ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ

Have you ever been guilty of forgetting yourself?  You wake up from washing the dishes or taking a shower or eating dinner, and realize that somewhere along the way you hit autopilot and drifted off to sleep.  Maybe you were tired of living with your mind turned on all day and found a routine to lose yourself in instead.  Maybe you never consciously chose to not be awake.  Either way, you forgot that the tripping, jolting, new driver aspect of life is the only way you can ever discover who you are meant to be.  To use a tired old metaphor, what if the caterpillar entered it’s cocoon only to stay in there forever, never emerging to become the beautiful creature it truly is, capable of things it never was before.  Perhaps the metaphor isn’t perfect or very original, but that’s the point.  I’ve forgotten who I am, and so I’ve lost touch with words.  

Recently, I got a tattoo of the Ancient Greek maxim, “know thyself”.  I loved the idea of a tattoo that reminded me daily of something important.  Well I am a writer.  I may not do it professionally, and I may never write anything of consequence, but that is what I am.  Written words are part of my soul–they are my bloodstream.  

I have not been writing.  

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I’ve written a handful of paragraphs, but I’ve finished none of them.  The inspiration comes, I pick up a pen and write down a few sentences, and then the words vanish.  I am sent chasing desperately down empty halls, flinging open doors, hoping to find one trace that the words were once there and might come back.  When I don’t find them, I give up.  And this process is one that takes place over and over again.  

There are too many empty pages in my notebook, too long a time between posts online.  And there are two meaningless words on my forearm.  I cannot know myself unless I am writing.  When I write, I am forced to go to the most out of the way corners of my person, find those few words and make something of them.  I learn.  I grow.  I find something on filled pages that I never knew was in me.  

This isn’t a resolution.  I don’t think I will change a bad habit by writing one angry, angst filled post on my blog.  

This is a confession.  

In the sharing of my hypocrisy, may I be renewed in my willingness to write.

 

The lumbar yard and hardware store has always been associated in my mind with the father. It is the realm of Papa, and there he is both respected and superior in knowledge. There is an ingrained inferiority when it comes to these manly, fatherly realms.  I am convinced that if I stepped into the hardware store with my father forty years from now, any personal accomplishments and confidence would be blown away with a breath, and I would again become meek and ignorant, reaching above my head to hold the hand of my father, counting the sizes between our feet and watching with awe as he moved, godlike, among the aisles, knowing just how to manipulate each tool and trinket to his wish.

When I step into the hardware store with my Uncle John, I immediately revert to the role of quiet, obedient son, as I attempt to remain behind, but not so close as to step on his heels, pouncing on his every request and direction, attentively soaking in his every word, barely catching myself from saying yes sir when he addresses me. The father never leaves us, even though we may travel two thousand miles away from his presence.

That’s all.

The lumbar yard and hardware store has always been associated in my mind with the father. It is the realm of Papa, and there he is both respected and superior in knowledge. There is an ingrained inferiority when it comes to these manly, fatherly realms.  I am convinced that if I stepped into the hardware store with my father forty years from now, any personal accomplishments and confidence would be blown away with a breath, and I would again become meek and ignorant, reaching above my head to hold the hand of my father, counting the sizes between our feet and watching with awe as he moved, godlike, among the aisles, knowing just how to manipulate each tool and trinket to his wish.

When I step into the hardware store with my Uncle John, I immediately revert to the role of quiet, obedient son, as I attempt to remain behind, but not so close as to step on his heels, pouncing on his every request and direction, attentively soaking in his every word, barely catching myself from saying yes sir when he addresses me. The father never leaves us, even though we may travel two thousand miles away from his presence.

That’s all.

Come to me sweet darling, 

Let me show you why the earth moves. 

I will touch your golden hair, 

Draw your breath in as my own, 

Feel your sun-warmed back, 

Sliding my hands down your scarred body. 

Your fingertips like weathered bark 

Tested and true, but soft to the soul. 

I will soak in the sight of your eyes– 

Fierce and full, like the ocean

The spray cools my body. 

Unable to speak

Paralyzing words formed with care 

To caress your ears. 

Your soul is iron and silk, coffee and wine. 

For this the world moves. 

For you the universe keeps spinning.

