PAST RAMBLINGS - 17
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
April 1, 2005   -to-   Present
 

Michael Tomlinson - Past Ramblings
Ramblings 1
3/13/99 - 7/11/99
Ramblings 2
7/27/99 - 1/8/00
Ramblings 3
3/6/00  - 8/7/00
Ramblings 4
9/18/00 -  11/19/00
Ramblings 5
12/17/00 - 4/10/01
Ramblings 6
5/9/01 - 6/25/01
Ramblings 7
07/23/01 - 10/07/01
Ramblings 8
10/19/01 - 2/18/02
Ramblings 9
3/22/02 - 8/5/02
Ramblings 10
8/27/02-12/22/02
Ramblings 11
1/24/03 to 5/31/03
Ramblings 12
7/18/03 to 12/24/03
Ramblings 13
1/11/04 to 5/28/04
Ramblings 14
7/03/04 to 10/1/04
Ramblings 15
11/03/04 to 2/22/05
Ramblings 16
4/01/05 to 7/1/05
Ramblings 17
08/21/05 - 11/16/05
Ramblings 18
12/20/05 to 6/11/06
Ramblings 19
07/19/06 to 11/13/06
Ramblings 20
12/02/06 to 4/2/07
Ramblings 21
5/21/07 to 9/4/07
Ramblings 22
11/9/07 to 3/1/2008
Ramblings 23
5/16/08 to 11/8/08
Ramblings 24
12/11/08 to 09/06/09
Ramblings 25
11/01/09 to
10/21/2010
Ramblings 26
5/10/10 to
12/4/2010
Ramblings 27
4/01/11 to
10/1/11
Ramblings 28
2/1/12 - Fall 2012
Ramblings 29
Spring 2013 - Present
 
 
August 21, 2005
Howdy, my watermelon seed-spittin' friends,

If you live anywhere in the country but here, I'll bet you're a sweaty mess about now; half-crazed by the sun, hunkered over a bag of ice and shoving coins in the air conditioner as fast as it'll take 'em. Here in Seattle though, it's a comfy 78-degrees and I'm trying to decide if I might need a sweater later. I am however, feeling a little anxious because it's a very big day for me. You see, this is the first time I've dared venture inside the hallowed halls of the coffee shop I used to frequent; spending hours gazing out the window at Greenlake while working on my book. Well, mostly just gazing, I guess. The damn place went out of bidnis last New Year's Eve and left me flappin' in the breeze. I know what you're thinking; Hey, it's Seattle, there must be a dozen more coffee shops within a block. True enough, but still, I haven't been able to find a suitable replacement - and my book writing has suffered terribly. (Would you believe almost every chapter ends in a clod fight? - can that be right?)

I should be able to settle just about anywhere and turn out inspired prose but the truth is that I require a certain atmosphere if I want my best work to bubble forth. For instance; I needs me a roomy coffee shop with free cookie samples and ample acreage in which to relax and spraddle; I require a table at the window with a wall outlet for my tanning lamp and foot spa and a chair that can support my ass without squeezing it like a muffin cup. I don't really care what the coffee tastes like but the place must have a nice soy-chai latte and a shady place in front to park so I can watch my little dawg bark like a little maniac. That's a lot to ask, I know, but it's the way it is.

Imagine my surprise when only an hour ago I discovered that, after 8 months of sitting cruelly vacant, my beloved writing abode of yore has suddenly become occupied by another coffee bidnis! Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout! For months I'd feared the worst and had assumed - this being Seattle and all - that it would be turned into one more shiny real estate empire or, only slightly better, a pet tattoo parlor.

Excited as all git-out, I made a wild, squealing U-turn right there in the middle of Greenlake Way and sped back home to fetch my laptop. Normally, I do not speed on neighborhood streets or cut across parks and playgrounds, but I just couldn't help myself today.

