Saturday, November 22, 2014

In The Dark

In the dark there are mysteries.
From childhood we swim in the emotions of what we can't see.  There is that quickening of your senses when the unknown becomes intertwined with reality. The raised hair on your neck and arms, or legs or whole body. The instant sweats. The rapid breathing and fight or flight feeling that sets into motion the adrenalin that amplifies it all like gas and a match as one second becomes ten.

  As one who doesn't watch horror flicks, I don't like to feed the adrenalin I feel when I'm in the dark. As a lover of the mountains, I try hard to find ways to survive my thoughts each night as I try to fall asleep in a  one man tent alone surrounded by things that can eat me in one bite or a dozen mouths.  With only a 4" knife, a propane stove and sometimes pepper spray for defense the brain can wander.   As the picture above shows an arbitrary camp fire, I can tell you where every photo campfire was taken. The fires light and the sky and the trees are my safety as the temperature drops each night. And during these times you reflect on all that was good that day, and you fill your mind with good thoughts to carry you into the dark and cold of night.  Ok, a good shot of whiskey from an old cowboy flask doesn't hurt before you get in your bed role or bag either.  
The sounds that wake you in the night or during storms will come. And they will scare you, and you will pray and open a knife and hold a can of spray and listen and hear things no mortal should be able to hear at those times.  And usually it will pass, and the wind and branches or the animals will move on if you were smart enough to not leave food or scraps or bottles or wrappers or drippings near your sleeping quarters. This could be a much longer blog of those stories alone today,  but I'll leave those for another night.

The Sounds...

Everyplace in your life where you are confronted with the dark you will remember sounds.  And you may associate everyone of those with smells and temperatures and feelings of the past.   And it will never stop while you're alive. You will just learn to mitigate it like everything else you do as an adult.  And every time it happens again like the first time, you will be scared once more..

And there it was again.   I awoke in the dark. The sounds were strange. Tubes in me everywhere. A tube on my vocal chords searing with a pain like I'd never known. The strange sounds of a respirator slowly breathing for me.  And the adrenaline kicks in.  And everything slows down.  And you begin to listen to what you are up against and how you're going to fight.

  I'm alive. Ok, I begin praying and thanking God for that much. Other than my vocal chords, I'm not feeling much pain so I'm thankful for whatever drugs I'm full of.  I hear random soft voices "we're drawing blood, we're taking samples". I feel nothing so I'm thankful for the drugs again.  I open my eyes for the first time and there is  that film over them and everything is blurry but there is light.  Oh glorious light. 

Like a campfire in the distance of night.  It's a door, my door and I slowly see movement every few minutes of bodies slowly making their rounds in the middle of the night. This time it's not animals to eat me, it's helpers to drug me.  And there is a comfort in the darkness there. A knowing that this darkness is for good not evil.  

Like Ed Harris in the "Abyss" when he wakes up at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by gods and angels without any understanding of how and why. And the music is surreal and the calm confusion is stunning. Yes, that is it. Calm confusion. And in those moments you take stock. And like Harris in this photo, you become humbled and feel unworthy of whatever is happening. 

And now my thoughts roll to veterans and survivors of accidents where others have died. It's that why me overwhelming feeling ? Why do I live and they die.  And there's the sadness mixed with the joy of voices you hear that you love.  A bittersweet knowing that you can't verbalize.
And you close your eyes and think about the places that you remember being alone in the dark and ok.  And I'm at that fire with a billion stars and the temps dropping fast and the visualizing of my next mornings hike up the mountain and supplies and the filling of my brain with good thoughts to take into the dark night and i smile and i drift off like every night, saying those same words, "Ok Lord, I love you, protect my loved ones, protect me too. And if I'm gonna be eaten, may it be in one bite so I can see you soon - Amen".   Yes, that's a mountain prayer, I'll admit I don't pray that in the city and city prayers are much more narcissistic about my problems today and tomorrow and my enemies and roadblocks ahead.  Come to think of it, mountain prayers are probably allot easier for God to listen to and answer. 

But in the dark a prayer is a prayer.  It's that step of faith. That leap into the unknown where you've been a million times before. That double prayer at times. One for the prayer and the other for the faith to believe you're not crazy for saying the prayer.  One thing I know my friends. God is not impressed with our knowledge. He is much happier with honesty and good questions.  If only we could take that from the dark to the light as quickly as we are willing to spread rumors from the back room to the water cooler, or best friend to next best friend or spouse.

I'm hoping that the dark will become less a mystery and more a new set of questions not to be feared.
I'm praying that my few bad memories of the dark will fade before my final curtain here,  and I might be blessed enough to help walk others through some of dark and scary times with a firm hand that says "In these dark times be still and know you are surrounded by good. For God has sent god's and angels to help you find your best and brightest future. Today they may help you with your pain, tomorrow they may only help you endure it. And someday you may only have their memories and words to help you face the darkness.   Be still and know, with faith and hope there is love.... even  when you walk In The Dark. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Building Memories

