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534. 20 January 2007, Beloit, WI

Preparations for my departure, my long journey, my respite trip, are proceeding apace. Some days I notice how easily I get frustrated when something isn’t working smoothly, or takes much more time and effort than it should: I notice my hair-trigger response. And then I know how burned out I am, how much I need a long break from the daily duties of caregiving.

I am not really behind in my plans, even though I often feel overwhelmed by having to manage all the details simultaneously. Often enough, a solution to a recalcitrant problem presents itself, shortly, through an indirect or unrelated suggestion coming from another topic entirely. The mind of poetry is the mind of making quick associations, multiple connections, numerous layers seen in every exchange. It is the mind of richness, and depth. Experience only deepens it.

Tonight, I pause before bedtime to write more essays on poetry, and more personal observations about the sources and origins of my own art-making. I rarely write such personal notes out without a prompt; I’m not shy of it, but I just don’t think to do it, until someone asks me to.

Today, I spent a great deal of time sorting and organizing my office and studio areas in the those, putting things into safe containers for the duration of my absence, cleaning up messes. I also built up a small pile of items I intend to take with me: mostly tools for art-making, music-making, and recoding my thoughts, ideas, images, and experiences. A new camera bag that will hold all my digital camera gear in one contained, accessible place. A bag for clothing and toiletries; all the things one needs to do for self-café, health, and hygiene. My Stick, and a small case of musical gear to go with it; I’m not taking my full rack, or all of my processing gear, or an amplifier. I can always play directly into the laptop, and if I encounter a gig opportunity or jam session, I’ll just try to borrow an amp. My spare tripod. A few CD wallets, one of music and audiobooks and radiobroadcasts to listen to while driving, the other for software and archives; artistic projects I might want to work on, during some quiet moment along the way. I gathered this all in one place, and so am almost halfway packed. I still have more little jobs, cleaning, organizing, and loose details, that I need to handle in the next few days. I need to email my travel itinerary to several of my friends and acquaintances; ideally, I hope to sleep on the floors of friends’ houses, rather than in hotels, most of the time. I’m also taking some camping and cookout gear, for those occasions when I am able to camp overnight. I have a little more shopping to do before I leave, as well; one or two food items to snack on while driving; another couple of memory cards for digital photography. There are so many details that I must keep lists, and check things off as I finish them. Yesterday was my birthday, and my family gave me some small gifts. A great deal of chocolate, for the journey. Warm wool socks, also for the journey.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to get done everything that I can get done, before I depart for this month-long roadtrip to the Pacific Ocean and back. We have fresh snow on the ground, and it’s been frigid and icy all week. It finally looks like winter in the Midwest, instead of mild spring. I look forward to those long drives, the distant horizon, the mountains rising like the backs of breaching whales from the Great Plains. And beyond everything: the endless, turning horizon.

The countdown has begun. The targeting crosshairs are beginning to line up prior to launch. We have a go. Commence ignition sequence. Green, go.

533. 19 January 2007, Beloit, WI

My sister arrived here from Holland yesterday, after a long plane and bus journey. Still, we all talked late into the night. It snowed gently all day yesterday, clouding the distance, small flakes dancing in the foreground, making everything look pretty again.

My dreams last night were of amputation and disjointed narrative, more feeling and subdued image than anything coherent. Colors were off. I woke once, startled awake, that sudden jump awake with your heart pounding and all you senses alert, adrenaline pumping, ready for fight or flight. Something strange with my time-sense last night: I thought I had slept a long time, and felt more refreshed I have lately; but the night was only half-through. I woke more than once, with the same sensation. I do feel fairly well rested this bright clear morning; it’s not very late as yet, but it does feel as if I had slept in. I feel a little jumpy, though. Not used to having another person in the house, I guess.

It's my birthday today, and I don't feel like celebrating; just enduring. No one asked me till yesterday what I wanted; I had to think about it. What I answered was, I don't want to have to cook or do chores today. So, we ate out and I focused on packing and perparing, letting go of other thoughts.

