Tomorrow’s Love

Her mind reflects into itself.

I catch her staring out the window contemplating some beautiful thought.

She turns and lifts her coffee to her mouth and a smile flashes in her eyes. And then, like leaves pulled from Fall’s graceful winds it fades.

“What are you thinking about?” I ask genuinely curious.

A smile flashes in my eyes and fades.

The moment is perfect.

 

I open my eyes and see her staring at me.

“What are you looking at?”

I smile widely and touch her face.

Her eyes drop and rise again like dawn shattering the night.

I want to lay there all day beside her.

She loves me too. I can see it.

A little voice calls for us from the room beside us.

The moment is perfect.

 

She breaks in my arms like water against stones.

“It will be alright,” I whisper to her fighting back tears.

My chest is wet from her.

My heart breaks with hers.

“It will be alright,” I promise to her.

I lift her face and kiss her forehead.

The moment is perfect.

 

She points to some obstacle in the distance.

Her words speak of its beauty and the beauty of all the things around it.

“After all of these years, I still marvel at how you think,” I say to her

She looks at me with eyes that reflect a need for more.

I look at the horizon and comment on the beauty that I see in it as well.

Her head falls upon my shoulder.

“Dad!”

I turn and lift our son.

The moment is perfect.

 

And so it passes by.

Time goes on.

Rain, sun, hurricanes and more sun.

And we fought the night like stars the dark.

For you and I always knew the sun would rise again.

 

All of our time together flashes before me.

I can’t control how fast I am breathing.

Our children and grandchildren fill the room and the little one holds my hand.

“Grandpa,” she says to me.

A smile flashes in my eyes and fades.

Then my darling comes to my side and touches my face.

I am seen by her.

I have been known by her.

“I am so grateful – your love was the world I longed for my entire life,” I whisper.

“I love you very much.”

The moment is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

My Mistaken Mind

Life has taught me just how little I actually ‘know’ to be true.

My greatest intuitions and insights often lead to humbling and jaw-dropping disillusionment.

Like the hero who slays the dragon for the princess only to find that the princess was the dragon the whole time.

What do I slay when I make such grievous strides to comprehend the world with precision?

Truth?

Is not my own scope of understanding but a single perspective in a world of understandings and higher truths?

One thing is certain: we are always learning, about ourselves & about others.

Any relationship with anyone requires that every time you see them you wipe the slate of your expectations and assumptions clean and remain open to the possibility of who they are becoming in that very moment before you.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Love thyself enough to allow for mistakes to be made. The past is the substrate of today. Draw strength from it. Draw understanding from it. But don’t let it draw you in – don’t let it convince you how things are. Because it’s only your perspective.

Uncle Edward

My uncle Edward was technically my great uncle. He was my grandmother’s brother.

The man was by all accounts an artist. He was a man driven by passion but he also possessed a lethal intellect. He was a man who would tear up in his apartment listening to Beethoven. He was a man who wrote a poem about heaven on earth.

When I was younger, probably nineteen, I sat across from him at a family gathering at my aunt and uncles’ and we conversed about music.

He told me about how he learned Clair de Lune in order to win the attention of someone he loved. We spoke about the depths that music reaches. His words burst with color. I listened with a mind like an open canvas.

Last year he passed away and I was blessed by his immediate family with many of his things. The complete works of Shakespeare. Music. Paintings. Statues of David and a Chimp holding a human skull in the “Thinker’s” pose with “Darwin” written on its side.

He was in a very true sense, a reflection of the man that I know myself to be. And that is why I think I found my learning about his genuine struggles from conversations with my grandma so fruitful.

The downfall of the artist resides in their passions.

Edward loved more deeply than words can convey. His love reached the bottom of the ocean, it broke into the darkest places the mind can touch. He loved like a man who had seen the face of God loves.

But because of this vision, his passions blinded him of the nature of reality. His passions blinded him about how others might feel about certain things. His passions, armed with his intellect, were a battalion of truth seekers ready to slaughter any contradictions regardless of their validity.

That call for perfection, that drive to reach the mountain’s top – the eye seeking beauty and inspiration – it is a burden to a man who has to face disillusionment, isolation, and heartache.

Edward’s funeral cards were dated 2010. He had prepared them years before. His love had died and he had been told by the doctor that his pacemaker battery was going out and that he would die shortly after it did. Instead, he lived for seven more years.

I can imagine the hell of that situation. The hell of losing the one you love, the one who inspires you a sense of divine beauty – the one who reflects love itself to you in their smiling eyes. I can imagine the hell of them going away, and then being promised that you would be soon delivered and the disillusionment of suffering without them every single day for seven years despite what the doctor had promised you.