Today, i waited for a few friends to drop by on the week anniversary of my triple bypass. I fell asleep on my sofa and when i awakened, it was later in the afternoon. The sun was streaming through the front window and pouring across one of my old flags like it was still veterans day, and I had missed it, and my friend the sun was being kind enough to remind me not to forget.  I lay frozen there to the sound of only my breathing and half opened eyes. I looked around that small corner of my life and realized how much this very view meant to me. I put all this there without knowing what I was doing. I was building memories.
There is my favorite oil painting. I never thought I'd own something so beautiful. I remember seeing it in the back corner of a small art shop in Europe. The owner almost crying when I said I wanted to buy it.  My promise to ship it back to the shop owner if he ever wanted to swap it with a purple hued floral by the same artist hanging in the elderly shop owners home. The dim light shining across the brass on the old clock that's been ringing for 27years in our homes.   The painted brass dials with scenes of life in Germany and the Neuschwanstein castle swinging back and forth on the weight dial. Memories of picking each of our children up once a week to open the big clock and wind the giant key to the reverberating sounds of a large mechanical clock work.  Nothing sounds like that. 
And the light on the clock was reflecting the same glow. The same warm glow of light as the day we picked it out in a village in the Black Forrest  on a cold fall morning after eating white knackwΓΌrsts with stone ground mustard and a Pilsner with foamy tops and mist on the ground.  And there on the floor, sit  two of my old guitars.  Like dogs in a kennel, all  cased up where I lay them after my last gig.  Crying out "Hurry up and heal" we want to make music again.   And the photos of our children and family, weddings and  holidays.  And in the middle a black and white photo of my parents. As if they are watching over us and the two 100yr old family bibles on the floor covered in pottery.

Memories. That's what they are, that's what we build and try to maintain in our own special ways.
And I wondered if everyone has these non-secret / secret places. Places that without explanation would mean nothing,  but with understanding could explain whole portions of ones life.  I guess the photo walls in our homes growing up were part of that memory building for our parents as they lined our hallways and stairways with  black and white and yellowed pictures we were all to happy to get rid of like bad sweaters. For our parents, or mothers at least,  they were living murals of life and all they treasured and smiled at each day. Taking the silent 100 trips down the hall or up an down those stairs with laundry or soup, realizing that in time they pass those photos now only with the reality that those times will not return.  Memories can help us remember and that's it.  For our loves burn bright and fade slowly into our pasts like the embers of a good fire.  No two are ever the same or comparable.  Our children are each the best and most unique and special. We wish they didn't have our weaknesses and we  celebrate our gifts woven into their successes. We ache when our children leave us, and our families and our loved ones and we rejoice when we can celebrate together on occasion. 

You know I'm guessing that memories are gone when we are gone, and that the beauty of them is for the now and the moment and the mortal.  And I'm guessing that that should make them all the more special for us to cherish.
Well in less than a blink of an eye, the printed photograph has really come and gone like a comet in the night, and entire memories of lives are now stored on a chip of a  breakable throw away every 18month phone.
The scanner and fax machine and 8tracks, 9mm, Dats, cassettes, Cd's and dvd's, floppys, mega, gigga, Terra... That's the speed of where our memories are going.  Will the pencil disappear soon? I'm guessing so. It seems to only take one generation of biased teaching to sway minds now.  Whatever politician can invest enough money and leverage into the future of the next "pencil" will win that one. 

So where is the future of memories for our children and their children's children? How do we conserve and preserve it for them till they actually care about such things as history, legacy, family?

For those without children I'm at a loss. An unexplained sadness of a fork in the road some day coming when the aloneness of being alone set's in while one watches a neighbor surrounded with grand and great grand children experiencing and giving memories to new generations.  (Like your grandma licking her thumb in slow motion to wipe something off your cheek, and you know it will smell worse than your worst nightmare for 5min. and yet, you will stand and take it, and say thank you grandma,  because that look in her eyes made the memory all worth it.)

Pop culture will figure that out for each generation I guess.  The wild stories will always remain of the crazy uncle, the normal 99 percent of people will be generally be forgotten in a few years,  and any way to make someone think more of themselves will make a buck faster than all the good ideas for "others" ever combined. Wait... unless the book that says doing for yourself is actually doing for others and it's better than if you did it for them,  hasn't been written. That will sell the most.

Where are your memories stored? Go find one of those places today and be still and listen for the voices of the past that you loved and cherished. Listen for the wisdom you missed in words that seemed of no value at the time.  Behind it all, if it was good, if it was noble,  you will hear the words "it's love" echoed in the sights, sounds, tastes and touches of it all. And all that... is for you, for me, for right now. And like everything, it is a gift. A gift from a Father to a child.  Write them down how ever you can to memory.  Share them with those you love. 

And anything less, anything given to you in hate and with and for a selfish destruction of others, for personal gain and your destruction...? Is not God.  So today,  get rid of that hard drive, unplug it, throw it away, it's your choice. These are your memories.  Start a new camera today with new photos and new memories that celebrate all the goodness that you are.. 

Well the sun has fallen on this little corner of my living room.  That setting sun has turned to a fires glow and the smell of crackling pine and dim lights and candles.  And the sounds of the clock remind me that we don't get these moments back.   I look and stare, and try to remember this again.  And I stare in silence at the 10inch zipper on my chest and the surgeon saying see you in a few, and the waking up and the nurses, and helpers. It's like a sped up movie of it all, and my precious wife trying to do everything perfect, and the cards and notes and voicemails and photos and.... feelings of unworthiness and helplessness and pain and anger and tears and laughter and the building of ....  memories.