Category Archives: Musing

2011 Poem

The main reason for this rhyme
Is the passing of our time
In pursuit of literary excellence.

For myself it is for rhythm
And not lofty symbolism
That I work this exercise of cognizance.

Generally as a writer
I’d choose fiction – it’s much lighter
On my brain than using this aesthetic sense.

But my sentences are winding
And so snarled that they’re blinding
so I’m forced to work on both sides of the fence.

Words are more than just their meaning
They require pure machining
And fine tuning to enhance their resonance.

There are many tricks and cheats
That commingle sounds and beats
Such as phrase-exchanging, starring your verb-tense.

Consonants could clink cups, smiling
At coquettish vowels beguiling
Front-to-back your lines will ooze with decadence.

Yonder language most archaic
Might yield ballads quite prosaic
Citing ‘translation’ as their weak defense.

Over pallet, teeth and lip
they will tumble, they will trip
Let ‘flow’ be your linguistic reference.

There are far better examples
Of the flow that I have trampled
Subsequent edits might make recompense.

In conclusion I must mention
My beginner’s comprehension
Is no more than superficial competence.

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On Wanting to Pet Monsters

“At one point in Friedrich Nietzsche’s book *Thus Spoke Zarathustra,* the hero is having a conversation with himself. “You have wanted to pet every monster,” he says. “A whiff of warm breath, a little soft tuft on the paw — and at once you were ready to love and to lure it.”

If I were you, Cancerian, I would regard that type of behavior as forbidden in the coming weeks. In fact, I will ask you not to pet any monsters at all — not even the cute ones; not even the beasties and rascals and imps that have slight resemblances to monsters. It’s time for maximum discernment and caution.

(P.S.: One of the monsters may ultimately become a non-monstrous ally if you are wary toward it now.)”

~ Rob Brezsny, Free Will Astrology

Sacrifice, Physical Training, and Forging The Alchemical Body

Amazing thoughts on training. I’ve always seen the body as an expression of the sacred — or the object of discipline — to be known/understood and treated compassionately as part of the natural world. I experience my body’s strength, grace, or flexibility the same way I experience a sunset or the shade of a tree.

The mind is the thing that needs to be forged so it can make the most of these experiences, embodied or otherwise.

As far as the article, here’s a snippet:
I look back on all the years of physical training — some within martial arts lineages, some alone on a mountain trail — and realized that my self-expression was incubated in the heat of the physical pursuit. A sword is formed by heat and adversity not comfort and safety; and my lifetime of physical pursuits became the crucible of my constant and never ending maturation. How could I NOT make time for this?

The more we dedicate to anything with focus and commitment, the more “secrets” are revealed; the silent voice of the respective pursuit starts to speak if we listen with the heat of our praxis. For many, the heat incubated within the pursuit of physical activity can be channeled into life at large, allowing one to hear inspiration calling within all activities mundane or “magical.”

Phanes

martial-arts-alchemical-bodyI have always cherished and savored the endless hours of physical training in martial arts and long distance running. In many ways I view this time as alchemical in nature: heat, pain, sweat, blood, tears, joy and sadness all coalescing into physical expression. 

Ayurveda and Yoga refer to this as the transformative fire of tapas, a type of alchemical expression of heat manifested and stoked by the dedication and passionate commitment of our pursuits; a type of creative incubation that allows the individual to transform and manifest new expressions of the soul.  

This is how I view the pursuit of physical training: an incendiary pathway to personal growth and self-expression. 

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Exerting Fierce Power Without Spilling a Drop of Blood

I think I might have found my new, most favorite line, in all of literature. It is from a short story called “Gordon, the Self-made Cat,” by Peter S. Beagle.

It’s the story of a mouse who asks questions. He learns that cats eat mice, and mice are meant to be eaten. Thinking this is bullshit, he sets out to become a cat. The story explores the prejudice of the cats, the fear of the mice once they’ve heard that Gordon has ostensibly become a cat — and the kind of obstacles that arise when your reputation gets passed around by people who don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

This story tackles intense themes of politics and prejudice, yet never loses its sense of wonder and curiosity. There is nothing gruesome or horrible about it. It is funny. It is charming. It is fascinating, inspiring, and at times heartbreaking. It is a master displaying his craft in a way that only he can, do deliver a message that so many of us need to hear.

Gordon does his thing, against all odds, and against all advice to the contrary. Gordon never gives up. He is always seeking the next level of mastery, and it all begins with this:

“They thought he was joking, but as soon as Gordon was old enough to go places by himself, he packed a clean shirt and some peanut butter, and started off for cat school.”

Is that not the best thing you have ever read? Our hero, armed with a clean shirt and some peanut butter.

I made that noise normally reserved for especially adorable kitten videos. I am so used to dark, cynical fiction that I forgot you can adventure, strive, suffer, and learn without ever lifting a weapon.

