The Star

Last year four of us wrote an original Christmas song. I wanted to do something like that again this year, but the Paradise fire kind of made that very difficult. Still my dear Soundcloud friend, Chuck Aaron, took upon himself to keep the project moving forward. Chuck wrote the first verse and the chorus and I wrote the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th verses. Another dear friend, Lawrence Farr from Australia, sang the 3rd verse and Josh McAlexander sang the 2nd verse. Chuck is singing the 1st verse and I am singing the 4th verse. I was struck with how sad my voice sounded , but it is what it is, as they say around here…way too much, I should add. I am also adding last year’s collaboration effort with Mark Mayes from England singing/writing. Mark is such a supportive person. I enjoy his heart and humor very much. Finally, I am adding some Christmas songs I wrote and recorded. I hope you all are well.

With gratitude from Paradise, California.

Gary

Who Knows Why

Just before the Paradise fire burned up our house – (notice I didn’t say ‘home’ as I am learning a home comes from the spirits of those living in a house. If those spirits are alive, so is the home, regardless of location.)- I was reading an interesting book, written by Richard Rohr, a interesting person himself , about St. Francis of Assisi and his equally fascinating partner, St. Clare.

The author joked several times about looking beyond the birdbath when studying St. Francis. Personally I have always been attracted to concrete garden statues of St. Francis, even when I was a child and I had no knowledge of St. Francis. I loved his statues. Why? Who knows why.

So next to our driveway, we had a nice little flower garden with a waterfall we built from our own rock collecting. And, naturally we had a statue of St. Francis in the thick of it all. Take a look. If you can enlarge the picture, I think you will see St. Francis in the middle of it all.

We haven’t been allowed back into our town, but a military friend sent this picture below. The fence burned down and my now burned up work truck which was behind the fence, by the vanished chicken coop, is visible. If you can enlarge the photo, you’ll see that St. Francis still is watching over it all. Also, you’ll notice two cheap plastic chairs that broke and I was going to discard them. Yep, they survived just fine.

So here I was learning all about St. Francis and his likeness survived…along with kind of ugly plastic outdoor chairs.

Why? Who knows why.

Thank You

On occasion I will write and record some music. Sometimes I just record quickly on my cell phone, other times I will record multiple tracks on a computer. The songs range from spiritual to darn right near disgusting, but authentic for certain.

I find that when I feel inspired to blog, I usually don’t have much inspiration for writing music. During low-inspired music periods, I like to collaborate with others on Soundcloud.

At this moment, inspiration is low in both creative areas, so maybe I should join a gym and start working out again. (The ones in Paradise burned down.) Until then, here are a few songs and short explanations from the more than 40 songs I have on Soundcloud. (Sharing my songs and singing was another three year journey of getting over the fear of looking foolish.)

This one is about thanking all the people whose love is directly connected to action.

This one was written by 4 of us in different parts of the world.

This was written a few days before my father passed away. I miss him dearly. He was strong.

This one was inspired by the simple joy of hearing a child create his own music.

And, this one is from my 2nd cd, as I was trying to stretch my songwriting. Thank you all for such wonderful, kind, and wise words in your recent comments.

Family

Sitting next to my daughter’s house in our new trailer, the one we just got after the fire, I read this wonderful blog. I shook my head in amazement and just smiled.  I think you too will enjoy reading it. I hope I posted this correctly. Not too familiar with the phone app and WordPress!   via Family

Sitting In An Empty Diner

Sleeping has become an issue of late. Dreams of constant deaths, usually murders including my own, are common now. I thought you weren’t supposed to die in your dreams?

As a result, I don’t look forward to evenings and very much look forward to mornings – which brings me to this empty diner so early in the morning. Just me and a waitress who is way too old to have to get up so early in the morning in hopes of receiving good tips in an empty diner. I feel sorry for her. I shall tip her well as I got a bargain on the senior special.

Detachment. It is something I have read much about, but really never understood until nearly every item I was attached to was burned up. I thought I understood, but now I know how little I really did. I have a dear friend who donated one of her kidneys this summer to a very ill friend. I think she understands detachment.

