Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Josh Ritter -

I ran across Josh Ritter a couple years ago with his song 'Girl in the War', and today got a yen to hear it again - Ended up on YouTube looking up more of his stuff. He's really good - Go, explore.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The problem was the flask fit so well in his hand, its solid metal body, the gentle rock and rythm of the liquid inside. The whiskey rinsed his mouth, setting heavy on the tongue then sliding down. He stared into darkness. The deep thrum of engines rode up through the bulkheads, a soft but powerful voice, offering an opinion no one asked for, or could stop. He took another pull of the whiskey. "I can hear you breathing", he said into the vacuum outside.
"I wanted to talk.'
'Standing there watching me drink isn't talking."
"Neither is arguing with a drunk."
"I'm a long way from drunk," he sipped at the cold steel mouth of whiskey.
'We're all a long way from anywhere," her voice was soft, and without kindness. He shrugged against it, pushing off the blanketing despair she carried, always laying it upon others shoulders. A ward against the hope she found so cold.
"Doing the best I can to change that," and she shivered at his voice, the richness and near corporeal belief filling it. The gentle wisps of whiskey on the breath behind the words rose to her, a small handle of her own despair, she breathed deeply.
"If you'd done your best..."
He finally looked at her, a sadness in his eyes that brought silence to her lips. She stood, abashed at her despair, as he spoke, "I love you, Helen". He brushed her aside and stepped into the hallway, without a look, leaving her.


I loved you, till
in the whisper of a wind
I saw the boundaries of heaven in your face
and the voice of angels was accented and dull

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One, in the Afternoon

Its like this afterwards
they go into themselves
their quietudes
and screaming isolation

The two on the couch broke up a week ago
wrapped upon one another now
since the early morning
On another of the five couches
in this run down pad we love to call home
another one calls his deepest, always weeping wound
lets her run the crude knife through him once more

I ready myself for lunch, breakfast… something
with friends who weren't part of all this
washing the beer stink off
no time for a shower
quick cold water, toothpaste
cleanest dirty shirt

12 hours ago, we'd already been going
for eight hours of beer and booze
going broke and speaking brimborion
on slurring lips
and we didn't go down until six hours later….

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Zen, and the art of...

Once upon a time I worked at a library on weekends, mostly to entertain myself with high-speed internet and being in a one room building with 26,000 volumes. Occasionally I ordered a book through the InterLibrary Loan program, so I could read something not in the library. One day an order of mine came in, what I expected to be a dry and highly technical book, and I found myself surprised, quietly tucked into a corner out of pestering range of the patrons, reading what would become one of my favorite books in general, much less on a specialized topic.
Its a good book - Indeed a bit dry, but with a lot of value to its contents.
There are many side-notes in the book, important single points from the main body of the text. They are quite "guiding", and I thought I'd share a few.

"The seer and the seen exist only in confusion. There is only the seeing."

You can act "without thought, without effort, without limitations. You must first understand those limitations."

"...concern yourself only with what is happening and how you are feeling. That will leave no room for what 'might happen' or 'just happened'."

"An idea is merely a formulation of thought as a symbol; and the effort to live up to that symbol brings about a contradiction."

"Concentration can exist through awareness; but awareness cannot exist through concentration."

"The truth - that which is actually happening - cannot be written down or spoken about. Once it becomes spoken or written down, it is knowledge. And knowledge is not truth, because knowledge is fixed in time. And truth is ever moving and changing, without regard to time. Truth is outside of all knowledge, of all thought. As soon as you pause to reflect, it is not truth."

"You can never learn to act. You can only learn as you act. Never limit yourself to what you know." (Slightly paraphrased...)

"Free yourself from the 'do this to get that' syndrome."

"The truth beyond the technique. The application beyond the analysis. The means beyond the methods. Here's where we stop thinking and start" acting.

"Pay attention! Nothing more really needs to be said. Most people aren't going to accept the truth of that because it is just too simple. They ask, What do I pay attention to? Just pay attention to what's happening. Its all right there before you. You must learn to see what you haven't been seeing. Find something that's out there and pay attention to it!"

"You see with your mind. Your mind and body work togather. When your body is tense, your mind is tense, 'sticky' also. And when your mind is tense, so is your vision."

"The only true limit is in the body's nervous system. Anything less implies interference from lack of attention."

"Any time you plan for action based on an idea, what happens? When you actually meet the idea - down to the finest detail - it is never the same as you had pictured it, and so your response will be lacking in creativity."

"Confidence is an emotion created by concious thought. By its very nature it can work for you or against you. When you step up" to act, "let the emotion of confidence yield to pure action."

"Do not become caught up or attached to the idea of knowing how to do something. The knowing is not it. There is only the doing."

"Everything in this book could be wrong...
Check it out for yourself. It's you who has to learn. You won't learn by copying an idea - you have to experience it for yourself. When you become the experience, you will have learned, possibly without understanding."

The quotes above all come from the book "Practical Shooting" by Brian Enos. It is about effectively working with a handgun to affect hits. I studied it to improve my ability to affect terminal effect with a handgun.
The words however apply to much more, so much more. Everything is intertwined.
Art in all things.

