Truth in Fiction-The Tao of Neil Gaiman

The lights dimmed, and Neil Gaiman walked to the podium. 

His presence was that of an old friend you would have a cup of tea with.  Everything about him reminded me of everything… everything that I held dear.  He began with a speech he gave about the importance of books, and libraries, and why we should dream, and his childhood, and how books were saviors and libraries safe places, and I sat in timeless rapture as I felt my own childhood run back to me like a clumsy kid and wrap me up in it’s unconditionally loving arms.  He spoke to my soul, he was a part of that same fabric of stars that I came from.  Tears ran down my face.  I know ….weird right?  I’m crying at a perfectly non-sad fireside chat with a distinguished author.   But it was such happiness to hear someone speak like I speak and think like I think and dream like I dream.  And be writing…writing ….the joy of writing.

In the dark, I took off my heels and placed my bare feet on the floor.   

“Fiction can show you a different world.  It can take you somewhere you’ve never been.  Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world you grew up in.  Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different”-Neil Gaiman

Books created my discontent at an early age.  My summers, like Neil’s, were spent at the local library, I would sit for hours, reading, and exploring other worlds and lives.  I learned how to live in books, they taught me what my parents wouldn’t or couldn’t.  They allowed me to travel and think  without fear or shame or retribution.  Books were escape back into reality for me.   My love of books is something bordering on the sacred.

Neil understands this.  Maybe all of us writers do.  We understand the revolutionary power of the word. 

Books create discontent for me now, I write to show often how discontented we ought to be sometimes.  This “real” world is a bit mad.  Look at the news, see how we treat each other, see how utterly disconnected we are from other human souls.   Look at our own lives, how we hurt each other, how we say unkind things, or think unkind things, or shut down and tune out and blame. 

I refuse!  Done with those days.

“In the beginning…there was the word”….And I would add…”And the word is sound”  Stories are live things.  They are real things, they bring us into the most intimate places within the human spirit

Tuning

705394F8-5C3A-443C-9E30-072A2391D742.jpegLight was  streaming in the windows illuminating the white furniture, and splashing warmth on the walls.  Anna sat tuning her guitar.

“A…A …B…B….G” she sang each note as she plucked.

”Hey Mom…”

I looked up from my latest writing piece.

“Yep”

”I think people need tuning.  Just like my guitar.  Who tunes people?”

I didn’t have to think, the answer sounded in my head much like a ringing A note.

”God does, honey…God tunes people.”

The soul is the spirit that longs for all

 

The gray sky opened up and a beam of sun hit my eyes and I started to cry.  Home…home was in that light.  I was seeing beams of light through shadow, the intimate focus of light, the colors in that light.  It was everything, it was where I was from, it was where I was going, it was where I created from.  It was All. 

I remember a moment when I was very sad, I started crying while commuting into work.  I just started sobbing, saying over and over again, “I want to go home!”  It was some sort of otherworldly crying out.  I wasn’t referring to my childhood home, it was a primal soulful cry out for home.  I didn’t know at the time what that home was.  Slowly, little by little over the past year, home was being revealed to me.  Home was with All, in this light that kept finding me when I least expected it.  Like this moment right now, as I sit bathed in morning light in my house writing, wrapped up in All.

I had experienced “All” in cooking breakfast this morning for my daughter, in the way the conductor’s hands moved over the sound, in playing the piano, in the way my horse moved with such grace, in his gray eyes long ago.  All.  This is where we are from.  This is where we are going, this is who we belong to, this All, this everything.  We don’t belong to each other, we belong in All, we go back to All.  There is no lack in All, there is no loss.  There is the warmth of sunlight, the light…which illuminates everything.

“She had a glow about her Cindy, it was the strangest thing.  She looked the best she had in months.”  Christine was lost in thought as she talked about the day she spent with her dear friend, the day before she died.  I smiled as tears ran down my cheeks, because I had seen that glow before.  A month before my grandmother died, I was speaking to her.  She laid in bed and had a glow about her, I have always described it as, the soul being drawn up close to the skin.  This light, this light of All in us, seeking to go back home.  This is why I do not fear death, because I will simply be going home to All where there is only light and love.  I have seen All, I have touched it, I have felt it in my hands.

And while death seems a morbid subject matter for a light filled Sunday morning, I think it’s rather a beautiful hopeful subject.  It reminds us of life, what we are here to do, why we came here, to bring All here, to live this life, to learn our lessons, to create, to be light and loving.

“What is Hell, it is a place without God.”  I remember the Sunday school lessons well, as an adult, hell can be something that we experience here, it is when we reject love, when we fail to forgive, when we choose not to see All in another human person.

