Monday, March 30, 2009

The Gift

My Father came to me --
visited me in the early morning.
He appeared as a young man,
hair: black and full,
face: clean-shaven,
a big smile, a hearty laugh.

There was joy in his voice;
an aliveness I'd never seen before
in life.

Arriving now, from the Land of the Dead,
he stood before me
with a young man's
vital and fresh as a new day.
He was happy to see me -
happier than I ever remember
seeing him before.
He brought gifts.
But more than that,
he brought himself - fully;
showing up in Death
unlike he ever had in Life,
as if to say:
it was all
an act:

a performance
of violence and rage,
of neglect and lack;
forcing me, his son,
to dig
deep -
and then
and then
still -

to find
the man
I would become one day,
honoring my family,
my children,
my wife.

It was as if he said,
"All that before?
It was only to get you to
here -
to the Love."

He handed me a gift
and added,
"This is for you."

Friday, March 27, 2009

How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?

Father, I barely knew you. And when I knew you, you frightened me. Mostly you showed me what not to do, what not to be. With your reign of terror, the fever of alcohol and violence that held our home and family hostage, you taught me. You taught me how to destroy spirits and lives including your own. You shone a light on the path not to walk.

Thank you.

A good buddy and I have recently been talking about raising our boys and the path to manhood; a path not necessarily walked with tremendous consciousness, but a path every single boy must find his way upon. With or without guidance, every young boy will one day wake up and find himself a man. With or without consciousness, we will each of us find ourselves trying to 'be a man'; trying to discover what that means. We fumble our way, sometimes never knowing that 'being a man' is nothing more than fully becoming a human being - a human being who is flawed, who knows love as well as fear; who knows both courage and weakness; who is vulnerable and yet strong - a being, fully human in all its shades, nuances and inconsistencies. A man.

Raising a child is one of the most valuable and basic ways to affirm life, to leave this earthly place a little bit better - or not. Almost anyone can reproduce. Big deal. Not everyone takes the job seriously. Not everyone cares about the fine art of growing a human being. After all, human beings are almost a dime a dozen, what with 6, soon to be 7 BILLION of us on the planet. It's easy to forget. It's all too easy to forget that each one is precious. We too often are imprinted with the opposite message - that we are disposable. Disposable humans fill the landscapes of wars and prisons, mental hospitals and the streets, third world shantytowns and middle american families. We treat others as disposable when we ourselves have been treated as disposable and have come to believe it as truth and fact. We've unquestioningly been bought and sold - all too easily tossed aside and discounted. Just turn on the TV. There's hundreds of messages telling us we're not good enough, and if we just purchase the next latest thing, the new and improved thing that we lack, THEN we will be someone, something, a person of worth that can be measured by a material yardstick; someone worth more than the 'disposables'.

It has nothing to do with being a good human being.

Our fathers are supposed to be one of our strongest signposts along the way. Sometimes a sign points the way. Sometimes it warns "Do Not Enter".

I am fortunate. Before my father died in his eighties I was able to have an honest talk with him. I told him how the violence I'd grown up with had damaged me. I wanted him to know before he died, before we no longer had a chance to sit down together face to face, how his actions had hurt me as a child. I also told him that now, as a man, I could forgive him, knowing that he himself had never been shown better, knowing that he also must have had great pain and hurt shown to him. Others in my family were alarmed that I would speak so frankly about things that there was an unspoken family agreement that such things should remain in the shadows of silence. Somehow it was believed that if we didn't speak about these things, then the pain would touch us less. Instead, I spoke. And my father spoke in return.

He was an old man getting ready to die. He had a conscience to clear. He apologized. With total sincerity he told me, had he known any better he would have done better - simple as that. And a lifetime of pain and hurt was washed away. He was free to move on and so was I.

Years later I saw the movie "Smoke Signals", a favorite movie of mine written by Sherman Alexie. It's about fathers and sons, pain and the convoluted yet simple path to forgiveness and redemption. It's a movie about becoming a human being - a man in all his flesh and spirit. The movie ends with this poem by Dick Lourie, as Victor, the main character, tosses his father's ashes into the river. it's a powerful scene, a powerful moment in the journey to becoming a man.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Equinox Meanderings

Happy, blessed Spring! We made it – and none too soon! Those of you who are from these parts of Michigan know what I mean. You others who winter over in an easier part of the world, I’ll just put it this way: we’ve survived the long, grey, hard winter with little light and little warmth once again. Today, on the equinox, the length of the day equals the night, and from here, the balance tips; the days lengthen, the light increases. Hopefully, in our lives also. The light-starved and depressed need the wheel to turn.


