May 03, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
First week of May, 2015 – full moon tonight.
Jupiter is the evening star
Weatherman calls for a week of thunderstorms and lightning – Yes!
THE SINGER REMEMBERS
A man I know well has a head-event that occurs every May.
Not a dream while asleep, or day-dream, or hallucination.
Call it a burst of a stream of consciousness - brought on by the smell of freshly mown grass.
It’s happened so regularly that the phantasy has become a special kind of reality.
The memory of something that never really happened.
He becomes nostalgic for what he never experienced - except over in the fair land of Could-Have-Been.
Here’s the story:
When he went off to college, the first official event he attended was the Freshman Convocation in the school auditorium – the first week of September.
It was a small, mid-western, liberal Arts institution – 500 in the Freshman Class.
He walked to the meeting across campus with strangers – across the newly mown green grass in the fading light of a lovely end-of-summer day.
He sat with his fellow newbies – facing a stage, where sat the school dignitaries -
the President, the College Dean, and another guy-in-a-tie.
The President gave a short blah-blah-blah welcoming speech.
So did the Dean of Students.
Then the other guy-in-the-tie got up and introduced himself.
Turns out he was the Director of the music program at the college.
“It’s the President’s 65th birthday,” he declared, “And I ask you to join me in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
We did that – with cautious but good-willed enthusiasm.
While we sang, an assortment of other students ambled onto the stage, and sat down on some bleacher-like risers behind the dignitaries.
They seemed like us – they wore the college don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass look –
flip-flops or running shoes, jeans, T-shirts, and baseball caps on backwards.
Back packs, water bottles, and blasé expressions that said “whatever.”
The Dean of Music thanked us for singing a tribute to the President.
He asked how many of us thought of ourselves as singers.
A very few hands went up.
Then he asked how many of us thought we were not singers?
Laughter – most hands.
“That’s odd,” he said. “You just sang. I didn’t see anybody not singing.” Embarrassed silence.
He then asked how many of us could read music.
A few hands.
“Wonderful!” he said. “Ignorance contains opportunity.”
He then said he would like to introduce the College Choir, and turned to point at the slovenly bunch of students sitting onstage.
“Three, four, five six,” he chanted.
The students stood up, tossed their baseball caps out onto the stage, opened their back packs, pulled out green gowns trimmed in gold, put them on, and mounted the risers in orderly rows to stand at attention in sections, transformed into what now appeared to be serious young men and women.
“Three, four, five, six,” the Dean chanted, gave the down beat, and the College Chorus launched into a driving rendition of what apparently was the our fight song - a summary version of “Kick ‘Em In the Butt” - ending in a shout of “Fight! Fight! Fight! Forever Fight!”
And that segued into the most beautiful version of “America, the Beautiful,” one could hope for – in wondrous harmony.
Our College Choir!
And then silence.
The odd thing about the assembled choir was the gaps in their ranks.
They weren’t bunched in tight like a choir should be.
The bass section was thin – with only a few men, and there were conspicuous spaces in their ranks.
Not many sopranos, either.
The Dean shouted at them, “Are you all singers?”
And they proudly shouted back, shaking triumphant fists – “YES!”
Then he turned to us, walked to the edge of the stage, and spoke as if he was talking to each one of us individually.
He said that the gaps in the ranks were those left by the seniors, who were actually present - in the wings waiting to join the choir for a final number.
He explained: “But when the seniors graduate, their places will be filled by students like those sitting in this room. You, for example.”
He said that this was a volunteer choir.
He said that if we could stand up, talk, had a brain, and functional ears, we
could learn to sing, learn to read the language of music, and learn what a joy it was to perform.
He pointed at the students in back of him and those in front of him and said,
“All of them once sat where you sit now.”
Then he asked, “You did come to college to learn, right?”
Heads nodded Yes.
“Well I came to college to teach. And we can work together.”
He beckoned to the senior choir members off stage, and they quickly filled in the ranks to complete the robed choir.
He asked the choir, “How many of you had ever sung in a choir before you came to this college?”
“How many of you could read music before you sang in the college choir?”
“So, then . . .” he said, turning back to us, “There you have it.”