Here is one thing I have learned about detachment…photos and items that stir our memories about people and places and times – they sometimes interfere with us recognizing the true spirit of those people, places, and times. Lately, since losing all of that, I have experienced a much deeper sense of the spirit that lies beneath all the physicality those photos and items capture. I don’t think of my grandfather holding my baby daughter in that old lost photo in the same way … as a precious captured moment. I now recognize the immense connection of two souls, one getting ready to end their journey on this earth and the other one just beginning theirs. I never contemplated that until thinking back on that lost photograph.

This forced detachment is not easy and it is nothing I would wish upon anybody. It does however offer an opportunity to be more aware, more present. Yesterday as I was walking to get a cup of coffee, I saw three leaves fall from a tree. They fluttered, each taking their own path to their final destination – the earth, to be part of an never ending cycle of renewal – but they also danced with one another on the way down. I smiled. I am not a smile-er. Yet, I smiled at the utter joyful detachment of those leaves.

Well, I have eaten my scrambled eggs and one slice of French toast. Time to tip this vibrant, hardworking waitress and go out and see the sunrise.

God bless you.

Gary

Jumbled Thoughts

It has been two weeks and one day since the fire changed our lives. Thinking clearly has become, increasingly, a problem. So let me just write some jumbled thoughts and like a jigsaw puzzle, maybe you can put the puzzle together.

Speaking of jigsaw puzzles, every year on this day as far as I can remember I started a Christmas theme puzzle. Not this year. I can’t concentrate and the idea of dumping 1000 pieces on a table is too much for me.

Also, on this day as long as I can remember, we put up our Christmas tree. It usually involved a discussion regarding why the Christmas tree lights were just tossed back into the box creating the annual rat’s nest comments. Also, invariably, whatever side of the tree was most visible was not the fullest side and required debate and adjustments. Not this year.

I did run down to my favorite mandarin farm, or is it called a ranch, and purchased 50 lbs of satsuma mandarins today. Been doing that for 25 years.

We are purchasing a travel trailer. It is nice and big, still I almost threw up when I realized what our new home would be for quite awhile. Can you be grateful and pissed at the same time?

I lost hundreds of books. I read 36 books this year alone. I wasn’t going to purchase any new ones because of the lack of space, but I love books and I love all the things that they represent, both from the writer’s and readers’ perspectives. So, I bought my first book, it a monk’s memoir of 6 decades of cloistered living. He loves music, so do I. Today I have been listening to Shubert’s symphonies. Glorious.

What is the opposite of blessings? Whatever it is, it sure makes you appreciate all your blessings. Sometimes you just have to open your heart and love and forgive those who have hurt you the worse in life, even if they don’t ask or acknowledge their role. Of course for me, that grace is usually delayed some. My initial reaction is to tell them to “Fuck off ”

I sometimes wonder how many I have hurt without knowing the pain I have caused? This makes me feel very bad. I am so sorry. I can be such an idiot.

You know what really makes me feel sad…how religion has been dominated by egotistical powerbrokers who reject the role of science and alternative paths to the sacred. So many of my friends reject the possibility of their spiritual nature, they are through with the judgement and hypocrisy of formalized religion. I now consider myself a religion-less Christian, a term I read in one of Richard Rohr’s books, yeah it burned up too. I relate so well with my faith-less friends. I get it.

Lastly, I have to type this with a thumb on a cellphone. Combined with poor eyesight I must have many typos (thumbos) and other grammar violations, but that kind of fits the title.

Here is a great big hug. Pray for Paradise and beyond.

I Want My Way

I lived in a house, no let me start over. I lived in a home that echoed with 30 years worth of our laughter, sweat, anxiety, celebrations, arguments, prayers, tears, Easter egg hunts, middle of the night conversations, daughters’ boyfriends I did not approve of, memories initiated from old photos, music, and hundreds of birthday candles being blown out just after a personal wish that was never, ever shared but always well contemplated before being chosen.

A fire swept through that home 12 days ago and now those echoes have been turned to ashes and blown miles from Paradise California. Perhaps some will eventually mingle with the echoes of your life and loves.