532. 17 January 2007, Beloit, WI

A Book of Maps

angled lines writhe bluely: off the page, leading nowhere.
this land of feathers, soft-edged, indistinct. no place to stow a ship.
“here be dragons”: summation of what cannot be known.
must, mildew, stain: history of explorations. road to dust.
on every page, remembrance. where to go, not who to go with.

531. 15 January 2007, Beloit, WI

Intense, visionary dreams: I am wandering in a music store, looking for a book on advanced jazz theory; eventually, I realize I will have to do it myself; maybe look at transcriptions of pieces from advanced fusion bands; but it will have to be self-study, as I can’t find that it’s been done before. Later, another dream sequence: In a seminar, roleplay reenactments of characters from the birth and life of the Christ; I am chosen to play Jesus; everyone sits down at tables, but I find myself standing and announcing, I’m pretty much nomadic and homeless, so I have no home-place to sit; I usually stay at the homes of friends, or in the desert; if you want to get up and follow me, I’m going to go over there, and I point to a corner of the room where we can sit in a circle on the floor; several people get up from the tables and follow me; we sit in a circle; I find myself rephrasing many things the Christ said in his last few days of life, saying them in my own words; I find for myself new meaning in these words and actions, new resonance, new depth; I am not alone in this; it brings a new appreciation of the Christ’s message.

Some would no doubt call this blasphemous and arrogant, although it was only a dream, to re-embody the Christ in oneself. But isn’t that exactly what he wanted us to do? Become like him, by following him? Approach God as he approached God? He was a guide and a signpost, and a spiritual director; when we become like him, we enter the kingdom of heaven. The thing that prevents us from doing so is not any innate flaw or lack or fault on our part; it is our own belief that we are unworthy, that we cannot enter the kingdom, that we are unable; we argue for our limitations and our smallness, and we are granted them. In the dream, a red-headed, bearded man sat at my right hand; it was a man roleplaying Judas; in the dream, I heard myself saying, Not one soul shall be lost: no matter what happens, we shall all be together again, we shall all sit in a circle like this again in the kingdom of God, and we shall all be together in heaven; the man playing Judas said, Even me?; in the dream, I put my right hand on his hand, and said, You will sit at my right hand again. I felt some energy move around the circle at that. And I knew it was truth.

To be given gifts like these, in dreams: that is grace.

530. 14 January 2007, Beloit, WI

It’s the nights that get to you. After everyone else is asleep, and the house is quiet, it's the deepening silence. You turn off all the distractions, and that’s when the demons start to rise, from within.

I’ve read how many of the saints and mystics wrestled all night with demons: sometimes, literally, physically wrestled; sounds coming from their cells, heard by others, sounds of battle, struggle, physical personal combat. I understand this, now. Sometimes it is very physical. You can’t help but cry out—rage, anger, frustration, fear—and sometimes you have to hit the walls, your body needing to hit something, anything, to get the force of it out of you. It is, finally, all about fear, anxiety, fear. It’s not just an inner wrestling.

Tonight there’s fresh snow on the ground, the first snow in many weeks: it’s been a snowless winter, a warm one, and a bleak one. Black clouds with drizzling rain; green lawns in December; this is not how Wisconsin winters are supposed to be. I am preparing for my long trip out West; plans are going well, and things are falling into place. Yet I still am anxious, nervous, worried, afraid. I can’t seem to stop it. Perhaps it’s overwhelm, with all the details and uncertainties. To be honest, the return trip looks vague, from this vantage: I don’t know what or where yet; I have ideas, but nothing is fixed, it’s all rather vague. There’s so much I want to get done before I go, and so much I need to get done where I’m going. Once I’m on the road, this will probably all melt away, in the heat of travel, and the calm and contemplation of the long view of the distant horizon: my favorite view: infinity. The long glance. Into the eye of heaven.

Even though it’s silent now, and things, some dark things, rise up, because it’s silence, I refuse to turn on something distracting, to soothe. This is a shadow you must face. There’s no avoiding it. It’s something you have to endure, and endure, and keep enduring, until it is released, and you are.

you, there: you,
just around the corner of the eye,
behind that shadow:
I can hear you breathing.

