It Wasn’t Meant For Me……….by Tom Newbill

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Years ago I was on patrol with a platoon of yard sailors surrounding a small town in Northern Idaho. It was early morning and some of us had just done a sortie up one of the roads outside of town. A big estate sale had been reported and many of us raced up miles of dust choked roads only to find a couple of dozen canning jars, some obsolete vacuum cleaner bags and an old pick up truck with no wheels. Now there are two kinds of yard sales; one where the folks just want to get rid of stuff and the other where the folks just need the money. You can find good stuff at either one but we all hated to spend the prime early morning hours at some worthless sale someone had lied about.

That said, I came back to town kind of flat and was in no mood. By now we had all lost the element of surprise. The sales had been cherry-picked and I was just on my way home when I saw a sign saying “Big Garage Sale” so I decided to pull in, why not; I was done, but….you never know. It was a plain little house, the kind they built after WWII, low rent but live-able. As I walked across the bone dry yard up the cracked driveway I thought, boy this is about as exciting as brushing my teeth. There were about five card tables stretching down the driveway with piles of women’s clothing and some toys for kids…oh swell…hold me back. Totally bored, I turned to leave when I passed the last table which had some cloth remnants, thread and a wad of patterns, odds and ends a seamstress might revere…oh…and some wicker baskets.

There were three baskets in all, stacked inside one another and on the top there was an unusually handsome woven basket with a lid. I picked it up in one hand and removed the lid with the other. There, nestled on a pillow of maroon yarn, was an exquisite small silver cross. I held my breath as I beheld this unusual manger. Now for the record, my target at yard sales was fishing gear, musical instruments and crosses. Most yard sailors have a collection of things they covet and crosses seemed to be my fetish at the time; this would be the centerpiece of my collection.

There I was, completely absorbed, gazing at my lucky find when out of nowhere there appeared a gnarled hand at the end of a skinny wrinkled arm, briefly hovering over my treasure and then without even an ‘excuse me’, an old lady snatched my cross right out of the basket. Startled, I recoiled at this most egregious act of larceny. This old lady, this old thief had copped my cross while I stood defenseless. This abrogates even the questionable ethics of the unwritten yard sale code, like someone barging into your cubicle in a public rest room and at knifepoint, stealing your last few sheets of toilet paper while your pants are down.

Mind you, I hesitate to criticize any old person, being no spring chicken myself, but I did briefly toy with the idea of kicking her butt on the spot….but…reconsidered because of the subject matter in hand….plus the fact that she might have won. Talk about robbing the cradle! I was left speechless by this brazen act of petty theft in broad daylight no less and before I could give voice to a long line of well deserved expletives..she screeched…”How much is the cross?”

Everything got real quiet and every head there turned and looked in her direction. The lady running the sale said “twenty-five cents.” What could I do?… What could I say? It was over! The barn door was open, the horse was on the loose, I lost my cross. This old grave robber then pulled out a small worn leather coin purse from her filthy oversized pants and slowly began counting: one dime, two nickels, one, two, three, four, five pennies. Oh sure I thought, take your time you old drama queen.

I looked back down at my empty manger…no…not a manger anymore, more like a crypt or a plundered tomb…and… the tomb was empty!…. Wait a minute I puzzled….what’s going on here? I quickly looked up in time to see the old lady in full swing, shoulders back and with long graceful strides she rounded the hedge and crossed the street, struttin’ like she had the whole world in her hand. She walked past the shadow of an old wooden storage shed smack into a beam of bright morning sunlight which lit up her frizzy white hair….it was stunning…it looked just like…well….a halo.

A Vision Of You

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Was it yesterday or in some past life

that I sat in your kitchen,

or some lovely place deep within,

by a window with the curtains

rustling lightly

in a warm breeze?

You were a vision

just standing there,

in that imposibly clear crystaline air,

like a dream, but then,

that couldn’t have been,

because you were not yet born.

A vignette then,

a picture, an image perfect,

made by some sainted artist

in a world where perfection

does not exist,

except for the perfection of you.