I want to go home. I want all those things back. I want thousands of people’s sufferings to be reversed. I want to wake up from the nightmare. Just like that toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the isle in the store, I want my way.

In the early morning darkness of this hotel in Oregon, where we went to look for a tiny little home on wheels and I write this blog, a faint voice can be heard somewhere between my head and my heart, “This is your way, Gary. This is the unique path you must walk during this portion of your life on earth.”

I guess I got my way and I don’t get to see around the corner until I get there. I know that some time around Easter, the land that supported our home will begin gently allowing new life to sprout…daffodils, irises and tulips. The transformation through the resurrection, maybe that is the ultimate way for all of us. Of course, that would require a death of some type, a dark and cold winter, the loss of personal control, the loss of the little, toddler-like “my way” to be replaced with a deeper and much more important, transformed My Way.

Most of us want to run and vacation on some tropical paradise island during the cold winter months. Here in America, millions of “snow birds” we call them head for the deserts of Arizona and California during the winter. Some “flock” to Florida. However, when we face our emotional and spiritual winters, that is not usually an option. It is not part of the My Way. My Way requires facing the suffering while barely being able to hold onto a few threads of hope or faith. It is kind of mystical actually in that it is connected to a mystery. And, that is what the deeper, larger My Way is really all about…a pathway into the Mystery, I think.

Thank you Father, for all those wonderful echoes that now are the sign posts into the Mystery. This isn’t easy. I have tears in my eyes as I write this and those threads of faith are quite thin right now. Yet, past echoes and new echoes of love, like an eternal fog horn, seem to be saying, “Keep moving forward. You and yours are on My Way.”

We all have My Ways. I pray for you as you walk yours. We’ll get there, wherever there is.

Sock #2 of #65

sock2

Well, here we are the 2nd day of 65 days of  new socks. (See previous blog.) I am in a better mood and feel no need for vulgarity to express myself today. I am so much wiser now that I am fully 65 years old.

Today is election day in the United States. For over 43 years, I was a registered Republican who increasingly felt out of place in that party. I believed in fiscal responsibility, but could care less who you wanted to have intercourse with…or as I recently found out, who you wanted to jazz with. (Before jazz meant a form of music, it referred to having sex.) I find it fascinating how words keep evolving or changing in terms of their popular meaning and appropriateness.

I know of a very successful American western author who used to write, “Mister, put that rifle down…now,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown. I am fairly certain that if in the writing of this blog post I decided to ejaculate within a sentence, well, who knows maybe my readership might increase – but it might get really weird.  Gawd help ya now if you use the word “queer” for strange or odd. “Mister, I think that was just a queer thing to do,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown.  (Speaking of queer, I just saw that new Queen movie and loved it! Queen’s music was just so good.)  The same holds true for the word gay.  “Mister, being around you makes me so gay,” ejaculated Sheriff Brown.

Here in the United States, especially in education, it is no longer acceptable to use the H word…Hispanic. Now it is Latinx. This started from the historical and cultural use of the word latino when referring to males or groups of males and females. Someone decided this shit ain’t happening no mo. If you really want to score extra points say Latinx with an accent.  “Mister, although I find it queer, I really love Latinx music. It makes me feel so gay, ” ejaculated Sherrif Brown.

I have to admit that I have a queer disorder about accents – I pick them up very quickly. My family used to laugh their asses off because within a few minutes, when I was around someone with a different accent other than my sloppy Northern California one, I soon would start talking with the other person’s accent. Is this a known communication disorder? I think it started with my childhood impersonations of Louis Armstrong….”Oh, Dolly!”

Truth be told, (now there is an out of date saying), it ain’t easy talkin’ anymore, with any accent. I once made the eternal damnation kind of mistake of referring to a mixed gender group of people with the phrase, “Hey guys.” Oh..Shit..On…Me. Did one of those guys get upset. I get it. I also get that one particular person was trying to exert herself and gain more influence with the group, by demonstrating what an insensitive male piece of crap I was. I might have told her to “fuck off” with my eyes. No, I did tell her to fuck off with my eyes.  (Dang it, sorry. about the vulgarity) It was just a common phrase I grew up with and those are hard habits to break, but I understand the point and I have only done it a couple of times since. You see, I have heard groups of women say, “Hey guys let’s go..” and nobody freaked  out on them and said, “I don’t have a penis asshole.”