That line, that exact choice of necessary items at the beginning of the quest, is astounding. It’s whimsical and innocent, and also a giant FUCK YOU to a society that dictates mice must be hunted and can never amount to anything beyond their status of birth.

As if we needed more reasons to give Peter S. Beagle a giant hug and a fruit basket.

Check out the story for yourself, in text or podcast form, on Lightspeed.

Death of an Icon

David Bowie died last night. The timing was elegant, in line with his birthday, and a new album. Many feel that he took the time to say goodbye.

My feed has been blowing up with stories about him, memories involving him, and ways in which his music inspired my friends’ proudest moments. It’s extraordinary to see how many lives he’s touched, in so many incarnations, and in such a breadth of ways.

To be perfectly truthful, I don’t know much about Bowie beyond his participation in Labyrinth as the Goblin King. As I’m reading others’ memories, and I see how gutted they are, I’m reminded of Terry Pratchett’s death. Robin Williams’ death. I have never met either of those men, but I cried over their deaths as though they were blood.

We are more interconnected than we know.

When you witness the life of a magical being, remember how their death feels, and what feels lost. You have the same capacity for magic.

Use it now. Share it now.

Rain, Mud, and No-Mind

This is how I heal.

I checked the forecast late last night to see which clothes to set out for riding practice. It was going to be cold and wet.

I’ve ridden in below-freezing temperatures. I’ve seen my horse’s breath freeze on his whiskers, but I was also doing that in a dressage arena that had a roof, in a split-back coat that doubled as a blanket for both of us.

Fast-forward to today. All of my semi-waterproof coats restrict my shoulders. With a few minutes to go before on-time turned into late, I made do with a turtle neck, leather vest, and a hoodie.

The drive up was slow. The hilly ranch property had been reduced to mostly mud with a few patches of neon-green spring grass gilding the edges between the paddocks and the paths. The long boots I wear in lieu of half-chaps kept my legs mostly dry. When I went to catch my horse, the near-freezing rain stung my cheeks. My hoodie was wet from the rain, and I was already sweating under the leather.

I slip-stepped up the hill in an ankle-deep mixture of mud, piss, and manure, wondering if ancient battlefields were made of similar ooze.

The owner warned me that this is abscess season. The mud soaks into the horses’ feet and softens them, so they’re more likely to get nicked on pebbles and catch infections from the shit-and-piss mud they walk in all day. These sores are pretty painful for the horses, and to drain them the vet has to slice them open as though they were carving a pumpkin.

The weather’s tough on everyone.

The lesson went well, regardless. We rode in a smaller arena, and after working for a few minutes the cold was unnoticeable. We walked, trotted, cantered, and worked on transitions between the three. Then my instructor gave me my bow and arrows back.

There was no target. My instructor instead traced a circle in the center of the arena with her boot, and told me to aim at the ground. What I really like about this sport, and what was intimidating at first, is how readily you have to adapt to changing conditions. You have to be able to shoot ahead, to the side, and behind you. You have to be able to shoot at targets on both sides of the horse, and develop your archery skills with ambidexterity in mind. You have to be able to move your upper body (shooting) independently of your lower body (riding). You need to keep in constant communication with your horse, so neither of you get hurt.

Because we used the small arena, we could experiment a bit more. I’m starting to get the hang of turning my horse without using hands or reins at all. I’m learning how to kick my horse to keep him moving, while standing up in the stirrups. My flow for knock-draw-fire-reload still needs a lot of work.

Every detail, right down to where you hang your quiver on your belt, matters. Squeezing your shoulder blades together matters. Not squeezing with your knees matters. Maintaining equal weight in your stirrups, down through your heels (not your toes) matters. The amount of rain on your fletchings matters. Using a thumb draw rather than a Mediterranean draw matters. The way I wrapped my thumbs with hockey tape that morning matters. The fact I was still sore from a dance class that involved a lot of squats a few days prior turned out to matter quite a bit.

I was only able to cluster my shots together when I thought about the shot. I inhaled to draw, exhaled to shoot, and let my draw hand relax and flow back past my shoulder. I imagined I was on a cliff or high hill, picking off enemies far below me.

When I stopped worrying about all the details, and trusted my body to continue shooting, it became effortless. I blinked the rain out of my eyes, and forgot the cold. My feet kept the horse moving, and me stable. My arms kept the shots flowing, and my bow off my horse’s flank. I didn’t wear bracers under my sleeves, and I didn’t need them today. When I’m at a lesson, at a dojo, or in an arena, everything comes together.

All the details I had fretted over synthesized. It was much easier to keep balance and direct my horse when I was thinking about the shot, rather than form. This is how I get better, inside and out.

Breathe. Draw. Fire.

Breathe. Draw. Fire.

Take. The. Shot.

No-mind, indeed.

kyudo