Melancholy’s dark anthem

Unconditional love’s elegant beauty slices through life’s clutter, revealing the hidden edge of sacred meaning and conceding the barest glimpse of grace without relinquishing a tight grip on neverland’s illusory realities.

To love unconditionally is to best a universal fear, to banish love’s nebulous shadow permanently and irrevocably. Surrendering to life’s quizzical dream completely, welcoming the welling up of the natural glow of playful happiness, dismisses love’s darker side, ejecting the fear-mongering dualism running rampant throughout the multiplicity of man’s institutional expression.

Ego’s stranglehold on the reigns of the psyche demands blood payment to eke out even the barest of truths, to allow it to bask in fading light. Discovering love’s secret key bears the cost of enduring arduous self-reflection in the blackened harmony of melancholy’s anthem.

With unconditional love comes the joy of permanent absolution, a price well worth paying.

Why the smile?

Helpless, without recourse, the rug pulled out from beneath-your-feet sensation of abandoned vulnerability, of impending doom on all fronts: it sits heavy within me. Bored and tired, achy with life pains that refuse to dissipate, my regular habits for coaxing a soft landing to the day’s futility hang dead within me. It feels like I’ve got nothing; I am an empty shell of oblivion.

My thinking mind, wearing life’s duality around my neck like a collar, has no temporary solution, no respite to offer. I bounce from one empty diversion to another, making no progress, finding no exit from the invisible mousetrap.

Enough.

Life is a hopeless struggle to the rhythm of silent music. I surrender completely and utterly. I listen to music. I go outside for a slow walk around the yard. I force a smile, and it helps. I repeat those words heard in deafening silence so long ago: it’s all okay, because it really is.

My smile broadens. It still really is.

Creation

Having just finished a week of nonstop activity, I welcome the solitude of a day without commitments. It is a dizzying reminder that I have grown over the decades; seedlings of ebullient wisdom nestle deeply in my humble dwelling of being.

Lately, I enjoy writing in the afternoons while listening to loud, hard-driving music. These rhythms overwhelm me with undiluted veracity as I struggle with a staggering fear, the shadow side of accepting “what is,” until creation flows through me, pounding to the music’s beat, arousing a twisted union with soul in an oblique detour as I surrender to creation’s bliss.

It feels strange, out of place, to acknowledge Parkinson’s flowing from cause to effect and back again. The universe’s circuitous route to insight vies for supremacy with the blackened precipice lining the road’s edge.

Harnessing imagination’s practical application of creation frees the soul to touch upon the cryptic circumstance of unconditional love playing with everyday silliness; rendering the carefree source of all suffering—stifling knowledge—into a vindication of the child’s game.

In its simplest form, this is why we are here, in this moment, at this place: to play with a child’s abandon and a sage’s wisdom, secure in the knowledge that loving-kindness awaits.

A friend of the strangest sort

Astros, Peloponnesus Peninsula, Greece, 1976.

Gently kicking face down on the surface, I breathe deeply from the plastic snorkel with disciplined practice while following the shadowy school of giant fish on the bottom. The water is clear, but the ninety-foot depth hosts a confusing array of thermoclines. These sharp drops in water temperature create subtle obscurations to visibility, wavy zones of disparate water densities.

My 14-year-old mind tries to process a plan for the impending free dive and return to the surface. How will I know when I’ve overstayed my single breath welcome? Will I even reach the bottom? And if I do, is my speargun powerful enough to kill such huge fish? The deepest that I’ve been before today is just sixty feet.

A moment later and any indecisiveness is gone as I take a final deep breath and rapidly pike my legs up, waiting until my fins are entirely submerged before I start to kick. With speargun extended forward to streamline my form, I rely on my powerful thigh muscles to push me toward the bottom.

I savor the frontier feel of jeopardizing it all for an enigmatic prize. My sole companion on this new adventure is a novel sensation—fear. I am profoundly alone. It is just me, the fish, and the sea. I pass sixty feet without hesitation, ignoring the awful sensation of lungs already craving air, a clear and imminent warning that I’ve gone too far, that I am beyond redemption’s range…

As the incident’s physical sensations pass through me almost half a century later, the abject terror is fresh and eerily sweet, much like the out-of-control feeling of a Parkinson’s brain fog. It is a familiar, time-honored fear—a friend of the strangest sort—that joins my downward plunge, still feeling utterly alone and craving air, in a great circle of reflective mastery.

