Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Yes, writing is an act of self-defense, of standing up for yourself.

So it's Memorial Day, the restaurant is closed and I'm having a good monkishly quiet day, getting some writing done, when my buddy, who's recently been traveling in South America for the good part  of a year, comes by, calling first, which I did not pick up, to borrow a bicycle and give me an update.  He's found some good possibilities of where to live out in another part of town, a half hour ride.  He had a beer or two, and a shot of infused Jameson the bartender was too proud for him to pass on, while researching apartments, and he comes in, looks around, and I get him a pint glass of Britta water and a cup of room temp green tea.  And he tells me about the fancy big money restaurant down on the water front, the chef owner who barely acknowledges the greeting of a staff person, about the busboys who elbow him--he shows me as we sit on a bench, what it's like, literally to be at the server station putting in an order, a complicated process, getting jostled by the busboys there, who generally do as little as possible taking half his tips.  "Can you run this over to the bar," he asks, in a story he tells, of a busboy who's leaning over talking to another one.  "Are you too busy to do it yourself?"  He tells me about the manager dressing him down at line-up...

Anyway, there are my thoughts, there is my work, and I made good headway, waiting, but I get my friend set up on the bike, the thing making me nervous, and off he rides, and then, as I intended when I first heard from him, I call my mom on Memorial Day.  She tried to call Aunt Jean in the nursing home, with whom she would go to the cemetery and look at tombstones with in childhood, but couldn't get through.  And she's had dinner already, and a little wine with it, but we have a nice conversation, her voice brave above its tiredness.  Good stuff we talk about.  I tell her I got some good writing in, before my visitor came (even though one always wonders, in the background, but what's the point?  will it save me from homelessness, or build me a new career, a fresh outlook over the ruts of life...) "What should I do tonight?  Go meet my friend?"  Oh, you know the answer to that.  Stay in and and read your nice books and have a quiet evening.  Always, a great read of people and what kind of influence they turn out to be.  I miss her very much, she lives too far away, and here I am living my self-indulgent life...  "I miss your father," she says.  Yeah, I was thinking of him too.  And Madam Korbonski, yes, we shared her too, Mom and I, going to her decorated Polish funeral up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania (which was entirely in Polish.)

I go for a golden walk in the woods off of Massachusetts Avenue, down by the cool slate-smelling stream and pungent weedy banks, but with all those really magnificent trees no one has messed with for a long time after the original deforestation.  I love trees very much.  My chakras feel open like they've not been in a while.  I feel more like myself these days, as if I could accept my sexual energies, which is, I dunno, hard for some of us, even as we might mightily enjoy.  Because we have to ask ourselves, what does pleasure mean, and as long as you channel the energy up in a yogi way, then it's good and creative, a light shining within, even if you're left to pursue it on your own in front of a mirror, Catholic God forbid.  Yes, as any Frenchman or Elizabethan poet knows, we, all of us, shit and we piss and we come, all with the lower parts of our bodies, even on days when we call our moms.  You can take such energies wholesomely, to be more yourself, that being more good news.  And to say such is really to get down to the fundamental bedrock of the literary experience, Shakespeare's 'country pleasures," Sam Johnson's 'writing is like shitting.'  Flirtatious puns at the edges of the drama, but ensuring some reality, keeping it real, as they say.  Indeed, one might write nothing but complete crap, but you write enough of it, and maybe there is a transformation, somehow, shit turned into orgasm, and then carry that up through stomach and heart and up through the throat and into the third eye that sees beyond.

Yes, opening your lower chakras, that might sound a little gay maybe (to those not in touch, busy watching whatever they put on TV), but necessary, one must totally admit.

But it was a good day of thoughts, thinking about what happened to me back when I was studying at Amherst, the things that happened academically, and a sudden inkling of how that spilled over onto my personal life in a way I hadn't seen before, rather blaming the effects on my own self.

And I remember that summer when I couldn't write that paper on the passage in Paradise Lost when they get kicked out of the garden, and I remember one of the few times my father got angry, not at me, as I might have thought, but at the Professor.  Years later, Dad explained to me.  "Look, I had a student once who had something going on and couldn't complete the assignments.  He came in and talked with me and I gave him a decent grade because he was  good student."  I'd gotten an A minus on my first paper for the class in Elizabethan poetry, about a Donne poem, "Some man, unworthy to be possessor..."  I had mailed him the paper, and got back that it was a good appropriate analysis, but, sorry, there are rules and I got a D for the class.  I took it with a shrug.  I blamed myself.

