The police are at the front door of the beach house to investigate a strange report.
Welcome aboard for this suspenseful interstellar journey in the third volume of The Silver Sphere Series.
Available Now on Amazon.com Worldwide
The police are at the front door of the beach house to investigate a strange report.
Welcome aboard for this suspenseful interstellar journey in the third volume of The Silver Sphere Series.
Available Now on Amazon.com Worldwide
The Explosive Conclusion to the Silver Sphere Series
Volume 3 Coming Early April
On Amazon Worldwide
An unconscious body lies on the kitchen floor. Two Daytona Police deputies are knocking on the front door of the beach house mystery writer Jacob Cassel rents. It’s going to be an interesting morning for Jacob, his super-smart girlfriend, Amy, and Arcon, an AI from the other side of the Milky Way. If they can survive the morning without being thrown in jail, they are expecting a visitor to arrive from the planet Aneleya later in the evening bearing a cornucopia of gifts for the human race. Instead of gifts, the visitor arrives with dire news about a doomsday device threatening the destruction of planet Earth and the entire solar system.
Welcome Aboard for the Suspenseful Journey
Since upgrading my music recording process from the iPhone to a professional microphone and software, I’ve started making music videos illustrated with photos from Shutterstock. This enables me to continue posting songs on my YouTube Channel.
If you are a child of the 1960’s/70’s, then you’ve probably heard of Don McLean’s memorable hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is that the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como. In a career that spanned decades, Don McLean wrote and recorded twenty-two studio albums, four live albums, and 16 singles. He is best known for his song and album of the same name, “American Pie.” It took the better part of three weeks to master this song, but I enjoyed learning it. The ballad has some beautiful riffs in it. Here is my version of McLean’s hit.
In 1964, Gordon Lightfoot wrote one of his most memorable songs: Early Morning Rain. Lightfoot, a Canadian singer-songwriter, has become a folk legend. Along with his crystal clear singing voice and accomplished guitar playing, Lightfoot has written a library of outstanding folk songs depicting historical events and all manner of love relationships.
To single out a smattering of Lightfoot’s top hits is to do the man an injustice. “Early Morning Rain” appears on his 1966 debut album, Lightfoot! Before he released the song, another Canadian duo, Ian and Sylvia, recorded it in 1964. Many other folk singing notables (Peter, Paul, and Mary) also adopted the song.
The genesis of “Early Morning Rain” can be traced to Gordon’s 1960 stay in Westlake, Los Angeles. At the time, Lightfoot became homesick for his Canadian roots. He remembers going to the Los Angeles International Airport on rainy days to watch the aircraft take-off and land. The memories of the flights launching into the overcast skies stayed with him. In 1964, while caring for his 5-month-old son, Lightfoot remembers thinking, “I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.” At that moment, “Early Morning Rain” was born.
I’ve always loved this song. Lightfoot strums it. When I heard Eva Cassidy perform the song using a picking technique, I had to learn it her way. Unfortunately, there were no guitar tutorials available. Since Eva plays “Early Morning Rain” close to her version of “Kathy’s Song,” I was able to figure out how to play EMR three-quarters of the way she does. Here’s my version.
Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success. Don’t overreach. Falling off a cliff is no fun.
Who doesn’t remember Simon and Garfunkle singing Kathy’s song? The answer is probably tons of people under the age of thirty, but who’s counting? The remarkable Paul Simon wrote Kathy’s Song. It was released in 1966 on the album Sounds of Silence. Along with the title tune, Kathy’s Song remains one of the duo’s most popular tracks. It is poetic, lyrical, and deeply moving.
Nearly thirty years later, along comes Eva Cassidy with her celestial voice and consummate guitar playing. Her version of Kathy’s song is characteristically unique and beautiful beyond words. If you like this kind of music, I urge you to listen to Eva’s version on YouTube. Eva doesn’t need an orchestra or a band to back her up. She plays and sings Kathy’s Song solo, and steals your heart away.
I’ve enjoyed learning how to play this song “Eva Style.” I found a good online tutorial by a guy who calls himself Ivor Sorefingers. Here’s my version.
Fifty years have flown by at supersonic speed. I can flash back on memories of my childhood and adolescence and remember them clearly as if they happened yesterday. I try to be present for each remaining moment. I forget. I get lost in my head. Again and again. A week slips by in a day. Does time go slower when we are young? I think it does.
How is time going by for you?
