Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunshine Let In

My mother’s 85th birthday came last week, a day of blurred images for her like any other. My father understands all too well how the Alzheimer’s has taken her out of reach, but he needed acknowledgement of the special day for himself anyway. His note to his children spread across the country was brief and factual, reminding us that it was a hard day of memories for him, a quiet and rare tear of loneliness.

An atheist and an architect, a man reliant on the curves within a life of structure and order, the world has been well-defined to him. He and my mother raised their children to be brave, productive, community-minded and reverential of creativity in others and especially in themselves. He has been bewildered by those of us who have made choices to embrace that very passion over the normal path of job-security and financial well-being.

He has rarely faltered in giving me thousands and thousands of dollars to bolster my business, loan down payments for a home, and provide the safety net as I have tumbled too many times toward the Crack. He has done so with unconditional love, even long after accepting me as a “disappointment”.

But on this special day of memories for all of us, he wondered aloud—spread out as far apart as we might be—if we all paused to think about Mom at 4 PM while he sat with her, would she feel the love? This from my father is an outstanding illustration of the portals that seem to be opening to so many of us in what I dare to describe as a "new age”.

The concept was identified with exuberance in the Sixties by youthful protestors to a war and a lifestyle, and exalted in a shocking musical about long hair and the Age of Aquarius. Parents like mine were bemused and tolerant, some even joining in; others were terrified with bulging necks of red.

After the war and the disgrace of the Nixonian Doctrine, things slowly returned to normal. Except for quiet enclaves peopled with the likes of my sister Lane and Tom, hippies turned to yuppies (following my Dad’s expectation). Communism collapsed, the SUV and plasma screens became status and, despite oceans of madness and poverty around the world, our lives ticked quietly on.

Equal to the fear that raged in all our hearts, on Sept. 12, 2001, the internet exchanged countless messages of hope, peace and forgiveness. As our government raced towards a war of revenge and oil rights, calm voices counseled that this was their last stand, a final “hurrah” before the forces of compassion, brotherhood and love could unite the world.

Quietly the dawning rises to become the Age of Aquarius, a metaphor as bright as any sun, spreading over people as emotionally conservative as my father, opening hearts to conceptions that were ridiculed forty years ago, and completely inconceivable beyond that. In so many references, from career choices to marriage(s), to the colors of bathroom walls, we are being encouraged to trust intuition over rational influence.

A friend who tragically lost her daughter becomes spiritually attuned, a source of inspiration, guidance and support for anyone in crisis (where she might have been burned at the stake not so many centuries ago). Another continually is urged to drive inexplicably miles out of the way only to come across a soul in peril, desperately in need of the very help that has just arrived.

Physically broken and emotionally drained this morning, I lie unmoving, wondering what can be the purpose of my pain and suffering. That others are so much worse deters me only a little from my melancholy. That they can still so cheerfully wish holiday greetings while I am so humbuggish only makes me feel…grumpier. My family is scattered, my friends all joyful, all (but me, sob, sob) wrapped amongst their own families. The darkness and silence embrace me.

Deep inside, however, comes a will to throw the blanket aside and step into the grey, chilly day. I feel the love in my heart of those friends and family near and wide, who chatter on Facebook, smile from their picture frames, or are just distant memories of some one I used to know—who call me intuitively this early morning to participate in life with whatever humble gifts I have to offer.

No demand is made, no price asked, just welcoming arms out-stretched wherever I choose to look. So much lies before us, a banquet spread abundantly.

We have only to open our arms instead of closing our hearts. One small step after another, leaping towards light, we are in this together, and I am grateful, looking towards the New Year.

Please share with your friends

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dark and the Light

Fear is such a daunting opponent, always an opportunity, but usually daunting and often immobilizing.

We are having our first snowfall of the season at long last, so many Vermonters exulting on Facebook. Two months ago, my son and I anticipated this with an enthusiastic glee I had not known since I was his age. Committed to another winter of ski instructing the Skatter Monkeys, we eagerly watched the leaves turn to fall.

My own fall, however, has changed all that and I lie on the couch this morning livid with fear and frustration, worried that age has caught up with me and will soon blur my vision further and turn my hair to grey. For weeks now, I wonder daily if my lure to lay low in my quiet apartment is truly fatigue and a healthy path of healing or the onset of depression and a serious nail on the coffin, the stress of a long life of troubles over-taking me as quickly as age.

In preparation for the winter of skiing, I was scheduled to make a run to the Mountain this morning for a meeting and required paperwork. Previously, the hour drive each way in snow—considering myself a seasoned Vermonter—would not have been a bother in the slightest, no reason to cancel. Today, however, I fret with concerns that let the deadline for departure pass. My body, I rationalize, would be uncomfortable with the extra time of driving cautiously, and if I skidded off the road, I would be helpless to get myself out.

Normally, such concerns would be easily assuaged by the enthusiasm to accomplish the deed. Rarely one to resist on account of caution, this unfamiliar territory confuses my sense of immortal purpose. From the view of my couch, for the first time in my life, those flakes outside look threatening instead of inviting me to leap and dance over them with boards attached to my feet and sticks in my hand, a concept now so alien compared to my safe, warm, grounded place at home.

Likewise, even making it to the Mountain, the thought of actually attempting an easy run on an easy slope still shudders my core even though last year I was bouncing through moguls on the steepest pitches. Corralling my little Monkeys around hot chocolate, bathroom runs, and trying to get the right gloves, scarves, helmets and goggles on the matching five year old body is an even more intimidating and exhausting image.

Yesterday I walked a mile in my own shoes along a path beside the Lake and today my injury is sensitively inflamed. The doctor says I can ski even with these tubes still in me; mental health yearns to try, but the body resists, not with a decisive jolt of agony, but a subtle flush of discomfort that keeps me off balance.

Regularly, I relive that blind rush of noise that changed my life as the ladder slipped out underneath me last October. I hear the sharp crash of hitting the pavement ten feet below. I can feel the slow-motion confusion as my senses re-oriented to people standing over me, concerned, but completely unsure of how to help. Then too, my fear is fueled by that moment of collision three weeks earlier in a soccer game that resulted in my first stitches in 20 years.

Having been so adventurous and physically capable throughout my life and so rarely injured to any extent, fear now wraps around my desire, choking off the will to move forward. The “what-ifs” are closer to “what could be” and risk outplays results: I remain at home idle and wondering.

Last night I awoke in emotional discomfort and witnessed fear descend like a vulture and envelope me in the darkness, preventing my return to sleep. Unable to work, I would be homeless without my father’s help. Concerned that his help over so many years has played a part in my lack of financial success, still reliant, I fear I will never stand on my own. This injury to the very symbol of manhood seems a cruel representation of the truth about my life. I think I should just get off my butt and find a job, as my father admonishes, "...any job."

Looking for the brighter side, I muse, turning over and trying to breathe out the fast-pulsing fear, given the opportunity to break forever from construction and pursue creativity, I stay awake in the fearful dark, counting words and worrying I have not written enough, hardly taken advantage of this time now afforded. With this chance, I should be scribbling every hour. Not doing so, I fear, invites worse calamities to befall my sorry soul.

In the grey light of dawn, the snow falls like a comforting blanket. I know it is unwise to push too hard like I may have done before. Though I may feel like conquering the world in this moment, I must respect that this trauma was severe and it will still be a week before we have evidence of how much has healed and the first tube might be pulled out (oh, joy!!!). The doctor’s permission cannot overcome the reality that after a mile, my own body is weary and uncomfortable.

Fear exerts its pressure, but the day and the night, the dark and the light must be negotiated step by patient step, always returning to balance.

Please share with your friends

Monday, December 7, 2009

Song of the Soul

The reputation of my injury (especially the location) preceded my arrival to the party, so sympathetic greetings walked me across the room. The gathering was to inaugurate my friend's sunroom which had been transformed with a mural and hardwood floors.

Stopping by later after my band practice, for this party centered around music, I jumped right in with a couple of songs. Easily comfortable behind a microphone and under red lights, this kind of informality is much harder for me to play than on stage. I was very shy and stumbled.

Out of the corner next stepped a woman, petite and stikingly beautiful, whose small, humble talking voice was no indicator of the strength and clarity of her singing. When speaking of the power of God and the Universe, there is no better evidence than the rich notes that alternately soared and floated out from her operatically, casting the rest of us spellbound.

Shyla Nelson, I learned, has taken a leap similar to mine with more concentrated determination and measureable success. Performing regularly in the region and internationally, her incredible talent is stirring audiences.