But without those extra years those behaviors in him, that battalion, it would have gone unchecked; unreconciled.

I think of him every once and awhile. When I’m stuck with a composition, or when I don’t know the right approach to take in a relationship I talk to him. I rest my mugs on his cup holders. I read the lines of the books he purchased and had found beauty in. I drive around listening to Beethoven.

My only regret is that I never had the chance to walk with him as who I am now. That I wasn’t able to convey my respect for his character to him.

I once posted a picture of a tree that I drew onto facebook and he commented, “As an art major this truly is a wonderful tree.”

Uncle Ed, as an artist, a musician, a lover of beauty and a feeler of the deeper things of this life – you really were a wonderful human being.

Here is a recording of my Uncle John reading Edward’s poem about heaven on earth at his funeral: poem.

 

 

The Vulture – Story of the Lighted Wood

She had the kind of glow that brought music to my mind and stillness to the world. Like candles burning atop gravestones her existence was a reminder to me that eternity awaited.

I would go to the edge of the forest every night to see her.

She moved between the trees and called me forth to her but I was struck still. Held fast to the fear that against her light, my darkness would turn her love into hatred.

One day the man in black appeared to me as I sat looking into the forest.

His presence chilled me to the bone.

“For her love, you must enter in when all the light goes out,” he spoke to me.

I thought him to be some kind of prophet and asked him how he knew this to be true.

He pointed to the stars, “It is written there. The two of you will burn against the night. As one.”

I pondered the statement and looked up at her.

She sang while she walked.

Still, the man in black lingered beside me. “It is her love that you seek, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“Then you must enter in when the light goes out.”

I did not trust him.

“Why not now?” I asked, stammering in the delivery of the question.

“Try.”

He was right. Some part in me darkly restrained the advance. My mind burned for her. My heart exploded into fire for her. But I could not move.

“When will the light go out?” I asked

But he was gone.

Moments passed and I continued watching her.

I was beginning to hate myself for my inability to advance. I could not understand why I could not move. I did not understand why I could not even call out, or why when I did it was so faint that she could not hear or paid no attention to my calling.

Furious I promised never to return to her.

“For too long I have stared into the heart of my desires. For too long I have believed the lies of this forest. There is nothing to this light. She is a phantasm. I am a fool to come here.”

With those words spoken the man in black appeared to me.

That chill returned and he said nothing.

He snapped his fingers and her music stopped. I heard her let out a cry, like someone waking from a pleasant dream into a nightmare.

“Your darkness betrays her love,” he said to me. And then the lighted wood turned black.

“Enter in.”

I blinked and rubbed my eyes. She was gone but he, he was still beside me.

“Where – where is she?”

“Enter in. It is written in the stars that you will.”

I did not trust him. I did not like how he spoke to me. But I loved her. I had to find where she had gone.

I advanced slowly toward the edge of the wood and turned to look at the man.

Suddenly his cloak burst forth into a plumage of black feathers and a giant bird took his place.

I turned back to look into the blackness of the wood.

The bird flew before me to the edge of the wood and I entered in behind it.

 

 

Sticks cracked heavily under my footfalls breaking the cycle of my mind’s silent racing to find her.

Where was she? That love that I had seen, that love that I had cherished, that which had rendered me immobile but had set my heart aflight.

I reached forth with my hands extended before me and felt the damp bark of the trees.

I moved around them listening for the fluttering wings of the bird, my only guide.

But with each footstep, I felt more and more gravity in my heart. It was a weight I had never felt before, for I had cherished the comfort of her presence. I had gorged the appetite of my soul’s desires to its fill and now, now I was to learn of love’s starvation. Now I was left to face the darkness I felt unworthy to show her.

The light of the bird disappeared and the man in black drew beside me again.

“What do you hope to find in these woods, Vulture?” he asked.

“Why do you call me that?” I asked confused.

“You are a vulture. You feast upon her death in the night. You rehearse the memory of who she was to you. You exhume her love. It gives you life.”

His words pained my heart. It did not feel right to me to be called that. I did not trust him.

That cool presence washed upon me and added a cold fire to my heart’s aching.

“I know not anymore whether to believe what you say or not,” I replied wearily.

“For years you gazed upon her face, feasting on a love that are not worthy of. She is a dove. You are a vulture. In time you will come to see the truth.”

I leaned against a tree to catch my breath and felt nauseous. Now more than ever, the weight of darkness was in my heart. Like a cave opening beneath a pool of moonlit water everything that had reflected love was draining from within me. I needed her there, but she was gone. The lighted wood of my desires was black.

