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
Joni was singing , ” I came upon a child of God who was walking along the road ” … from the classic rock station on my car radio when I once more spotted her along the sidewalk in front of Andersons Market . There’s something both quirky and old world about the way she looks in those clothes of hers and I see a strange charm I’m not use to . Last Wednesday , while in the local coffee shop , she noticed me for the first time and I had been seeing her for months already . As I passed her table and rather embarrassingly stared , she seemed about to smile looking directly at me … a jewel light , like the living jewel in the middle of Amsterdam , the Hortus Botanicus , a rain forest in a glass house . She was taking a break from her excessive writing and hours of cold coffee . I could say nothing , suddenly self-conscious . Her effect on me, an old man , felt unhealthy and she’s become a shadow running thru my days , slow days . She must be 10 years younger than me . I live with my long-term partner in Empire who I have loved for a long time now . And I’ve been distracted writing a screenplay again with a November deadline , so I leave the house for the Glen Arbor coffee shop, 8 miles away , just for a new atmosphere and to leave Gretchen to do as she pleases . Gretchen gave me a reverent silence when we met , a feeling of being neither hungry or thirsty . I find her in all my screenplays , a muse for sure . But this now unknown woman seems to be crafted deliberately for me , emerging from one of my unfinished novels . I haven’t told Gretchen about her yet but mentioned her to my friend Paulo , who it turns out , does know her . She’s the sister of one of his friends . I think of sitting across from her and asking her questions , lots of questions . She seems cosmic some how and I want to take her to Berlin to see the street art ,
And Brussels to buy her chocolate ,
Budapest for paprika , Florence to buy her silk ,
Istanbul for perfume , a hat in London , a hand carved guitar from Madrid
And an an umbrella in Paris
and in Sarajevo , a coffee set , so that she can have her own cafe in her kitchen .
Sitting , facing the north entrance door , arranging my papers and pens , drinking that first mornings taste of caffeine , I watch as she enters , setting her ipad on the same always table under the window as she pulls out 2 dollar bills and moves to the counter . She knows the help by name and greets them each , John the owner remains stoic as usual but Noah always perks up … and I’m a senior citizen eavesdropping , feeling very foolish . Oh restless heart … shall I ask her something before she reaches for that pen and becomes unaware of all of us surrounding her ? Too late as my mind stales remembering the smokey , moody ballad earlier from my car radio , ” We are stardust , we are golden and we got to get ourselves back to the garden . ” I know she would agree and now she’s already tranced into her written words .
I’ll read the local paper instead of taking the risk of bothering her . If you want to get a feel of this community and also have a few laughs , the Dispatch Blotter of the Leelanau Enterprise is where to start . So here it goes …
Last Thursday , 7:13 a.m. – Bingham township – Three lost horses near the Leelanau Trail .
Last Thursday , 12:45 p.m. – Suttons Bay – Subject is harassing caller . He jumped out from the corner of St. Joseph and Broadway and called the caller names . Told him he would track him down .
Last Thursday , 2:56 p.m. – Suttons Bay – Subject entered restaurant and used vulgar language .
Last Thursday , 8:52 p.m. – Empire Township – Caller states five subjects down at the beach drinking and smoking . They came and went quickly . Caller thought it was odd .
Friday , 3:46 p.m. – Leelanau Township – 7 year old says brother , age 9 , is running away into the woods . Says mom is at work .
Saturday , 2:46 p.m. – Elmwood Township – Caller is reporting that cars are driving too fast in front of his house. Callers elderly father has to duck and dodge crossing the road to get his mail .
Saturday , 10:53 p.m. – Suttons Bay Township – Neighbor has been playing loud music into very early morning hours for past week . On going issue .
Saturday 11:26 p.m. – Leland Township – Caller is requesting a welfare check on daughter .
Sunday , 12:03 a.m. Leland Township – Caller reporting his wife has fallen out of bed .