“Any one of you who wants to learn to sing and read music, who will be faithful
to rehearsals and performance obligations, I promise you one of the great learning experiences of your life.
You will not get course credit.
But you will be a credit to yourself and this college as long as you live.”
And so, it came to pass that the man I know signed up.
He learned the language of music and helped fill out the bass section of the choir.
He never looked back – he was in the College Chorus for four years.
And he was one of those graduating seniors standing backstage in the fall of his senior year, waiting impatiently to go onstage and sing his lungs out to show the freshman class what could happen if they chose to learn something that was not in a required course.
It’s simple - A singer is one who sings.
And he had become a singer.
Another part of the May nostalgia of the man I know well is the final performance of the College Choir at graduation.
Now he was one of those in the black gowns of seniors standing onstage among those in green and gold – those who would remain behind and keep the tradition of the College Chorus alive.
They had walked together across campus one last time – across the freshly mown green grass of spring.
He remembered feeling relieved, “It’s almost over” he said to himself.
And then he thought, as he filed onstage with the choir -.
“This is almost over – this moment will never come again.”
Tears overflowed his eyes.
So, now, all these long years later, whenever he smells and walks across newly-mown grass, those memories come flooding back.
From the time he was a callow youth without a clue to the time when he stood onstage and sang as a full-fledged member of the College Choir.
The Dean of Music knew what had happened and where things were now.
“Come back to reunions and sing with us – you’ll always be part of the choir.”
* * *
The man I know well did not do that.
Every year in May he wants to return, but he cannot.
Because the story you’ve just read is not true.
It could have happened, should have, but did not.
It only happened somewhere in his heart and imagination.
The truth is that he worked full time while he raced through college like it
was only a job – and he lived at home, not in the college community.
He got the badge he needed – a B.A. – but he doesn’t remember much of what he supposedly learned.
He never even memorized the Fight Song, and did not go to graduation.
College was an endurance test - and he endured, that’s about all.
College was not real – life would be.
Little did he know how much he missed . . .
He never learned to sing or read music – only to fake it at sing-a-longs.
All he had to look forward to was “Happy Birthday.
The irony is that, many years later, he was onstage at his college to be honored as a Distinguished Alumni – sitting in a tuxedo with the dignitaries.
He felt bogus – if they only knew what a loser he really was as an undergraduate . . .
The College Choir performed at the awards event.
Their performance was real and true.
And nobody knew that the man I know would have given anything to be an
undistinguished member of that choir, standing in a green-and-gold gown
in the back row, singing bass and reading music with confidence.
I, of course, am that man.
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And if you happen to be walking with me across a lawn of fresh mown grass
and you wonder why I have gone silent . . .
It’s because I am remembering being the singer I never was, and wishing with all my heart that I could be at the reunion that never happens.
April 28, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The last week of April - 2015.
Three days of heavy, wet, spring snow, thunder, lightning and rain.
Easing the drought a bit and watering the oncoming wildflowers.
And here comes the sun . . .
Sorry to be so long in putting up something new, but I’ve been thinking . . .
Recently, Kyle Schwartz, a third grade teacher at the Douill Elementary School in
Denver, Colorado, asked her students to write a note to her - beginning with the sentence: “I wish my teacher knew . . .”
She shared the poignant letters on-line.
Her story and the letters were quickly picked up by the national news and the social media.
What were once children’s secret thoughts went viral.
(See for yourself by going to the web – lots of traffic on this.)
I applaud the teacher’s intentions.
I appreciate her willingness to ask for her student’s inner thoughts.
She must be a very fine teacher.
I’d write her a note if I was in her class.
On the other hand, I wonder how the little kids felt after knowing their secrets were shared with the world . . .
Secrets are always problematical . . .
“Can you keep a secret?
Don’t tell anybody I told you, but . . . keep this to yourself.”
This is part of a conversation involving three young women.
Overheard by me while I was sitting in Lee’s Nail Salon getting a pedicure.
As usual, I was the only male customer there.
And as usual, women seem to pretend I’m not there at all.
Sometimes I feel like a spy behind enemy lines.
The conversation continued . . .
I learned that one of the secret sharers is pregnant.
Why is this a secret?
Is this good news or not?