I hurried back to the coffee shop, parked illegally (one wheel up on the sidewalk - bumper just slightly nudging a fire hydrant), then dashed inside and placed my iBook on a table. Ahhhhh, home at last! I'd never imagined that I would get my same old beloved table back. I inhaled a deep breath, held it for a minute as I centered myself, then walked over to the counter and blasted out a bellyful of carbon dioxide. (when all the goodies is gone, I'm through with it) The cashier wobbled backwards at the gust and looked shell-shocked. I stood there a little out of whack myself, grinning, wavering for a moment as I tried to recall what I'd been about to do. Oh yes! With the calm equanimity only a bloodstream coursing with perky oxygen bubbles can elicit, I crossed my fingers and toes and ordered a tall glass of iced-tea. (I wear my boots extra-large so I can cross my toes when I need to)

My eyes raked the wall menu - which was vast and confusing; I couldn't find the drink-size delineation. Every danged restaurant these days is different; what the heck did they call their largest drinks? "vienti"? "grande"? "whoppin'"? "big ol' spankin'"? I finally just told her what was on my mind; "Shay, could I have your most humongous, thirsht quenchin' iced tea?" Uh-oh. Would they even have iced tea? Yes! The girl seemed suddenly familiar with the beverage and turned immediately to the task of preparing it.

Dilemma number two; would they have a goodly sized container for it? Or would this be one of those restaurants that serves iced tea in a stingy little juice glass and calls it a Grande? Now listen to me real good, podnas; my little barrista guys and gals; it's summertime. On a scorching-hot summer day a man stumbles in out of the heat and orders iced tea for one reason and one reason only: because he needs to guzzle a mighty volume o' something extremely refreshing and cold. I ran four miles today and it is vitally important that I be able to place a drink order and know with certainty that an immense vessel of something icy and invigorating is headed my way. (NOT a frozen suppository!)

I waited anxiously to see what the girl behind the counter would reveal and then . . . and then. . .  Wheeeeee! Boy Howdy! I jumped up and down. It was a big ol' monster of a cup filled to the brim with clinkin' iced tea! Man oh man! It brought back memories of my childhood in dusty ol' Amarillo, drinking pitcher-after-pitcher of the stuff when my mom wasn't looking. She never let me have much because she claimed I'd have kidneys withered to the size of raisins by the time I was grown. I proved her wrong though; that dang Lipton's was responsible in great part for the well-rounded and jolly individual I've turned out to be. (though it is true that I pee 43 times a day)

Of course, I've only just sat down with my barrel o' tea and will have to wait until these ten packets of sugar dissolve, but I can tell you already thangs is lookin' up for my next chapter. I have a feeling I may finally be able to move on from rowdy clod fights to some of the more gentle and passionate aspects of love making.

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Once again Bungee pulls
a weak swimmer from the waves

Speaking of scorching summer days, I've been spending the hottest afternoons taking a dip in Lake Washington. I know a little cove where there are surprisingly few people and I take my little dawg down there and jump in for a swim in the heat of the day. Bungee is less likely to jump in, prefering instead to watch me from the shore with all the alertness of someone who sees her meal ticket bobbing around in the waves, slipping farther and farther from the next scheduled dinnertime. After a bit of swimming/floating/paddling/farting in the water, I stroke back to shore, then snatch my reluctant little pooch and take her out for swim.

She's a beautiful sight really, a natural swimmer since she was just a pup. When she was only a year old I'd be out at the Snoqualmie River with my girlfriend, MaryBeth - who was Bungee's original host. (Maltese prefer that you refer to yourself as a "host" and not a dog "owner") I'd swim out into the brisk current and when I'd look back, MaryBeth would be giggling, coaxing Bungee out into the river to get me. To both our astonishment, that wily little little pooch would swim right out to the deepest part of the river to meet me. There was only one problem with this: once she reached me she expected me to hold her. So I'd be paddling hard with one hand and holding my little pooch in the air with the other. MaryBeth would be bent over slobbering, stumbling around in her flip-flops on river rocks and trying to run away as I struggled to catch her and give her just the sort of punishment a girl with a soggy dawg and a little orange bikini deserves.