Monday , 12:15 a.m. – Suttons Bay Township – Caller initially called to report loud music outside her home . Phone line stayed open and dispatch could hear loud screaming and possible struggle .
Monday , 8 a.m. – Suttons Bay – Callers neighbors door was open and their dog came running at her . Then the neighbor ran at the caller .
Monday , 9:42 p.m. – Elmwood Township – Daughter and boyfriend have not spoken to caller since Friday .
Tuesday , 7:47 a.m. -Kasson Township – Lockers and exterior walls were spray painted over the weekend .
This is planet Earth … Galaxy , the Milky Way …. Year , 2014 .
How long is 7000 years ago ? Is it part of this moment , 11:02 a.m. in October . I see my fingernails caked with dirt from living this summer in a tent in the backwoods and history is facing me . Sleeping Bear Point , the place on the way to someplace else : … standing at the dunes tip now feels like I could swim there . The whole point fell into the water once . You think you know everything about something . How much could there be to know about a big pile of sand . Then you realize you don’t know anything at all . Down the coast lays Pyramid Point and in the other direction , the town of Empire . Their names of antiquity , telling , making me proud to live here . As I’ve gotten older I realize I’m certain of only one thing … Days that I can feel the world in orbit are better than days when I cannot .
Standing above the Bay , I see the northern expanse of the dunes , that languid golden pink length of sand , so much sand , looking so soft , especially when the sun sets and rises . The dunes have an abstract , cryptic beauty and the light changes everything in view . To see these dunes is to be aware of primal forces , the air , earth , fire and water create a strong emotion . Every grain of sand was once part of a rock . The winds and waters shifting over and over again evolving new formations . If everyone on earth suddenly vanished , would cats and dogs de-evolve into creatures more akin to their feral ancestors and would they be standing on a mountain stone climbing to Venus ?
I love strange beauty , not normal beauty , not popular beauty , not the kind where your friends agree with you , but just the opposite . Life is not supported by the sand – nothing grows here and if some little sprout manages too , the sand blows and smothers it . The dunes are an acquired taste , a developed love . I want to hike from the top , down to Lake Michigan in the west but knowing this distance is deceptive , that it is so much farther to the water than it looks , I want to understand the ways of these dunes that I’ve climbed since childhood .
My name is Francis . I live here now . The year is 2014 , the year of the Ebola Virus outbreak , the Syrian war and when ISIS seizes large regions across the sea . A Malaysian airplane went missing with over 200 passengers aboard , months ago and still never found . Record cold weather roared across the United States and Peter Gabriel is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . The new Apple I-phone 6 just came out , water vapor is detected on the dwarf planet Ceres , my son’s girlfriend is obsessed with ” Doctor Who ” and my brother just discovered that the social security system has had him registered as a female since his birth in 1952 and so his retirement benefits are in jeopardy .
