plain talk don’t matter much

      like salmon do, swimming upstream, that’s the job.   salmon do it, why not me?   although do remember what happens to them afterwards.
      pebbles and eggs.

plain talk for folks who don’t much care for impressionistic abstract stream of consciousness free association kind of stuff.   is that you?
only forever lasts forever.   nothing else.   nothing.

there’s these folks who say, once upon a time there were no stars, only hydrogen with a little helium perhaps, oh yea, and some dark matter scattered unevenly throughout whatever whatever was.   the hydrogen was appealing to gravity so some of it gathered together too.   in clumps.   bigger and bigger clumps.   are you following?   everything is still all and totally dark, no light.   in time enough hydrogen got itself heavy and heavier, pressing in on itself.   you can kinda do the same with your hands.   gets warmer, doesn’t it.   so did the hydrogen, till that moment, a great ball of it ignited and began to burn.   now, now there was light in the universe.   first time, you understand.   there was a very first single star.   imagine that.   but good ideas, they repeat.   more and more first stars began to shine.   and in the shine, things began to move more and more, and more stars came to heaven.

      we are a speck of dust upon a speck of dust.

      we are but a sentence in the book of the universe.   so it is incumbent upon us to write the best sentence we can do.

that’s where we are right now.   so many many many galaxies, each with so many many many stars within their gathering.   over more time, galaxies they get attracted too and fly right through each other, changing each in many many many ways.   and that’s where we all are right now this very instant.
lots of stars and lots of light.   beautiful, that’s what we think to ourselves.   and we are right.   beautiful.   we live in the age of stars.

but all things, yes Virginia, they must come to an end.   many many times stars have grown old and died – some few into mysterious big black holes that make us wonder even more – what is all of this and who are we.   some just turn to a sort of burnt out coal and done forever too.   now some some far away day all the hydrogen will all get burnt up by stars and their lights will all go out one by one by one trillions of times.   almost black.   but not black holes we now understand, they evaporate slow slow slower than that, in so doing release a little heat, which we can also call a kind of light.   now that will take an even long long longer time and we certainly by then will also be gone like the stars.   but yes, eventually even the black holes will run out of steam.   the universe will be all dark and without heat.   no stars, no us.   like it was in the beginning.   perhaps.   we’re not sure.   but we won’t be wondering then.   so that property you’re thinking of buying as a long-term investment, understand long-term don’t mean very long.   and surely, not forever no matter what you think or want.

I wonder what god thinks of all that?   do you?
and in case you weren’t sure about your participation, yes Joni Mitchell was right.   we are stardust, billion year old carbon.  we are golden.   literally, all body, all of earth, this was once upon a time in the middle of a burning burning star, the molecular result of consuming hydrogen.   all this dirt, all these leaves, all these limbs, you and me.   no stars, no us.

so, you see the poetry of existence?   everywhere.

      two cats in an alleyway.   they’re not mine, one is black, the other stripes of grey and darker grey.   I shutter my eyes so they won’t be afraid of my gaze.   does that work for you?


            please fully enlarge image for an amazing view & see below

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Stolovy (Spitzer Science Center/Caltech)

This dazzling infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy. In visible-light pictures, this region cannot be seen at all because dust lying between Earth and the galactic center blocks our view.

Full size TIF quality image (beyond stunning)
          are you feeling any less lonely?
Joni Mitchell, Woodstock, or if you’d like a little more, Shadows and Light

what changed?

formerly called, which one, which child would you sacrifice?

          a writing prompt

          You could save the world by torturing one innocent child.
          Which innocent child?

          William Stafford (teaching notes, provocative questions)

