It seems that life can be  divided into two major stages: 1) You go to a lot of weddings 2) You go to a lot of funerals. I am in Stage Two.

I am not a big fan of the church where I spent most of my youth. I can’t tell you exactly why. I like most of the people, very much so. But, I guess I would say that I feel they, as a denomination, worship a very small god and one with some major anger issues. I worshiped this same god for many, many years and even when I stopped doing so, he (it must be a he in this denomination) really climbed inside my head.

For many years now I have been discovering a much bigger God and at the same time, finally coming to understand Jesus – no understanding is not the right word, more like turning my head like cocker spaniels do, and pondering the great mystery. My previous understanding of  Jesus is that he performed receptionist duties for the small god – I could see small god but I had to get through the receptionist first. Now I am beginning to contemplate a much more expansive Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word…”  I have a ways to  go, but if  I keep moving in this direction I might have to find some Franciscan order to join – Can non-Catholics, with occasional foul mouth issues, do that?

This weekend, I returned for a funeral service to the church where I had grown up and had just been 3 months ago for own father’s service. This time I was more of an observer whereas at my father’s service I was a heartbroken little boy in an old guy’s body. A nice little choir came up and sang a melody of old fashion Christian songs about heaven. I dug the music. One guy in particular in the choir was really selling his enthusiasm for the afterlife. Later, at the food portion, Mr. I  Love Heaven And I Just Can’t Wait To  Get There drifted over by my table. I felt compelled to make some small talk so I  said, ” I really enjoyed the choir.” He said, “Oh I  love singing about heaven because it is such a wonderful place. I believe it without a doubt.”

Now, I didn’t know what to say. I  didn’t want to lie. I didn’t want to offend either. I certainly didn’t want to debate. I came back with, “Oh…really.”  This was a comment, not a question. He sensed my lack of – actually I don’t know what I lacked – and upped his conviction by telling me, “I teach 9 years old in Sunday School and I tell them to think about how great Disneyland is and to then multiply it by 10 times and that is what heaven is like!”

Several things hit me at once in forms of bubble thoughts: 1) Can 9 year olds multiply? Maybe in South Korea they can, but certainly not in America. 2) Heaven is only 10 times greater than Disneyland? I haven’t been to  Disneyland in 30 years or so. I need to go again. It must have really improved.  3) Holy fuck, you’re really filling these kids’ minds up with that shit? Comparing heaven with commercialism, the tourist industry, for-profit corporation and small god knows what else, just seems…wait, that sounds familiar. I think I was  told something along those lines when I was 9 years old too.

Instead of sharing these bubble thoughts, I came back once again with, “Oh…really?” This was a question, not a comment. My faced must have told  him my true feelings. He casually drifted away from my table, but asked my name again as he left and he seemed like he was trying hard to remember it.


I wrote this song from a simple little back and forth chord progression. I wanted the verses to sound differently from the rest of the song. In the beginning I had no idea what the song was about and the idea of linking it to the Greek myth of Pegasus came late in the song’s development when I started thinking about looking up to the stars.

I think there are 3 basic ways to write songs: from inspiration, from a craft person’s technique, and the very best songwriters create from inspiration with care for the craft of songwriting. Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Carole King are examples of those who can do this.

I will never be that type of songwriter, but I am grateful for being able to tap into the inspiration part of it all. For me, new songs are delivered through some unseen frequency, like they are just floating out there waiting to be received. I think it is very closely related to mental illness actually (which is what one of the songs, “Make Believe,” I recorded for Songs from the Shed is all about.)

Wherever they come from, here is a new one.


I am sitting at the dining room table. I take so much for granted, rarely realizing how much is around me. So I stop, and, I look.

The tulips sit on top of a table where so many of my loved ones have gathered around for meals and laughter and even sometimes, tears. The tulips themselves are glorious mysteries that open up during the day and then close at night, like a shopkeeper.

Beyond that, on the wall is a yarn painting from the Huichol people of Mexico. Their folk art is colorful, symbolic, and spiritual.

Just above the yarn painting hangs a plant that blends the inside with the feeling of the outside- a constant, unobtrusive reminder of the natural world.

Then there is a homemade table that a loving family member made from old, used lumber. Below the top of the table is another section that holds the large bowls often used for cooking and baking.

Of course there is a microwave, one of those unintended consequences of NASA’s space program…along with a drink called Tang.

