from the morning

And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay

Take this waltz, take this waltz

Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

Oh I want you, I want you, I want you

On a chair with a dead magazine

In the cave at the tip of the lily

In some hallways where love’s never been

On a bed where the moon has been sweating

In a cry filled with footsteps and sand

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay

Take this waltz, take this waltz

Take its broken waist in your hand

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz

With its very own breath of brandy and Death

Dragging its tail in the sea

There’s a concert hall in Vienna

Where your mouth had a thousand reviews

There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking

They’ve been sentenced to death by the blues

Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture

With a garland of freshly cut tears?

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay

Take this waltz, take this waltz

Take this waltz it’s been dying for years

There’s an attic where children are playing

Where I’ve got to lie down with you soon

In a dream of Hungarian lanterns

In the mist of some sweet afternoon

And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow

All your sheep and your lilies of snow

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay

Take this waltz, take this waltz

With its “I’ll never forget you, you know!”

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz …

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna

I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise

The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,

My mouth on the dew of your thighs

And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,

With the photographs there, and the moss

And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty

My cheap violin and my cross

And you’ll carry me down on your dancing

To the pools that you lift on your wrist

Oh my love, Oh my love

Take this waltz, take this waltz

It’s yours now. It’s all that there is

26. “Waiting For The Miracle”

Baby, I’ve been waiting,

I’ve been waiting night and day.

I didn’t see the time,

I waited half my life away.

There were lots of invitations

and I know you sent me some,

but I was waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

I know you really loved me.

but, you see, my hands were tied.

I know it must have hurt you,

it must have hurt your pride

to have to stand beneath my window

with your bugle and your drum,

and me I’m up there waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Ah I don’t believe you’d like it,

You wouldn’t like it here.

There ain’t no entertainment

and the judgements are severe.

The Maestro says it’s Mozart

but it sounds like bubble gum

when you’re waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Waiting for the miracle

There’s nothing left to do.

I haven’t been this happy

since the end of World War II.

Nothing left to do

when you know that you’ve been taken.

Nothing left to do

when you’re begging for a crumb

Nothing left to do

when you’ve got to go on waiting

waiting for the miracle to come.

I dreamed about you, baby.

It was just the other night.

Most of you was naked

Ah but some of you was light.

The sands of time were falling

from your fingers and your thumb,

and you were waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come

Ah baby, let’s get married,

we’ve been alone too long.

Let’s be alone together.

Let’s see if we’re that strong.

Yeah let’s do something crazy,

something absolutely wrong

while we’re waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Nothing left to do …

When you’ve fallen on the highway

and you’re lying in the rain,

and they ask you how you’re doing

of course you’ll say you can’t complain —

If you’re squeezed for information,

that’s when you’ve got to play it dumb:

You just say you’re out there waiting

for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

27. “Anthem”

The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs

the signs were sent:

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

of every government —

signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more

with that lawless crowd

while the killers in high places

say their prayers out loud.

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up

a thundercloud

and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts

but you won’t have the sum

You can strike up the march,

there is no drum

Every heart, every heart

to love will come

but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

28. “Democracy”

It’s coming through a hole in the air,

from those nights in Tiananmen Square.

It’s coming from the feel

that this ain’t exactly real,

or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.

From the wars against disorder,

from the sirens night and day,

from the fires of the homeless,

from the ashes of the gay:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming through a crack in the wall;

on a visionary flood of alcohol;

from the staggering account

of the Sermon on the Mount

which I don’t pretend to understand at all.

It’s coming from the silence

on the dock of the bay,

from the brave, the bold, the battered

heart of Chevrolet:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,

the holy places where the races meet;

from the homicidal bitchin’

that goes down in every kitchen

to determine who will serve and who will eat.

From the wells of disappointment

where the women kneel to pray

for the grace of God in the desert here

and the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on

O mighty Ship of State!

To the Shores of Need

Past the Reefs of Greed

Through the Squalls of Hate

Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It’s coming to America first,

the cradle of the best and of the worst.

It’s here they got the range

and the machinery for change

and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.

It’s here the family’s broken

and it’s here the lonely say

that the heart has got to open

in a fundamental way:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the women and the men.

O baby, we’ll be making love again.

We’ll be going down so deep

the river’s going to weep,

and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!

It’s coming like the tidal flood

beneath the lunar sway,

imperial, mysterious,

in amorous array:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on …

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean

I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.

And I’m neither left or right

I’m just staying home tonight,

getting lost in that hopeless little screen.

But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags

that Time cannot decay,

I’m junk but I’m still holding up

this little wild bouquet:

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

29. “A Thousand Kisses Deep”

The ponies run, the girls are young,

The odds are there to beat.

You win a while, and then it’s done –

Your little winning streak.

And summoned now to deal

With your invincible defeat,

You live your life as if it’s real,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

I’m turning tricks, I’m getting fixed,

I’m back on Boogie Street.

You lose your grip, and then you slip

Into the Masterpiece.

And maybe I had miles to drive,

And promises to keep:

You ditch it all to stay alive,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,

The wretched and the meek,

We gather up our hearts and go,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

Confined to sex, we pressed against

The limits of the sea:

I saw there were no oceans left

For scavengers like me.

I made it to the forward deck.

I blessed our remnant fleet –

And then consented to be wrecked,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

I’m turning tricks, I’m getting fixed,

I’m back on Boogie Street.

I guess they won’t exchange the gifts

That you were meant to keep.

And quiet is the thought of you,

The file on you complete,

Except what we forgot to do,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,

The wretched and the meek,

We gather up our hearts and go,

A Thousand Kisses Deep.

The ponies run, the girls are young,

The odds are there to beat

30. “It Seemed The Better Way”

It seemed the better way

When first I heard him speak

Now it’s much too late

To turn the other cheek

Sounded like the truth

Seemed the better way

Sounded like the truth

But it’s not the truth today

I wonder what it was

I wonder what it meant

First he touched on love

Then he touched on death

Sounded like the truth

Seemed the better way

Sounded like the truth

But it’s not the truth today

I better hold my tongue

I better take my place

Lift this glass of blood

Try to say the grace

Seemed the better way

When first I heard him speak

But now it’s much too late

To turn the other cheek

Sounded like the truth

Seemed the better way

Sounded like the truth

But it’s not the truth today

I better hold my tongue

I better take my place

Lift this glass of blood

Try to say the grace

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I’m Listening

I find that I’m listening more. People assume that I’m retired so they often ask what did I do? More than likely I tell them that I professed. It is easier to generalize instead of picking one aspect of my college life. Ha, even when I was the college’s graphic designer or senior electronic technician, I was talking a great deal.

So now, on the other side of Wednesday, after staring into the abyss, I’m finding that I’m listening more. I should have done this earlier.

Today I visited the college. While waiting at a convenient bench to catch my breath, two students came to sit near me, close enough for me to hear the entire conversation. I was intrigued.

The first words spoken by the older student was, “This is a speech class that focuses on critical thinking, so it doesn’t have the space to get into specific speech topics brought up by the class.”

He was sympathizing with the student, providing a critical analysis of the situation. I was very intrigued because my wife probably wrote the textbook that the class was using.

The student was older, probably in his sixties, and he had lived in Washington DC for a few years. He quickly gave his take on the current political scene, and he used good critical thinking skills until the end.

“They are supposed to be elected to serve the people’s need. And we know that is not true.”

Truth? Ha, the old Greek question, “What is truth?” The potential of dropping into a mental coma is great when pondering truth, beauty, quality, etc. so, what is truth?

I first went to some obvious examples, particularly in math. Two plus two equals four. Seems to be true. True is an absolute, what is true is always true. However, forty years of graphic design and visual thinking, tells me that sometimes two plus two is twenty-two. Oh oh.

How about “the sun is shining because it is noon with no clouds.” Well, it takes eight minutes for the light to reach Earth. It was truth, but at this minute?

Truth is a slippery concept. Every time I hear someone tell me that they know the truth I am very interested.

At the end of the conversation the student said, “This White Supremacy is a thing.” I knew what he meant of course, he was using a convenient label to connect to a common understanding with the other student. It was not meant for me, I was eavesdropping. But it was not a great example of critical thinking.