Close to the heart, her work as a voice trainer has accelerated as she focuses on her conviction that strengthening the inner core of the body solidifies the voice, not just as a musical instrument, but as an expression of the soul. Through the power of the voice, one can heal wounds that may have affected the psyche for a lifetime.

A striking clarity in her eyes, the purity of her voice, and the confidence in the spirit behind her message lingered in my mind during the week, finally urging me to send an email. My request was for a simple one sentence evaluation of my voice as she had given on the spot to another musician at the party.

Instead, she invited me to a session later that week. As the morning approached, I became more aware of the appropriateness of this therapy to aleve the disorientation I feel around my circumstances. Not only am I adrift about reconciling my creativity versus being stuck as a carpenter for income, but I am so physically wounded in my core pelvis area.

Emotionally, I remember explaining to my wife two years ago that I needed time to hear my own voice again, that in the stress of our lifestyle, the shouting was drowning out any sense I had of right and wrong choices. Almost immediately, I began playing music and writing songs again, but still struggling for direction today, this work with Shyla might spring me forward into a new realm of understanding, motivation and confidence.

Her greeting at the door was warm and exuberant, like old friends. "Good to see you again," she exclaimed.

As background, we talked of my poverty, my frustration, my wounds from the fall, my marriage, and even my childhood. I described the exhaustion I feel trying to live up to the expectations both self-generated and placed upon me by my parents and others.

Perhaps this injury and forced months on the couch have been a time to lay the burden down and rest, grow silent against the demands and find the inner voice that can better rise to meet them. Shyla agreed and sympathized, saying that I rest in good company as this year has seemed to be a turning point in so many lives.

We agree that there is a magical energy afoot that makes it seem our meeting was no accident or co-incidence, but a marvelous synchronicity that is likewise connecting souls all over the world. Every where, people are in personal transitions as palpable as the sky before a thunderstorm that leaves the earth afterwards clean and refreshed.

By virtue of my needing to write, my path crosses with someone who would like to have her process of teaching transformative singing described. My aching body and weary mind is in need of the strong voice she promises she can help me find. Through this work, it is my hope to sing out with the clearest notes, one more voice added to the song that, all together, can elevate each of our lives.

Please share with your friends

Friday, December 4, 2009

World of Changes

Identifying the problems in my life is no problem. My faults and flaws are many and clearly evident. They seem fortunately mostly forgivable to those who know me well. Discovering solutions, antidotes and modifications to these proves much more difficult.

This blog, like journaling, has been an attempt to describe the process of self-discovery, an accounting of change. By seeking to use problems, hurdles and tribulations as opportunities instead of obstacles, a transformation for better (or worse) is chronicled.

That I choose to do this so publically has inspired a little derision, some ridicule (I imagine) and a lot of mystification from a few, but seems to intrigue and stimulate most others. Often acknowledged for being so bold, it may be foolishness on my part (another fault), and lead to regret, but the lesson continuously is reaffirmed that the more honest and open we are, the truer, stronger and more vital are the friendships we attract.

The movie "2012" apparently takes the Mayan prediction of the end of the world, leaving off the crucial phrase " we know it" and depicts a catastrophe laden blockbuster entertainment feature that makes a joke of the concept. Those who see the movie, curious about the hoopla around the date, come away misinformed and completely ignorant of the opportunity available to us.

Interestingly, more and more common folk are growing cognizant and speaking openly about their own processes as they relate to the idea of transformation with a capital "T". Code words are floated between strangers and, if receptive, connection can be immediate and deep, lasting lifetimes or just simply and beautifully in that moment.

Concepts once seen as "far out" in the Sixties have become as mainstream as the hippies who cut their hair, took regular jobs and raised families. So-called Red necks living next door seem no more immune. What once was the dawning has become the Age of Aquarius and as much as terrorism has replaced communism, there is a wealth of hopeful energy in neighborhoods all around the world.

What this means for me is that I have been on a long journey full of joys and tragedies to bring me to this ocuch where I lie today, contemplating the tubes in my belly. This accident was no accident, but an accumulation of experience--not a culmination, yet another skirmish between my rational confroming self and my sub-conscious, my soul which knows far more, is more patient and far more powerful than my problem-solving mind.

I lie here this month, considering the events leading to this: the wonderful moments of birth (mine and my children's), love and good fortune, often over-shadowed by the disasterous decisions that have lead to bankruptcy, divorce and emotional and physical impoverishment. I think about the fear that has caused me to withhold my love and fully appreciate the love of others, and grow determined to live more openly in that sunlight, like a flower leaning towards the brilliant nurturing rays.

This process fascinates me and I am not afraid to share it because every day I am being rewarded by the companionship of those who want to join in the chorus. Like a wave gathering strength and momentum, 2009 has been a surge of energy in retrograde, seemingly full of set-backs and disorientation to so many in their home, health and heart. My belief, which I keep hearing echoed in the songs, stories and conversations, is that we as individuals, communities and population are moving forward into a new realm of understanding and appreciation.

Dreams long dormant are re-awakening, Our thirst for connection is being quenched, our hunger for unconditional love aroused like the palate by the aroma of turkey, seasoning on a late Thanksgiving morning. For every terrorist bent on destruction, there are thousands embracing our humanity and forgiving us our frailties as we know we should forgive theirs.

In 1978, my intuition understood this primal power, drawing me in through fire and death to settle with a family on a mountainside in Oregon for ten years until my thinking mind's resistance provided my daring leap with a landing that embraced a more "normal" lifestyle. My sister has remained on that mountain and faithfully supported my journey without judgment, all the while encouraging me to stay alert to this energy of spirit and the new world that is possible at the end of the world as we know it.

From my couch today, I see there are several people closer to home who have recently crossed (or re-crossed) my path to help me with my trasnformation. One in particular has invited me to share openly the work we intend to do together, a story I relish to write down in the year ahead.

Please share with your friends

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Grow the Grasses-oh!

If I am ever inclined to feel sorry for myself (which is often these days), visits with my father and an old college buddy over Thanksgiving can help to temper that perspective.

A few years out of school, married and with a baby on the way, my friend was crushed by a small wave off Long Island. Having heard a "snap" in his neck, for minutes, he lay on his back under water, unable to move, watchng the sky, expecting to drown, but miraculously was found and pulled to shore, paralyzed, but alive.

Twenty-five years later, his wife helps him with every bite he takes, and still their love seems as vital as any who have fallen into each other's arms. His corporate employer stood by during his year long absence and welcomed him back, even changed his assistant's job description to include meeting his wheelchair at the station and rolling him the rest of the way to work.

After so many late nights of college dreams, he has successfully written much more than I (who dreamed more vocally) and seen his screenplays evolve into movies. A very melodic guitar player before his accident, he has switched to harmonica and plays out with two different bands.

We can allude to his handicap comfortably and to some of the pleasures he misses, but he has made life good for himself (with fortuitous and loving help), grown comfortable in his chair. Always a realist, he has adjusted and made it as good as it can get with no audible complaint.

So lonely, lost and bewildered in those first weeks after my scaffold collapse, I lay on my couch, desperate for visitors and was satisfied only an hour a day, even counting the visiting nurse. Rationalizations that the Universe had given me this time to be alone and in deep contemplation was no solace to the little boy who wanted comfort and a hand to hold.

At 85, with his wife embraced by Alzheimer's, my father is both nearly blind and deaf. His knees arthritic, crossing the room is a slow effort. Living in a community of aged souls, he spends most of his time alone, frustrated not seeing the details of faces, or discerning the rumble of pleasant conversations. His hands are numb, his teeth cracking. He uses a catheter at night. He misses my mother hourly and has trouble telling his grandchildren apart.

"My worst fear," he confides honestly, "Is living another ten years." He has stopped taking aspirin to prevent a heart-attack and feeling a pain in his chest last month, he admitted thinking, "Oh Goody!"

Raised a Quaker, but always an athiest since his war experience, he expects there to be nothing beyond, sees no adventure ahead (as Charles Lindbergh revealed with his last words). There is no talking to him about Spirit, reunion or future lives. He accepts with equanamity the inevitablity of a long, long sleep and the rest of the world going merrily along without him.

Together for the weekend, we muddled about his apartment in slow, cautious steps, napped on schedule, and sat on stools in the kitchen, staring at dropped packaging on the floor and choosing to let them lay. A mirror image lowering ourselves into either side of the Redster, my sisters laughed heartily to witness our moans and groans. We shared our catheter stories as only those who have them can understand.