Cat Stevens ( Yusef Islam ) is going on tour this year , the last time being in 1976 . His music captured me tight the only year I went to college , walking into a record shop , hearing ” Peace-train ” , ” Morning Has Broken ” , ” Moonshadow ” and ” Where do the Children Play ” . I was stunned then and I can hear the music drumming in my mind , a heritage of memory in its pleasure still . And what about the album cover – you know , the one with the sun , tree and the path with the Tillerman drinking tea in a fairytale of colors … the first album I ever bought . Just last week I heard him interviewed on Public Radio – ” I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune . It’s kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after awhile when you keep on playing it , where words just evolve from it . So you take those words and just let them go which ever way they want . Moonshadow ? Funny , that was in Spain , I went there alone , completely alone , to get away from a few things . And I was dancing on the rocks there … Right on the rocks where the waves were , like , blowing and splashing . Really it was so fantastic . And the moon was bright , ya know , and I started dancing and singing and I sang that song and it stayed . It’s just the kind of moment that you want to find when you’re writing songs . “
I wish you could hear the sounds of my place , a place of strange language , words within the waves of a Great Lake . I wish I could take these background rhythms everywhere with me and when I opened my mouth , that is the word you would hear . Just writing this , I feel both a tremendous sadness and joy , a wanting from within , something ecstatic . I choose my words carefully about these feelings . I don’t know what this is or where it came from or just when it began . I never thought I could find so much in the passage of a distant white sailboat below the dunes . Something has changed , last night my brother ,Dave , gave me an old journal written by his dead friend and part of me wants to mark this as the moment of change , although I know that it isn’t . The change is something that has come more slowly , perhaps it even began before I fell in love that first time , or second or third . What that change means I don’t know , just like I don’t know if I’m happier or sadder than I have ever been . There is a purpose in all this although I do not know yet what it is . There is so much more that remains . For most of us our stories can be written long before we die , there are exceptions among great men in history but I am not one of them . It is a crazy world but a world that is somehow still brand new to me and now I’ve turned into a writer where I was before an artist drawing life like a silent stow-a-way . These are my new words , written words as I sit for hours in this lone coffee shop where today I spotted an older man with a spark in his eyes who slowed down to take a look at me while John Mayer works his magic singing “Gravity” thru the radio playing amidst the coffee aroma and life goes on .
Gravity is working against me
and Gravity wants to bring me down
Oh , I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away .
Gravity is working against me
And Gravity wants to bring me down
Oh , twice as much ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain like one half could
Its wanting more that’s gonna send me to my knees .
C’mon keep me where the light is
C’mon keep me where , keep me where the light is .
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven “. . . Matthew 5:1
He is driven by a strange desire . Someone is calling . It could have been George Harrison – yes , from The Beatles , those ” long-hairs ” this middle age man detests – it could have been George with his guitar , his tune dropped on Dave’s dad from the clouds above Charlevoix that might have drifted like a paper boat from across the Atlantic .
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps .
I don’t know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you .
I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
Every mistake , we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps .
I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you
I look at you all , see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps .
Here lays the port of Charlevoix , named after a French explorer who stayed one night during a harsh storm.
Charlevoix , where fossilized corals from the abyss have been rounded into pebbles by rivers and seas . Here Dave Sr. stands on the dock , stands looking out at the Great Lake , stands tired after driving his car for eight hours , stands in his shiny wing tips , rakish in appearance , a furniture salesman , standing small and often being mistake n as Italian with his dark angled face , large nose , black hair – the “bad-boy” image still imprinted from his younger days . He stands like he once stood searching for planes while a private on a Navy ship during WW2 . Just the previous year in 1971 an air force plane had crashed right here in these waters during a practice bomb run , exploding on impact , nine crew men died .
Where is his son ? …his oldest son named not only after him but also his own father . He knows they have planned to pick up a spare part here for their boat . Who is this son now that he has left home , left the dinner table and the golf course they both love . He worries yet feels pride rising like a singular wave at this boys independence and courage . This is the paradox of having adult children , this is the pain and pleasure , the oldest daughter , the one he doesn’t understand but who owns his heart , just married , pregnant with his first grandchild … his other son a “screw-up” with no job , lazy attitude , sleeping till noon … And then the joy of his ” late-in-life” little angel girl , a gentle resettling .
He stands with a head ache , loud like the sea singing hallelujah , memories annoying his mind , memories of the party the night before the boys left . He stands and hours pass , his gaze from sea to ground and he hangs his head and sighs , a slight tremble in his hands . A tremble like a mistake that won’t leave him troubles him , has troubled him for a long time . He thinks of his wife , still angry with him with a silence as cold as winter rain . Lost in anger , lost like a dropped handkerchief in a dark movie theatre , she has forgotten the attraction of their first meeting , his being the same age as their son is now . They met at the roller rink , her looking like his favorite actress , Lee Remick . He was wild , she was calm . But now she is weeping behind their bedroom door over his bad behavior at last weeks party . The party she so carefully prepared for with an overly clean house , new tablecloth to match the draperies , appetizers ordered from the chef at the country club , good silverware polished and a new dress bought from that boutique downtown that makes her look like she belongs in that new movie , “Diamonds are Forever”. . . and music chosen , a surprise to him that she likes Diana Ross and the Supremes !
