The Years Teach Much

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The years teach much which the days never know,” and as time goes on I feel that much deeper.

I carry a weighty sadness for not being able to get out of my own way through the years, and I don’t know whether I was just lazy, or didn’t really want what I said I wanted, or what I said mattered, or if it truly was that most of the time getting through my day was a laudable accomplishment.

I have so many questions if this is not a random universe and my being is not an astounding stroke of luck in such a universe.

I don’t know what the difference is between someone who attains their goals and lives a fulfilled life and someone who doesn’t – even when they sincerely try – or believe they sincerely try.

It’s not like nothing happened. A whole life was lived and managed – for better or worse.

I grew up, procreated, and am coming into my declining years – kicking and screaming.

I am a writer. I am writing. I have been an actor, and I have been a singer – in a band even!

Those were the goals I had. The famous part eluded me. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I was a hurt, vulnerable person in a sick and suffering world, and likely would have been prey as I had been anyway – but maybe not. There is no control me to know for sure.

Maybe I would have had protection from the predators – or lots of dumb luck.

Or I could have died in a back alley somewhere, or become what was done to me.

I did none of that.

I did want to end me – sometimes still do – but it’s far less than it was (most of the time.)

Worries about facing consequences in a spiritual realm kept me from offing myself – that and my son.

I rose as much as I fell though. I battled my way back after every down turn. The problem is the cycle never ended. It was exhausting. It is exhausting.

I couldn’t find a medication that worked, or that I could tolerate. I know several people who have said that they would likely not be alive if they had not found the right medication. Why am I such an anomaly?

That’s rhetorical. I just am, is the answer. It’s not personal. It just sucks.

If I did choose this, why can’t I un-choose it? If karma is real, what the hell did I do (or what hell did I do)? Why don’t we remember how we screwed up before so we can avoid repeating it?

I look around at the world and it seems to be on a perpetual rinse and repeat doom cycle everywhere.

If there is a harmonious, functioning, peaceful society who won’t tolerate predators, they have hidden themselves well away from the rest of us. If there’s a secret handshake, or phrase, or code – I want to find it out and join them.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

The Story So Far – A Pirate’s Tale

Did I ever tell you that I grew up on a pirate vessel?

There were eight total – a small pirate crew – nine if you counted the dog.

Yes, it is unusual to have a dog on a pirate ship.

She was a good dog though. The best.

She knew when storms were brewing, and the crew knew to heed her ears down and tail lowered.

The captain was like most pirate captains you read about – abusive, demanding, unpredictable.

The captain’s wife was part of the crew. Again – super unusual.

I would not have wanted to be first mate on this ship.

First mate is a misnomer, by the way, or at least it was on this ship.

The captain trusted no one to run the ship, but demanded more than was possible from the first mate – and second – and the whole crew. As you imagine, the crew was bone weary before the ship was very far out to sea.

But out to sea she went, that shitty old vessel.

The crew was constantly plugging leaks, and even though they did their best job (and also never signed up to be pirates), they were met with the captain’s insane demands for more and better.

The youngest of the crew had the misfortune to be incorrigible. Because he was so different, and the captain’s wife promised to keep him out of sight and doing the only thing he was good at, which was taking things apart (whether they needed to be or not), he was left mostly alone.

The captain drank – a lot – as many captains are rumored to do – and the more he drank, the more onerous his instructions and demands. Even the captain’s wife began imbibing as much as the captain, and their fighting became more and more ferocious until finally the captain challenged his wife to a duel.

Ok, there wasn’t actually a challenge, but the captain did tell his wife to walk the plank because he wanted to see how quickly the sharks would get her.

She did walk the plank with the captain’s musket trained on her – and she plunged into the murky depths.

The rest of the crew did not know what to do. And only three of them were on deck when the captain challenged her thus, and they got themselves below decks as fast as possible and started pushing barrels and crates, and all manner of objects to thwart the captain’s attempts at finding new targets.

Turns out, the captain’s wife jumped straight into a pod of humpback whales on their way to their breeding grounds, and they took pity on the strange creature they seemed to know was not of the sea (the lack of gills or fins was probably a giveaway).

The whales surrounded and buoyed her up to the stern where she was able to climb onboard unnoticed by the captain.

But the whales weren’t done.

The captain’s wife edged her way toward the ladder to reach the crew below decks and assess any damage in her absence while the captain screamed obscenities from the bow into the night air.

