Monday, May 31, 2010

On Dreams, Waking

For the most part, I no longer dream when I sleep. Gone are the nocturnal adventures of flying Superman-like around familiar places or walking down the middle school hall in tighty-whiteys. Gone is the house I grew up in transported to another time and place and being laid out differently. Gone is the running from or battling gangs or monsters. Gone are the falling dreams and gone are the subconscious hook-up sessions that leave you confused upon waking.

Sometimes I miss dreaming. But it cruised out of town in a land speeder with sound sleep, which is another thing missing at night.

Usually though, I don't miss dreaming at night because I have always more than made up for it with dreams during the day. My mind has been known to wander locally, continentally, internationally, globally, celestially, with little or no cue.

Geographically my mind is often led to places like England's Lake District or anywhere around New Zealand. The Hawaii of Merwin and Jack Johnson and the H.U.R.T. trail races. Mountain monasteries in France and half-conjured ponderings of Inca civilization in South America.

Sometimes my mind is immersed thru-hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail or drools at the Trans-Rockies or Trans-Alpine Runs and others it hangs with a pint at the Eagle and Child Pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams gabbed together.

The obvious cues to kick-start these mental travels are books, magazines and movies--pilgrimage porn that cannonballs the mind to their documented destination.

Museums have been known to hotwire a journey as has music. In Chicago, within a few blocks you can meander through the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Art Institute, which give you any number of vehicles to transcend time and space (no flux capacitor required).

But I find that I don't need much in the way of external prompts. It might be taking a different route to get to a familiar destination. Or going for a long run.

When solo runs peek over 20 miles they can turn into sufferfests for me. I've discussed the reasons I run here before, but certainly the mind-freeing/sweat lodge style transcendence sometimes necessary on a long run has to fit in there as well. Daydreaming moves beyond opportunity to straight necessity. A wandering mind is a means of survival, trying to will distraction to reality in order to dull the pain.

This is a long-winded, winding path to where my mind started out this morning--where dreams and will meet. That itch or impulse to act on a dream, to will it into reality. To bring a fantastic notion, through vision, planning, work, into something you make happen.

And that's where I like to spend my time and mind: on making something out of my waking dreams.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I wonder

I am back to Hass, who says this morning that,

It must be a gift of evolution that humans
Can't sustain wonder. We'd never have gotten up
From our knees if we could.

And I am with Bob on this as "Wonder" has
always been a wonder of mine. It stamped itself
known and unknown on me since before I heard
Aristotle posit that "philosophy begins in wonder."

As I sit with the taste of coffee strong on my lips and tongue
I overhear a conversation between a clock here in the room
and a morning chorus of birds chatting up the sunlight.

Clock and birds are incessant cacklers and I wonder
how long they've been having this talk and
who will grow silent first

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"I Reminisce..."

It was a GT Pro Performer. The nicest BMX bike in Oxford. We were back in the "Bajas," which were carved out of mud and clay dredged out of Town Creek.

It was one of Farmar's first times on the GT in the Bajas and four of us were hitting one launch-worthy clay and wood mogul over and over. He came off a nice jump, decent height, chrome shining almost poster-worthy, then, as he landed his feet came off the pedals as he came down on the seat...

Rack 'em... I still see everyone coming off the jump in replay slow motion and still hear the empathetic moan from the three of us watching as Farmar broke in his bike and himself ;)

Funny how the place you grow up can change so much, but still be the same. Two of the four Baja bikers that day--Dave Hensinger and Kam Coyner--died way too early. The Bajas as a place, which were a crown jewel for Oxford youth, have long since been leveled and turned into a neighborhood.

But when we take our girls swimming at the Strand or have dinner at my aunt's or eat ice cream and swing in the park, I am connected directly back to that time and that place and those people.

I see the black and yellow hornet colors of Dave's bike; see him coming around third base on a triple-turned-inside the park home run on an errant throw to third with his red batting helmet charging home; I hear him singing along to Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science," or Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," which was the first rap song I caught wind of.

