I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.
I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *
In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”
Born in San Francisco, Kate Wolf started her musical career in the band Wildwood Flower before recording ten records as a solo artist. Her songs have since been recorded by famous artists such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. “Poet’s Heart,” recorded in 1985, is the last album Kate released before her untimely death at the age of forty-four. During her life, Wolf’s music was not widely known beyond the borders of her home state of California. Over the years, Kate has attracted a broader audience of millions who appreciate her beautiful voice, poetic song lyrics, and guitar/piano artistry. “Poet’s Heart” features several songs which have touched me deeply such as, “Slender Thread,” “Brother Warrior,” and the title song, “Poet’s Heart.”
What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.
I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.
I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button. Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.
I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.
Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.
As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself.
The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads. Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married. I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.
“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.
“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.
I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.
“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.
“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”
“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy-set, dressed in a brownish green striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.
I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”
The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.
“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.
“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”
Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.
“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”
I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”
I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”
“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”
“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”
“That’s about the size of it,” Kendal confirms.
I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”
“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”
I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?
I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.
I try again. Still nothing.
“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.
“So now what?”
“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”
“You’re kidding. Right?
“Afraid not, Saul.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”
“On what grounds?”
Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology better than you would have used it.”
Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodbye. “Have some fun,” Kendall says. “You’re an inventive guy.”
“Don’t leave. Please.”
“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.
Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.
Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.
“The time that’s left is yours to keep.” These words come at the end of the chorus in the song “See Here She Says” by Kate Wolf.
While I find all of the lyrics in this song beautiful, this sentence hit me smack dab in the heart. I can picture a mother teaching a child about life. She is telling the child about the importance of dreams, and to use his or her time wisely. Use it well, not only for yourself, but also for others.
Certainly, love, beauty, and a full range of human emotions come through Kate Wolf’s music. Perhaps I can feel her heart even more, now that she has passed into spirit.
“Lay me Down Easy” is technically a blues song. To me, the song sounds upbeat with a whisper of the blues in the background. And there’s definitely an element of wry humor in the mix. Maybe “bitter sweet” is a better description of “Lay Me Down Easy.”
I’ve been playing many of Kate Wolf’s songs lately. The beauty of Kate’s music steals its way into my heart the more I listen to one of her songs. As illustrated by the photos, I’m feeling the joy and the love in the song more than the backdrop of the blues. Listen, and let me know how you receive it.
I first heard “Cornflower Blue” as the opening song on Kate Wolf’s 1983 double album “Give Yourself to Love.” As I listened to the album many times over, “Cornflower Blue” grew on me (no pun intended). I began to appreciate the exquisite beauty in the lyrics and in Kate’s lovely singing voice. I especially like the last verse of the song which goes:
“Cornflower Blue, deeper than the evening sky. Peaceful as a river. Bluer than goodbye. Blue like a diamond, when the light shine true. If love came in colors, I’d choose this one for you.”
Isn’t it, you know, beautiful?
Oftentimes, songs like this one will find their way into my heart and I feel compelled to play them myself. With this song, I had my doubts. The chances were good that I might not pull it off. Learning how to play “Cornflower Blue” like Kate does was like learning how to walk again. The style is completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to, but I’m glad I made the effort. I hope my cover of the song conveys some of the mystery and beauty of the original.
“With a voice that has all the sweetness of a California morning and the loneliness of the sea beating against its rocky shores, it’s a mystery why Kate Wolf went unnoticed for so long. Listening to her songs, you never feel like you’re hearing studio recordings made many years ago. Instead, it feels like the singer’s sitting next to you, picking a guitar and telling stories near to her heart. With just a few words, Kate Wolf creates a great sense of intimacy.”*
Certain songs speak to me. Kate Wolf’s “The Trumpet Vine” is one of them. It typifies the aching beauty of her music. Here’s my cover of the song.
I thought I had reached the end of the road. In one sense, I had. After spending almost thirty-five years with one spiritual teacher, it finally became painfully and everlastingly clear that I had to find another way to go. It became a matter of spiritual life or death.