But, of course,

it was just a moment

and then that moment became another.

and you just slipped away,

something never meant to be,

or a promise

of something yet to come.

Russell Rosander 2/11/16

Barra de Navidad

The Great Escape – Part Twelve

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The Great Escape – Part Twelve

Even this morning, after a full eight or nine hours of sleep, I have not overcome the miserable writing I produced yesterday. How could I have brought such suffering into the world. I know, I Know, “Relax, relax, they’re just words!” you say, “Look at all the political advertisements on the net! Listen to what married people say to one another when they get into a big row. Let it go! For Crisake don’t go into a funk over it. Just erase then if they bother you so much.”

“ERASE THEM!”, I answer, “ARE YOU KIDDING! THEY’RE BRILLLIANT! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!”

Not really, of course, but one must defend his or her own misery. Misery is precious. We need our misery. We were meant to suffer. That’s what we were born for. Without suffering, life would be just one, long, boring, sappy affair. Suffering brings passion into our lives! Why do you think drama ia such a popular medium in television programing? Maybe my misery isn’t really brilliant, but it’s mine. Now I’m going to keep it and not even show it to you because you might rip it up or something! This is MY pity party and I’ll suffer if I want to!

But if you asked me nicely, respectfully, I would show you those pages, but, for now, I’m not going to post them on the internet. They’re private, nothing out of the ordinary mind you, just a lot of whinning about things I’m guilty of, kickin’ myself in the ass, regreting the suffering I’ve caused people I have loved and do love through neglect or worse. Karma I have created in my life that is now almost too painful to remember.

I suspect we all have that. Show me someone over the age of two who hasn’t done something they wish they hadn’t done. Life is like that. People don’t want to hear the details either. Maybe that’s why we have fiction. It’s safer from that distance. Not so real. We humans, collectively, have done some awful things.

Ever since Adam and Eve tasted that danged apple, the fruit of knowledge. Knowldge of good and evil. Duality, we have suffered for it.

Clive told me yesterday, “I go to the store and I buy an apple and then I put it in the refrigerator. And I will never taste that apple. It will never touch my lips. It will just sit there until it rots, and then I will throw it out! I shall remain on the path of righteousness!”

…..and this is from a guy that sometimes suffers from bouts of depression!

To Be Continued……

The Great Escape – Part Ten

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The Great Escape – Part Ten

……..and then there was that time, it was in the spring I believe. You know how undependable memory is. How time changes everything. There were still patches of snow on the ground and the old mining and logging road was muddy in places.

It was still kind of cold, but seemed gloriously warm after what we were coming out of. Winter that is. The pipes had unfrozen. It was morning, I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, it was a sunny day. A beautiful sunny day. We were in the Siskiyou Mountains on Althouse Creek, walking. Just walking. That’s all, just walking. Not talking at all.

We didn’t have any idea what was going to happen next, all the changes we would be going through. Permanence was not something we had sought or thought about yet. We were still so very young. We didn’t know that a year later bulldozers would come and obliterate any trace of our existence there, or our tenuous, experimental family would tear asunder, divided from within, or that it would reform into smaller circles, because love never dies. It just sleeps sometimes.

But the old ghost mining town of Browntown, once called Tigertown, was still standing and very much alive. It had no electricity, but it was electrified.

Anyways, I remember we were walking up the windy road and it was such a beautiful day, full of newness and beginnings. We had just spent our first winter in the mountians and we were feeling good. We would soon be living the summer of our lives. Later we would discover that it was henseforth, from that point, that all our lives would flow. At least it was that way for me. You’d have to ask the others to be sure. It was for Chuck too. We’ve talked about it many times. Chuck called it a school, and we learned more about life in that one year than all our years in public school. It felt like a lifetime.

We were walking, just walking, neither slow nor fast, up to where the bridge crossed the creek, up through the dark, wet, dripping fir and pine and madrone and oak trees. I don’t know who I was walking with but it was someone.. Funny that that fact, not knowing, doesn’t discomfort me at all, that it actually echos our state of mind at the time because we were so OPEN. We didn’t know anything then either. We were all so full of possibilies, and we were oblivious to any kind of suffering or loss.

