Is that enough, muse? Am I finished writing for this morning? Say it ain’t so; say I can keep writing as long as I wish, say I can sing all day. Say I can stay in this chair and shape words and music and life into being and immerse myself in uncanny universes and special moments.
Out there is unknown something-or-other, out there is — but hang on, out there is out there, filled with other universes with stories to tell, people for whom something-or-other is not unknown and understand how to overcome it. And if I get up from the chair and walk among them, they can teach me or show me or — oh, my stars and garters, a whole world awaits behind these four walls and what am I waiting for?
Just a few more moments of writing and an answer came out through my fingers. Thank you, muse; thank you, universe. I don’t always have this much time to seek answers.
“You always have the time,” the universe said quietly — not snapping impatiently, just firmly murmuring. “You simply give the time to another purpose. You can always take it back. Go ahead — take your time.”
Take — my — time? Time is mine to take?
“Come on. You remember. You’ve even written it down more than once and shared the thought with the world more than once.”
I know. It just surprises me and delights me every time. Time is mine to take, and I shall take my time and do what I’ve always known must be done to fulfill my destiny.
“Good. Good. But now there’s a cat crawling over your stuff and purring to remind you she would like to eat sometime this year.”
I pause in my morning visit with my journal to breathe, to listen to the wind chimes outside my window, and to feel the warm coffee flow down my throat to warm my entrails.
The wind chimes are in the background almost always, because we live on a windy hill, and the song is always the same, infinite in its variety and comforting because no matter how the wind blows is the promise of music — the world’s energy not exactly harnessed but borrowed (perhaps) to find music in the gentlest breeze and the harshest storm.
The wind chimes were a gift, and they are a gift to this day. Gifts are like that, aren’t they? You always remember that someone gave this to you. They are a bit of someone else’s soul saying, “I thought you might like this, or need this,” and when they were right the memory of that person lingers with the gift for as long as you have it and longer. And if the gift was an act, the memory lives all the longer.
The wind chimes have no set melody. The melody is the wind.
I have come up with a new simile to describe myself lately. It can be yours. Every day I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together. Now, it’s your turn. Jump!
— Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
He jumped out of bed and saw the possibilities, all scattered and beautiful and stretching out to the horizon.
No, don’t go picking them up and examining them to death, he thought to himself, just look out at all the life.
Here is a shining star in the sky beckoning with joy and hope, here is a thought that will make someone feel more alive and ready to face whatever it is that’s holding them back, here is a magic racing car that travels to other worlds, and here is an idea that no one ever thought before in quite the same way you just thought it.
My oh my, all the possibilities and potentialities and what the day could be. Which to choose? All of them!
Seize this awe and tuck it into your heart to power your day, because it’s an awesome world and the more you respond with happy awe, the more your day will be happy and awesome.
Sometimes, pulling myself out from under the covers at 5 a.m., I resist the urge to climb back in, and instead I go to my writing/reading chair and start to write, and something pretty good comes out. It’s like some force in the universe wants to keep me from seeing what I would see if I awaken, so it lulls me back to sleep. But we need to wake up and see eventually, so the universe rewards me with a bit of insight when I get up anyway.
It will be easier to do now that we have “fallen back” and 5 a.m. is what 6 a.m. was 24 hours ago. I’ve thought before it would be nice to live in Standard Time year-round even during those months when others live in Daylight-Saving Time, waking an hour before everyone else and living in a quiet standard world that may be darker but wits are sharper because they’re refreshed and uncluttered.
“We get an extra hour of sleep tonight” — or we get to start the day an hour earlier with the same amount of sleep. That latter thought feels a bit more … empowering perhaps.
Somebody noticed months ago that Halloween night is a full moon this year, three days before what was sure to be a raucous election and in the middle of the ruckus caused by the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What could possibly go wrong?” the somebody asked sarcastically.
“I’m alive, confound it,” he cried, feeling mortality chill his bones. “I loved myself enough women to have a horde of offspring to keep my memory alive, but it never took, and here I am childless, no one to carry a trace of my DNA to the next generation. I failed in the prime directive to reproduce and keep the species going, so I sit here scribbling evidence that I was here in lieu of passing along my genes. I pieced these words together so that when my dust is scattered to the winds, something tangible will remain that says I lived and here is my offering to the future, not in the form of a bright young scientist or poet to save the world but words, words that if you read and absorb properly, perhaps you will learn to be what my never-born child would have been, and What I Was will live on, my white plume of honor and glory and words to live by and love by —”
“Are you quite done now?” she asked. “Can you sit down and eat your supper, or do you need to orate a bit longer?”
“I am not quite done,” he conceded, “nor do I expect to be done anytime soon. I see possibilities in every sunrise and the dance of puppies chasing each other, but I also feel the glory of a sunset and the contented sigh of the old gray dog under the dining room table. Here, there is life worth preserving and sharing and loving.”
“Bully for you,” she said, setting a plate of oh so very delicious looking food under his nose. “You’ll live even longer if you eat something.”
He looked at the food and gaped in awed pleasure. And years later, after his ashes had been scattered to the wind, the critics mourned his passing and spoke of the poetry that sang in his description of that meal.
I met some old friends for conversation last night, and they each offered me an insight or two.
“Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation,” Ray said, encouraging me to leave something for posterity to chew on.
Henry was in a reminiscent mood, and he hummed me an old Lapland song with the refrain, “A boy’s will is the wind’s will, and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
And Ed, always the mysterious one, told me, “love is the every only god” and went on to explain, and he was right as always.
It mattered not that Ray told me this in 1990, and Henry in 1858, and Ed in 1940. All three of them are not especially mobile these days, but they left their words for safekeeping, and I traveled through time to retrieve them.
I suspect this is one reason we write books: to still be talking to friends after we’re done talking. And so, should this combination of words happen to reach you long after I’m dust, I encourage you to be the friend that Ray, Henry and Ed have been to me, and write the future a letter.
Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, ever since I first heard the lush minor hit they made when I was 13 years old called “Buy For Me The Rain.” I have made it my mission to let people know there’s a lot more to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band than “Mr. Bojangles.”
My dear old Dad will be voting Democrat for the first time ever next week: He passed away in July.
Dark humor, I know (Well, I laughed anyway), but it’s my contribution to the real problem about so-called election interference.
A county clerk said last week that she participated in a briefing with high-level security officials and learned there are confirmed attempts to disrupt the election, but here’s her key point: The attacks are NOT on the actual election results, which have more safeguards against tampering than McDonald’s has burgers.
”Let me tell you. I have to tell you. You’re just not going to believe it.” The little one literally bounced with excitement.
“Let me guess first. There’s a yellow elephant the color of a banana peel walking up Main Street wearing pink trousers and a teal bowler hat.” This was spoken by a taller figure slouched over a kitchen sink scrubbing dishes by hand.
The little one’s shock could not be more complete. He stood open-mouthed and tried to speak without success for some seconds before stamping a foot and crying, “How on Earth did you know?”
“Today’s the 26th of October in a year that ends in zero, isn’t it?” said the figure bent over the dishes without looking up. “This is the day when the yellow clown elephant runs the streets. It’s like clockwork.”
“Next you’ll say that hawks poop on the elephant’s head as part of the tradition,” the little one pouted.
“Nope,” said the dishwasher, looking up finally. “That’s a new wrinkle. Must be a 2020 thing.”