I had been studying drama and fiction writing. Like a standard movie plot, I had reached the “all is lost moment” in the middle of the third act. Allow me to explain.
I come from a large extended family. I have a few good friends, but I never had to go far when it came to my direction in life and people to turn to for good advice. My father and my uncle provided everything I needed in terms of my physical survival, and I had found my own way to satisfy my spiritual needs. Spiritually, I traveled an unorthodox path, but I was able to integrate it into my conventional lifestyle. I’m not the type to live in a commune or an ashram, and I never discussed my spiritual life with my parents and extended family.
And then things changed. Life moved on, as it inevitably does. In my late fifties, the only close family relationships I had left were my wife and my daughter. With no spiritual community to turn to, I felt terribly alone, rootless, and achingly lost. I felt myself sinking into an abyss of despair.
At this point in 2013, I found Saniel and Linda Bonder through a local Meetup Group in Miami, Florida. I had been actively searching for the next step, but nothing had clicked, and then it did.
The leader of the Miami Meetup group encouraged me to attend a weekend retreat with Saniel and Linda at a private home in the Atlanta suburbs. At the last minute, I decided to go.
The teaching and the experience I had been following involved a long-distance relationship with a teacher who appeared periodically in Miami amid thousands of people. In the local groups, we watched videos of the teacher appearing at events around the world. I never felt I had much in common socially with any of the local practitioners, except one very good friend who I still have lunch with regularly. And the teaching was a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. I wanted something more personal. I wanted something deeper and more intellectually comprehensive. And I wanted the chance to awaken now, not in some distant future if I jumped through all the right hoops.
At the retreat in Atlanta, I sat next to Saniel’s wife, Linda Bonder. The first thing she did was offer me her hand to hold. I suppose she intuited that I was nervous. I was amazed at Linda’s act of kindness. I felt at home with the audience of twenty practitioners seated in an intimate circle in the lovely living room. Saniel came into the room to start the meeting. He took a seat less than twenty feet away from me. This was the kind of personal touch I was looking for, and the transmission of peace/love was powerful in the room.
I learned that many of the people at the retreat had experienced their awakening to consciousness. They were working towards stabilizing and embodying their individual awakenings. I learned that the Trillium Awakening Path is a completely individual process with constant support available from teachers and fellow students. The process does not center on a Guru. It centers on the individual. It is an awakening within community where each person learns to grasp the means to their own realization. Hundreds of people in the community have awakened.
I am deeply grateful that Trillium Awakening exists. I feel that I am holding and being held by the others. I feel personally seen and met. I am deeply committed to the process and the community. Recently, the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle has created a program of online events to enable anyone interested to participate in daily gazing, meditations, mutuality circles, mini-seminars and weekend retreats.
After eight years of participation in Trillium, I am significantly more rooted in myself and the community. I lead a normal life pursuing multiple interests and avenues of self-expression. There is nothing I have to conform to in Trillium. I am becoming more and more my true, authentic self within the Trillium Community and in my everyday life. Feelings of peace, love and joy dance in my heart intermittently throughout my day.
I’m fortunate to have found this next step. When the river bed is dry, the rain falls, and fresh water flows, once again.
Put them in the hands of children, and they are apt to draw Moms and Dads, third-grade teachers, tulips, and dragons.
Pencils in the hands of adults are apt to write brilliant plays or novels.
The work of Robert Ludlam and Lee Child comes to mind.
In adult hands, pencils are also useful for solving complex mathematical problems.
Or sketching landscapes, faces, and naked bodies.
Or drawing just about anything, like plans for an invention to wash, dry, and put away a month’s worth of dirty dishes.
What if pencils came with the option of connecting to a vast reservoir of primeval energy?
In order to make your dreams come true?
How does it Work?
First, you’ll need a supercharged pencil at a cost of three-million-five-hundred-sixty thousand dollars for the special writing implement. Then, you’ll have to cough up another one-million-seven-hundred-fifty-three thousand dollars for the one-time primeval energy hookup.
The primeval energy bubbles and bursts somewhere deep in the bowels of the Earth. The exact location is kept under wraps for the sake of National Security.
