mr. skeleton’s summer holiday

Mr. Skeleton plucked out a doleful jangle of notes on the ribs of his thoracic cage. The weather was no longer cold. It had not been cold for so long that he no longer recalled winter’s throbbing ache in his bones. Instead his bones were now bleached bright from long hours spent baking in the sun. People averted their eyes when they saw him clackity-clack-clacking toward them. This didn’t bother him. He called it his summer glow.

Mr. Skeleton’s vagabond thoughts wandered to the skull, where it was, whether she was taking good care of it. Ah, the skull, the skull, he mumbled into his clavicle. He wondered if he’d ever see it again. Well, certainly not on this beach in Majorca, he thought, chortling to himself. He took another sip of his mojito and watched the fluid dribble down his cervical vertebrae onto his sternum. Not feeling at all drunk, he wondered idly if that squirrelly bartender had stiffed him on rum once again.

He gazed out at the calm sea, absently tapping his phalanges against his right femur. The percussive nature of his jaunty body pleased him. A woman walked by, nodding her head to the quiet beat. He smiled at her, but it was as if he were invisible. Skins never see bones, he mused. Again the skull flashed across his mental plain, carrying with it an image of the one who took it away, the one whose strong arms he hoped still cradled it. Yes, she saw me, he thought. Maybe it had been her bones peering through skin to my bones beyond. He tried to imagine her, bared of all skin, his bones consorting with hers. Yet was that really what he wanted…he could not say for sure. And so he offered up his bones to the sun instead, taking its heat inside, hoping to fill his hollowness with light.

(with musical accompaniment by XTC, spun by none other than DJ SlimAlien.)

mr. skeleton

I feel the skull, Mr. Skeleton, living its own life in its own skin—Anne Sexton

Mr. Skeleton stood at the window staring out at his small empire. It was the middle of the day and the street was quiet. The bare branches afforded an uninhibited view…of nothing. Mr. Skeleton sighed. He felt cold, but he always felt cold. Dead plants sagged in the yard as sparrows capered in the dry fallen leaves, deftly overturning them to search for hidden insects. Mr. Skeleton watched the dancing sparrow shadows, filled out with flesh and feathers. As he was about to turn away, he saw motion on the sidewalk. It was her. She peered up at the window, holding the skull aloft for him to see. Ah, he thought, there it is. He watched as she got in her car, carefully placing the skull on the passenger seat next to her. Before she drove off she turned back, raising her hand in a wave. His bones shook with epidermal yearning as he held fast to the window, clacking against the thin glass.

reclaiming sunday from ambiguity

Readers of previous incarnations of this blog may recall past reflections on my ambiguous feelings toward Sundays. Many people I’ve talked to who report for work without fail on Monday mornings share these ambiguous feelings. Sunday is supposedly part of the weekend, but it often feels like a day of counting the hours down to the start of another work week. Today I decided, not quite consciously, to fill my Sunday with activities in order to distract myself from thinking about the inevitable surrender of my time tomorrow to the people who cut my paycheck. I rose early and joined my good friend betes for a brisk birding jaunt through Fort McHenry. We ended up with a total of 15 species, not bad for the first day of February and without even entering the woods. From there I hit the grocery store for the week’s shopping (not exactly fun, but necessary and capable of producing a feeling of accomplishment). An unseasonably warm afternoon inspired me to seize the bike by the horns (i.e. handlebars) and cruise the county roads for a couple of hours. This adventure confirmed my suspicion that I had indeed fallen badly out of shape. A winter without a gym membership was apparently a bad idea. Anyway, back home from my ride I dashed out a spate of cooking, then gobbled up dinner. Now I am in repose, imbued with the pleasant weariness that results from a fully active day. Sunday blues, I have vanquished you!

a prelude

Acrid winds from the past barely flutter past these days. It’s been longer than I can remember stillness such as this. Meditation in the moment comes more easily and more frequently, not always lacking in blackened tinges, but welcome nonetheless. And yet the rudderless voyage remains: the spinning in place, the lack of any one singular focus. I can’t ever tell if this is just my fate or my fatal flaw. The present state is not a bitter complacency such as I’ve tasted before, but still I feel tugs and yanks from deeper, richer corners of my psyche: roiling wells that have been tapped before and bubble over in anticipation of release again.

variation on the list a la cpz

1. Baltimore orioles (the bird, not the team) on Falls Road and in my dream.
2. Scorching 60 miles (through the rain) to Gettysburg for the bluegrass fest.
3. Long solo rides in the county.
4. Snotty cyclists in the county who don’t wave: you are a nasty festering sore on the otherwise beautiful thing that is cycling.
5. Cyclists in the county who wave: you are awesome.
6. Hanging out with B&L: I love you.
7. More sightings of the noisy but elusive catbird.
8. Summer at my house.
9. Drivers who scream at me to use the bike trail while I’m riding on Falls Road: go to hell. It is my legal right to ride on the road, and I will ride there if I damn well please.
10. Drivers in general: go to hell. And take your blasted cars with you. Seriously, I’m at the end of my rope with you people.
11. Cookies from AR.
12. Patricia Piggleton.
13. Free vegan feast from the Hare Krishnas, even if they did try to convert me.
14. Bill Monroe.
15. Thomas Merton.
16. Dear friends in Colorado.
17. Commuting on my Nishiki.
18. Every Friday Dessert Club, despite its recent hiatus.
19. My legal counsel *heart*.
20. Living the life of Scorchy McScorcherson.

