Scientist are now able to freeze light for one entire minute . I watched her walk in the door , her clothing wet with rain dropping from her like champagne sparkle . I’ve never seen her here before … she is an element of surprise , a soft metal – aahh , mercury … atomic liquid puddles in her eyes . She stands in a blush of vulnerability in the cubicle where the table lamp on the menu podium shines it’s beams reflecting in those eyes . Eyes like passwords with secret lives – pathos , mischief , poetry , mantras , a hidden shrine to a lost love and perhaps even an inside joke to herself . She wears a man’s hat , a black felt hat that makes her so over – the – top feminine . If you happen to wonder just where she came from you would have to walk along a narrow cobblestone street and into a private courtyard and then around a corner … and still it would remain a mystery as to which exact door she had emerged from to now be walking along M-22 near Glen Arbor and entering this modern bar and grill where the music of 2001 : A Space Odyssey drifts away outside the bars entrance as she steps into the reality of Saturday nights noise on this stormy night , 2014 , in this mid-western town …. two worlds , two men .
Paulo and I didn’t really expect her to accept our previous invitation , a lame one at that , spoken so off handedly to her yesterday in the cafe . We didn’t really think she would just show up … so I was naturally excited that she did . Paulo hadn’t noticed her arrival yet as I stared rather un politely while she remained standing still and alone . And then it happened , she looked at Paulo and he at her and I witnessed the two of them meet at that very moment even if neither of them quite realized it . Feeling myself on a thrashing coastline between nowhere and nowhere and wanting to break the spell ( for you see I’ve fallen for her ) I raise my hand and yell out , ” Francis , over here “! Gretchen , my love , turns towards me and I’m nervous , very nervous for them to meet . Francis walks over shaking off her damp fur coat and as I take it from her , clumsy me , she smiles . ” Francis , this is Gretchen . Gretchen , Francie .( slip of the tongue ) I could sense Gretchens mind as it flew out of its nest about to get caught in the net of strangeness that was Francis ‘ aura .
” Excuse me please ” said as she leaves to greet her brother .
” She’s rather haunted isn’t she “, Gretchen whispers in my ear . We grab our drinks , hers Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic and mine Brokers London straight up and move to the round table to join Paulo , Dave and Francis as tonight’s band is setting up under the luminosity of ordinary things – the water tower outside , the mahogany bar top , black leather stools , bottles of peach , citron , blue , mandarine and ruby red Absolute in rows on the mirrored shelf .
Photo of water tower by Leannecolephotography.com
” What is it you like “? Gretchen asks Francis , offering to order her a drink .
” bare feet ” – a slight pause as we all look at eachother and suddenly a one word conversation ensues between them while the rest of us withdraw not knowing quite where this mystic force of words will lead . Poor Dave just shakes his head .
” dresses on the beach , wearing one when everyone else has on a bikini ”
” vintage clothes ” answers Francis
” big city hotel rooms , tall windows , blankets ”
” white sheets on a clothes line , quiet men on the outskirts ”
” used bars of soap , pencils ”
” new sketchbooks , old ones too , tents and rugs ”
” country mailboxes ”
” suitcases ”
” foreign films ”
” wind , stones ”
” snow ”
” wedding veils , deer , music ”
” yes , music ”
” record album covers ” … and then they pause , look at the rest of us and laugh together !
As the band begins playing a Smokey Robinson song a lower key mood hovers above our table then follows Paulo as he stands and silently leads Francis to the dance floor while he removes her hat , throwing it over to me . There are signs when a person is looking for love even if at first it seems unlikely . You will be her hero when you look into her eyes … you will rescue her from loneliness . Love is impossible to shake … and music , well , music is the closest thing to love . And now my friend is dancing with her , and slow dancing at that … on and on and on .
Hunting season opened today . Some animals are protected , wolverines , wolves , Lynx , moose , cougars , fox , mother bears and cubs . I wish Francis was ! I would kneel in worship at her remoteness . She is a quiet woman , not so much shy , as a world unto herself , always watching she keeps her own counsel . She is differant and I sense an interior purpose , an outline already sketched in her head . She has to do everything herself as if she were the first woman in a new world . She doesn’t smile a lot but she’s not sad . And like a top shelf , she is hard for me to reach . Paulo told me that when he tried to photograph her he could sense her discomfort so he asked her to keep her eyes closed . I saw one of these portraits and it was artistically stunning .