He stands , feeling his heart tumbling , tumbling like dice at the memory . He stands on this grey dock . Is that smoke he spots over the water … is that the devil ? He silently recites the Lords Prayer , the only one he ever says . He sits on the empty beach but the earth is a swelling ocean and he will find himself feeling seasick for many years .
Showing up three hours late , the guests already eating , the music playing , the girls in mini-skirts chatting like a group of hungry seagulls , he enters . “OK ” , he shouts , throwing his overcoat on the floor , his eyes glazed like a deep ocean shark from the earths belly . The room is silent , the room is embarrassed at this fathers humiliation . He is drunk , he is late for his sons Bon voyage and he is drunk . Many there are unaware of his affliction and the pastor from the church stands now , watching with compassion at this disease of this mans soul – this poverty of spirit . Heard like gale warnings from shore , Dave continues from the center of the room , ” OK , OK everyone , if any of these boys make a phone call home , anyone of them , do not refuse their calls , do you all here me ” ? He smiles , smiles trying to seem agreeable . ” I don’t know how they are going to cook and eat , they are just boys and don’t know much “!
Buzz’ mom try’s to cover the awkwardness and responds , ” Buzz is a cook “!
“Well Evelyne , how does he know he’s a cook “!
” Because I taught him ” , she answers , dumbfounded .
Slowly the room begins to move at this fathers pain and weariness , the guests flowing with this new energy of kindness preparing to leave with well wishes for everyone . Something has been endangered tonight – some chose not to ponder this , but for those who do , their thoughts are sobering , just having witnessed a capsizing and hoping for the survival of their friends dignity . A sunken ship they pray will sail smooth and free again . This man , this father , this friend of theirs , an anxious character hiding behind a diving mask .
The words of Jesus and George Harrison merge from the heavens . Someone is calling . ” The age of the universe is about 13.75 billion years . The diameter of the observable universe is estimated at about 28 billion parsecs ( 93 billion light years ) as a reminder , a light year is a unit of length equal to about 6 trillion miles )”
Chris’ Journal … Thursday , 9-21-1972
I awoke at 9:00 am and proceeded to relieve myself and do what I could for a throbbing head ache , in that order . I returned from the head to find all hands still sacked out so I too returned to that unconscious bliss . Dave woke me up again at 10:30 looking for a key . For lunch and breakfast we ate the hamburger left over from Glen Arbor , the previous nights supper .
It’s only a buck seventy-five a night here and Dale put down five bucks figuring through Saturday . Dave bought an ice fishing pole in Manistee and a combination perch and coho pole here in Charlevoix . We found a man at the Fairport radio repair shop to install channels 12 and 14 for the locks at his suggestion . The Irish Mariner will take our boat out of the water and the owner can help us with charts , spare water pump , spinnaker block , spinnaker halyard , sea cock and the installation of the sum log . We also purchased the Great Lakes Pilot , a ships log and a shackle for our new anchor . We still haven’t a light list , but no one else seems to have one either . We’ll probably drop a couple hundred here , but then will really be set . We changed our course again . Instead of sailing across Lake Huron , we’re going to take a longer but more beautiful cruise through the Canadian Northern Passage .
Another sailboat bound for Florida has been watching our progress as we have been watching theirs . They were surprised to see us in Charlevoix ahead of them since they had assumed we didn’t sail Wednesday . There were gale warnings out that we didn’t know about since our radio has no working frequencies . This I found very sobering . Thankfully we will have the channels we need when we leave here .
Dave’s dad showed up here today , taking us by surprise and out to a great dinner . He seemed happy with our seemingly self-sufficient responsibility and resourcefulness . We told him Dave was quitting his smoking and that pleased him no end .