The man spoke again, “You made her up then. You’re simply insane.”

“No,” I replied. But I did not trust my own words.

“Yes. Yes, you made her up. The love you gazed upon you imagined. Soon you will come to recognize the nature of your fallen wings, Vulture.”

I grew angry at him, “You told me to come into the forest. You promised me -”

But he was gone.

Only the chirping of the insects broke the silence.

“Where are you?”

There was no reply.

I pushed back off of the tree, feeling the darkness of my inmost being setting into my eyes. All was lost. The very meaning for which I lived was a lie.

I shook the idea.

“You damned liar.” I spat, “Come back to me!”

But the man did not appear.

 

With a clenched fist I took a few more paces.

Finally, I had broken into a clearing in the wood.

A paper moon hung in the sky and illuminated the opening in the wood. It’s light reminded me of her.

The very thought brought me to my knees. I missed her. I needed to know she was ok. I needed to see her smile again. But she was gone.

It felt as though my body was melting into the ground.

Then I heard them call me.

“Vulture!”

I looked up and saw a man armed with a spear eying me with violent intent.

Another man shouted, “This battle is between us Wolf!”

On the other side of the clearing, another man looked upon me, also clutching a spear.

“Stag, do not be a fool. Do you not understand the consequences of our finding him? All will end now. If we allow this to come to pass everything will end.”

“We are powerless against fate. We must honor our responsibility,” replied Stag.

Wolf spat and drew near to me.

Stag came to my side as well.

“Why do you call me Vulture?” I asked them.

Wolf lowered his spear to my throat, “He doesn’t even know that he is the Vulture. This is not the will of fate. We should slay him and return to our war.”

Stag placed his spear to the throat of the other warrior and spoke to me, “You are the Vulture of love’s vision. You are the watcher of divine love. You are the promised end to our eternal conflict.”

“I rather like our conflict” growled Wolf.

The tip of his spear cut into me a little, but I felt nothing. I felt as though nothing they were saying mattered. That without love, nothing mattered.

“I don’t understand,” I replied breathlessly.

“Innocence tempered by wisdom born of suffering is the perfect judge,” replied Stag.

“Judge us, fool!” shouted Wolf.

“You are our judge,” added Stag.

Just then the branches around us rustled and from beyond them burst forth a male stag with seven points. Behind it a large wolf gave chase.

It leapt upon the stag’s back, dug its jaws into the back of its neck, and brought it to the ground.

Both warriors fell to their knees and dropped their spears at the sight.

The three of us watched the stag struggle to fight back but eventually it fell to its death to the wolf.

I turned to look at the man with the stag tattooed onto his skin.

He was breathing heavily, sweat beaded atop his forehead, and tears fell from his face.

The other warrior wore a look of zealous delight on his face. He laughed maniacally as other wolves appeared.

“I came to this forest to find my love,” I whispered.

“You came to the forest to judge us,” replied Wolf. “Now, judge – who is the strongest God on the island of fate. The wolf, or the stag?”

I found myself both attracted to and repulsed by the dark delight with which he spoke his words. For he spoke them with the kind of knowing I so longed for in my own heart. The kind of knowing she had reinforced in me when I looked at her. But it was also the kind of knowing that told me that this life was meaningless without her.

The other warrior spoke, “You will find your love. It is a consequence of your decision. Judge us.”

His words gave me hope.

“How shall I judge you?” I asked.

Wolf stood upright, “Surely my God is stronger than his God! He has torn his God to shreds! Look at how we feast upon the flesh that is weaker than our own! Look at how we hunt them down and conquer them!”

The other warrior stood upright, “Surely my God is stronger than his God. For with his life, with his sacrifice – he nourishes the very life within them! Without the blood sacrifice of my God, there would be no life in him!”

Wolf poured wine into his cup and handed it to me, “Drink from my cup. My God is more powerful.”

Stag poured wine into his cup and handed it to me, “Drink from my cup. My God is the giver of life.”

“I do not want to drink from your cup,” I replied. “None of it matters to me.”

“You are the Vulture. You must drink from the cups of death to live.”

“I do not wish to judge you. I do not care about living without my love.”

“Wolf became angry. You are bound by fate to drink a cup and judge. Choose!”

Stag too grew angry, “Surely you must understand that nourishment is the foundation of life. Choose a cup! Obey your fate!”

I felt nothing. I cared not for their ideas about their gods. All that I cared about had been lost in the darkness. The darkness that I had brought. The darkness that I feared the most. My own darkness.

Black feathers shuffled before my eyes as the man in black appeared in front of us.

