We gather in warm brick houses with brocade paper on the walls. Candles burn in jars and the hands of the boys move so quickly that they become blurs as they play.
The people are happy, the people are smiling and clutching one another mirthfully as they dance. Singing, urging the band on, they are fevered and joyful and shine; the people shine so hard that the stars would be jealous if the roof was not protecting their feelings.
There is shalom in every bounce, in every handclap, in every laughing face of every dark-haired girl.
Dance, women. Shout, men. Play on, beautiful music-makers. Hold back the evils of the world, make us one with each other. Help us to hear God.
(a very special thank you to Demian, to Katy, to Derick, and to the Flying Balalaika Brothers for the amazing time….also to Sean for that crazy-assed drink that I still don’t know the name of but that suited the mood perfectly)
My father and my dad and my husband –all veterans, two of whom have served extensively in combat situations– all have distinct opinions on the overall accessibility of today’s military from a technology and media standpoint. As a former military brat and service member and wife I understand every argument they make against it.
Each and every one of them, in their own words, has expressed to me the need for a man down range to stay focused on where he’s at and what he’s doing at all times without compounding the heartache of homesickness or being distracted with any pettiness that is going on back home. I fully grok what they are saying. For the most part, I guess I don’t disagree.
As a military mom, though, things like Skype allow me to give my kid encouragement and reminders of who he is. Things like Facebook give me tender tugs telling me that though my son is a man doing a dangerous job, he is still the boy who had me sit down with him and show him how to tune a guitar and teach him about the circle of fifths and hey what key was that in and show me that chord again:
One of my favorite pictures of my father in country is of him sitting in a hut, barefooted and bare chested, pants pegged at the ankles and a harmonica slung around his neck. He’s cradling a guitar in front of him and his mouth is open in song. I own –at minimum– fifty service pictures of him, and that one gets the prized spot in my heart, because it shows something of who he is beyond the haircut and the uniform and the obvious tired that shows up in some of the photographs. It shows him to be a person grounded in something other than camouflage and orders and chasing clever, sadistic men through a wet canopy of trucked-up nerves.
I am forever telling my kids not to wish time away, but if I’m being dead honest with them and everybody else, then at present I am sloppily shoving days behind me like I’m paid to do so or sommat. This next year can’t possibly go fast enough for me. Tiny things like poorly-taped snippets of combat tedium shot in a curtained bunk warm my heart. I have to say, in all honesty, that they’d do so no matter whose kid was in them. And I’ll be damned if my brain can’t help but snag on (during my third or so viewing of that video up there) things like, “I think it would’ve made all the difference if the American public could have seen those nineteen- and twenty-year-olds with ukuleles in their hands, singing folk ditties, before they rolled home from Vietnam, before they disembarked from planes and ships bewildered and worn slap out and overwhelmed.
“America would have remembered that we sent boys in to do the work of men and sometimes the work of men is too much for anybody to fathom, even the men who are doing it.”
My son slings a rifle, my son sings songs that our people brought over to this country, my son loves his job and misses America right now. You miss him back, America, him and all the ones like him.
I will not let my experiences define me. I will, however, allow them to inform how I view others and how I make decisions. Being hemmed in builds a propensity toward risk. Risk is invigorating, even when you are pissing yourself.
I will not be defeated. I may experience defeat, I may feel it from time to time in every fiber I cart around on these bones. Character and empathy spring from life grinding away at you a little.
I just ate a good meal, and I’m sitting in a comfortable house. Neither the meal nor the home were guaranteed when I hit this world squalling. They’re still not. I need to learn to embrace this truth, and not panic when I am reminded of it.
The reality of happiness is this: You have your eyes open, you breathe, you look around and you are satisfied.
The reality of sadness is this: You have your eyes open, you breathe, you expect and you are disappointed.
The reality of creativity is this: You have your eyes open, you breathe, your brain itches and you scratch that itch with the movement of your pencil, your pliers, your legs, your imagination.
The reality of stagnancy is this: You have your eyes open, you breathe.
I will be happy, I will be sad, I will be creative; I will not be stagnant.
Destruction is the prelude to creation, everything is impermanent, and all things are possible, even the impossible. I’ve been doing the impossible my whole fucking life. Sometimes I am silly and forget.
