Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Archive for the ‘Pursuit of identity’ Category

Now, where was I…?

Pop Pop, Nana, my sister, and me. Circa 1970.

I go by the moniker of “Pop Pop” to my grandchildren. A badge of honor I inherit from the man above. He was one of my favorite people in the world, second only to my sainted mother. I am “Pop Pop” now, and have modeled myself after the original. Here I appear, not quite “somebody” yet. The “rebel” hat one of my earliest expressions of self-directed style. I had no idea what a rebel was, really, nor the Civil War, its meaning or consequences. I named my gray cat “Rebel”. It seemed like an “intelligent” name for a gray cat. One with secondary reference, an almost double-entendre, had I known what one was. Rebels wore cool hats that didn’t look like everyone else’s hats. And they had guns over the brim. Yankees were a baseball team.

My life was vicarious then. Indeed, it was hardly “my life” at all, but an existence moving through a world that was showing me, in myriad ways, what a life may be. Perhaps what a life was expected to be. Parents taught me to mind my manners, respect elders, brush my teeth, ride a bicycle. To clean my room and clean up my grades and live a clean life without swearing or alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. To snuggle on the couch watching the embers die in the fireplace. To hold hands in crowded places. To not talk to strangers.

Teachers taught me that we are required to learn and retain every fact and date in recorded history, to read every classic novel, poem, play, short story, sonnet or opera ever penned and be prepared to discuss them eloquently. In front of an audience. That everyone must know every detailed nuance of mathematics, algebra and cost-accounting. All the basics of biology, astronomy, geography, auto shop and wood shop. To be complete one must learn to play the clarinet and square dance, join the basketball team or the chess team or the ski team, sing in the chorus, march in the band, act in the senior play.

From this maelstrom of unlimited possibility one is expected, at the tender age of seventeen, to choose a college major. A career path. The Thing that you Want To Do With Your Life.

This is the jumping off point. I would call it the jumping in point, as this is when you jump feet-first (or head-on if you were on the swim team) into that Great River of Life. It can go a lot of different ways from here. For some, which I imagine to be the rare few, most everything will sail right along in order, based on the lives they have acquired through parents, teachers, college and love. Success in well-chosen careers, a fulfilling family life, all the comforts and joy one might wish upon a fellow. Losses and pains endured in due course, we pray.

For the rest of us, we dive in and are quickly swept along by the swift and insistent current. The bends in the river often lead us to new vistas, new horizons, and our lives begin to grow. New angles of light shed deeper understanding. Experiences along the way forge our hearts and souls. Some may arrive at a comfortable or even insular place. A day-to-day routine that never changes, security in the known.

I often think of myself as having separate contiguous “lives” that strung together chronologically, but were reiterations brought about by change. Childhood is Life One. Happy as a clam at high tide, and a sponge for the world around me. Young adulthood is Life Two. When I began to discover likes and dislikes. Things I would like for myself. Things I would like to feel about myself. Things worthy of pursuit. Life Three came and went quickly, and was my brief bachelorhood. Single and working, doing as I please with my time and money. Taking up arts, playing in a band, living with house buddies in our own young adult playground.

Wonder Years

Life Four was the biggest. Marriage, children, buying a home, building a career. Sounds simple condensed to one sentence, but it filled thirty years with bedtime stories and trips to the zoo, lawnmowing and leaf pile parties, birthdays, graduations, Thanksgivings, and thirty Christmas trees. Weddings and baby showers and trips to the emergency room. Plumbing emergencies. Heat emergencies. Broken teenage heart “emergencies”. Driving lessons and tire-changing lessons. Fishing, camping, stargazing.

Life Five slipped in through the back door when the last fledgling left the nest. Now it seemed we had drifted into a gentle eddy beneath a cedar tree. Life coursed briskly down the river beyond, but our lives became a little slower, a little simpler. There was a subtle awakening to the realization that this was a place we expected to come to, yet were almost surprised to arrive at. A melancholy nostalgia was mixed with excitement for new opportunities that may await. Slowly we grew into this life, paring down rooms of furnishings and adapting to meals for two. In many ways we had the freedoms of Life Three, to come and go as we pleased. By now it was lunch out or browsing antique stores instead of rock concerts and late nights.

We were no longer the young adults of Life Three, however. Life had taken its toll on the flesh and the spirit. We languished in the eddy at times during those years of burying parents and lifelong friends. The treadmill of the working world chasing the ethereal “someday”. The times when lunch and antiques were just not enough substance to define a life. Who are we now, to ourselves and to each other? What do we want or expect of life during this time? What is “This Time”, how long will it last? What’s next?

I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but this was an intensely introspective period of my life. Now I had no parents to hold my hand, or teacher to tell me the bell rang. No professor to grade me. There were no excuses about having no time because of work and raising kids and keeping a home and the Spring Recital and the County Fair. It had been forty years, and it felt like revisiting Life Two, when I was choosing likes and dislikes. Going back to the drawing board. Redefining the way I wanted to see and feel life. Yet it was unlike early adulthood in that the sense of invincibility had given way to the common sense of certain mortality, and in fact gave rise to the inevitable question, “How long might I have?”