He spoke coldly to me, “Choose or I will end your life. You are the Vulture. The love you gazed upon you are not worthy of. You must choose or I will kill you.”

His words broke what remained intact within my heart. I did not want to be responsible for her fading away into the night. I did not want to be responsible for it. He was right it was my fault but how could I have helped it? I was powerless to my loving her. How could I have done anything about my darkness. It had been within me. I grew angry.

“I am not your Vulture!”

“Choose!” the man in black yelled at me.

“I do not believe God to be just powerful!” I yelled at Wolf.

“I do not believe God to be just nourishing!” I yelled at Stag.

“And I do not believe myself to be a Vulture!” I yelled at the man in black.

Rage filled all of their eyes.

It matched my own.

“Kill me then! I will not drink!”

Pain struck both of my sides as their spears tore into me.

I heard him laughing.

I heard them all laughing.

 

 

The man in black laughed at the dead man in front of him. He laughed as the dead man began to take the shape of a bird.

He laughed as the feathers and beak appeared on the corpse.

He laughed up until the moment that the corpse erupted into fire.

For the love he slaughtered was not vulturous.

The island of fate was set ablaze and all of the fallen idols with all of their fallen ideals were incinerated.

The sky was filled in a radiant light.

The innocent man was not a vulture.

His love had not been a lie. He simply had to shed his darkness.

He woke to find her smiling eyes as she embraced him.

Their love was a Pheonix.

 

Charred and tattered the man in black retreated while the island burned away. He took shelter in a cave and died clutching his own scroll of fate. For he was the vulture and he was the only thing left remaining on the island for himself to devour.

 

Author’s note: Be sure to read the vulture if you wish to further understand the lessons within this narrative.
Best,
N

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The things I keep within

What is in the weight that we carry?

What is the value of our suffering?

Why did Christ die on a cross and not just simply bliss out into some Zen euphoric light while rising into the clouds beckoning us to ‘follow’?

Why does any good movie plot require struggle and pain for the protagonist to overcome?

Is depression the human condition within us thirsting for a touch of the divine?

Is melancholy necessary to empty the heart so that joy might take root?

Thoughts like this weigh into my imagination on a regular basis. And unless if I feel the liberation of being set free in some sort of action, be it playing the piano or working out – that weight transfers into my heart.

On Monday I needed to escape the office. I was tired of perusing the internet searching for the next grand marketing campaign idea. I felt as though my efforts – my very work – were a complete waste of time.

So I decided the best course of action would be to walk downtown for lunch. Break habituation. Spontaneously sojourn into some unknown place and live in the question of “What else is possible?” rather than “Why do I feel like I’m wasting my time?”.

This very action, especially when one’s melancholy is tough to lift, can be rather difficult. But alas, I was out the door and found myself walking downtown for a slice of pizza.

I clutched my glasses in my left hand, preferring the haze of my naturally flawed vision to the acute overstimulating awareness that my lenses provide. The internet had already blasted away at my attention – I needed to tap into intention.

Few people say hello on the street in my city. Cars drove by at their racing speeds stopping and going – and finally I found myself turning the corner to enter into the pizza place.

I noticed as I turned the corner that there was a disheveled looking man about my age. As I reached the door, the young man pulled me from my thoughts by turning to me and saying, “Hey man, I’m homeless – can you get me a slice?”

His eyes were tired. His clothes were old.

“Sure thing brother,” I replied.

And so we entered in.

I had wanted isolation on my adventure. Typically when I get lost in thought I like the slow draw out of my mind that watching others or walking in nature provides. Having this encounter was outside of my domain of comfort.

He was in front of me and ordered his food, I told the waiter that he was on me and candidly thought that would be it. A good deed done. I can feel a surge of dopaminergic reward for upholding the moral center in my brain and be on my way. That wasn’t the case.

He turned to me and tried sliding me four quarters, all that he had left.

“Nah, keep them man,” I replied.

But the gesture struck me. His willingness to give something to me despite his situation – it spoke of the gravity of his character.

He sat down, I asked him what salad dressing he wanted and handed him his salad. Then looked about the restaurant for where I would sit.

I uttered a prayer, like I typically do when I’m in a social situation and know not how to carry on in it.

He looked at me with openness – that I might sit with him.

I so desperately wanted isolation but I sat beside him there in the restaurant anyways.

We prayed over our food. I handed him the pepper for his pizza. And then conversation came easily.

We laughed about hot sauce for a bit and talked about the weather but I wanted to know about him.

I asked him about his life, where he stayed at night, why he ended up homeless. I learned about the violence that took his uncle, the poverty that kept his parents from housing him, the heartache of his girlfriend taking the kids. He showed me the scars on his arms and neck from where he had been attacked years before. He spoke to me about Florida and about his grandpa there who wanted to see him.