Is she married or single? Is she worried about the possibility of miscarriage?
Had she been going around saying she would never have kids?
I don’t know – and I sure as hell wasn’t going to butt in and ask.
How long is this pregnancy going to stay a secret? I mean . . . sooner or later . . .
Meanwhile, at least two other women know her secret – plus me.
Plus the rest of the women in the nail salon who overheard the conversation.
And that means the secret is out – now even you know.
Old Ben Franklin nailed it, when he said:
“Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead”
Fulghum’s Rules of thumb About Secrecy:
Everyone has secrets.
You can’t live long without having secrets.
Secrets are the fecund seeds of gossip.
Anyone who traffics in secrets will pass yours along.
If you do want a secret shared, tell one other person and wait a couple of days.
But the iron-clad rule is:
If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell anybody.
Not your husband or wife or children – not your parents or close friends.
Not even your priest or minister, lawyer, doctor, therapist or teacher.
There’s always a leak-factor when secrets are shared.
Oh, sure, there are positive secrets – temporary confidential good news that you may not want on a billboard, but you just have to tell somebody because you’re happy about it. You just got engaged or got a raise or came up big in a poker game.
Stuff like that - personal news that blooms in pleasure when shared.
No harm done.
Most of us have codes and passwords and account numbers we don’t share out of a reasonable sense of security.
But the people at the credit company know – and your bank – and Amazon.
And there are secrets in the grey zone – the ones exposed by the teacher in Denver – private fears, yearnings, good things done for bad reasons or bad things done for good reasons.
These secrets are both simple and complex at the same time – you both want and do not want anyone else to know.
Then there’s the secret side of all of us that might simply be embarrassing.
If everything that sloshes through my mind in one day could be shared in an audio-
visual form . . . I’d be exposed for the shallow, twisted, fool I sometimes am.
I’m thankful for the ability to self-monitor and edit out the garbage.
Nobody needs to know – even I’m embarrassed by knowing sometimes.
Having said that I think about a great social contradiction fueled by the electronic age in the form of the World Wide Web.
Privacy vs. self-revelation.
There is an outcry of outrage over the invasion of privacy.
At the same time, there is an explosion of self-exposure.
Blogs, pods, tubes, tweets, sexting, faces and spaces and all that.
There are those who don’t want anybody to know anything about them – matched in numbers by those who seem willing to turn themselves inside out for all the world to see.
There’s also a compassionate side of secret-keeping – why burden those you love and respect – why make trouble for those who have troubles of their own?
Especially if you’re part of the trouble already.
And then there’s the really deep dark aspect of one’s stash of secrets.
Everybody’s probably done things that are wrong, stupid, illegal, immoral, sinful.
Everybody carries a load they can’t put down anywhere with anyone.
There are some secrets buried deep in the back yard of my spirit.
I could not bear to dig them up.
I try to forget where they are – but I know they are there.
And only if I knew that I could forgive myself would I look at them
in the light of day again and clear the debris from my soul.
Not yet . . . maybe never . . . some secrets are best left buried.
I’ll probably take some them with me when I catch the bus out forever.
Secrets are part of the sense of loneliness that can overwhelm us.
I feel so alone sometimes – so do you.
It helps to know that I am not alone, alone.
It increases my sense of empathetic attitude towards everybody else.
If we knew the secrets of even our enemies, we would find enough sorrow and suffering to have good reason to be a little kinder and less judgmental.
There are also good secrets we don’t share.
The random acts of kindness that nobody else ever knows about.
Obeying the rule that there’s no limit to the amount of generosity you can bestow in the world if you don’t mind not getting credit.
You know when you’ve quietly done the right and good thing.
I don’t want to leave you with a misunderstanding.
This is not meant to be a rant or confessional or a cry for help.
It’s just Fulghum thinking out loud about secrets.
It’s all such a delicate and contradictory balance.
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I’m alone in here.
And, yet, I’ve got lots of company.
Thanks for being there.
April 15, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The middle of April - 2015.
Stormy weather – wind, rain and snow showers, cold at night
After a mild cold front blew through the valley with gusty bluster and moved on
East into Colorado, there was a sudden silent stillness.