We just stopped there and looked down into that springtime, roiling, tumult of rushing water. I can still feel water spray on my face and hear the thunder of it echoing in my ears, and I just stood there looking into it. Just looking into it. IN TO IT! I felt so incredibly high and I wasn’t stoned, not stoned at all. It was so beautiful. So wonderous. So so awsome, I felt as if I had stepped into some alternate universe, but it was still this one all right. It was just this amazing, totally unexplicable thing!

I don’t remember walking back or even if we did walk back. Maybe we just floated through the air, and then I was up in my funky little attic room above the double barrel woodstove, cozy and warm again and I wrote this poem. I’m sorry if it doesn’t quite catch it, that experience, but it is what it is, and here it is, resurected after all thse years:

Snow that cannot say they,

water that cannot say we

flowing together

as changes come,

always!

Come down to the river,

come down too!

It’s going so fast,

no one can see where it’s going.

SO FAST!

Someone says:

“He’s trying to damn it up,

but it still flows.”

The big stones never move,

could never confine a river,

it just flows through, around,

always,

Endless; Endless;

Endless.

Browntown, 1971

To be continued………..

The Great Escape – Part Nine

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1/21/16

Ram Dass is right. As soon as my illusion of seperatness is threatened, here comes my ego to reinforce it. This is war, damn it! And back into battle we go… How do I get out of this trap? What is my writing but grasped thoughts, plucked on their way through from the front door and out the back door? Certainly nothing worth defending. Others have written about this stuff far more eloquently than I. What do I have to offer except my personal, seperate, point of view? And then, I get upset when it seems a tad egotistical. Like it’s not keeping up appearences or something, it’s not as I expect it should be.

As I understand it, Ram Dass is saying in his piece on Karma Yoga, that for it to be dharma, It has to be done with no sense of self and no reward in mind. That basically, I need to write it without thought of some future benifit to myself and just let it happen, flow or whatever because that’s what’s appropriate to happen without ever taking credit or possession of the act. In other words, to give it up. Keep writing, but surrender it imediately, not mine to hold onto. Ok. so here it is. just so much dross for the fire. I give it to the universe. No more worrying about feedback, praise and all that. Just give it up to the winds of fate.

But how do I get from writing or saying this to the reality of it, to it really being so? How do I get it to be more than just some much hot air wafting through the window?

And then I think, Well, what am I but a passing breeze?, and you know, what if all there is is merely ego. What if there is is only that, then so what? Just this breeze wafting through the window of time. But, of course, ego wants it to be more than that. Ego wants to be important. Ego wants respect. Ego wants a big comfortable house. Ego wants more. Ego will cling to itself as long as it can because that’s the only existence it knows. Ego is our seperateness. You can’t stop that. The illusion of seperatness is still going to be there. So what is left to do but give up trying to change it. Accept it for what it is, an illusion. Give it up. It’s just a part of the universe. It’s just phenomenon. It’s just seperateness.

And this is what actually happens when we try to give up our seperateness. In meditation and in writing for me, I reach this place where everything is egual. Nothing is better or worse or more important than anything else, and at that moment, I love it all. I get this wonderful feeling and I want to hold on to that, but I know that’s not really possible to hold onto it. So then I go for a walk and all this stuff pops up. I see all these bad things happening. Problems with the bank screwing with my money that I need to pay my debts and to live on. Hurtful things, you know, and I say “Oh no! Not that! I can’t love that!”, and I’m right back where I started. And I’m suffering, panicing really. I tried calling my bank in Idaho to try to straighten out the problem a dozen times and none of the calls went through. All these old fears of mine rise to the surface and I retreated.. So I go to where I am loved and I order another beer and laugh and enjoy the company of friends in this safe place until I’m quite drunk, and then I walk out and I see someone I like and want to hug him and he waves me off, “I don’t mind talking with you when your sober”, he says…….. and I head for the bus and go home to lick my wounds and suffer some more. Because my desire to be free of ego has set up these expectations and they were not met and now I’m paying the price. Do you see the cycle here, he pattern? I ask myself? How does one learn to love suffering, this Veil of Tears? Just let it be? Give a good laugh at all this foolishness?