And then later, add to that the New Yorker young woman's habit of rejection, to her part of the cycle of flirtation, which I did not take well to, rather getting more depressed.

Because, yes, inside of me, there was a fighter.  A reader.  A good writer wanting to come out.  A young man who wanted to be a teacher.  Like Professor Demott was a teacher.

But instead I came out of the whole thing feeling like an idiot, and I got so in a state that I even stopped writing papers, out of protest almost.  And John F. Kennedy said that to do his real work a student had to neglect his studies sometimes, something like that, when he came to Amherst, right before his death.  On top of making a great speech about the importance of art and poetry and of Robert Frost's 'special significance.'

But the main thing for a young kid's heart, never mind his career falling by the wayside, is the beautiful girl, what to do, why did it all go so horribly wrong, what was going on inside my head, etc.

I kinda felt set-up.  An innocent young man accused of a lot of things he didn't do, made to look stupid.  That's the way a competitive ego-filled place with smart young ambitious people vying to get ahead, a good jump start on the really well-paying job...

Old Demott, I came across him in front of the library when my mom came to visit my last week, met my mother, but before he turned to walk up the chapel, he said, "I let him down," and then walked away, tall, big-shouldered, slightly stooped, thinking on a matter of some weight.

Ah, shit, that's not good.  "You didn't let me down," I called, not with great volume,  and he kept on walking.  Years later I would get some form of a nod for my efforts, when they read a blurb of mine from a letter I'd sent to Pritchard, to 'succinctly' sum up the adventures of his classroom, into the faculty minutes upon his sad passing.

Then to come home to my father for that summer, my lodestone star, my Merlin of spiritual educational guide.  Not knowing what to do.  But a retreat to the library, where I read, great books, and found an old issue of Life Magazine, James Dean going back to his home in Indiana.

Develop like a goodly flower
rising and opening from musty earth
your stalk, your pressing up
to receive the sun.
No where else to be
but you.

I guess I might have felt like some kind of bum, fallen out of a Chekhov story, and writing was the only way to get through that.  And then you practice yoga, and that restores you to your native innocence, the freshness with which you were created to go on and do good things and be friends with good people.

Art is the creative process itself.  What can you do?  You might not be the Grecian Urn in your efforts, but, hey, better than nothing, better than silence.  If sadness comes, channel it, upward.

To really write, I think one has to be vulnerable, associated with the humble and the meek, in some way.  Which, again, makes Jesus or the Buddha such a good, in effect, writer.

What Neil DeGrasse Tyson is talking about now on Charlie Rose, I bid Mark Franz, son of a dairy farmer up on the ridge, and I to do for a report for chemistry class.   I found a book in the Hamilton College library, a slim volume, about nuclear astro chemistry/physics.  The remarkable concept, back then, in 1981 or 1982, that all that we are made of, which are elements more complicated than carbon, have come about by being cooked up in the nuclear reactions that happen in the hottest an most energetic of places, the core of stars, stars bigger than our own sun.  What more was there to say?  We are made, all our atoms, each is a combination of the elements made in distant suns impossibly long ago, and yet here they are.

Ms. VanValkenburg didn't have much to say.  She gave my friend Dave Porter and, who was it, another guy, a much better grade for simply reading a chapter in the Chemistry text book., which they did without any liveliness more than a drone.

I thought it an incredible understanding.  We are made of stardust.  I wanted to share, a gospel of chemistry, of what the biological creature is built of, carbon, nitrogen, more than that, down deep in the most intricate fibers....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Writing is reading.  Reading is writing.  They exist in a state of equality in the eyes of physics and biology and in every reality.  To read is to actively participate with the text.  To write is to actively read one's own words.  To read and write is to allow the light within to shine, to not put the light under the bushel basket, to sense the possibilities of thoughts.

These are intimate activities, as personal as anything can be, amongst the deepest of mental events.

To be a good reader is the highest of joys.  We take it very seriously, the life's blood of our intelligence.

A great teacher shows you how to read.  In my case that teacher then moves on, to do a stint teaching at a humbler institution.  In that absence a reader falls, eventually, in that absence, into neglect.  Treated so, the reader takes things personally when the level of teaching is not the same, when there is no feedback.

It's the very same feeling as that of finding yourself rejected by a loved one, when your own readership is glossed over, neglected, unattended.  You can feel offended, betrayed, ignored, short-shrifted, not given your fair rights.  Who wants rejection?  When it begins to emerge as a pattern, well, you might tend to take it personally.