I had to go to the doctor yesterday. I have been slogging through a personal health situation for the last several years, but in the last ten weeks I’ve been getting pounded on. I need a reprieve in a pretty big way. I’m not built for being infirm; it makes me too cranky, I have things to do. Time to get a handle on this business. I’ve made the concrete decision that I’d rather be in the hole financially for the sake of my health than in the hole physically and having no kind of life at all.
Up the road a piece between here and my (dipped in fabulous with an amazingly rad center) family practitioner’s office out there in the country there’s a big, well-manicured field with a tarp stretched out in it. Scattered on the yards-long tarp are pieces of broken china and pottery.
There is a strange and disconnected loveliness about it. I mean, it was obviously placed there by someone, but it also has the feel of Supposed To Be about it.
Something about it feels sacred. You know that air about something when you run all up on it, don’t you?
I like it. I also like the feeling of a big, out-in-the-open secret. Sometimes the passcode just doesn’t concern you. It’s enough that you know there’s a special door lying in wait.
I have a friend who, as it turns out, knows the story behind the tarp. She shared it with me earlier this year. There’s a farmer that lives on the back side of that property with his wife. He has a compulsion to not let good things fall by the wayside, so he spent many years gathering up pretties and geegaws. “Has a barn full of ‘em!” said Kris, when she was telling me all about the tarp runner.
A couple of years ago, around the time the tarp first appeared, the farmer started getting sick. His wife, in an attempt to stay on top of things, had started combing through his collections. The way I understand it, every few weeks she’ll take a few minutes and go out into the barn of fineries, inspecting the goods. She pulls the pieces with flaws a few at a time and throws them out there on that tarp.
I don’t know what she was hoping to accomplish with this. Could be that she wanted to respect her husband’s wishes and not see the things buried in a landfill. Could be that she, trusting in humanity’s innate nosiness curiosity, figured folks would come poking around, which is why the tarp starts so close to the county road it’s sitting near. Maybe she was issuing an open invitation: “I don’t have use of it, but if you do then have at it.”
That was the interpretation of Kris, at least, who does mosaic pieces and will stop from time to time to see what’s being offered up out there in the country by the farmer’s wife. She tells me that this has caught on with folks in the know: Someone needs bits for a windchime or an altar or a sculpture and they visit that tarp.
Normally it looks very crowded; yesterday it appeared picked over to me. No matter, I was there to observe. I have enough broken pieces of my own to sort and catalog; there is no wanting spot in my collections at present.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
After about four years of frustration and ten weeks of some pretty serious misery, I finally have a diagnosis: I have Meniere’s disease. It will never go away, but apparently once we get this major flare-up under control, there are things that I can do to manage it and keep serious attacks at bay.
The start of this entails getting rid of stress, caffeine and cheese, all of which I run on in turns so I don’t even know what the fuck, you people. Meniere’s is also heavily triggered by insomnia. It took me three tries to type that sentence because I am laughing hysterically.
Any number of things could have contributed to this being A Thing for me, ranging from genetic to environmental. I’ll talk more about it in time. It’s nice just having something to point to (finally) so that a plan can be established.
My doctor is the best. THE! BEST! I don’t know how, in a world of so many terrible ones, I got so fortunate to have him on my side where it comes to my care, but I’m infinitely thankful that I’m not having to slog through a pile of terrible docs in order to feel heard, partnered with, and attended to.
Also, it could have been a brain tumor, which was a very real thought for a minute there. Good Lord, brain tumors cost a lot. I would have chosen to be put down like an old cur had that been the case. But first I would have thrown a balls-out, expensive party and met all of you. There would have been lawn darts.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
This is my go-to feelgood song. It spoons out big dollops of hope all over everything just by its exuberance and intsy magic finger cymbal ting! sounds.
Every time I hear this it feels to me like Prince is throwing some sort of big cosmic party and this is his engraved invitation to all of us.
Today I have been taking notes on mothers, on what they are, on what I am, on what we are to them. At first I took these notes mentally and then they began to sort of steamroll me and crowd for space and some of the better bits were sliding away while beseeching me to tether them to something more intractable than my headmeat. Then I remembered I have that fancypants phone with the infuriating Swype technology that makes plain ole straightforward words like ‘kale’ into messily unrelated, inexplicable nonlinear ones like ‘Kryzygstan’. How the fuck, brilliant technology, how the fuck do you imagine that a blip on the map central to nothing even remotely like the Piggly Wiggly down the street has anything to do with my grocery list? This part of technology, I do not get. This part of technology makes me want to abandon all the other parts of technology wholesale.