That was yesterday. This morning I tried calling the bank in Idaho and got through to the manager who is also a friend. She had gotten the e-mail and faxed information I had sent yesterday, and their phones were down all day yesterday which was why none of my calls went through. She was on it as soon as she saw the e-mail and had already taken steps to fix the problem. I may have to wait a few more days for my money is all. I talked to the guy I had promised to pay yesterday and he is fine with waiting. I gave him most of what was in my wallet and thanked him. I would rather be broke myself than allow him to be broke. I’ll be fine. What a relief.

Ok ego, I’m done messing with you. You’re just a dumb illusion, I know that, but I accept that you and I are not seperate…

The Great Escape – Part Eight

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We were getting out of the city for the weekend. No work, just fun. A group of friends escaping together. We were in a gas station getting gas in Bill and Lilly’s VW van. Bill had a new eight-track cassette player under the dashboard. He loved new gadgets like that. New cassette too. “Abby Road” – The Beatles. “Here Comes the Sun” was playing. It had just come out. I had never heard it before. It was dawn. The sun was coming. We had gotten an early start.

We headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu and on. We were going to be camping at Montana de Oro State Park near San Luis de Obispo. I didn’t realize at the time, just how far out we were going.

Brian and Ken, whom I didn’t know well, worked in the same design studio as Bill. Brian and Ken were gay and amature animated filmakers. Bill had just finished designing the label for a new product called “Kama Sutra Oil”. Pat and Cyretta were a mixed race couple and close friends. He and I were graphic artists at the same advertising agency. I was more or less his apprentice. We were working on an advertising campaign for the new king of the Tonga Islands. The kingdom had recently come into some money by increasing copra production four-fold with a new machine that husked coconuts and left the meat intact and he wanted to develope tourism there. He came to visit us. The mayor was at the airport with all the TV people and the key to the city. He wasn’t on the plane. He showed up three days later at our door. He was a happy and rotund guy. I liked him. “What’s three days?” he asked. He wanted to go to Whiskey A-Go-Go.

I lived in Pat and Cyretta’s two car garage close to the intersection of Slausen and Crenshaw in L.A. I had recently left home, kicked out, actually, for smoking pot in my bedroom. Even then, it was a rough neighborhood…. shooting going on every night. The riots were still recent events. Their kids were staying with the neighbors, so we were free for two days. I was the only one of our group who had never dropped acid before.

We drove throuh Santa Barbara and up the coast in the coolness of the early morning. It was a fatastically beautiful day. Birds were singing. Wildflowers were blooming. It was unbelievably sweet compared to the grime of the city.

We paid the fee for the campsite and set up the tents. We had brought some snacks and a gallon of wine. We weren’t going to need much to eat today. We wouldn’t be hungry.

I had heard about acid, of course. Everybody knew about Timothy O’ Leary and the new hippy movement. I had read a little book, “The Doors Of Perception” by Aldeous Huxley as well. It didn’t prepare me for what I was about to experience. I had no point of reference. This was not grass.

It was called “Orange Sunshine”. Brian and Ken had it. Two bucks a tab.

At first I thought nothing was happening. Just wait, they said, It takes a little time. We headed down a trail to a little cove that was pretty secluded. Gradually I lost my sense of direction and abit scared. “Just go with the flow. Let it take you. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. You’ll see.

You’ll see.

You’ll see.

You’ll see. You’ll see.

You’ll see………

The sun. Here comes the sun.

They told me to sit in this special place in the rocks. “Just sit there,” they said.

So I sat there. I was always a good little boy. I looked around at the ocean and the waves and the sea birds over head and it was so incredibly beautiful. SO beautiful, and I was so happy, I wanted to cry! “Shhhhh!”, they told me, “Just wait!” And then it happened……….