I’m white, but not supreme. The good thing with labels is that it gets to the point quickly. The bad thing with labels is that it gets to the point too quickly.

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Watch Me Sleep

I’ve arranged to participate in a sleep study. This is not for research on sleep, but a scientific analysis of my particular sleep patterns. Apparently I snore, and have apnea.

It is the nature of the affliction that I do not know if I snore. I am simply told by everyone within fifty feet that I create a horribly loud racket. If this was true I believe I would wake myself up. I am a light sleeper. I have my doubts.

The more serious issue is that I apparently forget to breathe for several seconds every now and then. Naturally if you wake up gasping for breathe, that tends to disturb restful sleep. And I’ve been told there are several types of sleep. Restful is the one more important.

I’m not sure that I know when I’m in restful sleep. What I would like is longer “adventure dreams”. I dream in full color and often it is very exciting with lots of action. Not sure that this is actually restful. Restorative sleep may be just a complete shutdown, possibly dreaming of sleeping while sleeping. Ouroborus!

I haven’t really thought it through, but apparently the study entails going somewhere and spending the night while someone watches me. And it’s paid for by insurance!

It sounds a little suspicious. Of course I am hooked up to an EKG, blood pressure, oxygen monitors, and several other machines. This might be a cover to excuse a scam- Watch people sleeping!

Sounds like a job for retired people.

In the end I will get a grade in several areas. If my numbers are too high they will give me a CPAP or BPAP machine and I will spend the rest of my life of sleep wearing a mask. Hmm.

I have been adjusting by sleeping on my side. I believe this works in most circumstances, but not while recovering from open heart surgery. For the last month I’ve been sleeping in a reclining chair. Comfortable but not sustainable.

I don’t know, getting hooked up with tubes and sounding like Darth Vader… is that sustainable?

To misquote Richard Brautigan, “to maintain life, I do so many things that are really not me…”

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Eating the Elephant

Recently, a long time friend experienced a loss of a life partner. Right away the grieving process kicks in, the endless thoughts of what was said, what was unsaid. In this case it wasn’t death, it was much more complicated. It was the legal system and addiction.

For some this adds several factors. How did it get this bad? What could have been done? What about the personal choices that were made?

The reality is that grieving is grieving. It is an emotional disconnect that places you in a different circumstance. Death by disease, old age, accident… different causes but the same emotional stress. We may find some comfort in parts of the cause, as an example, “Well, he was quite old, and lived a long time.” This is a common narrative but really it is bandaid. Grieving someone is real and it doesn’t matter if they were ancient, or long suffering.

The same can be said for people that leave you because of argument, legal issues, moving away, or slothful friend maintenance. Reasons for the grieving are separate from the need to grieve and it would be a mistake to rely on the “reasons” to fix a broken heart.

Often, friends and acquaintances will suggest distractions to help in the immediate circumstance. In many ways this is a good step. Grief can build up by dwelling on the reality. Going over and over any guilt, real or imagined, can cascade into a torrent of emotion. Not necessarily a good or healthy thing.

But throwing yourself into a new hobby of activity is really just stuffing the emotion into convenient mental boxes. It’s a little like too many t-shirts in a bureau drawer. It looks neat and tidy, but it is actually useless and no longer functions as it should. And if you actually try to open it, the drawer contents will explode across the room.

Have I ever used this technique? Of course, I am human. But I also realize that I need a drawer that doesn’t explode, a drawer that still functions as a drawer, something I can easily search through, something that is useful.

It should always be an emergency fix, stuffing things away when you have visitors. Re-adjusting things later for the long haul.

What do I suggest for grieving? Hmm, it’s a little like eating an elephant or a Buick. Take it one bite at a time. You must address it, but you can’t let it break it free like a rollercoaster after the climb up. Unless you like to live emotionally dangerous.

How long does it take to eat an elephant? It depends on your size of bite. If you nibble it will take years, if you stuff your cheeks you may choke. Again, other people’s advice will rarely be better than your own.

Having a clear assessment of the character and reality of the relationship is probably the best place to start. Sometimes individuals fill a role that is expected by tradition, but is far from the reality. Pondering the nature can go both ways. You may find that there was less than expected. You may find that there was way more. Being honest about the reality will give you the best shot of coping with the grief.

Oh yeah, crying is good. Sobbing uncontrollably is less good.

The next best thing is communicating your grief with safe people. Remember that you are vulnerable. Throwing your emotions out to the general public may get you some pity, but pity doesn’t fix the hurt. What if you don’t have safe people? See a professional therapist! This is extremely important.

On a personal note, faith and scripture is my go-to solution. This is true because I have developed a “relationship” long before the actual need. This is not something to take up in a crisis generally speaking, although God is miraculous.

After grieving is addressed, then the causes, reasons, and guilt can be looked at. You may be convicted, you may assess blame. Both of these are to be consumed in the same manner. One bite at a time!

I pray for my friend, and anyone in grief. It is the other side of joy, and not fun to visit. Please don’t stay there!

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The Big Questions

I think it worthwhile to review the “big questions” in life periodically. Partly because time moves on, and wisdom may drop from an apple tree. Mostly though, it’s good to check on the “big questions” right after a significant moment in life, perhaps even a challenge to life.

I have no reason to think that a brush with death would impart answers to life. In fact, I think it is mostly ironic that we remain clueless in the face of certainty. Still, maybe there is a small thing, maybe a slight gap. Something that Leonard Cohen sings about, “a crack, where the light gets in…”

The quick answer is that I haven’t been given the meaning of life, or even the purpose of my life. The Big Questions remain for some future time. But cracks have illuminated some things.

The first thing I think of is the love/care expressed. It is almost hard to receive. So many people have sent heart felt emotions, concerning my badly acting heart. There is a mystery there.

We interact at a given level that is direct/honest, but at some distance. Relationships are seen more healthy if somewhat cool. Otherwise, we seem “too involved”, needy, or downright cloying. And yet, this often isn’t honest. Certain people mean more in your life than you admit or talk openly about. It only comes forth when you are about to lose it.

I have redoubled my efforts to express my care, for those who I care about.

It’s funny, because it works both ways. Facing the abyss is often scary, but you can walk away with a new appreciation of loved ones, family and friends. Not because of what they have done for you, but because of who they are!

So, am I saying that a health crisis gives new vision? New vision is often the same objects, but seen from a different perspective.

This is an important distinction, because a different perspective can be easily lost. In a practical sense a new perspective can be gained by moving two steps to the left. You may gain some important insights, but if you step two steps back to the right they are no longer visible.

It is no wonder that the most common command in Scripture is “Remember!”.

It is just past Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year, with a new heart, new perspectives, it is always the “right” time to start. You may never have the chance again.

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Driven by Fear

We are often driven by fear. We are taught that fear determines flight instead of fight. I think I still fear the fight.

In the course of a lifetime some fears are consistent and ever present. At the same time, old fears may fade away like last summer’s tan. Oh yes, and then there is the category of new fears! What to do with them?

What I have found lately is that the new fears are all about my current health situation. That’s understandable, considering some of the more helpless aspects of the circumstances. I can’t lift more than five pounds per hand. That includes pushing. This means that catching myself in the act of falling has become a major fear. Do I use my arms to break the fall (and rip my stitches so that my heart falls out), or do I just relax, fall and just break?

I don’t ponder this often, only when I stand up, move, or sit down. I had one slow moment standing near the washing machine searching for clothes. It turns out that a pile of laundry is soft and moveable, it does not provide a solid mountain to lay a hand on to rest or stabilize.

Perhaps I will fall, perhaps I won’t. I can’t know how bad it is until it happens.

So far I have identified three basic fears that are directly related to my heart surgery.

1. the fear of coughing. Wow, this was a big one. It was complicated with the necessity of coughing out the intubation tube within hours of the surgery. What? Can’t you pull it while I’m still under? You have got to be kidding me? Hands are on the tubing and pulling. My gag reflex kicks in and I cough. Yikes!

That was bad, really bad. I do not want to cough. I can feel something in my lungs, but it is going to stay there and become pneumonia.