But the part of technology that is boon to me is the one that lets me forsake all the random scraps of paper and cardboard and envelopes that I’ve spent jotting ideas on and stuffing into a drawer until they come to fruition or I’m so embarrassed by them that they become lighters of candles burned too deeply down in the jar to reach (after that I run them under the faucet, so that not only are those terrible ideas and turns of phrase charred, they are damp and runny and pitiful, as well. They personify themselves on another level, and then I can avail myself of them peacefully…almost gleefully, in fact. It’s a good practice, the murdering of shitty ideas and sentences. It’s a holy and noble practice. It’s a practice I do not practice often enough, in fact — as is illustrated by this whole parenthetical hand job).
I once bought a hand-held tape recorder, a fancy one, with which to catch notes on the fly. I destroyed it or misplaced it or something. I bought another. It was summarily stolen. The two I got after that each got laundered. The first time was by someone ‘helpful’ who had never made a move toward helping –coincidentally enough– until there were copious story notes in my pocket and agony to bear witness to once my words were washed and warped and devoid of anything even approaching human sounds. The second time was by me, because life was getting in front of me at the time and I wasn’t on top of the details.
Fuck a recording device after that, right? Blackfeet pencils with creamy lead, paper with fixed spines, paper with adhesive triangles and see-through windows, paper announcing tallies for corn chips and Mountain Dews and Marlboro lights.
Note-taking. Drawer-stashing. Idea-marinating. Substance being grown there in dark, private places after the words were released from dark, private places. Writing starts in the stutter and sputter of a perplexed soul. Art starts in the confused cracks between points of understanding.
Oh Evernote, where have you been all my scattered, hyperfocused livelong life?
I downloaded Evernote several weeks ago but have only started using it in earnest over the last month or so and it is saving my creative beans, All You Folk. Now I can jot notes to my phone which are immediately synched up in a kanjillion other places in case I fuck one or more of them up with my frail analog tendencies. I can record snippets, too, and they are immediately swished up into the ether and synched to All The Places. I can scribble a note with my very fingertip, in my own handwriting. My literal hand, writing! I can snap a photo and jot to it with that same finger (or another one! if I’m feeling wacky like that). Save, swish, sync. I can sketch, saveswishsync. I CAN WRITE ON PAPER, SCAN IT TO MY PHONE, AND REMORSELESSLY DISPOSE OF THE PAPER IMMEDIATELY. Scan! *stick arms* Save! *exuberance* Swish! *triumph* Sync!
My God! Technology is bending to my mercurial but meticulous whims! Makers of Evernote, I owe you a baby, because telling you I owe you a beer doesn’t seem like a grand enough thank you.
So, babies. Maxim said to me yesterday that he has been wanting to have a baby lately (Internet. Do not e-mail me. We are not going to have more babies.) and that made me thoughtful about myself as a mother. I try not to contemplate myself in such a fashion, at least not too very often, because being too self-aware as a mother is to invite yourself into all kinds of agony and also probably great heaps of nervous breakdown-ing. I’m not being the slightest bit hyperbolic or tongue-in-cheek when I say that, either. You mothers know what I’m saying. I mean, be conscientious as shit, Moms, be present as all-fuck but don’t be too exploratory because your kids need you to make oatmeal and sign permission slips, and those things are hella hard to do when your cheese has up and taken a slide off of your cracker.
My own mother is going through something of a hard time, and I’m trying to be her cheerleader. My constant thoughts of her plus Maxim’s admission of baby longing made me think about what we are when we mother.
This song has been chasing me around for months now,
and it is wrecking me, wrecking me, wrecking me. Mary stays behind and cleans up the place.
I am about to mother my father into the grave; I can tell because he is making peace with things that I thought he’d outrun or abandoned. He refuses to make plans. He tells me freely of the things that he has staunchly decided not to worry himself with any longer. He smiles while he tells me all these things, earnest. Still, he is afraid.
