Wordplay

Words are my friends.  They have been since that long ago day that I learned A is for Apple.  I’ve since learned that A is also for Anarchist acting alone allows affluent actor astounding access.  (That sentence only makes marginal sense but I think it’s clever.)

Words are how I frame my world.  As a physicist sees the world in the language of numbers and a painter sees in the language of color and shape, I see the world in the language of language.  Words are the framework of reality that I hang everything else on.  Finding the right words in the right order to create just the right picture is one of the delights of my life.

You can understand my frustration then, when, sometimes, I can’t find the words.  Sometimes, the right words dance around me like fireflies, just out of reach.  I can see the sparkle of them but not the shape.  Those are the muddled times, when my thoughts and feelings are so stirred up that I can’t make sense of anything.  (Muddle, by the way, means to mix things up with the implication that one thing can’t be separated from another.  It’s used often in mixology and originally meant “to make muddy”.) It’s scary to lose the means to make sense of things.  I suppose it’s a needful thing sometimes, though.  You have to stir up the riverbed to find the gold.  I guess the same applies to the river we live in day to day as well. I understand the use of it.

I still don’t like it.  We all want to exercise a measure of control in the world.  I know that control is an illusion and that the only control I have is control of my reaction to the events that impact me.  Taking the illusion away, and that’s what my words are, still leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed.

There’s no point to this, really.  It’s just a writing exercise so I can get better with my words; learn the discipline of writing.  That, and I guess it gives me the comfort of my illusions.

I told you, words are my friends.

Highways

This old highway used to be…

That can be a terrible phrase, “used to be”

…used to be an artery of the South.

That flow of life has dried up a bit now.

Traffic is sparse

On this old road.

Four lanes

With two lanes worth of travelers

And barely that.

It’s a beautiful drive though.

Stretches of fertile fields,

Rich fresh-turned soil,

That will be filled with corn or cotton or

The young sibling,

Soybeans.

Stands of woods break apart the fields,

Not old growth,

(Very little old growth left here)

But a few hundred-year-old trees still hold court,

Whispering old-tree stories to the young oaks, pines and hickories.

 

There is a grove,

A planted grove obviously

(Because nature doesn’t do rows and columns)

Of unknown trees

That catch my spirit up

Every time I drive by.

Slender gray trunks reach straight up,

And the leaves are broad and a pale golden-green

That seems to shimmer in the setting sun.

I always think of it as my personal fairie forest,

Though it’s not mine

And it’s not a forest,

And I’ve never seen an elf there.

Still, that’s what I call it.

 

My favorite part of that old highway,

Strange though it may seem,

Are the dilapidated and abandoned buildings.

Old two pump gas stations.

Dozen roomed motor hotels in one long row with the giant flying V that seemed to represent the future in that past.

Occasional diners and food joints

(My favorite one has a giant metal coffee pot jutting out from the roof just over the door).

It’s not the wreck and ruin of them I like.

It’s seeing them and imagining when they were new,

When life flowed up and down this road,

When sundresses and bonnets and fedoras (and farmers in overalls and truckers in dungarees) filled those buildings.

The ghosts still linger.

Then again,

I guess they aren’t ghosts.

Each moment still exists.

Those ghosts are just images seen through a lens of far away and back then.

Someday I guess I’ll be someone else’s ghost.

I’ll be part of the used to be

On this old highway.

Waiting

Waiting can sometimes be the hardest thing.  Waiting is hard, well, because it’s waiting.  It’s desire deferred.  There is a thing that is wanted and that thing is not present or available.  That thing is not there to be seized and held.  So, you must wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And, sometimes, wait more.

The whole time you’re waiting, you’re not getting the thing you want.

It’s out of reach, just over the hill, just beyond the bend, or just a day away.  Sometimes, it’s so far away you don’t know if it will ever be within reach.  As you wait you begin to doubt.

Will it ever arrive?

Will I ever get the thing I want?

Is waiting worth it?

That….is hard.

There is a second part of waiting that is just as hard.  Sometimes, the thing you want is within reach.  The path is clear.  The moment has arrived.

Or has it?

If you leap at the wrong time you will miss.  You might leap and find that you just leaped off of the cliff.  The thing you wanted was almost there and you just missed it, possibly forever.  To get what you want, at some point you must act, but act at the wrong time and you may never get what you want.

Timing…is key.

You wait, besieged with doubts, and when the thing arrives, it arrives with more uncertainty.

Act now?

Or now?

Or, how about now?

Move too soon and you miss.

Wait too long and you miss.

Just one moment to get it perfect.

That….is also hard.

