Reflections

Initiated with the spark of insecurity, we define ourselves from the mirrored impression we emit to the surrounding world in a desperate toehold against a rising sea of uncertainty. The world view we grow builds on the planted seeds of personality, but all are mere potentials. What we choose to believe and disbelieve reflects back on us like a spotlight on life’s stage.

It is your narrative: yours to change or solidify in momentum’s inevitable move toward evolution or regression. Staying the same is not an option. Such choices can frame life in self-imposed boundaries that leave no room for authentic compassion and kindness. Regardless of strenuous self-convincing, no repetition of walled thought will make your view of the world true; real to you, perhaps, but not true. The revelation of wasted life only acknowledges such hubris by paying a visit as waning mortality’s final act.

Reality is yours to choose, but truth transcends preference, unveiling desperate outrage as the self-serving cowardice of a tortured soul.

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.

Tilling the soil.

April 6, 2020

We have lived in the same home for 29 years. Several years after we bought our house, I decided to grow a garden in the rock-walled backyard enclosure designed for just such a purpose by the home’s original owners. I tilled, raked, planted, weeded and harvested, usually by myself, for quite a few years before deciding that there was no point to it any longer during the early years of Parkinson’s diagnosis, confusing a lack of fiscal productivity for a waste of time.

 That was a huge mistake. As we approach what may be the peak of this initial coronavirus outbreak, as with many of us living in America, I find myself hand-tilling a smaller version of the same old garden. Why the sudden interest in gardening around the country? It certainly enjoys the benefit of fresh produce if the world’s vast transportation network—primarily reliant on trucking—should falter. But I think we all realize on some level that it is much more than that. 

Gardening, feeling the life-nurturing soil crumble between fingers, is a mindless distraction of the highest order. To care for a seedling, to cultivate a plant to full potential, is to pay homage to the marvel of life’s creation. It is a recognition of nature’s merging with man; a welcomed forced solitude of reverence for the earth misplaced for far too long.

As I walk around the same neighborhood and see preparations of fresh ground for planting, it seems to be the best possible way to honor the next several weeks and well beyond. We will all get through this, and when we reach the other side—whatever that may be—I like to think that we will carry forward with us the value in a simple turning of earth, be it as basic as a windowsill flower in a city apartment. It is long past time to till our gardens and be thankful.

New

Running down the same well-worn path bracketed by fear and desire, caged inventions of the thinking mind lock us tight in a jail of reality’s convention. Self-imposed bars of collective arrogance buttress the cell, even as doubt’s sustenance of rigid cynicism masks the open door with illusory opacity. This is our chosen home, a story-book hell of pseudo existence.

            Soar with courageous wonder, powered by an open heart of belief. Vanish shackles of rotten logic with a brave new tale carved by the rushing wind of possibility, smashing despondency to withering dust. Boldly Be.

Puddle sprayed

Getting sufficient sleep has been an issue with me for about ten years now, leaving me with a nominal two to four hours of broken sleep most evenings. Occasionally, I’ll be able to stretch that to as high as six, although almost never for two nights in a row. That’s okay, I’m pretty much used to it.

Recently, my winter darkness sleep habits have shifted with the 4:30 pm sunset, leaving me to nod off as early as 7:00 pm and getting up for good several hours later. Last night started no differently, but perhaps due to a largely vegetarian diet and abstaining from caffeine and alcohol for several weeks – strategies I had tried to counter Parkinson’s sleep problems with no luck in the past – I was able to sleep solidly until one am. After a short meditation, I made tea and went downstairs to work on my latest writing project. About three hours of positive results later, I was riding pretty high in reflection of how far I’d come in my journey of self-awareness.

By mid-morning, I walked out of the grocery store still in a great mood, cart filled with organic, fresh vegetables, feeling buoyant and full of life. Stepping lively into the parking lot, I heard a soft “whoosh,” and it felt like I’d been puddle sprayed by a passing car. There was no car. I looked up to see the receding business end of a seagull, soaring victoriously away from the scene of his crime.

Now, I will admit, a thought passed immediately through my mind: I should be feeling angry now, shouldn’t I? Old habits of reverting to how I’m “supposed to think and feel” still come to me all the time, but it took only a fraction of a second for it to pass. Instead, I laughed honestly at the seagull’s devastating accuracy (I was a Navy bomber pilot at one time, after all), at my hubris in believing that I actually understood anything about life, at the juxtaposition of how nature’s quiet beauty sometimes presents itself, but mostly I laughed at me, just because it felt good.

Simple silliness is oft underrated for use as a tool, in combination with humility, gratitude, and compassion, to break through the self-erected barriers to our shared, human experience. I’m strangely reminded of the old TV series, “Kung Fu,” when an imaginary Master might say to his student:

“Grasshopper, when you can laugh at the seagull shitting on your shoulder, it will be time for you to leave.”

Meaning

Meaning is not a validation of your beliefs or values, nor does it reside on a clear plain of quid pro quo, detectable by eye or ear. Approach obliquely, searching for the perfect angle, the merging of timelessness with eternal as it whispers closer from undiscovered shores. Search the second beyond a lifetime for the alchemy of revelation, for it is there, patiently awaiting the barren luminosity of a crisp, moonless night.