I am about to be the mother of someone who is halfway around the world being a man but who is still –somewhere in time– floating under my ribs as I coo to him, promising him future and love and arms that will always embrace him. I’ll will my ribcage around him when men who don’t consider my oh-so-painful love for him have their rifles and their hatred trained at him. I will rock and snot all over myself deep into many sleepless nights while I wish a vacuum around him where bullets are not even a thing, much less a danger to my boy’s heart, the one I carried in my own before it even had fancy trappings like chambers or valves or beats.
Today, unfathomably and up out of nowhere, I am a human being in a vast amount of pain and in need of mothering myself.
Tomorrow I may have a taste for lemonade and the mouth that comes away from the glass might be smiling, smiling, inviting you in, “Hello! I’ve missed you. Please come sit by me. Can I offer you some refreshment? Some peace? Some understanding or commiseration?
“I’m so glad you’re back. I miss you when you are away.” Tomorrow I may be mothering you.
Tell me something about you as a mom. It has to be private and it has to be liberating. I won’t judge you, and I will tear a strip off of anyone who tries to. Momming is hard, man. All we come equipped to do it with are these puny arms and these ache-prone innards, and that makes me proud of us for showing up, even.
If you’re not a mom in the technical sense, I want you in the fray, too. Tell me about your mother. When we take time to ponder them, they engender SUCH a profundity of emotion in us. Today I am sitting in that emotion and it’s surrounding me on all sides. It’s terrible. It’s transformative. The latter makes the former bearable.
Guys with guitars will always get laid; it’s a law of the universe. If you’re not a musician? Easy: Be a passionate lover of music and come equipped with the right song. You’ll always get laid, too.
I first heard Half Moon Run’s ‘Full Circle’ a couple of weeks ago; it was one of those pulled-up-short moments where one minute I’m cruising down the road, hunting a picture or a bargain or some peace, take your pick. These days I’m happy with any one of the three.
Okay, then, back on track: That next minute consists of me being in the parking lot of the janky (but useful!) quarter car wash, scribbling lyrics as hard as I can because KAPOW this song has hit me in the guts and the brains and the past and the heart all at once and I’m immediately sucked in and possessed.
Some people are not moved by music, not at all, and when I hear this admission I feel like I could not be shocked or disturbed more if This Soulless Entity were to grow a third arm out of their forehead. That sounds overwrought and angsty, yeah? Well, it apologetically is. In fact, I’d probably feel more comfortable in the presence of Armed Forehead than in that of This Soulless Entity.
It’s that dramatic. It absolutely is. I stand by the term ‘possessed’.
So this song gets all inside me and it rattles around and I ask Uncle Google about Half Moon Run and their music, specifically ‘Full Circle’. And then, there is this video,
which is just so many ways enchanting and exactly right. The first time I saw it I was taken with the notion of the lead singer’s bottom lip and how I felt like it needed biting. For the record, I felt that way up through the fifth viewing, too. It was the fifth viewing that called up an additional notion that says I’m so voodoo-ed by the video because I’ve spent more than one afternoon rehearsing or listening to others kick some music around and that kind of thing is such a beautiful, intimate space to inhabit (even if there is someone in the band who’s prone to throwing things, and then it takes on a whole different vibe that is no less cool but potentially bloody). When you witness the birth of an amazing song there is this powerful moment that you’re locked into, whether or not that song stays there –in the room or the truckbed or the garage or laying in the bed of the creek it first floated across– with the few or spirals out and thirty ears hear it, a thousand, three-billion.
I imagine that this is one of those songs that, when it started pushing its way past vocal cords and fingertips, made itself known as something singularly great. I bet every hair stood at attention. I know this because I can’t stop singing it in my head or under my breath and it’s not driving me nuts to do so.
In the past week I’ve been enthusiastically pointing ‘Full Circle’ out to anyone who will listen, because I can’t possibly the only one who is knocked the fuck out by it. Also I would like the comfort of knowing that I’m not the only dirty old(er, AHEM) broad out there who’d take a tumble with two-thirds of this band if I weren’t spoken for. And hell, if the other guitar player would comb his hair, I’d be all over that, too.
(pee ess….leave me some knockout music in the comments; what has you all fixated and squirrelly? doesn’t have to be new, just has to be amazing)