There are 100 million worlds in our Milky Way Galaxy , 500 billion of them in our universe . This was the week that shook me , where tornados of solar wind connected planets to space and formed windows in the planets magnetic shield … and where a single day on planet Mercury is equall to 176 days on earth . Winter is coming soon . I will tell Paulo that flowers matter – how many , what kind , how they are bestowed , how they are received , a bouquet clutched or one thrown away …
Music playing during scene : ” Be My Baby ” by the Ronettes
Personal note : A bouquet of wild flowers for my dear blog friends who continuously show me the love on this awestruck journey we all share together … Thank you xx
Don’t open the door to heaven … you might get a migraine and your head could fall off and smash into hundreds of pieces like Tullio Lombardos 6’3″ marble Renaissance sculpture of Adam that fell to the ground at the Metropolitan Museum and has skid marks on its torso where it slid across the patio floor . It was only after Adams fall that conservators saw how Tullio had created it with a head of curly locks and a dreamy stare , originally meant for a tomb . And across the sea in Belgium , is another restoration , an alter piece called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb , a luminous oil with a white chalk under painting and the lamb bleeds with mystery in the details lurking beneath .
It is too early for me to hear the cars as my feet follow the white line at the edge of M-22 where off to the north I see a glimpse of dark blue thru the woods of the waves crashing ashore , no lack of serenity for my throbbing head . Look , deer tracks like words in a story held in the soft earth , prints crossing from one side of the road to the other , a plot still unfolding as the white line belts around the earth from the 45th parallel and goes on and on … I am on my way .
Look , look above us – the flight of a lone airplane below the clouds … perhaps on a search for Utopia , the good place , the place that cannot be … I remember Pan Am Airlines , the queen of the skies , at its height in the 60’s , an icon with its blue globe logo and white pilot uniform caps . A representative once coming to our house having an interview with me to become a stewardess as my parents listened with hopeful anticipation . I was 17 and failed . I remember penny loafers , elevators with music , the fluorescent blue light of the oversized clocks next to the stage of velvet curtains in the movie theatre , the red colored bricks of our house in the suburbs , the cutting of forsythia branches with my mom , the horse barn of my grandparents where an uncle hung himself . . . my dads big nose and how I’m attracted to men like that and who wear wingtip shoes like he did … remembering , remembering and now it is raining and I’m still on this white line , the rain dripping like some leaky faucet in my mind .
It was a bright cold day in November , 1965 and the radio was blaring with the Detroit Lions football game when my dad drove my brother and I to his deer hunting cabin in the upper peninsula … my first time where in the silence of the snow a deer appeared and stood looking at us . Was this the white stag , the elusive , radiant , eerie , awe-inspiring messenger from the otherworld ? I could see the shine in his eyes as my dad raised his rifle to aim , hesitated , his hands shaking , dropping his gun as the deer jumped like a dancer away in the snow and my dad only said , I heard the whisper , ” I am a sick man , a coward “.
All this happened … Something got dim for him until he couldn’t see his true nature , his beautiful nature . Criticism was of no interest , nor was praise – and it was the first time I saw him drunk on alcohol and the first time I knew the deer was within my soul , did I see the vision of Christ between the antlers ? After my dad died I thought of cutting off his buttons so his spirit could escape and I wished I would have sewn up his pockets so he couldn’t take his bad luck with him to the spirit world … a white thread sewn around the universe . He lived a ravishing style filled with fiery colors and blunt textures , but when he saw the innocence of that majestic deer creature , he bowed in graditude for its life . I choose to hold this sacredness in my memory .
” Watch the birdie , click , click ” , I hear my mother say gaily , snapping our 1965 Christmas card photo . I know she doesn’t know of ” the romance of the fragment ” , the process when ancient sculptures are left unrestored if they crack with age , like the armless Venus de Milo , it’s presence overpowering the Louve in Paris , a city my mom dreamed of going to . I like to think that if she did really walk along the right bank of the Seine River , she could have remained in love with my dad like they were when I was born and loved him even more … even with his missing arm … Where did it go , that arm , that wing ? Is it above the clouds where the Pan Am airplane ascended or is it lost in the snows like white chalk of northern most Michigan making the whole universe translucent , or is it dripping in the red blood of that lamb? I hear thunder rumbling ahead to the west still walking on this white line following M-22 ? I remember last night now , my bedroom window here , the window here in Glen Arbor as I saw the glass panes evolving as though the window were gradually eating the wall that held it . I am on my way …
“Blessed are the meek , for they shall inherit the earth ”
” Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good , from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want . Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us if it is compared to its opposite . Now the opposite of beatitude is misery . Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings “.
contemplation from St. Gregory of Nyssa , a mystic …
Note : flower photo at beginning and pine branch in nature are by Bill Ecklund Photography
music score for this chapter : ” Blackbird ” by the Beatles
I think as a child he might have taken walks with Albert Einstein . He wears his clothes carelessly , muted shades of browns , heathers and grey , his blue eyes his only primary color . A woolen sweater , worn wool jacket with flaps on the pockets and he smiles as he catches my glance , hitching up his sleeves , his white hair whiter against his black turtleneck , a dark pigment of sun damage below his eyes . And then I notice his hiking shoes and see him as an intergalactic hitchhiker even though his car which I noticed pull into the parking lot , is an old ford falcon with lights that flicker on this still dark early morning where I fill up my thermos with coffee and pour a Guatamalan blend into my mother’s china teacup , one of the few things I have saved since her death , always remembering her at 3 in the afternoon when she always sipped her one cup a day coffee black while watching “As the World Turns ” in the den before we all came home from school .
