the post-ever after

9 October 2013 § Leave a comment

That’s it. We’re married. In it until we’re not.

It’s back to totes and attics with the decoration. Cold leftover cake smudges our mini fridge with chocolate, gifts lie about our basement like trinkets from another world. We’re supposed to be packing for our honeymoon, and I’m busy honing a life purpose.

Don’t forget your toothbrush. Write until your fingers ache. Make sure you pack your sandals. What is the relationship of words and sound? Is the extension cord in the camper? Is the camper an extension of myself?

I found a post-it note with the names of people who’ve not yet been paid for their contribution to the wedding day; a fabulously sucessful affair whose only hiccup was that the bride’s entrance song never played. Oh, you don’t get a second chance at things like that.

And the beat goes on. Credit toward its due, a handful of women organized an event for the age. Its kind had not been seen by even the caterers. The sheep skin-textured day left me whispering incoherent rhymes past midnight. The wedding crashers kept quiet, if not inconspicuous. I could speak to its wonderments for hours. Signing the documents under porchlight. Gatsby glamour in ways I did not expect people to take the invitation to heart. The dapper Reverend Ed in a cowboy hat.

And then I was asked to acknowledge my family.

I’d not been asked to do that before. I thought there’d be a quick prayer said by someone else. I thought their presence spoke for itself. What was I supposed to say about my family?

I stood there and looked at them, holding the microphone like a middle school principal at a pep rally. The wedding paused. An autumn tide flooded up through my body. I felt the water headed for my eyes, and tried to dam it. I couldn’t tell what they expected. I couldn’t tell if they expected. The stage itself, a sloped lawn next to a purple and green house in the woods didn’t bother me; seventy or eighty people watching me in silence, to most of whom I’d been branded at least once that awful title Poet, I washed them out of my mind; I was there with me that day, Sunday at 3:33.

My family had shown up in support – for perhaps the first time in my experience. No words came – no rhymes or images which might impress. Just the tears. I gave myself the sole option of claiming my roots, tenuous as they were. So I told the truth. That I’d not stopped running from home and family since June sixteenth two thousand three, the day I left Alaska with the intention of forever. That I’d been searching for something better since, and had nearly convinced myself that I’d found it. A lot can happen in ten years.

Likewise, much can stay the same. Like my destination, no matter how far or fast I traveled, no matter what I was looking for. Like people who love me. Who hold space for my everything, while I search for the meaning of ‘holding space’ in the far reaches.

After the ceremony I wondered if it was strange that I cried and Heather didn’t. I remember seeing her pages and pages of agreements and vows, and thinking of the page and a half in my green notebook I’d dedicated to the venture, and how much I’d crossed out and written in the margins. By the time I got to the end, I’d barely begun. Luckily my voice did not fail me.

And, to my gentle surprise, neither did my family.

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who are your friends?

9 October 2013 § Leave a comment

The following are the kind of friends:

One who has played with you in the dust.
One who is bound by an obligation.
One who is a fellow student.
One who is acquainted with your secrets and faults, and whose secrets and faults are known to you.
One who is brought up with you.
One who is a hereditary friend.

These friends should possess the following qualities:

They should tell the truth.
They should not be changed by time.
They should be favorable to your designs.
They should be firm.
They should be free from covetousness.
They should not be capable of being gained over by others.
They should not reveal your secrets.

–The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana

welcome to the woods

4 October 2013 § 3 Comments

The one-doe welcoming party sat, belly pressed against the earth, chewing with her miniature jaw, her rabbit-like ears turning this way and that surveying the sounds of a forest at dusk.

I tramped down the gravel driveway, picking at the grossest zit of the decade on the search for a parking spot for the camp trailer. The deer’s obsidian spheres stared me down, judging my threat level with a kind of apathetic curiosity.

Without my glasses I’m not sure how I saw the forest-colored animal so long past sunset; perhaps something within knew I was being watched. We eye-gazed for a long while — five or six minutes, which seemed to pass so slowly I thought my minute two she saw through me and all of the things I’d done, like the eye of God – all without moving, or apparent fear. At one point I raised my hands to anjali mudra, prayer position, and said out loud, thank you.

The doe chewed on.

Not that I expected a “you’re welcome…?” but I felt connected enough to the moment that I thought she might witness gratitude instead of my stress.

In the book and film Life of Pi, the main character was more distraught not by the departure of the tiger Richard Parker, but that in the moments before he would disappear from the boy’s life forever, the cat didn’t turn around to offer Pi an opportunity for closure.

Hurt by his own anthropomorphizing, Pi understood only much later that the emotional connection was one-sided: Richard Parker learned by necessity and association to coexist with the human boy on the life raft; it was the latter who’d formed the friendship.