2. The fear of throwing up. I have never been a fan of throwing up. Perhaps I’ve never been drunk often enough, or eaten in sketchy places. I just don’t have a long history of experience. The stomach is pretty far from the heart and lungs, but they’re neighbors! It’s all that involuntary action that is disturbing. I don’t want to do this right now, but my body overrules my control. I have a lot of empathy for women in pregnancy. Not today! Right!

3. the fear of sneezing. Okay, this is more specific to me. Most people are a one sneeze creature in my experience. My wife is a two sneezer. I rarely offer a blessing on the first sneeze. I wait for the second. And I’m very surprised when there is a third. I am not in that category. I go on a jag. I sneeze thirty or forty times. People have left the room by being embarrassed in offering a blessing. So what would that do for my sutures?

The trifecta of fears. I have faced two of them so far. Both are uncomfortable, but survivable, the involuntary action is scary, but it does end pretty quickly. The sneezing is still out there unexperienced. Maybe my body can stop it, maybe it isn’t as bad as I think. I wait in some fear!

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Tribute Wall

I’ve thrown paint at six canvases. I am really happy with about three. I could throw more paint and maybe get more happier! Or, it could be mud. I’m still happy!

For now I’m done. I don’t think I will be feeling like painting next week. In fact, this spurt may be it for awhile. I tend to go in bursts, flat out for awhile and then I’m on to other things. I’m okay with the almost finished pieces, some are more almost than others. I’ve got a lot to learn and recovery is a good place to start.

So the tribute wall is done for now. Thank you Vincent, for reaching out to touch me just a little. I tried to put just a little of you in each Canvas. More importantly is that I thought about you a great deal. Haha, I see you, and it matters to me!

Tomorrow I get a remodeled heart. A little scary, and a lot hopeful. More energy and better stamina. Maybe not so good for the first couple of days.

Anyway, not so much painting for awhile, not so much blogging either. I will be back shortly with new inspirations!

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In Progress…

I’ve got ten canvases, eight with some paint, maybe two that are completed. All in all, not bad output for the week!

Of course, it could take a month to finish. I am so over my head that I can’t put a timetable on it. Maybe throw some paint on the last two canvases. Haha, first thing, learn to paint!

Heading to Friday’s operation, probably I will get one more day to tackle some color, then an entire week of recuperation and maybe done study. If I’m trapped in a hospital bed, perhaps I’ll study. It could happen!

Worst student in the planet!

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Tribute Landscape #2 Final

Is anything final? Well, final for now! I got hypnotize laying in all those strokes. Too many, surely paintings aren’t the composite addition of tedious strokes? Don’t they just pop out after awhile? I’ve been digital too long, there must be some sort of action to program.

Now to move on to more terrifying subjects, self-portraits, portraits of family members. Paintings that are unforgiving. “That doesn’t look like them”. Landscapes are cool, drop your brush? Well that becomes a Bush! Portraits? “Who is that? Is this some sort of age progression?”

No, is it just creative incompetence! It’s a new category under the general Impressionist label. It only has one resident so far, so I can claim to be the originator.

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Tribute Landscape #2

Got the midtones down. When dry I will hit the highlights & shadows. Starting to figure this out just a little. Well, landscapes at least. Portraits, gahhh!

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Tribute Portrait

Hmm, okay, it’s not quite right. A little haunting, a little young. What’s the chances that painting will correct things? Gahaha! None whatsoever!! Hahaha, I haven’t the slightest idea of what I’m doing!!! It’s terrifying, and wonderful!!

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The Week

It’s a quiet morning. Saturday in California, and no fire nearby, and the sky is clear. Labor Day, and I haven’t labored in at least five years, and possibly forty years before that.

When was the last time I worked? By this, I mean hard labor for no reason other than the pay at the end of the week. It certainly has been a long time!

So Labor Day for most of my life has only been a sign post. The end of summer, school starts, football season begins, women can’t wear white… what! Where did that come from?

This is pretty much the year with no summer for me. Life has been so complicated and busy that I didn’t have time for summer. I never really thought about the partnership aspect. Dates on a calendar, even seasons, require the agreement of the people! Huh! That’s a weird sort of power. Of course it goes on for everybody else. It would be horrible if my missing summer impacted everybody in Florida for example. Ha, truly a self-centered concept.

So this week I spend painting, writing, pondering, and generally acting feckless. I’m retired, I can do that! Sorry I missed you Summer, see you next year!

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Save the Date

Sept 7

A new lease on life! Well, okay, maybe it’s just a remodel. My heart has been abused, but I get to replumb at least one artery that has been plugged for years. I thought I was just getting old and tired. I am, but in addition my heart was not getting enough oxygen. The stent fixed the heart attack, this bypass fixes being out of wind so easily. At least that is what they tell me.

Friday morning they crack my chest like a lobster and start swapping things around. I get a week in the hospital, a chest pillow so that I hug to remind myself not to use my arms for a week. I go home recuperating for a couple weeks, do some cardio rehab, and by Thanksgiving I’m back to hiking! Hah! At least that’s the plan!

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Common Phrases

Heavy Rain (around the World)

English- cats and dogs

Iceland- fire and brimstone

Greece- chair legs

Columbia- husbands

Catalonia- barrels and casks

Ireland- cobblers knives

Brazil- lizards and snakes

Czech Republic- wheelbarrows

Norway- witches

Denmark- shoemaker’s apprentices

Slovakia- tractors

France- ropes

Wales- knives and forks

Poland- frogs

Germany- puppies

I find this list terrifying to the extreme. I have lived my life with the fear of dogs and cats raining down from the skies, no doubt swept up by tornadoes in the Midwest. But “husbands” (and not wives), “shoemaker’s apprentices” ( and not shoemakers), Greek chairlegs?

It’s all too much, I have too many fears already, I can’t live in another country. The worst is raining French ropes. Ropes?.

(With thanks to James Chapman, soundimals.com)

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Connections

I’ve had a couple of recent conversations that have transcended the average level of communication. Not that I am above average. I have to try very hard to attain anything close to being average. By the very nature of “conversational” one tends to shy away from anything risky. All of us can worry whether what is being said, is what is being heard.

I once knew a person who was certain that everything said was actually a code, that meant something else entirely. Well, sometimes it was close to the real meaning, but lots of times it was even the opposite of what was actually felt. Wait, I think that person was me! No wonder I’ve been so confused.

My point is that too often we do not recognize the friend, the relative, the co-worker- and the value that they have brought to the relationship. Too much is left to the broad category, “it goes without saying”. I am actively on a campaign to eliminate that phrase in my life. It will be said!

Say it, risk it. We don’t need empty flattery, it can be nice on the surface, but we know it’s empty, and more importantly, we know it is untrue. Truth and honesty are best friends and will not be separated.

How much better is it to affirm the truth? Encourage one another by expressing the honest impact of knowing one another! It could change the world!

Okay, okay. Depending upon the day, I’m not ready for everybody to go all touchy feely. I sometimes revel in my solitude. I am a rock, I am an island. It’s a balance. But being a balance requires that periodically both sides are attended.

Not everyone that you communicate with gets the status of “special”. If everything had the same status, nothing would stand out. No contrast, no shape and no edges. My suggestion is simply to share the truth, and let people know their value to you. One of the most powerful things you can say to another is “I see you!” I would suggest that this be modified with an ending, “And it matters to me!”

It can be said that I’m on “the other side of Wednesday”, which causes more thoughtful thoughts. This could be true, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m delusional. It is a good thing to be thankful, an even better thing to be encouraging. Thanks and encouragement are sadly missing in this world. Be the change!

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Second Tribute

90% done on this landscape, lots of brush and palette knife. Learned a lot.

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First Tribute, part 2

Closer and closer. Surprising the amount of work goes into background. It’s a big space, and there are hundreds of tones. Still avoiding the flesh tones. Coward!

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On Paint

Today I will buy acrylics and attempt a tribute painting. A tribute painting is similar to a tribute band. They play music in the style of their favorite group, listening very hard in order to play their songs with accuracy.