I don’t know your name,
or if you have one; unless
it is mine. you, that echo of some
one I used to be; you, memory.

on this disk is written
something in runes my heart
still knows to read, if, when
necessity becomes an artifice.

hold it close: here it is: it is,
as though nothing else was, or could
become. unless it is wistful, wish
full: a placeholder, named, roughened.

you, there: you shadow:
come, turn that corner into the room:
let me see, clear, what I owe:
this glimpse of moon: come. come.

Turn to music. Turn into music. Turn into that music that moves what needs to be moved. If it takes tears into the pillow, still, move it. Use the music. Immersion. Identity. Dissolution. Become something more like music than what you are now. Turn into the parking lot, lot’s wife, pillar of salt, sea-salt on the tires, parking lot by the sea, seen, see what is music, what is musical.

529. 9 January 2007, Beloit, WI

The Framedrummers' Group CD project, originally released in 2003 and now out of print and only available as a collector's item, has been re-released online as part of the FDG website. There's a nifty jukebox that plays the contents of both of the CDs in the original 2-CD set, and the CD artwork (some of which is by yours truly) is also featured on the webpage. This was a CD compilation made by members of the FDG group, and was one of the first such compilations made by an online group like this.

I have two tracks on this compilation, a single track on either CD, and both of my tracks feature Stick, frame drums, flutes, and keyboards. On one track, Rumi's Tambourine, I also read a couple of short excerpts from poems by Rumi that are about music, and drumming. On the FDG page, there's also a nifty picture of me playing Stick and wearing my fez.

You can also access these two tracks here.

528. 7 January 2007, Beloit, WI


A blue afternoon. A clear blue sky, paling to white at the horizon, cloudless; a March sky, though it's still December. No more snow since that first big storm after Thanksgiving. If we don't get more snow soon, it's mean drought come summer. Dust in the air will mean topsoil blowing away before rain or young shoots can hold it down. It's easy to feel hopeless. The light coming through the bare branches of the oaks seems to filter to brown as it passes through the ghosts of acorns and turning leaves. Come sunset, everything will seem gold and amber and brass, painted mellow by the sun's tilting lantern.

We stagger into the radiation treatment center at the hospital; my father is going to shot five more times with fast protons, and high-energy hadrons. They take more x-rays, to center the targeted region, a little lump that grew on that spur that sticks out to the side of the spine, the lump that grew larger all through months of chemo. They call that a mixed result. Blues crosshairs are painted on his torso, alignments for the accelerator's aim. The radiation oncologist says to my father, after today's session, Our goal is to make sure you die of something other than cancer. That's a successful treatment, nowadays, for an old man who's dying anyway. It doesn't keep from us from sleepless nights and worry, but it's the most hopeful thing any doctor has said to us in months. We can try to choose our deaths, our times to die. We can still struggle to try to control our fates: our liberations.

I drive home while Dad naps. The light is getting that gold tinge. The sun skates through bare orchards on the horizon. The land here is flat and gently rolling, with lines of trees along the roads, at the edges of fields. Tall machineries mark territory and home boundaries, insectlike. Crows fly from silo to silo, searching for loose grain, fossil corn, something the barn-dwellers missed. We are silent. Perhaps I can sleep, tonight; finally. Near the rim of a bowl-shaped sink, not really a valley, deer move slowly from out of the trees, turning blue with final dusk.

