Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Friday, March 13, 2009

A momentary hope

When first I started this blog, I was finding to my surprise that I was falling in love with the woman I've been calling TB in this blog. I was married at the time, albeit with little satisfaction, so falling in love wasn't a convenient thing to do. I fought it for a while, denying my feelings, then tried to convince myself it was a simple infatuation, something to compensate for the dreariness of my marriage.

I kept my feelings to myself, not sharing them with TB or anyone else I knew (though, of course, posting them on this blog, which has so far remained anonymous). Over time, TB and I became good friends, which I find surprising looking back as I know how much I wanted to be with her, and it's hard for me to imagine that somehow a friendship could survive that desire, much less thrive. Yet thrive it did.

I started to realize something else as time passed - how I felt about TB wasn't the sort of needy kind of love I had felt in previous relationships. It wasn't the sort of feeling of swoopy joy when a new found love validates ones ego, or the sense of pursuit and capture. The feeling was far more sublime, as if my connection with TB made the whole world larger, as if I could suddenly see further, laugh more truly, simply appreciate everything more deeply. No one else had ever made me feel that way. To me, it was a gift beyond anything I had ever imagined. It's a gift I carry to this day, and something I am still profoundly grateful for.

TB moved away about two years ago, and I didn't see her again till this fall. Our communication during the two years had slowly fallen off, and so I wasn't sure how welcome I would be when I impulsively visited her on a trip to the four corners region of the USA. Our friendship hadn't lost anything in our time apart, and even more surprisingly, the feeling of joyous expansion was present, and overwhelming. When I left her in the late evening, I was wondering if I should say something about the feeling, but then the reality of fatherhood and having to stay in Minnesota reasserted itself, and I left with a simple goodbye and happy smile.

Over the next two months we exchanged letters and phone calls, and I re-established my equilibrium, and then I found out she was dating someone new. She stopped writing, and I convinced myself it was OK - in truth, I was happy for her.

Four weeks ago I received a little note from TB, nothing exceptional, and as I had a lot going on and I was deliberately moderating my feelings, I waited a week or so, then wrote her a quick, friendly update of what was going on in my life - typical of the types of things you might read in this blog.

Moments after sending the e-mail there was a reply from her, disjointed and obviously written in a tremendous rush. Read optimistically, I thought it might be saying something I'd barely allowed myself to dream. I read it through a number of times, tried to get some perspective by getting in touch with Reb and other female friends but wasn't able to, and finally wrote TB a reply that did not exceed the bounds of friendship, but did undoubtedly state that my feelings for her were strong and deep.

There was no reply - another several days went by, and I once again found a place of stability, and out of the blue TB sent out facebook friend invitations to one of her friends and myself, and when I accepted the friendship, the first volley of messages from TB's friend seemed to all include statements of how often TB talked about me. It felt very good, and I allowed myself to hope, even though there had been no reply to my note.

Then, last Friday, TB changed her status on Facebook to being in a committed relationship, and the little hope that should never have been turned to pain.

I worked through things last weekend - I still haven't had a reply from TB, nor do I expect one any time soon, though I'll continue to be her friend, and her friends friend.

On my birthday, TB wrote to me that I was one of the rare people who had faith in the path I was following, and as is often the case, she was right. I know this - I know that if I act out of the knowledge of what feels true, and not out of fear, I know where my life will lead. I know that this incredible gift I have gotten from TB - this heady powerful enriching feeling she inspires in me, will be found again, and with someone whom will find the same gift in me.

I know this to be true, and so, for while today I am alone, I am alone and happy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'd like to teach the world to sing

I knew we were in trouble when John Kay started booming out of the speakers. My brother looked up from his UNO cards, his gaze going from bleary to aware to scarily animated. We finished off the hand as the phonograph needle drifted into the black hole between songs, then "Magic Carpet Ride" started playing. My cousin Ad and I exchanged glances, rolling our eyes as my brother leaped to his feet "Gotta drive! Let's go to a bar!".

We didn't even try to argue, simply tilting back our beers to finish them off. I decided I'd ride with Ad and Annie, as Annie hadn't been drinking and I hoped they would have the sense to let her drive.

We were barely in the car with Annie behind the wheel when my brothers van rocketed out of his driveway in reverse. He pulled a Rockford out onto the road, and Annie floored it as my brother took off on the straight highway through the cornfields. "Where is he going?" she asked, and Ad looked back at me from the passengers seat. "I have no idea..." I replied "... better not lose him", and I giggled, more than a little pie eyed. Ad joined in for no apparent reason, and Annie briefly looked at the car ceiling, then settled into a determined pursuit of my brothers rapidly fleeing tail lights.

We passed a tiny county road just in time to see the police car's lights start flashing, and Annie was already pulling over by the time the officer made it out to the highway.

