Pieces of the Mirror
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in.
– LEONARD COHEN –
This Is My World in Pieces
Things come up. Things drift away. I pick up pieces and examine them to gain some understanding of the world through the tiny bits I can lay my hands on. I try to piece them together into a picture that makes sense. I call this my life. I am sure others would view the pieces differently and arrange them in different ways that would not make sense to me. I am not worried about that. I am only concerned about what makes sense to me. Maybe some people will see the sense in it, or maybe you will just throw up your hands and say, “this person makes no sense at all! I have no time for this nonsense!” And that will be the end of our short relationship. And, that is fine, because I can only describe and arrange things as they make sense for me. So I hope it works out for you here in my broken mirror land. If it doesn’t it’s really not your fault. You have your own pieces to arrange.
The Effect of Light in Amsterdam on My Childhood
I was thinking about a time long ago when I was remembering my childhood in California. I was thinking about it in a way that changed the color of my memories. The sun was whitish-yellow in a different way. I had the same feeling when I walked out of the airport in Amsterdam. The light was different than in California where the airplane had taken off, but who could say how it was different? It just was.
In fact I was thinking about the moment I walked out of the airport in Amsterdam in which I was remembering a day in my California childhood, but with the light of Amsterdam all around the yard where I was playing. I turned to my friend who was also seeing European light for the first time and said, “The light is different here.” He just shrugged and grunted. The light had not invaded his memories instantly. He did not understand, and I could not explain it to him. So I just smiled at the thunderstorm sky of a new continent.
Dream Owls at Dawn
The gentle hoo-hoo of owls echoed through my dream forest growing closer and closer then passing and fading in the early morning. I woke to hear them moving off into the edges of dawn on silent wings.
Nature Does Not Keep Business Hours
Last night my sleep was torn apart by a bright light that came through my closed eyelids and a cracking rumble that finished the demolition of my slumbers. But, that was it, just the one burst and the hissing rattle of rain on the plastic deck awning. l looked at clock. The glowing red numbers showed that the time was 1:57. I was thinking why can’t weather keep more businesslike hours, especially the loud disturbing manifestations. Unfortunately weather has no job to go to early in the morning and so can rage about all night with no consequences to itself, only to those of us of the human variety.
After a while I drifted back into sleep and into an old dream of a house made like a cave in the middle of a gigantic tree with shelves and furniture carved out of the wood of the tree. I was arranging some objects, a piece of driftwood, bear carved out of wood and some other things I can’t recall, on a counter that was connected at the bottom to the tree cave house. Suddenly a wind like a petulant hand came up knocking my arrangement into disorder. I set it up again, but the wind grew into a wall pushing me away from the the counter I was decorating. When it was done I was standing 5 feet away and the counter was empty. I had no idea where my things went. I knew what I had to do at that moment. I ran at the place I had been standing, holding my arms out. The wind came up and lifted me into the air. “Look!” I yelled to my wife who I could see below me in the large cavern room. She did. I woke up with a wildly beating heart. My sleep torn asunder again. 3:30 said the clock in demonic red numerals. I lay there until the clock said a 4:00 and gave up on sleep. Not much I could do about it. My dreams were just putting in there usual hours on the graveyard shift.
The Monkey King File Folder
I was having a talk with my friend Zachary. He’s 5 years old. We were talking about tails and how it would be cool to have a tail so you could hang in a tree and eat a snack. It all started with our snack of bananas. Suddenly a thought popped in my head like a little thought balloon with Monkey King written on it. But, that was it. I remembered that I had read a story about the Monkey King and that he was a mythical and magical character out of Chinese Folklore that had zany and outlandish adventures, but that was all. I could remember no details or particulars. It was as if my mind randomly pulled the Monkey King file from some dusty old file cabinet in a dark corner of my brain and showed it to me. (I don’t know why: probably the talk of bananas and tails) But when I opened it up all that was there was a sky blue sticky note saying: “This is something about a mythical and magical character who has zany and outlandish adventures,” and another one in another color, maybe bright yellow, saying: “See Chinese Folklore.”
I have no idea why my mind works this way, but it often happens. My mind leaves me hollow shells of ideas without the nut inside. Maybe a tiny worm has burrowed in and eaten it up. However it happens, the idea just sits there with Monkey King carved on its hard brown shell, and when you hungrily open it up there is nothing to eat.
Of course this means I have to go back and fill that empty file with some scribbled notes and diagrams and maybe a few neatly typed pages on the Monkey King. The only way to keep those worms away is to do some serious thinking and writing notes. So I feel it is only fair to warn you that some ideas about the Monkey King will drift in and out of these pages in the near future. It’s just the way my mind works, dusty files, sticky notes, empty nutshells and tiny worms. Its a real mess up there sometimes.