There is a concept I learned (learned but not mastered) from martial arts called Mushin.  That means “without mind”.  It’s borrowed from a Zen concept, Mushin no shin, which means “mind without mind”.  In his Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi discusses this in the book about the element of Void.  The idea is that the mind is freed from distracting thoughts and emotions and exists perfectly in the present moment, and is thus free to act in whatever way is appropriate for the situation.  The right action flows spontaneously from the moment because you exist solely in that moment.  No offense to my Buddhist brothers and sisters but, as a Christian, I believe that state comes from being in tune with the mind and will of God.  If I’m focused on God I’m not distracted by the doubts of waiting.  I’m not trying to spot the perfect moment to act based on my flawed and limited perspective. I’m freed from trying to guess at the right thing to do or the right time to do it.   By removing thoughts of myself from the equation, I’m free to act spontaneously and appropriately.

Make no mistake.  Buddhist or Christian, this is still a hard thing.  I naturally rebel at taking myself out of the equation.  I am a selfish, self-involved, self-oriented creature.  I’m not sure I could do what’s needed under my own steam.  It’s counter-intuitive.  It’s crazy.  It goes against my instincts.

But, I can recognize that if I can do this thing I gain the power to get the right things at the right times.  That’s called enlightened self-interest.  As a Christian, though I might not be able to get there on my own, I know where to find the power, freely given, to overcome my baser self.  If I’m willing to accept it.

That’s not as hard.

Thankful

Music plays, slowly swelling in volume.

I open my eyes to a semi-dark room

And my aging body creaks into a new day.

Though I’m warm and the room is cold

And I’m sleepy and a day of labor waits,

I’m thankful.

I get a new beginning,

A new chance to do better,

Be better,

Than the day I left when I closed my eyes last night.

 

 

I leave for work as the sun rises over the tree line,

A tree line bare in winter,

Dense in pale green, deep green and gold the three other seasons.

Through a strange quirk of geography and timing

I have to drive straight into the sun,

Half-blind and weaving and bobbing my head  to find an angle to block the light.

(Interestingly, it will be the same on the drive home).

I’m thankful.

The light from the morning sun is

Sharper,

Clearer,

Crystalline,

More light-like and light-full than at any other time.

On the way home the light will be warm and rich,

Gloriously pink and gold.

 

 

My work day proceeds

Full of demands,

And conflicts,

And conflicting demands,

A tug of war of attention and focus.

Sometimes it seems petty,

Unimportant,

Often frustrating,

Occasionally overwhelming.

I’m thankful.

I have means of support.

I have useful utility in this world.

I have a reason to get up every day.

 

 

I’ve been hurt many times in my life

(A long life by the measure of a mayfly, short by the measure of an oak, a blink to a mountain)

Physically, I’ve broken things.

Emotionally, I’ve been broken a bit too.

I’ve been knocked down time and again.

I’m thankful.

Each time I’ve gone down

I’ve gotten up.

Most times I’ve gotten up,

If not always stronger,

Usually wiser.

I’ve learned to persevere

And persist.

 

 

I’ll keep running,

Pushing,

Persevering,

Enjoying my new beginnings

And my crystal sunlit mornings

And soft warm sunsets

And peaceful sleeps

 

Until…

 

One day

 

I’ll get knocked down

One final time.

I won’t be able to get back up (in this body at least).

I’ll be thankful then too.

 

 

For the rest.

Tempering

It’s been a very long day

These past few years.

The seconds are seconds long

And the hours are decades.

Each moment is blindingly quick

And painfully endless.

The same sun shines warm

And beats me into a gasping sweaty mess.

The rain washes

And drowns me

Between eternal heartbeats.

 

I stagger,

Surefooted,

Down the treacherous

Open path.

 

 

The tactic of my foe.

Disruption.

Unbalancing.

Breaking the rhythm.

 

 

I reject that.

My rhythm beats in the changes.

Drowning teaches me to swim.

Baking makes me fireproof.

Foot-grabbing roots in my path teach me balance.

Fire and ice temper steel.

Peace would have been a better tactic.

Complacency might have done me in.

I’m not voting for pain

Or cheering for trials.

I’m not a martyr.

And right after each new blow I’m sure I’m done in.

 

But…

 

I’ll learn.

I’ll improve.

I’ll get stronger.

When I come out on the far side of the gauntlet…

 

Well….

 

I started at a stagger.

I’ll end in a charge.

The Fight

Enemies.

From sky to sky.

On and on and on and on

As far as my eyes can see.

Foes lined up,

A sea of glaring malice

Bent on the end of me.

This is the fight I cannot win.

Nowhere.

Nowhere to retreat.

I take my sheaf of arrows

And beat them on the ground.

Once.

Twice.

Seven times.

Seven times seven times.

Seventy times seven times.

 

Then…

Charge.