          to answer once better than already done…

The devil doesn’t mind predicament.   Neither God.
Do we navigate toward redemption or doom?   There!
Right there!   That thought just rolling off the roof,
splashing at your feet.   What choice did you make?
We turn our heads into wind or away from wind.
We think about the widening wakes we leave behind.
Too late for them.   Which innocent child sacrificed?
Observation of a choice already made.
          Which child?   Myself.
Answering another question, years later, she wrote, my doctor said, you should write just for yourself – write and post as if no one is watching but you!   She wasn’t the only one.   I already understood and agreed.   
However I said, this is a pin-cushion, not a switch.      Some history.
Of my former California home from child to young to middle age to the older me – I was painfully shy.   If I didn’t already know you or’d been introduced, I’d never start up a conversation with you.   Never.   Might as well have been a tortoise shell.   Honestly “being smart” was my mask.   Not genuine, but hard delivered, the appearance of true.   Then I moved to Washington state.
Everything.   Except for one.   Shyness got left behind.   No history no expectations, no one knowing me that way.   So I wasn’t.   It wasn’t a plan, but there it was.   Curious.   Not their fault, not my fault.   But real as a rock.
Before it was isolation that nourished me.    Being with people was burning my candle down.
Most folk go one way or the other, but not both.   Now I had a wick at either end.   Anyone, fair game for my attention.   Someone said, engage before people have a chance to turn away.   This was not the me I’d been for the majority of my life.   Words fail to describe,    new heart    new voice.
Two things about writing I should explain.
One.    I write because I was asked to write.   Years back, confused, hurting to be honest, I posed a prayer, the question – what should I do now?   Next day, some say meditate, I say listen, an answer introduced itself.   One word.   Just one.    write    No explanation, no detail, no write and publish, no write and be well received.   Not even “write well”.    write    No clouds opened in the sky, no voice of god, no nothing but that one word.      I took it to heart.
Two.   So I wrote.   I tried to learn, to express with better clarity.   I read, I wrote, think I learned along the way.   Engaging with others, that part, that I added in.   Vanity, sure, some of that, unavoidable.   I wanted my work to show, to be appreciated, to be engaging.   Ego doesn’t go away.   Of those who think ego’s been eschewed, that’s only ego taking the backdoor in again.
There’s the rub.   Two sticks making fire.   I don’t write to please anyone else, and really, what choice is there?   But a response?   That’s how I gauge my measure here.    This skin.    This warmth.    This breath.
This is the part where I’d go smoke a cigarette.   Punctuation.   But no.
So what changed?   It wasn’t seven hundred miles.   It was me.
And where’s the tail for this old dog?   Circular.   Surely you guessed.
It’s where the paddles come to water.   Sitting on my sidewalk bench, coffee in hand, I never felt a slight when folks passed by without a word.   Meaning only that I’d not reached out far enough, warmly enough.   A lesson for next time.   Nothing else.   The ending isn’t written yet.
          Somebody said,
          Every fierce battle in your life is with a paper dragon.


an essay disguised as journal, more prose than poem,
         but you decide.   and are thus forewarned.

sunlight this morning was nearly tumbling.   nearly startling.

waves splashing on shoreline rocks.   wild.   like that.

as a child I recall how there, close up beside those rocks,
the waves would crash and climb, climb up closer to me.
how that frightened me into wanting feather wings.

some words now frighten me.   no, not words, it’s the
thoughts beneath.   the more I look, thoughts and feelings
begin being the same.   look for brightness.   resolved.
         I try.

yet, new life within every change.   made new again.
one rule:   wear clean socks.   or no socks at all.
nothing and everything, that’s how this story begins.

is nothing just what we don’t yet have the sense to know?

there is more nothing than the stuff we recognize.   nothing
is what stuff moves through.   redressing our relationships.
         no nothing, no movement otherwise.
be the sailor who knows the sea within which we float.
         is it float, or is it swim?   I don’t know.
and it’s more than language at fault.
the only way we have to describe nothing is by what it is not.

even that name itself, we say “no thing”, thus described using
our own “some thing” way of sensing anything.   what it isn’t.
         nothing might be anything possible that isn’t
         now, isn’t here.   possible.

randomly, in either hand.   is reason a mask?

so who first?   who to trust?   you know.   chicken or egg?

thus feeling or thought?   which is parent?   which is child?
yet why need there be a first?

is our universe not big enough to be simultaneous?

where does passion linger for you?

I love the pen, my fingers doing scrimshaw ink on paper.
I love the labor to keep scribbles on the page, inside their
lines, not taking flight into a greater arc of wilding hand.

I love the crossings out, the new words added in.   the lines
and arrows directing language about the page.

         I love the listening,   where it begins.

and you?   where does your compass lean?
describe your living map.   use hands.   draw.

lately I’ve told myself I’m thinking too much about death.
about not being here any more.   but no.   wrong.
         I’m thinking about living.
         better eyes, better ears, better feet.   better heart.

an obsession?   possibly.   but isn’t that a right devotion
to embrace?

are we afraid of being nothing?   am I?

we are matter.   we always will be.   maybe energy, but
that’s matter too.   Einstein says.   still something, you see.
         we remain.

yet who we are does include nothing, the not-matter me,
laid out between each molecule, each atom.   more space
than matter itself we are.
         we are relationship.

existence is only because nothing and matter are married.
         neither is, without the other.

there is beauty in this bonding of palms.   no confusion here.

         an autumn tree, first snow on mountain tops.
         someone you recognize walks by.   smile.
         a difference of only timely scale.
so, what does this all mean to me?
see the threads cast about.   a fish in water.   then two.

when we touch it feels like Spring to me.


an essay perhaps

            says Fern about her house (from better days):

      It was just a company tract house. Actually, it was special.
      We were right on the edge of town and our backyard looks
      out onto this huge open space. It was just desert, desert,
      desert, all the way to the mountains.
                  There was nothing in our way.