I see Kam's digs at the Academy House; I see him as a large-sized 11-year-old left-handed pitcher mowing down hitters or trying to choose between the "Big Barrel" or the "White Lightning" bats in the on-deck circle. I see all of us sitting in my living room watching "Escape from New York" for the 22nd time and Kam busting up as he yelled, "You're the Duke!!" with a scene towards the end. I still smile anytime I say or hear the name "Snake Pliscon."

It's funny the memories that walk or run or ride their bikes through the streets of Oxford when I am there now. Memories of a time that kids there now (what few there are) can't really recreate today, when you are no longer allowed to swim off the Oxford Ferry dock.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sitting cross-legged after reading Li-Po

I've taken to writing cross-legged,
attempting to empty my mind first,
sweeping out clutter,
making room for first thoughts, which
may or may not come.

Maybe we both sit cross-legged,
me and the first, clear thoughts,
each waiting for the other,
together in a conversation

before speaking

before words.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shoot the Moon

Neil Armstrong had some stones. Imagine chilling under the stars in the 1930s throwing out dreams and aspirations and a kid says, "Yeah, I'm gonna walk on the moon."

The same kid laying that track down for parents or teachers and the hollow smiles-turned straight ridicule that must have come his way. Imagine the naysayers when Neil actually rocked his lunar hops.

It's one thing to have the stones to dream big. The drive and wherewithal to keep at it and build the foundation and means to get to your dream isn't something that most folks can claim to have come close to.

I'm not sure what that means to most of us who have jobs that never occur to the kid-version of ourselves, but I'm pretty sure that following dreams isn't the same as your present or desired job title.  It's more a matter of allowing yourself to be led by wonder, at whatever age, and then following the path it lays out before you. It's letting your soul guide your actions rather than just going through the motions and collecting a paycheck. It's maintaining a child-like approach to "what-am-I-going-to-do-today?" and backing it up with the focus that transforms it from daydream to blueprint.

It's cool to be around people who are that creativity and vision and fun and follow-through. It's cool when we can occasionally, even for a glimpse, be one of those people. It's something to work towards every day.

Re-reading the Dhammapada of late, a passage on radiant presence:

However young,
The seeker who sets out upon the way
Shines bright over the world.

But day and night
The person who is awake
Shines in the radiance of the spirit.

As someone who stares at an increasing number of gray hairs in the beard when I look in the mirror, I think I'd add "However old" to the opening. People grow and change. Dreams grow and change. Here's hoping they grow and change together.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Duality of Man

I've never met Lawrence Kasdan. Prior to yesterday, I'm not sure I could have placed his name right off. At the same time, I can rap with anyone who will throw something like this out there as fodder:

" Most movies are about this same issue -- Grand Canyon is about it. It's about how part of you wants to follow your desires, and the other part wants to do what's right and responsible. And one side is the dark side, and the other is the light side. Every one of us faces it every day. We live certain kinds of lives in the light of day, and at night all our fears come out. That's what most art is about."

Kasdan is a screenwriter. He's written a couple movies you might know: Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill, Return of the Jedi, The Bodyguard and Grand Canyon to name a handful. Funny, I remember watching Grand Canyon in a friend's room at N.C. State and immediately cruising back to my room with a permanent marker and scribbling a long quote from the movie on the ceiling. Kasdan writes tight, crisp, funny, insightful dialogue that makes his movies work.

But this morning I am more interested in the above quote, which he gave during an interview when asked about writing Empire Strikes Back. The question asked what Kasdan thought when George Lucas told him he wanted to make Darth Vader Luke's father. His answer was that it made perfect sense per the rest of the quote.

I know that struggle--following desires vs. doing what's right and responsible, living one way during the day and another at night--seems like almost daily. I like to get up early and write or run or do stuff that charges the ole soul, yet I also stay up til midnight or beyond far too often, doing nothing productive, watching Road House (not that there is anything wrong with Road House, mind you ;) or any other movie that I've seen before. I'll meditate or do yoga and be completely chill then suddenly feel the need to yell to get a point across or move the get-ready-for-school routine in the morning. I can feel a pull between what I want to do and know I should do for being the actualized self I know I want to be and saying fu-- it and rolling with the gluttonous gang to sate desires.