Pizza Store at Sunset
Thin and sharp, her silhouette moved against the sun sinking glare of the pizza store window.
“Oh, honey look what you made me do!” she announced, bending to pick up the pile of napkins as the red light caught her sly smile.
Telephone Time Warp
I picked up the phone. I could tell it was Bev right away. She has a nasal, Judy Holiday kind of voice, though not exactly.
“Hello this is Bev,” She always sounds a little tentative on the phone as if she is unsure that her voice is in the same century and can travel through 21st century technology. “Stan’s OK, but they’re keeping him overnight for tests.” Stan is her husband.
“I tried to call you at work, but you had already gone home,” She continued after I made a little sound that told I had heard what she said. “I talked with Myra. I’m gonna come in tomorrow anyway since I’ll only be ten minutes away from the hospital.”
I had just put down a Movable Feast by Hemingway, and through most of the phone call, I was making a journey from 1920’s Paris to a place where Bev’s words made some sense to me coming through the phone in my living room.
“You do what will be best for you. We would love to have you cooking tomorrow, but don’t worry about us,” were the words that almost automatically formed in a part of my mind that wasn’t in Paris with Hemingway.
“No, it’s best I work.” Bev finished and we said our good-byes.
I went back to Paris, and she went back to worrying about Stan and tomorrow.
This Morning As I Came Downstairs
From the top of stairs I saw the shadow of the bird outside the warped glass window next to the front door. The bird was flinging itself, thump-thump, at the glass in an irregular rhythm. It pecked and fluttered around and pecked again. I walked down and opened the door and looked around the door frame. The bird was gone.
Navigation and Observation in the Urban Wilderness
As I waited at a red light, my attention was captured by a man wobbling to a strange rhythm. His clothes and flesh under the clothes hung uncomfortably on his bones, sagging here and there as he tottered toward the busy intersection on a stretch of sidewalk that he navigated as if he were using a dream compass to cross an alien landscape. He hesitated, glanced back toward the square of sidewalk that he had just successfully traversed. There flashing like a beacon in the afternoon sun was a small metallic object just of the center of the sidewalk. The saggy man stopped and girding up the small cardboard package he held tightly to the side of his body, he prepared for his return journey to the previous square. Turning unsteadily, He glanced casually as if the metallic object was of no interest to him. Then with the grace and skill of a dancer, he crouched and snatched the shiny object, and all in one motion straightened, sliding it into his front pocket and continued his wobbling progress to the intersection through the wild white desert of the sidewalk. If I had glanced away for a split second I would have completely missed it. I would maybe checked the signal and then when I went back to the wobbly man there he would be continuing his journey. I would have no idea that he had just performed a miniature ballet to snatch something I hadn’t noticed and still do not have any idea what was flashing in the sun. Maybe something unspeakably precious that would enrich my future life. Who can say?
The light turned green, and I continued on my way wondering where that man was taking the shiny object, and would his dream compass get him there. I hope he was not an evil time traveling scientist bent on worldwide destruction and the shiny object the one remaining piece to complete his evil machinery. Oh, well, I had my journey to continue with my own dream compass to guide me down the black river of road that carried me into the rest of my day.
Down the Hall on Your Left
In my dreams life is lived in a world house in which doors open onto rooms of almost infinite landscapes in a state of constant fluid change. The rooms change with my experiences in life, the places I live and people I meet.
Sometimes I think of my waking life in that way. When I get into my car in the morning to go to work, the road becomes a hallway and my classroom a door at the end that opens onto my work day. Then in the afternoon my car takes me back down the hall to the door leads to my life at home.
Yesterday on my way back down the hall from my day at work, a man leaned out of his car window and asked me directions to the nearest market that sold fruits and vegetables. I almost answered, “It’s just down the hall on the left.” Then I realized he was not inside my life’s house. He was in the house that contained his life and had not constructed the hallway that included the market. He was most likely adding a hastily constructed new wing which he called northwest vacation, or business trip.
“There’s one just up ahead on your left,” I yelled. “Two signals,” I held up two fingers to emphasize the number. I wished him good luck and went back into my life to continue my journey down the hall that takes me to my life at home.