I have no premonition in the matter, nor reason to believe my odds aren’t as good as (one hopes a little better than) the next guy’s. It’s not so much mortality itself but the idea that the time is finite. The Great Cosmic Professor telling me I have yet to submit my final thesis. So I guess there’s a deadline after all.

Life Five vanished abruptly with the passing of my wife after thirty-nine years of marriage. This on the heels of my father’s death. It’s as if there was a void in time during this period. Like the darkness inside an egg. It was the embryo of Life Six.

Now I have hatched from my lengthy incubation. I find myself once again in the presence of this most precious gift life brings me; the chance to define myself. I rather like this gentle eddy into which I have been born, and it would be good to linger here. In fact, it’s a nice spot for a nest. I could use the peace and quiet.

I’m working on my Master’s thesis for my PhD in Life Well-Lived.

Be well,

Paz

Tales Of Ten Men

The Writer’s Tale

In an effort to frame concisely a brief outline of my love affair with words,
I came to this journal.

It lay open and empty many long hours as I contemplated superlatives
And conjured cogitations,
As writers often do,
Seeking the ideal phrase,
Painting dream and glory
In comma-specked soliloquy
And stunning summary.

As I tried to determine where the lines should be drawn
Between raw truth and exaggeration,
Fiction and mythology,
I realized

I had yet to write the last chapter.

Tales Of Ten Men

An Old Man’s Tale

My life has been like climbing a mountain.
A lot of work, a lot of learning.

Learning the right way to belay a line
and the wrong way to drive a piton.

There have been avalanches and rock slides.
Boulders a hundred times my size.

We have lost members of the party.

And now here I emerge from the tree line, almost there.

One long wistful look down that slope.
For I must turn my eyes upward and concentrate on this last leg.

The summit awaits.

Paz

Tales Of Ten Men

A Poet’s Tale

I heard music and
thought of you and clouds
and God and the universe
and babies and dogs and
old men.

I saw the iridescent starling
on the verdant lawn
under the cerulean sky
and Payne’s gray clouds
and also on the bare
winter cherry
awaiting spring
and grubs.

I tasted the hot coffee smelling of campfire
and the liquored kisses,
milk fresh from the cow and
cheese fresh from Vermont
and syrup fresh from our own trees.

I watched a thousand sunsets
from the same window
and marveled at the
October dawn from my
chair in the kitchen,
and sat to write about
all of these things.

Oh, look. It’s snowing.

Tales Of Ten Men

The Hermit’s Tale

I went to see the hermit on the mountain.

“It must be time to work that garden. It’s past mid-April.”

“April?” he looked at me quizzically.

It was then I realized he had no calendar.
In searching the walls and nooks I saw he also had no clock.

“Do you want a clock?” I asked casually as he sat oiling a tarpaulin.
“I have a lot of them.” I continued, “And maybe a calendar?”

He looked at me again, in utter consternation.

As if, like at Babel, our languages were suddenly one different from the other.

“No thanks.” he finally answered. He tapped his breast bone.
“This is my clock.”

He looked out through the open doorway by which he labored and said “This is my calendar.”

Slainte,

Paz

Tales Of Ten Men

The Warrior’s Tale

A ninja, I moved
stealthily through my world.
sometimes in fluid and undetectable ways,
sometimes stock still,
camouflaged.

Hidden.

Now the
rhetoric of the politic
has passed.

Here the
clear campaign
rises before me,
and I don armor.

Shield raised and sword held high,
I am samurai.

Slainte,

Paz

Roads – #1

You can do all the planning and decision-making in the best interests.

You can be raised well, educated properly; you can pursue your career and lay foundations, maximizing opportunities, weathering storms and holding course.

Each day you wake, however,
each decision you make
takes you down the road to your destination.

There are, mind you, tens of thousands of possible routes you may take.
Bear in mind, too, that the destination itself may not exist by the time you get there.

Sometimes, along the way, if fortunate, we find our destinations changing.

Newfound clarities, shifting sands, the grace of years to digest or dispel.

We may end up bound for places we never would have dreamed of,
and our destinations have become
our destiny.

Paz

Roads – #116

So much has been stolen from us by this evolution into our techno-monetary society.

I have but moments to view this beautiful morning through glass, passing at sixty-five miles per hour.

How I envy the rat and raven, free to consume the entire day, one sacred Now at a time.

Slainte,

Paz

Compose Yourself

Every day becomes part of your story.

Compose wisely.

You needn’t write about your cares and woes.

You needn’t write about your disappointments or regrets.

Every morning is a blank page.

Write about the best you, living the best life you’ve imagined for yourself.

Keep re-writing until the story comes out just the way you want it to.

Slainte,

Paz

On Writing

The act of composition forces my ever-whirring mind to slow to the speed of the pen.

This time warp allows me to see and focus on thoughts, which otherwise streak past like the blurry motion of a speeding commuter train.

Composition is the station and platform from which I can read the placards on the locomotives, and correlate them to the great galactic schedule on the wall.

I slow long enough to realize how, if anyone, I am positioned squarely for such life-changing events as those currently being navigated. I have prepared for many decades a heart and spirit that look to see beyond the occasional storms, grounded in the celestial and terrestrial. At once embracing the limitless cosmos and holding the delicate sparrow in my hand.

Such things are the farthest from transitory, and will carry me home.

Slainte,

Paz

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