While I do slowly get better, however, sadly for him, this decrepitude has been an irritant for far longer and is destined only to get worse.

Even so, while he has given up on the detail of his paintings and sculpture, unable to see or feel the realities of form, he has switched to alabaster and abstraction, using a Dremmel and hand to smooth vague shapes that twist and roll with the beauty still clear in his mind. Stone dust covers his wheeled walker.

Using a 32" HDTV for a monitor, with his glasses off and face inches from the screen, he religiously checks the stock market, email and weather online, and good naturedly tries to figure out what all the fuss is about around Facebook. He takes the bus to market and patiently observes that re-stocking shelves in different patterns might sell more items, but frustrates a blind man who cannot find where his Wheaties have gone. Disappointment has not scared him that the Phillies lost the World Series; they gave him three seasons of fun.

Admittedly removed emotionally from his children as they grew up, with my mother no longer available to translate, he has been forced to ask us questions about our lives and reveal his own thoughts, fears and frustrations, becoming a more communicative person, discovering lately, as have I, that being open invites hugs in return. Relating together for a lifetime in silence, we are only now learning to speak to each other more clearly.

A lesson so very precious, to enjoy the miracle further, I pray he sticks around just a little while longer.

Please share with your friends

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fresh Air

"Breathe...reeeeelax...let it go." I used to chant to one of my soccer kids sprawled on the ground contorted in agony and fear.

"Breeeeeathe," I used to say to my own little kids sucking on a pinched finger or vomiting into the toilet bowl in the middle of the night.

"Easy for you to say," they can sulk today, "You never get sick."

It used to be true. Or if I did, I did my best to act like I was fine, as if by pretending to be normal, I would be. Symptoms disappeared if I gave them no attention. Standing straight and tall made my breath much more full and my back ache go away. A simple smile can cure so many ailments.

So just days out of the hospital, I asked a friend to drive me to the venue and I mustered all of the energy I could to sing one song, following through on my commitment to participate in the contest I had waited a year to enter (I did not win, nor even made the finals). As quickly as I could, I dropped the splint off my wrist and scribbled words until the ache screamed, then scribbled some more after a rest.

This past week, I have been grumpy and ornery, wanting to do more, alternately optimistic and discouraged. My intention to regain normality in my life is constantly thwarted by the reality of a daunting fatigue and the irritating pinch from the catheters. I feel like I can do so much and just as soon as I try, I have to collapse on the couch no matter the will to continue.

"What's the matter with me?" I wonder, watching out my window as everyone else goes to work.

The week started with Kip'n'Co playing two hours in a club to a tiny audience, but streamed across the internet by a local entrepreneur, the music reached hundreds of people around the world (the program kept track of number and location). My elation to feel so stimulated by the good sound was tempered by a long rest the next day, but not drained enough to cancel a rehearsal and audition to add another lead player.

Each morning, I perused the classifieds, imagining many different ways my varied construction management, book-keeping, and counseling skills could be translated to a different sort of work. I sent out resumes with excitement, intoxicated to think I could recharge my life in a completely different context than by wearing a nailbelt.

Expecting to have one catheter removed at our appointment, however, the doctor decided another two weeks with both would maximize the opportunity for healing without further surgery. My best friend doctor buddy came with me to ask pertinent questions and we got a sobering picture that while I will continue to recover, it will be long and slow, even without the surgery that looms as fifty percent likely.

Amazingly, he predicts I can ski soon (even with the one catheter still in my belly), says I am free to drive now and could return to carpentry whenever I want. I just have to be careful, moderate my energy and rest whenever tired. All that seems pretty far-fetched to me today, But I will myself to trust him.

The assessment hit me hard. Despite the fact I know people who have not, or will not, recover from their particular challenges, my own story seemed bound for the happily-ever ending. The Kool Kat was determined not to lose his slick demeanor, but this news finally brought on the depression I have feared since the scaffold collapsed. I wallowed on my couch in a stupor, talked miserably and full of self-pity to friends on the phone and Facebook. I understood at last with tears in my throat how people could feel the best was all behind them.

Looking in the mirror, my skin has grown flabby and stretched limp, dried and scaley. My hair is unkempt, half the time my cheeks are scratchy. I am afraid this is the event that people say makes a man suddenly grow old. One day I was playing soccer against 20 year olds (hardly bothered by five stitches), anticipating for the first time in 20 years a winter full of skiing, and the next I am supine in misery on my couch, making a slow effort just to wash dishes or get up the bank to my little rumbling redster.

And then I drank more Jack Daniels than I had in college days when I thought (mistakenly) that it would be fun.

Thirty-six hours (and one hang-over) later, I sit writing these words from the seat of my car halfway out onto a beach in Massachussets. The seat is pushed back and bolstered with a cushion. My window is open to breathe fresh air. The sun shines warmly and bright into my little red cocoon. An expanse of Boston Bay shimmers before me, crowded with long boats and stroking oars.

I have brought my son to a rowing regatta, the beach pulsing with the shrill energy of high school students competing. His team is doing very well, a fine example of synchronistic behavior well focused. Parents roam about proudly.

I am surrounded by life and loving it!

Alternately, I put down this pen to rest my aching wrist. I wrap myself under my heavy suede jacket, like a calf against his mother, closing my eyes as comfortably as if I sit at home on my couch or am still buried under the heated blankets and cushioned by pillows in the hospital, tended by a soothing nurse's hand.

Only here the view is much more inspirational. As easily, I dial my phone and connect with friends and family around the country, weighing my energy and considering options for the next few days of this Thanksgiving adventure and how far I might have the strength and stamina to wander before returning to Vermont to recover in the isolation of my home.

"Breathe," I keep chanting to myself, "Breeeeathe!"

Please share with your friends

Friday, November 20, 2009

Under My Skin

I don't mind admitting that the chorus to this new song came to me in the driveway of my dear friend who has shown me that love does not always come in the package we want, and seeming less, can somehow be so very much more.

The bulk of the music and many of the words came to me on the morning of my accident when I wanted to continue with the creativity and, against my intuition, forced myself to get off the piano stool and onto that cursed scaffold. Getting it to the point of this very rough cut has been a focus of healing over the last month, one small session after another until I was satisfied to record and mix it on my computer yesterday to hear how it sounds. In my excitement, I want to share it with you, all my other dear friends.

Under My Skin
(Passage of Time)
Sunday footbll, drinking beer, cutting firewood
Doing what I want, not what I think I should
Sailboat, running shoes, a season's pass to ski
I've got my dawg, Life's what it ought to be
Then you come along to show me what I've been missing
Singing your song, giving me all of your kissing
And now you're so deep under my skin
(Though I didn't want to let you in)
Every day I love you more
(Though I didn't want to open that door)
Feels like life can finally begin
Now you're so-oh-oh-oooohh under my skin
I've been here before, I didn't like the pain
Sun so bright usually turns to rain
What looks like love is something worse
What seems like a blessing turns into a curse
But here we are still friends after so much time gone by
Wishing on a star has never kept me this high
And now you're so deep under my skin
(Though I didn't want to let you in)
Every day I love you more
(Though I didn't want to open that door)
Feels like life can finally begin
Now you're so-oh-oh-ooohhh under my skin
What's done is done, the future lies unknown
We've got to stand strong in the here and now
On our smiles shines the sun, warms our souls to the very bone
There's no need to fear, it'll all come clear
If we just stand still in the passage of time
A smile so sweet surely wins the day
A steady heartbeat chases the blues away
Eyes so soft, and hot enough to melt the ice
Carry me aloft without thinking twice
And now you're so deep under my skin
(And I'm so glad you let yourself in)
Every day I love you more
(And I'm so glad you opened that door)
Every day we get to begin again
Now you're so-oh-oh-ooohhh under my skin
Please share with your friends

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The first shower in a month has got to be one of the sweetest moments! Witness to others but never hurt myself like this before, I had not imagined life could be reduced to such a simple pleasure, celebrating the accomplishment of such a basic need.

A month after my accident, I am doing much better, thank you all so very much, and yet am still plagued by a fatigue that brings tears to my eyes, poised just on the verge of a total release of a lifetime of pain and suffering, but still refusing to finally overflow. I started to drive again this week, and like breathing, the ability to get myself to the store for groceries gives me a wholly new sense of purpose.