Mississippi Mind Map
Lately my ideas are scattered like small towns in Mississippi of over 50 years ago. Each one connected with some small rural highway running through a landscape of farms and little woodland patches all warm and humid, and my consciousness is like an old pick-up truck backfiring its way in a circuitous route trying in a lazy way to connect them. When my pick-up stops in a sigh of dust and exhaust at some broken down gas station of an idea, my consciousness will get out and converse in slow southern tones casually with the old man who runs the ancient pump that will give my mental vehicle fuel to rumble on down that bumpy mostly paved randomly numbered route to my next idea. I am not in any hurry. Things just are not developing that quickly in my mind that I would need a super highway or a bullet train. Maybe my mental pace will advance into the 21st century soon, but for the time being I’ll be moving on the faint gray lines in between the tiny dots somewhere around the Gulf of Mexico and to the east that big river that flows from out of the great open plains down into the bayou country. Maybe thats where my mind is headed. Maybe next week I will be stranded somewhere in the night, bald tires mired 2 feet in the mud on a back road next to a bayou with no cell phone. I just can’t say for sure. Maybe I will drive over the long bridge into the 21st century and take a plane to somewhere I have heard of and my ideas will come tumbling into a melting pot city, converging into epiphanies of light and activity that never sleep. Right now I find myself just outside of Minter City (that name sounds familiar) near the Yazoo River and my gas gauge needle is in the red. I guess I’ll mosey in and see what this place has to offer a mental traveler on a warm Sunday morning sometime in the middle of the previous century, maybe a little prayer and a song and church coffee. Sounds good right about now. I think I will just stick to the river road after that. Maybe I could make Yazoo City by sunset.
Golden Hair and Blue Smoke
The Monkey King shifted on the bar stool and rubbed his hand over the deep golden hair on the top of his head before pulling a cigar from somewhere, casually striking a match that appeared from an equally mysterious location and gently puffed the slightly mashed stogy to life.
“So what’s this all about?” He asked in between puffs, his voice a bit rough around the edges.
“I’m not sure. I just wanted to get to know you a bit better,” I answered kind of feeling my way along the dark corridor of this conversation. “That smells awful, by the way.”
“I know. You really can’t get a decent cigar these days,” he said tapping the thing in the ashtray and then placing it in the corner of his mouth to hang and waggle as he spoke. “It’s a habit I just picked up recently, in the last hundred years or so.”
We both settled into a slightly awkward silence with throat clearing as the main ingredient.
“So, like I said before. What’s the deal? I heard you were asking around about me and wanted a little face to face.”
“I guess I was just wondering what it is your doing these days, and how you might fit into this piece I am working on.”
“People nowadays are mostly rehashing my old stories from way back. In their defense, I really don’t get out much anymore. I’ve been hangin’ out with my crew on the sacred mountain in the east, but I gotta tell ya that’s wearing a little thin these days.”
” So what are the kinds of things you are likely to do in a story? What do you see as your role?”
“Well I have awesome powers. Each golden hair on my body can act as a tool with multiple functions and I have perfect control of all of them, but I tend to be a loose cannon, a bit shifty, and easily distracted.
I am definitely a heroic type, a bit off beat, I guess, but I generally get the job done.”
“Hmm, I can see definite possibilities. What’s your schedule look like for the next few months?”
“I am pretty much wide open. I have a few minor responsibilities but nothing epic on the horizon.”
“Great! How do I do I reach you?”
“Just give a shout. I might come if I not busy. You never can tell. The name’s Lord Hanuman but you can call me Hanuman. That Lord thing always made me a little uncomfortable.”
We shook hands and he vanished in a puff of foul bluish smoke. I went back to my gin and tonic, my imagination lit up like a strip club at midnight. Yeh, it was the beginning of a beautiful collaboration. I felt it in my gut. This Hanuman might be just the ticket to get me on the express train to somewhere weird and unexpected, and that was just what I was lookin’ for.
A Road, A Tree, A Room of Bright Questions
There is a lone tree in the middle of a rolling meadow of amber dry grass next to a dirt road that leads to an old gold rush town in the foothills of California. The tree is a bare black gash in the blue sky of late summer as if the day had been shattered from the other side. The fabric of darkness shows through the crack. Last night I walked into the darkness of that tree that stood in a day twenty years ago and found a passageway that led to circle room with many doors painted in bright colors lit by the sunlight that came gently through a glass ceiling. Each door asked me silent questions about my life. I could not decide which to open first. They were all important questions, but I knew I had time to try each door. It seems I had found the room at just the right moment in my life. As I turned to face each bright door, I was pleasantly thinking that I had built this room here in the middle of my life so long ago and left that lone tree as marker along the dirt road so that I would not miss it. Planning is so important when constructing a life. You just have to figure out how you are going to find the important places when you need them.
Soaking in the Long Ago Sun
Today, on this cold, wet autumn day, I will sit with my back against the rough bark of the dark tree in the golden light and let the waves of late summer heat flow into me from the past. I will not enter the passage into the room where doors brightly invite me to look for answers. Today, I am a soaker not a seeker. Tomorrow will be a day for exploration and note taking. Today I will close my eyes and feel the day pass without comment.