And in that stillness, I could hear - from down at the bottom of the hill on the
asphalt road – the scrabbly-rattle of something metal clattering across the pavement.
Odd – because there was no wind to blow things around . . .
As I walked down to investigate, I heard the sound again, but this time it was
accompanied by the gleeful shouts of small children.
I saw them as they ran off into the shadows of evening.
Kick the can.
They were playing I>kick the can.
The can was standing in the middle of the road, ready to be kicked again.
I did not kick it – but I was tempted.
Because I know this game.
A base is established and an empty metal can is placed there.
Someone is declared “it” – and he covers his eyes while all the other players run away and hide.
After counting to 100, the “it” tries to find the “hiders” – and if he does,
those who get found have to go stand by the base – by the can.
Those who have not yet been found may free those who have been caught by running in and kicking the can – before they, too, get caught by the “it”.
If this daring raid succeeds, all the players are free to run and hide again until
the “it” fetches the can and replaces it on base.
It’s just a jazzed-up form of hide-and-go-seek.
It’s a stupid game, in a way.
Because it’s almost impossible for whoever is “it” to guard the can while at the same time searching for those who are hiding – exhausting to be “it.”.
But in this case, the best part of the game is not hiding, or being “it” or, being freed - it’s kicking the can as dramatically as possible.
The harder, the further, the more noise made, the better.
It’s the can that makes the game.
This game may have a dangerous outcome.
One of the most memorable events of my childhood hangs on this enthusiasm for kicking the can in a mindlessly reckless fashion.
I think of it as The Great Can Catastrophe of Memphis, Tennessee.
Come sit on my porch. I’ll tell you the story.
Once upon a time, my mother and I had traveled from Texas to Tennessee for the annual reunion of her family – uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, and outlaws.
I was the youngest and smallest and slowest and stupidest of a gang of cousins.
Which meant I was always the loser in whatever game we played together.
I never managed to kick the can.
One night we were out in the street playing – the cousins and their friends.
It was dark – the can was set up under a street light – the game was getting rowdy.
I, of course, had been caught right away, and was held prisoner at the base.
Suddenly, out the darkness, two boy cousins – two big ones who always bullied me – rushed out of the darkness from opposite directions intent on kicking the can and running over me at the same time.
They collided head-on, and fell back, sprawling senseless onto the street, bleeding copiously from their noses, looking like two victims of a gangland shooting.
Girl cousins started screaming, “They’re dead! They’re dead! They’re dead.”
Alas, I, who had nimbly stepped back just in time, could see that they were both still breathing.
Clearly not dead – too bad.
But I hoped they were at least paralyzed for life.
Uncles and Aunts poured out the front door of the host family home.
The sound of sirens was heard from afar.
A fire truck arrived, followed by an ambulance, and two police cruisers.
All with sirens wailing and red lights flashing.
Neighbors followed the emergency vehicles to the scene of the massacre.
My girl cousins continued screaming, “They’re dead, They’re Dead! They’ve killed each other.”
It took a while to sort things out – the two boy cousins were revived, dazed, but suffering no more than bloody noses and mild concussions.
The game was ended for the night.
But the memory of that event lingered on.
For years the family retold the tale of the Kick the Can Catastrophe.
And we cousins relished the thought that we had created so much uproar – fire truck, ambulance, cops, sirens, flashing lights – screaming girls – all that – wonderful!
The best part was, that for once, nobody got scolded or punished because we had really not done anything wrong – none of us were to blame – it was an accident in a game.
The perfect kid crime.
* * * * *
This memory rose up out of the swamp of my mind as I picked up the empty
Coors Beer cans the children at Pack Creek Ranch had left behind when they were called home.
I found that they had actually been using four cans in a stack.
They no doubt found them on the side of the road and abandoned them when they ended the game.
I admit I felt a little foolish standing there on the side of the road in the dim light of evening clutching four beer cans.
The people in the car that passed me cheered as they drove by.
There are always plenty of cans on the shoulders of Pack Creek Road.
See, we’re way out in the boondocks and people throw their beer cans out the windows of their cars because it’s not only illegal to drink while driving, but it’s illegal for there to be an open alcoholic beverage in the driver’s part
of the car – even if the driver isn’t drinking.