I hit the mother lode.
My whole face was purple.

Well, back to yesterday. When you come out of cool lake water on a hot summer day, what is the first thing you think of? (no, not that you already think of that all day) What you think of is how hungry you suddenly are. Lucky for me, the shoreline is tangled with thickets of heavily laden blackberry bushes and this is August, my little dog-paddlin' friends. Bungee found a spot of sun to sit in and shiver while I slipped on my sandals and began browsing. I'm telling you my Koolaid-guzzlin' pals, there is nothing like eating sun-warmed blackberries on a hot August afternoon after a cool swim in the lake. Within minutes I had purplish-stained hands and wrists and tongue - and bloody shins; them are some spiky vines - but worth it.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A couple of weeks ago my friend Lisa invited me to go flying over the San Juan Islands with her small son and her husband, Regis. Not having kids myself, I'm always awed by the number of items a family must haul everywhere they go. Regis and I were loaded down with half-a-dozen bags and some sort of a contraption that looked like an off-road stroller. We lugged it all across the hot tarmac to the plane and gratefully dropped it on the ground, sweating and wheezing at the task. Suddenly, I heard a low, guttural sound of excruciating pain - the likes of which I'll never forget. I swung my head around just in time to see Regis freeze into what appeared to be a pose of terror, but which turned out to be only one of sheer rage. There is something blood chilling about the look on a man's face who is standing at the door of the cockpit with his arm outstretched, key in hand, when he realizes that he is holding not the airplane key; not the very key to the plane he's just spent an hour driving to; but instead, a key to the garden shed back home. Let's just say that the first word out of Regis' mouth wasn't firetruck! Though you could certainly use those letters to spell his exclamation and have a few left over.

There really are people who forget their airplane keys like you or I might forget, say, the salad dressing when we buy groceries. But you really shouldn't kick a $500,000 airplane or beat it about the wings with a child's stroller. These are things both Regis and I were on the verge of doing. Luckily, we're men just starting to mature and we were able to foresee that destroying an expensive aircraft belonging to someone else would only make the rest of the day - and possibly lifetime - more unpleasant.


Regis broke out of his black mood and serendipitously recalled that the person who was lending us the airplane had another perfectly good plane in a nearby hangar that we could borrow. Two in fact. Really? You have a friend who has several airplanes you can borrow any time you like?! That's just wrong, I thought to myself.


Regis steals a floatplane
while I stand around whistling

We reached the hangar and Regis began preparing the second plane - which was a float plane. Oh. I guess he didn't think to mention that we'd need to land in the ocean. No big deal. I can hold my breath for hours if I have to. Then he showed me little rollers on the bottom of the pontoons. Oh. We rolled the plane outside and were about to taxi to the runway when the plane's rightful owner just happened to drive up. He looked . . . well, sort of surprised. I felt like I'd been caught stealing something a little more expensive than watermelons and wasn't sure how to act. I didn't know what to do with my hands. Uh, I'll just stand here and act like I wasn't just now pushing some stranger's airplane away from his hangar, I thought.


a little place I hope to acquire
after you buy a few more CDs

Regis explained the situation and the owner held up his hand. I ducked, thinking he was going to slap us for "borrowing" his float plane. But he was simply telling us to hold up a minute. He walked over and reached under a table, felt around for a second, then pulled out a key taped to the underside. "Ah! Here's the extra key." Alrighty then! Now we get to push the float plane back into place, navigate the maze of roads, haul the stroller and bags back to the same damn plane we were going to take in the first place. We eventually got up in the air and flew to Boeing Field to pick up Lisa and Aidenn and were finally off on our early morning journey - which was commencing sometime around noon. I hadn't flown in a small plane in over a decade and the view was breathtaking.

We had lunch at Bilbo's on Orcas Island and I felt somewhat like I was cheating; like it wasn't quite right that I hadn't had to drive an hour and a-half to Anacortes, wait in a two-hour ferry line and take another hour's ferry cruise to get to my favorite island. I had flier's remorse I guess you could say, but I got over it quickly when I saw those magnificent islands from the air.

We landed on San Juan Island and walked the quarter mile to Roach Harbor, where hundreds of boats were moored and people apparently without jobs were spending a leisurely afternoon wandering the docks and cafes. It was like stepping into another world and it brought back memories of a day MaryBeth and I had spent there back in the 90s. It's rare that you can see a place twice, ten years apart and find it almost identical. That's one of the things I most love about the San Juan Islands; they change so very slowly compared to the rest of the world.

 

On our way back to Seattle, Regis flew over Bellingham and looped around Mt. Baker, flying as close to a mountain as I'd been since I flew from Juneau to Glacier Bay twenty years ago. In my mind I had cried and screamed and begged the pilot to land. But of course, he never heard any of this because I held it all in and suffered in silence. It's taken me years to recover and I was worried I'd lose it completely this time. But there was no way I was gonna cry if Aidenn didn't.

  
Aidenn keeps his cool - thereby forcing me to do the same

      I recently rediscovered this canvas chair that you hang from a hook - it's called a Sky Chair - and it had been stowed away in my garage for several years. I untangled the ropes and hung it from a branch in a shady tree in my front yard. That night I returned home around midnight from a party thirty miles away - leaving precisely because, in the midst of party chatter, I decided I'd rather go home and swing in my chair. All the way home I chuckled about my secret departure, wondering how long it took for anyone to notice I was gone. It's something I've done for years: leaving parties without saying goodbye. It's nothing personal, just a bad habit.

      Anyway, after being around all the chatter all evening, all I wanted to do was sit quietly in my Sky Chair, play some songs and swing under the stars. It was midnight and quiet out, everyone on my street seemed to be quietly asleep. I hung there for a long time, swaying an elliptical path under the branches, feeling satisfied and peaceful. The older we get the more we forget what it feels like to swing free of the earth; to tumble and roll and sway in a swing and gaze up at the sky and let go of everything but our imagination. I love having that feeling again and am surprised at how much more easily to comes when I'm floating under that tree.

      After only a time there I start to drift, my mind lightens and my thoughts are as suspended as my body. I can almost feel the vibration of that benevolent tree sizzling down the nylon rope into my body. It knows I'm there, I'm sure of it. You can't hang 180 pounds on somebody and pretend you didn't. In the cool, midnight quiet, with the city asleep, I start to feel differently about things. I start to wonder if there is not perhaps some consciousness that comes alive under the stars, something I knew as a child but have forgotten; a spiritual intelligence and sense of wonder that I've slept right through all these years.

I have a friend named Christine who actually listens to plants and animals, trees and rocks. She can tell you things about a bird's habits or a squirrel's likes and dislikes that would astound you.  And she's speaking the truth. One day she and I were hiking with several friends on a forest path in the Cascade Mountains. The trail undulates along a rushing mountain stream cutting gracefully through granite boulders that lie alongside several old-growth cedars; gigantic, two-hundred foot tall trees, probably over a thousand years old. At various times we'd step up the tangled giant roots surrounding each one and reach out, spreading our arms to embrace the trunk. It would take four or five people joining hands to span the circumference of one of them. It was a lovely experience, just pausing to feel the energy of the trees and to look up in wonder at the decades and centuries they had been alive.


resting on the trail

On the way back to camp we found one of these majestic Grandmother trees that had been struck by lightening many years earlier. Almost a quarter-wedge of trunk had been stripped away, leaving a long, vertical hollow. One at a time, each of my friends stood in the hollow, in the very core of the tree, closing their eyes, praying or meditating or whatever they did, some asking to receive the tree's loving, wise energy.

Everyone had headed on back to camp and Christine and I were the last to stand by the old broken tree. Christine nestled inside it and became suddenly silent; respectful and reverent, as she always is in nature. She surprised me by saying, "This tree is asking for some help. It's really hurt and I need to stay here a while and run some energy." I thought of my own life long habit of taking from trees instead of giving, of my seeking love and healing from them and how it had never occurred to me that they might need me to give to them. It was a humbling realization of what I have often forgotten; that nature is there to help and sustain me - but I am here to care for and preserve it as well. It was heart opening to be in the presence of a healer who truly listens and hears - and who gives constantly to the natural world around her. Someone who actually holds the great gift of knowing she can assist in the healing of any living thing in distress. I've told many friends that if I knew I or my dog was dying, she is the first person on the planet I'd ask to assist with the transition.


Photo by Michael Bigge

That day I lay on a sculpted granite boulder by the creek, stretching, feeling the vibration of stone beneath me as I waited quietly for Christine. She spent probably close to an hour in the heart of that ancient cedar and said she'd like to come back and do more. I've learned a lot from her over the years, I've learned a great deal about humbleness and dedication. I definitely don't walk the planet nearly as callously as I once did. I've seen her do the same loving, healing work with human beings, animals, plants, the very earth itself - always leaving a healing glow with everything she touches.

It's easy to see someone with those great gifts and forget that we all have them, that we all own healing powers. I know this yet I often do not know exactly what it is I can do to alleviate suffering or promote healing in the world. My ego-mind goes to grandiosity and large powerful gestures of healing - which of course, I have no idea how to do. Inevitably, I go back to the simple, small gestures, the ones I know I can do; looking at another human being wishing them love and happiness; taking deep breaths; sharing kindness with my eyes; just being grateful for my life. I imagine you do these things too, and it gives me hope to think so. It's a hopeful thing to imagine that there are countless other well-meaning souls out there in the world. I think it's one of the reasons I sing my songs: to reach out and remind people that we are all much the same in our hearts and that there is hope in the world.

What I'm going to do tonight is just this one small gesture: I'm going to swing in my chair and get that clear, easy feeling I loved as a boy. Thanks for visiting and for listening to my songs.

Your friend with the sticky purple fingers,

     ~Michael

 
October 5, 2005
Howdy, my carefree, leaf-kickin' friends,
Man, you're cool! I mean it. I wish I was half as relaxed and easy goin' as you are, but it's a whole nuther rickety world out there when you're a super-sensitive folkslinger like myself. I undergo challenges the likes of which you folks in the public sector have never even thought about. Example:  I just finished  four weekends of concerts after going the entire summer without a show. Standing onstage in Casper, Wyoming, and only three songs into my first concert, I broke out in hives from the excruciating fingertip pain - Yeowwww! Them strangs are like razor wire! Where the heck did my calluses go? You, who are so incredibly lucky that you don't play guitar, have no idea what it's like to be expected to warble a tender ballad as sweetly as a chickadee while internally bellowing like a wounded beast 'cause your dang fangers are on fire.
Let me try to 'splain it in a way that a common layperson such as yourself might understand:
Did you ever slam a tailgate on your finger and jerk it frantically back out again, then fall down on the ground hollering for mercy just as a danged donkey trots over and stands on what's left of it? Then, before you can prize it out from under his hoof and get the poor mangled digit into your mouth, the Snap-On Tool guy stops by for a demo, grabs it and proceeds to squash it in his new hydralic, rubber-handled vise-grips?
"Lookie here how good them thangs can squeeze, Cuz." he says, grinning through picket-fence teeth, his Snap-On shirt all drenched with Redbull. "Kin I sign yew up fer a duzzin pair?"
"No, podna," I grunt, veins popping out all over my neck. "I'll just be needin' the one you've snapped onto my little pinky. I b'lieve they're gonna fit crossed-ways in your teeth just fine."
Sorry, that's just how I talk when I'm wounded. It goes back to my childhood in Texas and difficult days trying to get my tongue off the ice tray. Anyway, that's the kind o' pain I'm talkin' about, my feckless, non-guitar strummin' pals. Multiply that throbbing pain by the number of fingers you have on one hand. (most of you will come up with four if you didn't go to public schools - I don't count my thumb, mainly 'cause I just use it occasionally to hitch a ride or to poke my chest when folks ask who is my favorite songwriter).
The point of my story? Next time you see me in concert, look closely when I'm singing Yellow Windows and see if you can discern whether it's really the girl I'm crying over or my danged throbbin' fangers. And don't blurt out the answer 'cause there's plenty of folks who would be discouraged and maybe even irritated to hear it. The last thing I ever want to see again at one of my concerts is danged full-on riot.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

This afternoon I took a walk in the woods. There are many natural areas in and around Seattle where you can step into the woods and almost forget there is a city surrounding you. I had nowhere in particular to go - which is my favorite state of being. Even as a boy I loved open ended afternoons, days when I'd get out of school and know that I didn't have to do a single thing that evening except to eat supper. Ask any one of my friends; I'm still like that. I can even have something relatively pleasurable planned and I'll happily scrap it in favor of waiting to see what we might like to do when that time actually arrives.

Earlier in the day I had been to see a wonderful healer I've gone to for many years and was feeling uplifted and happy and wanted to do nothing but enjoy the autumn afternoon. I parked my truck and got out and wandered around watching the leaves fall and flutter in the wind as the sunny autumn morning rearranged itself into a moody, slate gray afternoon. I love weather changes, especially those that transform the open sunny sky into a swirl of raggedy clouds and restless wind. I walked off the trail and into a clearing; an open meadow with a brilliant yellow beech tree in the center, radiating sunshine in the midst of the surrounding trees, which were still nearly as green as summertime. It was breezy, the wind blowing around in such random ways that you couldn't really tell from which direction it originally came. It was as if rivulets of wind had peeled away from the Source, each stream furling and unfurling in and out of hollows, caressing the shapes of hills and sifting through trees before reporting back to the Big Current. I don't know this for sure, it was just my take on it.

Of course, I had my little pooch with me. I've had her for nine years now and that little nubbin of a dog makes me laugh every day of my life. I might say she is predictable but then, she probably thinks the same of me. Over the years I have walked and hiked hundreds of miles with her but anytime we're in new territory - any street or trail or beach that she's unfamiliar with - she is instantly ready to turn around and head back. It's hilarious, really. She'll put the brakes on as if she has no doubt she can stop a six-foot tall man with her 8 pounds of determination. When I jolt to a stop and look back to see why she paused, she'll spin immediately around and start trotting back - until I hold steady. She looks astounded that I have not gone along with her plan. It's the way she signals for me to join her that is so funny. She uses psychology on me. Body language that is devised to convince me that it's time to go now and that where she's taking me will be much more fun. Her little fuzzy body takes on the look of joyful expectancy; unbridled exhuberance. "Let's go this way! See how much fun it's gonna be?" But I'm larger by some 170 pounds, a bull-headed man when it comes to my rambling walks, and though I do give her a vote on some things (60 Minutes or Dateline; muffins or scones) I insist on deciding for both of us when our little walk will loop back. She is dejected only momentarily. The next time she feels me let up on the leash for an instant, she spins around all over again and beckons me with her happy little body language, assuming that my simple Texan mind has forgotten that I don't want to go that way.

The instant I finally succumbed to her psychological manipulations and feminine charm and turn around, she perks up and leads me all the way back home; the line stretched taut as a bow string, her perky little self trotting happily ahead, ears flopping and head bobbing on her merry way to all-that-is-safe-and-known-and-rich-with-treats. And I'm following, laughing my head off the entire way.