Same goes with the word gang. In the old days the word gang didn’t refer to anything more than just your group of close friends. Not now, uh-uh. “Mister, this queer gang you hang out with sure makes me feel gay especially when I am listening to latinx music, ” ejaculated Sheriff Brown. Oh and God help ya, if you don’t have time to meet with someone at the moment but suggest you can hookup with them later. Apparently that means you’re about to get some jazz.

Yeah, it ain’t easy being surrounded by the the word cops, but I got an idea. The next time I am in a meeting, and I might have to manipulate the conversation to make this happen, and someone says, “There is  a grandfather clause in the new rule. We will be grandfathered in”…well I am gonna jump their shit and say, “I have 7 grandchildren you bastard. What are you saying? How insensitive of you. Why not say grandmother clause? This is ageism, sexism, and, and, and … creepism and I ain’t gonna take it. What’s wrong with you guys???…..whoops,” ejaculated Gary.

 

 

 

65 Socks and a Grumpy Old Man

I turn 65 years old today. That seems like an enormous number to me. I don’t handle these types of milestones very well. I remember when I turned 30, I got drunk off my ass, “30 years old, what the hell is happening to my life? What have I accomplished?”

Well, fortunately, I don’t drink alcohol much any longer. I still will have an occasional drink, but after dealing with severe depression for a long time, I recognized alcohol was not my friend…but I do like tequilla, a lot.

Reaching 65 is weird. In the U.S., it is the age that you qualify for Medicare. (Since it is my birthday, I am going to give me the gift of using the F word  in this posting, please cover up your ears.) Medicare is the government provided health insurance program. Question: In this country that spends billions on building bombs, why can’t everyone have Medicare regardless of age? What the fuck is up with that? We can afford it.

Also, when you reach 65, and you’re still  employed, you realize how much the world has changed, especially due to technology. What the fuck is up with social media? So many people seem to be branding themselves, representing themselves like they are a fucking laundry soap or cereal. (By the way, I just ate a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I usually drive through Jack-in-the Box and get a breakfast sandwich on my way to work. I love them damn things. My goal – always have to have a goal- is to see how many days I can go without stopping at a fast food place. I am at 10 hours and 2 minutes so far, piece of cake. Speaking of cake, had some wonderful strawberry cake and ice cream this weekend  with my family to celebrate 65.) Here’s the deal, most of us, nearly all of us, are just trying to keep our craziness under control. We need one another, as much as we get sick of one another. The best moments in life is when you see the love someone has for you reflected in their eyes. Technology, computers, video games, social media, cable television, cell phones, all the rest of that shit is just interfering with those moments. You know what many, many, many young males – from 8 years old to 30 years old and beyond say is their life goal? It is to create their own video gaming channel on YouTube and get paid a “million dollars a year.” No shit. This technology is eating our fucking brains out. It also allows us to hide behind it, especially when in the midst strangers.

So you can see from this rambling that I indeed don’t handle these birthday milestones very well and my wife knew that would be the case. So for my birthday, among other things, she decided to make something I have said since she’s known me… a reality.

I said once, and many times since, that if I was fabulously wealthy, I would put on a new pair of socks every morning of my life. I LOVE the feeling of new socks when they go on my feet. I know, I know, it would not take an enormous leap of imagination to see some sexual Freudian thing going on here. I give you that, but honestly, it feels so good to put on new socks. So at my family birthday party this weekend my wife handed me a box and inside that box were 65 pairs of new socks and they were all in different colors and patterns. I usually wear just thick, solid colors, but she knows that besides turning 65 years old, I also hate the short days of winter. Yeah, it kind of depresses me. She said that I should put on a new pair socks for the next 65 days and I will get through the winter blahs. I have to admit, she got me. I am usually the crazy one in our relationship, but damn girl, (sounds like lyrics from a boy band) you did it, and you did it good. You got me. I was dumbfounded. I did ask, “I hope you got all of these at a steep discount.”