The sight of tubes protruding from my belly and penis hardly surprises me today. The slow limp that avoids pinching seems nearly natural. I empty my bags as regularly as checking email, and I can imagine a day when this will all be behind me, a tale barely worth mentioning to a new friend.

Last weekend, a friend encouraged me to attend an earth spirit conference with her, presented at a gorgeous sanctuary on the grounds of an estate overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondak Mountains beyond. Sunshine came through the window, a rainbow of color circled magically on the ceiling overhead, and the talk was of the energy of earth and spirit connecting us together in this mysterious life.

I could easily have (and probably should have) remained at home, bundled, secluded and recovering, one soul pondering alone. Instead, there was a built-in cushioned bench, nearly as comfortable, where I could lounge and listen, whisper to my friend, or nod off, leaning into the corner when it became too much.

The topics were inspirational. The mysteries of crop circles were discussed to open our minds to the unexplainable, pictures displayed to ignite a sense of awe. Also, there was a talk on sacred spaces, a startling discovery that there are many little Stonehenge type sanctuaries 5000 years old scattered throughout the woods of Vermont, and their similarities to others in the world, demonstrating just how long and faithful is our search for meaning in this life.

As my intuition to these sorts of connections grows stronger, it was the second speaker who made it clear to me why I had stretched my body to attend this conference. Bradfield is an artist and musician who lately has been motivated to speak at events like this. His topic was all about intuition, faith and trust, listening to the subtle messages all around within and without us that can guide us to our true purpose in life.

From where I sit so long and listlessly on my couch, it feels clear the struggle in my life has been like a fish upstream, a determined swim against a strong current for a reason and to a destination far beyond my comprehension. Listening to others and imitating strokes has made a few moments easier, but more lately it seems, the more I try to follow--do the "right" thing--the harder it gets.

My greatest fear today is that an answer lies directly in front of me and I am too blind to see. I feel open, vulnerable and willing. Unable to write or strum, often too weary to talk, I have alternately prayed, meditated, listened and dreamed, but the silence only seems to loom louder.

Yet internally, as subtly as the cells coagulating around the tube in my urethra, there seems to be an energy growing, a vague but powerful voice getting louder.

My tale is nothing special, my injury no more or less than what has been suffered by so many others at some time or other in each life. That it is mine is all that matters to me; that I humbly accept the pain and the gift that is my mortality and use it to benefit my brief time in this world connecting with others seems more than purpose enough for me.

Though carpentry is an honorable trade and sometimes has served me well, the progression of disasters makes me fear it might kill me the next time a hammer is in my hand to pound for my daily bread. My only clarity in this time is my fear to return to my usual path, one that has been so full of struggle, hardship and disappointment to myself and others, but has enabled me to live thus far.

If new waters must be discovered, I will explore them with faith and determination. In the roaring silence of this recovery, I ask for guidance. Immersed, I try to catch a sustaining breath. No further clarity embraces me, nor comforts, except that I must still and always go forward one precious stroke after another, open-hearted and excited, greeting the sunrise with joy and witness its setting with gratitude.

I am alive, and most importantly, I am not alone.

Please share with your friends

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Distant Shores

The doctor made a quick assessment of the repair and subsequent healing, determining nothing for sure, but satisfied there was progression. He pressed hard on a particular spot to ensure last week’s infection was truly gone. Continuing to improve at this rate, he surmised, the first catheter might be removed in two weeks.

To my complaint that sleep erections have returned and are quite painful with that tube stuck in me, he replied, “Congratulations!” An injury like this can destroy nerve tissue and render impotence, a prospect I had not imagined, but was in the minds apparently of many family and friends.

“You should be back to work in a couple of weeks,” he predicted.

This should be wonderful news, a relief, but it fills me with terror.

If I was happy in my work, or could just show up Monday morning with my tools and be set on a task, perhaps I would be eager, ready at least. Instead, I have to find work, hunt down a job, and most likely it will be of a completely different sort.

The roof from which I fell has been finished by the owner’s son and they, in fact, want money back, having gained the perception in my absence I had not been focused enough even before the fall. The few other jobs I had lined up I had to pass on to others, needing to be done. The only one left is a few squares of shingles on another roof and I am afraid this time it might kill me.

All of these years, I have been building additions with the heart and purpose of a man determined to provide for my family. Although I have an impressive portfolio of finished projects, there is also a trail of wreckage behind me, countless bad debts, broken contracts and failed promises, having taken too much on and operating usually on an empty bank account.

This has always been about practicality and never about true purpose. My soul has not been invested and it has shown up regularly in the struggle to stay afloat. The Universe has delivered warnings through hardship, and then, not getting it, forced bankruptcy. Still, I was determined to overcome the obstacles. When the engine of my truck was blown, I got the message and celebrated the burned bridge with a year of the writing and music I have always longed to explore.

Impoverished and confused, however, I returned once again to the trade that has always put food on the table. Just getting comfortable with that choice and enjoying the positive balance in my bank account, the scaffold collapses under me and I come crashing down.

At fifty-five and in the middle of a recession, this is not a good time to embrace such a radical change. Practicality dictates that I collect my tools and get back to work, but my terror spreads through my thoughts as rapidly as the flames in my dream last night burning down my home and consuming a lifetime of possessions.

Carpentry is the known quantity, the simple solution of one nail after another, following a sheet of instructions, a blueprint that shows me with every board placed here I can have food, clothing and shelter there. Even in recession, people need their home repaired, their walls painted a new color of hope.

Turning way from that certainty is the most frightening step ever taken. In panic, I keep running back. This accident has stopped me cold, dumped me on the couch, aching, exhausted and numb. For three long weeks, I have contemplated the plastic tubes coming out of my body, religiously emptied the bags of waste and wondered at the guiding force sending its message with such clarity and mystery.

I am terrified because the only real clarity seems to be not to do what I have always known. The time has come to embrace true purpose, but what comes to heart—creativity through writing and music—secures precious few pennies on my plate. A castaway desperate to get home, I must leave my island on a rickety raft, likely to sink, but determined to float, yearning for what might lie beyond the horizon.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I am raised in a family of achievers.

Before the age of five and entering kindergarten, I knew well it was my German ancestor, a century earlier, who had “invented” the concept that children, like flowers, should be raised in a garden of opportunities to discover, whose hand carved pony in our living room I could rock so fast. Long before a picture surfaced on the internet as proof, I believed without wonder that my grandfather had worked with Einstein, Roosevelt and others, an industrialist “responsible” for sending tanks to England and rebuilding Austria after the War.

My mother constantly identified all the incredible accomplishments of my father, tales remarkable enough embellished with such awe I was impressed and proud on the surface but hopelessly intimidated deeply underneath. Not only could he master any task he tried, I was constantly told by relatives and teachers that I too had the gifts that would create success for myself wherever I might choose to wander.

My two older sisters were such organizers and so popular, when my name was recognized entering high school, the expectations were made clear that I should make important contributions in and out of the classrooms. It seemed easy to become officer of so many clubs, the class and student council. It was no surprise to win the scholarship to be a foreign exchange student and the day I wanted the individual soccer trophy, I simply played my best and took it home.

My mother’s love and faith in me was rarely tested and never faltered. Even at twenty-three when I married a recently widowed, now pregnant, older woman with two other children, my mother took them in and made them her own. She read every story I wrote and listened to every song, convinced far more than I that I had things important to say and my passion to create was the purpose of my life.

As I narrowed my choices and construction was more and more required to pay my bills, she rarely showed disappointment, but reminded me that even without an architect's license I was still designing homes for families. As my business was in trouble, she contributed money and after declaring bankruptcy, she offered no judgment, but total support to pick up the pieces and keep on working. The strife in my marriage growing ever more apparent (still, I hid the worst from her), she never suggested I end it, but advised always to keep my children in mind to do the best for them.

All of my life, I believed anything was possible. Hard work, open heart and determination could overcome any obstacle. If what I wanted was not working out, I just had to want it a little more, work a little harder. There was nothing I could not do.

Yet, today I lie on my couch with a limited view of trees, sky and a neon carwash out my window, in the basement apartment of the crumbling home on the “wrong” side of town, smelling the sewer treatment plant next door. My body is broken. My second marriage is well-ended in failure, my business in ruins. A daughter will not acknowledge my existence in her life. I rely on my father for money and have no idea what my work might be a month from now whether my body has healed or not.