The cruisers headlights shone through the back window, brilliantly lighting Ad and Annie's heads. Annie was digging in her purse, and Ad was trying to not look back at me, little giggles slipping past his compressed lips. I was trying hard to look sober as the officer glanced into my window, but I couldn't help flashing my best grin when I realized the officer was female. The grin went away when she put her hand on her pistol.

Annie rolled down the window and the cop leaned in, catching a whiff and pulling back a little, saying "Somebody's been drinking in this car...". I quickly replied "That's me officer!" while Ad proudly stated "I'm completely hammered, ma'am", and then he glared back at me. Ad can be a bit competitive.

The policewoman looked at Ad for a bit, and he put on a grin, probably intended to be charming. She looked grim, then looked back at me and faced another smile, I having decided that a little weaponry kind of spiced up my fantasy.

I saw a little disbelieving head shake, and then the officer looked at Annie's drivers license - "How about you ... Anne. Have you been drinking?". "No ma'am." Annie replied "I'm pregnant". The officer again looked at Ad and myself, this time even more grim, and said "Anne, I need to give you a little test as I can't really tell if you've been drinking because of ...", and she waved her hand vaguely. I gave a tiny wave back, just in case. Her hand moved towards her baton this time. I lost my grin, a little disappointed as I'd been hoping for the handcuffs.

"Anne, I'd like you to say the alphabet for me". Annie nodded, bit her lip, and started "A, B, C...", by "C" Annie had started to tentatively sing a little, "D, E...". I quietly started to sing along. Ad glared at me again, then joined in, a little louder than me. I upped my volume to match, and after a moment Annie seemed to get in the spirit of things. Ad started to harmonize, so I did too, and when we got to the final letter we finished in three part harmony with a triumphal singing of "Z!".

The officer had a slightly dazed expression as she looked at Ad, then slowly back at me, then finally to Annie "There is nothing I can do that is worse than what you already have to put up with. Please, drive a little slower...". She walked back to her cruiser, pointedly ignoring my waving, and as she drove past us still parked on the side of the road, we heard her yell "I feel so sorry for yooooouu...".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Silent light

Mike writes often about communication on his blog The 25 Year Plan. I've been mulling over his recent posts on my walks, pondering his ponderings about what it takes to write and how to communicate effectively - not just meaning, but feeling as well.

My walk last night was physically rough. Several days ago we had a heavy rain that fell on top of all the snow, followed by a couple of above freezing days, then last night the temperature dropped and everywhere the water formed a hard surface of rock hard ice. Walking on sheet ice along steep hills required crampons and a heavy stomp with every step.

At first I distracted myself with thoughts about communicating, then somewhere I simply went away. I came to know that the low clouds in the dark night weren't featureless, they had a texture of pearl light curling round grey black softness, that the trees were moving gently and the wind was whispering the slightest of sounds, that a bird in a softly sighing pine was adjusting his wings in his sleep. I walked in complete inner silence, regarding without remarking.

When finally I came back to the world of thought, I realized that being open to the messages that are everywhere is another aspect of communication. That being able to resonate with all that is going on around you, to become a part of the surroundings, is important to true understanding.

For me, this state of openness and communion is what I seem to be always seeking, whether talking with my son, or by myself in the wild, or even while making love - maybe especially while making love.

I find myself wondering - do the rest of you have similar needs for deep understanding and connection? I would truly appreciate any thoughts you might have to share on the topic, as well as any sorts of details you might share about how you satisfy those needs. Thanks!

Friday, February 06, 2009

A drift

Last night I walked in the late night under a shining half moon. My shadow was blue black against the blue white of the snow, and I paused often to watch the stars and the silhouettes of trees against the sky. I started a wish for delightful things to grace my days, and just as I uttered the first words, a shooting star swooshed across the sky for me to wish upon.

The weather has finally started to warm a little - it was within a few degrees of freezing, which is far warmer than it's been in a long time. There was the first hint of water in the wind, a welcome scent after months of arctic dryness.

Last weekend it was much, much colder. I decided to explore a park in a rural town in western Minnesota. I don't often hike near civilization, but this park sported a waterfall, and it was somewhere I'd never been before, and I was concerned about being too far out in the wild with the temperature so dire, so it appealed. I parked my car and started up a steep hill, and it was only after I was a long way above and away from my car that I realized I'd set off without snowshoes strapped to my pack.

