Full is, well, full

I needed a few more hundred words on the subject of freedom to complete my next book of poems and aphorisms, Full, and that more than anything is why I assembled my thoughts into yesterday’s post, “The cost of freedom.”

And so I have moved Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry into “production” mode, and you should be able to find it wherever you find your books by mid-June. The big question is whether I will ever break the microphones out of storage and begin my audiobooks career.

Speaking of audiobooks, I just finished Mirror’s Edge, the third in Scott Westerfeld’s series that began with Impostors and continues the story of the universe from his Uglies series of a few years back. To say I like the new books better is an understatement. I am enthralled by the story of Frey, the twin of Rafia who is trained from birth to be her 25-minute-older sister’s secret body double, and their struggle against their tyrannical father. Like the rest of the series, Mirror’s Edge is filled with plenty of “what!” “WHAT?!?” and “WTF!” moments and grand emotion and adventure. The first series focused on Tally Youngblood was good, but Westerfeld has taken his storytelling to an entirely different level with the Impostors series.

And the narration by Therese Plummer is spectacular.

But: Full. Another short book along the lines of A Bridge at Crossroads, How to Play a Blue Guitar, and Gladness is Infectious. It’s subdivided into three roughly equal-length sections about creativity, freedom, and motivation/inspiration. If you follow this blog you’ve got an idea what you’ll get; in fact, you’ve already read most of it.

A couple of weeks ago I thought Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry might be available by June 1. It’ll be a little later than that, but not much.

The cost of freedom

Freedom is, in fact, free. We are born free. Our creator bestows freedom on us upon birth, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The cost they talk about is the cost of protecting and defending those rights. There is also the cost of assuming the consequences of your free words and actions.

Who are these people who would attack your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Well, when the phrase was coined and placed in a certain Declaration, the main culprits were a certain monarch and his minions, a king who was proclaimed the ruler over persons who lived thousands of miles from his throne room. Not surprisingly, those persons squirmed under his thumb and separated themselves from his rule.

As often happens, the ruler’s response was to commit violence. Ruling by violence never wins friends, but rulers have never learned this. It’s the height of arrogance to presume to rule another individual, as if the ruler knows that person’s needs more intimately than the person does. But centuries and millennia have passed, and rulers still rule with threats and violence and anger and hatred.

Every so often a person tries to lead — lead, not rule — without violence but rather with love, without chains but rather with freedom, and along come the rulers to squash them. Still, their names and messages resonate through history long after their critics and killers have passed to dust. These leaders continue to be examples of hope, icons to whom we turn when we dream of a better world.

Rulers inevitably disappoint their subjects. Rulers inevitably harm their subjects. It is not human nature to be ruled or whipped into obedience, but rulers don’t understand this and pull out the whips and chains and edicts and orders anyway.

Freedom is often defined as the absence of some external force. Freedom is better defined as the realization that the force has no real power and we are free to come and go as we please. Within reason, of course: No one is free to steal from or kill a neighbor, although a ruler might think he can and often does.

Without this realization that we are free, we become slaves of one sort or another. Rulers may exert ownership over our lives and property and persons, but they can never own our selves, that soul that resides in our hearts and heads. All they can do is restrict and, well, govern. But we are still free.

We can still discern right from wrong, freedom from slavery, war from peace, truth from deception, fact from fiction. They hate our freedom, but what the Creator has given, no human can fully remove. It drives them crazy, which is why so many rulers act as if they are simply insane. In fact, they are.

Because they can’t take freedom away from us.

Three hundred

What is it about numbers? What makes this daily blog post any different from the 299 that came before?

What makes us measure things? Why even track progress? What’s the point?

What’s the point of any action? What’s the point of any habit? What’s the point of any life?

Those questions interest me. But I think the answers will be more interesting.


I woke up the other morning with “Poinciana” by the Ahmad Jamal Trio running through my brain, one of the most persistent earworms I’ve had in a long, long time. It was a great morning.

Since discovering Jamal a couple of years ago, I’ve become an avid fan, especially of the early trio recordings featuring the jazz pianist with bass player Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. They were a brilliant ensemble and can be heard on a series of great records on the Argo label from the late 1950s to 1962, when Crosby died suddenly. The interplay among the three musicians is stunning sometimes.

I’ve found one way to stay focused on my work is to have the trio playing on the turntable. As a result I know the music almost by heart, even if I don’t know the names of each piece — I’d played Live at the Pershing dozens of times before I knew for sure that the tasty 7-minute romp that opens Side 2 is called “Poinciana,” and there is still quite a handful of songs that I’d be hard-pressed to assign a name, even though I adore them.

I suppose it’s not an especially rare thing for a group of musicians to mesh so well, but it’s close to a miracle to capture for posterity those moments when musicians grasp each other’s rhythm so fluently.

Trusting in the possibilities

The possibilities are endless.

I look around my room and part of me is overwhelmed. How does it always get this messy? I’m like a kid who doesn’t know to put away his toys, leaving a pile of stuff everywhere I turn.

It’s like that when I sit down to write some mornings. What could I possibly write? It’s not: “I got nothing.” No, it’s: “So many choices!” How do you pick just one toy?

What wonder have I assembled within a couple of steps and an easy reach. Here are books collecting the first 50 editions of Fantastic Four, the first 40 editions of Spider-Man, similar collections of Batman and Captain Marvel and Zot. Not far away are A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poetry, all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter stories — right here at my elbow is the Emily Dickinson paperback I pulled off the shelf a couple of weeks ago, and Carole King is singing “Smackwater Jack” from the turntable.