It is my upbringing to remember I have other children who love me, call me regularly and stop by everyday to play Parcheesi. I have renovated my apartment into a comfortable space with beautiful hardwood floors and I have the skills to build new cabinets in the kitchen when I am better. My father, though from a very different generation, still has faith I will find my way whatever I do. My mother, though uncomprehending, still tears up with distant memory when I play her a song. I have more friends than ever who invite me to share my life no matter how humble.

The challenge for me today is to remain on my couch for now and do nothing. Between each sentence written on this yellow pad, minutes float by as I stare out the window, search for meaning, understanding and awareness, and pray for reassurances from deep within. After 55 years of pushing forward with unabashed determination to conquer the shrill voice of unworthiness that has plagued my every effort, this accident has forced me to finally surrender. It has facilitated a complete giving over to God and the universe, a submission to faith which I have never been able to accomplish on my own.

For this I am grateful.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let Go, Let Love

For a lifetime, I have had my mother to talk over the joys and pains in my world. Even with four other sisters vying for her attention, she always had an ear for me.

There was the usual and customary place at the end of the kitchen counter where I stood on a little foot stool—no matter the age—and shared my stories while she cooked dinner. A great marble table was the energetic center of the house and she held court around it for fifty years, listening with heart and doling out wisdom I rarely had reason to question.

When I lived on the other coast, the phone line became a lifeline as I described the little steps of her grandchildren and the bigger strides that led to the dissolution of a marriage. In her final years of awareness, I called her daily from a cell phone to remind her of the roads, towns and views of Vermont she had loved so much, until she could no longer remember how to answer the phone.

Next door neighbors in Oregon, my oldest sister Lane absorbed the role. She witnessed first hand my desperate leap into a ready-made family at the ripe age of twenty-three, when it was too scary for me to look out on the horizon of the vast open world alone. She was at my daughter’s home birth. Tom and Lane offered me shelter in Oregon and encouraged me to explore the world, open my heart and reach for the divine.

As my mother’s perception closed down, I burdened Lane more and more with binding the wounds that kept opening in the bosom of my second marriage. For twenty years, she listened to tales of my compulsive behavior to win love at any cost, driving my business to ruin to support dysfunction in the family. Despite her struggle with no perceptible progress in her little brother’s maturity, she valiantly prayed in myriad voices that I would “Let go, Let Love”, get out of my own way and ultimately accept the energy of God and Spirit so available and surrounding me.

Over the years, I have developed other lines of support, like octopus tentacles, utilizing deep friendships and total strangers to hear my stories, confirming my justifications and rationalizations. My great pal, the Doctor, has been like a brother to me and many more sisters have been added to the original four.

Two years ago, after twenty (or forty) years of being so stuck, so compulsively determined, I finally understood I had to shift my energy or die.

The relief of family and friends that my emotional tales have movement at last is immense. This burst of creative energy in song and words is joyfully celebrated, supported and encouraged. Letting go of the struggle to solve it all on my own allows for brilliant colors to be painted on horizons that are much more inviting.

Curiously, I have attracted into my life a woman who challenges me to confront so many of my old compulsions and inspires me to rise spiritually into a kind of friendship I have never known before. At my best, my stories to her are less about myself and my perceived suffering and more about our common blood, our journey of spirits trying to be soulfully human in the body.

This accident provides the opportunity for me to stop telling stories entirely…well, almost. Lane and I decided I did not need her to cross the country to be at my couch-side. The good Doctor is recovering from surgery of his own. My dear friend has had a broken car, a full work schedule, and other serendipitous events to make visits too short and sweet. For long, long, long hours in the darkness and the light, I am largely alone.

Although able and encouraged to walk across the room or out into the yard, I am mostly confined to the couch. Sharp bites in my wrist renders making music virtually impossible and every sentence written here is a labor of mind and body.

“Let go, let Love,” I repeat over and over to myself, head supported by cushions, eyes half closed looking heavenward, hands dropped and listless at my side. There is nothing for it but to let the voice grow quiet and the heart strong.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Broken Armor

This accident was no accident.

The morning began with the composition of an essay about my father, the first written step towards admitting all was not as safe and secure in my childhood as the legend describes. When the writing reached a culmination of intensity, I stepped to the piano and caressed the form of a song out of my head, a shimmer of joy grown a little more solid.

All morning the need to go to work plagued my creative energy. I have struggled recently to regain the self-discipline needed to strap on the nailbelt to pay the bills. This burst of creativity threatened to keep me off the roof and away from the money I needed on Monday.

Finishing the high places, I wore an OSHA approved safety harness, but after a pleasant lunch on a stack of shingles under the crisp fall sunshine, thinking about my new song, I set up a low scaffold like so many times in thirty years. Now just 10 feet off the driveway, comfortable on my plank supported by jacks at the two ladders, I began to dismantle the higher scaffold.

As I pushed on a doubled 2x6, the ladder leg slipped out, the world went dizzy and for the first time in all these years, I came crashing down. I hit hard, I have no idea how, rolled and came to a stop facing the heavenly sky which was soon filled with the anxious faces of the neighbors I had greeted only a few minutes earlier.

Setting aside all the drama, I had surgery to repair my ruptured urethra, a chipped bone in my wrist and a puncture in my thigh that looked like a bullet hole. For the first time in my life, I have out done my father with not just one, but two catheters draining out of my body. After nearly two weeks, just walking across the room a few times is an effort that exhausts me.

Fortunately, I am in little pain. There has been a delirious giving over to helplessness and some great friends have rallied with physical and emotional support. Where I have insisted on self-reliance, I have to ask someone to wash my hair and take out the garbage. Where I have looked to others for love and approval, in the long, long hours I am alone on my couch, day and night, despite phone and facebook, I have only myself.

Not wanting to be on that roof, is it any surprise I would fall off? So caught between this urge to be creative and the need to make a constructive income, the accident deprives me of both for a long enough time to contemplate and evaluate. Just as I discovered taboos in my upbringing may have impaired my sexuality and I gain interest to explore a new way of being, my groin is injured so severely even the doctors grimaced with pain, and now I have tubes to remind me that this is a very utilitarian organ.

At the deepest level, in my men’s group we have been looking at the man, the “Kool Kat”, who faces with a stoic smile bankruptcy, divorce, IRS debt and a sub-prime mortgage forcing the sale of his home. This man grew out of the little boy who came from such rich, legendary blood and was expected to do so much. Determined to rise up to those expectations, I have spent my life taking on unrealistic challenges and continually falling short, rising again and creating a certain emotional numbness in the face of so much misfortune.

It must take something huge, we decided in group, to break through my cloak of indomitable optimism, tear open my kool kat armor. This accident broke more barriers than bones and organs. I am lucky to be alive, with so much time and nowhere to go but deep inside.

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Monday, October 12, 2009


Despite the brilliance of leaves turning and dropping, this time in Vermont can be very gloomy, thick with clouds, heavy with rain, dreary with the thundering silent approach of winter. At least this year, rather than dreading the struggles of cold and snow, I anticipate the pleasure of skiing with my Skatter Monkies.

Like a squirrel counting his nuts, this seems a time of taking stock, measuring the size and quantity of my supply before hunkering down. Compared to the panic of last year—when the economy threatened to exterminate our way of life—some have learned to moderate their consumption and others are back to the race, sobered, but thirsty. I have learned to live with much less and stay close to home, but I am earning what I keep, and by staying within my means, living with so much less stress, I am able to feel joy.

This past year, for me, has been a revelation of creativity, an indulgence of musical blossoms that has brought fantasies into sharper focus, actually close to reality. Watching a video recently of John Oates and other notables on the Bitter End stage, I was awed to consider that I had played that very same piano just a few weeks after him and possibly sang into that very same microphone. I finally got to see my idol Jackson Browne again, then within a month played my own music in that same meadow.

This precious time with my son has finally created some of the bonding experiences he should have been receiving throughout these many years. So open and honest with each other, we have had the conversation that in many ways he has had to be the parent in his childhood, tending to his mother and father as they battled to keep a marriage together. Now he enjoys each as they recover into whole beings with the energy and time to spend supporting his growth and discovery.

We finally travelled to Oregon to link a large piece of my own past, and more importantly, to connect with his sister on her turf. The emotional neglect she suffered from me in these twenty years is shameful, but her heart, so huge, welcomes me back, the father she once knew now growing into a better man.

I am learning that love does not have to hurt, is not about sacrifice or measuring up. One does not have to prove oneself to be loved, strive to be more, or settle for less. Although I have been loved for who I am in my lifetime, it has taken a really special person and circumstance for me to actually feel it.