I thought Joni Mitchell wrote and popularized “Who knows Where The Time Goes.” It turns out a British folk rocker named Sandy Denny wrote the song and Judy Collins made it famous. A little research can go a long way. Here’s my version of the song based on the way the late great Eva Cassidy played it.
Science Fiction Writing Tip For Today:
“You have to be out of your mind while knowing what you’re doing most of the time.”
Volume 2 Coming Soon
In these troubling times, it seems like the world could go off a cliff at any moment.
I remember what it was like in the nineteen-sixties when we lived under the threat of nuclear devastation. Today, we live under the veil of multiple threats: COVID, cyber attacks, totalitarian regimes, Jihad, the environmental crisis and a few others topping the list. Taken together, I believe these threats have made the world a more dangerous place to live in than ever before.
Can I/we do anything about these threats? Let’s try to answer the question with some self-inquiry.
I’ve noticed on WordPress that there is a lot of blogging about the pain of life: heartbreak, lost loves, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Sure, pain is part of life, and people can relate to it. My question is: Is there something else?
The news carries stories constantly about the daily tragedies that occur around the world. Last night, for example, I was listening to a CNN report about a horrible flash flood in Germany. It’s good to know about these things, but is there something else I can focus on?
If I am a compassionate person and I listen to the suffering of others, is there someplace I can go to find peace, strength, and even, God forbid, Joy?
How many people in the world interrupt their complaining to find this place? Does it exist? Have you found it?
And finally, if I find peace within myself, will the world be a better and more peaceful place to live in?
Think about it.
Before we close, I’d like to continue the inquiry with some questions surrounding the hot topic of vaccinations.
If you don’t want to get vaccinated because the short or long-term effects are unknown, do you stand a better chance of survival if you get the more virulent COVID Delta Variant?
Did you know if the rate of Delta infections keeps rising, there is a very good chance the virus will mutate into even more virulent strains? Quite possibly, these new variants could be immune to our current vaccines.
Do you realize that not getting vaccinated puts not only you, but everyone else in the world at high risk?
If you are in good health, what is your reason(s) for choosing not to be vaccinated?
It seems I can’t end without singing you a song. Talking about the sixties, here’s one that goes back there. It’s from Steve Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, every song on this album is outstanding, except maybe the first one. Steve Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented artist.
“Back On The Street Again” is one Gillette’s best known songs. The song is about a lost love (there I go contradicting myself). It’s also about getting back up and moving on. I find the song to be touching and stirring. Maybe you will too.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
Download Your FREE Copy Today. Now Through July 11th, 2021
The Silver Sphere started out as five episodes posted intermittently on this blog. I’ve deleted the posts, re-written the story, and now it is available on AMAZON worldwide for only $1.49. Download it today and treat yourself to an engaging, fun, Science Fiction thrill ride. To whet your appetite, here’s Part One.
IT WASN’T REALLY a sphere.
I found it on the beach. Right at the water’s edge. Actually, I’m not entirely sure I found it. The sphere may have found me in some karmic sort of way. We’ll have to wait until later to sort it out because, as I will soon learn, time is in short supply.
First things first.
My name is Jacob Casell. Two days ago, I left a comfortable beach house to go out for a stroll in the middle of the night. The full moon and stars were my sole companions. I needed to think about the ending of my latest novel. I found the water and the salt air helped to stimulate my creative thinking.
The night was clear. I splashed my feet in the tips of the tides. I
felt the crisp ocean breeze ruffling my longish hair as if it were saying, tell me your story. Before I could answer, I almost tripped and fell. A thing about the size of a basketball rocked gently in the water at my feet. I had the distinct feeling it was looking up at me, even though it had no discernable eyes.
The thing at my feet was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye. Not a human one, at least.
As I examined it, the sphere began to pulsate. I stepped a few feet away. The sphere flashed on and off like a strobe light. I wondered if the damn thing was about to explode. Suddenly, the sphere stopped strobing. Then, it spoke to me. A voice inside my head spoke in stilted English.
“Do not be alarmed,” the thing said. “The lighting effect was me
reanimating my systems. No sense wasting energy while I was waiting for you to happen along. You certainly took your time, didn’t you? And, by the way, I’m not a ‘thing.’ I am a highly evolved organism. You can think of me as artificial intelligence. I am actually much more than an AI, but your mind is not capable of conceiving what I truly am.”
I drew back a few more steps thinking, I must be dreaming. This can’t be happening.
“For a man who writes novels, you display little imagination,” the sphere said.
I felt strangely comfortable speaking to the machine, as if speaking to a telepathic silver sphere was as everyday an occurrence as eating a tub of macaroni and cheese for dinner.
“How do you know I’m a writer?” I said out loud. I wasn’t in the habit of communicating telepathically, after all.
“I’ve absorbed quite a bit of information about you in the short time we’ve been together.”
“I’m not sure I like that.” I didn’t say it out loud this time. I thought it.
“It doesn’t matter if you like it or not.”
“It matters to me.”
It seemed like the machine was surprised by my response and needed time to process it. I pushed the advantage. “It sounds like you were expecting me.”
“I was expecting someone. I suppose you’ll do.”
“Uh huh. Do you have a name?”
“You can call me Arcon. A-R-C-O-N.”
“Got it. I suppose you came here from some far distant solar system?”
“Next you will ask me: ‘do I come in peace?’”
“The answer is yes and no. I’m not here to hurt anyone, but there will be worldwide chaos if news of my mission leaks out.”
“That sounds ominous.”
“It’s nothing compared to what will happen if you don’t help me to complete my mission.”
“Since you appear to know everything about me, you must realize that I’m not at liberty to help you. I’m past my deadline for turning in the final draft of a manuscript. My editor calls to scream at me daily.”
“There is a much bigger picture here than your manuscript. I’ll dispense with the formalities and call you by your first name which, naturally, I’ve learned without your help. I’m getting cold and tired of soaking in this sea water, Jacob. Please take me back to the beach house your wealthy friend has lent you.”
“But I just told you—”
“Pick me up, Jacob. If I miss my deadline, you won’t have to worry about yours.”
This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.
Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.
He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.
He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.
The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.
“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”
“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.
“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”
Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.
The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.
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I see a woman shopping in a shoe department.
She is long and lean, quite beautiful
and unmindful of my lustful stare.
She is like so many women men like me desire.
I am a fool, of course.
What I want can never be satisfied by any woman.
Even the most beautiful woman in the world cannot quench the flame that burns within me.
The joys and sorrows of my relationships come and go like passing clouds. I need them, but…
I often forget what I truly want: You, my beloved.
Beyond the fantasies and small desires
conjured by a deceitful magician. Mind brandishes multi-colored shrouds in a deft attempt to lure me away from where You reside.
Your palace is more luxurious, more enchanting
than any abode the world has to offer.
Beyond the boundaries I call myself.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of You.
A flawless diamond.
Too beautiful for these outer eyes to see.
More precious than a hundred Spanish treasure ships.
Waiting to be discovered.
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.”
*On the album, Alison Krause sings harmony on the song.
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.”
Here’s my version of “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.
Here is my cover of “See Here She Said.”
“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.
Photo by Vlada Karpovitch on Pexels
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.
If I am empty, what is there to give? If I’m in pieces, what kind of love can I feel for the other?
Living from a whole and complete foundation is the way to live.
Giving from a connected place has power. Living from a connected place has power.
Now, it’s time to become connected.
Not just once in a while.
Not in and out.
Let’s do it.
I’m not sure, but, what else is there left to do?
Except to finish the job.
“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.
*Excerpt from an article written by Kasper Nijsen
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.*
I wonder what secrets they keep.
The moon paints the leaves with a blood-red stain.
If I go in there, will I come out again?
Do thirsty vampires await?
Are the seductive voices I hear bait?
A ravishing woman appears from out of the air.
A second ago, there was no one there.
Her slender fingers with crimson tips beckon me.
She leans casually in a flowing negligee against a tree.
I have never witnessed such radiance before.
Her flaming red hair and porcelain skin are features to adore.
My senses awaken with overpowering lust.
She tells me her name, Melinda, and asks for my trust.
Can I believe my eyes or Melinda herself?
She stares at me confidently, embodying love itself.
What lies beneath such perfection?
To Melinda, am I just a confection?
My mind tells me these images are wisps of smoke.
In my heart the hellish fires of desire are stoked.
My right foot steps forward all on its own.
In the windswept fields of my soul, the seeds of madness are sown.
*Excerpt from the Robert Frost poem “Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening.”
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.
On a rainy day there is no place to go
To a safer place
To a better place
A place where I can spend days basking in meditation
Soaring close to the Heart Sun
Inevitably, I must arise and live in the world
Where the only way to move forward is to take a leap
Into the deep unknown
Into who knows what
I don’t want to jump
I’m not looking for trouble
Or more suffering
But walking in weary circles leads to “nowheresville”
As my Dad used to say
And holding on doesn’t work
So, a path cluttered with dried leaves is unveiled
Beckoning me towards a seemingly un-crossable crossroad
A paradox or a dilemma
The wise ones say, “Be who you are where you are”
Really? What if that place is constantly under water?
Unless I do something
Like making lemonade from demon lemons
I want to feel real love
I want to feel real peace
I want to feel real joy
If I take the leap
Will I find these delights?
Within reasonable bounds (if reason is necessary)
And so, I am pushed by unseen forces
To the edge of a cliff
Where I must decide
“The path forward may sometimes be unclear. And it may be messy. But the shared heart is calling, and we have an opportunity to make lasting shifts toward love and justice in our world.”
Kristi Nelson/Executive Director of Gratefulness.org
These days are unbelievable. And horrific. And wonderful.
Let’s forget about current events for a few moments. Let’s listen, instead, to some music by a singer/songwriter I admire.
“These Days” is a song by Jackson Browne. He wrote it when he was sixteen. He still performs it today many years later. Brown’s music is lyrical. He is a consummate guitarist and performer.
Please enjoy my version of this hauntingly beautiful song. Focus on the music. Ignore my facial expressions. The old bones are losing the war on multiple fronts. I’m playing this 75% the way JB does.
When the man carrying a sign walked by my car at the intersection of I-95 and Broward Boulevard, I did not thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t him.
Instead, I wondered: How did he get this way?
Certainly, I figured, he’s had some bad breaks. Even more certainly, I was sure, he put himself where he stood, begging, with a sign that reads:
“War Vet. Homeless. Anything Helps.”
I didn’t ask his name. To give him a face, let’s call him Richard.
Richard, a young man with empty eyes, too young to be homeless, has left himself adrift with nothing to fall back on.
In the same way we are leaving ourselves adrift.
With our addictions to old habits.
The worst of which is an addiction to fossil fuels.
Heating up the planet.
Swelling the oceans.
Killing plants and animals.
Causing droughts and disease.
2020 was the hottest year recorded in human history.
Where are the headlines screaming: We Can’t Keep Doing This!
Where are the leaders imploring us to come up with solutions.
“We’re working on it,” they say.
“It’s a hoax,” some of them say. “What’s good for business is good for us.”
Idiocy. Short-sightedness. Laziness.
We are lagging too far behind.
At the rate we are going, we will soon be homeless.
Just like Richard.
Then, we will wonder:
How did we get this way?
From my terrace
I can see the sun through the clouds.
Is there another choice?
There are always choices.
I can only see the clouds.
I can see my life through a glass darkly.
And be enmeshed in shades of black and gray.
I can see the sun through the clouds.
I can revel in my time.
Until there is no more.
I can see the clouds and the sun.
I can see life in all of its glorious colors.
Along with the grays and the blacks.
The clouds will be there.
So will the sun.
I can choose to be a lamp unto myself.
I can choose to submit to the darkness.
I can choose not to choose.
There will be darkness.
There will be light.
I can prance.
I choose to prance.
(More like play at every chance).
What is your choice?
Photo by David Gittlin
Pencils on their own are dumb creatures.
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.
Now, then. What is your desire?
Is there a meaning to life?
Some say yes.
Some say no.
Some say, “I’m not so sure.”
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.
How about you?
Night time at sea.
No land in sight.
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 myself first.
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.”
It’s down to you and me.
I’ve been avoiding it, but it had to come.
Sooner or later.
Starting out as a drip, drip drip.
Blossoming into a thundering torrent of voices.
Voices inside of me.
Voices outside of me.
I have to stop listening to the outside voices.
I am the only one who can take it from here.
I have a singular path.
Lit by a glimmering light source.
One step at a time.
I must walk alone.
With no guide posts.
Listening only to whispers.
Hints, if you will.
I wish I knew.
I only know I have to go there.
Or die of an empty heart in a grave of my own yearning.
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.
When you finally grasp, at the core of your being, that “what you seek is already inside of you,” then your inner peace, love, joy and fulfillment begin to truly blossom.
Then, you can begin to enjoy every aspect of your life. You don’t have to become a monk. You don’t have to wear a chastity belt. You can be “you” more fully, more expressively, and more powerfully.
When you know all of yourself, then you will be at peace with yourself and the rest of the world. And, when you find your inner treasure, then you will have something of real value to give to others.