From Winter to Spring: Death and Rebirth

There is something about Fall – something in that single moment when the wind takes the leaf from its limb and sends it flying across your field of vision.

Firey reds slowly fade into grey as what had been is cast away.

 

There is something about that moment right before Winter hits, as the cold air reveals the warmth of one’s breath and the forest floor becomes covered by the fabric of a passing season of time.

Something in the breaking of yesterday’s expectations under the footfalls of the new paths we walk.

 

I once walked by a tree during late Fall and its leaves, browned and shriveled by time, were still clinging to the branches.

My love for another was lingering in my heart and so the sight stopped me in my tracks.

It was a particularly windy day and one strong gust struck the tree while I was under it.

The air around me became filled with leaves mid-flight in their liberation.

I pulled a few from the top of my red hat and a smile pursed on my lips beneath my eyes.

For a moment I forgot my loneliness. The heart of the forest had shown me the way to live.

 

The heart of every man is like this tree.

We bloom for the love of Spring.

The rain nurtures our depth of character.

Our roots go deeply into a darkness we don’t understand.

We are warmed by the love of the sun.

Into Summer we burst into life.

Our hearts become homes for the birds who pass from season to season.

Of smiles in conversations over coffee.

Of doors held open for strangers.

Of the laughter of our children.

We thirst, we drink, we grow.

Finally, the Fall hits and the labor of our love is pulled from us by time.

What we knew to be true changes.

What we knew of ourselves changes.

And into Winter’s grasp, we go.

Of life without fulfillment.

Of dreams without a clear path.

Of faith without feeling.

Aye, but the Winter is our sweetest friend,

Though in the loneliness of its grasping cold we would not think it to be so.

Winter loves us to the core of our being.

We are held still in the nakedness of our losses.

We bear withness to the transformation of our pain.

As the rain turns into snow.

And Sleep comes.

And finally,

Rest.

Acceptance.

Hope.

And then again –

From Winter into Spring

We find another reason to love.

 

I am grateful for all of the love that rests on the forest floor of my character.

I am grateful for all of the promises that made my heart open and bloom as the seasons came and went.

I am grateful for the Fall, for dissillusionment, for the scattering away of my expectations.

I am grateful for purifying snows and Winter’s sweet embrace – that I am loved even in my nakedness.

 

Some of us never plant ourselves in the earth. We go from place to place, scattering much like our leaves in the winds of change.

One day my roots will cling to something real.

One day I will look to see snow atop the limbs of my love in our field.

I will watch her bloom in joy.

I will endure the heavy rains and thunder of sadness with her.

I will watch her colors burst.

And our seasons will pass until a forest of those who bloom like we bloom surrounds us.

And time will go and I will watch my loved ones grow around me.

And when I am ready – when I have sufficiently grown enough in the eyes of my God, I will be struck down and my heart’s life will be taken from me.

Everything that I know will be stripped from me by death.

And into God’s hands, the carpenter, I will go.

And the labors of my soul will build the holy city’s walls.

And a smile will purse on my lips beneath my eyes as I am made new in unimaginable ways.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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?

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