He talked about getting money for a greyhound bus so that he could see him.

I didn’t want to just fold my hand and tell him that I would pay for his ticket. Instead, I invited him to walk with me and he came along.

That weight was still in my heart. That weight that had made me want to go and get out of my head – it was still there. That melancholic chiming.

I pushed open the door and held it for him and we began to walk toward a bank.

We must have been quite the odd sight. I was dressed in a button up shirt nice slacks and nice shoes and he was in old sneakers a torn shirt and old pants.

I felt the business woman’s stare at the two of us, as she took paces to avoid us.

I felt the gazes of the drivers behind the tinted windows of their Mercedes.

I heard society’s voice in my head telling me he’ll use whatever money I would give him for drugs and not the greyhound – that I was being deceived and was being overly generous but I walked to the bank with him anyways.

I don’t know there was something about him. Something in the honesty of the way he spoke. Something in the open brokenness he displayed in his eyes.

This was the company I wanted to keep. This was a person I related to. Different lives, different worlds, different everything but my heart ached and his heart certainly had ached before.

I went into the bank alone, returned to him, and gave him some money for a greyhound so that he could return to his grandpa in Texas.

He gave me a hug before taking the money and told me his name. Michael Anthony McDonald.

I told him mine and shook his hand. I told him to get to his grandfather, placed a hand on his shoulder and I walked away.

I was filled with sadness by it all even after it was done.

What is the purpose of our suffering?

Why do so many people suffer in such obvious ways?

How pathetic was I for feeling depressed over having to stare at a computer screen while he was roaming the streets asking for money to feed himself?

But more importantly – was it the weight in my heart that allowed me to reach him? Was it the suffering that I had experienced that allowed me to see him and to connect with him?

That was Monday.

Yesterday I again felt the same sad gravity in my chest. It was with me still. After the hours ticked by slowly in the office, I went home.

I tried sleeping but no rest came and my dog kept me up by running back and forth. He’s a good dog, but seriously Chewy lay down. I was annoyed.

Angry and desperate I drove to take a walk at a place I used to frequent.

I sought the poetry in the bleached words on the side of a park bench.

I sought the sun breaking between the trees. I looked for a four leaf clover. Again I needed to escape the cycling thoughts and simply ‘be’ somewhere.

After a while there I returned to my car to head home and put on one of my favorite string arrangements ever to match my mood. “Andvari” by Sigur Ros. The end of it is like the harmonic sadness of two lovers who remain in love despite their suffering. The strings hold one another in their harmony. Its perfect.

I was listening to these strings when I returned to my driveway and it was then that I saw my neighbor outside – the one who for two years had never returned my hellos.

For some reason I wanted him to hear the music and so I turned up the volume and sat there in the driver’s seat until the song ended. Well, until the song nearly ended. If you look it up you’ll find that the strings ebb and flow at the end for quite awhile. Quite perfectly so I might add.

Anyways, I got out of the car and heard him asking for help.

“Do you need help?” I asked.

The question was posed to be sure it was me that he needed and not someone within the house.

“Yes,” he spoke and so I dropped my things on the lawn and ran to him.

He looked terrible his skin was pale, his eyes were dim and he had had a bowel movement.

“I need to go down. I need to be down. Put me down.”

“Alright, brother I’ve got you.”

260 pounds of the old man embraced me then. I held onto him and set him down gently on his driveway.

“Do you want an ambulance?” I asked him.

“No no.”

I sat there with him for awhile but every time I tried to help him up he ached in pain.

Eventually I called for an ambulance and sat there with him.

His head rest on my knees. My clothes were stained by him. I smelled and was tired.

“Sorry we had to meet under these circumstances my friend. I’m your neighbor.”

“I know” he replied.

I told him my name.

He told me his.

I didn’t really have time to think. I was lost in the moment making sure that he was going to make it. He was breathing heavily, he didn’t even notice that he smelled and was completely out of it.

My uncle came after I made a call and helped me get pillows underneath him.

Finally the ambulance arrived and I watched his awareness leave him as he failed to answer their questions. The day, the month, the year – the information I take for granted.

We lifted him onto a wheel chair and eventually laid him on the stretcher.

After negotiating with him he was finally carted off to the hospital.

I watched my uncle clean off his wheel chair as a police officer looked around the house.

Again that weight in my heart throbbed.

But in retrospect – what if I had been having an incredible week? What if I hadn’t felt the need to listen to those strings? What if my neighbor had never crossed my mind – if I had stopped caring about him after the two years of him never returning my hellos?