Several actual Amazon customer reviews of “The Lost Intruder, the Search for a Missing Navy Jet”

“Superlative writing that takes aviator adventure tales to a new level of existentialism. There are pain-filled episodes described that are indelible once read. However, the author found that his debilitations unexpectedly enhanced his inner life and perceptions of others. Very memorable and graciously instructive. This is a rare find.”

  • Kmag54           August 13, 2020

“I first heard about this story from an Air & Space article about “Christine” and the many gremlins this aircraft had. I couldn’t wait to download and read the whole story. If you’re any kind of aviation-enthusiast you will be drawn into the technical details of how Peter and his team did what the Navy couldn’t. Despite the hardships mother nature threw, Peter was battling one even greater but fought through it better than I’m sure most of us could have. And of course there will be some characters along the way that make things even more interesting. Buy it, read it, enjoy it because it’s worth it… and it happened.”

  • MLiep              July 5, 2021

“Incredible, fast paced, captivating read. This book works as a how-to on a process for identifying an impossible goal and making it happen but the author adds so much more. The documentation of the search, details on technical diving and military aircraft are the threads which the author weaves though the larger story of life with a challenging disease. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you dive, fly, are into military aviation or boat in the Puget Sound this is a must read. Very inspirational.”

  • Amazon customer      September 12, 2017

“An incredible adventure story combining diving and flying during a naval aviator’s quest to find an aircraft lost in the sea, while fiercely fighting a debilitating personal physical battle. This book is an inspiring page turner about the indomitable human spirit!”

  • Amazon customer      December 6, 2017

Just like a big boy

Sleeping well, at least for my rapidly evolving standards, provides practical as well as emotional support, allowing me to walk without incident from the airport hotel to the check in counters. I wait in line, renewed confidence gradually calming my rapidly beating heart: I’ve done this hundreds of times, I remind myself; it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

With my main bag checked, I prepare mentally to transit security. I glance at my boarding pass for the departure gate, and my pulse races in a burst of adrenaline: it is in the unfamiliar south concourse.

Fortunately, security is empty, one of few benefits of a 7:05 am Sunday departure. Deciphering airport signage goes smoothly, still, the slightest movement takes tremendous effort and everything I do is so damn slow. I get to the south concourse train with lots of time to spare, but I’m unable to calm my mind, eyes furiously darting from face to face in hope of recognition, until—much to my surprise—they lock onto one.

I’ve made this mistake before in my desperation to see a friendly face, with imagination and hallucination interchanging in rapid succession. Is that Brad?

At the other end of a cluster of people waiting to board the train is a pair of uniformed pilots. The captain looks like an old friend from navy days, not seen since 2017 when he and his wife attended a local presentation I was giving on The Lost Intruder. He catches my eye and starts walking over.

It is Brad. Instantly relieved, my heart swells with gratitude, and, suddenly, I’m overwhelmed with a fervent sense of well-being and a deep abiding love for nothing; for everything. My eyes moisten, and voice chokes as I struggle to speak, and I’m suddenly grateful to be alive.

“Hi Brad,” I sputter, an impossibly broad smile gracing my face. Despite incorrigible hardship of inevitable magnitude, I am joyful to be in life. Brad and his first officer, each pulling a wheeled, black suitcase, amble with casual ease to where I stand. We start to talk.

“Traveling alone, Pete?” Brad asks, oblivious to the pertinence of the question.

“Yes,” I answer in a slight slur. “Just like a big boy.”

Overcome with a feeling of well-being, I stand and smile.

It is all okay; it really is.

Simple things

I sit on the plane, alive and aware, as the Parkinson’s courses through its cycles of mistrust, ceding disdain’s focused calm to the shadow game that surrounds.

No longer able to reliably drive, I took the three-hour shuttle to SeaTac Sunday afternoon, much as the rest of my life, consigned through unearned promotion the role of watcher, my sole interaction of purpose being writing to you in this connection of grace.

Unable—so far—to vanquish the fear stemming from attachment to this body, old trauma resurfaces in predictable ways. As I stumble in a levodopa fog, the familiar airport surroundings remind me of my pre-planned goal. I must walk the quarter mile of bridged pedestrians to the elevator, go down to ground level, then hoof it to the hotel. It is a daunting challenge in my present condition, with body shaking and voice little more than a slurred mumble.

Past pre-flight jitters of examination-grilling check rides lurk at the edge of consciousness: remembering key piloting numbers—crosswind corrections, approach parameters, and so on—while flying 200 passengers who trust you for their very existence. Then the true triggering source comes into cognition’s view: memories of the airliner’s crash axe resting loosely in my lap, just days after 9/11.