A couple of Saturday nights ago I played a concert at a rustic little hall on Bainbridge Island; just a ferry ride across Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. A friend who lived on the island had helped me set up, he arranged chairs while I set up my equipment onstage and imagined the general form and flow of the evening. I had brought a funny chapter to read to the audience from the book most people no longer believe I'm writing, and I sat on the edge of the stage and looked it over and the list of songs I was planning to play. It was a beautiful sunny late afternoon, still bright and warm on the second day of autumn. The little music hall nestled all by itself just at the edge of the woods was an inviting place to spend the evening; a wonderful space to invite people into, a room where they might feel calmed and inspired and happy to be. I knew several folks were flying in from other states for the show and I imagined how pleased they'd be to arrive and find the quaint hall by the roadside at the edge of the woods. I'm always surprised by the number of folks who fly in from afar for my concerts - I assume it's because I don't play all that many shows and they figure if they're ever going to get to hear me - at least before I'm a full-on geezer - then they'd better catch a flight and come to me.

Though I love to spend time with the audience at intermission and after the show, I prefer to be alone in a quiet space before the show, so I stepped into a tiny room behind the stage as the doors opened and folks began to file in. I could hear the talking and laughter gradually bloom into a fuller, livelier sound as more and more people arrived. Finally, I walked onstage and said hi. No introduction necessary. It was my show; my production; I'd sold the tickets on my website, emailed them to each and every person there and put Hershey Kisses in each chair. If they were wondering who the guy with the guitar was, well, somebody needed to collect their keys and arrange for a driver.

I opened with All Is Clear, moved, when I'd thought of the lyrics earlier, by how they reminded me of the thousands of people who'd had to leave their homes, their cities and towns because of hurricanes.

It's been raining here, I can smell it in the air
And I love this southern city like I spent my childhood here
It is inevitable that we will soon be saying our goodbyes
But I'll always have your skyline in my eyes

I have watched my friends scatter out across the land
And I wonder if I'll live so long to see them all again
But if I don't, well it don't matter, I will love them all the same
For the hearts that I love most remain unchained

I introduced that song - like I often do - as a good one to take deep breaths during. It seems to me that every one on the planet needs to start taking as many deep breaths as we can manage - and that music is one good way to get there.

I sang one of my new songs, Things That I Don't Know, and somewhere during the song I began to remember what I'd felt on the ferry coming across Puget Sound that afternoon. I'd been thinking about a friend of mine who is worried about the world we're leaving his children. I try to remind him that there is always hope, there are always pathways that none of us can see until we take a step and find our feet guided and that his kids have so much love in their lives that they will find answers and solutions we can yet imagine. But I don't have children and cannot really know the depth of his concern.

I do understand why he worries; the amount of data human beings are being bombarded with every day is overwhelming. The news stories are mostly about death and destruction and corruption. And the older we get it seems, the more most of us feel we have lost. It takes a great deal of love and energy and determination to continue to believe in Life and Love and Positivity as we age and experience so much of what we dreamed of disappearing - or we realise that it never appeared at all.

I was immersed in this sense of loss when in the midst of it there came a scent drifting in on the cool wind across the water through my open window on the deck of the ferry. The scent carried with it the surprising revelation that another autumn is here. It seems miraculous to me. How can it be that in our pain and confusion; with war and tragedy and disease raging on our planet; we're being given the unfathomable gift of yet another brilliant season of fall on this planet? What tremendous love continues to be showered on the Human Race in the form of this miraculous display of light and scent and color and texture? That I could have such a revelation gives me hope that I still possess the ability to ache inside at the beauty of the changing seasons, that I can still thrill at the caress of the wind and the sound of blowing leaves in the fall.

The flow of seasons is in nearly every song I've ever written and no matter what loss comes in this life, there is always the gift of weather and change. Just as you have, I too have lost dreams and lovers and family and friendships and my own youth, but somehow, there is still something inside me that jolts alive with yearning when I see yellow leaves floating down around me, settling upon my shoes and in my hair. I think what is really happening is that the brilliant love and high spiritual intelligence within the changing seasons contain every lesson we need in order to live a good life; one filled with gratitude and love and joy and filled with the adventure we came here to experience.