My uncle invited me to dinner but I showed him the stains on my clothes and told him I needed a shower.

I was exhausted.

I went inside my house stripped naked in the doorway, leaned against the piano and teared up.

Life had been sad. It had been heavy.

But who would I have been that week without that weight? Who would we be without that yearning for more? How blind would I be to the love of this world if I truly felt that I was satisfied in all ways?

This isn’t to say that everyone should romance their melancholy. But it is to say that melancholy is human.

I have lived more in these past three days, under those clouds – in the beautiful throws of humanity’s struggle to love and be loved, than I have days before.

Don’t let your emotions define you but also don’t lie to yourself about how you feel.

The roots of a tree reach into the deepest and darkest places and draw forth the nutrients that enable its leaves to bloom in the sunlight.

For every joy there is a sadness.

God bless that weight. Carry on.

 

 

 

 

The Vulture

Benjamin walked toward the podium to the applause of the crowd, one hand raised out of appreciation.

He paused for a moment, lifting the microphone to meet his stature, and calmly looked out until we quieted.

I was a boy then and recall my eagerness and anticipation for his words still today.

 

He began, “The Island of Fate was for a long time hidden from us. As you all now know, this is no longer the case. I was fortunate enough to partake in the expedition that led to its discovery and, subsequently, was the one to discover the body of the vulture and the scroll.”

Clearing his throat, he gave some details that bored me as a child. Details regarding the integrity of the paper, estimates of its age and antiquity, a hypothesis about the plants used as ink, and finally he began to talk about how he came to discover the enormous bird that they had found and of the scroll itself.

“With my pistol drawn I entered into a narrow passageway carved into the rock. I only discovered it because I went to tie my shoe and saw it behind the vines.”

He chuckled and continued, “At the end of the passage there was a circular room with seven stars engraved in the stone. There, in the center, was the corpse of the vulture lurched over and decayed on the floor. I almost shot it honestly.  At a glance, the bird’s corpse looked like it was some sort of living horror, especially in the torchlight. As you surely know from the pictures, it is an oddly shaped specimen, massive, and cloaked in black feathers. Clutched in its talons was the scroll.”

We applauded then.

 

Graciously he raised his hand, “It is an absolute honor to read to you, today, the translation of the scroll.”

I recall the look in my mother’s eyes as she watched Benjamin, my father, deliver the speech. They were filled with the kind of light that only a love of immeasurable depth can begin to reflect. All of the years of him away had amounted to this moment.

 

We stopped applauding and he began to read,

“On this island of warring nations life and death battle one another. Every year each nation offers a warrior to the clearing. It is there that they fight.

One year, an elk was chased into the clearing by wolves at the time of war. There, it was slaughtered in front of the eyes of the two warriors.

Wolves are sacred to the tribe of death and elk are sacred to the tribe of life.

The warrior of death shouted, “Don’t you see, our god is stronger than your god! Death always wins. Give up your foolish ways and embrace us once and for all.

The warrior of life shouted back, “Don’t you see – our god has given your god life in the sacrifice of itself. Lay down your weapons and honor us in gratitude”.

We are the judges of their contradiction.”

 

When he finished reading the translation, the hall was silent. I looked at my mother and recall the look of confusion on her face.

I too was confused and recall thinking, ‘All of those years away for that?’

 

 

 

 

 

Narcissus and the reflective pool

There once was a boy who very much wanted to be loved and to fall in love. He was always chasing after the affirmations he would find burning in the smiling eyes of those he encountered when he spoke to them. And, those who showed him no favor, he dismissed.

But he was gravely flawed, for in himself he saw nothing worth loving. It was only in the eyes of others that he could find comfort.

He became so fascinated by love that its pursuit became the reason for his existence. It blinded him. He couldn’t help it of course, and oh, how sweet the prose of his youthful pining.

He grew older and in living this way broke the hearts of many others who also wanted very much to be loved and to fall in love. For the way he looked at them inspired in them the same sense of that ‘being loved’ which he had sought.

And so he would appear, flashing his smile and saying his words. He would look for love, attention, and admiration and then satisfied; he would walk away.

 

I once watched him as a young man approach a piano in a busy college cafeteria. He played, well I might add, and standing from the piano smiled at a beautiful young woman in a green coat.

She smiled back at him and leaned forward to engage him in conversation, but he walked away. He loved the chase too much. He knew not how to approach love honestly.

Her face frowned at his departure as she leaned back in her chair.

 

He was so in love with being in love that he failed to love honestly and eventually, the young man met his match. For he fell in love with a young woman who was very similar to himself.

