Four Walls, a Sharpie, and Thou

"Casting about for a trace of something honest,
something true we hesitate to reject anything,
accustomed as we are to blessings in disguise."
Your best day, or your worst, winding up a poorly rendered smudge on a busy wall.

I spend half my time erecting, and half scaling, the walls of my own skull. I am the scheming busybody who thinks he likes to think. Well, who doesn’t. The walls in here are covered with layers of rubbish. Decades of bumper-sticker wisdom, political slogans, crude drawings of primitive men searching for mates or battling predators or drug addiction, and poorly conceived positions argued passionately. Impulsive declarations by the vandals of my own spastic grabs and blames. Much of it is painted over, or scrubbed away, the hard lessons learned thus lost to the tar pits of a faulty memory. How long have I been wandering in circles? How can four connected walls seem such a maze?

Acceptance of all these rogue mentalities is something akin to Manhattan art brokers giving nod to spray-can vandals. Casting about for a trace of something honest, something true, we hesitate to reject anything, accustomed as we are to blessings in disguise. There’s something to be gained by this kind of analysis, we suppose. But when it comes to actual reality, analysis falls mute. It is here that we get like we give, where the mathematics of division meets the impossibility of zero. Something real, experiential. Of course, I had slept through it.


It had been a long, convoluted dream, though one detour in particular had been enthralling. The longest, tenderest embrace I’d ever experienced in or out of dreams, with a newly beloved appearing as a stand-in for the entire encyclopedia of love. As if deposited into my arms by the loftiest ideal, she plunged us both down that well of affection where so many have gone to gladly drown.

A long, long embrace that had bridged the gap from dream-time to now. It’s a shaky ground, this memory received as if by telegraph from a dream, fading already, like the dilapidated shack that is the destiny of all homesteads. I kick off the sheets and stare at the ceiling. The qualities of dream-time are doing costume changes for the memories, slipping into something more comfortable, though less familiar.

However will I accept the peace, should it ever come? I’ve too many engagements. I’m too habituated to distraction. Everything seems to promise closure, but all movements ever do is incite motion.


Image by Bernhard Renner from Pixabay

My Little Pine Workbench

After many drawings and design revisions, and much sawing and clamping and gluing, my little table project has finally come together. Construction is all dowel pin and glue except for the drawer, which is screwed together and installed with drawer glides. It’s full of wart, blemish with a couple slightly off joins, but is quit heavy and solid. Most cuts were made by hand. I was aiming for a boxy, utilitarian look, but with some grace to the lines and proportions. Neo-shaker? I had to taper those 2×4 legs, that was just too boxy.

If you’re in the Houston, TX area, this one’s for sale.

Tangents

When people die suddenly in numbers and the reports start coming in, they always count the bodies as ‘lost souls’ but nobody really knows who or what up and took off, or how or where. There are beliefs about such matters, and they are codified in considerable detail. We are corralled into a struggling span of life with just enough awareness to get suspicious about the bigger picture and start crafting explanations.

A body with the life gone out of it begs a certain question. Convinced that everything has to have a location we consign the absentees to heavens and hells, based on our own prejudices. It’s the best we can do without actually knowing what is going on. Sometimes we allow that the souls stick around out of confusion, broken heartedness, or vengeful hankerings. We like this idea because it suggests maybe you don’t have to actually go and you can stick around in some form, maybe even harass some prick who richly deserves it.

It’s a fun game this speculation. We do that more as children because it has the mark of serious business and when we are young we look ever ahead to being older. Then we grow up and settle for one answer or another that seems to comfort that nagging doubt that so intrigued us as youngsters.

°

I recently had an oracle tell me that I had in a previous life worked as a carpenter for the Romans, making crosses for their executions. I listened intently as she went into some detail. How I wound up in this meeting is a long story, but I can assure you it was not paid fortune telling session.

The Romans were busy in those days quelling insurrections and what not, and I had plenty of work. I was occasionally drafted into their horrid processions as cross bearer for the poor wretches who had been too whipped and torn to lug their own tree trunk. There’s a special indignity to that part, like digging your own grave.

So I served in that capacity too, though all I wanted was to shape wood. I had no choice, there’s no bargaining with authoritarians. The condemned would limp behind me as I marched along, quietly thinking about ways to make cross timber less weighty. The Romans liked the cross bar fat and heavy. Cruelty seems to serve some purpose when you witness it like that first hand. The grizzled spectacle drew crowds. They reviled me as the rightful representative of the prisoner and cursed me, spat at me.

Naturally, when I first learned of this incarnation of myself I rushed to the conclusion that I was the Messiah. Silly egotistical bugger that I am. Sometimes I think we never really grow up, we just suppress our childishness to the extent it interferes with all the serious things need doing.