It was midsummer last year when el poquito made his first appearance. He was born out of frustration and limitation back then. He’s been clowning with me ever since. It was a low tide moment; my legs and back were pulled out from under me once again. The pain in the nerves was hard to live with. I was scared. The little bit of ground I had recovered since lymphoma had moved into my life, felt as though it were crumbling out from under me. I was in a lot of pain and with little mobility. I was chained to the couch, needing crutches to travel off of it. I was going to need something extra to get through this; el poquito began to run through the interior lands inside of me. If I can’t run in one realm – a part of me will in another.

A spark was awakened with the arrival of el poquito. He leads my way; takes my spirit by the hand and runs with me. el poquito also shields me in the very public forum of blogworld, protecting my identity, my family and any innocent bystanders. There are some of you who know who the man is ‘behind the curtain’. That man has temporarily disappeared once again, gone into retreat of sorts. It’s time for an explanation, as best as I can.

A couple of months ago, the leg and back had another one of their ‘episodes’. That means a flare-up of the same ol’ pain and limitation scenario. These usually take a couple of weeks to move through, where I become my sole bodywork client, working on my body most waking hours to free it up. I fall down, but I don’t stay down. I’m stubborn and willful, if nothing else. During this period of slippage and taking care of myself, I developed another body problem – a new one. This time my upper back and right arm were crapping out on me. My strong arms had never betrayed me before. Now, I seemed to be developing new nerve problems – in new body parts; and the hole of limitation deepened. For two months now I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around losing the use of my arm. The pain, numbness and weakness have rattled me. Of course I work on it a lot. I also have gotten a lot of help. The impact of various remedies has been minimal and any progress or improvement has had to be what I can muster in my own mind. Don’t worry. I haven’t given up. I don’t do that. I can’t afford that luxury.

I’ve tried my best to keep my arm strong; at the same time I grieve its loss. Most recently I’ve come to think of how we identify so with our work. Especially when one loves their work, and others give you lots of kudos about your work, it becomes a large part of your persona and your place in the world. And mine was a good place in the world. In my recovery from cancer I’ve erratically tried to maintain what I could in the area of my life’s work with my hands, still helping others here and there, where I could. I haven’t been this strongly challenged since being in the midst of cancer and treatment. It takes me places I’d rather not visit. But then, nobody asked me.

Working with my hands with other’s pain was a calling. I now realize that I was given a gift. My hands and being were given an ability – I was able to sculpt human flesh; softening cold, hard clay into something warm and pliable. I was given a gift to share with others, and in addition I was given the gift of being able to make a living doing that work. I’ve been fortunate.

My life has also been rich with irony.

As a gift is freely given, likewise it can it be taken away. For now, it has been taken away. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I do know the arm has weakened and muscle has been lost along with ability. I hope not permanently, but still, it will take some time to recover and find its way back.

Meanwhile, as the back and arm heal, el poquito takes the lead. As el poquito I can run, leap and climb mountains; I can write, paint and spin tales of survival. I can take crap and reshape it into something new. I can grow spring flowers in the compost of the winter’s pile of shit.

Or like any good gardener, I can at least try. That’s all any gardener can do – try. No guarantee how the garden will turn out. Gardening is an act of hope. So is stubbornly rising above the crap.

Viva el poquito!

And Happy Spring Equinox - celebrating the returning Light.

el poquito (and the man behind the curtain)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Anticipating Spring in Michigan

the breeze is painted
with a remembered canopy
of honeysuckle and lilac -
a sistene chapel invisible to the eye
known only by its delicate breath
whispering its name

Monday, March 16, 2009


A frightening place.
A terrifying place, to me.
A place of no hope,
no spark, no breath -
just stale air,
a cabin closed
for too long, all summer -
that 'hot, August, steal the air from your lungs'
kind of stale air that
has not passed over
a living thing.

That is the odor of stuck:
stale, without breath, without
the touch of any living thing.

Passivity suffers
upon itself.
It empties its pockets, turns them
inside out,
and waits.

Outside this place,
the birds are praising.
Praising no one,
no thing.
Just praising.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Perspective - Down Here Below

But life goes on down here below
And all us mortals struggle so
We laugh and cry
And live and die
That`s how it goes
For all we know
Down here below

>>> <> <<<

for more on pale male:

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I wait for a sign:
a movement, a rustle - a stirring in the air;
a bird's call in the distance,
a cry for a vision.

I wait for a sign:
a word spoken, a dream remembered,
a conversation overheard -
one about freedom:
about the jail doors flinging open
and the prisoners set free;
about the hospital beds emptied,
and the patients all healed;
about hunger ending tomorrow
because we decide it so.

A dream about freedom
is only that: a dream.
A leap into the Unknown
is always that: a leap.

Standing at cliff's edge,
wings ready to take flight,
I wait for a sign -
the right cross wind
to climb
to the top

Invisible Mystery
stronger than fear,
I leap into
your current
carried on thin air
and trust.
"Do not look back
or give harbor
to doubt."