The inspiration for my writing has lately been very subdued to the point I thought perhaps my crisis had passed and I have settled into a sort of routine that no longer demands expression. To pay bills, I have put the nail belt back on and am currently on top of a roof with plenty of thoughts, but too exhausted by evening to set a word to paper. Somehow, in the weariness of that self-satisfied rest, those words of passion seem less important.

The wages of a carpenter—without the business of employees—can be a respectable living in a humble home. I am loved. I give back with music. I could easily slip into a quiet obscurity, a blessed anonymity.

Still, the de Moll “Legend”, as I call it, runs so very deep, I awake at night, bones rattling to the beat of my mother’s stories of this relative and that, generations of accomplishments that branded my soul with the belief that I too would amount to something more than this. Peeling away the skins of my marriages and addictions, flaps of other layers loosen and my thoughts—like passing a bloody accident—are unable to turn away.

Much I have learned in this cave of a home, but the space is dark, unfinished and crowded with too much. The furniture is ragged (the rejects from our home or garage sales), the dust swirls, mice find access through many holes. In the day it is dark, at night it is drafty. To work, or on errands, I rumble along in my rattling Redster, racing stripes, luminescent stick shift and lighted mirrors features that do not resonate with me.

My self-worth is not reflected in these myriad things, but has certainly been floundering these many years. Taking charge of my life, I begin by sweeping the floor, measuring the cabinets I will finally build, and envisioning the car or truck that better suits me.

The full moon of this October howls that there is plenty more mystery and beauty to discover, uncover.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Up, Up & Awa-a-ay

Fall nudges its way into our lives, a few leaves at a time, one brilliant branch spreading to another. In a mere eight weeks, our skis will have likely touched snow.

Over the summer (that some call miserably wet, but I think was more than half dry), I heard Jackson Browne, Emmy Lou Harris and several others sing to their hearts’ pleasure on a hillside meadow at The Shelburne Museum, their backs to breath-taking sunsets over the Lake. I thought it must be such a gratifying experience to perform to so many surrounded by so much beauty, wishing some day I might have the experience.

Last week there was a balloon festival on the grounds of the museum. Bright, clear dawns and more breath-taking sunsets over-hung the launching of brilliant colored balloons from that same meadow that had heard such sweet music over the previous months. Only a week before, we were invited to play music between the launch and “the Glow” Saturday night when the balloons would be set up all over the grounds and illuminated from their fires within in the darkness of a cooling late summer.

Only when we had set up and begun to perform—as the last balloon lifted and the setting sun was revealed—did I make the connection that it was the same meadow and it was my own music making the little kids dance and their parents tap their feet scurrying after them. Instead of performing with our backs to the sunset, it was spread before us in all of its glory, interrupted only by magnificent colors of balloons.
The vision imagined had so quickly come to reality I was dizzied for a moment by my powers of creativity. This manifestation of a dream coming true was too perfect a circle, as beautiful in shape and splendor as the radiant balloons overhead.

Due to soft winds, the Glow was postponed to the next evening, so Kip’n’co became the entertainment. Balloons aloft and drifting out of sight, no reason to stay longer, still the crowd lingered and enjoyed their picnics, listened to the music and grazed among their conversations. The evening was so pleasant we were invited to repeat the performance the following night.

This time we struck up our first rousing notes in time to the inflation of the first balloon. Fifteen instead of five were filled and launched as we sang our most uplifting songs. With each floating overhead, the crowd cheered and the band roared. I changed words spontaneously to fit the occasion: “…I should be on my way in a balloon to you.”

As if from bolts of lightening, the air was charged in a perfectly clear sky. Summer’s end—with a celebration of labor, picnics, music and color—could not have been more perfect.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009


At a certain point in each circle around the sun, even though it continues moving forward, from our perspective, a planet appears to reverse its motion and comes back towards us. According to astrology, Mercury retrograde is particularly a time of confusion, miscommunication and failed attempts. I used to humor my first wife about this, but after thirty years of coincidences, I give the concept much more credence now.

The advice is to proceed cautiously, avoid serious decisions, and allow the month to pass without concern for results. It is wise, they say, to reserve the time for contemplation. Retreat is prudent; meditation productive.

This week, I suffered frustrations galore on many levels, things like arriving at a jobsite without vital tools and dashing to a show behind too slow vehicles. Trying to print a simple document for a friend, we corrected one typo and, rephrasing, committed another, reprinting and reprinting to the point it ran out of ink with no spare cartridge on the premises. My help to hang art resulted in crooked lines, droopy labels and multiple trips for supplies in an untimely manner.

Internally, my heart has both beaten with ecstasy and sadly adjusted to a flower that has bloomed to a different color than was hoped. For weeks now, the return to focus on carpentry to pay the bills leaves me pressed for time in the morning and listless at night, with energy enough only to gaze at a movie on my tiny computer screen. Prolific in my journal, at least, I despair that potential blog entries have read without inspiration and ended unfinished.

Knowing Mercury is retrograde, whether I really believe it or not, allows me to breathe into this time with patience, notice the difficulties, and absorb the lessons. I give myself a little cushion of forgiveness for what does not go smoothly, what might be said ambiguously or how little gets accomplished in a day.

This is a time when my life appears to be going backwards, returning to a place of distraction from creativity, half-hearted focus on the work at hand, and emotional turmoil around a desired relationship. Once addicted to hourly peeks at my blog statistics, I can go a week now without a glance, recognizing and appreciating you faithful readers, while accepting that without regular entries and comments on other blogs, visits to mine dwindle proportionally. Just so goes my bank account: dependent directly on the hours worked for income, for now, carpentry wins the day.

In so many ways, much to the concern of friends, family, and mostly myself, I could be banging against that same wall that nearly crushed me two years ago. Depression and self-flagellation dance close by my side. In the middle of the night, I lie awake fearful I will not have the energy or optimism to greet the next day.

The difference is that I have better tools to scratch the surface, creating the tiny crack that leads to the opening and clear the blockage. These are with me all the time, never left on the bench at home, but reside in my heart, brain and loins, ever present and ready to burst forth in word, song, or simply expressed in a hug.

Instead of working so hard for the external love and approval—the accolades from others, the dollars in my pocket, the connection with a woman—I turn inward and learn to trust the bearings of my own compass. I begin to luxuriate in the confidence of my own self-worth.

A dear friend has showed me the healing powers of truth and forgiveness, taught me that partnership, in any form, even when strained, thrives with bold communication. She has shown me that being a disappointment does not always lead to conflict and catastrophe, but can actually bring two people closer when handled respectfully. There is an amazing safety in open, heart-felt vulnerability.

In embracing my creativity, other friends have joined me in celebration, so glad to be with me in joy instead of commiseration. New friends appear as each new chink in my armor breaks off another piece and exposes me more. We are mutually supportive, inter-dependent, so that when life is retrograde we can keep our spirits moving forward.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Times Like These

One day a few weeks ago, I was really struggling and despondant about the paths laid out before me and the blocks that I had put in my way by the limiting choices made months and years ago. The return to carpentery so necessary to pay the bills has the sobering and frightening side-effect of potentially curtailing my rediscovered creative efforts. I ambled about my little apartment, frustrated and despairing that all the work I had accomplished emotionally in the last year was vanishing as quickly as the money in my bank account.

In fact, I have learned some things and no matter how my insecurities cause me to doubt, the lessons seem to be sticking to me. Instead of crashing boldly into stop gap solutions that only caused more problems later, I sat down at my out-of-tune piano to clear my head and discovered a little melody that flowed out of nowhere into my fingers.

Melancholy and bittersweet, at first, the tune brought tears to my sad eyes, but I kept playing it and over the next days allowed words to wander through, some settling down into phrases pointing to a deep faith I wasn't sure I had.

Several old friends, some wonderful new ones, and a sister have all recognized it and held it sacred for me while I doubted. Their love and support has enabled me to leap into an abyss, knowing there is safety even in the scariest moments. For them, and one in particular, I have written this new song.

Now comes the time in any good nursery rhyme
When an ugly frog is turned into a prince of gold
I think we all agree life doesn't work that easily
Sometimes a hero gets left out in the cold
We say it's such a shame, but he shouldn't have stayed in the game
If he wasn't ready to win the fight
We watch him stumble and fall, into the darkness call
Looking for the strength to make it through the night
Doing what it takes to see the morning light
Every now and then I can see around the bend
To a place of sunshine that's so bright and clear
I see you standing there, a halo round your golden hair
Holding out your arms and telling me to have no fear
It'll be okay, you say, there's gonna come a better day
When I can raise my eyes to the sky and sing
We'll walk hand in hand, we'll light up this darkened land
In times like these, to each other we cling
In times like these, Love is everything
In times like these, Love is everything
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tales of Two Cities

Returning our rental car this morning, I encountered a chic couple looking over a map in the lobby as they waited for their car. They did not seem to be happy to be visiting Vermont, nor very thrilled to be together, for that matter, but looked stoically determined to make the best of their next twenty-four hours in the boonies.