Watching the movie “Loving Vincent” has caused me to go “medieval” and find canvas and paint instead of the usual digital media that I have used the last twenty-five years. Whoa, wait! Good grief, it’s been thirty-three years. Umm, is this doable?

I haven’t decided on a particular Van Gogh. I’m torn between one of the cypress trees, and the portrait of Armand Roulin. Different stokes emphasized. Right now I’m still breaking things apart. What color fields were laid down first? What were the edges like? Where was the light coming from? What would the “topographical map” look like?

I remember working on another “tribute work” when I was in Korea during the winter of 1973. I had a lump of plasticine that had carved into dozens of heads. Each one unique and challenging with various expressions. Each one lived for about a week before being mushed into a ball, ready for another head to come. Sometimes I would carefully shave them of all facial and scalp hair.

Once I removed the skin to reveal the facial muscles, and then I went down to the bone, leaving a plasticine skull. I had a lot of time on my hands. I also created a huge amount of sculpture but only one lump of plasticine to show for it. I still have that mis-shapened lump in my garage, embedded with decades of garage dirt.

One day I found a pretty complete kit of oil pastel sticks. Someone had returned back to the states, and left the somewhat messy oil sticks behind. I thought that I might try to copy something I liked.

I picked “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. I had a pretty decent sized print that I studied with a magnifying glass. I was determined to do my best to create the feel of the painting. It was two different types of media, but I could give a good color treatment, and some of the strokes came across pretty well. The real neat thing was that I began to “know” the painting. It was a very cold winter on the DMZ, but I was warmed by the “old light” of Vincent’s swirling skies.

I finished the work but didn’t bring it home. When I left I was hoping that it was a permanent going, but I couldn’t take the chance by packing up my personal things. I left everything in my part of the quonset hut, as if I would be back in two weeks. “Starry Night” was tacked up, on the curving wall, above my bunk. Defining space and star dust in a flat rectangle, but still gently curving as physics would demand. .

Okay, that was forty-five years ago. It’s about time for another tribute piece. I did do another digital tribute work of Michelangelo’s Adam touching God’s finger. Wow, did I learn about that painting. I never knew that God was bringing the gift of Eve wrapped up in his billowing cloak, tucked in with a few cherubs. Everyone is focused on the two fingers almost touching, missing the action under the cloak.

I thinking about getting some big tubes of yellow, so maybe my choice is made.

R

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On Marriage

Today, friends become one.

Not only is this miraculous,

But I’m honored to witness it.

Being witness to a miracle has its ramifications.

You must tell about it,

“Two have become One!”

You must support it,

“ I, and my house, are forever there for you!”

You must take it into your heart,

“Search me now, search me in the future, my heart is yours!”

Miracles are joyous, and miracles bring a response!

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The Selfish Self

I’m thinking about words. I’m thinking specifically of my ability to string words together to form a sort of communication. If I wanted to express and transmit an idea or thought, I need to find the right words, the words that can be understood at the other end. If I don’t consider the recipient, then my intention may be valid, but the success is questionable.

I have often recalled a story about Leonard Cohen while he was composing a song. The melody was complete, the lyrics were nearly done, it would seem like the song could be in the next album. It did not happen, Leonard was unhappy with one word, he was one word shy of completing the song. It remained uncompleted for 18 months.

At some point one could wonder if the right word existed in common language. Perhaps something not in English? And then, of course, because it was part of a lyric, the number of syllables in the word were an issue. And perhaps the perfect word can only be assessed by the artist.

I don’t write songs, but sometimes I put words together without regard to the audience. I am at times a selfish purveyor of words.

There is a “common fact” that the Eskimos have a 147 words for snow. It’s not a fact. It was only said that there were “many more” words for snow. And then somehow the amount was 50 words, which was then changed to over 100 words. Actually, in the Sami language of the Laplanders there are over 300 different words for states of snow.

And yet we try to live with “love” and a few adjectives.

And then it comes down to this- how is it that poets, songwriters, authors… how is it that they succeed? Not only do they succeed, but they soar!!

“I heard of a man

Who says words so beautifully

That if he only speaks their name

Women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body

While silence blossoms like tumors on our lips

It’s because I hear a man climb stairs

And clear his throat outside our door.”

Leonard Cohen spoke this between sets at a concert I went to. I was floored and wondered “What song is this?” It wasn’t a song, it was a short poem he had written fifty years earlier. I found it published in his first book.

“Blago bung, blago bung

Basso fataka”

From Hugo Ball and Karawane

I am reduced to quoting bits and pieces, the scraps of what I remember, from works that express the meaning where I have no words of my own. A serial quoter coming from the paucity of connection. (Okay, well, those three words were pretty good.)

Maybe the answer is in my motive. I reference back to the phrase, “I am a selfish purveyor of words” I spew for my own amusement”, I create only for my own pleasure. But I secretly wish that others would peak through the curtain.

Time to end this thread.

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Van Gogh

I’ve just seen something so amazing that I hardly have words to describe how I feel.

I don’t know what was the first painting of Vincent’s that I saw. I suspect it was one of his portraits. Perhaps the blueish one with the piercing eyes. His eyes were always piercing… whatever painting drew me in, it wasn’t long before I was on a mission to see everything. I didn’t know that there was nearly 800 painted within eight years.

So many favorites, so many meaningful works, filled with greatness, strokes of joy and loss. I couldn’t get enough. I could hardly find a way to talk about how a felt, viewing his work, understanding his life. Then Don McLean wrote his song “Vincent”. He understood, he caught the essence and found the lost words to express what I felt. How did he do that?

I had honored Kirk Douglas for his work in the movie about Vincent, but it was still not what the song did for me. I was happy that another medium had captured something of how I felt about the power of Vincent Van Gogh.

And tonight I saw “Loving Vincent”, and I am in shock. Please, if you have ever found that Vincent struck a chord in your life. Please see this movie to experience an orchestral event. It is moving, it is beautiful, it is inspiring… the work jumps off the screen and embeds itself into your soul. I feel much the same way as when I first heard the song “Vincent”, and here is this animated movie, with a version of the song at the end. It is perfect! Please see it soon.

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Movement

Okay, I’m having that illusion while sitting in a parked car, you know the one, where you are certain that something is moving, but you are not sure who. I have checked the parked car across the street at least ten times, and I have marked their hubcaps on my window frame as a reference. The invisible driver has somehow gotten the car back to the original position, from where I thought he moved. I don’t know how he does it. Very fast reflexes.

I know there is movement. It is a scientific fact that even if we think we are perfectly still, we are moving at approximately 43,000 miles per hour towards Vega. That’s me, and you, the Earth, the Moon, and the entire solar system. Of course everything is moving as well. Even Vega isn’t stationary.

Come to think of it, probably for half the year we are going a little faster. We are orbiting the Sun at 66,000 thousand miles an hour, so we could at the most, add them together to get almost 100,000 miles per hour towards Vegas (unless we are orbiting sideways). And then half the year we are actually in retrograde and heading away from Vega at 23,000 miles per hour (unless we are orbiting sideways).

I also forgot that we are spinning on our own axis at 1,000 miles per hour. I suppose that is petty compared to the cosmic movements. Still, 1,000 miles per hour should requires a windscreen.

I have read that we are also rotating around the center of our Milky Way galaxy at approximately 483,000 miles per hour, and I don’t know if we are sideways or not, but the possibility is that for at least some time we are traveling at almost 600, 000 miles per hour.

And if everything lines up just right, at some point in the galactic future, we can add that speed to the speed that we are making from the center of the universe, (the Big Bang) so it just possible that you, and I, and that parked car across the street are moving at 1.9 million miles per hour.

This totally makes sense. I knew that invisible driver moved fast, I just didn’t know how fast.

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First Trike Ride

First ride after heart attack. Wow, it’s hot out here. I’m in my granny gear of all grannies. I can’t be any slower, but I’m still moving forward, heart rate hovering at 95. So I’m good.

I’m only a block from home but it might take two hours. Hahaha! Hey, uphill is still uphill and I’m not using the motor. Can’t, the battery died. Hahaha!

And I had a flat tire while resting. BwaHaHa!

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Morris Graves

I have come to Morris Graves too late.