She too adorned herself in light in order to cover the unruly darkness that swirled below her mask. She too wore love on her sleeve to hide her own inability to love herself. She too flashed smiles of warmth from a cold heart and embodied joys so as to quiet her fears and sins.

It was with great interest that I watched their encounter.

 

When the young man smiled at her and she smiled back, he was captivated – for in her smile there was a similar light – dangling atop the void neither of them could see.

He became obsessed with her smile, and gave of himself in ways he had never given anyone in order to be rewarded with it again and again; he gave himself fully.

Writing letters, sending poetry, giving flowers…the brokenness of their smiles aligned and brought forth a love like one that he had never known before.

The words he had given to others to captivate their hearts she spoke to his. The touch he gave to others to nourish their love she gave to him. His cold heart ignited in ways he had never known before. It was a relationship of endless beauty painted atop a timebomb of heartbreak. I still remember his smiling at her. The poor lad was clueless.

Clueless because a poetic love of such depth can only be described as impossible. No smile lasts forever on an honest face. No unreconciled darkness stays forever behind the light.

I watched him lay beside her under the stars. I heard their laughter and I straightened the collar of my overcoat as I walked away in the growing cold.

He had reached the top of love’s mountain. Had found her pool and had stared into it. He had soared to the heights of his dreams, indeed, he had held his very dreams in his arms and looked into her eyes.

And, oh, he would fall.

 

One day she lifted her mask and revealed to him a cold light. The cold light he had hidden within himself in his pursuit of love. Her face became distant to him, frozen.

I watched him then, as everything he knew about love, as his very dreams were pulled from his eyes into that cold light. Like a star devoured by a black hole – his passions, poems, dreams, hopes, memories, values, faith and everything else that he had been was pulled from him.

I heard him cry out in a dissillusionment so traumatizing that it could only be described as death. And, when he awoke, he found himself on his knees staring into a once reflective pool now frozen by winter’s honest grasp.

My poor Narcissus.

 

He wanted to be loved so badly and that he had to be blinded by his own beauty in order to see himself as beautiful.

The darkness he had run from, his inability to love himself, had deceived him in a relfection atop shallow water.

It was only a matter of time.

You should hear him sing now though. And the way he speaks of love is actually grounded in reality.

My young man has grown up well.

I love watching him.

I love being his muse.

Where will he go now?

A Moment Through My Eyes

I once was on a plane during an intense thunderstorm. Lightning was striking around us, the plane rocked, the woman to my left nervously clung to her husband’s arm and looked about the cabin frantically. The chaos was palpable, but not yet out of hand.

It’s a rather funny thing to observe – how people communicate when they are afraid. Anyways, an odd thing happened then, more likely a product of my imagination than a spiritual encounter, but regardless, I felt the presence of a woman holding me from behind. This voice asked me gently, “Can you accept it – death – without fighting? Would you still love God if you died right now?”

Thoughts of my then girlfriend ran through my mind. I did not like the notion of losing everything at all. Indeed, I was actually on my way to visit her, but the question was so pointed – so honest and possible – that it demanded an answer in my mind and I answered, “Yes. It would be ok.”

I smiled after answering the question, felt my anxiety and fears evaporate, and then began speaking to the frightened woman to my left to calm her.

She told me I looked familiar to her.

We landed shortly after.

I walked to grab my luggage, saw my girlfriend and it seemed ethereal, not real. She kissed me passionately but my mind was lingering on what had just happened. I’m also not fond of public affection but I digress.

We spent a couple of days together. We walked around an old antique mall. There was this lovely painting that I very much wanted. I recall that the artist had a very unique style, the way they painted horses and men walking down the street was ‘free’ rather than controlled. Colorful flares and bursts of life – I wanted it but had no means of transporting it home.

Eventually, my time with her ended, I looked her in the eyes, kissed her and got into a van that was to take me to the airport. I thought of her the whole way there, the whole way home, and as I opened the door to my house.

I loved her, kind of like how I loved the brush strokes of that artist – she was free in her nature, chaotically but beautifully so. You could sit back and watch her and rest in the sight.

About two days later she called me to break up with me.

The ‘death’ I was embraced by on the plane came in the form of disillusionment and heartbreak. But that is neither here nor there anymore.

One of the hardest things in life is to find someone to rest in and have them leave. You lose sleep. You can’t think. Tomorrow becomes a promise of more pain and sleeplessness. But the challenge remains in-flight; in the question and answering amidst rain and lightning.

I don’t really know where I’m going with my life. Actually, I believe that those who tell themselves that they know where they are going kill a great deal of life’s mystery in the announcement.