After the experience then I really had to write, just to bring my mind back to even keel about my readership, to restore a basic confidence that had been rattled.  I would have already needed to write anyway.  And now I had the material.  Which makes me wonder if indeed things don't happen for good reason, to fulfill some kind of a plan.  And in a way, all stories lead back to an original one, just your own personal version must be told.

Psychologically, I went out into the world to find company amongst those who would not reject me, drinkers in a bar, who occasionally talked about books and told stories.  (How can the naturally evolved human creature put up with the modern version of himself without wine anyway?)  Drinking wine in good circumstances is a lot like reading, maybe even is reading.  Rightly is it part of bardic tradition, part of the sacrament, a ritual of daily health.   It surprises one not that the people who strongly write, going off to do it like it is the rule rather than the exception, just a part of nature, like to let their brains indulge in it at the end of the day, leading one to believe that the events it triggers happen in the same parts of the brain, strengthening, rather than weakening, increasing the power and the breadth rather than limiting.  (Whereas the television often does nothing but cut us off, like a needy person talking about their own problems when we have work to do.)  And maybe it is lonely enough at the top of the game that wine is a solace, a medicine, as there are not enough egoless people to gently converse with a great writer without stuff coming up.  To some minds, even drinking a glass of wine alone is not the worst thing.  It eases, insulates one, as Joseph Mitchell writes, against the loneliness of old age.

Reading and writing is, in good hands, in your own, a spiritual activity.  Jesus the savior is an excellent reader, an active reader, taking texts, applying them, letting events be part of the text.  You cannot just 'read' spiritual texts (in a shallow way), but bring them alive, make them personal and engaging.

It is no coincidence that one of the great disagreements in spiritual literature is over the reading of texts, the difference between how the individual, Jesus, versus the strict narrow sealed over traditionalists.  The imaginative full reading and the strict law.  We know the rest of the story.

But of course, I'd taken a hit, bad grades, my own ability and desire to write a paper, even what I was good at, at what I most enjoyed and wished for more of, taken from me.  It was a big thing psychologically, a great discouragement.   It caused me to turn away from the life of education, away to the streets.

And then I did yoga, and I began to let the life breath flow back into me, and my confidence and a sense of purpose, even as I worked on it all, was gradually restored.  It took a long time.

Of course, not everyone takes the wordy process so seriously.  After all, they might say, what's the point of being an English major, a good reader, in today's world, in the present economy.

A person very close and dear to me to bring a meaning to her life went back to school to get a degree in reading education,  and she wrote a great book about it.  That person, in tune with herself.

But of course, it is a kind of lover's quarrel.  In that light I can understand Hemingway's line of going rounds of boxing with Tolstoy and Shakespeare a bit better, not as complete bluster.

Academics, I suppose, can not help but be a little bit (or more) jealous.  They have their territory, their specialty.  They are earning a living.  Their institutions have standards to uphold.  They do not generally open up to you, keeping you separate.

But Robert Frost did not teach that why while at Amherst.  And Benjamin DeMott was the least jealous of all.  He spoke with authority.  He encouraged that pursuit in others, putting them directly in front of the text.

Polonius is a model not necessarily for being foolish, but for being one of those self-limiting academic types, limited because of his sense of pride, the sense of earned territory, a titled position.  Thus his lesson, 'be not a borrower nor a lender be,' is dead as far as a potential lesson in learning, in teaching how to think.  No Socrates here.  Hamlet's reaction is beautiful.  'Words, words, words...'

When you're young and you're learning and your mind is turned on, it's hard not to be in a certain way, to want to explore your own direction toward the truth.  You're raring to go, and you almost get single-minded, or focussed, once the stars align to show you where to go.

I myself, fired up by Demott's classroom of 'bringing things to life,' found something in Hemingway worth study, eventually.  I called it 'abandonment to the textual truths of life.'  That is how we might explain the writer's focus on the details, the texture of an afternoon on the boat out on the water, the texture of his home, because it all seems to have meaning.  And the best story, in written form, is told through describing such things as the rusty colored gin and tonic with bitters, or squeezing orange peels into the fire and the oils making different colors in the flame, or the cat's habits of going up into the avocado tree.  What do all these details mean?