Visually, I’m told by confidential sources, the energy resembles molten lava amped up on mild steroids.
The connection to the energy is wireless.
The special pencil allows the user to manifest (bring to life in three dimensions) anything the operator’s heart desires.
If you are thinking: where do I get one? please be advised that the item is backordered well into the next century.
And you must pass a battery of exhausting psychological tests to have the privilege of placing an order.
Due to the long lead times required to process many of the orders, the manufacturer assumes science will develop the technology to extend human life spans and thereby delivery dates.
If science fails to adequately extend human life spans, or if a purchaser tires of his or her two-century life, then the buyer will have the right to bequeath the order to a qualified heir.
If you lack the patience or funding, then try making your dreams come true the old- fashioned way.
Some say, “WTF. I give up. I don’t care about it anymore.”
Some may be fortunate enough to have the meaning they seek fall down on their heads like summer rain. As it is said, “Seek and ye shall find.”
Then, there are those who make their own meaning. They refuse to “surrender,” as so many religious pundits counsel them to do.
Instead, these intrepid souls stand up and refuse to be shredded by the unkind cuts of life.
They make their own meaning. They have the courage, the confidence, the motivation, the talent, and the perseverance to make it happen.
Above all else, I believe motivation and the intelligence to use talent wisely are the most important qualities for making a beneficial impact personally and inter-personally.
Talent without the requisite qualities to use it beneficially is a waste. We’ve seen too many examples in the media of people who can’t handle their talent. Who think it’s a curse rather than a gift. Who take their talent for granted. Who don’t accept the responsibility that comes with the gift.
Where am I going with this?
I’m simply making meaning in my own little way.
Through the haze and uncertainty of these hard times.
The ocean is calm. It speaks to the pale moon in glittering reflections that please the silent orb.
A giant freighter laden with shipping containers sails through the reflected light, trudging on its way to ports unknown.
All is well until…
A violent storm arrives, unexpected and unannounced.
The sea is perplexed.
The moon remains silent, unemotional, and mysterious.
The storm spews banshee winds and battering rain.
“How dare you disturb my tranquility,” says the sea to the storm.
“You have no governance over me,” says the storm.
“No governance? I am your Lord and Master. You obey me. I do not tolerate insolence. Be gone, and do not return, unless I ask you to.”
The heavens explode with lightning and raucous thunder.
To the sea, the thunder sounds like haughty peals of laughter.
“Renegade! You flaunt the laws of nature.”
In protest, the sea conjures up twenty foot waves.
The furious waves boil, rise, and crash back down to the surface of the sea.
Looking on, the full moon remains aloof, wrapped in shrouds of gray mist.
A wave jerks the massive freighter upwards at a seventy-degree angle. When the wave rolls on, the ship smashes down as if an Olympic weightlifter had dropped it to the floor, thundering, after a six-hundred-pound overhead lift.
“I’m sorry for your troubles,” the sea says to the freighter. It will take me a while to control this storm. Until then, you will have to abandon your cargo if you want to survive.”
“My hull is impregnable. This puny storm is no match for my sturdy strength. I will shake off this weather like a dog shakes off water after a bath.”
“You will drown if you don’t listen,” the sea answers. “I can’t allow this impudent storm to do as it pleases.”
The freighter deigns not to answer. It lumbers along stubbornly, until it is lifted precipitously by another wave, and battered cruelly by howling gusts of wind and driving rain.
“Arrogance. Idiocy. Rebelliousness. Will it ever end?”
“I am the sea. Ageless. Alive since this planet’s birth. And yet, I must suffer fools, it seems, until the end of time, which may come, alas, much sooner than expected.”
I’m taking a ten-week online course about awakening to consciousness. One of the teachers in the course made some statements in a video about money and happiness that irritated me to the bone.
The teacher said, in effect, that the pursuit of happiness and money in our culture is the cause of many of the problems we are experiencing today. He also said our pursuit of happiness and money doesn’t work, and that we are undergoing a “paradigm shift in consciousness,” presumably to something better. He went on to indicate that the pursuit of happiness is not one of our primary drives. He said it is something that our culture has conditioned us to do. I thought my earbuds had malfunctioned when I heard this.