So I present to you my first pair of Happy Socks on this the first day of the rest of my life., as they say.  I hope you  are also surrounded by Crazy Love and you don’t have to be anything else but yourself, even on your grumpy days!  God Bless Ya! Thank you God for my life and all the wonderful blessings that are part of it. I am sorry I keep using the F word.

sock1

Home

I have tried to write this particular blog post several times, but always quit after just a few keystrokes.

My father passed away, after a long and good life, a year ago last week. It rattled me. I have spent the past year dedicating some time to really thinking about what my religious beliefs are, even if I really had any. How could I respect science and logic, but yet acknowledge a deep sense of mystery with more than a few personal encounters with the unexplainable?

I have read many books this past year. I have read books on history, art, biographies, astrophysics,  meditation, human evolution, leadership, philosophy, saints and sinners. I have read biblical passages, sacred texts, and poetry. I even joined an online course made up of people of all faiths and no faith. I have stared quietly at mountains, oceans, rivers and streams. I have looked at stars and contemplated the desert. I have sat in solitude on the monastery  grounds of Cistercian monks. I have inhaled my breath slowly for 4 counts and exhaled for 4 counts. No shit, I have really done all of this.

From all this, I have developed a different perspective about God and yet it is a work in progress. However, I realize now that for most of my life I was taught ,and though even rebelliously, I eventually adopted the idea of a very small form of God. I saw God as a Being, when in fact I now believe that God is Being. God as Being is everywhere.

I started noticing this over the past year, wondering why nature often had this awe-inspiringly affect on me. Why did the color of flowers often stop me in my tracks? A few months ago, in an academic setting, I took a group of young adults to a spring at the base of a mountain. The spring grows quickly to a stream and eventually a major river. They all became very quiet and just stared at the water coming out of the mountain. They told me they felt something and with no prodding from me. I wondered why? What did they feel? I felt something too.

This week I got together with two of my oldest friends; we probably met when we were around five years old. We sat next to a large rock, under a tree, and talked, and laughed, and remembered, and quietly thought our thoughts. I felt God there, in those relationships, those precious relationships. So I felt God at the spring and I felt God among old friends.

I have felt Being when I enter Yosemite Valley, or look up at Mount Shasta, or climb along the rocks of Sedona. I now feel Being when the breeze blows across my face or the clouds change shapes. I feel Being when I look into my dogs eyes. I sense Being when I sit under a big oak tree.  When I hear family, friends, laugh … and cry, I feel Being. When a friend sings a song, like Amazing Grace or On My Side of the World, or My Revival, I feel Being.

I feel Being now when I read books about the Big Bang Theory, human evolution, and enlightenment, even in those intellectual endeavors. I feel Being when I have nothing but questions. I have learned you can have faith and questions at the same time. I think Buddhist call it the Beginner’s Mind. I now believe that we were created in the image and very likeness of God, which means God is  both within and without, up and down, here and there and yep, everywhere. I believe life is a gift and death is just invisible life. I believe God loves us. God understands our suffering because God has experienced suffering too. Even when we try to kill God, God says “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

In the end, it all means for me…be gentle with yourself and with others which just means be forgiving. Love yourself, for you are part of Being and love others for they are part of Being. We are sons and daughters of God, like Jesus said. Everyone, regardless of faith or no faith or “other” faith have a plate at God’s table, and there is absolutely nothing one can do to earn that place, just recognize and accept it. I think many understand this One Great Truth at the moment of their death which is why our last look is often so peaceful.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point. Christianity has both hindered my journey and helped it, but mostly hindered it to the point of severe depression. But other religions hinder and help and depress too in their own ways. And  religion-less hinders and helps and depress us too. Being is far, far bigger than any one set of rules and rituals.  Although Christianity is founded upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think Jesus had any goals of creating a new religion.

This blog has really kind of documented my journey over the past couple of years. When I started it, I had no idea I someday would be writing something like this. Yet, it feels like I am home with all of it. It feels more comfortable, like it has always been there. I am sure I’ll soon be dropping some more F bombs and being cynical and a bit mean again in the near future, but I have learned that I am not perfect and that is o.k. too.You can be yourself when home.