The imaginary script of mindful illusion runs its course, allowing for sufficient space to recognize it for what it is, and it evaporates into the ethereal. Spending the night at an airport hotel should allow sufficient sleep to make tomorrow’s scheduled 0705 flight.

It is pushing back at the disease at its finest. What will be learned? I smile, welcoming my old friend, the unknown, through the eyes of nobody, not a nobody, but nothing at all. I get to the hotel, smiling broadly, the first leg of my journey, complete.

To be continued…

Enduring intentions

We are born free and bred into insecurity, bequeathed from ancestors an innate fear of being revealed as the scared little children we are, searching for our place in the world. We have learned instead to march to an unfamiliar beat, a role of rules and retribution.

We fight an internal battle, some with great secrecy, others gleefully open, to become who we are. Everyone’s path is different; we make individual decisions on which rules to ignore and which to incorporate into the belief system that is our life.

Treating those with whom you disagree with kindness and humility, not from fear, but the higher awareness that we are all nothing but scurrying cockroaches on a sinking ship of oppression, imbues life with meaning, opening a path to peace.

Following your heart’s humility relies on the gratification of the soul without regard for legacy. Charmed by the serene frolic of soulful presence, oblige spectators with love’s ubiquity in grace, smiling in gratitude for life in all its forms.

Kindness and love are life’s only enduring intentions, the sole tools available to move forward in the hidden game. Be kind, love, and witness regrets and hope vanish in the warmth of connection, hoisting the flag of neutrality, watching, and believing. Love always wins.

Contrived distortion

During a recent hike, I noticed a seal swimming near shore in the swift Deception Pass current. The seal appeared to be paralleling my course, swimming effortlessly into the current but only making marginal headway before transitioning to his version of backstroke and moving quickly with the water’s flow.

The seal was carefree and enjoying himself, playing like a child. What allowed the seal to ignore worries, not being concerned with his next meal or getting hit by a passing boat, not driven by a goal or outcome?

Could it be because the seal was unburdened by the concept of time? There is a case that time is a manufactured accommodation, a human tool, to help describe a constantly changing universe. Time might be nothing more than an expression of the constraints that reason and the senses have erected in our understanding of the true nature of change.

So, is it time that makes us resist change? If not, then what force has us clinging desperately to separate narrative realities, egos divided by contrived distortions of an inexplicable worldview that is perhaps beyond our ken to fathom genuinely?

We are born to this world coming from one and tutored to accept the physical separation of birth as extending to our innermost voice. It is only approaching death that most of us probably catch sight of the barest sideways glimmer of life as it is, with the run-down clock laying raw animation’s panorama.

When we act as one, brief moments of unity permeate the soul with blessing’s curse of kindness-based joy. The truth burns through the veil of deceit, confident and precise, straddling two vastly different realities, a blithe unified theory of everything.

Partitioned discord veers our path away from innocence and love, stranding happiness and peace as they yearn to be free. It will take all of us to reject the separation that plagues man’s continued evolution, one by one, merging in the unity that is.

My nemesis, the woodpecker

Yesterday, my wife and I drove to Seattle for a scheduled neurology appointment. I find myself miss-identifying common sounds and unable to discern their origin. Other times, I’m surprised by an unfamiliar noise coming either from my imagination or beyond. I told my neurologist about these mild aural hallucinations and learned it was a common symptom of advancing Parkinson’s.

Not a big deal,” I said, looking at the neurologist. She nodded in agreement.

The appointment went quickly. I enjoy speaking with my neurologist; it’s refreshing to talk about Parkinson’s absent sentimentality or misguided pity. We have a few laughs and don’t get mired down with maudlin future talk.

Soon after getting home, a loud “rat-a-tat-tat” made me shoot to my feet. It sounded like someone was on the roof with a pneumatic hammer; this was not what I had in mind when I cavalierly dismissed the importance of noise hallucinations.

I sheepishly yelled to Laurie in the other room, “Did you hear that?” It was becoming an all-too-common question of mine.

“No. You must be hallucinating.” Laurie replied.

Another violent staccato reverberated throughout the house. “Wow! I heard that!” Laurie yelled.

I ran outside just in time to see a woodpecker fly off our roof. I started laughing, raising my fist to the sky in mock fury, finding it incredibly funny that nature should pick this particular moment to f#&! with me.

The world is a curious place of untold beauty and mystery, waiting for our tacit approval to come out to play in nature’s wonderland. Now I have to wait another three months until my next neurology appointment to find out if bird harassment is typical of Parkinson’s.

Your time will come, woodpecker, your time will come…