But I do know this – there is nothing better in all of human history to do than to fall in love. And I mean fall. The breaking of our expectations creates new worlds. The acceptance of this shattering strengthens us over time.

It allows us to be the smiling face of comfort on someone else’s ride from hell.

So, I ask you –

You’re on a plane, and it might go down.

What are you on your way to? What matters to you? Can you let it go?

Would you still love God if everything you loved was taken from you?

 

To the heartbroken I would say this:

I never wish to forget beautiful moments. It’s not as if I hold people still in the past I share with them – I just love the beauty of an honest memory. I draw music from it. Do not hate yourself for not forgetting. Find yourself strong for remembering and carrying on.

Indeed, so far my life has been a sequence of joys and heartaches and music to correspond.

Encore.

I know it aches now, but if you could only hear how lovely the strings of it sound.

-N

The garden of our mind

Today I looked out my window to find that the willow tree I had planted about oh, six months ago, had fallen over and was atop the grass at a deadly 90 degree angle.

My awareness of the situation was followed with a few expletives of surprise and an immediate departure outside to rescue it.

The garden in my backyard is finally taking shape and Willy the Willow is my pride and joy. He’s the first thing that I planted, lasted all winter, and I’ll be damned if the bastard quits on me now simply because he lacks the spinal resilience to go on.

Gently I pulled it upright, grabbed a rope, tied it to the bamboo stick that was bracing it, and drove off to work.

 

In life, we surround ourselves with psychological familiarities that reflect pieces of ourselves. They reflect the underpinnings of our personalities. The hoarder’s house is full of clutter, as is their mind. The preacher’s house is full of religious symbols and paintings. My garden is full of things that can either flourish or wither – things that are beautiful.

I didn’t get a hearty maple tree. I got a weeping willow, a drooping, sad, beautiful bastard of a tree that requires constant support and rescuing while it grows in my windy yard. I love it the most for those reasons.

Constantly I sip on my coffee and look out my window at my tree. When I go into the garden, I look at my tree first.

It is the potential within it in spite of the its current state of weakness that I love to reinforce.

 

Gardening is one of the most rewarding things we can do with life. Why? Because it it requires leaving the things we wish to tend to; it requires the releasing of that which we care for and the faith that they will continue to grow without our observation.

I had a pumpkin seedling that was withered so I put it in new soil, watered it and went to bed. When I got back up and returned from work the next day I found that it was completely fine. It’s stronger than I would have expected. The realization gave me a bit of joy. It surprised me. This surprise is what life is all about.

 

How does the garden of your mind look?

Do you let things go overnight in acceptance? Do you allow that which you have cared for to die so that it might flourish and surprise you?

Often, we tend to forget about the things we plant, the memories that exist, the fallen things of old expectations – but they are still growing even when we drive away from them.

 

Be vigilant in regards to what is growing in your own mind, and never restrain yourself from rescuing beautiful thoughts.

-Noah

holding a beautiful stone, I contemplate what it means to be successful at art

What is success with art?

For the past four weeks I’ve been listening back to different mixes of my upcoming album, “Seafarer” (release date TBA soon). At moments I’ve literally danced in the bathroom brimming with a kind of manic enthusiasm, at other moments I’ve stared out the window calculating the music’s chance in today’s climate with a kind of morose acceptance.

I suppose only one question actually matters – what is success when it comes to art? What is success when it comes to expression?

Society would tell us, with the popularity of attractive individuals on Instagram that success is how beautiful you are and how large your ripple spreads into the environment. How many followers do you have? What’s your reach?

I look at it differently.

Yesterday I paced by a river and threw a stick into the water. The stick floated and went downstream.

I then skipped a rock, and it sank into the depths below.

I like to imagine, and perhaps its only a consequence of my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to self-promotion on social media, that success with music is not about the size of the ripple, but rather it is about how deep below the surface the music goes. Anything can influence the surface of the water. Bugs dart to and fro atop the water all the time. Aye, but what goes below? What sinks to the bottom and rests there beside all of the other things we fail to express? What comforts the deep? And harmonizes with the unseen?

In this crazy world, where information inundates us and pummels our beliefs into ash, where love comes and goes in rapid succession, where societal norms are constantly fluctuating and talent and skill are programmed to succeed perhaps below the surface is where I’d like to stay.

I had a dream once that I was walking in a river and came across an absolutely beautiful stone.

Perhaps this is real success with art: To give what you are and not what you wish to be seen as. To be loved by those who stumble upon you. Not to force your way before them. To be held by those who wish to reach.

Aye, this is success.

Keep creating friends.

Best,

Noah