Is there a more perfect album of songs than Tapestry? OK, Blue and Judee Sill are also within reach, so I can think of plenty of contenders just in my own collection. But still … “When my soul was in the lost and found, you came along to claim it …”

The robin eggs under our back deck have hatched, and mama is tending what were little fluffballs not long ago but this morning look, amazingly, like little robins.

And what a few weeks ago was a white landscape is now awash with green. It has always been my favorite color, green, speaking as it does of life and warmth and growth.

Sometimes I sit in my chair, pen posed expectantly over the page, and my fingers just hover. It’s not that I don’t know what to write. It’s that the possibilities are endless.

At those moments I have a choice to be frustrated, or I can remember the story of a friend who needed to start work on a promotional video for his nonprofit, but so many things called for his attention, he didn’t know where to begin.

“Just get started,” smiled the renowned actor who had agreed to appear in his video. “The rest will take care of itself.”

And so I send my fingers across the page — or the keyboard as I’m doing now — and see what happens. It’s not magic, it’s just trusting in the possibilities.

I suppose I should pick up some of this mess. What would company think? If I keel over unexpectedly today, how rude of me to leave this for someone else to pick up. It’s like wearing dirty underwear to the emergency room.

Even more important, though, there may be something miraculous waiting to be rediscovered. How cool is that?

Teaser Trailer #1

The young woman who was destined to save the worlds grinned and held her finger over the ignition switch.

“Ready, Blaine?”

“Ready as I’m ever going to be,” drawled Blaine, who was a vampire. “Punch it!”

“OK, here goes. I hope Mom knew what she was doing when she built this thing,” she said, holding on to the wing-shaped steering wheel and flipping the switch.

“Wait,” said Blaine. “What? What does that mean, ‘I hope Mom knew what she was doing’?”

Everything began to vibrate.

“Next stop, Venus!” the girl cried.

“Are you sure about this, Jeep?” the vampire said.

“Of course not!” she shouted over the rumbling. “Who’s ever sure about anything new? That’s why you do it!”

Something pinged against a window.

“And then there’s the little matter of those people shooting at us!” Jeep shouted. “Ready or not, here we go!”

And she punched it.

The machine burst through the garage door, and she aimed for the field. Light pressure on the accelerator sent them careening forward, accelerating from zero to highway speed almost instantly. Alarmed men and women in suits and sunglasses dove out of the way, some of them firing weapons.

“Yikes! This thing goes a lot faster than I expected,” she said. They quickly reached the edge of the clearing, and she pointed the machine down the length of the grassy field.

“STOP, JEEP! YOU DON’T KNOW HOW IT WORKS!” came an amplified voice from behind.

“She’s got that right,” she told Blaine, “but I don’t like the idea of being shot or arrested or something.”

“But it’s set for Venus!” Blaine said, his calm voice perhaps a little higher-pitched than usual. “Shouldn’t we aim for somewhere a little closer?”

“No time!” Jeep said. “I can probably adjust the direction once we’re airborne.” And as if to punctuate her words, several more pings pinged against the windows. “Gotta go!” she said and punched hard on the accelerator. “I hope we can clear the trees or this is a short trip.”

Not only did the vehicle clear the trees, but it shot almost vertically into the sky, zipped through the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere and left Earth’s gravitational pull in the time it took her to say “this is a short trip.”

“Good newt!” Blaine shrieked. “Are you kidding me?”

(It occurs to me that perhaps we should explain a little bit about who Jeep and Blaine are, how they happened to be flying to Venus in a machine Jeep’s mother built, and why those people were shooting. Once upon a — Oh, dear, It’ll have to wait. Something’s happening.)

“Is that what I think it is?” Jeep shouted.

“If you think it’s Venus, I have to say I think you’re right,” Blaine shrieked.

“We’ve only been flying about three minutes,” she said. “How is that possible?”

“I have no idea,” Blaine said, “but that’s a planet, and it’s not Earth, and we aimed for Venus, so do the math.”

She pulled back on the throttle-thing, and the rumbling drew back to a more manageable and somewhat pleasant vibration. The huge green orb ahead grew at a more reasonable pace, and they began to believe they would have a chance to land there rather than splat against it.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Jeep said.

“You don’t need my permission to think so,” Blaine sniffed.

warrior giel © Rudall30 | dreamstime.com

“Say, on the dark side of the planet,” Jeep said. “Are those lights? like the lights of cities?”

Blaine peered into the darkness.

“They’re lights,” he acknowledged. “I’d have to be closer to know if they’re cities.”

“But they could be.”

“Have you ever been to Venus? Neither have I,” he sniffed. “I don’t have a clue what causes light during the night on Venus.”

“But they look like the light of Earth cities.”

“As you like to say, my dear: Duh.”

“That’s all I’m saying!” Jeep said.

“So: Venus inhabited?” Blaine raised his pointed eyebrows.

“Not in any universe I ever knew about!” she cried. It’s amazing how true that particular statement turned out to be.

“So: Shall we land on the day side or the night side?” Blaine asked. “I vote day.”

“Makes sense. How do you suppose you land this thing?”

“Oh, dear. You made taking off look so easy, I just thought you knew how to land.”

Jeep peered at the controls.

“If this thing flies like an airplane, I may have a fighting chance of getting us down,” she said. “Assuming a real airplane reacts like a video-game airplane.”

“Oh, my,” Blaine sighed. “How did we get into this?”