The captain was so enraged that he walked onto the plank, challenging Poseidon himself to a duel.

The whales took that very moment to ram the ship’s side, and the captain fell open-mouthed into the drink.

The first mate climbed up to the deck to see what had bashed into the ship, and he saw the captain flailing about in the sea.

He turned away and set a new course to the first harbor without a backward glance.

Most of the crew came back on deck to assess the damage for themselves, surprised and delighted to see a group of whales breaching nearby, spouting and gamboling through the deep.

Several crew mates watched as the whales surrounded the flailing captain before dragging him down to Davey Jones’ locker.

The captain’s wife, unaccustomed to freedom, decided to finish the barrel of rum left in the hold and was no good to anyone for the rest of the trip.

The crew managed the best they could until they found the nearest land.

The youngest crew member did not come above board after the captain was relieved of his command because he had been terrified by the captain’s screaming, and the whale’s blows against the ship, and convinced himself that rival pirates were about to come aboard and kill the whole crew.

He locked himself in the hold and ran in circles until he finally knocked himself out when he ran into a beam he mistook for a group of marauding pirates.

After the crew docked at Satan’s Den, the nearest harbor the first mate found, the crew disembarked, carrying the unconscious youngest crew member with them.

They found shelter above the village tavern.

The two oldest crew mates sold the pirate vessel for a more seaworthy ship, replenished their stores, and told the crew that they were setting out for the new world. The captain’s wife was sad to see them go, but she chose to stay ashore and kept the four other crew members with her.

Later, in relief at being liberated from the terrible captain, the captain’s wife went down to the tavern where there was laughter and drink, and she stayed all night.

The rest of the weary crew went up to their quarters and slept.

The next morning, the captain’s wife was nowhere to be found, so the four crew members talked about what they should do. They decided to set out from Satan’s Den to find a life away from the sea.

The youngest crew members missed the captain’s wife, and after tearful goodbyes with the next two oldest crew members, they turned back to Satan’s Den to wait for her return.

The captain’s wife did return several days later when the youngest crew members were about to give up hope, but she seemed annoyed at seeing them waiting for her.

She told them that a group of landlubbers she met at the tavern told her about a life she could never have imagined existed, and they wanted her to come with them. She reluctantly said the youngest two crew members could come with her.

They looked at each other, each deciding that their best chance at survival was following the captain’s wife.

Unfortunately, the youngest crew member only knew how to function out at sea, and even though the next oldest tried to help him learn the ways of being on land, he told her that dragons were surrounding them and wanted to burn them and eat them.

Even though the older crew member could not see the dragons, the youngest insisted they were there.

She didn’t know what to do, and the captain’s wife had started out without them.

The youngest was too afraid to live on the land or at sea, and even though she tried and tried, she could not help him.

She gave him all she knew how to give, and told him where she would be if he ever needed her.

And that’s the story so far.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Go Tell It On The Mountain

James Baldwin’s book: Go Tell It On The Mountain is a masterful work.

Set in three sections, the narrative weaves the struggle of a family and its individual components through their church lives, and their salvation or resistance to their salvation.

What happens around them and throughout their experience as black people, whether in the south or in the north, elevates the characters’ deep existence in God’s world. Their religious belief and expression is their answer to enduring senseless violence and unwarranted hatred threaded throughout their lives.

The themes of sin and redemption, or striving for redemption, of rage, and of being saved – yet still a sinner – is felt in each page, in each individual’s journey.

As the novel opens with the eldest son, John, recalling his family’s church rituals and ‘the sinners’ the family passes on their way to Sunday services, the reader peeks at the family’s life in Harlem through John’s eyes. John expresses embarrassment by the demeanor and characters of the ‘sinners’ they pass as the family walks the four blocks to their storefront church, where their father is a deacon. John’s brother Roy expresses amusement at the ‘sinners’ behavior he witnesses as they walk past, and he expresses an attraction to that life.

Snatches of gospel song and verse propel the narrative forward through the several main characters’ thoughts and experiences, while the women elders and other sisters of the church, hover in the background, or come forward in prayer for the characters’ collective and individual souls throughout.

Instances of the family’s reality in a white world are shown through several scenes, but do not overpower the narrative of these characters’ lives. The reader experiences the world of the various characters and their choices, but are left to make of it what they will as they are propelled through the pages in a sometimes raw and dreadful torment.