I know that I have been an epic failure at this a time or two. And when I have, I have suffered greatly.  But then again, All works in mysterious ways.  Ways that we can’t see at the time, but through even the darkest moment, we are being called, closer and closer to this light.  It is the light that we are attracted to the most, not the person, not the music, but what is behind the music, that light, that energy that flows though everything.  It is not in one person, or one place, or one moment in time.  It is everywhere.

And this is why I cry, much, because I am so filled with awe of All.

And I don’t care if people find me strange, or too fanciful for thinking this way, for believing this way, for being awake.

Bourbon, Honey, Hot Soup and Gentle Hands

My head had the weight of a brick weighing down on my sinus’s and my eyes were a watery mess, in between sneezes I had a hacking cough.  I should have been in bed, with someone feeding me soup, and cuddling me while I felt sorry for myself.  Illness was not something I did well; I tried to run away from illness by ignoring it’s affect on my body and pushing past it to do what I wanted to do.  Yesterday evening, that was music…and the companionship of my music minion friends.  Music, honey,…and bourbon I was convinced was the cure to all aliments.

So I dressed up and took my sniffling self to Music Hall. 

“What would you like to drink?”  DP texted as I put my coat down.  

“Ugh…something with bourbon in it, I have a bad cold.”  Lucky for us Catholic’s we officially get a day off from our Lenten fast each week, mine was alcohol, so I figured I would take the evening to indulge for medicinal purposes.  It was that or hack during the whole performance.  What I didn’t’ realize was that DP was going to hand me bourbon…no mixers…straight bourbon.

“This might kill me.” 

He laughed.  

“Well, what a romantic way to die…here…listening to Wagner.”  Who was I to argue with that.  In my overly romantic brain, taking my final breaths listening to Wagner in the ornate splendor of Music Hall while I was consumed by consumption seemed delicious. 

DP escorted me to our seats where MM, the life of the party with a hilarious sense of humor, warm personality, and a “Can you fucking believe what happened to me today??”  MM used “fuck” in the kind of way that it was simply elegant.

I got my honey throat lozenges, my tissues, sipped my bourbon, and relaxed into conversing with my tribe. 

“Are you going to make it to the second half?” 

“Of course I am!  Music is healing.  But I would kill for soup.  In fact, I think starting a Non-Profit that delivers soup to sick single people is brilliant idea.  Can you imagine how wonderful that would be?  You make a phone call, and at your door comes steaming hot soup…hot chicken noodle soup…or tomato soup and grilled cheese…”

“I can see the bourbon is kicking in…” DP said with a grin. 

A few minutes later, the maestro entered the hall.  He was the kind of conductor who was so seasoned, that as soon he walked on stage, you already had the most fantastic music without a note ever being played.  What I enjoyed the most about his conducting were his hands.  He had the most gentle hands, he made the littlest movements, soft and kind to watch.  I could not pull my eyes away from his hands.

His hands reminded me of gentle moments and kindness and love, and as the music swelled underneath his fingers I was lulled into a remembering of truth.  Truth and love lie in gentleness.  Presence and command do not need harsh words or brute force, strength is gentle.  It comes from confidence and repetition, and knowing…the gifts of imperfection.  As his fingers beckoned members of the orchestra to play louder or softer, I thought love is a lot like that-it’s an invitation, a sharing.  When we love someone, we don’t try to control them, we simply invite it to join with us, we beacon them.  “Come here, come here with me and let us share in this beauty of life together.”

The evening was perfect, “Sniffles’ as MM now calls me, made it through both halves and stayed late to speak with friends after the show.  I went home and immediately went to bed.

Got up this morning and made my concoction of healing medicine:

Mango, Peach, Orange Juice

2 Spoonfuls of local honey

For lunch …Chicken Pho noodles and broth with hot sauce to clear my sinuses. 

And by the end of the day, as I was lounging my mare, practicing using gentle hands and gentle words.  I also practiced “inviting” her.  When she became frightened of a task I asked of her; trotting polls terrified her, got quiet and patient, let her be afraid, I did not get angry, just encouraged her, and found myself saying, “come here…come in and join me.”  My daughter echoed, “Yes, Perdu, come here..come join our family, we trot polls in this family, it’s okay…we’ve got you.  See I’m trotting polls too…it’s not scary.”  A hopped over the polls and soon Perdu followed. By the end of the lesson we were all trotting polls together and laughing.  Perdu, who was inconsolable only an hour earlier was now as gentle as we were.

I started to feel better again.  Thank the stars…there is nothing that a little bourbon, honey, music, and soup and the wisdom of gentle hands can’t heal.

