Every morning we are able, we go out on the lanai and have our fruit bowls then our cappuccinos with toast from her homemade sourdough whole wheat bread, and watch countless birds fly out of the wetland that abuts our yard. The cat is always awaiting our arrival, usually sleeping on one of our oak rockers. She will look up at us, yawn and when we nod, amble over to her “cat condo” where she knows her morning treats will appear. She will announce her thanks and slide back to the rocker for her morning nap, knowing she can watch the birds arrive later when she is far more rested for she reminds us that cats are nocturnal.
It was Salvador Dali who once said: “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” It might have easily have been my creative writing professor in College, although he would have added, “and in your case I doubt you’ll ever get close.”
Well over time I have certainly proved Dali right, although I’d like to think the esteemed professor missed the mark, but as Cage said, Nicolas not John, “Nobody wants to watch perfection.”
Pause and consider why so many questions require you, you feel, to consult your watch, to call up a calendar, to appoint time. Time has no appointments, time is not an arrow, though we strive always to aim it, to send it flying in our desired direction. Time is a point in space, surrounded by all ten directions, going toward none of them. Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need the next though it does not exist. What are you trying to escape by searching for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday? Yesterday no longer exists, so why do you assume tomorrow does, and what of this moment, which exists only now, and what of the red leaf sitting in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?
A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you. You know me, bedecked in motley emotions worn like so many colorful rags, a suit of too many shades and hues, all displayed for your entertainment. See if you can find ten shades of anger as I prance around in front of you. Count the five flavors of tears that start and stop like a passing storm. Laugh at me as I pirouette, a dervish who loved blindly long after the love of my patron had died. See me in my fool’s cap, the bells of rage and guilt dangling from its points. If that isn’t enough to bring out a laugh, watch as I rip out my heart and lay it at your feet, still beating to the rhythm of the song to which she grew deaf so long ago. Rain your scorn on me as I stumble across the stage, for though they ring hollow, it is them that I most crave, a redemption that no monarch could hope to offer. Step right up, don’t hang back, come and watch the fool perform for you and do not pause to think that you could as easily be here, on this stage, and I out there marveling at you, wondering what you did to ever deserve such a fate.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)
My first inclination, in fact my strong desire, when he asks me what time it is, is not to consult my watch, but to say that we live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, an era of division and incivility, and days fraught with risk that each might be the last.
I know he wants to know the hour and the minute, but if he is late, the moment wasted in knowing just how much so merely adds marginally to the problem.
And if the question lacks that import to him, then time is no more than a human construct, malleable despite our demand of rigidity, and subject to the whims of Popes and politicians, and all the rest of nature can only marvel at our absurdity.
After years of going to live jazz I’ve honed my skills to a fine level. I still know next to nothing about the intricacies of the music, five years of classical piano and I barely understand Bach and Mozart.
But I know where to look, who bears watching in the combo, and it isn’t the trumpeter, he with his ballooning cheeks, some clownish bellows, or the bassist always striving hard to develop scoliosis, the sax player with the rubber spine swaying.
I watch the percussionists, piano and drums, careening from sadness to joy and hitting a glissando of emotions, the pianist staring at the keys, lecturing them on expectations for us well met, for her falling short, and the music slides into the background of life in the process of being lived.
Once upon a time is the oddest of expressions, for nothing is upon time, this one, or any other. And can we be certain what we think once was is committed to a memory, which is fallible in the best of times. or more precisely, in the best of time, for time cannot be plural, though it is inherently evanescent and is gone as we watch.
As night advances, the clouds march in slow retreat to the horizon under the tattoo of the crows cadenced cawing. Once gone from sight, under the always watchful moon, they shall regroup and prepare to reemerge in the first shadow of the sun of morning.