I’ve Been Reading Too Much Kerouac

One day I’m going to be on the trail, making for the predestined point on the scale of eternity that has been marked for me, and I will see it as I approach, and in my mind I will know that this artificial fabricated velvet elvis of a destination is not my home, and I will pass it by–eyes pointed with no intention towards the endless expanse of the unknown.

Maybe this trail is the forest–a quietly tread dirt path bowing its way between great heroic maples and oaks of bygone days, hidden in an eternal twilight of sadness and nostalgia.

The trail is a paved road, well known and scarred from the hurry and impatience and overbuilt glee of its travelers.  It is perfectly charted and yet impossible to predict as it goes–now winding turn for turn next to a mountain river, now shooting out strait and far into soul-crushing endlessness, now running and flying over the wrinkles of the earth in wild abandon.

Perhaps the trail is the industrial waste surrounding Chicago and Detroit and Pittsburg and all the lonely hives of life in the world.  It is the worn out, run down, used up husk of Gary, Indiana.  It is struggling and scratching through the end off its life, heading unwillingly towards emptiness, scratching at the eyes of God in broken fits of weak resistance.

The trail is going, and I must follow it to the end of its scarred flawed beautiful existence.

Kansas

In the dark, I can hear Kansas breathe.  The large empty horizon hides her secrets in indefinitude.  Her grasses move gently in the dark breeze, whispering too soft to hear.  The wind whispers softly, saying, ‘there is nothing here.  Nothing.  Go your way.  Walk, run, fly away.  Because there is nothing.  There is only nothing and ever nothing.  Nothing forever and always.  Eternal nothing’.  And Kansas joins in, her heavy sides groaning, her wide expanse breathing, ‘All I have is nothing.  My tall, wide prairies are gone.  My rolling hills are cleaved by progress.  My body aches with your drilling and making and breaking and taking and raping.  Nothing.  For ever and always, nothing.  Always nothing and nothing.  Until the end, nothing’.

In the dark, she breathes, heavy and labored.  Her solace is in the dark, for then, in the absence of her tormentors, she can remember when she was young and free and open and raging and strong.  She remembers when she could hide the richest treasures in her bosom and send their searchers into madness on her wide expanses.  She remembers when she could thunder with the sky, matching roar for roar.  And she moans in her sadness, for she is a land conquered.

My Great Big Adventure–Day Two

Geneva is a town full of bankers and politicians.  All sorts of men in dark suits pace the streets.  It is mostly a stoic place–all the streets lined by tall imposing buildings with various colorful flags hanging from brackets, hoping they make the children less frightened by they grey windows behind them.  In the chill air, the dark suits turn their collars up and pace faster.  They greet each other with maniacal barks that more closely resemble their geared creations than organic language.

The air is so stoic that I forget small cobblestone streets and friendly art galleries are just around the corner.  The old town, set on it’s hill, holds out against the grey and black of the banks and embassies, and is gently looked over and protected by the great cathedral dominating the crest.  Tourists are quietly ushered in the back streets so that they may wander the cafes and museums away from the watchful eyes of the dark suits.  Once in this holy sanctuary, it is easy to forget what lies outside.  Small cafes become cozier, windswept narrow streets become quainter, and massive imposing religious buildings become grander.

Just over the hill and past its guardian is a small park with a lane down the middle and two rows of trees running down either side.  On one side is Geneva’s university.  In a few years, it’s students will come out wearing dark suits and pacing among tall buildings, but now their youth is inspired by the brisk air that holds the promises and grandeur of tomorrow, and they skip along, making the air around them hum with their self-satisfaction.  The children on the ice rink farther down squeal and giggle, oblivious to the passing of time and the coming of tomorrow, and equally glad because of it.  On the other side,  looking down on it all solemnly and disapprovingly are the fathers of the reformation, bearing before them their theses and commentaries set in stone, and unable to speak out against the frivolity before them.  Past the fathers and children are reformation sized chess boards.  The old men, tired of their suits and missing their laughter, gather round them, dancing their knee high pieces around the checkered ground and gleefully slapping each others backs and groaning in mock pain at lost pieces.  The park is a romantic cacophony of youth and age, reason and abandon, pride and humility, glee and solemnity.  It is a hidden picture of Geneva, just under the shadow of ambition that lies over everything.  This park is Geneva’s treasure.