Saturday, July 11, 2015

"watching the lightning bugs"

I woke to a corgi’s bark at 5 AM. Inside my digestive tract, it feels like there’s a tiny circus operating, an acrobat doing a neat backflip every few minutes. My weekend plans - on paper - are a series of joyless obligations. I woke up feeling like my hall of mirrors has been replaced with brick walls. Nevertheless, I have arrived in another day. And, hey, the carnival is in town!

The morning sun is rising over the carnival. It’s poking out behind the big brick tower at the nearby church. There’s nothing out here but birds singin’ in the trees, the occasional old person power-walking down the street, a black cat taking a tongue shower, a rabbit hoping that cat won’t notice it. I can deal with the full force of the summer sun, but it’s so pleasant in the hours before it - and the town - have woken up.

There’s something important about loneliness. Craving. Something about your vehicle getting down to the last drops of fuel. Something about appreciating motion more because you’ve had a moment of stillness.

The Scientist and I were driving from Ralph Stover State Park to New Hope with our eyes on the gas gauge. We didn’t know if we would get there. Maybe our dinner at Karla’s tasted better because we weren’t sure if we’d make it. Maybe the booze was more potent.

Ahhhh, there’s that sun, like an aggressively friendly friend poking me on the back of the neck to say “HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI.” At 7:38 AM, it’s already feeling strong enough to tint my skin.

Last year was the most intense year of my life so far and I did the most writing I’d ever done. I’ve been re-sharing the posts I wrote during that time - an opportunity to revisit them for my own purposes and also to connect them to people who missed them the first time. It’s been rewarding. It’s also made me hesitate to crack open a notebook and write something new. I recognize the silliness of that, but it’s a familiar sensation - my factory being so full of half-finished projects that I hesitate to add something new. I haven’t finished, for example, recording the songs I wrote in 2012 (or, for that matter, the songs I wrote in 2007).

Yet, the wheels are rolling. My next art show opens in less than a month, down the road from Marcella’s house. It will be a celebration of my time with her and will run for a month; it’ll even be open on her birthday.

Sometimes I feel a desperate sadness for her. Knowing that she understood what she was losing is maybe what hurts the most. But more often, what I feel is that I met one of my life's soulmates and experienced our journey together fully and now have her with me in some intangible way for the rest of my life. The pictures of her as a bald, sick person are harder to see now that I don't have the shocked numbness I had at the time, but I want to keep a few of them as a reminder of how brave she was.

My first record is about halfway finished; the finished tracks give me the giddy buzz I’d always imagined feeling if I could record my own songs on my own time in my own way (and while not on-the-clock). Good things are happening.

Still, I crave the feeling of being up-to-date. I will get there. In the meantime, I feel very alive and keep finding myself in beautiful scenes. Here are some things that have happened since I last wrote you.

I mentioned in October that my sister grew a person. These days, he is big enough that he can walk over to me while I’m playing guitar and pluck the strings. Aggressively, even! Yesterday, my Dad (AKA Grandpa) was watching Nolan and I playing and he shared this anecdote about me.

"I asked you if you wanted guitar lessons. You were four or five. You said, 'I already know how to play.' I said, 'usually people use both hands.'"

I might've been playing his Sigma acoustic guitar. That's under my bed now and it was my main acoustic guitar from about eleven to thirty-one. From the schoolyard to Marcella's services. Whatever I am, there are traces of me in that guitar.

Last week, The Scientist and I parked beside the Tohickon Creek in Bucks County. She painted a mini landscape using a small tin of paint and a small notebook. A snake watched her. I filmed some sort of business meeting that some butterflies were having. Then I walked through the water on slippery rocks and seaweed singing R.E.M. songs with my not-yet-paid-off mahogany Martin guitar. “Pennsylvania guitars just COULDN’T be harmed by Pennsylvania water,” I reasoned.

We drove down the road to another park, searching a forest trail for some cliffs she’d read about, but ended up on some beautiful large rocks in the middle of the creek. I tried to gauge how much visibility the nearby cabin and house might’ve had of us and eventually stripped down to some grey boxers and sank myself into the warm water. The little boy we passed as we made our way back up the mountain made me feel comfortable in my decision to not skinnydip. On the drive home, we stopped at Washington Crossing Park in New Jersey and watched the lightning bugs in the otherwise dark and motionless park. I prepared a backstory in the event that we ran into a park ranger or an especially well-spoken deer who was wondering why we were in the park so far past closing time. We were, I imagined, looking around the park for a mix CD called "Julia'z Wedding Jamz" we'd lost earlier in the day.

I came home with filthy pants and shoes and a sense that we’d won that particular summer day.
I haven’t been Big Picture this summer. I’ve been enjoying moments. Train rides. Back scratches. Playing unattended church pianos. Unexpected photo ops. Getting caught in rainstorms. Watching lightning storms from highways. Work has been plentiful this summer and the sometimes-long hours have been good exercises in staying in the moment - the realization that consciousness of the clock can’t speed up the time, but good conversation and a commitment to the work can.

The Scientist has some serious scienceing to do for a little while, so I’m trying to give her space and remember how to be happy alone. Michael sang, “the only thing worth looking for is what you find inside.” I have some books to read and I have some music to record. And then more music to write. And then maybe a book to write. And an art show to create.

I left Willie out in the rain. My close friend Jenni is about to leave the northeast and head to Asheville, North Carolina. She lobbied hard for me to move into another apartment in the same house, but the Delaware Valley still has a hold on me. Still, I look forward to visiting this great little Southern town that so many people rave about. I visited Jenni in New Jersey one last time, reconnecting with the guitar Marcella gave me (which I’d left there in the springtime), eating gigantic diner hamburgers over placemats with an ad that said “Come See Franny!!”, and then taking a walk with her beautiful dog Sidney around her neighborhood, not far from Grounds For Sculptures. A few minutes into the walk, we heard a rooster crow. We soon found a backyard with a chicken coop and talked to the owner about her semi-legal chickens.

“You just had an official Southern Moment before you even left New Jersey!”

A downpour started. The rain was so warm and soothing that we barely increased our speed. I did, however, want to get back to the Willie Nelson book I’d left against my car tire.

The Willie Nelson book looks like it floated to my house on the Delaware River via the Atlantic Ocean. I figure Willie don’t mind the rain. My newest book now looks like it's my oldest book. I’m a few hundred pages in. I look forward to seeing what else he has to say. I look forward to seeing what else I have to say, too.