a long ramble

>Last night I did a reading with China Martens (The Future Generation), Al Burian (Burn Collector), and a couple of other people whose names escape me (sorry!). I hadn’t done a reading since last summer. This one went much better than the last, I think. It occurred to me that maybe I should do readings more often. It also occurred to me that maybe I should promote my zine more than I do. I have always been bad at self-promotion. It goes against my nature.

After the show, as I rode my bike toward home through the narrow city streets bathed in orange street lamp glow, I thought about how insular my life has become lately. It used to be that this was a common occurrence: attending some event, often paired with frenetic social interaction, and then riding the streets late at night in the silence, breathing in the air around me and feeling the pedals move me forward. This doesn’t happen so much anymore. Because there is always the push-pull within me: to hibernate or throw myself out in the social fray. It has always been there, and I expect it always will be there. Sometimes I think I forget how much control I have over my own life and my own experiences within that life. Sometimes I definitely forget what’s good for me and what is not so good for me. I am forever scrambling to balance what needs to be balanced. Dropping little experiences here and there on either end of the scale, trying to keep one side or the other from crashing to the ground.

But do I miss the constant repetition of those nights? The more than occasional sense of futility at their end? What was my motivation? To stave off loneliness? To kill boredom? To seek a mate? Certainly these were factors. Of course now I have found a mate, and no longer feel the cold breath of loneliness wafting over my neck. So that’s two motivating factors that are now crossed off the list. I would not say either that I am often bored anymore. However, I think I can say that I am under-stimulated. It is after nights like last night that I realize this. When I am bound tight and deep in the monotony of the day-t0-day is when I am not even aware of this chronic under-stimulation. But brief flashes alert me to the fact that I am not creating enough; I am not exercising those channels of release that I need to keep free and clear. They are clogging with the effluvia of complacency, and that is something I do not want to happen. I think that people easily use the excuse of aging as a way to remove themselves from the uncertainty and spontaneity of the more erratic lives so many of us have lived in years past. It is an alluringly simple excuse to give when we don’t want to face the facts that we have become complacent; that we no longer seek out the necessary stimuli to keep us questioning, to keep us creating, and to keep us living lives of exploration.

Well, I don’t want to stop exploring.

juggling this mortal coil

>All this death and illness lately has made me sort of nervous. For the most part, I am comfortable with my own mortality. But recent events have shook me. Scratchy’s death was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to face in a long time. The fact that it was so out of the blue scared me. My grip on reality shattered instantly as fear, despair, and helplessness ripped through me when I found him lying there, cold and motionless. I suppose it is common to write about the finality of death, but its irrevocable nature is uniquely difficult to process. It makes me think about all the people (and animals) that I love. They could all equally be harboring some unknown condition inside them that might lead to their death. The same can be said for me. What has now been drifting around in my head is what to do with this information. Maybe Scratchy’s death was an elaborate reminder to me of the fleeting nature of life, and also a wake-up call to plan better for an unknown future. And maybe it too is a simple reminder that I need to more gracefully accept the constant changes hurtling around and through my life.

our eyes point forward, not backward

As I sat in the kitchen this morning, I looked up from my coffee and newspaper to see a pair of red-winged blackbirds alight on the feeder. What a pleasant surprise it was to see those bright red and yellow patches against a pitch black field of feathers, even more pronounced with the white snowy trees behind. It set my morning off right.

This recent trouble of straying from the now vexes me. It shakes me that even at this point in my life, those feelings can still find me and shuck away my not easily acquired confidence and security. As I stare down the irrational, shooing it away with the love pumping vigorous through my heart’s valves, I am reminded of the need for constant vigilance. I am a human and I am imperfect. At any time, I can unfortunately revisit my past, with all its mistakes, steps untaken, and warped thoughts and feelings. This keeps me vulnerable, while at the same time reminding me of how far I’ve come. The damage cannot be undone, but it can be healed. It can also, with practice, be looked at objectively, learned from, and recognized as a point I have moved far beyond. And I need to allow myself to also see other people’s pasts in this same light. For we are all living together in the now, and what matters most is what happens between us in the present. It is also in part what determines the future. So, in that regard, it is much stronger than what lies in the past. The now is the essence of our resilience as humans. The now is where you and I are, building our lives together one moment at a time.

run

When in doubt, run. Run long, run far, run until you hurt. And then stop. Look up at the sky, look around at the trees, breathe in, breathe out. Remember why you did this before. Remember what it got you through, and how it made you feel. Alive. Remember what you need, and stop keeping it from yourself. Do not go to sleep standing up. Ever again.

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