Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mad world

"to experience real agony is something hard to write about,
impossible to understand while it grips you; you're frightened out of your wits,
can't sit still, move or even go decently insane.
and then when your composure finally returns and you are able to evaluate the experience it's almost if it had happened to somebody else,
look at you now:
calm, detached, say cleaning your fingernails looking through a drawer for stamps
applying polish to your shoes or paying the electric bill
life is and is not a gentle bore." -War and Peace by Bukowski

Four years. Four years I have not sent you a card, called you, talked to you on Mother's day.
And I know I am blessed, my life is good, very good in fact.
But still I can't help but feel the pain on this day.
At one point I was in agony, life was sharp, painful and urgent, I was frightened.
Slowly though, normalcy has crept back into my life
And I look at myself, as I get lost in mundane tasks, caught up in errands.
And I sometimes long for that pain I feel today
That pain is all I have left, and without it the slow pace of normalcy
slowly evaporates my last link to that past.
I wish I could remember in a different way,
but now it seems that the only way this seems real is if I
bury my head in arms, dig my feet deep into the sand and scream out into the ocean
Scream for all the pain, scream for for how much I miss you
Scream at how normal things are.
Curse the everyday for the moment, and ask to feel again just for one moment
That deep, soul aching agony that reminds me of all I have lost
Tomorrow I can smile and remember you in fondness, but today
it seems too much. All I want to do is cry, and scream and touch that urgency.
Somehow I feel that if I can't feel your hug, then I want that deep dark sadness
Because that is as close as I can come to you right now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We are all building a masterpiece destined for ruin

Andy Goldsworthy is an artist of the most extreme nature. He is also a philosopher I think who instructs with his actions. After watching a documentary about him called Rivers and Tides I began to think more and more about what he does.

What Andy Goldsworthy does that is so amazing to me, is build with nature. Using only materials that are found on the forest floor or washed up on a beach he creates the most amazing sculptures and pieces I have ever seen. Whether it is a long row of flowers strung together sent snaking down a river or an amazing sculpture built on a beach at low tide, only to be consumed by the incoming tide. His art is fleeting, momentary and eventually meshes back in with the nature from which it was built.

Andy's art then is really an exercise in philosophy. We all take the bits and pieces that have been given to us, attempt to create something beautiful and eventually return from where we came. The fact that his art work is destroyed by the river rapids, or the rising tide does not make it pointless or any less beautiful, it just makes us aware to see the beauty while it is there, to realize that all great works, whether delicate stone towers balanced on the sand before the crashing see or large buildings erected with all our might and strength will eventually disappear. This fact of disappearence also does not make our life any less meaningful. In fact, and Andy's work points to this, there is a beauty and an urgency to that instant where something is created but which eventually is destroyed. Andy, as we all should, embraces this idea and builds incredible art that lasts sometimes for only minutes or hours, despite the many hours of labor it often takes him to create these works. Andy's art is also then an art of living, of embracing the inevitable and still working diligently to create a masterpiece with whatever time we have. To build a work of beauty in the face of a rising tide is an act of courage and commitment. It is a declaration that no act is meaningless and that despite the inevitable we can press on and create works of heart staggering beauty in the face of a certain fate. We do not know when our tide may rise, or if our work will even be done when it does, but still we press on, piece by piece, minute by minutes assembling a work, building a life, that tells that certain fate...I was here, I tried, and I utilized every last second. So build that masterpiece, create spectacular works wherever you can, for we are all artists and our work of art is the life we live.

Trim Your Life Away

Trim- Surfing with the wave in an unbroken line or a perfect angle.

After taking a look at Thomas Campbell's great website of surf films ( and spending a lot of time in the water lately, trying to work on my trimming skills I began thinking how trim in surfing is an apt metaphor for life.

Trim, as it goes, is when you put your surfboard in the exact right place on the wave, where your speed is maximized, and your are just flowing, letting the wave take you. To trim, means to be in the present, in the ideal position, another way of saying being dialed in. Trim is when everything is aligned and all you have to do is sit back with a smile and enjoy every drop of the present moment. For me, when my board is trimming, and I am cruising down the face of a wave, sun shining, mist blowing off the back of the wave crashing in front of me, gorgeous coast line to my left and right I think man this is living. It is one of the few moments where I am so enveloped in the present, sucking in every last bit and particle of that freedom and truly enjoying the now. I am not worrying about the past or fretting about the future, I am locked in the beauty of the instant. Trimming is simple, but to get there is not easy, it takes practice, falling and a lot of finding how your body moves and balances. The key to trimming then is balance and enjoying the simplicity of the instant.

The words trim your life away then have for me a dual meaning. On one hand trimming your life away is maximizing those moments where everything is just where it should be, and your are soaking in every last drop of the present moment. It is that almost zen like moment where you are flowing, without any striving to get to that point. On the other hand to trim your life away means to strip it of all of the excess stuff that is getting in between you and the present moment. The present, the now, is something all too often obscured from us by the world that surrounds us. Where as trimming is an act of simplicity, its just you the surfboard and the ocean, our lives are becoming increasingly more complex. There is cell phones, twitter, Facebook, big houses, fancy cars, expensive dinners, fat bank accounts, retirement funds, hedge funds, 401 kS's, fast food, lots of food, variety variety variety. Life has become filled with distraction and speed, the things that keep us out of those flow moments, and constantly trapped in a cycle of regretting the past and striving to accumulate things, money, possessions for the future that we completely lose sight of this instant. Trimming your life away, literally then, is stripping it of all of the excess and really figuring out what it is you need rather than satisfying every want. If you sit down and list your needs, they often turn out to be quite small, when we step back for a minute and list the things that are truly important to us we begin to see the discrepancy between what we are content with and what society gets us so wrapped in accumulating and striving for. When we trim our lives away we get down to the core of what makes us tick, we cut out all the nonsense and focus on living the moment, being content with what we have, and putting ourselves in the ideal spot so as to be at a perfect angle with the wave of life. Trimming your life away enables you to focus on that part of life that is truly important and cruise by all the nonsense without a passing thought. So trim it away, the latest fad, the new hottest car, expensive dinners, the newest way to keep in touch with all 200 of your closet friends. Pick up the phone. Call your friends. Write a letter. Enjoy a sunset. Marvel at the beauty of it all. Life is too amazing and too fleeting to let it all fly by in a flash of I should haves, and I wants or in a blur of senseless accumulation. We don't need more. We need each other. We need this moment. We need to smile. We need to breathe. We need to be present. Right here. Right now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yet still I hope

My heart sinks every time I do this. I make the right turn, pull down the street and the house comes into view. I feel my brother stirring in the back, I wonder, if he is as anxious as I am. Does he feel like this every time he approaches the house and prepares to go through those doors. Anyway, as I slow the car and pull into the driveway there seems to be some other force pulling my heart out of my chest, like an angry gladiator thirsty for blood. My heart aches for me, for him. I try to smile, recap the day quick and slowly walk him to the door. This is what the unconscious is for I think to myself, I am glad he cant hear my thoughts. As we slowly walk up to the house I think how I just want to grab him and run, run like hell for a happier place, a place where little boys dont lose their caring mothers, a place where little boys dont have to walk into a house full of pictures of their wonderful mother who is no longer here, a world where little boys dont have to feel the immense weight of cold hard reality every day. Who do I think I am? Why do I think I can save everyone from pain? I know I can't and still I feel the urge each and every time I walk him into the house. The house full of Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, presents and a Christmas tree feels as empty as a dried up pool on a hot summer day. Is it me or does his heart sink like mine as I move in to give him a hug good bye, does he too want to run away? I look around and she is everywhere, and yet not here. The pain I feel at this moment, these few days I am home visiting when I come to the house. Is that his pain 365 days a year? The pain I sometimes feel I cant bear another second is that what he lives with? As I say my last goodbye,close the door behind me, and slowly walk to my car the feeling of apprehension and anxiety is replaced by sadness and worry as I carry the weight of these thoughts after every visit. I try to console myself with the thought that I cant change what is, that I alone cant restore innocence to a child, yet still I hope.

Life Cycle Intro

It is amazing how things suddenly enter our field of vision, often times we fail to see what is right there staring at us. It is only after much searching that the seemingly obvious becomes so. I had always thought this, or thought I knew what this concept meant until a trip yesterday I made to my mother's grave. As I was about to leave her grave, I spun around for one last look out at the trees and ocean and there it was, staring at me. After this revelation, I realized how time sometimes clouds what will become of us, but somewhere deep in the dark recesses of the moment are faint hints of the natural cycle of life. Where we begin and where we return, and who we are at these different moments in our life is constantly in flux. Over the past day though I was reminded of this eery nature of time in three different instances. To keep things shorter I have titled them Life cycle I, II and II....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life Cycle Part I

We never know who we will be when we return to a certain spot, and sometimes when we return, without even knowing it we are exactly where we should be...

As I dropped Ali off at the ferry the months came rushing back. Here it was December and I was driving her back to the ferry again, but in just a few short months our lives had become dramatically different. In June as I was making this same trek to the ferry, I was dropping off the girl of my dreams, letting her go and fully expecting I would never see her again. As we waited in that parking lot, saying our last good byes I was flooded by sadness. I had met my match, the woman who I saw myself traveling the world with, going on adventures with and growing with. Six short months ago I was laying it on the line, telling her my dreams and asking for her to trust I knew we could make it work. As she stepped out of my car and onto the ferry I saw my dreams walking away. My stomach was uneasy and I did not know what would happen. As that ferry pulled away I had never felt so lost in my entire life, for an instant I held clarity in my hands and I watched it fade away into the horizon with each moment of the ferries movement. After the ferry pulled out of sight, I climbed in my car, let out a deep sigh and slowly drove home into the unknown.
Fast forward to yesterday. After spending Christmas with Ali, I am driving her home to the ferry. Those 6 short months ago seem unrecognizable. The words spoken, the time between and the people we are now are so very different. As I walked her on to the ferry I could not help but think back to that moment in June as I watched this very same boat pull away. Instead of anxiety and sadness I now felt happiness. The girl of my dreams was now the girl of my reality, and this same spot in which I had stood just a short time ago welcomed me with a new face. I had seen in a glimpse on that warm summer day, but it eluded me. Now though as I returned to the point of our fateful departure, I kissed her one last good bye and told her I would see her in a few days. If I could have seen into the future that day I would have never even recognized who I or we were to become. It is phenomenal to me that our bodies can be in the same place, but how time changes who we are inside when we arrive again at those same places. In a way we are always arriving and departing and while the places may seem the same, who we are is forever changing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Life Cycle Part II

Time changes how we look at things, and sometimes we can not even see who we will become and where we will end up even though it might be right there in front of us.
Shortly after leaving the ferry I drove up to visit my mother's grave. It had been a long holiday and my visit was overdue. As I strode from the road down to her stone, I gazed into the distance. I was amazed at the beauty of the place, the ocean, and the trees swaying in the cold December air. I had made these steps many times by now, frequently coming to visit whenever I was back in New York. This time I made the same long timid strides, the ones that brought me to her resting place, the ones that reminded me that this was indeed real. Its odd as I think about those steps, its like in my head I somehow feel I might arrive at her grave and find nothing there, and frantically run to the car to go see her realizing it had all been a bad dream. Never was this the case though, instead as I took my last few steps the stone came into view, and it sunk in that this was very very real. There would be no epiphany, no waking up, this was it and I needed to breathe and deal with that fact. Slowly as always I crouched down to the dirt, silently telling her hello, wondering if maybe she was watching me at this moment, perched high above her grave maybe she could see me weep, my head bowed and think how I had changed since my last visit. After some time of silence I got up as I always do, peering out with my back to her grave to look out into the distance. Despite the fact that I had been here many times, I never saw what I saw at that moment. Gazing out directly from her grave was a clear view of St.Charles hospital, the very hospital I was born in some 28 years ago.
As I gazed out on to the hospital, and looked at the tiny windows I thought how odd this whole scene was. Here I was standing at my mother's grave, looking right at the very hospital in which she gave me life. Here in this moment stood poised the natural cycle of life, birth and death. This epiphany forced me to wonder what my mom was like nearly 28 years ago. I pictured her young and beautiful, about to give birth for the first time. I saw a 22 year old girl sitting in that hospital bed, just a few miles, and an eyes gaze away from her final resting spot. Of course she did not know this, we never the where and when, but to think that on that day as she gave birth, or as she held me in her arms, buoyant with the possibilities of the future I wonder if for one moment her eyes fell upon this spot that is now her grave as she looked out the window. In that moment of pure life, where the future seems so huge and impregnated with possibility and teeming with life, did her heart stop for a brief second as her eyes saw that spot, did something deep inside her know? And now? Does her soul pass over this spot, does she look down upon me here weeping at her grave and turn her eyes just slightly upward and see back into where she gave me life? Does she gaze back longingly at that hospital, at those moments of bliss and pure possibility and weep? Or does she look back at that hospital, gazing from her grave and smile at the amazing cycle that life is? I would like to believe she looks back with a smile. I know I do when I think that each moment we encounter is both tinged with the great hope of possibility life while also harboring the fact that at some point we will all meet our end. This is both the beauty and the tragedy that is life. So when I reflect upon this great cycle before me, it forces me to remember to savor those moments, every moment as hard as that it is. As my eyes gaze out into the possibilities before me, as I smile at the moments that bring me elation, I remember to be thankful for this very moment, for who knows when it may end.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Just thinking...

I cant believe that in nearly a month it has been 3 years. I have Mom's picture up in our house and her huge smile shines over the living room which I love. Every morning I wake up walk out into the living room, open the shades to let in the sun, hear the sounds of the ocean and see her smile. I wish she could "be" here, I know she would love it, but I also feel she knows and is here in her own way. Waking to that smile, I try to start my day thankful I am here, and thankful for my family and try to let everything else fall as it may. I am still amazed though that it has been 3 years, it seems like yesterday I was stepping off a plane into the cold NY December to bury her. It also seems like ages since I have heard her laugh and felt the warmness of her hug, and I think that is the hardest. She had this way about her, this lightness and belief in the good of people despite all she went through. I have never met anyone who could love so much, and who always had this lightheratedness about her. I miss her like crazy and after three years I realize that will never go away, but I need to turn that sadness into something productive, so I try to remember all the good I have in my life, and I have a lot of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tasting the heady wine of freedom...

Not mine but I read this and found it worthwhile to think over:

"We move through the world in a narrow grove preoccupied with the petty things we see and hear, brooding over our prejudices, passing by the joys of life without even knowing we have missed anything. Never for a moment do we taste the heady wine of freedom. We are as fully imprisoned as if we lay at the bottom of a dungeon, heaped with chains." Yang Chu

So with are we going to find that freedom? I think the answer is simple, it is right there in front of us. It does not lie in more clothes, more purchases, more money, a better car. This freedom he speaks of is so elusive because it is always right there, all we have to do is slow down, stop thinking and enjoy. The simplest of tasks are often the hardest though and pulling ourselves away from our "responsibilities" (checking email, watching the latest TV show) becomes increasingly difficult. I am guilty of this too, but my goal is to stop and enjoy more, pull myself away from those "pressing problems" and see how pressing they seem after a long walk on the ocean or a run through the woods. If they still need to get done, they will, but in the meantime don't sacrifice your freedom and vitality for the sake of those small things that add up and eat away at your day. Seize that freedom now. Taste the sweet elixir of life and don't wait until you have time, or put it off till another day....make someday today!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A way to start the day...

At work this week one day of school began with a really cool meditation that I think is a great way to start any day, as a way to be thankful and also ground yourself when life is tugging you in every direction. To "meditate" you just take some time to think about these 4 things...
1) Your Wow- What is something you saw this morning or see in general that makes you say wow (This could be something like an amazing blue sky on the way to work, a simple reflection of light you find stunning anything that makes you say wow).
2) Your Sorry- Think of something you are sorry about and whisper this intention or this apology to send it where it needs to go.
3)Your Thankful- Think of something in your life that is great and that you are thankful for. This could be a person, a job, your health whatever...
4)Your change- Think of something you would like to improve or change about yourself. This could be how you react to situations, reducing your anxiety, trying to say thank you more...whatever you think would be a positive improvement.