Tomorrow at about nine we’ll have the boat out of the water and we plan on working on it all day . In some introspective self-criticism , I decided I could make life in our confined space more livable with a more amiable attitude . So I’ll be working toward that goal from now on . I hope I’ll be successful . We seem to live together well and everyone is fairly easy going . Everyone had a turn at sailing in high winds yesterday and we all have gained in confidence . If all goes well tomorrow , we’ll leave for Mackinaw Saturday . The winds are high at this hour , 10:30 pm , and cool .
Yesterday we sailed through a bridge that opened for us on signal , one long blast and one short . Our horn sounds sick .
Daves dad said Glen V.O. didn’t believe we could make it from Sleeping Bear Bay to Charlevoix in one day . That made us feel great . I guess we will have a very long run Saturday ; around 80 miles . I really think we are doing alright . I’ll have to write home and Mary soon .
We may have a traveling companion in that blue striped sailboat I wrote of earlier . I guess we’ve got a fairly appealing route . Boy , am I beat again . There are a lot of ducks here .
Dave recieves the following letter at a future port :
” I wrote to you in the other letter about Dad and how sorry he was about that night and hoped he talked with you , so I hope you have forgiven him … keep praying for him and all of us . Love , mom ”
… and folded inside this : ” If it stays this cold (38) tonight , looks like the end of golf for the year . Great you quit smoking . Get a haircut , shave , clean your ears , don’t wear flair pants . Dad “
Flash : Meg finally got my urgent message ! … Thanks to you dear Janet ( here’s a photo of you )
I watched months ago as Meg sold and dissembled her whole house like a carpenter destroying an old kitchen to build new cabinets . She saved only her favorite things to fit in her tent ( lucky for me ! ) She disappears a lot : on that bike of hers doing some photo series on places where no one is or going to that coffee shop I can’t pronounce ( Leelanau ) to write . Someone asked her the other day , ” are you a lawyer “? because she writes on a legal pad . I lol when I heard that one cause if you could see her , no one looks less like a lawyer than Meg ! ( FYI – I overhear all conversations that take place in tent ).
“It is a very good thing you have done for me since moving into our tent Meg . Thank-you from my heart , you know , the stone heart you found on the beach that very first day , the smooth heart shaped stone , the one you painted bright red and placed inside , inside my satin elastic-topped pouch – that same pouch where your favorite necklace is , you know the one , that silver chain filled with charms from that lover you never let go of , that one from 3 years ago who is married now . You might want to finally let go now even though I wonder what would happen to the love poetry you write ? My heart seems to be growing and it’s a-bit crowded in here !
” And Meg , thank-you for finding Eve – that once old broken table from the side of the road – saved now from destruction and oblivion . That’s why I love you so much Meg , even with all your quirkiness . ( I overheard that one too !) . And in discovering she even had a name was brilliant of you – the way you decided to paint orange only on one wood slate like wearing a shiny pair of shoes with those old blue-jeans of yours , you know the ones with all the holes that you even wear under your dresses . ( Funny too , living in a tent and wearing gorgeous dresses !). . . And then her name came thru – Eve – , you gave me a friend , Eve ! She’s doing better now , all those beautiful objects placed upon her has given her a beautiful mind , rich in diversity and knowledge and confidence too . Her voice is losing that squeaky soft sound and is clear like the wide blue sky . It took awhile but now she’s even quoting from your poetry books , ” give me the splendid silent sun , with all his beams full dazzling ”
” Eve asked me to remind you that your mirror is inside the wooden spice box from Afghanistan and to tell you , because , you always leave with a smudge above your lip from that “silver city pink ” lipstick . That tube is always up to tricky tricks ! ( not to tattle tale or anything ) . Eve and I are curious about your sleeping dreams – Yes , we both see them too ! We discuss their meaning as soon as you rush out to that coffee shop in the morning . ( warning : your bike basket is about to break from all the books and papers you travel with ). Those kissing dreams are the best , you know the ones , those very lucid ones that make you awake with a smile . Eve thinks they symbolize harmony , love , and contentment ( see , I told you she’s getting awful smart !) . And those egg dreams , the ones where the yolk is so yellow , brighter than the suns , joy , pure joy in your life ! Believe me , we feel this from you , rebirth , creative potential , the power of imagination are all yours from those eggs !