Also on top of the homemade table is a bowl of oranges and bananas. The bananas are constantly turning a darker and darker color, sometimes on their way to becoming part of a wonderful, warm banana bread. Love banana bread, just out of the oven with some butter melting over it.

All this just within two arm lengths of me. When you really, I mean, really think about it along with increasing your awareness of the present moment, we are surrounded by incredible stories. This chair that I sit on, as I write with one thumb poke at a time on my cell phone, without absolutely any awareness of how lucky I am to sit on it in comfort, is just the latest example of my unawareness. I have to work on that.

Words and Numbers: A Children’s Story for Adults

(On my blog, I rarely edit my postings… and that is probably obvious to you. I posted this story a couple of  years ago. Since then I’ve rewritten it a couple of times with some editing assistance. I think this is my final version. I like this story very much. At the end is a song I wrote about the importance of stories in our lives.)

The Story of Words and Numbers

Storyteller sits on my bookshelf. Last night he told me this story. I tried to write it down word for word.

A long time ago, before such a thing as time even existed, Words lived peacefully with Numbers. The two existed only in spirit form, invisible, with no sense of separation or consciousness of completeness. All things were as One then, both Words and Numbers.

As people came into the world, created from the songs of angels, they used Words and Numbers to tell their stories, like the “In the Beginning” story. Words created that first sacred tale, enabling people to understand it through their hearts. Numbers told the first sacred story also, describing days, years and generations, so the people’s minds might grow. Favorite Words —love, forgiveness, and hope—helped people to expand their hearts. Favorite Numbers, such as 3, 7, and 40 became old friends, appearing again and again in stories and songs.

One very clear night, the People of the Angel’s Song looked up at the sky and asked, “How many stars are there?”

Words said, “Enough to fill your hearts with awe. Enough to guide you through your lives, enough for the poets and painters forever and forever.”

“I do not know,” said Numbers. “Let me see: 1, 2, 3…”

Words trembled in shock. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” replied Numbers, continuing to speak, “42, 43…”

“You—you—you are counting!” stammered Words.

“I’ve never heard—78, 79—of that word before,” said Numbers “—107, 108—counting, hmm, I like it…2,312.”

The People of the Angel’s Song listened in amazement as Numbers kept counting the stars.

“Count more things for us, Numbers!” demanded the People.

Words drifted quietly away, back to the Where the Shadows Lived, barely noticed by Numbers or by the People of the Angel’s Song. For the first time, Words and Numbers were apart. Words was sad, and very lonely, but Numbers didn’t notice or care, thrilled by the new adoration of the People of the Angel’s Song.

Numbers grew larger and larger, but also required more and more of the People’s attention, especially when Numbers created Time.  Understanding the ways of Numbers would set them on a new path, Numbers now told the People, one that would lead to greatness exceeding even that of the sacred Angel’s Song itself. Then Numbers revealed to the People that their “In the Beginning Story” was untrue, because it lacked real Numbers. Words, Numbers claimed, had greatly confused the minds of the People of the Angel’s Song.

Fearful of destruction, of being used like old charcoal to start a new fire, Words ran far away to Where the Shadows Lived. (Storyteller said he put this part in his story so that he would sound more Native American-ish. Some have accused Storyteller of not being “Indian” enough.) Words cried out to One, the Mother and Father of the Angel’s Song. “The people no longer want me. They care only about Numbers, and counting, and all the things that have come from Numbers, like Time.”

Words sat on the ground, legs folded, trying to listen for a reply, unable to hear anything but the faint sound of Numbers counting just beyond Where the Shadows Lived. Words began to cry, then sob loudly in grief, missing the People of the Angel’s Song. (Storyteller said that just between us, he thought Words was a bit over-dramatic – he said that Words can be like that sometimes.)

After sobbing for a very long time, Words looked up from the ground. From far away came a sound, a quiet pounding, like a distant drum. Rising slowly from the ground, Words left Where the Shadows Lived and followed the sound, which grew louder as Words drew near to the Tangled Forest.  Words hesitated. The Tangled Forest was a fearful place, where the unwary might be trapped forever, unable to free themselves from the tangling vines of confusion, never to be heard from again.

Words remembered what Numbers had said many times, “Only a fool would enter the Tangled Forest.”

Yet the pounding continued, much louder now, still drum-like, but with a new sound flowing through it – like the ripple of a mountain stream.

Then, without warning, came the sound of two voices, one female and one male, speaking in perfect harmony. “Only a fool would NOT enter the Tangled Forest.”