I considered going back to my car, but then rationalized that the effort I'd expend getting my snowshoes would probably exceed the effort saved by having them, and so I resumed my trek. The trail crested the hill, then dropped a long ways down to a wonderful frozen waterfall. I was so jazzed by the beauty I decided I'd follow the trail up the far side and see if it looped back to my car. The trail again climbed for a while, then exited the woods to follow the edge of a cornfield. The trail started to descend, but the snow stayed level, having been pushed by the wind into a long, long drift. Pretty soon the drift was bellybutton level, with a heavy crust of ice just below waist level, making it impossible to push through.

I started breaking the crust with my fists, but soon I was exhausted and my hands were hurting, so I decided I'd try to get up on top of it. That took a lot of effort, and it didn't work. I struck on the notion of trying to spread my weight out and roll my way along, and so I very carefully slid myself onto the snow. I rolled one full time and gained a couple of feet of distance. It wasn't easy as I had to compress the loose snow on top of the crust, so I was always rolling up hill, but I managed another full turn, and just as I was twisting to get on my side for a third, the crust completely collapsed.

I sunk deep down into the snow. My trekking poles got tangled around and under me, the straps still twisted tightly around my wrists. For a few moments I giggled at the notion of me floundering around under the snow, but then I realized I couldn't get a purchase on anything to free myself. My feet were quite a bit higher than my head, so I tried arching and twisting and that only succeeded in burying my head deeper. I strained hard, hoping that something might pull free, and when I could feel my pole pressing against my ankle, I shifted a little and freed a hand.

I torqued and twisted my body, and was finally able to get the pole oriented so the tip was on the ground, and I used that point of solidity to lever the other pole free. With two poles, I was able to get myself up on my feet.

At that point I gave up on fighting the drift and turned around. Later, still hiking through the snow, I realized that throughout my ordeal I had always been within a short distance of all manner of homes. Something about the notion of freezing to death buried in a snowbank in the middle of a town struck me as hilarious, and I kept bursting into laughter all the way back to my car.

I think it's possible this winter is driving me mad :).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Survivor syndrome

It's been a rough week, and there is little time today to write as there is much to do. Many of my co-workers were let go yesterday, including friends I've known for years. I'm sure we'll stay in touch, but I worry that my keeping my job while they've lost theirs may drive a wedge. It was hardest to say goodbye to my assistant - he's been easy to get along with and someone I've always been able to talk to, and I'm feeling his absence in many ways.

I'm not sure I'll have my job much longer, but at the moment, that doesn't seem to be bothering me - in a way I find some odd comfort with the notion.

It's a short post today - I rarely write well from sadness. I'm going to post some pictures from this last year, simply because it makes me happy to remember those days...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Small wonder

I'm working from home today as my son has the day off from school and I didn't find time to arrange for child care. I had been working for a couple hours when he finally woke up and wandered into my bedroom. He stated "I can't see anything", so I got up and turned off the bright lights I use when my bedroom is my office. I asked "How about now?", and he replied "Nope. Still can't see...". I looked at his scrunched up face and queried "... and that is because...?", smiling because I knew what was coming. He held back a giggle "My eyes are closed!", and with that he fumbled forward, bumping into my bed and worming his way under the covers.

I climbed in with him, as I've done for the last seven years, and, as expected, he asked me to tell him a story. When he was little, I used to make up stories about him in fantastical situations. We even created two imaginary books titled "The boy in bed" and "The boy on the road", and I would always pretend to search for the appropriate book when he wanted a story. The bed book was always available, but the road book was only available when we were traveling, which was just a convenient way for me to get him to go on drives with me.

The imaginary stories stopped being of interest a couple of years ago, and now he likes to hear true stories of his life, and this morning he wanted to hear his birth story. It's a story I love as well, though for reasons far beyond the story he likes to hear, and someday I'll have to try to write those reasons, but today I think I'll simply write the story as I've told it so many times to my little boy.

A bit more than five weeks before my sons due date, Elsa was scheduled to spend a long weekend at a cabin with friends, and I was going to drive several hundred miles to go camping with Henry and Reb. Up till then the pregnancy had been completely normal, and so we really didn't think anything about our plans. Elsa called me at work and told me she had an odd feeling, and she was going to go to the hospital with a friend just to be safe, and that she would call me if there was anything to worry about.

News came quickly after that, and all of it was good. There wasn't any sign that there were problems with the pregnancy, and the odd feelings had gone away, and when Elsa asked whether we could pursue our weekend plans, the doctors had said "Probably". Elsa and I discussed it, and just as we decided to go ahead and travel, the odd feeling came again, and she returned to the hospital.

I met her there, and again there wasn't a diagnosable problem, but the staff was worried and so they had her stay overnight for observation. I stayed with her till the wee hours, then went home to sleep. They kept her in the hospital Saturday, and in the evening they told us they thought my wife was going to deliver. The doctor stopped by and told us that if the baby was born so premature, the baby wouldn't have full lung, kidney, or muscle development. The doctor made it sound very dire, and Elsa and I were filled with fear.