” Anyway , Meg , Eve and I ( I like that sound of that ) , Eve and I want you to know how happy we are living with you together in our tent … Thankyou ! Below is our address if anyone wants to send a letter ( Eve and I don’t understand the ipad and find it rather scary ).
Meg , Sammy and Eve
0 Western ave. in the woods
Glen Arbor , Michigan
P.s. Thanks for leaving us those Hershey kisses you are always looking for ! Oh , and thank Cindy from across the way for playing her music so loud , Eve is learning the tango ! Imagine ! Oh , and one more thing ( don’t know just when you’ll let me guest blog again once you get back on the ” Venture ” and Beatitude Point that you’re so obsessed with ) … Try not to order any more of that peanut butter and jelly pizza from Bear Paws . You’re really not a kid anymore ! Oh , almost forgot , the doll from the orient is asking for some Chinese food .
P.s.s. Almost forgot , would you please carry Eve outside today , she wants to experience Walt Whitman .
” And when you do find out what one corner of your vision is , you’re off and running . And it really is like running . It always reminds me of the last lines of “Rabbit Run ” ; … ” his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter , he runs . Ah : runs , Runs “. Anne Lamont – ” Bird by Bird ”
Before taking a rest from off the deck of the “Venture” , from sea to land , I raise a bright and glorious flag of gratitude to each of you who have so kindly joined me and encouraged me unknowingly thru thunder and lightning :
To Mathew from Poland , Tony the Great Britain photographer , the plane model builder from Indiana , Jacke the writer from Washington D.C. , Christine from San Diego , Gapfrab from Portland , Freddie the amazing London photographer , Tatiana and her fashion photos , Feqeeha the artist and writer from Pakistan , Alex and Cruz comic animators , John a young storyteller , Andrea who loves cooking and posts recipes , Amanda a young mother , writer , photographer , Alex the artist from Russia , Chris from Laos a traveler and musician , Kerri the writer from North Carolina , Luther the teacher and writer of science fiction , Stormy the sailor , Amir from Egypt , M.Funk with beautiful photos from France , Daniel the world traveler , Veronika a photographer from Germany , Yelling Rosa from Finland , poet and musician , Oscar the thought provoking Native American writer from Oklahoma , Mark the oil painter from Manchester , Andy the grandfather , the twin sisters from the Netherlands , bloggers and full time dreamers , Abigail the former professional tennis player turned writer of travel and fashion , Arman from Bangladesh , my first follower, and Heriod from England who writes about human well-being and sends the most beautiful messages with a heart attached …Also Thankyou to my 10 Facebook followers who have been along with me from the beginning in December 2013 , especially dear Janet , and too , my various Facebook friends , my daughters and sons ,my brother and sister , my cousins … I am raising this flag to all of you for entering my door , Thankyou so much… You are Beautiful !
I’m going to take a rest now and will continue with Beatitude Point on Thursdays .
P.s. Baby Blue Samsonite , aka Sammy , has been bothering me to stop ignoring her and let her be a guest blogger again ! … Janet , she heard your message !
