Clever grace

When I was nine, the family hit the road after work one Friday, searching for a place to park our VW to enjoy the outdoors. Almost all coastal Greece is beautiful, making finding a campsite in 1971 easy.

After helping my father raise the tent, I walked along the craggy shore until finding a perch to sit quietly for the sunset. Gazing into the Aegean with unfocused attention, I stared at the rugged rock wall that descended into eventual darkness.

There was something about one outcropping in particular that held my attention. Five minutes of visual fixation found reward when the rock began to move.

Stunned and unable to register what was happening, I watched the rock deliberately unfold with the clever grace of intelligence, gradually differentiating rough tentacles thorny and colorful in texture until the label “octopus” registered in my mind.

The creature, tired of disguise, ambled with fluid acumen into the depths, tentacles miraculously transmuting into willowy feet. I kept sight of the shifting shape as it blended to nothingness in the lower visibility of depth.

The octopus survives by varying its form in both shape and color. I doubt many people could handle this fast a personal metamorphosis in themselves.

Change, impermanence, is inevitable and is neither good nor bad; it is how we react to a transforming world that affects us by creating judgment’s dualistic framework. Editing a written work is a small example of a commonly understood positive in change, at least when it applies to my writing. Reactions to Parkinson’s disease generally reflect an interpretation of bad.

PD has taught me many things, some still not understood cognitively, but one conclusion approaching certainty is to accept change as it happens. I consider PD a “good” thing when life’s confusion of meaning demands labeling.

Is this the remedy, the cure to illusory ailment, wrapped and hidden carefully in the comfort of unity, the soothing salve of vibrant energy, to surrender?

Loverly

Part of my recent routine is tackling select morning chores as the day’s first medications wear off and the second batch of drugs ramps up to take over, a sixty-or-so-minute process that begins about 8:15 am. The challenge is to maximize the golden hours of medication equilibrium, freeing me to write, exercise, and drive for limited times, mainly in the mornings.

While making the bed—a painfully slow evolution, but one I can usually accomplish regardless of physical state—I started humming a song learned in 3rd grade while living in Athens, Greece, that highlighted the refrain “Wouldn’t it be loverly.”

I strived to sing passably with pitiful success as a boy, and elementary school witnessed my last moments of sufficient bravery or stupidity to belt out a few choruses publicly. All the same, silent memories of these moments of liberating creativity reside comfortably in my heart. These days, I engage creativity through the safer medium of writing.

Creativity frees the child’s heart to play regardless of age. Tapping into the imagination transports the individual away from the world of the senses, freeing the soul to wander in ethereal exploration.

Whether simply curious or actively attempting to brighten perspective of an intolerable situation, creativity and imagination help to engage perhaps a more genuine reality. Activating one’s creative juices, regardless of the form they take, is critical to living a whole life.

As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” That’s the thing about being way-smart; I bet he could sing too. Wouldn’t that be loverly?

Ruined warriors

While camping in Greece in 1971, my father taught me my first and last lesson in stargazing, consisting of describing various constellations by alternately relating their Greek myth of origin and their orientation for maritime navigation. At just nine years old, the celestial details haunt memory not so much with the vague familiarity of fact, but rather the distinct closeness of warm physical emotion. I can still feel the chilled night air stinging my cheeks, contrasting the snug security of my heavy sleeping bag as I lay on my back under the star-filled sky.

Despite my young age, I do recall appreciating the somber nature of our campground site, the central concentration of the antiquities of Sparta. We had arrived at the ancient ruins of the warrior empire just as the sun was setting, leaving us scant minutes of daylight, not enough to find a secluded corner in some farmer’s field to park our VW bus. It had been a long day, and the parents decided to bed down where we were, amid the ruins. Referencing a lone olive tree in the lengthening shadows, we picked a flat spot, somehow missing the small sign heralding the antiquities with the addendum, “no camping.” In retrospect, it might have been the rattling drive south from Athens with four tired and hungry kids that temporarily impaired my parents’ eyesight.

We got up at first light to the bleating of dozens of sheep as they crossed the ruins, ate a hurried breakfast, and packed up, taking care to leave no trace of our transgression into the past. But what I remember most of our short time in Sparta was the raw dichotomy of youth, the unprocessed, exhilarating thrill of discovery alongside the warm security of a well-used sleeping bag, all while sharing the night sky with the ghosts of warriors thousands of years displaced. To this day, those same stars still threaten to wrap me in the benevolence of childhood’s arms, timeless and eternal in their persistent message.