I was tempted to offer directions, but the woman looked me up and over with such disdain, nearly fear, I happily backed off and left them alone. I recognized that in their silk suits and coiffed appearance I looked something very different. Back to my masonry project, my new shoes are already scuffed and dirty, my shorts smeared, my shirt stained. I had not bothered to shave between my late arrival home and early departure for work.

I drove away in my rickety, clattering redster, the CD of our Bitter End performance blaring, smiling at the intriguing wonder that we know so little about the strangers all around us.

Scary to them, they have no clue to imagine I am just finished entertaining crowds three nights out of four, the last on the best stage in their own fair city for my kind of music. Our judgments blind us too often to the beauty around us. Shaped by our experiences and limited perceptions, it is difficult to stay open. A guy dressed like me could easily be crass and vulgar. Just as easily (but more likely behind closed doors) could a woman like her. Who but our own selves is really able to know?

And even there, the challenge to hold to our truest selves remains difficult. Her judgments may have been entirely my own insecure projections. Perhaps it was simply a persnickety fleck of Vermont dust that had made her eyes roll so far back. Maybe she had turned afterwards and admired (one can always wish) the virile hair on my construction hardened legs swinging into my high schooler’s redster (ah, more possible if it had been a macho truck!).

The truth is few of us know what another is thinking, but we often assume it is about us and usually negative. More importantly, it is how we think of ourselves that affects the tone of our days.

I am the one struggling the most with my schizophrenia of creativity versus practicality, who wrestles hourly to find the balance in each and every activity. My judgments determine the abundance or scarcity of laughter in any moment. My thoughts shape the sculpture that is my life.

I have chosen to live in Vermont because on any visit to New York City, I am invariably numbed by the effort to focus among the eight million on the few people I actually came to meet. I wander and I wonder, and I finally leave relieved not to have to contend with such a mass of stimulation every day.

Perhaps that silken couple sees the Vermont landscape as something so quaint and picturesque, a tableau in which they can immerse themselves--like Dick Van Dyke dancing with penguins in Mary Poppins--for twenty-four hours before fleeing back to their own cavernous refuge. We wonder about each other, formulate our judgments, and then happily go about the delights and drudgeries of our own particular days.

It is my own thoughts of my own redster, my own embarrassment to hear the clatter again that makes me want to do the work it will take to buy the nice new car like the one we rented to transport the band. It is the dust in my own eyes wiped off my sweaty sleeve that brings me some days near to tears. The fear of a smashed finger that could not caress a guitar makes me handle the cinderblocks more carefully.

That I have such diverse talents is a blessing and a curse. This dichotomy of commitment has plagued me throughout my life, and balance, after all this time, seems no less elusive. Listening to the songs on my way to work, I want to go home and play. At home, the music is not feely played when worried so much about the bills being paid. Sometimes the biggest wonder to me is why I do not more often just sit back with eyes closed and arms dangling, and just drift away…

Then I remember: I am not alone in this struggle. That couple, so foreign to me, is also trying to do the best they can.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

The Road Goes on Forever

In a borrowed pick-up truck, new contractor shorts, and a sturdy new pair of heavy shoes, I worked all week as a carpenter (mason actually) and whistled much of the time. It was not long before a distinct familiarity with this old persona settled in and I recognized much older, more established pieces of the man I have always been.

Perhaps these two years have been more of a crisis than a revolution after all, a flirting with dreams that never were but always could have been until I could fully grasp the pesky distractions, wrestle them down to finally put them aside. Now I have written voluminously and played lots of music with kids whose ages combined are less than my own. Having danced, perhaps it is time to return to my seat against the wall.

The project this week was to support the rooms over a garage, detach the walls and replace the cinder block foundation that was cracked and crumbling. Although it was hot, I worked in the shade. Music on the radio danced around me. The work proceeded peacefully one block at a time.

My client—a jovial man in his eighties—could not have been happier, writing out a check as soon as I presented the bill. I sauntered to the bank and celebrated over dinner Friday night with a good friend and my son.

This was so different than my company days when I begged and scrambled for the dollars to make payroll and raced to the bank where my guys were waiting, making bets on the chances their checks would be any good. From hour to half hour my day changed constantly as I adapted to the urgency of one site or another and the impossible demands needing solutions.

Did the stress of the work ruin my life at home? Or was it the other way around? By now, the complications have grown too muddied to ever understand for sure. It became clear to me that the crash and clatter of both home and business would soon kill me. Change—so apparently inevitable—was required no matter the pain on myself and others the rupture would cause. Continuing became no longer an option.

There are some who would say it was a meltdown and have chosen not to see me since. Most who know me now seem to celebrate with me the fresh air I breathe. Adventures are rampant, and somehow, returning to ride in a pick-up and see a project finished is grounding, as solid and real as the foundation I am repairing.

Not long ago I worried that, being happy, I might lose this creative surge so recently resurrected. Art comes from suffering, some say, and though I have had my share, it would be awful to think I might have to live the mixed up complications of needing pain to enjoy the thrill of creation.

But I write this tonight, sitting at the Bitter End in New York City again, having played a rocking set of new songs. I have tasted the possibility of love and am willing, even eager, to continue sipping. I have a son who is a best friend and a daughter whose boundless joy makes me so proud. As I accept projects to rebuild homes, my own life is rebuilding, discovering the balance of practicality and creativity.

The adventure continues.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Making Doo

Quarterbacking your favorite team on Monday morning is supposed to be an easy thing, but no one mentions how Monday’s analysis makes no decisions about the following Sunday any easier. I am completely confused about whether I should focus on offense or defense in the coming weeks.

Having looked so hard at so many things about myself in these last two years, it is easy to see how things could have been done differently all through my life. I have awesome kids and I like the core of the man I am today, but different choices might have saved a marriage or reduced the stress of oh so many years. It is easy to imagine the differences had I made other choices at points C, D or W, but given the abrupt changes lately, I have no clue how to proceed to whatever vague point lies ahead.

That I have found my cave and sequestered myself for a reasonable length of time to ponder these questions, I would think the answers now available should guide me along a clearer path. Experience should teach us to see the boulders and seek alternative routes. A playbook can be rewritten and new patterns created.

In this process, I have recognized that a successful construction career may have been thwarted by an over-powering urge to write and play music. No matter how much I have rationalized the nobility of the trades and the necessity to put food on the table, I have largely approached each project with less than my full attention, my heart fixated passionately on an underlying lust to create personal, more intimate works of art.

The various failures at several attempts to run a company has led me to not just distrust the opportunity another time, but to pass the lead on as quickly as I can--no matter how easily I might think the particular project might be accomplished. In these months of blog entries, I have expressed my joy to be creative and described a comfortable process unhooking the nailbelt, donning cleaner clothes and moving into an office environment.

Although making copies and entering contacts made my eyelids droopy and brain move at half speed, travel schedules, arranging meetings with senators, developing marketing plans and querying editors woke me right back up again. In several weeks I was settling into a routine that seemed would allow me the freedom to fit plenty of creativity into my forty hours. The playbook had been rewritten and I was on my way to the Superbowl.

The surprise of being escorted to the door opened a week’s worth of Mondays as I considered from all angles how I might have operated differently to win their trust. The truth, I think, is I did just fine. It was accurately defined as “not a good fit”—plain and simple—and seems to remain a fait accompli without recourse.

As I peruse the want-ads, like looking for a date, my heart is heavy with the effort of starting all over again. I remember the moments of drudgery and imagine no other job will have the enticing balance of such stimulating projects that spawn the mundane details. Worse is the burden of shame and uselessness my unemployment bears on my friends and family who have emotionally supported me this far.

So, despite having abandoned the nailbelt so publically and irrevocably, this morning I change back into my rougher clothes, load tools into my redster (wish I had my truck back), and cheerlead myself to work at what I have always done for better or worse.

It is easy to rationalize that carpentry is a noble trade, an honorable means of support. There is pride every day in seeing tasks clearly accomplished, someone’s home much improved and my bank account showing healthy numbers. I have practiced these justifications for thirty years.