It should have been sooner,

I could have learned so much,

If I had only listened to Ferlinghetti in 1965.

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Public Speaking

I’m not good at public speaking. I’ve never been good. I understand that there are classes in this, and I suppose they have been successful. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never taken one.

I don’t know, I’m sure it is some kind of social restraint that takes place. I do have something to say. I’m voicing ideas in my head, so close to verbalizing, but no, I remain mute.

Who will I disappoint? Who will I embarrass? Why such restraint?

These are good questions and I have the answers. I will only embarrass myself, but I’m okay with that. It’s a process. I’m only going to disappoint myself if I remain mute and isolated. And I restrain myself because I do not wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable.

I cannot help that I’m a fairly good sized man, and while older, I do have a full beard. I can see that I may appear threatening to some, so I need to be careful in my interactions. Speaking in public may trigger some individuals and I would wish to avoid that. It’s not worth it, no matter how important my ideas might be.

When I write that down it seems so controlling. It’s as if I am predetermined to get some limit in a perfect stranger. Perhaps I should reconsider and not self-edit.

Perhaps I could ease myself into the practice. I could wear dead headphones, or a disconnected. Bluetooth headset. That way no one could be certain that I wasn’t having a conversation with someone at a distance. At the very most I wouldn’t be threatening, just a little rude.

I may tackle this public speaking successfully! Perhaps I’ll be sitting at a table next to you in Starbucks!

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The End of the World

The air is unhealthy. They are a few things that must be right, and when they are not it becomes a problem.

We can’t control anything, that much has been proven. But we have learned to expect some basics. One of the more important expectations is that we should be able to breathe.

I currently live in California during the summer of 2018. It seems that most of the state is burning. It is the end of the world for thousands. If it is not burning then the smoke from fires is bringing visibility down to a few miles. It’s not just red sunsets, it’s grey leaden skies with only a trace of blue directly above.

The news has 17 fires that are being fought by 14,000 fire fighters. One fire is ten times the size of San Francisco, and started when a trailer had a flat tire. The metal rim shot sparks out thirty feet from the freeway.

Over 8,400 homes and structures have been turned to ash. Remarkably, with all this destruction there has only been 6 deaths. But ask anyone and that is 6 too many. There will also be be many who will be suffering from health issues because of the smoke.

It is not just wood smoke, there is toxic materials from many of the man made structures. There are thousands of acres of poison oak that most people have very intense reactions, and the smoke from burning plants is even worse.

There really isn’t a recovery from this, there is only living with the scars.

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Who Am I?

He broke into a huge grin and squeezed my shoulder. “You know what, “ Dick said with good humor, “I don’t have the slightest idea who I am!”

-excerpt from “A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety” by Donald Hall

One can’t really avoid the various groups that we are associated with. Some we join with enthusiasm, some we are delegated to with reluctance. Most don’t demand that we become card carriers, but the cards still exist. I only had to survive to become a card carrying AARP person. I still wonder why I would want to carry the card.

In academia in the 1950s you could become a card carrying member of the American Communist Party. I don’t think you got a discount at the drug store. I think that perhaps you could show it at faculty teas, in order to shock, or to prove that you thought for yourself. A few years later Congress would search high and low for the card carriers. They didn’t care about the intensity or commitment of your beliefs, they cared about what cards you carried, because that is who you are.

I once hired a card carrying Communist to work with me in a tiny 10×10 office with three desks. He wasn’t the politically correct modern Communist, he was proudly a Stalinist. He thought I should be retrained in a Gulag. I suggested it was ironic that I had served in the government that allowed him the freedom to be a Stalinist. He agreed completely, and said that was the flaw in the system, and the reason why he would eventually win. He tried to convert me by logic.

I look through my wallet periodically, to test the theory that I could be identified by what I carry. I tried to use the evidence forensically, as if I was a dead body washed ashore.

I see that there is a CDL, a California drivers license. It has an address, so it’s a good assumption that I live there. Behind the drivers license is a Washington state drivers license, same last name, different first name. It is my fathers driver’s license. We look similar but he looks older. It could be proof that I’m aging backwards.

There is also a red, white and blue identity card issued by the Veterans Administration, this may prove that I was once in the armed services, and qualify for medical coverage under the Veterans Administration. It doesn’t say that I agreed with military policy, or that I was patriotic. It only implies that I served.

I have two different health insurance cards, two different credit cards, a car club card for towing, a card to enter a bulk purchase warehouse, and a lifetime card to enter national parks for free. I also have nine business cards from the college. There are three different job titles.

On the whole, it says a lot, but it does not define. There should be more. I feel a need to add more. I want a fishing license from New Hampshire, a parking ticket from a Tuscaloosa train station, a library card from Sheridan, Wyoming, and a motel receipt from Juneau, Alaska. This would give a far more interesting picture should I ever wash up on a beach.

It reminds me of my days in crypto school, intensive top secret communication training. I went to class each day with a Russian ruble in my pocket. I perversely flipped it between classes. I wonder how close I came to everything changing?

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I Rise

Nordham Castle Sunrise by Turner.

Each morning I rise. My eyes open to reveal dim images of the room, even dimmer images of the backyard on the other side of the window, in the darkling of the morning. I rise at pretty much the same time each morning.

I lay on my side attempting to rotate what I see, in order to make sense. My first few seconds being amazed that I am in the conscious world, where reality is not at my bidding.

I have fallen into a routine. The sun is thinking about cresting the hill. It’s not there yet, but the rays are proceeding the intended path. The light that fills the room is ricocheting from over the horizon, adding to the starlight that filters through the bay leaves. Starlight is just old light, possibly already extinguished for centuries.

I rise to wander into the kitchen to grind beans, fill the pot with water and wait for the hot brown liquid to filter through. It takes time.

I rise to find a bowl to crumble a banana. I’ve rejected a knife and the clean discs that can be made. I crush the naked banana between my finger tips into irregular sized bits. It’s messy but satisfying. The bits are covered with rolled oats, which is then covered by water from the tap. After three minutes in the microwave I am ready to eat.

The rolled oats with bananas has become iconic. I wonder how much value would be added by using bottled water, which I then heat by fire to a roiling boil. Nuking the tap water seems so… quick.

Perhaps in the winter I shall chop wood, strike a fire, swing the kettle over the flames and make the morning a spectacle. Or maybe I will just write about the potential, and nuke things for the ease.

So my routine is mostly set. A solitary morning of oat meal and coffee, with the sun struggling to break into morning. The rest of the day will play itself out with phone calls, texts, family and friends. Anything can happen!

Because I rise!

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How to Paint a Wall

In the spring of 1968 I wanted to go to college. I had spent all of the summer after high school traveling around the western states, hiking and hitchhiking. By the time I returned home I was too late to register for any college, including my local community college.

I spent the fall semester of 1967 going to the library determined to read the entire stack that included philosophy and religion. I struggled with the Upanishad’s and Veda’s, handled Buddhism pretty well, got stuck on Oahspe and comparative Philosophy. So, naturally I decided to major in philosophy when I finally entered college. Great job opportunities in philosophy.

When the spring semester came around I tried to register. Still not being aware of what it was like to enter college I was far too late to register at the state school, so I tried to register at the local community college. I was late there as well, but they would let me register for two classes as a trial. If I succeeded I could continue as a full-time student in the fall, and get my draft exemption.

At least I was a college student with my two classes. I signed up as a philosophy major taking a humanities class, and a philosophy class. I felt well prepared. Both classes were taught by the same professor, Dr. Pasquale Anania. I better like this professor.

I did not like him, I loved him. He was like nothing I had ever experienced, radical in the extreme. He had two phd’s in the hard sciences, not those crappy phd’s in education that you can pay $10,000 from a diploma mill. He had an interesting background and was very well read. He was absolutely despised by his fellow faculty. I thought they were jealous.

Years later I found out the source of their dislike. They thought he was lazy, pompous, and mostly a liar. A really big fat liar. Lying in academia is the worst offense, it’s like plagiarism. They also found his teaching style suspect. He had an official outline, and handouts for every class. If you were brave enough to ask questions about the handouts he would answer directly. But if no student had questions he would lecture on anything that currently was on his mind. And his mind wandered.