Quickly, without thinking, and without any type of protection, Words stepped in among the trees and entered the darkness.

It was a confusing place indeed, obstructed by thick vines and strange sounds.  Words felt a sudden, overwhelming need to speak of love, anger, sympathy, and greed; of joy, pain, life and death; of fears, and of the past, the present, and the future, as well as many other things. In this confusing place, Words realized, Numbers could not exist. The drumming sound was even louder now, and Words noticed that its rhythm matched that of the ocean waves.

“What is this place they call the Tangled Forest?” Words asked.

Again, both voices answered as One.  “This is the home of the heart of the People of the Angel’s Song.

“I like it here,” said Words, “May I stay?”

“Not all the time,” said One, “But whenever Numbers becomes arrogant, demanding obedience without awareness of causing harm, run back here. Enter the Tangled Forest and speak bravely, for the People of the Angel’s Song cannot deny the truth of Words that come from the Tangled Forest, from their hearts. For it beats in perfect unison with the most sacred of their songs, the Angel’s Song.”

From then on, Words spoke many times from the heart. Each time the People of the Angel’s Song listened carefully, nodding their heads at Words’ wisdom. It was during one of these times that Tears came into the lives of the People.

“What are these things that come from our eyes?” they asked.

Words answered, “These are the Words from the deepest part of your heart.”

The People nodded. “Our knowledge comes from Numbers,” they said, “but One’s wisdom comes from Words.”

(Numbers, meanwhile, is still counting those stars.)


Gary McMahon

Up News etc.

First of all, I changed my blog’s tagline from “Mental Images” to “One Life” for lots of reasons.

Here is the latest update on the landscaping project which actually we haven’t done any landscaping yet. Isn’t that how projects usually go – you have to go backwards first sometimes?

And then, here is a new song which will be the first track on my new cd, “Songs from the Shed.”

It is titled “If You’re Looking for Crazy.” One of the thingz I have notized on social media sites is the tendency to project the very best of one’s personality, wisdom, soul…often posted with some catchy affirmation.

So let me be straight with you, I am not a well functioning person in so many ways. I am often confused, tempted, lazy, mean, and vindictive.  I can be self centered, manipulative, and never forget a wrong done to me.

On the other hand, I silently tear up when thinking about all the love around me and I think I would give up my life, immediately, to save the life of a family member.  I love our dog and pet her way too much. I even provide way too much caring oversight for the chickens.

Yet, I can easily get jealous. I can turn on people quickly. I have a temper, when I feel threatened or violated, that seems to have no boundaries. A therapist I really liked once told me that I have a raging murderer inside of me. I like to think he was exaggerating some, but he did have point though. Although I never initiated violence, I have responded with it.

I love children. I love life. I will fight for what I believe is right. When viewed as portfolio of actions…If You’re Looking For Crazy….you’ll find it in me.

Zachary’s Song

A wonderful young boy, Zachary Hutton, has his own Soundcloud page where he occasionally shares his joyful music. He reminded me that music is supposed to be all about having fun. After listening to his musical playfulness and joyfulness, I sat down and wrote my own Zachary song, A Most Unusual Day.

I wish Zachary, his family, and anyone who reads this…A Most Unusual Day!

This and That

Appearance… I have noticed that I am starting to resemble the artwork in museums…

Milestones…. As you get older you have certain things that happen which are sure indicators that you are moving into a new phase of your life. For example, in my late forties, early fifties, my children all got together and gave me a gift on Father’s Day.  It was a tree. When you receive a tree as a gift, you know people are thinking about how nice it will be to have something still growing once you’re gone…a legacy of your existence. When I got it, I thought, “Ah, shit, I’m going to  die someday.”

Another milestone is your first colonoscopy.  I don’t even want to talk about that day except to say that they didn’t give me enough “stuff” to really knock me out and I could fill some discomfort as they tried to get the scope to  go around a difficult bend in my ole racetrack.

And, today, I  experienced a new milestone in my life. I was sitting in my office, door open, and reached over to get my cellphone as it  was charging against the wall.  It was quite a stretch and my office chair tipped completely over…and I fell to the floor. Students and office mates came running in to “very gently” help me off the floor with deep compassion and pity in their eyes – for the old man on the floor. They looked like they were  going to call 911, or perhaps, even arrange for hospice care. Yep, a new milestone in my life.

Landscaping Update…a very shaky video that updates our progress with our landscaping project: