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Archive for the ‘Loss’ Category

Photo credit: Wiki imagesA long-tailed tropic bird lifts and turns and swoops over my valley, sculpting shapes from the morning breeze while brandishing a glint of the rising sun on white wings.

It’s going to be a hot one today; clear, yet steamy with the infusion of last night’s rain upping the humidity ante considerably — not a bad thing, being good for the skin and all.

And so begins the last day of my decade that starts with a five.

In reading over words others have written on approaching senectitude I find myself nodding in agreement with some, railing against others, and taking some comfort in the idea I’m far from alone in my ponderings and in interesting company.

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. ~Oscar Wilde

I’m sixty tomorrow (Did I just write that?), still too young to use the word “spry” when self-identifying, so figure Judith Regan’s line can be useful: The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.

I can do that. Most of the time.

Anniversaries of my birth, however, have long been cause for itchy, scratchy contemplation, and the round numbers ever more so.

There is still no cure for the common birthday.
~John Glenn

As I write, the kids are off with Gay plotting something for the occasion, their enthusiasm bubbling over, excitement erupting in giggles from Cj and admonishments from Sam to keep the bubbles as thoughts so as not to spoil surprises.

Cute and wonderful as it is, the numbers stick in my throat as Cj’s six years get multiplied by ten in my mirror and I check out my reflection for its giggle factor. Single-parenting at 60 was not in the draft of any plan I recall making, but for the life of me I can’t imagine what I’d be doing now if I didn’t have these two marvels keeping my giggle factory up and running.

It’s funny how life loops around, where a wonky trajectory leads, and how stacking decades fashions unexpected architecture that manages to weather storms, deflect shit asteroids and remain standing even with foundations set in jello.

When I indulge myself and send up birthday wish-shaped smoke signals they look like more conventional structures with security struts, corridors that lead somewhere predictable, doors that open and stay that way, closed doors with working locks, storerooms stocked with other than anxiety. But after 59 years of sending such into the cosmos I’m not expecting much more than an ash blowback.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
~H.L. Mencken

Have I lived 59 years and 364 days unwisely? I can hear the “You betcha! You’ve done some really stupid shit!” from here, yet regrets, I have a few, but, then again, too few to mention. Rather a waste of time and energy at this point in the journey.

When looking at it all backwards it’s hard to feel remorse when what could be considered mistakes in judgement manifested in some wonderful ways. None of my children are acts of contrition and some of the dumbest things I’ve done have wrangled themselves into experiences it would not have been good to miss.

The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.
~Arthur Schopenhauer

Seems turning toward 60 I’m still gathering material … commentary to follow if there’s ever the time … and although it’s with neither enthusiasm nor delight I hit this wall — more trepidation and its accompanying angst — I have always been a fan of irony.

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demon (ˈdēmən)
noun

1) an evil spirit or devil, a cruel, evil, or destructive person or thing

2) (in ancient Greek belief) a divinity or supernatural being of a nature between gods and humans.

ORIGIN Middle English : from medieval Latin, from Latin daemon, from Greek daimōn ‘deity, genius’ ; in sense 1 also from Latin daemonic ‘lesser or evil spirit,’ from Greek daemonic, diminutive of daimōn.

It’s been a weekend of the demonic in far too many senses of the word — diabolical, hellish, infernal — from the foulest fiends to pesky poltergeists, from public exhibitions of evil to lost battles with the personal genius loci. Death, destruction and crying over spillage are just some of the immediate results as ripples rise and begin to move beyond the scope of a Sunday in July.

I can personalize the situation in Norway by connecting with my friends there, but it’s more the familiarity with mass murders that hits upside the head like a sack full of shell casings.

Yes, another fucking armed-to-the-teeth whack job goes out of his way to make a point and a whole bunch of people are dead in dramatic fashion, the world is stunned as a poster boy for Nazis-R-Us chalks up views of his rants on YouTube and spews an oxymoron. (Conservative martyrs?)

Coming out of nowhere it may seem, but this fuckwad didn’t just materialize like a Pop-Tart … he’s been warming up a long time to pull off this obscenity and I’m guessing he has been surrounded by the like-minded. After all, gangs of folks who hate everyone are not uncommon, even in Scandinavia.

Though members of the Norwegian far-right movement have carried out attacks in the past, it has historically been a small community, according to neo-Nazi watchers.

The late Stieg Larsson, the Swedish crime writer famous for his Millennium trilogy, was one such expert.

In the mid-1990s, he founded the anti-racist, anti-extremist publication Expo following a sharp rise in violence carried out by neo-Nazis.

In an interview in connection with a documentary I was making at the time, he told me that Sweden was the world’s largest producer of so-called White Power Music and other racist propaganda, with an active, fast-growing and violent neo-Nazi movement.

Of course, it doesn’t take a movement to create mayhem. It can be just one guy with an ego attached to his weaponry, as proven by the poster boy for evil nutjobs:

“From the world of darkness I did loose demons and devils in the power of scorpions to torment.”
~ Charles Manson

It’s all so common now that another messy wipeout will hardly be noticed:

At least five people have been killed and three injured in a shooting at a roller-skating rink birthday party in Texas, police say.

As a small favor to the rest of us, at least that guy offed himself in the process therefore doing away with at least one demon.

Although it’s certainly not pretty and can be agonizing, ending the reign of an internal Lucifer in a way that doesn’t reduce the surrounding population by more than one may seem an appropriate, if not creative, coping style.

The one … or dozens … that apparently inhabited Amy Winehouse must not have responded to anything less than exorcism by booze and drugs, a process that so often includes killing the host.

Ringside seats to a brawl between demons for possession of a trophy may convey the right to encourage (one side or the other, depending) and chart a score based on effective tags, but no one can judge the pain and call the fight but the contender.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”
~ Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)

And there’s an example of why Buddhism is not a cakewalk … a thousand battles fought and won may never be enough for victory over oneself.

Some malicious mischief on the part of some abstemious Mephistophelian type determined to separate those of us fond of the grape pulled … or pushed … off a cruel coup in Australia that rounds out the diabolical for the weekend, and hopefully puts paid to the shit that’s flowed like a global infestation of Vibrio cholera:

More than A$1m ($1.07m; £664,000) of wine has been destroyed in a forklift accident in Australia.

The 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove shiraz sells for A$185 a bottle ($199; £122), the AFP news agency said.

Winemaker Sparky Marquis told reporters he was “gut-wrenched” that 462 cases of wine had been smashed while being loaded for export to the United States.

“When they opened up the container they said it was like a murder scene,” he said. “But it smelled phenomenal.”

Fucking demons!

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Dad on a cow ... 1930

Amos M. Hanks
1924- 1992

I miss him most days.

Here’s something I wrote for his funeral:

I’ve known, I think since birth,
that my father knew everything.
Not that he cluttered his mind with sports scores
or directions to places he didn’t go often.

To the contrary, he knew only the most vital of bits
and these he shared with me generously:
how to load and use a rifle safely,
proper application of a semicolon,
operation of a motor vehicle in a drive-in parking lot,
the ability to identify seven different breeds of cattle,
the definition of the lyrics of Waltzing Matilda,
self-reliance,
an appreciation of the world’s great literature (and the KIngston Trio),
how to use my mind,
to turn in a badly dealt hand and demand new cards,
a sense of history,
HIS history,
how to properly cook a turkey, a white sauce and French pancakes,
how to swear well and effectively,
the paths of the constellations,
a connection a with the earth and with time,
the merits of good sense and honesty,
and so much more.

I am, I think, one-fourth him, one-fourth my mother and half what I have accumulated on my own.
The divisions are not apparent.

He has said he fathered recklessly.
His recklessness is only one aspect of the man.
I love them all
and all of him.
He’s my dad.

The part of me that writes is a gift from him …

A Song of a Chela

I began to be when time began
And the Wheel of All began to spin
I am one the the One that has always been

I have lived my way through the seven worlds,
Coming, going, returning again,
In shapes and forms man cannot know
And in all that this world has seen come and go:
In the bodies of things in the slippery muck
And slime of the sea and the swamp,
In reptilian things with leather wings,
In sharp toothed, heavy limbed, truculent,
Dim brained beasts of the steamy lands
Before the Wheel had turned to man.

I have lived in trees and caves and castles,
An eater of berries, a killer of mammoth,
Slave and prophet, poet and king,
Harlot and hunter and priestess and warrior –
Whatever the Wheel in turning might bring.

I helped in creating Jehovah and Allah,
Brahma and Baal and those of Olympus;
I served in their temples and bled on their alters,
Tortured their martyrs and died in their names.

I have helped in the building of civilizations
And fought in the wars that returned them to dust.
I have learned all the wisdoms and done all the labors
And seen all the beauties and known all the lust.

I shall still be when time shall end
And the Wheel of All shall begin again;
I am one with the One that will never end.

~Amos Hanks, 1947

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Tonight's sunset.

I think of my son often, and on evenings alone on the veranda watching the sunset he comes to mind in a way that always makes me smile.

The opening line of one of Jaren’s songs, “Swedish Nutball”, resonates as the sun sinks way too fast into the western sky.

I can feel the rotation of the earth …

I pretty much stop right there, as the rest of the lyrics aren’t exactly conducive to contemplating a lovely end to a day, but there is no doubt I do … feel the rotation of the earth.

Those who’ve never seen the face of Sol plunge at speed into that end of the ocean called Horizon near the Equator are missing one of our planet’s best thrill rides.

From the first kiss of sun to sea to the last wink of brightness over Horizon’s lip all of about 4 minutes pass … the sucker drops like a stone, so fast there is no question or quibbling over just how fast this globe we’re stuck to spins. Whooooooosh!

I own a vast amount of E tickets for this ride and try not to miss it as it comes around almost exactly every twenty-four hours, year in and year out. Being four degrees south of the North/South dividing line, the time varies by no more than a few minutes. Rather than longer days and shorter nights, or vice versa, we in the middle just see the sunset swing from one area of ocean to another, then back over the course of the year. (Google “Declination” if you’re interested, as for some reason the link won’t post.)

Most days I sit and watch, either a cup of tea or glass of wine at hand, but sometimes I do choose to stand for the event. Staring at our star as it does its dip, the beautifully illustrated awareness of how bloody fast this planet spins, can almost make me dizzy.

I live on the west coast of Mahé, a situation I love since it gives me this drama rather than the early morning show of the sun doing his impression of a Pop-Tart emerging from a toaster.

I tend to avoid the bugger as much as possible during that chariot ride it takes across the sky, seeing as how fried is not my best look, but when I see him heading toward the high dive to prepare for the plunge I will drop what I’m doing to watch the form, the style and the amazing ovation the sky and clouds give once he’s gone and the way that echos across the ocean.

That the show is all mine is special, but sharing the ride makes it even better.

Here’s Jaren NOT singing about sunsets …

And, yes, what I’m thinking now, he thought of first.

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More than just crude matter ... ?

Although I’ve been gnawing on the Weiner thing for a few days, as the story keeps spurting I’m not quite lubricated enough to bring a post to whatever climax the tale deserves, so today I’m sliding away from it and onto something completely different.

What happens when you die?

There are numbers of reasons this question prays on my mind right now, involved as I am with the dead, the dying, survivors and inquiring minds, so I’ve been giving the guaranteed outcome of life a good deal of thought lately.

There are, of course, a hell of a lot of theories, and any number of them make a lot of sense when contemplated from one direction or another, and I tend to go through the list from time to time, not that I expect much of any answer until my time comes.

That, in fact, is one of the possibilities … that at the moment the bucket is kicked we become enlightened. In shuffling off this mortal coil (Hamlet – iii. i. 67) all the information kept from us during our lifetimes is once more available … it being either more than we can bear while busy drawing breath or outside the “need-to-know” limits that coil thing bars us from catching on to … and suddenly it all makes sense.

From what lessons we were supposed to learn to why we died a certain way, we see the patterns, the reasons, and judge for ourselves how well we did … and what classes we may have to repeat.

Another involves a “higher power” who does the judging for us, then sends us off toward either eternal damnation or an infinity of happy harp-strumming. Although very popular, this one doesn’t fly with me, as there seems to be something ungodly petty about condemnation after only one short course, and even those who manage to hang around for 100 years have still only managed an eye-blink of time in the big picture.

There is also the idea that when we die, we’re just dead. The staunch atheistic approach insisting we are biological beings, pure and simple; we’re born, we live, we die and that’s that.

It makes a lot of sense and science goes a long way to back this up. Every week there’s some new study out on some biochemical process that causes dishonesty or various personality traits or love or the inability to love (And I’m sorry, but I’m so not in the frame of mind to dig up links to this stuff right now, so if you’re looking for references try Google.)

This could very well be exactly the case, but it seems rather pointless.

Not only pointless to live a lifetime with worries of no more than doing your bit to ingest enough nutrients to reproduce … the prime biological mandate … but also to assume the position that this is all there is … ever.

It also seems a rather unimaginative stance.

I prefer something that could include parallel universes and essence of being that is made up of energy, rather than flesh and bone and brain. An existence that doesn’t begin and end with … and, okay, I admit I’m quoting Yoda here, but that little guy made a point I like … “this crude matter”.

If crude matter is the be all and end all, the point escapes me, and if there is no point … well, there is no point. If being dead amounts to no more than compost we’ll certainly not be aware of that state of having become, and I guess that’s okay, too. It does rather put the kibosh on any growth and learning and leaving a mark, though, if the only mark to be left could be called skid.

There is either a reason for being born, for living and for dying that goes beyond making more to be born, live and die, or there isn’t, and it seems a flagrant waste of energy if that’s the whole circle. Fleeting moments of joy, plunges into the depths of suffering, decades of acquiring knowledge, flashes of brilliance, art, music, literature, war, starvation, cruelty, benevolence … all the stuff we get up to that plants don’t … they seem to indicate we might expect something more.

On the science front, it’s pretty clear that although at any given moment in time the answers seem set in stone they aren’t and new discoveries come up. Is it possible one day it will be scientifically proven that we are, indeed, luminous beings encased, for a while, in this crude matter? That we are here as we are for reasons we aren’t supposed to know until the bell rings, the fat lady sings and we graduate from this class and pass along to another level?

I could say I hope this is the way it is, and I do, but if it’s not … if this is all there will ever be … well, I’ll be disappointed if there’s anything left of me to be disappointed with.

If, however, there is some “me” left … energy me, next-life me, other-universe me, hang-around-and-visit-loved-ones me … I will feel better about the whole dead thing.

As I put on Jaren’s funeral “program”:

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.
_ David Searls

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Two Years …

A fav shot of Jaren and Me

Jaren Eli Combes
February 17, 1971 – June 2, 2009

The world is a poorer place without this son of mine in it. The past two years have seen less kindness, fewer laughs, flashes of brilliance that didn’t happen, music unwritten.

There is a part of me that would like to indulge today, to write out the experience, to talk about the shock of such a loss, the little I recall of the months that followed, the ways I attempt to cope, the erosion of my foundations and many changes, but I can’t.

What I can do, however, is take comfort from the fact that he is well missed by many and share a tribute.

My thanks to Todd Brock for the videos and the site, to Adam Orth, Tim Kirk, Damian Anastasio, Scott Lancaster, Orb Kamm, Liza Welshman, Tink Moss and many others who have let me know just how much impact Jaren had on their lives.

For Jennifer, Sam, Cj and Seb I am more grateful that I can ever express.

If you’d like to spend some time with Jaren, Todd’s memorial website is here.

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Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t. ~Richard Bach

If you happen to run into me today, please give a kiss and a hug and congratulate me on not being dead yet.

It’s the 17th of May again, an anniversary I have, for 11 years, marked by not being dead. It was emergency bypass surgery that made the still alive thing keep happening, a holiday adventure in Singapore I’m not likely to forget, and although not high on the fun-and-games factor, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever made.

Being alive, I keep writing, and usually on the 17th of May I jot down pondererings on aspects of life I tend to take for granted much of the rest of the days I walk and breathe and watch a sunrise.

On the 16th of May, 1999, I was abruptly informed that I was somewhere between one and thirty days of a fatal heart attack … news that almost caused one right there and then. By the 17th I’d been sliced and diced and given a new lease, and although open-ended and loaded with get-out clauses for the lessor, I’m still not complaining.

Had I died back then I would have missed a lot. Some of it total shit, for sure, as at that time I was a reasonably content woman and had not buried any child of mine. I could have predicted little that has happened since, if anything, but I guess that’s a good thing.

Of course, Sam and Cj are bonuses beyond belief, and although they would have come into the world without me since I had nothing to do with their creation, missing out on being their mother would have been a real gyp.

I’d like to think that the end of me would have taken some residual good stuff with it; there would be a bit less music and much fewer words around, and maybe … just maybe … I’ve done some good for someone somewhere over these years of gravy that pay toward my price of admission.

Checking off another year prompts more than reflection, though, as each 17th of May I wonder about the 364 days until the next one and what they might bring. Sorry to say I don’t do this with as much joy and wonder as I should, but rather with no little fear that I might not be able to pull off another whole year.

That low-hanging sword serves to remind me life is a short option under any circumstance, and although I have little fear of being dead I can be terrified of potential alternatives.

This is the time of year I want to grab every bit of life I can by the collar, pull it close and squeeze as much out of it as I can. My patience grows thin now … not that it’s ever very thick … and a welling sense of panic creeps over me that too much is passing too quickly.

It’s not a case of feeling compelled to climb Everest or fling myself out of airplanes. No. My bucket list is pretty damned simple.

Item number one for the last some years was having all four of my kids under the same roof with me at the same time. That is no longer possible, but I do hope those of us still around share space someday.

I would like to feel safe and be happy for as long a time as possible, as that would be a whole new experience that would be nice to have for a while … just to check it out.

Watching mountain gorillas and seeing Venice … not at the same time, thankyouverymuch … are about as close to conventional if-I-can-before-I-croak dreams.

A sense of settled with some idea of what just might happen over the next month or two or six would be nice, too.

Perhaps all that will happen … maybe this year, even. Perhaps not. The point is, however, I am still along for the ride, and good, bad or indifferent, I’m bloody grateful to be here.

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