It was like the world’s loudest fart. There was this enormous blast of air from under my butt. My hair shot straight up. They had sat me on a blow hole. They were all rolling around on the sand laughing their heads off. Funniest thing they had ever seen. “Wow man! Was that cool or what?” I was laughing with them.

The universe had openned up to us. It was if the clouds had parted and a sunbeam had reached down and carried us up, up, up, and we kissed the light. LIGHT! Everywhere. We spent the day exploring. Every turn offered some new miracle. We meditated and gave thanks. We looked into the centers of wildflowers and traveled there to became one with them, and then bloomed ourselves. Every time an insect landed on an arm or a leg, it was if we had been given a special gift. We closed our eyes and saw dancing, swirling, pulsing colors on the insides of our eyelids. Everything, the entire universe had been transformed into waves of energy traveling through us, in us around us. “What a rush!”, we all said those days. We had escaped into reality. We had changed forever, we thought.

But sometime around dusk, we started to come down. We smoked some pot and shared the wine to ease the transition back to ordinary life. We were so happy. We had shared something so special, so real, that no one would believe it. It was love, of course. The hippies weren’t a drug cult. What we wanted, what we experienced those days was love. And we had changed forever. We may have forgotten at times, but it’s still there, just waiting for the time for us to get back to it. That’s all we wanted, you know….love! We took LSD many times after that, but it was never the same. That was because it wasn’t the drug that blew our minds, it was love, and that was something we still had alot to learn about. There was a lot of trial and error that happened after that, alot of mistakes. Some of us gave up on it. Some of us are still looking. It’s right here.

Inside each of us. It always has been. We can escape into reality, you and I. It doesn’t matter that we have aged. The universe is young. The universe is just beginning to open. You don’t need a drug to find it. It is you.

Love

Peace.

The hippies are still coming.

………..You’ll see.

…….To be continued.

The Great Escape – Part Seven

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Who among us has never done or said something so awful, so terrible it’s painful to admit it? Something said or done while angry or perhaps drunk, enraged over some percieved hurt done to ourselves whether it was real or not? Maybe even a grand crime like burglery or murder or rape. And then we compound the act by denying it, or telling ourselves that it wasn’t really all that bad, or justifying it, even if we have to invent some alternative version, however fanciful, of what really happened, even blaming it all on the other person, and we believe it. How else can we live with ourselves? I’m not saying this is you, you understand. This isn’t an accusation. Not by any means….NO!

It takes courage to face terrible truths about ourselves and who has courage

when we believe we’ve been wounded to the core. To make it even worse, the ones we hurt are usually those we love the most.

Guilty on all counts your honor, I am ready to take my punishment.

“This is the price you have to pay for eating that damned apple, the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. What you have done is your punishnment.” Please forgive me, I asked, for I know not what I did. “I am not your judge, only your confessor. You yourself are your own judge. I can only forgive you by forgiving myself. How can I withold my love from you, whatever you have done, however terrible, when I am equally guilty myself, perhaps even more so. My love for you is unshaken!!”

………And we are left standing there in the dock in shock.

Was it only yesterday

that I saw a white butterfly dancing on the breeze

in the empty space before me?

In that moment,

where was the good, where was the bad

that caused me to grieve so

only moments before……?

Now I have seen you in all your pulsing beauty!

How passionatly your colors glow!

Oh great sorrow,

I have lost my pain……I have escaped!

How can I live without your suffering?

“Please, give it to me! Please!”

So innocent, I thought, so pure,

and then I returned to the scene of the crime.

We can never truely be hurt to the core. Our core is invulnerable and eternal and love itself. There is no need to protect it by closing our eyes and ears and hearts. It is only this earthly body that can and will enevitably be damaged and feel pain, because that is mortal.

There is no pain in love.

The body is temporary.

It only lasts for a short while.

Love is timeless.

Love is abundant.

You can’t own it.

It can never be stolen.

That’s all there is.

Your crime is love.

……to be continued.