That is what I really loved about him. I learned so much that wasn’t about humanities/philosophy. One day he started the class by asking, “How do you paint a wall?” Then he said he had spent the weekend watching professional painters painting his home. It seemed to him that they painted differently than what he had always done. Logic would state that there are five possibilities. 1) left to right 2) right to left 3) top to bottom 4) bottom to top, or finally 5) center outwards.

What Dr. Anania observed was none of these. Instead, he saw the painters apply a blob of thick paint somewhere on the wall, then every subsequent stroke of paint was directed towards it. You paint into the paint, you never drag it out. The wall is completely covered in one coat.

I am aware of Kant, Locke and Aristotle. I do not use their philosophies. I have painted dozens of walls with professional results.

After years of student with Dr. Anania I was aware of all the questionable stories of his personal life. I fully understood why many, or most of his stories were unbelievable. Speech writer for Harry Truman? Shipwrecked on a deserted island during WWII? His mother a famous opera singer at the New York Metropolitan Opera? I mean, come on, one amazing story after another.

In 1971 I found myself drafted, then reenlisted in the US Army. I was there in New Jersey at advanced training in crypto-electronics. I was also allowed to live off-post while going to school. I had a one room apartment, bath down the hall, on the second story of an old Victorian near the ocean beach. Mr. Carlo Ponti was my landlord, he was quite elderly and puttered in the garden on weekend mornings.

I watched him one Saturday and he suddenly burst into song. It wasn’t a meek muttering, it was fully operatic and wonderful!! I was mesmerized and decide to go downstairs to talk with him.

“Mr. Ponti, that was amazing! You could have been a professional!”

“I was a professional, for years I performed regularly at the New York Metropolitan Opera.”

Bells went off in my head, NY Met?

“Mr. Ponti, did you ever run into a singer by the name of Maria Anania?”

“Yes, of course. She was a great artist, and we became very good friends. I used to babysit her little boy, Pasquale!”

Years later Pat Anania and I became good friends. I never doubted any of his stories. I still give him credit of my knowing how to paint a wall.

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Thinking on Poetry

I’ve been victimized by my children. Again! It’s always something. Sometimes it’s family stories where things are discussed in low tones, I’m usually present, but I’m pretending to nap. Well, I am napping, but I’m also awake!

I hear sighs and laughter, then I hear my name, em… title. “Then Daddy went berserk and yelled at us.” Apparently most of their young life was living with a berserker, a seething mound of lava with a thin crust. This is a narrative that is completely new to me. Okay, once I gave two of my daughters knives, and told them to completely end their hate filled bickering, but I did that in a very calm voice and manner.

Not all of the victimization is false narratives. Sometimes they do things “for my own good.” It’s always out of thoughtfulness and love. I appreciate that.

Recently my wife did something similar. She had heard of an audition for movie extras and thought that I might like that. I do not like that, I have never liked that and I have never been interested. I told her absolutely “No way!”, she told me the movie was Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”. I paused.

Okay, I called the casting director, heard the speal and deadline, then I said no. My wife had called to promise that she would drive me to fitting, then told me the casting director almost cried. I called again to say yes, she did almost cry.

The long and the short of it was that I finally went, dressed up as a drunk beat poet from the 40s, sat in a bar for the last scene, and that was it. My fifteen seconds of fame. Later I was cut on the editing floor, and replaced by a shot of a typewriter. No beat poet for me, drunk or sober.

Even more recently another daughter volunteered me to a producer collecting readers of poetry. She told him that she was an actress, but that her father had God-like qualities to his voice. Well, it was true that I did play an offstage voice from above in a local community college play. I just call it my late night jazz FM voice.

My daughter asked me to follow up if I was interested. I hate it when I know, that they know, when I’m interested. So I called. I had a great conversation with a retired gentleman about my age, whose mission in life was to record English speaking poets. He believes that there is something extra special about the poem being read aloud. I completely agree.

So far he has enlisted the aid of about 50 readers, some of them published poets, all of them lovers of poetry. He suggested that I read Donald Hall. I think he would like me to record some of his. I’ve never heard of him, but I looked him up, and I really liked what I saw. I also told him I liked Richard Brautigan. He was somewhat shocked to remember him and agreed he should be recorded.

Okay, I’m on his contact list, I may show up at his recording studio.

The website is www.voetica.com. Please poke around and let me know your thoughts.

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Vagus Nerve

…Its first stop was my stomach, whose complex work is under the control of what’s sometimes called “the little brain”, a network of neurons that line your stomach and your gut. Surprisingly, there are over 100 million of these cells in your gut, as many as there are in the head of a cat. Jul 11, 2012”

I once heard that some monkeys have a second brain that is dedicated to moving their tail. Flying and leaping through branches is a simple as getting both brains on the same wavelength. Well, maybe not that simple if you have to think about it… which brain is thinking?

This is one of those random things that stick around, generally being unvoiced, but being remembered for years. If you do voice these things you are branded as quirky at best, or incredibly boring or worse. So, why is this type of data so “sticky”. I forget important passwords everyday and I really need to remember them.

It’s possibly because one brain seems so incredibly inadequate. We need all the help possible. There was once a science fiction movie titled, “The Man with Two Brains”. It must be an issue or there would not have been a movie made about it. (I will write more about the sociological theory of movies documenting issues)

Yesterday I’m cruising through my random Google searches and I stumble upon that paragraph concerning brainlike cells outside the brain proper. And it references the size of a cats brain! I love it! I just knew that my gut feelings were smarter than my cat.

And that’s not all, there are deposits of these brainlike cells in the heart, near the lungs, packed next the spinal cord, even a suspicious lump near the tail bone. Lots of brain tissue in addition to the brain. Great, and I still feel I need help.

Now to read more about the Vagus Nerve. It seems that this communication highway may connect everything on a common party line. I’ve even been warned that pushing too hard while in the bathroom can cause a heart attack. What doesn’t cause a heart attack?

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Between the Waiting…

Life is what happens between the waiting. My dog has developed a bad habit. He watches the door. When someone leaves, he waits for them to come back. Most of the time they have gone out for the mail, to the car, or the garbage, and he is rewarded with their immediate return. This has happened often enough that he has been trained, so he waits. Sometimes for hours on end.

Time is such a complicated thing, worthy of a very long, possibly boring book. One of the longest boring chapters is probably the expectation of time. “Something is going to happen in the future, sometimes you are given a date, sometimes you are told to wait…” This is almost poetic!

News flash! Something is always happening. Between the expectations, something always occurs. We encapsulate an idea, make it important, then wait for the future important idea. The problem is that we would like to have blank space between the two ideas. Why is that?

Imagine if we had the ability to self-induce a coma. If we then had a toothache on Monday, and we were told that a root canal was planned on Wednesday, well… coma time! Extend that concept to having cancer, then treatment, then see the results in three months. Coma time?

The expectation of time… reminds me of the old joke, “Do you want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans!” We are doomed at both ends. Either we make no plans between expected events, or we create elaborately detailed plans for something that may not ever occur. Okay, but what is worse? And by worse I’m thinking, what creates an unhealthy choice in living? Wow, such subjectivity! This is good, this is bad.

A conscious mind makes decisions. Decisions are based upon knowledge, values, and experiences. Sometimes these are connected, sometimes they are not. Having the ability to isolate events in time does not change time, time is a river, time flows. Shutting down between time events effectively removes you from the river. Don’t do that! You are not a dog!

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Heart Tales #3

An update from the heart attack… The word is wait. Not enough information. Apparently there are three things to consider.

1. The heart attack can damage the muscle. It would be nice to know how much is damaged. Better to force the heart to work overtime, and then measure the results. They call it a stress test. Better to stress out the heart after it has recovered. So, wait…

2. My right artery is huge. Most right arteries are larger. Mine is larger than large. The good news is that it will take a lot to close it back up again. They placed a wire stent to force it open but the body wants to cover the stent with tissue. The body will do that, but it can go wacky and keep covering the tissue with more tissue. It takes several months to know what is happening. So, wait…

3. Being in better shape, eating better, establishing a better lifestyle is always good. It took a long time of bad habits to get to the event. Controlling blood sugar, losing weight, reducing fat cells floating around, is all good. Developing good habits over time is better. So, wait…

If I had gone to the cardio hospital first, they probably would have done the triple by-pass, and I would have been recovered by now. Missed that by a couple of miles. I have been living a month to month existence for awhile, it looks like nothing is going to change. My focus will be to live a full life in between the waiting. That is a challenge, but doable.