But more importantly, getting sick and slowing down a bit reminded me that strength lies in gentleness and love is an invitation, not a command.

 

 

The Energy that Keeps the Stars in the Sky

“Love…I think it is that condition in the human spirit that is so profound that allows us to forgive.  It may the energy that keeps the stars in affirmiment, I’m not sure, It may keep the blood running smoothly through our veins, I’m not sure.  But its something beyond the explanation.”-Maya Angelou

Maya, moved on, is still my mentor.  A writer, a wise woman, a woman who knows the depths of the human spirit in it’s light and dark winding ways.  I stumbled across this video today, and wept with her, and felt connected.  I believe in this energy…this love…this God.

When you have experienced this energy, you know the truth of things.  It reminds us, of home.  Not our home here, the home that we know we came from.  And sometimes we weep, because we know our home is in this love, and to be in this love.  This energy makes me kneel in amazement.  This energy, has allowed me to forgive…everything…the unforgiveable things in myself, the unforgiveable things in others.  Because this is what we are.

We are this love.  It is in us, it is what makes the heart beat, the blood flow, our eyes light up in connectivity in and recognition.  This…this is the energy that we are asked to tune into.  When I am quiet, I tune in by each breath.  I place my hand on my heart…and breathe.

 

Just Swing

I watched J of A aka J and A, swinging together, laughing, the little old married couple.  It’s nice when you find your soul mate at 7 and 8 respectively.  J and A were inseparable.  They communicated on a higher plane that put us adults to shame.  They negotiated their wants and needs like little Zen masters without ever getting too upset with each other, when they did get upset it was usually J taking a break in his room, while A came over to play Minecraft…breaks lasted maybe 5 minutes.  Then peals of laughter could be heard from the swing under the Oak tree.

“It’s potential to kinetic energy…”  He gazed off lost in thought.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“hmmm….oh…formulas going through my head.  Swinging it’s potential to kinetic energy.  It’s all about velocity.”  I was intrigued, John’s mind was an ocean of deep thought and science that made the mechanics behind life fascinating.  As the resident Ph.D. on the street, he was wealth of knowledge, from how stars formed, to why sunlight was sunlight, and how swings…swung.

“Swinging is kinda of like life isn’t it, ups and downs…”

He begun to get energized.

“Oh, it absolutely is.  Life is all about ups and downs.  Like swings.  Your highest velocity is as your lowest point on the swing.”

I could feel my eyes light up.

“So…at your lowest point on a swing…you are at your highest velocity and about to take off, about to swing high?”

“Yes…all of your momentum comes from the fall.”

“So, couldn’t one say that your lowest point in your life is actually your highest velocity, from this this point…you take off to reach your highest heights.”

“Yes, you could absolutely say that.  You will swing up again, then fall down again…to the low point of high velocity, then go back up….but here’s the interesting part.  You don’t really fall do you?”

“No, because you are on a swing.”  My mind was racing with the kind of good creativity that fuels me.

“Exactly, you are attached to a rope, that prevents you from really falling and crashing to the ground.”  He said.

“So then…in life…our downs are the springboard to our successes and we might go high, but we never fall…truly fall….because we have a rope.  The rope is attached to the tree.  Is our rope God?”

“No, the rope is faith, the tree is God.”

“I think this is a new story I’m going to write…the parable of the swing!”

“Of course you should, I’ll give you the scientific formulas for your tale.”

We both grinned at each other.

Just your average day on Wallace Avenue.

Edgar

“Are you a musician, I couldn’t help but over hear your conversation.”  He turned to me with a big grin.

“Yes!  How could you tell?”

“You were discussing Stravinsky.”

“Ahhhh….yes, are you?”

“No, I was blessed with a passion for music, but no talent…a cruel fate handed to me by the creative gods.  What instrument do you play.”

“I’m a jazz drummer…but I love Midori, have you seen her?”

“Yes, last season at the CSO.  You know…many soloists are technically perfect, but they have nothing to say…Midori has something to say.”

Edgar began to well up big teddy bear tears.  His son turned to me, “Whoa…there’s only a few things that make my dad cry, Midori is one of them.”  Egar’s tears began to fall,

“You understand, yes…she reaches into the soul…something to say. Ugh…I can’t believe I’m crying!”  His 70 years or so began to melt.

“I can…you are a musician…you’re closer to the heart of things.”  He nodded his head, “I play this Sunday down on Ludlow, Sunday brunch, you should come.”

“It would be an honor, Edgar..”  I said with a smile.  Old souls like us, just connect, even with 40 years in between.