So – people drink up, and throw out – just in case the cops stop them.
Wait – don’t go away.
I’m not going to launch into a rant about littering or recycling.
Instead, I offer a meditation on aluminum beer cans.
I’ve often thought about them when I was walking the shoulders with a volunteer crew armed with big orange bags collecting litter.
Things have improved over the years – not nearly as much trash is to be found.
It’s mostly beer cans now – for the reason I’ve given above.
And, for some unknown reason, the cans are mostly Coors Beer.
So I did some research:
The Coors company in nearby Golden, Colorado, not only makes beer, they manufacture the aluminum cans as well.
Tasty light beer, in a lightweight container that’s strong and durable and stackable.
The can has a pop-top, and is recyclable when empty.
It’s called “The Silver Bullet.”
The cans are one of the most sophisticated pieces of engineering we encounter.
The product of more than 150 years of research and development.
The bauxite ore is mined in Dwellingup, Australia – smelted in Evansville,
Illinois, and rolled into paper thin aluminum sheets in coils as long as a mile.
Incredible machines turn the aluminum into cans, which are coated inside with a thin millimeter of epoxy before filling.
The cans are made with an assembly tolerance of 50 millionths of an inch, with a failure rate so small it can hardly be measured.
The people of the world go through about 180 billion aluminum beverage cans
If you stacked up all the cans produced in a year, the stack would be 13.5 miles high, reaching to the moon and far beyond.
The cost of each can to the manufacturer is about 10 cents, with a profit of about 2/3rds of a penny per can.
(I won’t go into the brewing of the beer, which is equally amazing – I’m just focused on the cans.)
Hang on now - I know I’m telling you more than you might want to know – and there’s lots more – but I’m almost done.
If the aluminum beer can was hand-made and limited in supply, it would be very expensive to buy one – with or without the beer.
As it is, you can get a six-pack for about $5.00.
You could make toys or art of jewelry out of the cans and the pull tops.
Or just throw the cans away when you’ve consumed the contents
And some kids might come along and make a game out of the empties.
And someone like me might come along, pick them up, and walk home in the dark, slightly stupefied by how amazing an ordinary thing can be.
And more than ready for a game of kick the can.
Want to play?
(For more about aluminum cans, go to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_can or to “Google images” for aluminum cans http://goo.gl/gsq9Z2 .
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April 10, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The first week of April - 2015.
Clear sky, cool nights, warm days.
What? Am I not a bit late with that greeting?
Not if you are Greek Orthodox.
The Western and Eastern celebrations of Easter rarely coincide because of complicated calendar issues.
I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico last week – and the observance if Easter was somewhat low-key – a few stores were closed – special church services – and
egg hunts for children in the parks.
If I was in Greece this week, the celebration would be all-consuming.
I lived on the Greek island of Crete for long periods of time for 25 years, and
was often there for Easter – and wish I was there again this week.
Come, I’ll take you – with two reflections out of my memory:
* * * * *
(From my novel, THIRD WISH . . .)
In Crete, Easter is not a holiday weekend.
Paskha is a holy season, defining the quality of daily life long before the formal religious celebration.
Cretan Easter is a communal state of mind - even more pervasive in spirit than Christmas. December 25 is only a birthday, after all. So say the Cretans. Everybody has a birthday. But the rebirth-day at the heart of Easter is another matter.
Resurrection from the dead is the ultimate miracle.
“Christos ahnesti!” - Christ is risen! - is the greeting.
And the reply is “Alithos ahnesti!” He is risen indeed.
Great Lent begins forty days before Easter with the celebration of Clean Monday - the day of the scouring of kitchens and the flying of kites. The spirit of the fast is still observed in the villages by most people, and observed in the cities by the older generation. While no meat is eaten, the rest of the fasting diet is a matter of personal conviction rather than rigid rules. Fruit, vegetables, bread, and some fish are common fare, and on some special days people eat even less. Such restraint is meant to focus the mind on the larger sacrifice of Jesus.
At the same time there is in the air an anticipatory joy.
The glory of spring in Crete is coming on with a green rush - the earth is reviving, launching flowers from its ancient soil.