            Fern (by Frances McDormand) from the movie, Nomadland

Ways to navigate. There’s Sun then Moon then Sun again. Stars too, from ears to toes. Wind whispers near. Breath circumnavigates in response. There’s how waves move above a slow nesting sea. Fish too, swimming deeper than restless sight. My hand in the water. Does skin taste the salt? Ripples, the ones you keep and those you let pass by. How Moon becomes the limber sea. Oh yes, and the smell of dry land.

And the scent of you.

Wayfinding.   I like that word.   Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

There’s the warm pulse living inside my chest. Amber hills that seasons reflect. And there, there, another like me and I see the curve, the way a hand would appreciate shape, and what also beats inside, how we measure near and far.

More than a compass reveals.
      What is essential is invisible to the eye.

            Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
            What I got wrong.

Mother said Presbyterian, but from the shallow end of the pool, and then, “my choice”. I looked. I didn’t believe, except that they looked colorless to me. No home. Later, my first, my only, high school girlfriend, she was Japanese. A small offering shrine in their home, toast for the ancestors. So I studied Buddhism, not that she cared in the least. But the dye was cast and no removing it. How’s that for brief history?

Not that history says why, rather what and how, maybe who, and as such always seemed fair and right questions to me. Mostly, no real teachers so imagine a patchwork mess. Oh yea, and I should include being painfully shy. Not a very good lubricant.

A child of the Sixties and going into Space, so reasonable science became more church than church. Over many years the pot on the stove grew in volume. Bubbling, blending, they came to an understanding I was willing to embrace. Reasonable?

Like mom said, it was always my choice. However, no choice about having choice. No matter the source, the story inside always is within what understandings I’m willing to swallow. My choice. That is simple mechanics, how it works.

To summarize what hasn’t yet been said, I thought I carried some useful notions about this jigsaw in my lap. It all made a certain reasonable sense but the math always summed up to zero,
      neutral was the word I used.

      The universe didn’t care.

Much later a genuine teacher crossed my wandering. He was honest, I was not. He observed experience, I did not. He understood math better than me. From youth he had angels at the foot of his bed. And no compromise, no negation of his experience. His universe was not neutral, not at all. Neither was he.

Here’s the math.

      in my view 1 plus -1 = 0

      in his vision 1 plus -1 = 1

Noticeable difference it seems to me. Seen through another lens,

      Love is the state, the act, of unconditional acceptance.
      That’s a pretty big mouthful just of itself. More rightly said,
      the true nature of existence is “love with affection”.

      Connected.   Not passive.   Engaged.

      A lie does not negate what is true. That math is wrong.
            I was wrong.

As a human, he liked his experience of life. As human, I did not. No mystery why my notions had a certain blindness the way they leaned.

Same same as choice. You are the only one point of view to look and choose. Tell me what your own life says to you. Fear or joy? Which feels real to you? A stranger walking by, do their eyes meet yours? Aversion or greeting, which feels like home?

Does the world include awareness, affection? If you do, then the answer is yes. You are both evidence and proof. Ask the question. Take the answer you get. Look. Choose.
      Mother said.
      harbored in between.
      far water. and,

      no bigger than my thumb
      ferryboats, moving east to me

      and westerly where,

      I don’t know.

Is there listening when I speak? when I think? when I feel?
      Aphorisms   The truth doesn’t mean anything. It just is.

      Happiness is a function of accepting what is. Love is a function
      of communication. Health is a function of participation. Self-
      expression is a function of responsibility.

            Werner Erhard, Aphorisms
Astronomers pose the question, Are we alone?

I’ve come to recognize I take that personally – Am I alone?

No, not meaning interstellar companions, rather what is already right here with us. You and me, obvious, although a challenge of itself. But how about – a bird, a breeze, a bench? The molecules in your hand? What is the mutual experience being us all?

Is there companionship and purpose here?

Does that make us free to appreciate? Or the other way round, is appreciation what makes us free?

      about the elephant in the room

So alright, more said for me than you. Howsoever, it wants saying because after all – it is an Elephant. My blood is not behaving as it should. Real enough. I continue only through the grace of an equally intense medicine. This situation is also – so what? But my cognitive ability does suffer some. That makes a difference here. Words come less easily. Associations, questionable in scope. Less than ideal if writing is my chosen craft. The difference is both visible and invisible. How do I see what I’m not seeing, not remembering!

So my question of late is how do I write anyway? I don’t have an answer. It’s like having suddenly shorter arms. The three observable differences are writing less often, ideas more easily lost, fewer words in smaller aggregations – and yea, tiredness that’s become a distracting background

This is what is given me. I do not have the heart to be unappreciative.

You gotta pay for the ferryboat. Or learn to swim.

My prayer for you.   May there be nothing in your way.

neil reid