My friend Paulo comes by , greets me with , ” I’m glad your finally back ” , sees that I’m busy reading ” The Captains Verses ” and sits down with the unknown ( to me ) writer , and soon calls out over the empty cafe , ” France’s , come over here , I want you to meet Alec !” And so we are finally introduced as he pulls a chair over for me . They talk of photography , Paulo being a portrait photographer ; Detroit where they are both from , and it’s destruction where the firemen have no boots , the cops , no working cars and the fact that coyotes are howling around in packs in the abandoned buildings of graffiti . An ominous cloud has rolled into the stratosphere above this ruined metropolis where it’s inhabitants have a spooky serpent – like fear on their stricken faces . And , listening , I can understand William Blakes lament , ” Ah , sunflower , weary of time …”
Photo by Yves Marchand , Room 1505 … Lee Plaza Hotel … ” Detroit Urban Decay ”
I am not frightened of new ideas but of the old ones . I listen as Alec tells of the urban explorers who wander thru the ghost buildings and warehouses , with their cameras and collecting metal for odd pieces of art . And I listen too as Paulo tells of his teenage rail adventures riding on an open car freight train across India with Pakistani and Russian soldiers . I remember , but stay silent , that the Buddhists say there are 84,000 paths to supreme enlightenment . Is poverty one and ruin another ? I get up to get a glass of water , recognizing that I don’t always know just where I stand . Standing , I begin to watch where I put my feet and it is at that moment that a path appears and with it the infinite sky , the living blue hand itself . Does it happen on 8 mile road , the one Eminem raps about in his home town of Detroit , does it happen for the homeless ?
” Francis , you look far away , are you OK dear ” says Alec as he gets ready to leave. Does he know me so well already? ” A few of us are going to the Avenue Bar tomorrow night , your brother too …try and join us , really , please be there … ” His scarf trails in the gust of wind as he pushes back his hair , turns and walks out of the door alone .
” What are you working on ,Francie ? ” Paulo asks .
” Oh , I don’t know , trying to come up with a love story , not wanting to use any of my disappointing ones but trying to make up a new one .”
” I thought you were writing about what happened to Dave ?”
” I am , um … Working in two parts now …1972 and 2014 … But having some difficulties …maybe I’ll see you tomorrow night .”
” I hope so , that would be great ,”
” I really like that new portrait in your window , who is she ? Maybe she could be the love interest in my story !”
” Francie , you crack me up sometimes , by the way , you still have to come by and look at those photos I took of you last month , there’s over a hundred so let’s make some time soon , I want to see what you think of them .”
Photo by Sally Mann
Walking home , feeling feverish suddenly , I pass under the sassafras trees so fragrant that the hills in front of me seem to spread out and shrink at will . I look and watch above as a thousand birds in formation expand and contract and change shape … an amazing site and I once again repeat only to myself this time , ” you will travel in a land of marvels .”
Shall I stop at Cottenseed and buy something new for tomorrow night … Only a crazy fleeting desire as I walk by . After all , my prized momentos are the things I didn’t buy , they are the things I was given , or the things I found … or just maybe they found me . They’re ordinary , yet acquiring them in far away places , penetrates them with mystery and extracts a raw flavor . Like those three smooth stones now huddled like wise men on my dresser . Who knows how old they are or what current carried them to the shore where I fished them from the waves on a sunny summer afternoon at the tip of Point Oneida . Nature endures and it hooks with a strong almost invisible line and shimmies my heart like the lights that flicker from Alecs’ car .
Time : 4:48 pm … Place : Michigan , United States … Date : November 7, 2014 … Weather: snow flurries expected later tonight … Music score : ” You’ve Got the Love ” Florence and the Machine with Royal Albert Hall Orchestra
” We do not grow absolutely , chronologically . We grow sometimes in one dimension and not in another ; unevenly . We grow partially . We are relative . We are mature in one realm , childish in another . The past , present and future mingle and pull us backward , forward or fix us in the present . We are made up of layers , cells , constellations .” Anais Nin
The world is in another orbit as gravity spins me back like a restless ghost to Orcas Island where my daughter is caught in the tides of heartbreak after being forsaken by her young husband . He is gone , seeking divorce … she is left behind holding their newborn .
Dropping me off at the Traverse City airport , my brother is kind .