Wednesday , 9-20-1972 , Chris’ journal
Once again that verbally abused box woke us at 5:30 . I was up first at 6 a.m. The alarm went off , but Buzz continued to sleep . Dale screamed , “Buzzy” and I leaned over and prodded him simultaneously . Buzz jumped , hit his head on the cabin wall and finally said something about getting up , but fell back to sleep when I produced some lame excuse about it being too rough outside . Finally things began to happen . I threw the cushions out into the cockpit , opened the blower port , pumped out the bilge , took photos of the boat from the dingy and took down the cockpit flyer ; all before a breakfast nobody liked . It was instant oatmeal , instant coffee and a ration of bacon this morning . After breakfast Dale and I washed the dishes and then I accompanied Buzz and Dave to a Standard station rest room . On our return we found the genie sheets out and Dale working on the gear shifter . He found the adjustment device , but lacked the necessary tools to complete the repair . While the other two busied themselves within the cabin , Dave and I stowed the small genie and rigged the jib . We weighed anchor at 8 o’clock and sailed out of the harbor called Sleeping Bear . We had another traumatic experience with overloaded sails before we left Sleeping Bear . We seem to have found the solution in letting the sails out , spilling the wind . For this contribution to our collective knowledge we thank Dale . I freely admit my fear of the knockdown situation and find myself unable to relax ; something to overcome . We are making great time ; probably around 6 knots . We should make Charlevoix by 4:30 p.m , then showers and supper shortly thereafter . And what a supper ! We decided to splurge since we would be here awhile ( till Saturday ). We were in high spirits so we hit the Between Decks Bar , consuming 4 or 5 pitchers of draft beer and having a high old time ! Wow !
It’s too late to turn back for Buzz too . Hoping to make it to Charlevoix by nightfall , he will party with his mates but feels like they need ” watching over “, often thinking they are immature in their risk taking behavior . He understands history , his major after his first year of college . The lake is calm and opens wide as he takes the helm navigating northwest with a sound knowledge about sailing unlike his crew .
His mind drifts like the white clouds shadow , a shadow of false tranquility , a shadow smoking the clearness of the earths day as he worries about Dave’s possibility of being drafted with his low draft number of 36 . With his mind now crossing a continent under this shadow of history to the war that makes the earth a swelling and uncertain ocean causing seasickness for his generation , he is thoughtful . Somewhere , a captain tosses in bed , his comrades wet and waiting in the slime of the hot jungle terrain for the enemy to appear under the musky rain of Vietnam … surrounded by buried hearts in the piles of mud near the slow flowing river tributaries . He prays Dave never hears from the draft board .
” Buzz ? Are we on course “?
Buzz is brought back from his spell and the annoying moth that has been flying in a circle around him , invading his sleep last night while it searches for the moons light in order to fly straight , now invades the cabin . ” Get the fishing net ! … that moth won’t leave me alone “! He knows this will make everyone laugh , being aware they think him a stern skipper !
He must remain cautious of the Ventures direction . The lack of trust in his crew mates sailing knowledge haunts him like a dripping faucet at the back of his mind where a vision of ” The Poseidon Adventure ” , being pushed to her limits , is hit by a tidal wave and sinks , sinks to the deep , sinking into oblivion on the screen of Buzz’s mind .
Feeling almost love for Chris , Dale and Dave , he is thankful for his escape to the sea from his mothers dominance in her house of only males . . . his dad silent , silent like the bored students his dad teaches .. .his younger and older brothers , rebellious of a females control in their male majority existence . He controls this ship now , but knows he had better be less bossy – it is not the time for that . His memory turns back to his older brothers radio in the garage back home where he first heard the sound of rock music and the rhythm of the Byrds singing the hit , ” Turn , Turn , Turn ” . . . Dave , Chris and Dale , his brothers now . . .
” To everything , turn , turn ,turn
There is a season , turn ,turn , turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven “.
He sites the lighthouse of Charlevoix , his reading of the charts perfect , the grey skeletal tower like the far away tower across Gods earth looming like that moth over Danang Port in Nam Djnh Province of Vietnam .
” Land mates , perhaps a bar “!
The seagulls , the flying insects , the jumping fish – all into the sky – the eye of the underwater squid awaits them in the yet distant reef off Florida where a world of hallucination exists – too late to turn back now …