The narrative compels the reader to bear witness – to understand the requirements of God to these characters – a forsaken people and their cries into the wilderness. The reader is kept rooted in each character’s living reality outside of the church, while unfurling a deep sense of these lives, and in the lives of their community through their spiritual connections and disconnections, and knowledge that their nearness to God is their only succor inside or outside of the human world.

Sometimes The Journey Feels Like Forever

“November would be unbearable were it not for knowledge of spring.”

I wish I could remember the author of that quote. An internet search turned up nothing, and I am probably misremembering it, but that is the gist of it at any rate.

I heard it back in my college days, studying literature, and the edge of my brain is saying it was a woman writer in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th century.

I’m thinking of this quote in terms of my mother, beyond this physical world now. I suppose spring represents the mystical realm, where I believe I will see those who mattered to me again. At least the thought sustains me in these darkening days.

The large maple tree in our yard, so recently flush with green leaves – with life – stands bare again as the year cycles. The birth and death of its foliage every year reminds me that I will cycle too, but unlike those leaves, I will not regenerate in the spring – at least not here.

My mother told me once that she heard in her mind: “we’re waiting,” when she stood outside on a frigid winter day, wondering what happens to the leafless trees through the long winter months.

Are you waiting now, Mom?

I glance at that tree through my window, and think about my mother having cycled into the underworld. She is literally under the ground now – no word on what happened to her spirit or soul.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were spirit journalists – envoys from wherever they are now – sending their observations on the work-a-day spirit world back into this physical realm where we could pick up their papers and journals, or read their blogs?

I’d particularly like to read Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) observations. I’m sure my mother would too.

She had a good sense of humor, and appreciated irony and satire.

I took a trip to my mother’s old trailer, and was depressed about the state of it.

All the wood and the walls and the ceiling and floor are rotting away. All I could think was “as above, so below.” I try not to think about my mother decomposing in her grave – but she always spoke almost reverently about becoming “worm food.”

A grave robber broke into Mozart’s tomb and was shocked to see him sitting there, furiously erasing what looked like one of his symphonies.

“What are you doing?” blurted out the startled robber.

“I’m decomposing!” replied Mozart. (one of my mother’s favorite silly jokes)

Besides missing laughing, joking, and talking with her, it strikes me that I probably never knew my mother as she saw herself, and I didn’t particularly like aspects of my mother that can bring up terribleness even now.

I see my mother through my lens of need, often forgetting that her neglect and dysfunction helped cause much of my disturbed emotional being.

But, I still love her for what she was able to do – for her trying to do better. I remember how she was there for me when my son was born, and throughout his growing up – even though I curse the hell that was wired into my brain, which hurt my ability be the mother I had wanted to be. Even so, I did far better with my son than was done for me.

People like to quibble on the nature vs nurture question, but time and again we see those who mostly had what they needed as children doing far better than those who didn’t. All you need is one appropriate, concerned and loving caregiver to get you through awful circumstances, and perhaps even thrive, but not everyone gets that. Humans are resilient, and I know that we continue on regardless – I and my siblings are proof of that – but we still paid, and in some ways, continue to pay for what we endured.

We are all on a heroes journey. We all suffer, face challenges large and small, and we all have the potential for victory. But those who don’t slay their dragons are not less worthy, they’re just less celebrated, or honored for having done their best. They “failed” to vanquish the darkness, but they still tried.

Sometimes there’s more to love in a loser than in a winner. We can all relate to loss.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Rainy Monday

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” from Rainy Days and Mondays, Carpenters, 1971 album

I wish I could empirically know if it is my mother’s spirit that I feel in certain moments like this morning when I heard her voice inside me say “what a rainy day,” as I looked out over the tiny garden this morning.

Her voice came unbidden. I wasn’t thinking about her in that moment, but I’ve been thinking of her since.

Are there gardens wherever she is – if she’s anywhere at all anymore?

There must be gardens, because she’d create one.

Doesn’t all our creativity speak to something beyond us? We dream, and plan, and build. We create worlds within worlds – aquariums of fish sometimes replete with real or plastic plants, old time scuba outfitted people, little plastic treasure chests, or practical items like miniature caves or structures where the fish can swim through or hide.

There’s Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona – a town I once briefly lived in – where a dreamer designed and built a sustainable living environment for when we have thoroughly trashed this one (as we seem unable to stop ourselves from doing).

My mother was curious about everything. She pondered life’s mysteries, and whether we continually recycle into flesh beings – or whatever forms we might take in an endlessly diverse universe.