527. 7 January 2007, Beloit, WI

Even though I’m sick of stewing my own juices, and equally sick of hearing my own complaints, I just can’t seem to break out of it right now. Today, even though I should have been making phone calls, and cleaning house, and other chores, feeling under the weather has caught up with me, and I got almost nothing done. We watched a couple of westerns, I went grocery hunting, and did one or two other minor chores. I guess I needed a day off. My body tends to enforce those, when it’s really necessary, by shutting down and making it impossible for me to get much done. I’m angry and short-tempered all the time, and it’s all from stress. I sense another sleepless night coming on, unless I can just bite in and get something substantial done before going to bed. Even though it’s late at night, I’m not at all sleepy. Tomorrow is Sunday, and we have no social plans, so maybe I can buckle down to household chores. TV is a horrible, will-sapping, energy-draining drug; and I succumbed. Dad watches much more TV than he used to, but then, he’s been very ill, and he still gets tired very easily. Being a social creature, he often wants me to watch it with him, but I just can’t. It’s not even that we don’t always like to watch the same things. (I watched too much football on New Years’ Day, to be social, and it made me mentally sick and overstimulated for days afterwards. I watch maybe five hours of football a year, and that’s enough, and then I’m done for another year. Sports on TV is almost as big a waste of time as playing computer video games. Almost.) It’s that I get overstimulated, and I can’t summon the brain power to accomplish anything after watching too much of the goddamn noisy babble-box. It’s numbing. Literally. Shut-ins watch TV as much as they do for company, for the illusion of social presence in their empty homes, for the sheer ambient noise. They do this, even if they don’t know it. Dad became a shut-in when Mom wouldn’t let him go out anymore, with her Alzheimer’s-derived paranoia, and he got too used to watching TV. He even watches too much news; it gets him upset at the horrible state of the world, but you can’t tell him not to watch it. I need detachment. I also need to vent some of this stressed-based anger that has been accumulating around me for the past few weeks. It’s toxic, and I have to get it out of myself. I take refuge. I take refuge. Help me, help me, I take refuge.

You know what’s so fucking toxic? Everyone dwells on the negative far too much, including me. Bad news is good gossip. maybe it’s human nature, but it’s not a good aspect of human nature, this relishing of all things shallowly negative and gossip-based. None of that is even the real darkness, the inward darkness: that, I can face, and deal with. I have faced it; we’re old friends; I know its aspects, its masks, its attributes. I know well how to talk with genuine darkness. But this: this is mere titillation. None of it is real, and all of it is shallow and gentile. Most of these toxic gossip-mongers would become silent, or flee screaming, in the face of real suffering, real sorrow, real darkness. It’s inane. That’s the worst thing I can say about it, and then I’m done: it’s inane; it’s banal.

Just stop it. Stop it right now. I’m going to go do some physical work, like cleaning and organizing the bookshelves.

526. 6 January 2007, Beloit, WI

A stressful few days. Not all in a bad way, just stressful. I’m getting things done, but I’m having to work hard to do it, in addition to my usual daily grind. Plans and preparations for the drive West are mired in numerous details and lists of things to do, which I check off a few at a time, as I get them done. There’s no question: everything that must get done, must get done. I’m doing my best, and even if it doesn’t feel like it’s enough, it’s the best I can do, and so must suffice. Bits and pieces.

I’ve spent some hours writing things out, these past few days, and at the moment I feel a little mentally constipated. Not blocked, not stifled, just blurry. You tug at all the strings, and some of them move, while others feel every more tangled. I dream of the clean, empty road, the days spent moving across the earth, with a goal in mind—even more important, when traveling in winter, as I will be soon—but without fixed plans or expectations. A small desert motel. A quiet garden. Visions of cold dawn, icy, clear, with fresh snow on the ground. Snow you can draw spirals in, to mark your days.

I’ve been dealing with the law of unintended consequences, and the law of unpredictable outcomes. You present something you think is polished and complete, and it gets ignored, while something else you present, that you feel uncertain about, because you didn’t feel focused or present when you made it, and it feels rough and raw and incomplete, this, this the world embraces. So, there’s no knowing how what I write will affect anyone; and most of the time, you never hear, because no one tells you. If you don’t care overmuch about that, you’ll do better: non-attachment to outcomes; detachment from the ties that bind. The truth is, everything you do has more reverberations, more reactions, than you’ll ever know about. So, be vigilant, and act from a place of integrity and clear self-awareness. Don’t give your word easily, and keep it when you do.