Because these statements are broad, they open the door to misinterpretation. I may have misunderstood what this fellow was saying, but the statements moved me to bring up a few points.
This teacher may be talking about the way we seek money and happiness, and there is a certain truth to this. But I also picked up from the discourse a bias against the acquisition of wealth and our traditional pursuits of pleasure.
It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness when we are breaking new ground.
While we can always do better, we have to use discretion in the ways that we effect change in ourselves and the world around us. Positive change is gradual. We don’t want to drive off a cliff and explode in a ball of flames. We want to be careful not to “throw the baby away with the bath water.”
We all need pleasure. We all need love. We all need happiness and, dare I say it, joy. We need them as much as food, shelter and clothing. And there is nothing wrong with having all of these things, not just marginally, but amply, in any pursuit, including awakening to consciousness.
I’m sure, at least in myself, that the search for happiness is my primary drive. The big “shift” came when my experiences as a young man taught me to look for happiness within myselffirst.
If I am happy and fulfilled within myself, then I will have something worthwhile to share with others. It may be that I can’t grasp and hold onto happiness, but I can surely point myself in the direction of experiencing more feelings of joy, peace, and love which, in my book, are foundational to well-being.
This teacher also makes a point that money does not provide security, peace of mind, or happiness. While it is true that money alone cannot provide these things, I am certain that a solid financial base contributes substantially to our individual and collective health and well-being. Not having enough money is a distraction. If I have to constantly worry about where my next meal is coming from, or the roof over my head, or having enough clothing to wear, there will be little or no time left for achieving anything besides survival goals.
And the sad truth is that most people in this world today are financially vulnerable to the point of distraction. With the added burdens of the pandemic, our survival needs are more than a distraction. We are faced with the threat of severe illness and death every day. Life was hard enough before the pandemic hit. It’s nearly impossible for many of us now.
However, if we take the pandemic out of the picture, and, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, our economic problems don’t stem from our democratic government, our culture, or any other external factors. As Shakespeare’s Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
We have the freedom to choose what we do with our lives. If our opportunities for economic advancement are limited, we have the power to change those conditions.
We all have resistances in our bodies and minds to the realization of personal happiness. With the application of intelligent free will, we can overcome these barriers.
Having enough money is a blessing. It is a resource that enables us to feed and protect our families, to have a semblance of peace of mind, to achieve higher goals, and to help others.
I’ve managed my life so that I am free to pursue higher evolutionary goals. I am not a slave to anybody or anything. I am relatively free. I’m certainly not free in the sense that the Buddha was free. But I’m free enough to operate in the way that I want to operate. If I screw up, it’s on me.
I’ve seen too many broke and unhappy “spiritual seekers.” They use their spiritual quest as a haven for their failures in life. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s a cop-out.
Whether or not we are actively pursuing an awakening to consciousness, there is nothing wrong with striving for happiness. Happiness is a choice and an attitude. It doesn’t fall down from the sky into our lap. It’s a constant learning process. It can be extremely tricky. It can be very simple. It requires discretion. It can be a struggle. There is only one obstacle that can prevent us from realizing our vision of happiness. That obstacle is ourselves.
If we are on any consciously intentional path to awakening, there is nothing wrong with striving to attain financial security. We only have to know how to use money for our own betterment, and the betterment of mankind.
There is nothing to hold us back from achieving our goals besides the worn out saying that goes: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”
There are things in this world that promise satisfaction, and we launch into the quest to have these things thinking: “Wow, if I had that, I’d be happy. I’d be fulfilled.”
What we actually find is the dream turns into eventual disappointment. Because the gratification that accrues with the attainment or acquisition of something outside of ourselves vanishes, as if it were never there to begin with.
But if you were to find what you truly needed, then your satisfaction would remain and increase over time.
Because this particular satisfaction evolves. Your understanding of it deepens. Your experience of it intensifies.