Having so definitely turned my back on this business in this last year, returning now raises questions that a month of Mondays may never adequately solve. The declarations that I am meant to be a writer seem somewhat hollow this morning, evaporating with the steam in my coffee.

Am I so incapable of working for anyone else? Am I destined to be a handyman, rambling along until my knees give out? Are writing and music dreams better left to youngsters who have the strength and shiny armor to withstand the rejections and disappointments? Is this day just another test where I should show my tenacity once again and swim upstream just a little farther? Is there anywhere a healthy balance that does right for myself, my children and the faithful friends who have supported me?

So many questions and so few solid answers. I just have to do the best I can today and see what tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday will bring. I know there will be moments in and all around it that will be filled with love, music and happy smiles. Some days, knowing just that much is fortune enough.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Tender in the Night

Just recently I have been working on a new song that includes the line “Doing what it takes to get us through the night”. This was with no idea that within a few days I would be lying awake in the darkness, eyes riveted open and heart clutched with an aching fear.

Perspective at 3 AM, for me, tends to be askew. Reality is obscured by the delusional and seductive. Potent dreams may rise, looming with as much certainty as predictions of the sun’s imminent dawning. More often, it is the fear of disastrous outcomes that keeps me from the sleep I more and more desperately crave.

In the next room on this night, I can hear the mumbled voice of my son, whispered and ecstatic in the discovered mutual wonder of companionship explored via modern technology. Their new world is marvelous and intoxicating; completely devoid of the terror that keeps me awake.

The new part-time job that promised to settle me into an era of creative stability has been just as quickly yanked out from under. My understanding that the Universe had at last provided me with a modicum of abundant support for my dreams of writing and music tonight seems brutally shattered.

I stare at the pieces scattered and wonder what can Spirit possibly have in store for me as a lesson to dangle such hopes before me and then deny the experience. If we are only delivered what we can handle, then why am I blessed to be able to handle so much? Just as quickly as I feel sorry for myself, I recognize there are those who bear much greater burdens. Still, at this strange hour, it is all too easy to lament over the wondering question of “What, dear God, is wrong with me?!”

Where I believed I was adjusting well to learn the needs of my employers, it turns out the fit was not at all satisfactory to them during this probationary period. Without the benefit of negotiation and readjustment, I was simply escorted to the door. Certainly one is allowed to surround themselves with compatible personalities. Having made that choice for myself and committed whole-heartedly to the job, it is now devastating to feel rejected.

Although my view is distorted by need and humility in this late/early hour, I thought I was adapting well enough to an environment that encompassed so many aspects alien to how I have worked before. The office structure was becoming routine and the biggest challenge of my duties was staying alert in the somnambulant early afternoon stuffy summertime hours. The promise of more intriguing projects within the scope of the business made the transition exciting.

Be that as it may, the opportunity has vanished and necessity forces a rapid re-alignment of the re-aligning values, priorities and lifestyle already in progress. In this darkness, I stare at a ceiling invisible, tumbling as if head over heels, wondering how my feet will land, my body aching from so many previous crashes.

The weariness distorts sensibility, but unsure of how to spend the coming day, sleep will not enfold itself around my panicked brain. The mumbling joyful voice in the next room is over-powered by the raging internal cries of self-doubt and consternation within. Every option floated is thwarted by a thousand nay-saying arguments circling as relentlessly as the first chirps of birds outside awakening the dawn.

Answers will eventually come, and in the meantime, I must assert my authority as parent, urging us both to relinquish to sleep our various stimulations.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009


A lot of advice comes my way these days that so soon divorced I should spend time alone and independently. Once married for twenty years, now twice divorced, lessons are available to be discerned. I should allow time and space for the real me to gracefully emerge.

In these eighteen months of separation, after an immeasurable time of emotional disconnection and dissolution, I approached these yellow pages with a fervor to describe to myself the process of transformation that had begun within me. Retreating to a man’s cave, I became immersed in a renovation, repairing with my hands what could not be done in my heart. Alone at the end of each day, late into the night, the enticement of guitar, long packed away and ignored, reasserted itself and I could sing with a new voice matured. My scribbles brought new life to old dreams, and instead of fiction—making up stories to represent emotions I had not felt—in uploading the scribbles, blogging became a platform to share the raw footage of a life rebuilding.

In different ways, I have flirted with lust and experienced a glimpse of what an exquisite love connecting souls might feel like. My heart is both protected and wide open, willing apparently to take a risk against all caution, and able to suspend its beat temporarily as the intensity might dictate. Since we are defined in so many ways by the amount of romance in our lives, being such vital pieces of the whole, I might willingly describe the fragrance of some of these stories, yet because such intimacies involve the details of others, I have not found the vocabulary to share the universal lessons learned in my own humble tale.

Likewise, the relationship just ended, so simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, both ecstatic and destructive (to selves, each other and our children), has a profound influence on so many present thoughts and behaviors, urging the revelations and compelling, at the same time, a respectful silence. Some of what requires processing is better done alone or within the haven of certain select confidants.

These issues truly are the crux of my existence these days, making it difficult to muster words to a blog whose unintended purpose has been perhaps fulfilled. A marriage has been ended, reconnections with most of my children are well-established and prosper weekly. I balance on the slippery edge of a new life, sometimes peering into futures of potential disaster and despair, most times inspired by creativity, the passions of personal expression and a new job.

My emotions are tender, sometimes raw and exposed, others withdrawn and healing. I have emerged from my cave, seeking life in all of its wonders and frustrations, aware that it can be painful, encouraged by the patches of brilliant sunshine as clouds begin to dissipate. My voice is rising, even if for weeks at a time it makes no sound on this page.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goin' Down the Road

On a Vermont two lane byway, green mountains rolled out, a sky full of thunder clouds and patches of brilliant blue, the Grateful Dead singing along, some times it feels like no time has passed at all and some things never change. It could be 35 years ago and me heading to a swimming hole, my heart bouncing along in time to the music.

Life has changed, though; so many things for the better, even as I contemplate my share of disasters. I am blessed with three children and another I claim as my own just because I love her so much. True friends I can count on many more than my own ten fingers, all of which, thankfully, are still in place after so many years of power tools. My health is good. I can play soccer and ski better than I ever did in my youth (I don’t run so fast now or fall so far). Love illuminates most of my corners.

This week, I started a new job. I have effectively ended my life in construction by beginning work as an office administrator. It may seem like an unfortunate fall to some to move from running my own company to making copies and answering phones, but in this first week it is no less thoughtful than painting trim and possibly has more variety. It is certainly less rain dependent.

In addition to the loss of responsibility and stress, I get to wear clean clothes and suffer an occasional paper cut instead of inch long splinters. I might drink more coffee, but I will not breathe so much dust.

This small partnership is involved in very exciting projects to keep it interesting: book writing and film production. On top of the half-time regular duties, we expect that I will be handed independent assignments to involve my revitalized creative skills, several steps towards the kind of work I always imagined I might be doing.

My mind is just beginning to absorb the concept that, living frugally, this income should support us decently, possibly enough to pay all the normal bills regularly, an enormous change in and of itself, a welcome relief of pressure. In the other hours, I can pursue my writing and music with the passion they deserve, mind free to explore creatively with less worry and more hope. At long last, I am daring to move in the directions that excite my soul.

Ironically, this also is the week I signed the papers to end my second marriage. The depth and need for this severance—so clear to so many for so long—has become apparent to me only in the separation over these many months and the internal contentment that has been nurtured and now blossoms. Still, the legal jargon describing an even split leaves me with nothing material and a heart aching for something that was glimpsed only in the best of times, no matter how good it feels to no longer be fighting.

Since leaving, I have embraced joys which had been set aside: ski, play soccer and music, write whenever the fancy strikes. My son has become a great friend after so many years neglected behind the closed door of his neutral corner. I have grown closer to the daughter of my first marriage after moving away from her to marry again. Old friends recognize the smile of a man they used to know and new ones seem to like the happy man they meet.

As necessary as it was to do, it is sad to be finished with something that began with such blissful hope. No matter the struggle that stretched over so many years, I miss the dear friend I once loved. We both tried so hard to find the dream once shared. In the end, the most loving act was to recognize it would kill us sooner than later, and our children also were suffocating.

Now we can both move on to better songs we sing. For me today, it happens to be driving alone down an old Vermont road, accompanied by my good ol’ pals, the Grateful Dead.

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