525. 4 January 2007, Beloit, WI

What is the spiritual warrior’s response to all this? That fear, particularly fear of death, is irrelevant: we’re all going to die, one way or another. What matters is that you choose how and when you are going to die. There are no accidents; there are only choices.

These anxieties tell me nothing. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and that would resolve all my fears in the instant of completion. The truth is: worrying about any of it is a waste of time, a waste of energy. Some nights I can’t stop it, it seems; but other nights, there is no need for fear. Pandora’s box has already been opened, and there is nothing to do but accept things as they are, with neither hope nor fear—hope/fear is the genuine two-sided coin—but hopeless acceptance: unhoped-for acceptance, hopeless in the sense of the lack of the presence of hope in anything. Not its absence, just indifference to its presence. Set a table for bread that doesn’t care if it’s broken or whole, because either way it’s a fulfilling meal, and a filling one.

524. 3 January 2007, Beloit, WI

A bitter, sleepless night. Awoke in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. Too many worries on my mind. This time, though, worried about myself. Worried about my own prospects, my own survival.

I have one parent dying a slow horrific death of a mind-wasting disease, Alzheimer’s, and the other parent not-quite-yet-dying a slow horrific death from cancer and diabetes. I lay awake for hours in fear of which of those slow horrific deaths would be my own. I’m more afraid of losing my mind, my memory, and my creativity, than I am of dying any death that takes me with my mental faculties still mostly-intact. If I get to live into my eighties, as my parents have, which is more likely to get me in end? Choose: both are horrific deaths. I have no medical insurance, and no income sufficient to pay for insurance; I haven’t had insurance for years. I need a checkup, I should get a full physical, a colonoscopy, now that I now that I’m at risk, and a test for Alzheimer’s, now that I know I’m at risk. Both slow horrific diseases are inheritable, and children of those who die of them are at risk. Both my mother and my mother’s mother have had Alzheimer’s.

And then there’s the prospect of dying alone, destitute, poor and unloved. Without a partner to spend my days and nights with; to go to sleep together, to sleep with warm bodies in contact throughout the night; to wake up together. That seems a hopeless dream to me now. What are you supposed to do, when the person you love can’t stand to touch or be touched by you? When you’ll probably never make love to (be blunt: have sex) with the person you most want to share it with? How do deal with that? I cut that cord. I desperately plea, over and over, for that lifebond to be removed from me, for that soul-cord to be snapped and released. I cry into my bedding and pillows for release from this suffering. How else can I find what it is that I need, too? Everything I do is for someone else. Am I never to actually BE with the person I love? Is it always going to be frustration, distance, and disappointment? What about my own needs, in all this?

I can’t sleep because I’m afraid there will be no one to take care of me, when I am sick and dying a horrible, bitter death, when I am the same age as my parents. I worry about dying from cancer only because I can’t pay for the horrifically expensive treatments. I worry about having no one to take care of me, when I start to lose my mind. I worry about having to end my own life, when I can’t stand that anymore. I worry about being alone, and going through these possible hells, alone. I get these feelings rubbed in my face, literally every day and night, while I am here being my aging, dying parents’ principal on-site caregiver. I see it every day; I can’t escape it, I can’t not see what it does to people, and to their families. If I ever get that bad, I hope someone has the guts to put me out of my misery. Yet I worry that I will cling to life, no matter what, when the time comes, even if the quality of that life is unimaginably more horrific than I now imagine, tossing in me non-sleep, keeping me awake and suffering in this darkness.

For the first time in this life, for real, I hear the words echo in my head, at night, and I really mean them:

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

I say things four times when I really mean them. It’s a psychological spell, if you will, because to me 4 and 5 are more sacred numbers than are 2 and 3; perhaps that’s that early influence from Navajo and Hindu cosmologies in play, in me.