Well, they are simply the shape of life, of the shape of life we all lead.  Very close to the realization that we have hands, feet, faces, legs, chests, and so forth, simple basic stuff, but stuff which has to be acknowledged.  And then, like Da Vinci's drawings, or Durer's, man, humanity, the life breathed into the human form male and female, each coming from God's sketches, takes on what human energy might look like when given form with all our different centers of energy, tribal, sexual, appetitive, emotional, expressive, mental and spiritual, the being is revealed.  Take The Old Man and the Sea.  Take The Dangerous Summer alongside it.  Which is the real one, which is the fiction?  Or rather, the same story emerges, maybe one of later life, yes, but also of a man's work, his prayers, his prayers for truth and accuracy and the presentation of a complete picture.  And if a man is led astray by his friends, that too is a truth that must be acknowledged, and the writer is not one to avoid taking in personally such a lesson, to see how it works, what it is like, to see what costs it comes with.

That's the poet's job.  To look.  To look, as they say, dramatically, unflinchingly (a term for back book covers, marketing blurbs, Polonius-style literary critique.)

There is, it must be acknowledged, an entirely high purpose behind all education.  My father's own mentor, Dr. Ray Ethan Torrey of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, describes such a thing in his little handbook, The Purpose of Science and Education.

But the work of the Buddhist Abbot, of the Professor, of the writer is not much different, when you get down to the core of it.  And the truth may be variously represented, as, say, being free of ego...

Well, personally, I found out that I had to write, that I had no particular field of academics to seek out and jealously guard.  I wanted all learning to lead in the direction that spiritual people place it in.  And I did not know how to become that kind of a teacher, given the way it seemed to be set up.  I could not write papers without an eye for the higher purpose and the mode of teaching was not so much engaged in that.  What I should have been doing, instead of being an English Major was study religion with Robert Thurman.  I was dumb about that.  Dumb about a lot of things.

And so, now what, for the writer, now that he is so abandoned to the textual truths of life that he is positioned behind a bar, at the whims of the restaurant business, an author unacknowledged.  It would  seem that his old institution is to protective of its territory to acknowledge his critique.  Dismissed as 'memoir, to be kept private.'  Dismissed by the reviewer of Kirkus Indie Review who missed directly the central piece of dialog as far as its meaning even while directly mentioning it.  Yes, the text has its faults, but it is enough of an opening of experience to allow light to shine in and with it the eye of anyone in search of the higher meaning, beyond the psychological aspect.

I should have known it would all come at a price.  Cast outside.  Treated like a freak.

You know...  It was a choice I don't think an artist can help, my sort of withdrawal from the conventional academic flow.

But it is hard, to be downgraded at that which you know yourself to be doing a good and valiant and an intelligent job at, at the things that inspire you, like you show up to play ball and they tell you to go home, or "No Irish Need Apply," something like that.  It hurts.  You feel that you're letting everyone down, and that does not make you feel good either.  And there are bound to be other relationships that get caught up in it.  It can all just leave you mute, shrugging, 'what can I do?'

You know you tried.  You know you did on a good job on the earlier sets of problems...  And it's a hard thing to explain to someone else, that you are not feeling exactly so good about things.  Something is rotten in Denmark, and yet you can't quite put your finger on it, even though it's pretty obvious.  You want to say, 'look, I'm not a rebel, I'm not an instigator or a trouble-maker,  but there is something wrong here.'  The stereotype conventions, help out the minority, they get attention...

And what would you do, what would be your instinct, after taking such hits, finding your teachers turned away, the best one gone?  You'd want to tell another person that she was whole, that she was beautiful, and that her state of goodness and even perfection will never change, and that she has the strength within, just as she is, "I like you just as you are."

But the mainstream might not see it, and end up treating you like an idiot because it seems your lot in life, maybe.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

But yes, I think it's natural for a writer to feel the need of leadership.  There is that wanting to express the truth, your own truth, the truth as you see it, your understanding, your version....

So it's natural that it all falls within a realm that is to some extent a competition.  And if you write out your version of the truth, and then you don't get any feedback at all on it, or you get the polite 'good job, however it was late and I'm giving you a D' then of course you're going to lose a bit of respect for the process.  And that's not so good for a student, because he's going to have to pay a high price, maybe for the rest of his life.

If you're a natural born writer, one at a decently young age, well, chances are your leadership is not going to be accepted.  No one is going to care all that much about your version of the truth if it's not that marketable.  And what follows, of course, is a natural form of exile.  Hey, I'm a writer, take it or leave it.  Emily Dickinson.  You leave behind an almost anonymous record.

But all that might be good for you.  Because it leads you even more to wisdom.