I could and did talk to her about anything, and while I still have my scholarly and philosophical friend who also ponders the extraordinary, and the mundane, my mother’s voice is silenced except for memories, and a few video and audio recordings.

But maybe her voice isn’t silenced. Maybe consciousness resides outside the body. Maybe my mother has just changed form, and carries all that she gained from being on Earth with her – willing her thoughts into my brain once in a while?

It’s frustrating that I can’t know for sure, and it feels like searching for the roots of truth in mythology.

I once read that God(dess) is an “unknowable essence,” but has sent, and will send, messengers throughout all time to tell the rest of us why we exist, and what It hopes from us.

My mother once read me some other sage’s words: “Why do you seek God(dess)? Does a fish seek water?” I don’t know the author of those words, but they often sustain me.

I sense my mother’s smile and encouragement too, and that will have to suffice.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Battle-ready?

If you do not have depression I would like you to offer gratitude to your well-built brain right now – or your lack of childhood trauma events – or be especially grateful if you do not have depression even though you survived immense trauma.

You are a fucking miracle.

You may well be a miracle anyway – I suppose the fact we exist at all is miraculous.

How I wake up:

The weekend interaction with my next oldest sister and a ‘mutual’ friend swims into my consciousness with all its terribleness (and I say mutual loosely because when my mother died, said friend rushed to my sister’s side to comfort her in a haze of pungent smoke, but did not even give me a call. – Never fear, they all heard from me in the weeks after my mother’s death, and I yelled at him for not even thinking to call me when it was my world falling apart too).

Then remembering how my grown son has so thoroughly detached from me that it feels like a mortal wound every time I think of it. In my waking world I reason it all out, and comfort myself, and move on – but in my barely conscious, vulnerable waking moments, the hurt is as raw as a jagged broken bone.

I am genuinely happy for my son’s happiness. He got out of the poverty cycle. He did what every parent wants for their child – to do better than they did. He has a beautiful girlfriend that he just got engaged to, and I have every hope for a content life for them. They are well on their way.

And then she ‘girlfriend-splains’ my own son to me – as though I am just meeting him. And maybe I am.

And then the darkness moves in for its quarry.

All the joy has left my life. Death is a welcome friend. So how to do it? A bridge? A rope? Something quick. I make my plans, and get ready to go.

Something – grace, I guess – shakes me lucid.

No, not today motherfucker!

Now, I know her story is not like the battle I have to do, but the entity in me is just as vile as that nearly-was rapist.

I would like a working relationship with my son, but I do not know how to do that in a mutually satisfying way. I only know how to do extremes, unfortunately, so I am letting go.

I need to protect my heart that has been so battered the last few years. Maybe someday we can have a nice emotionally-distant relationship. I wish him the best life, and I love him with all that I have.

Letting go of the family I want is the next task. The past is gone, and I was probably always deluding myself that I had good relationships with my sisters.

Ahead of me is the hard work of leaving abusive relationships. I will not be my family’s pain receptacle any longer. It is literally killing me, and I want to die for something better than that.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Fred Rogers, the host of the children's television series, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," sits for a promotional portrait in this picture from the 1980's. (Photo by Family Communications Inc./Getty Images)

UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Fred Rogers, the host of the children’s television series, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” sits for a promotional portrait in this picture from the 1980’s. (Photo by Family Communications Inc./Getty Images)

I keep remembering what Fred Rogers, (Mr. Rogers), said about times of trouble – to look for the helpers.  There are so many helpers everywhere.  We should take in all the refugees we can – they are desperate to leave their homeland.

Their HOMELAND.

There is nothing there for them but desperation, sickness, torture, and death.  They want to live.

Will they bite the hand that feeds them?  Would you?  Maybe someone will, but that’s a sick soul, and maybe those sick souls will find healing instead of more ways to hurt.  We have many sick souls born here – children killing children, men and women shooting up schools, theaters, restaurants – all seemingly random – or told to them by terrible voices in their head.

We’re not going to rid the world of evil, but we can minimize it with goodness.  It’s the only advantage in the face of evil – our way to ‘light a candle instead of cursing the darkness’.

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It takes logistics, money, volunteers – or paid workers – to help house, feed, clothe, and educate refugees – so much that is beyond my abilities – but that will be good use of government.  Accepting refugees will put more people to work, give more people purpose, and certainly give those tired, hungry, and poor, some hope.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current