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

And I don’t know what that means, if it will change anything, or give me better tools to cope. I don’t know what it will change in me, if anything. I don’t know if there’s any peace to be found in taking refuge. I don’t know anything. I just can’t seem to do anything else, at the moment. It seems right and proper, at the moment, just as the initiations into Wicca seemed when I took them, years ago. I’m probably too eclectic, spiritually, to ever be captured by any discrete belief-system. I’m a shaman, a spiritual technician, a pragmatic energy-worker with no real institutional affiliation. Does taking refuge even matter? Is it just a balm to my inner peace? I don’t know; I’ll have to wait and see, like everyone else. It isn’t even as if I haven’t already been immersed in Zen studies, Zen attitudes, Zen thinking, for these past several decades. it isn’t even as if I don’t know what I’m getting into. If there were a gay zendo in this area, though, I’d be there tonight, sitting. Crying while sitting, perhaps, but sitting zazen nonetheless.

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Maybe it’s just another dream. Maybe all there is, is bitter endurance. I never seem to come out the other side. Right now, though, any anodyne to this bitter, dark taste in my mouth, this hopeless set of possible futures that is all I can see in this darkness, this inability to think positive even at the price of this darkness invading my cell tissue and making me more susceptible to contracting those very dis-eases I am bitterly afraid of contracting—even this anodyne seems fragile and conditional. I don’t know how to do it any better, tonight. I even want to think positive, to be hopeful; I just am unable to get there, tonight.

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Even a glass of wine with dinner doesn’t help with any of this, anymore. Maybe getting drunk on Zen will be different.

I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

523. 30 December 2006, Beloit, WI

Some Thing

problem is, looking into the well, what looks back,
giving you that frisson of something once felt
before you steeled up and armor-plated your heart
in the name of becoming too adult, what looks back
is what you rejected and rejected and never developed

in your self: is yourself. so many clichés about anxiety,
fear, and phobia: so poor because so incomplete:
we have nothing to fear but fear itself ignores that
we fear our darker selves much more under stars and moon,
atavistic tree-hiding lemur memories buried in our blood.

I have no classic phobias; I have no inner compulsions
to avoid such outer actors as dribble slime and ichor
onto recorded playbacks of a maimed psyche's twitch and jerk;
but those formless what-ifs and might-bes that have
kept me up all night in terror-dread or trauma-flashback:

these anxieties with their omnipresent taste of blood-history,
blood-music, nameless memory of being hunted, named
ahead-memory of things fall apart, the center cannot hold,
what will happen if. these crush, these chatter, these hump.
a death-white beast rises from a whine-dark sea, and breaches.