°

Once, when the Buddha had taken birth in one of the hot hell realms, he and another fellow were tasked with moving loads up the side of a steep, fiery mountain. His mate became exhausted and was repeatedly whipped by the cruel attendants so Buddha decided to carry his load for him. This inkling of kindness infuriated these brutes so much that they went mad and beat him to death right on the spot.

°

It is early in the AM, Thanksgiving Day, 2020. I remind myself that gratitude is itself a kind of happiness, and that there is always something or someone you can identify that is completely worthy of gratitude. Even though the world is a ball of shit. That’s quite something, isn’t it? Happiness at your fingertips and all you need do is change your mind.

We really should, however, end this charade of pardoning a ceremonial turkey as we mindlessly slaughter a billion others. An honest tradition would have the president chop off its head. Why do we lie to ourselves like this?

Uncle Remus

Really, really swell arrangement of Zappa’s Uncle Remus for solo piano. Even if you don’t know the piece, I think you’ll abide in it. A rich engagement with a honky-tonk periphery and God’s Own Blues double parked in front of your favorite hardware store.

Carson and Ekeko

My unit here is within a larger private complex where the owner has a fondness for the Peruvian hairless breeds. Ruby, Raio, and Ekeko have full run of the property much of the time and Ekeko is fond of napping on my doorstep. Carson is not allowed out, but keeps an eye on things.

The name Ekeko is borrowed from the pre-Columbian civilization god of abundance and prosperity who lives on in the folklore of Peru and Bolivia. The hairless breeds from this region are of a very old line. It was odd the first time I touched one of them and felt skin instead of fur. Raio and Ekeko are both fond of me, Ruby is working on it.

Ekeko is depicted as a stout figure laden with valuables, often smoking a cigarette.

A Scattering of Light

Clouds break up the monotonous blue expanse above and the light, illuminating it all down to the last wispy puff, has yet to deal with the billions of serrated leaf edges awaiting its arrival down here in the thick of nature, whose every quality owes much to humanity’s rare neglect.

Did not see many birds on my walk yesterday. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are here for the winter and I caught sight of a Tennessee Warbler. Early morning light makes the myriad details of a Texas prairie erupt in a festival for the eyes. I walked the trails in silence, slipping my mask back up over my nose when I encountered other people.

I did see and photograph a mute Mockingbird contemplating something relating to life as birds would have it. She sat still for it, which is the only way I can grab a bird portrait at distance. (Idea for a camera feature: button that emits a silent signal heard only by wildlife that says, “stay still for a moment, it’s important.”)

Mocking-Bird                         
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then from a neighboring thicket
    the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray
    that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat
    such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods
    and the waves seemed silent to listen. 
Plaintive at first were the tones
    and sad: then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide
    the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard,
    in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all,
    he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind
    through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain
    in a crystal shower on the branches.

Bothered a little by some lower back pain, I cut my walk short and was soon racing along on Houston’s 610 Loop, in sync with the speeding hordes, light scattering off of pavement and chrome bumpers, and nature somehow accommodating it all. I feel like a voyeur, sneaking peeks at the beauty of the world from a little hiding spot not quite in it.

Zen Curious

The archer's faulted for its lack
Subgenius craves it—calls it slack

Potter shaping mound of clay
Seeks wabi-sabi, so they say

Outnumbered by the many foe
Kung Fu's the only way to go

The Koan reaches eager ears
Throws a wrench into the gears

Like pyramids, real power now
Though no one knows exactly how

An author knows this very well:
Slipped in the title, book will sell

That certain something thought of when
You don't know what to call it: Zen

Just for fun, search “Zen and the Art of” and see all the various suggestions offered by your search engine. (I recommend DuckDuckGo as a privacy oriented search alternative to the big guys. I do not use Google anymore.) Turns out that Robert Pirsig was riffing on another book’s title when he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: which was Zen in the Art of Archery, by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948.

Kyūdō: Bows are called Yumi (, lit. “Bow“)

Something striking to me about Western culture is that it’s thoroughly grounded in materialist orthodoxy but is endlessly fascinated with the ‘Mysteries of the East’ like Zen and martial arts. Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Kung Fu.

Four Seasons Total Satisfaction

The election results are now clear
And loser, you're out on your ear
We wish you the best
Just kidding, we jest
Now choke on this summons, you hear?

I am embarrassed by my own ill will here, but damn I’m tired and I don’t feel well. What should be a joyful win for decency is soiled by the fact that we are still a country with 70 million MAGAs who are not going anywhere. Who will be the next fascist fuck these grousing lack-wits glom onto? He’ll be a smart one next time, none of this keystone cop coup d’etat bullshit. He’ll have a major political party behind him again too, just like his predecessor.

Am I wrong? Please tell me I am wrong.