” You will travel in a land of marvels “, I quote as I say goodbye and he looks at me questioningly , ” it’s from Jules Verne “.
” Just call me when you get there , I’ll be here to pick you up in two weeks “.
” OK Dave , I will …. Thanks , love you “.
Resembling a catacomb , her house crowded with a marriage destroyed and relics of hope and commitment left smashed and deserted like those crooked , paint chipped buildings from my photo series taken on my bicycle of ” places where no one is anymore “. Now her house , her soul , her wavy distressed mind hearing lyrics even when there were none , trying to make sense where there is none . This is the universe of mountains and rivers , of bread and wine , the world of poverty of human nature where man is left in sorrow … ” Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted “.
This Pacific Northwest Island , an island of narrow bridges overgrown with wet moss and fern from constant rain falling where fog clings to the forest , holds a musky stench from oysters and fish , a rancid breath seeping into everything … the black bay so unlike the pure , clean , fresh waters of Lake Michigan . The difference like that between stagnate unwashed hair and shampooed soft , silky locks that swing when you walk . I miss home … the light that reflects everywhere , it is not here , the coffee not the same . But I have no right to lament as sorrow lays itself down in this house of my family .
I escape after long days into music listening to Ringos drum playing . He plays the heartbeat ( his secret of greatness ), perhaps this islands secret too held in the sound of the flapping wings of bald eagles who were here first before man . Everything starts with the heartbeat , our mothers heartbeat , life’s heartbeat and it sets the rhythm for the rest of our days . This is the connection between life and emotion , this drumbeat where the most important part of music is found . And the beat is subtle to me in the hamlet of Glen Arbor but here it is too loud , overpowing the quitar and the voices of the robins and the winds moving thru the branches of maple and oak trees I hear back home . And where have the stars gone ? They are lost in the presence of these tall pines on jutting mountain places . Melancholy forebodes in this strangely paradoxical place , stark and murky both where whales don’t linger long after feeding on other abundant species far below the earth . The landscape reminding me of an Escher drawing with its sharp angles , unexpected turns and mysterious depths , the whales juxdiposed in fluidity … another contradiction . Even though the streets have magical names like , Enchanted Forest Road , Fossil Bay Drive , and Owl Lane , I’m frightened of driving these roads , so dark that my eyes sting from squinting for the light . An onerous recollection of past years here haunts me of stumbles in a thicket , a thicket filled with thorns at every turn drawing blood . I think God is unjust now , unjust to my dear daughter . There is a sign over the door in a movie I can’t remember the title of , the sign says , ” How long will they last ?” It’s that Jane Fonda film where the dancers , the marathon dancers are hanging so desperately onto eachother , so exhausted that they can barely hold their heads up while their sore feet shuffle , shuffle in slow motion. This is the dance I find my daughter in . “This life is long isn’t it ? We’ll do better in another life , with other gods to watch over us “, she once told me .
I can feel the slow spinning of the earth where across the continent of America , in another place and time , a boy of residual aching youthfulness is honoring his grandmother by presenting her with a slain deer and here , now , on this island my own little grand daughter removes a lollipop from her mouth and kisses the image in a glass frame saying , ” good night daddy ” as I draw the voluminous silk grey curtains lest she be on full view of strangers who loom . The wooden flute sounds just a sigh and I wonder of my life back home , my brother , the familiar faces of the coffee shop employees , that man who sits and writes there nearly as much as I do , his relaxed frame folded in the cafes leather armchair , his blue eyes searching the rooms four corners as if trying to see something beyond its walls … the days of my last chapter before my own heart stops where I’ve found the lighthouse at the end of the world , where the strongest urge is to write the story of my brother and his three mates tragedy while still somehow trying to make it into a love story .
On the ferry boat returning home there is an eerie pause of water and wind , the sky appearing like a single pearl and the ocean solid as if I could walk across it and I can hear the sound with absolute clarity of a lonely whale breaking the surface thousands of miles away . The loneliest whale in the world does exist . Scientist have been tracking her since 1992 and they know the problem . Her voice is unlike any other whale . No other whales can hear her as she sings at a higher frequency . She is alone . And it is here on this boat that I sense Gods infinite and benevolent hands of compassion holding my daughter and all of us away from the dizzingly crowded Picadilly Circus of confusion where every blade of grass has a shadow behind it . I tell myself to get it together … but get what together ? I’m bewildered . Thoughts are racing fast like the train racing south from Seatle in a streak of silver and blue to the east coast at 200 miles an hour …
” You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars , you have a right to be here . Whether or not it is clear to you , no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should … with all its sham , drudgery and broken dreams , it is still a beautiful world “. Max Ehrman
Note : girl with fawn by Katerina Plotnikova
Photo of my daughter