522. Juleaften, 24 December 2006, Beloit, WI

A night like any other. Except it’s Christmas Eve. It’s quiet now. Everyone else has gone to bed, except for the night security guards patrolling Wal-Mart down the road; tonight is the emptiest you’ll ever see that parking lot. I sit writing by treelight. Just back from Christmas Eve services at my dad’s church; I mostly go to please him, and even though it’s my background, in no way could I be considered a conventional Christian. I find some of the liturgy grating; how many times during a Christmas Eve service do they have to mention original sin? It was in every prayer, half the hymns, and some of the readings from the Bible. Why focus on original sin so often, and completely neglect original blessing? But then they do a ceremony at the end of the service, where they turn off all the lights, and pass out candles, and pass the flame out from the altar candle: light spreading outward, a single light becoming many. This is a symbol for the Divine that I appreciate. I was thinking much on the shadow of God during the service, rather than paying attention to the words of the dogma and liturgy, many of which I so strongly disagree with that it’s hard to be non-judgmental. But ending it with light in the darkness, that is a good symbol that resonates. Spreading the light outwards in all directions. But even this Light casts shadows, and the shadow of God is a dark thing indeed. If we are made in the image of God, imago dei, than the fact that we have a dark side means that God also has a dark side: if we are like God, then we are all like God, and God is like us. Meister Eckhart: “The eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me.” The doctrine of original sin is a crime against humanity, a falsehood, and a crime against nature: it is a dark thought, arising from the shadow. Why do bad things happen to good people? Ask Job: there is not always an answer to that question, and what answers there are can be uncomfortable. We imagine that God is like us, only more so: if we are loving, then God is all-loving; if we are vengeful and judgmental of others, then God is a deus irae, a god of wrath. Worshipping false gods, but who is to say which is true and which is false? Any person who claims to know is being arrogant. Although it’s hard not to feel that the worship of the gods of Wal-Mart is somehow false, and wrong, and perhaps evil; there are many reasons to justify this, but tonight is the night to try to forgive even those false gods that we hate. The doctrine says that God is up there somewhere, separate from us, greater from us, unknowable. But that’s not true either: God is everywhere in us, not separate from us. If we are indeed made in the image of God, then God is in us, too: just as God is in everything. The Siberian shaman says: “Everything that is, is alive.” We can add: everything that is, is God. I see God in everything beautiful, and alive: where there is beauty, that is God. I know, this is an artist’s image of God. As the saying goes, God made us in God’s own image, and we return the favor. Well, if God is really infinite, then all images, all masks of God, are true: there is no deception, no error, no illusion: it’s all true, even as it’s all false. You can’t separate out just he part of God you like, and ignore the rest: God is not to be divided, because God is One. God is love, but God is also indifference. Nothing you can do is not part of God. If you reject part of yourself, if you reject others, you reject God. It’s all or nothing. You can’t say God is only good, and never evil; God is only order, and never chaos; God is only light, and never dark. That is the real illusion: that God might be so limited. It is we who have limits, we who cannot comprehend all of it, we who cannot accept all of it, we who are unable to comprehend and love all of it. “Thou art God, and I am God, and all that knows, is God.” You go through life expecting God to be what you think God is, but God is not subject to human logic, human ideas of justice, human conceptions of beauty. God is also ugly, but seeing God in ugly things also makes them beautiful. That too is my credo, my belief. Do you expect God to conform to your ideas of God? No, because God is Mystery, and God is Present as Mystery. God is all-Present. There is no separation. God is the woods and the beings in the woods beside my house; God is not only found in a building where people worship. God is found in the human heart, in the beating animal heart, in instinct, in intuition and intention, in capability and in action. If God is indeed in all things, then God is indeed all things. All things are God. This universe is God. God’s Creation is God, and we are part of Creation, and we are part of God. God needs us, too, to discover through our power of choice, what is sometimes called free will but in fact is the power to choose, and always choose, and continue to choose, God needs us to realize God’s next level of development. As we evolve, God evolves, and both of our imagoes, our images, continue to evolve. We are not separate from God. God has always been incarnate: in us. God has always been Present: in us. God has always been Present, as Mystery, in all things, at all times. There is no removal, no distance, and no separation. If we think there is a separation, it is because we went for a walk, not God; God didn’t go anywhere, didn’t leave, didn’t set the world in motion then disappear. God never left. We did. But even our leaving is an illusion. Can you walk away from yourself? And why do we walk away? To see what is out there; and for the sake of playing the joyful games of Return and Remembrance. We are God, and God lives in us. Everything you do is part of God: so choose wisely, and consider what is godly in every action, what is ungodly in consequence, and make your choices as informed choices, knowing that what you create is also part of God: God continuing to Create, through us, as us, in us. So choose wisely, always knowing that your actions are those of God; we always have the choice to act as God acts, to be God’s actors, God’s messengers, God’s tools. What would God want you to do, in any given situation? What it right action, right knowledge, right blessing? With our actions we bless the earth. With our choices we continue to create the world anew each moment. We make the new earth each time we make a new choice. All choices we have made that we create can be re-made, unmade, made new, made fresh. We always have the power of choice, to choose to do it differently, now, even if we didn’t then. We have the choice to undo what we did, and forgive and be forgiven. To forgive, to fore-give, means to be able to choose anew a new perspective, a new answer, a new direction. Nothing is set in stone: God is always changing, God is not fixed and separate, once and for all rigid and unchanging. We change, so God changes: there is no separateness, no unrelated action. God can change, and it is we who, given the power to choose, choose for God these new days, these new nights, and even in the darkness of despair we are never alone. Every choice we make to align ourselves with God is a choice for life, for endurance, for continuation, for personal change and evolution; as we grow up, as a species, so does God. We grow together, as one. One God, one given, one growing, world without end, amen.