And I'm afraid that wisdom is more about finding things within yourself, which is the great thing about yoga of course, than finding it in materialism, or outside yourself, like, you name it, TV, Tindr, going out down on 14th Street thinking you'll meet some friendly un-selfabsorbed people.  What woman would date me anyway...  What a loser I would appear to them.

But I'll tell you, I had to, I had to, stop looking for happiness outside.  Haunted by things that happened twenty five years ago, hey that's life, wouldn't wish it on anyone.  I'd done enough damage to myself, my mind and all that.  I had to really meditate, and accept, and work to get unblocked, and away from the old numbing temptations...

And unfortunately, you can't control any of this.  It's just what happens when you're a writer, when you are, to an extent, the word.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

We pulled off the highway toward the smaller roads that would lead us to our hike, me and the boss, headed to climb Big Schloss and camp the night.  My boss, driving, a Cooper Mini, his lab in the back with our backpacks, had forgotten his German fitness rye bread, and the same kind of bread I had brought had been made into almond butter sandwiches, which would not work anyway with dinner and cheese in his French habits.  Up we came the off-ramp, stopping, turning left, rolling past the fast food restaurants on either side, the Seven Eleven, Sheetz, another gas station, a Tractor Supply in the distance, and I look at the tiny map on my iPhone and see there is a Food Lion up ahead, not far at all.  A chance to get more water and use the bathroom before being out in nature for an overnight and the hike out.  He looked through the bread aisle, not finding anything impressing, and I thought maybe, like the local Safeway here, such an item would be in the ethnic food category, a small slice of Germany between Asia and Latin America somewhere, to quickly find that there was no German nor a Kosher section.  I remember the call of nature and met him going through the checkout.

We drove back up over the highway bridge of Route 81.   He looked forward.  "Look.  They are all here.  These are the only options people have out here."  Burger King.  McDonalds.  Taco Bell.  KFC.   Pizza Hut.  The familiar colorful rooftop logos provoking habitual hunger in need of quenching, who wants a thick brick of "Fitness Bread"...  Not the healthiest, but the money makers.  As a restaurateur, this is interesting to his eye.  And I feel the same way, food as health, and look at the poor diet Americans do to themselves, the fix of dough and sugar, the combinations and choices that lead directly to obesity.  I know myself I must avoid the mainstream, conscious selections to avoid inflammation of joint and gut and breathing passages.  For much of the drive we have discussed yoga routines, mainly his at Down Dog Yoga Studios.  At one point back up the road he expressed how he would like to find a formula for a restaurant, duplicatable, not reliant on the tastes of a chef, a new one to change routines as twenty year old restaurants have developed, expected by the customers as old comforts and dishes loyal to the tradition.

We drive on, the road getting smaller and winding over the rolling hills, farmland, rustic houses, and on into small hollows with a stream running along the road, and then we turn off into the timber, and down onto a gravel fire road which leads to a small parking lot by another stream from where we will set out, up the cut-off trail to the ridge, and then up to Big Schloss.  "We are going to be in the clouds tonight."  And I smile, happy with my new trekking poles as I follow him up the trail.  The dog is carrying two cans of beer of an unspecified kind (though not Guinness) along with his own food, and I have pouch with a decent bottle of Chiroubles poured into it to go with the camp dinner of duck confit and white bean stew my boss has in his backpack.  The forest is wet, and up atop the ridge, there is a fog, and when we climb upward the limestone castle outcrop is hidden in cloud.  The conditions will make the gathering of wood for a fire not much worth the damp effort, and I am wishing maybe I brought the warmer rather than the lighter mummy bag to sleep in on my inaugural night in my new REI tent.

My boss comes and helps me with figuring out the rain fly, staking it down here at the top between the slabs of rock on a bed of pine needles of the trees brave enough for the ridge, and then he heats dinner in the single pot stove a mountain climber would use for lightness and efficiency.  My one, the old Svea Optimus, a classic and good for the fabled high altitudes, is tricker to light than the push of a button as the newer models.  The tall boy Budweisers empty, my attempt to gather dry sticks and leaves from underneath layers of rock, cautious for little inhabitants as I collect dry wood, not resulting in much of a fire, but for a few minutes of smoke and an ember as I blow, we squat down on our rocks for dinner underneath a tree.  And from our overlook over the valley, there is nothing but clouds, and the wind is picking up and the spit of rain along with it.