Breaking Away

The other night my roommates, a few friends and I watched Into the Wild, the film based on Jon Krakauer’s bestselling novel of the same name, about Christopher McCandless, a young man who wandered into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992 and died of starvation. The film, like the novel, portrays McCandless as a visionary tragic hero, to be mourned as a great wanderer of our age. In reality, he was an untrained, ill-prepared, inexperienced outdoorsman for whom luck, being that which you get away with until the universe takes notice, finally ran out. In the words of one Alaskan bush guide, "We're hard up for heroes if that's what it takes -- some guy who starved to death in a bus."
In the end, McCandless was just a human being, victim to the arrogance of dreams, not smart enough to avoid being blinded by the spectacle of his own fantasy. He was not one of the few, he was not one of the chosen, or the special – He was a fool.
With that said, to make it clear that I have no reverence or particular softness in my heart for Chris McCandless, I’ve got to admit there is some pretty cool stuff in the movie. The idea of breaking free and living on your own terms is powerful, and pervasive. And right now, I find it quite enviable.
I recently started work at what is, basically, my first real job. Although I started my own business at 15, and have done odd things here and there, I’ve never previously had a really real job. And really, I intended to never have one. Some would probably tell me to grow up and get with the program, but I didn’t intend to be a freeloader either. I just never wanted to work to survive, at something I wasn’t passionate about. Essentially, I had been spoiled by my past experience; my own business as a blacksmith and knifemaker, working as a cowboy, working in emergency medicine, even volunteer work at a library were all things I did because I enjoy them, find them stimulating and have a strong passion for them. Something that most people spend years, even their entire working life, trying to find, I found from the get go. I made it for myself because I didn’t know any better. And now, life has made me have to know better. I need the money to live; tuition, groceries, rent, gas, utilities, and all the other things that demand money.
I feel very much like I have sold out. The irrationality of that occurs to me, and slows me down, but I cant shake the feeling. I am not writing for a living, I am not blacksmithing for a living, I am not saddling a horse and chasing the wild bovine – I am going to a job at the proscribed hour, punching a time card, leaving the job at the proscribed hour and punching the card again to get a check at the end of the week. If I don’t do that, I don’t get a check. If I don’t do what I am told, if I exercise my creative, bull-headed, do it my way, self, I don’t get that check. And if I don’t get that check, I don’t eat, don’t have a roof, can’t pay tuition. I have succumbed to the existence of everyone else – every wage slave, everyone who can’t find themselves, because they are locked into this existence where the job is the all, so that everything else can be taken care of. It’s not someplace I ever really wanted to be. I’ve never had a lot of money, it’s not about that – getting by on very damn little has never been a problem for me, it’s how I was raised – the problem is the dependence upon this job. It’s not a bad one, I even kind of enjoy it some days, but it’s still just a job, it is not an impassioned, creative, stimulating endeavor – and if I don’t do it, then everything else is lost. And some small part of me is screaming that the ends do not justify the means, and that this is the antithesis of everything I am. That I should be writing, smithing, medic’ing, cowboying or something else, something for which I have passion. That having to do this means my life has sunk to some kind of low, some unforeseen, untold, inhumanity of failure and desperation must have driven me to this point. And from that perspective, the idea of breaking away, running away and being free, living for yourself, by impassioned works and endeavors, is incredibly persuasive. But the reality is, where am I going to go? And how much would I be losing? I know the answer to the second one – Damn near everything. Everything I have built for myself, or am attempting to build, would be the price to pay for not going in to work in the morning, the cost of packing a bag and turning my face into the sun.

I wrote the above awhile back – Earlier in the now finished semester. Before my father had cancer. Before I quit school. Before I started hunting Buddha that I might kill him. Funny how things work. I have still not cut away entirely, nor do I plan to. Instead I plan to cut away what I need, to have the life I desire. I hope it works - I hope it is the freedom I need, without much of the loss I fear. But I know enough to expect a high price for my freedom. Nothing worth anything comes cheaply. We must simply decide that which is valuable to us, and what we are willing to spend.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


The river makes a slow s-curve over the better part of a mile. Running east, narrow out of a little box and making a full swing south where it runs alongside the road before passing behind an outfit HQ on a rock bluff and making the swoop back to the east. Trees run thick along the banks through the curving narrows. Russian olive, their gray green leaves standing out against the red dirt, and salt cedar, brighter and more vibrantly green, and cotton woods yet another order of green entirely.
The road comes down from the rough hills into the river basin, running tight between a rocky hillside and the river. Dropping down off the last rise before the river bottom, the road runs through a stand of salt cedars, mesquite and Russian olive.
It was out of this stand on the far edges of the riparian area that the horses came running. A startling sweeping arc of sweating bodies dashing, nostrils flared and eyes wide, across the road and up the slope, into a break in the rocky hillside where their hooves could find comfortable footing.
The sweat on their hair and water still clinging to their fetlocks glistened in the late afternoon sun. The dust that rose off the road a red aura around them as they ran. Two, then three, five, then eight, ten, then fifteen horses running hard, at home and yet alien bearers of water upon their bodies in the rugged dry desert. Glistening bays and browns, paints and grays, curving out of the infinity and nothingness of the impenetrable tree line.
Up the east-facing slope of the hill they ran, dashing into the saddle and disappearing back into the vastness of the red dirt and broken browns, greens and purples of the rocky landscape.