When Heather walked our way, the doe’s ears flicked toward her footsteps. I put one finger to my lips, and pointed to the animal, but the deer had already risen and was trotting across the grass and into the forest. Our moment was over. Gratitude or none, I was to her another creature in the woods, and though we would have spelled ‘pray’ differently, the words sounded the same.

surprisingly mild collisions

3 October 2013 § Leave a comment

For years I feared being the common denominator between the fractured circles and scattered connections of individuals I loved. Whereas a more social person might host a party to introduce clients to ex-lovers, business associates to a young entrepreneurial cousin, or invite fundamentally religious family to a wedding at Burning Man, I’m less inclined to create intricate networks than simply reach out in a random direction many times to connect. Life seems more foreign when mutual friends are rare.

In 1999, a band called Powerman 5000 released an album entitled Tonight the Stars Revolt! The biggest hit of their career, ‘When Worlds Collide’ (popularized by the Playstation game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2), taught me two important lessons: 1 – if you really love a song, don’t set it to repeat a hundred times a day, and 2 – the collision of worlds was a wild and violent phenomenon, like stars exploding, and should be avoided at all costs.

This was of course before I’d seen Hubble images of what happened to the cosmos when stars revolted, exploded, or collided. It was also before my first acid trip, when I discovered that people themselves were stars, made up of the same particles and energy that have floated around the universe since the beginning, of, well, everything.

At some point between then and now, Mrs. McCarrey’s tenth grade English lessons on Symbolism clicked. Hawthorne’s veiled minister, Melville’s whale, Dickinson’s enlightened agoraphobia. Physics and Literature suddenly explained similar concepts with varying amounts of clarity and eloquence. The hippies and rastafaris and Buddhists, all of them, even the sheep of Christ – they were right. Religion is but language to worship the One, the Self; they all try to convey the same essential messages in different ways: everything is of source energy, or a reflection of it. Regardless of what we call it, or the stories we attach to moments of its transformation (birth, marriage, Genesis, Big Bang, Holocaust, etc.), everything is energy. If God is everywhere in everything, then God is Energy.

Stay with me; I’m getting to the point.

Another lesson – one from Uncle Scott, from his time in prison: if you’re ever worried, or scared, about how certain people could potentially relate to you (in his case, with shanks or the Crazy Eye), remember this mantra: here is God experiencing itself as this person. Here is God experiencing itself as me, as you, as her or him or them. God, regardless of history, association, or gender, is only a name.

We as people wish to be called by our true names. That is to say, we wish to be heard, seen, experienced, and loved exactly as we are. Christopher McCandless figured this out, perhaps too late. Now, who am I to keep individuals from discovering they are fingers of the same hand, to keep one from reflecting the beauty, wonder, and talent of another?

Worse yet were my sins of refusing to accept what others experienced in me by not allowing them to connect over a common denominator! It is simultaneously the epitome, and the very opposite, of selfishness, in that I would do anything to keep my needs for being seen from getting met.

It’s a hard line to follow, that of truth between selfless and selfish. In his brilliantly titled book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi talks about the benefit of adding value to yourself by connecting people. The orange hardcover sat on a shelf for years, and the only thing I took from it was guilt for eating by myself. All the while I applied its networking wisdom slowly, bringing people and worlds together which would certainly have never met otherwise. Most often both parties learned something about me from the encounter.

I’m not sure I ever made a point. That’s okay. Consider this processing out loud. Like telling a story and remembering a detail as it comes out of your mouth. Those are the important ones. Have a good day.

why “groom”?

2 October 2013 § Leave a comment

My notebook’s got a running countdown, a steampunk clockface without hands, counting up to 3:33 pm Sunday, October 6th, a future anniversary. A ceremony which was at one point to be small and intimate might more likely manifest a more medium-sized intimacy.

A couple of weeks ago, I stood at an old blue USPS mailbox with a wax-stamped, calligraphic envelope, as middle class cars passed by, and dull clouds passed over the sun. Posting the invitation cast my next role in relationship to its recipient. Or would, if I chose to imbue the moment with catastrophic meaning, as opposed to leaving the moment alone. It didn’t offend me, wasn’t a projection screen for my story.

Today I invited Buddy Wakefield, one of my 100% spoken word artists, to the wedding. his tour dates said he’d be in town this weekend. Blake, the Nomad body-piercing rock star, gave Ed his first ear piercing in 85 years yesterday. He’s kin, and invited.

And there are people from my life whom I’ve inevitably overlooked, ignored, filtered out, and let go. What is the connection one gains from attending a wedding? I’ve fulfilled RSVPs to all kinds of celebrations; in back yard Alaska, podunk western towns, and skipped receptions to fight with an ex-girlfriend. What stories might come from this weekend? Will the vortex of loved ones leave me bewildered and unable to accept a single congratulation, because someone else felt left out, unrequited for the bundle of time or energy they once pointed at me?

It’s taken all day to write four paragraphs. Buddy said he can’t make the wedding. That’s okay, but I’ll still secretly hope he shows up at the last minute. For now, I’m going to work on a philosophical treatise on the joke of individuality, in my sleep.

Three days. Still counting.

Where Am I?

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