We talk about the boss taking the younger manager from the other restaurant to a yoga class, and being formerly a dancer, T. "did okay."  Cool.  But we all have blocks, blocks from our upbringing, and whenever you lead people you have to make them respect you.  And people will always wag their tongues and grouse about management, and you can't, as a good boss, listen to all that, but really tell them what to do.  I nod at this lesson.  The boss has just told a great story as we drove up the timber road as the tires crunch about taking his wife to dinner for her birthday at the fancy new Fiola Mare and the failures of management there to bring forth a smooth night worthy of the time.  There is another good lesson in the story of the departed manager, who seems really to have taken a typical punch-the-clock uninspired American attitude toward the noble business of hospitality and making people happy.

It is still light out, the boss offers me a slice of Beaufort cheese, the cloud we're in seems thicker and wetter and moving more, and then it's time to turn in.  "I'm cold."  "Me too."  I take a walk out to the ridge, crossing the nifty sturdy wooden footbridge, to the edge, and with darkness falling and wind's power on me, my plastic cup in one hand still with some Beaujolais in it, it is a good idea to retreat now to the tent, take off wet clothes, hope my bag will be warm enough and try to rest my way into a decent sleep.  The wind howls, and I think of the account of Edmund Hillary up on Camp Nine perched against the rock and how the winds of Everest must indeed be unimaginably frightening, sleeping upright, back against the wall before the final summit attempt.

The night is taken as survival, windy as it is.  I pull my mummy bag, rated to 45 degrees, tight so I'm just able to breathe, pull the wet windbreaker over me as a blanket--it helps--and will not remember sleeping much, getting up once at 12:30 with a real undeniable need to pee, and then, why not, hang my dungarees, socks and underwear over a mountain laurel, before tucking back in to hide way the remainder of the night. Soon, as it grows light out, a feathered creature makes a continuous two-note announcement of sunrise after the night, no bears have come, and finally I hear my name called in the morning air, okay.  I cough up some phlegm, and step, bottom half naked except for my running shoes to retrieve my pants and underwear and socks, which in the wind have reasonably dried except for the thicker pair of socks.   The sky is blue, and the valley below has a green blanket over all its littler ridges of fresh trees and there are turkey vultures sailing at equal height to ours and my boss is sitting in lotus position facing the sun looking down into a book.

In the morning, after the struggles of the night, the dog having shivered through it, we are allowed a deep conversation about the transformations yoga and meditation allows.   Not one for organized religion the boss tells me a bit of his family history, how his ancestors held out in a mountaintop castle in Mazamet in the Languedoc as the Catholics persecuted contrary minds, burnt people at the stake, massacred the town of Bezier, pursued the good people of this the Cathar country who had their mountain top holdouts in several areas here in the South of France.  I have ancestors, too, who seemed to have been Huguenots.  The book he is reading notes of how three billion people have to get by on less than two dollars a day.  He offers me some of his Souchang Tea, which I accept gladly in my little metal stove cup, giving it a quick rinse and wipe remembering the dog licking the remainder of dinner from its sides, the leaves resting at the bottom of the smoky dark tea.  He also has some mango apple banana pureed smoothie, and some carrot juice too.  And we continue our talk back and forth about the possibility of deeper human reality and of how to deal with the bad thoughts we all have.  Compassion, compassion for the self, and I can say, yes, I've learned some of this in therapy.

And perhaps in the context of the Cathars and the Huguenots and those who generally wish to avoid organized religion and their adolescent stages and growing pains, outwardly inflicted, serving people a decent healthy dinner and some good cheer with hospitality truly is noble.

I take the rain flap off the tent and hang it out to dry in the sun, and start to take apart the tent, trying to be efficient, and to get things cleaned up, the tent shaken out.  The talk might have gone on longer, maybe I cut it off just a bit short.

We hike out.  I follow him, this tall sturdy man who has done years of karate when time and restaurants allowed, who had to suffer four years without yoga because of a hamstring pull which needed the time, who has a lower heart rate than I, who exercises more than I do, and I have to keep it at a quick jog almost, my pole tips tacking tack tack tack against the rocks of the narrow trail.

There, finally, the road, and my calves I can sense will be tightening up pretty soon.  In the car, we decide to follow a lead on a Buddhist monastery somewhere not far away, as we drive the back way down from Wolf Gap, through the trout stream pastured valley we've looked down upon, hearing dogs woof in the distance, seen the lights from houses and cars at night.  One day maybe we will do a four day hike to circumambulate this valley, and it is gratifying to look left and see Big Schloss and even the wooden foot bridge above us.