Along with the return of abundant life, the Easter season is a time of return for those Greeks of the Hellenic Diaspora.
Daily conversation is filled with talk of reunions - who is going home elsewhere in Greece and who is coming home to Crete - especially from America, Australia, and Canada. Easter always means an in-gathering of family in a back-to-the-village migration.
Houses and churches are being cleaned and repaired. Gardens are being groomed. Lambs are being fattened for the slaughter. Orders are being placed for cakes and pastries. Wine barrels are being tapped and the wine tested. Kitchen supplies are checked and replenished. The self-control of the forty days of fasting will be compensated by the three-day indulgence of appetite beginning at 2:00 A.M. on Easter morning. It is the sweetest time of the year if you are Cretan.
There is a word for this season of about-to-be: “ahnoixi” - spring - which comes from the verb “to open.”
Whatever one’s religious convictions or lack thereof, it is a moving experience to be caught up in this soulful celebrational season. One might easily begin to believe that Jesus lived out his life nearby, that it was the Turks who crucified Him, and that when He comes again, He will first appear in Crete and host a great feast.
At Easter. One could believe that. It is a working hypothesis.
* * * * *
(From a web-journal written in April, 2004 – from my home in the small seaside fishing village of Kolymbari.)
Suddenly - everything happens all-at-once.
One day it is cold and windy and raining. And the Cretans are sluggishly enduring the last dull days of winter.
The next day the weather turns warm, the sky blue, the land green, and the flowers explode from the soil.
Suddenly - in the towns and villages you hear German, Italian, English, French, Italian, and especially this year, since Greece is a hot ticket – Hebrew. Four charter flights a day from Israel. Why? Because there is a rare coincidence of Jewish Passover, and Western and Eastern Easter.
Suddenly - those Cretans who make their living from the tourist industry go mad trying to handle in one big week what is usually spread out over at least a month. The rental business rises like a high tide along the roadside from the town of Chania – cars, mopeds, bicycles, peddle boats, rooms, tours, whatever – and what is not for rent is for sale. Shops and restaurants that were shuttered and deserted last week are in full operation, and Zorba music fills the air all the way to town.
Suddenly - there are lambs to slaughter and bread to bake and clothes to buy. The churches and the monastery are decorated and everything that should be whitewashed is whitewashed – curbs, trees, walls, big rocks, and steps.
Between now and Paskha, the pace of life will intensify. Relatives are on their way already. The house must be cleaned. The garden must be tended. New clothes must be bought. Delight is the order of the season. And the only scandal is in not participating.
May no scandal be attached to my name!
Suddenly - it’s midnight and the bells ring and fireworks are lit off and the feast is on. Pilafi, horta, paidakia, kokoretsi, calitsunia, tsikoudia, wine, and fruita. Christos Anesti! Chronya Pollah! Eat! Eat! Eat!
And how would you be certain you had taken part?
If you wake late on Monday morning from satiated sleep to find your pillow wet from drool, because your body has been too enfeebled to move during the night;
If your bedroom smells like grilled meat, mown grass, charcoal smoke, and the vinegary vapor of village wine;
If your jeans and shirt on the floor are stained with blood, soot, grease, tomato pulp, chocolate, yogurt, and strawberries;
If the pockets of your jeans contain shards of crimson eggshells, balls of gold and silver foil and half a candy rabbit;
If the face you see in the bathroom mirror is blotched florid orange and pink and red, and the end of your nose, your cheeks and ears, and the back of your hands are swollen and sunburned;
If your eyes are bloodshot from smoke, and wine in excess;
If your head feels like a baked pineapple and your tongue seems too big for your mouth;
If your hands sting when the soap washes over the many small wire cuts you got from clumsily binding a small bleeding lamb’s corpse to the souvla, the long pronged steel turning rod;
If your wrists and elbows and shoulders ache from turning the souvla over the coals for three hours;
If your abdominal muscles hurt from laughing, and your stomach seems swollen as if you may never need to eat again;
If you cannot remember your real name, but you think it may be Yorgos or Demetrii or Kostas;
If the front door of your house is hung with a limp wreath of daisies,
poppies, and wild rosemary;
If all the dishes you own and some you do not are stacked unwashed in the kitchen sink, and there are heaps of uneaten cookies and cheese pies and the cold charbroiled head of a lamb on the counter;
And if you feel awful, but you don’t really care, because you know why, and it is a wonderful kind of awful, beyond all sense and reason;
Then you have strong evidence that you have survived Easter Sunday in Crete with friends; that you have helped dig the pit, spitted and cooked the lamb, eaten the wild greens, sopped up the oil with bread from a wood-fired oven, lay on old carpets in the green meadow under the almond trees, chased small children around the fields, drunk far more juice of the vine than hospitality required, and laughed and laughed and then laughed some more before falling asleep in the sun, and somehow finding your way home, to fling your clothes onto the floor and your body into your bed.