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Follow the Leader

This may be the most basic of all childhood games. The rules are simple. Choose a leader, then do everything they do until a new leader is chosen. Leadership generally gets shared but creative, fun leadership sometimes trumps over boring a leader that brings boring activity.

I saw a Ted Talk recently, given by Lt. General Mark Hertling. It was an amazingly forward thinking talk, and it convinced me of two important things. It reminded me that I have had the privilege to know several military leaders that I would follow anywhere. And the second, is that some military leaders have the amazing ability to see a problem, and start to work on a solution long before anyone else is aware of the gravity.

Gen. Hertling has had a long a interesting career. The definition of a well rounded professional soldier can hardly find a better individual. Highly trained as a combat soldier, Hertling was promoted to a command for basic training.

I remember basic training. Eight weeks of grueling physical and mental training. I’m not sure the mental training was completed in time, but the physical training was well along the way.

I had already done a dozen or so extended hiking expeditions with a heavy pack as a civilian. The military training pushed that further than I have ever been. The spare tire that I was beginning to build disappeared pretty quickly. Morning PT before breakfast created an appetite, but that was burned off easily. We even had a twenty foot section of “monkey bars” to travel just in order to get to the mess hall door.

Imagine my surprise by hearing the general say that a huge majority of the initial new recruits failed to qualify physically, and were rejected. In the 70s we were mostly draftees and we still qualified. What was different?

Most of today’s physical rejection comes from new recruits being obese. Not just a couch potato, but a serious, video gaming, professional couch potato with no high school credits in PE.

Whaaa?

Somehow, boards of education all across the country have made PE optional in the last years of high school, so many students have “opted” out. At the same time, “screen activity” has increased to five or six hours a day on the average. Not only has cable options increased by hundreds of channels, but the video industry has captured several generations of youth.

I might add, captured, and placed in concentration camps. Oh, the camps are comfortable, because it is their own bedrooms and living rooms. And they also come with all the sugar drinks and snacks that one can eat.

But, if an enemy wanted to weaken a country, they don’t have to place the population in camps, they just have to invent a new addicting video game. It helps if you also cancel all high school PE.

This was basically the point that the General was making. He worried that he could not fill his slots for future soldiers. Less than one percent of the population is in the military currently and he didn’t think that this was sustainable.

There is a real crisis facing us. Can we still follow the leader? Or are we too winded for even the one percent of us that is needed? Watch the TedTalk.

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Backpacking

I used to love backpacking. No, that’s not right, I still love backpacking, it’s just that I haven’t done it in awhile. Not only did I love backpacking, but in many ways it can be seen as my life parable.

A good friend of mine is parable driven, using the words of our Savior to open up new thoughts about God. We share that perspective.

As a parable we can break backpacking down to some basic components. 1) there is a destination. 2) there is a need to go there as a self-contained entity. 3) time is an important consideration.

Backpacking takes planning. One of the first books that I read about backpacking was “The Complete Walker” by Colin Fletcher. This was a marvelous book by an English author that should still be read today. Colin broke the subject down in a slightly different way. He said the first concern was the “foundation” of successful backpacking, and that was the shoe. One cannot expect to travel hundreds of miles over different terrain without considering the types of shoes on your feet..

I took his advice seriously because I had spent two years hitchhiking the Western states in beat-up sandals. I may have gotten excessive when I purchased three pairs of expensive but ugly Pivetta Eigers. I was struck by the authors insistence of only having holes for the laces. Many of the hiking boots sported the metal clips that used a speed lacing technique. Colin said, “when you are fifty miles from the closest civilization, holes in your boots do not break.”

Back to backpacking as a parable.

1). There is a destination. If you plan to disappear into the wilderness the first obligation is to tell people where you plan to go. The reason is obviously based upon the possibility of accidents. Posting a hiking plan is a smart move, in some cases a necessary action. The forest rangers need to know where, when, and how long people are wandering in the mountains.

More importantly, backpacking without a destination doesn’t exist. You will arrive someplace after miles of hiking, if you don’t… then it is because you never left. There is a common phrase, “If you have no destination, then any path will lead you there!” This is a well-meaning phrase, but not accurate. If you have no destination, you are not traveling. Better to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any path will get you there.” This is an important difference.

Choosing a destination is often based upon the expectation of seeing or experiencing something specific when you arrive. It can often be a set trail for (XX) amount of days which may give dozens of difference experiences.

2 The choice in travel is to attempt self-sufficiency. This is not perfectly planned, there all always extenuating circumstances. Basically, this is not a day-hike where snacks are at the next store, and a place to sleep is prepared by using a plastic card to rent a motel room. You carry all the snacks you plan to eat, you carry your shelter and sleeping gear, and you carry all the water and food that you might consume.

One of the more interesting decisions is exactly how much food and water can you carry? Obviously you would eventually need to be resupplied. Unless there is a local grocery store in the mountains, you are restricted by how much food you have, the possibility of hunting and gathering is based upon skill and locale. A few wild mushrooms and herbs are a great find. And fresh stream bred fish can make a great breakfast. While I carry some line and hooks, I have used them three times in my 12,000 hours of backpacking.

Studies have shown the people may live as long as forty days without food, so long as there is still water. This could lead the backpacker to shift the balance by carrying more water. As important as water is, the general plan is to make use of local water sources. With proper filtration, even the muddy ditch can provide all the water needed for several meals, so I never carried much more than a quart. Of course all that changed when hiking terrain that was low on water.

Water was mostly foraged from running streams encountered while hiking. This is not true for the solid food of the meal. Aside from the rare fish, all food is carried in. In order to carry more, with increased nutritional value, some foods can be “freeze dried”, reducing the weight. Some companies have spent millions in order to have tasty, light weight prepared meals for hikers. I have made use of all of them, including raw brown rice and oatmeal. A tasty meal at ten thousand feet is a treat.

After boots, food/water there is a concern for shelter. A good, warm sleeping bag is the difference between joy and misery. I have spent much time and research in this area, and I have designed and sewn at least four artic-level sleeping bags. The most used project that I’ve ever created.

Several pounds of supplies fill out the remaining self-sufficiency needs. Maps, compass, first aid, optics, cords, safety rope, belt knife, etc are just some of the extras needed.

The lie, of course, is that I was now self-sufficient. What is true is that I might be able to delay my need to go shopping for a few days.

What strikes me now is, what made me gravitate to this activity? It’s possible it was extending into my adult-life the wonderful experiences of camping with my parents.

Perhaps it meshed with my ability to be alone with some satisfaction. Certainly I felt tested by the challenge of preparation. Maybe, I was also attracted to the visual delights of the wilderness.

Another truth is that many aphorisms created by hiking became important in a lifetime of choices.

“If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will step in to give you one, and you will be walking a path different from your own.”

“Spend a certain amount of time turning around on the trail and looking back. You may need to know what it looks like in order to get home.”

“Conserve your fuel until you need it. Drink your water often. Better to carry water on the inside, than in your pack.”

“Do not become ‘trail hypnotized’, look up and around, not only for enjoyment, but also to see where you are.”

“Make adjustment to the trail you are walking. Errors and poor choices can occur, correcting them early saves time and energy.”

“Walk lightly, don’t leave your garbage behind.”

I have made a quick estimate of my time commitment to backpacking. I have over 500 days and 12,000 hours clocked so far. I am ready for more.

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Heart Tales, No. 2

What do we know of the heart? We know it is achy/breaky at times. Sometimes it trembles. It is also strong and brave. The very word courage comes from the French root “cour”, meaning heart.

Apparently the heart thinks about things, or at least forms opinions. Like the stomach or intestines, we tend to rely upon the feedback. Although the heart appears to specialize in matters of emotions.