Sunday passed without event, and late Sunday night they told me that they would release her Monday if things still looked OK. Elsa encouraged me to go to work Monday morning to get things in order, even though it was a holiday "just in case", and so Monday I drove the 40 minutes to work at 5am.

An hour later, I finished some work on a server and was just reconnecting it when the phone rang. It was Elsa in a panic "The doctor says we have to deliver this baby NOW!". I was scared, but I truly wanted to be there, and so I asked "Can they wait for me to get there", and Elsa said "No - the doctor is saying it's an emergency", and without any more explanation she hung up. I ran out of my office to my car, and hit the road. I made the 40 minute drive to the hospital in 18 minutes - I remember flying through a 35 mph interchange at near 80 mph - the roads were completely empty as it was 6am on a holiday.

When I arrived, the doctor was there and had changed her mind, wanting some additional tests, and so we whiled away the morning watching TV and napping, till suddenly the doctor rushed in and said that we had to induce labor immediately. After that, things went remarkably quickly - labor was short athough extremely intense, and my memory of the time comes in strobe like flashes. I remember Elsa telling the doctor she needed to rest for a bit, and I remember the doctor getting an incredibly frustrated look on her face and saying "This baby is coming out NOW" through gritted teeth, and suddenly I heard a single tone coming from the computer screen that was monitoring my sons vitals, and I looked and saw all the traces flatline. I had this horrible feeling my baby was dead, and the doctor grabbed a suction device and inserted it, and all the sudden there was my tiny little son slithering out.

The doctor held him for a moment, and handed him to a nurse. My son opened his eyes and mouth, let out an incredible yell, kicked the nurse hard, then urinated on her. The doctors tension fell away, and a wondering look came to her face, and with a proud tone said "Well, I think he just proved us wrong about the lungs, kidneys, and muscles".

Amazingly, my son has never had any troubles resulting from being 5 weeks early, and in fact he was at his optimal birth weight when his 'scheduled' birth date finally arrived.

From the moment he was born, to the moment I saw him about 5 minutes ago, when he asked me what we were going to do for lunch, he has been a wonder and a miracle, and with that I'm off with him to a restaurant.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A moment of warmth

Missouri is water, soft blue and green, burbling smooth across white stone. Missouri is blufftop and oak grove and crunchy leaves in low angle light. Missouri is an empty mountain field of feathery golden grass, and discarded clothes a bed for long lazy sun washed daydreams.

Missouri was a handful of days of silence, of motion free in gentle air, of body leading soul leading body...

A week ago I rose at 3am and hit the road south in bitterly cold weather. My goal was to feel ground under my feet, and to have the feel of damp air filling my lungs. I only had four nights free, and I was willing to cross the country just to walk in shirt sleeves.

The world as I drove was ink sketch exact in the frozen air, and the few lights in the empty land were precise pinpoints. I felt an odd tension, all the little unresolved issues in my life knotting inside, joining with the undeniable danger of the untravelled and icy roads I was on. Suddenly, a slash of light painted itself across the sky, and through my windshield I watched a falling star flare, then leave a slowly fading trail of light. It was astounding, and I realized I was grinning ear to ear and suddenly anticipating my upcoming days of roaming.

Later, many, many miles later, at a moment where the sky was showing just the slightest tinge of pink at the edges, another shooting star cut a path across the sky, and this time I burst into delighted laughter.

I found my sought for warmth in southern Missouri, and spent the next several days exploring caves and streams and mountains, all in soft warm air. On the final evening before heading back north, I was lying on a king size bed in a motel room, thinking about calling it an early night, and suddenly I couldn't stand the notion of not having one last moment before heading into the terrible cold of Minnesota, and I hurriedly dressed, got in my car, and set off on a winding country road.

The sun touched the horizon and I stopped, then walked a little ways to the edge of a valley. Molten copper light flowed along the land from the melting sun. A little breeze kicked up, a contrasting chill to the ambient warmth, and I zipped my jacket up, watching traces of cloud turn bronze, and as the last wedge of the sun slipped below the horizon, the clouds turned lemon against the purple sky, then slowly, slowly darkened.

I started to leave, but there was a sense of something that held me in place. Venus emerged as the sky darkened, and I looked around the sky to see if any stars were popping. Across the valley I noticed a brightening along the edges of a tree bristled slope. A sliver of orange light appeared, a tiny round slice cut by the slant of the mountain. The sliver grew as it climbed, and when it reached the peak, a vast full moon shown in glorious splendor, and in that unexpected moment I felt a sense of joyous peace, of connection to a world full of wonder.

I will hold that moment in the months ahead, use it to warm myself in the frozen days till another full moon brings warmth again...