You have been Eastered to the max, Cretan style. Megalo Paskha!
You will have done your part.
No scandal will be attached to your name.
And despite how you might feel before at least three cups of black coffee on this late morning after, you will know that it is you who have died and been reborn - in the countryside of Crete - not far from the deep well of reckless delight.
If Jesus does come back some glorious Easter Sunday, it will be here.
So declare the Cretans.
And then – suddenly - it’s all over.
It is the Monday after Paskha – a day of recuperation for the Cretans and a day of return for the tourists. The ferries and charters haul most of the visitors away. Tomorrow the island eases back into a pace of sigah, sigah – slowly, slowly – from now till inevitable summer.
For all this fassaria – this general fuss and bother – ancient calmness remains.
It is April.
The blood-red poppies cover the hillsides here in this far end of western Crete.
The monastery bells still mark the hour at six o’clock, followed by the baa-ing of the sheep trudging homeward along the road below my house at dusk, their bells binging and bonging as they go.
Small owls call as evening fades over the wine-dark sea and snow-capped mountains. A warm breeze wanders over from Africa and into the hills of Crete, spreading the usual perfume of orange blossoms along the shore. At dawn the fishermen will go out in small boats and cast their nets in the sea, as fishermen have done for thousands of years.
Wide awake in the deep silence and darkness of the post-Paskha night, I got up out of bed at three a.m. and went out on the porch to see if everything is all right.
For the time being, it is.
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March 29, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
The end of March, the beginning of April - 2015.
Clear sky, cool nights, warm days.
I’ll be away for a week on a trip to Santa Fe, where my wife has the opening of her solo show at Gallery 901. See her website and Facebook page for details: http://willowbader.com/
Meanwhile, March flows into April – bringing Spring with the flow of time. At this intersection, I always turn to the poetry of e e cummings, whose words I cannot improve upon – (best if read aloud):
FROM “APRIL” PART 2
“And still the mad magnificent herald Spring
assembles beauty from forgetfulness
with the wild trump of April: witchery
of sound and odour drives the wingless thing
man forth into bright air, for now the red
leaps in the maple’s cheek, and suddenly
by shining hordes in sweet unserious dress
ascends the golden crocus from the dead.
On dappled dawn forth rides the pungent sun
with hooded day preening upon his hand
followed by fay untimid final flowers
(which dressed in various tremulous armor stun
the eyes of ragged earth who sees them pass)
while hunted from his kingdom winter cowers
seeing green armies steadily expand
hearing the spear-song of the marching grass.
A silver sudden parody of snow
tickles the air to golden tears, and hark!
the flicker’s laughing yet, while on the hills
the pines deepen to whispers primeval and throw
backward their foreheads to the barbarous bright
sky, and suddenly from the valley thrills
the unimaginable upward lark
And drowns the earth and passes into light.
(slowly in life’s serene perpetual round
a pale world gathers comfort to her soul
hope richly scattered by the abundant sun
invades the new mosaic of the ground
- let but the incurious curtaining dusk be drawn
surpassing nets are sedulously spun
to snare the brutal dew, - the authentic scroll
of fairie hands and vanishing with dawn.)
Spring, that omits no mention of desire
in every curved and curling thing, yet holds
continuous intercourse – through skies and trees
the lilac’s smoke the poppy’s pompous fire
the pansy’s purple patience and the grave
frailty of daisies – by what rare unease
revealed of teasingly transparent folds –
with man’s poor soul superlatively brave.
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