There have been major points during younger years where the Dark Side (if we're going to talk in semi-cliched Star Wars metaphors) has driven the train and the life trajectory hasn't gone anywhere good (please see St. James at the end, most of N.C. State for me). But rolling with the consequences of my actions then has also brought me to some of the brightest Light. If I hadn't had to roll out of Raleigh and wound up back on the Shore, I would have never been at the Blue Miracle show at the Avalon Theater where I met Robin.

And I am not one to drop high seriousness on any matter, fully subscribing to and living the notion that the fun, the zany, the childlike are prime movers as much as gravity. But when I read Kasdan's interview and come across a quote like that I recognize something of myself in it. It resonates and brings me back to a non-Kasdan written movie scene, from Full Metal Jacket, when Matthew Modine and company have cruised over to Vietnam and Modine, the Joker, the journalist, the Marine, the trained killer is sporting a peace symbol button while he has "Born to Kill written on his helmet. When pressed, it comes to this:

Colonel: "You write 'Born to Kill' on your helmet, and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?"
Joker: "No, sir."
Colonel: "Well what is it supposed to mean?"
Joker: "I don't know, sir."
Colonel: "You don't know very much do you?"
Joker: "No sir."
Colonel: "You better get your head and you ass wired together or I will take a giant shit on you."
Joker: "Yes sir."
Colonel: "Now answer my question, or you'll be standing tall before The Man."
Joker: "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man sir."
Colonel: "The what?"
Joker: "The duality of man, the Jungian thing, sir."

That exchange has stuck with me after one watching and after multiple watching. "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man." Yep, something like that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

Sitting on the back deck, Mother's Day, heavy wind has dislodged and claimed three baby birds, rolling fodder for our Golden Retriever.

Anna wanders the back yard clipping random branches, compiling a nest of sorts of her own. She's barefoot in cold grass with kinetic hair reflecting a dancing mind in motion. She skips by, reads what I am writing, smiles, and is off.

The wind is central, primary, pervasive. Last night it was a loud lullaby laughing through open windows. Today it flung sailboats along the river and applauded our sea glass hunt along the beach.

Sometimes when time presents itself, I'm not sure whether to read, to write or just be still.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sweet Sublime

The Abell Brothers brought Sublime to Easton (really Eric did and Wes brought bass, but that's another notion). I remember being home from N.C. State, early 1990s, drinking Genesee Ale and listening to a band no one had then heard of. And to me, they lived up to their name, in the way they fused musical genres together to create something that stuck like peanut butter to the soul.

I went back down to Raleigh and special ordered "40 Ounces to Freedom" from Record and Tape Traders on
Hillsborough Street and as a bunch of us listened to it down there, it continued to stick A year or two later the band would take off. But this really isn't a rumination on Sublime as a band, but on the sublime or the Sublime, if you prefer.

It's a word I've always dug. It would take me a few years to get to Washington College, to suffer through British Neoclassicism and come wide-eyed like coming downstairs Christmas morning to Dr.
Gillin's British Romanticism class and Blake and Wordsworth, world changers for me, and to catch Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," to glimpse this:

... a sense of sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth;

That sense of the sublime, which Willy was poo-
poo'd for by the high-minded jackarses of his time, is a sense of the sublime that feels like it has always run spigot-like through my own soul. And when I read that, I was likely tucked in a study carol on the second floor of the WAC library, it wasn't that I was just reading them, but that somehow I was recognizing them; I knew them somehow. They were a part of my own truth, written into a core code that is activated by the Sublime. Which Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and "Prelude" triggered. Something they helped create.

Monday night I hung around DC and met some friends to go hear another one of my soul brothers, W.S. Merwin, speak and read at the Folger Library. It began as a conversation between Merwin and a Maryland-based poet Stanley Plumly, who later introduced Merwin, in one of the great intros you can give someone, and he brought his intro to a head by saying that for 50+ years Merwin had been "creating the sublime rather than waiting for it to arrive."

That is a statement I think most of the sold-out theater knew/knows to be true as well. But when it comes to the sublime, that recognition isn't something that is
transmitted to a group, but is more like a connecting and dwelling of souls in a groove. And everyone knows, "The groove IS in the heart" ;)

So the sublime and words from the other night that got me thinking of Wordsworth and grooving with Merwin and
vibing on a word, on a band, on a resonance, on a recognition.