We are the centuries ... We have your eoliths and your mesoliths and your neoliths. We have your Babylons and your Pompeiis ... "
~ Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
1979. In the passenger seat of a little yellow Spider. Window air blasting. Dark. Radio up.
A drum grabs and holds.
Bass snakes through.
2006. On stage at Variety Playhouse for Cat Power's The Greatest tour.
Viola part's easy, the contractor's fun. I can relax and take it all in.
Cat's surrounded by Memphis soul musicians.
Teenie Hodges - one of them.
He co-wrote that song.
We laugh, cut up. Backstage, it's even better - jumping jacks, dozing, yelling random words.
The front row audience, as usual, great entertainment.
Teenie crouches next to me with his inhaler. Sshhhhhhhhhhh Sshhhhhhhhhhh
He rises, like a sentinel.
Shining column, unbearably brilliant.
Thunderbolts through his limbs and guitar.
Skin crackles, top of my head dissolves.
Teenie points to me.
Don't lose that light!
November 16th, 2016
On the other side, and here.
Mabon Lewis "Teenie" Hodges
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
Book of Hours, II
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
“Because I am a part of the Big Picture, I do matter and substantially so. Because I am only a part, however, I am rightly situated off to stage right - and happily so. What freedom there is in such truth! We are inherently important and included, yet not burdened with manufacturing or sustaining that private importance." ~ Richard Rohr
Three days, seven women, no contact with the outside world via cell or Internet. We piled onto each other like kittens. We ate, ate, and ate - warm, hearty, aromatic. We walked - solo, group, dreamy. Tears and deep, raucous laughter any time, any place. We read, lolled about, raised our arms, lowered our heads, beseeched. It felt like home. It felt like family in the truest sense. We all slept a great deal, as if recovering from endless effort.
While living water bubbles up again, may also actions, words, music spring from that place - as far as possible within the human frame.
"What now?" a good question.
“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather”
~ Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
I doubt I will ever write specifically about the last five years. The impact of my parents' last voyage reaches far beyond what I can or am willing to express in this medium. They were deeply loving, intensely private - that seems most important. Sharing in symbol - music - feels best and most honoring of their lives. As is living with whimsy and delight, like they did.
Spring blows fresh and free this year. Life is rushing in yet saying: "Abide!" Balancing on a pivot point. Still in expectation.
I'd like to share with you two cherished virtual teachers. Little do they know how closely they companioned me during that long, terrifying, sacred time. Maybe they will speak to you.
Therese Schroeder-Sheker and Frank Ostaseski are real comfort. Schroeder-Sheker's Transitus kept me awake in awe and soothed me to sleep. This article by Ostaseski was a touchstone - a lifeline.
No platitudes, "intervention," or "treatment." Only lived experience and willingness to face the ultimate vulnerability.
Eventually, I discovered this video of them... together! Who knew?
Now, to be present to life remaining.
She gathered paper, roses and wine
Sheltered her memory private
Rolled up her gate
And waited for a sign
Soon she'd be carried off quiet
"Oh I've traveled wide
And the world will be my bride
You came at the right time
To know me
Just hang on my line
And we'll cross our Great Divide
And never turn back
When we cry"
~©2015 Carol Statella
"Daughter O Daughter, you'll never see
All of the treasure waiting for thee
Raise your brow
For when the bough breaks we will carry
You to the arms of the mighty
Souls that await your intention
Be as a fool, come back into your life"
~©2014 Carol Statella
"Heaven" has different Signs—to me--
Sometimes, I think that Noon
Is but a symbol of the Place--
And when again, at Dawn,
A mighty look runs round the World
And settles in the Hills--
An Awe if it should be like that
Upon the Ignorance steals--
The Orchard, when the Sun is on--
The Triumph of the Birds
When they together Victory make--
Some Carnivals of Clouds--
The Rapture of a finished Day--
Returning to the West--
All these—remind us of the place
That Men call "paradise"--
Itself be fairer—we suppose--
But how Ourself, shall be
Adorned, for a Superior Grace--
Not yet, our eyes can see—
~ Emily Dickinson
Two of our girls in class suddenly passed away, just a few weeks apart.
They grew to a few feet tall in their late teens.
They made sounds free of words, and pulled each others' hair.
They stayed mostly in wheelchairs, but did much more than sit. They flung legs over armrests, twisted into fantastic shapes, struck poses. I loved coming into their classroom to see the shape of the day.
They made teenager-y expressions, complete with eye roll.
Music their play. Their faces radiated light. They often laughed at me.
No pretense. Simply loved and were loved in return.
I'm remembering a different time of year. Midsummer, blazing hot. Nashville was a strange carnival of joy, crossed wires, cacophony. All I wanted was silence - to hold earth.
Sleep hadn't come the previous night. Instead of pushing on, I pulled toward downtown Chattanooga, walked through rain, and stepped into the Tennessee river. Looking down, sinking into sand and swirling water.
Two songs floated in as I drove away. One might be performed this weekend by Out of the Rain, or held for a little while.
As in the Jean Redpath, no words.
Connect on Pinterest if you'd like. I'd like!
Here's a work sung years back with the ASO Chamber Chorus. Unforgettable. Especially around the 24-minute mark.
So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. ~Nicholas Carr
I worked for one year in commercial radio. Unlike public radio where gentle silence and "beds" of music eased transitions, the commercial input was staccato, relentless. Headphones on, first song cued up, I sat suspended as the top-of-the-hour news rolled in, lurching from scandal to deep tragedy to the Dow and sports scores. No pause. Detached, cynical delivery.
My naïve email to the network program director (asking why so tabloid-like?) met the response:
"We've got to keep them tuned in, riled up, and waiting for the next hit.
That's how we make our money, pay our advertisers, stay on the air."
Fourteen years later, social media feels like that. On a large scale, the newsfeed scrolls, a vertical ticker tape - a post featuring "reality" personalities appearing right above images from the Syrian uprising. On a personal scale, deeply intimate and transformative events - each deserving its own universe, let alone a post, give way to the everyday: weekend plans - food - fragments of thought. All on the same page.
An indiscriminate scroll has nothing to do with the weight or rapture of human reality.
Sven Birkerts' The Gutenberg Elegies, riveting in the mid '90s, (quaintly?) decries the "flattening of historical perspective" with the coming electronic age - the trivialization of the significant.
How this flattening has already affected our personal perspective! - our ability to feel in proportion to experience.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
~ Martin Buber
I'm on the road about eight hours a week. Not forever. It's a phase that's time-bound, transitional. Homing while in motion, I usually ease into the right lane, letting the wind sound and horizon view lull me into flow - mostly.
But over on the shoulder of the road, I'm struck by this scene again and again. Banged up cars, passengers standing outside on cell phones, and ... smiling, warmly. At each other! Why?
Of course, relief--spared. Suddenly, that pressing appointment isn't so important anymore. Temporary freedom - like a snow day!
Is it also a welcome jolt into now? An unexpected runoff into sacred time, out of the flood of faceless cars and ceaseless, senseless rushing, coming face to face with another bearer of the Image?
What must it take?