The monastery, near Capon Springs, is a worthy stop.  Our visit unplanned, a young monk, ordained two weeks before, gives us a placid little tour of the meditation hall, the greenhouse, the library, the room in which the abbot himself is seated lotus talking to a few folks, as we take turns keeping the dog from barking.  He is concerned about the monastery's cat with the dog around, but reassured, lets us walk around up to the men's dormitory.  Perhaps we might make a visit during a non-retreat period, stay overnight, meet the abbot of this Theravadan society.

And then we are back on 81, and then soon on to 66, following behind a group of four Harleys with leather jackets with "Legacy Vets" on the back.  Traffic gets thick as we get closer in, then comes to a stop, an accident up ahead.   Emergency vehicles clustered on the left side of the highway, the metro train conductor peering back from his open window, a woman beside a minivan facing a policeman, and looking back myself I catch a glimpse of what might be motorcycles lying on their sides.  Further in I look out at all the town houses on the way and all the cars, and wonder how I'll ever afford real rent or real estate in this sprawling empire I do not neatly fit in to.

Dropped off quickly at East Falls Church I ride standing with my backpack to Foggy Bottom and walk home slowly, calling my mom along the way.  But home is quiet and I am back, stuck in my strange situation, alone again.  I take out the packed tent, the rain flap and the tent footprint and hang them over the clothesline to let them dry out.  I have a piece of farmer's cheese, reheat a plain hamburger, eating it before it's even hot, and fall into a nap into which the snooze falls into the dream as a strange vibration like a  nagging conscience, a sense of being unsettled.

I hobble out to the grocery store, Glen's, to restock, a roasted bird for dinner, green vegetables I will hopefully cook at some point, after protein needs are met, not much in the way of sweet potatoes but the ones the size of coastal stones.  I grab a six of Guinness Extra Stout on the way home, to absorb the adventure, while Somm plays in the background, leaving me with no desire to be such.

My cold has returned as I wake in the morning.  But it is nice to be up in the morning, as if the night and the sunny morning up on the ridge has returned me from the nocturnal pattern of winter and shifts and maybe too much wine at night back into a creature of the daylight.  Hot water with lemon and green tea, as I write.  I am still too much in recovery to have enthusiasm for my yoga routing.

And I think of how, as I absorb the boss man's wisdom, I failed at leadership, how I failed at a crucial time.  For wanting to rise and be myself as an English major writing papers as I saw fit, giving them the time they needed, but this not being good for grades nor morale nor my guidance toward future professional activity of the appropriate sort, and of how this bled over onto a personal relationship I tried to lead, but utterly failing at it, leaving the two of us estranged, dissatisfied, an appropriate friendship of some kind between the sexes derailed and destroyed, left to nag me from the past in a repetitive way, and how much better if I'd actually been a leader, as a young man is supposed to be in these and all situations.

Maybe failure at leadership is one of those lessons that awaits one in life, that one steps toward, discovering some final inevitable obscurity, a sense of the uselessness of effort, and then the final retreat from public life and the pattern of the mainstream as well.  And one is left merely to provide whatever insight or wisdom which might innately reside or come out of such unhappy lessons only in some passive way, as if one were, too, to be a kind of mountaintop monk such as grieving people might seek out from time to time.

The boss's lesson of the story of the man who saved the monks of a Shoalin Temple, by teaching them karate, and getting them into shape after their weakness and vulnerability to whatever marauders whim, sticks to the mind.   And a bath is poured, with epsom salt, to ease calf muscles which have tightened to make walking awkward after my day of twenty thousand steps.  The beginning of another journey, perhaps, hopefully.

That lesson, found in my own failure of leadership, a failure I must own, perhaps that is a lesson that has to be learned, sooner or later, in all lives.  I found that I could not plant the seeds of any kind of real happiness outside the self, as much as I tried habitually to do that.  I find now that one can only be happy finding a contentment within as one might come across without seeking it anywhere but in the present.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yes, Sancho, now that I am seeing a therapist lady I see how you, noble busboy of this storied knight-errant barkeep, you too are therapeutic.  Someone to talk to, to bring out my deepest and most noble of thoughts and then to reflect upon them, watering the ground that more seed may sprout.

Have you ever observed the family dynamic?  Well, yes, of course you have.  When everyone wishes for the same basic thing, accommodation, love, a sharing, bringing one's own unique personal tastes into play.  And then what happens, in through the chinks, come crossed signals, miscommunications, well-intentioned efforts that lead to the misfiring of wishes.  And so, when you find someone you want to share good things and love with, but then fall, because of the fondness of those wishes dear to the heart, into miscommunications, such as might happen between a slow, thoughtful country boy, and a lively fast-minded beauty of the city, i.e., a girl used to that pushy New Yorker mode, 'order now, speak up, or get out of the way, me first, that whole way of life, it is because of the obvious miscommunications that love actually deepens, almost impossibly.  And because of it all, we say to ourselves, on the deepest of levels, ah-haaa, this person must be family--look!