Proof of this comes around every February with millions of representations of hearts (sometimes with Cupid’s arrow) in cards, posters, and advertising. We seem to be good with this. I’m trying to visualize the same advertising with images of a brain pierced by a arrow, because we have used logic to choose a significant other. Not a pretty image.

The heart is a muscle, although in regards to being human it is rarely consumed. In general, the organs are classified as sweetbreads when consumed. It is a mystery concerning the root source of words. There has been several depictions of taking a bite of a human heart, and it is all wrapped up in the myth of the transference of power, bravery, and courage. Apparently in these cases it must be fresh and uncooked.

There are several dozen recipes on the net for beef heart. Much attention is applied to trimming anything “chewy”, even more to adding spices and different marinades. Apparently, to some folks, there is a slight metallic aftertaste, perhaps iron.

In general the whole area of consuming “sweetbreads” can be summed up by using the other categorical word “offal”. Yep, eating offal is awful.

Back to the heart as a muscle. We need to exercise this “muscle pump”, just like any other muscle. We need to push just a little past comfort if we are to gain strength.

My job for the next few weeks is to push, pause, reflect and listen to what my heart is telling me. The information I want is that my heart is healing. It wants to tell me, “Love is a many splendored thing…”

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Heart Tales, No. 1

It’s been a day since I spoke with the doctor who placed the stent in my right artery. I wasn’t allowed to see him, but I could talk with him.

It turns out that I went to the closest medical facility, instead of going to a hospital that was in my network according to my HMO plan. I am not an expert in medical insurance, and it is clear to me now that I will never be an expert. It’s obvious that people will be mostly ignorant until one uses the system by choice, or by emergency.

My medical plan is excellent, if it is an emergency then you are covered anywhere in the world. If it is not an emergency then you had better go to services in your network. Additionally, I got old and I’m covered by Medicare, that adds another huge level of complexity.

I used to think I was competent, well read, well educated… that may be, but it does not give you any understanding of how to weave through medical issues in today’s culture.

I am finished with the emergency, so now my coverage is different. The follow up appointment with the doctor who attended me is not in my network, so I can’t see him. I went to the appointment anyway, but I was denied at the reception desk.

I explained that I was also under Medicare, they don’t take Medicare. I asked if I could pay out of pocket. They said Medicare won’t allow it.

Just a little bit of Catch 22. The doctor recognized this and stepped out into the lobby to speak to me, he ended up saying exactly what he would have said in his office.

The long and the short of it is that I need to go back to the hospital at the end of the month for open heart surgery. They will cut and crack my chest, pluck out an artery from my leg, then stitch in a replacement for at least the arteries that are clogged.

I knew this from the beginning, but I had somehow convinced myself that I was better, and nothing more was necessary. Hah!

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Balance

Living life effectively is all about balance. Similar to a bicycle on a narrow path, you want to steer away from the edges, you can’t just arbitrarily jerk the handlebars away from the danger, you have to have balance, in addition to control. Transitions need to be smooth, slow and sure.

Balance is the artful way to live. Balance feels comfortable and secure. Balance is having the ability to see the path ahead and to make only slight adjustments in order to stay on track. Balance is the ability to stop, and not immediately tip over.

Balance is delicate, once obtained you can hold it forever, but the slightest shift can bring disaster. Balance is fair, ideas and actions are weighed and treated equally.

Balance is something learned, sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it takes years.

My thoughts after this heart attack have mostly been about excess, balance, and the opposite of excess. It can be said that an excess of fats in my diet has led to the heart attack. Probably true, possibly if I had a better balanced diet, I could have kept my arteries healthier. Let’s say that every other meal has taste, then followed by a meal with ruffage for your heart. That would be balanced!

Instead, I am faced with trying to balance after I’ve already fallen off. Okay. I can do this. I’ve eaten well for 69 years, time to chew cud for awhile.

The same goes for exercise, sleep/rest. The formula is to careful build habits that does not fall victim to excess. The old “too much of a good thing is not a good thing”. The interesting thing about balance is that neither the good, nor the bad habits are to be prominent.

Is it true? Is it a good thing to completely remove bad habits? If we have the Ying and the Yang, does removing one of them create the sound of one hand clapping?

For the sake of effective applause, we should eat fatty cheese cake with our kale.

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Tests of Mortality

We are immortal, we are not immortal. No truer thing can ever be said. It seems at first impossible, two statements that are completely opposite. It is all contingent upon the word “we”.

“We”, generally refers to our physical bodies, an ever changing pile of flesh and bone. It is said that at least every seven years it is completely different, all cells have been replaced by… “replacements.” Therein lies the problem, the replacements are not necessarily “first string.” In other words, the replacements are like the players in a late quarter football game, when the score has already determined the game.

So, here I am, with several generations of “second string” replacement cells, trying to win, or at least, tie the game. No wonder I am not immortal.

More importantly, one can define “we” as the immortal spirit, created by God, completely incorruptible and destined for eternity. I am so convinced by this that I have no concerns and no worries. However, I don’t completely live there. I know it, but I am drawn back to the dilemma of my “second string” replacement cells.

I suppose it starts with stewardship. The immortal “we” is given custody of the mortal “we”. We are to care for the body, feed it, keep it safe, and to instruct it in the best way that we can in the Plan that has been created for us all.

How are we doing in that?

Lately I have been reviewing some events in my life where I haven’t been the best steward of my mortal presence. In others words, my life should have ended, like some Darwinian consequence, but instead, I have lived on.

This is certainly not a complete list, but here are some highlights…

1. At the age of eight I was fascinated with matches. Book matches, kitchen matches, long fireplace matches. I loved them all! Not that I loved the fire they created, it was the magic of combustion that fascinated me. Anyway, because of television or movies, I spent one afternoon trying to toss a lit match into the gas pipe of my father’s 1958 Chevy, two-toned, Bel Air, station wagon. I was obviously unsuccessful.

2. At 13, a couple of my friends and I discovered that the local pharmacy was willing to sell the ingredients that combine to make gunpowder. Against all odds, we did not blow our selves up. However, we did make a deadly “grenade” out of a used CO2 filled with ground sparkler dust made from hammering the common July4th firework. The galvanized garbage can that we tested it in was never the same.

3. At nineteen there was a “shooting” accident involving a Western gunslinger holster and a Ruger .22, single action revolver. The end result was a clumsy fast draw, and a bullet in my leg that still remains. While this is not life threatening, I was also shooting my father’s .357 magnum. That revolver would have penetrated my leg, shattered my thigh bone, severed my femoral artery, penetrated my other leg, breaking that bone and destroying that femoral artery. It would have been less than a minute to bleed out.

4. Of course, then there were several years hitchhiking the Western States. Not a particularly safe activity.

5. During this hitch hiking era there was a time that my friend and I took a day hike towards the middle Teton of the Grand Tetons. Some four hours later we were 3/4s of the way up the mountain, following a crevasse. We were hiking with no ropes, no safety gear, and I was wearing sandals. That should have not ended well.

6. And then there was the military. Too many incidents to mention.

7. At the age of 27 I finally experienced an event that was not my fault. A construction pickup truck broke free of it’s brakes, rolled down the hill, smashed through the barricade, then landed about a foot in front of me on the road below the barricade. The truck came down like some Acme safe in a Roadrunner/WileyCoyote cartoon. And there was all the redwood 8x8s that we’re flying through the air. Not a scratch on me, although it led to the ending of my marriage. Another story.

8. At 30 I was backpacking in the Sierras when I came upon a small stream to cross. It was a familiar trail to me, and I usually just boulder hop across. This time it was too early in the season and it was a raging torrent, three or four times the normal width. Instead of heading upriver to look for a better crossing, I simply forged ahead. Unfortunately my wife was along, and I endangered both of us with my actions. I crossed several times, carrying our backpacks, then roped my wife to my back while I crabbed sideways across the white water that was sometimes up to my neck. Nearly a case of hypothermia. It ended up being a great week in the mountains.

I just have to stop now. I’m suffering from PTSD.

Let’s just say that I have an obligation to be a better steward in the last half of my life. The first half was a disaster.

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