Here endeth the lesson.

521. 24 December 2006, Beloit, WI

It’s late at night, early morning really, and I can’t sleep. A year ago, about this same time, I predicted that this would be a year of big changes, and it has been. I am completely wiped out. I’m hoping that 2007 will be a little slower-paced, slightly less stressful, slightly more sedate. I have no expectations, because honestly I can’t see that far ahead; I can only hope.

In all this family crisis, both parents with different illnesses, it’s easy to forget my own emotions and needs. This is the first Christmas in 55 years that Mom and Dad won’t be together, and it’s easy to focus on Dad being very emotional about that; but everyone needs to remember that he’s not the only one. I’m emotional about it, too; the whole family is, and many of our friends. If they haven’t gone through it themselves yet, they’re emotional out of both sympathy and dread: dread for their own possible futures. At the Christmas party put on by the Alzheimer’s residence where Mom is now, I had a complete meltdown; quietly, discretely, but total. It was excruciating; it was Christmas in Bedlam. And it was overstimulating for the residents, as well as for me; so they were acting more senile, and I was bearing the brunt of everyone’s emotions. It was a flashback, for me, to why I chose not to go into medicine: too much empathy, I couldn’t stand it. It was awful, frankly, one of the worst moments yet from this whole process. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I lost a whole day recovering.

Christmas is going to be small, and private. We are going over to share Christmas day dinner with friends—I’m making the turkey and gravy, they’re making everything else—and it will be fun to share the day with other people. A social balm. Beats stewing in your own emotional juices. At the same time, I am very, very aware right now of how much silence and solitude I am needing, right now, in order to just survive the day intact: more than usual, even, because of the heightened emotional landscape of the holidays, even without the family drama around illness and aging, and so forth. It would be tough even if everyone was well; and they’re not. So, a little bit of a panic attack is no major surprise, even if it’s no fun to go through.

I’m struggling with some guilt about not being able to do any better: which is self-imposed, no doubt of that. I’m doing the best anyone can do. I have no gifts to give anyone, as I have no money. I have no cards to mail, but those I print and make myself; I’ve done a few, but that’s all I can do. Some, if not all, will arrive late; which isn’t a bad thing, as it also stretches out the holiday season. I’ve decorated the house pretty well: bells on the door and porch; a full Christmas tree; some other things here and there around the house.

I simply can’t do anymore; I’m simply at the end of my ability to do more, short of overdoing it and collapsing later. I choose to survive and endure this period of my life, and not let it damage me permanently, or destroy me. I choose to survive, and be able to go on, after. I choose to live, even if everything fell apart. I choose to regain my own life, and move forward on that, after all this is done and over. I choose to return not to the life I formerly led, but an even better one. I choose to envision what of that I can, and make plans to enact it, as much as I can. I choose to not let all this stuff destroy or diminish me. Even though I know it already has diminished me, and exhausted me, and taken its toll, and made me return to some ways of being that I don’t like, that I repudiated years ago, and that I hate and resent returning to, and that I fear getting stuck in again—even though I acknowledge all that as true, I state for the record that it is not ALL that there is, nor is it all that can be, or will be, nor is it all that I can foresee. I choose not to dwell on it, thereby making it worse. I may choose to vent about it from time to time—and if vent, it’s for my own mental health and well-being, and be damned if you don’t like it. We are all of us doing the best we can, under very trying circumstances. If I can’t do any better, this moment, late at night, when I’m having an emotional meltdown, I don’t care: I will not apologize, and I will not censor my feelings for the sake of others. Be damned if I will ever do that, ever again, for anyone, for any reason.

Some nights you just have to shout back at the situation, and shout it down before it crushes you. A little primal screaming never hurt anybody, and if this isn’t the time to use it, to get it OUT of my body, I can’t imagine what is.





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