Would that we were not all so separate, so that we could express our deep love and our wishes for the other's perfect well-being, so to lift the other up to the finest of life as we wish, by out inherent nature, unselfishly, without a single thought for our own comfort.  And that state, of selflessness, brought on by the recognition our entire inner being and our core and our hearts wake up to, in this world too seems the seat of many a problem.

And I am afraid that after years of such sustaining unselfish love, where do we find ourselves but in this current state of poverty and concern for our own futures which we should have planned for differently in this present world....

Ah, Sancho, Sancho...  we have indeed become ourselves, haven't we....  What we always feared, what we always wanted.  Exactly that fine wish to do something noble and gallant and beyond ourselves, beyond our humble capabilities, but nevertheless, pulling it off, at least in some way, a little footnote to our efforts, such as they will say, 'he was a nice guy.'

Perhaps, it is simply better, dear Sancho, faithful sidekick to my foolishness, to act on one's own desires and wishes, to let other people simply deal with it, as they say...  yes, I wonder...

Maybe we are better off to directly storm the castle of our fondest desires, a Crusader, setting the world aright with his sword and his lance, chasing away the selfish infidels.

Ahh, Sancho {in the mode of the turn to earthy conversations held between gentleman in the quiet of a noisy restaurant, with regard for the pleasures of lady's offerings} you know of the castle I wish to storm, that which a gentleman can take from behind without any show of cowardice.

Yes, there has to be some humor allowed in all this, as when our author, gallant old Miguel, describes as a man doing that which no other man can for him, speaking of a certain quite necessary daily bodily function, which reminds me too, of Saramago, another fine chap, god rest his soul, who describes the body as having openings and closings all of which must be in working order for life to go on.

One may pursue things either as a rich man or a poor man devoted.  It's all a matter of taste, in seeing the value in that which one comes up with, one man's junk being another man's treasure.  "Nothing is, but thinking makes it so," a clown says somewhere, in Hamlet, I believe, and yes, I believe.

Oh, but look at the world.  Look at all the miscommunications, all the selfish desires people chase after, destroying what's left of the world, drill, baby, drill.  When all of who we are really is plain old you and me, just trying to get along, cause no harm, love thy neighbor and thyself, and all that sort of thing.  Woe unto the world because of offences...

It's sad to realize we all, she and I, wanted the same thing.  But that I had my language and my ways, and she had hers.  And here I stand before you, Mr. Sancho, and you are less a fool than I am, I really think.

Ah, Sancho...  This may come as no surprise to you, this coming revelation, which is, {clears his throat--'ah hem'} that I am the biggest of fools.  I wanted to be a writer.  I wanted nothing from it, other than just simply doing it, whatever it was.  As if it too were a bodily function necessary to the continuation of certain life forms, maybe even the entire world itself for all I know.  Yes, I was thinking I was just, seamlessly, a part of the world, thus good things would come, organically, out of fulfilling the worldly function, eventually there being a transcendent purpose to it all, as I have often prayed, even as I cross myself as I leave the place where I live by the grace of God and mount my bicycle to come to work.

'Tis a world that come down hard on you, Sancho, even when they like you, the latter a sometimes secretive thing.  And all I've written, I'm afraid it's not of much use.  Good to move on, to do your yoga, to unblock chakras and things that have been blocked for years and years.  And maybe I shall put my time to better use writing a treatise to, say, the pleasures of anal sex with my love Dulcinea, which, of course, as any writer knows, must be first researched by various stages before it may be written and find its form on paper.

What higher, what better, what more honest way is there to say "I love you," but "you're crazy!"  As she in fact once plainly yelled at me.  To which I said, "crazy to bring flowers to a beautiful girl," which was to say, yes, exactly, I am completely crazy, and you are in fact kind to notice that, my lovely love.

It's taken me years to get unblocked enough to realize that in all its beauty.  A myriad diamond jewel of human life, so, maybe my great chivalric story A Hero For Our Time was not a complete waste of knightly time.

And with this great utterance, he drew a mandala of ketchup on a hamburger patty reheated in the toaster over, sliced an onion thinly, and moved, as he ate, chewing each bite, to get ready for work, Amen.