We are not just here to watch the seasons, we are to be a part of them, to surrender to their moods and lessens. Each of our lives is as unique and beautiful and natural as the maple leaf which flutters over and over in the sunlight and settles like a letter delivered to the rocky ground. Every autumn of my life that I can remember, I have noticed some early yellow-orange leaf and bent to pick it up, held it to the sky to see through it as I might a love letter in a pale vellum envelope, noting the veins, the scalloped edges, the way the dark green of the stem dissolves into pale green and yellow and at the very tip, seems dipped in scarlet. There's a full life story written there and I seek to understand it - but don't mind that I never do. It's a beautiful mystery.

Thanks for visiting me, my fine, autumn friends. I only have one suggestion for you this fall - don't be too quick to rake the leaves. Just wave and smile at your neighbors with their noisy, insane leaf blowers. Allow the leaves in your yard to gather and lie there awhile, rustling and scattering, gathering in mounds along the fence. And then when you finally do rake them, form a big ol' pile and remind yourself of what it feels like to fall down in crackly leaves and gaze at the sky through empty branches. Let me know how it works out for you.

Your friend on a breezy Seattle day,
   
 ~Michael


 

I have longed to know the reason
For the winding wheel of time
Ever grinding through the seasons
Till it always breaks my heart
Every year when the lovely garden dies . . .
The things that I don't know ~

from Things That I Don't Know
2005  Michael Tomlinson  - yet to be recorded

 

November 16, 2005
Howdy Thanksgiving my absolutely fetching, sweater-wearin' pals,

You can probably tell that I delve deeply every month into my reserve of colorful greetings, seeking just the perfect one for your seasonal situations. If I'm off the mark, please don't feel left out. Just insert whatever clothing items you're wearing this moment; football pads and cummerbund; galoshas and full body girdle; a sock and a rubber band. Regardless of your attire, I'm talkin' to you, is what I'm trying to get at: I returned recently from a concert tour in New England where I barely outran Hurricane Wilma. Had I known she was going to chase me all the way up there I'd have stood my ground in Key West and flailed the heck out of her with the paddles from my rented rowboat. I think I coulda turned her toward Bermuda at the least. No need for her to flood everything east of the Mississippi to get at me. But I misread her intentions, thinking that, like most storms, she was after anybody but me. It's been a long time since I've had a weather formation of any kind come hunting me down personally. I mean, as a kid sure, there was the occasional tornado with my name on it. You can't grow up in the Texas Panhandle without noticing some dust-bustin' funnel cloud has it in for you.

I'll tell you, when I'd notice this strange, vindictive weather phenomenon most often was just after telling a bald-faced lie to my mama or shoplifting a candy bar at the corner grocery store. Both them thangs seemed to bring on dark, lurking weather with a grudge. Man, I'd be no more than halfway through wolfing down a big ol' nickle-sized stolen Nestle's Crunch Bar when I'd hear a low, rumbling roar and feel the earth shake and the little hairs on my skinny, cub scout neck stand up and bristle. "Uh-oh. Maybe I shoulda not stoled this," I'd mumble to myself, chocolate squirting out the corners of my mouth. "Maybe I shoulds jis stoled half of it." I'd qualify, chomping faster and faster, so as to have my air passage clear in case I had to seriously run for it. You cain't run worth a damn with a mouth full o' goodies, cause they will tend to get sucked up yer nose. I'd learned that lesson on a footlong hotdog once at a third grade softball game. I learned mostly that you shouldn't eat and pitch at the same time. It was highly embarrassing.

Please don't think that I was nothing but a thieving little tyke when I was growing up. I also read books about Davy Crockett. I mean, I read 'em all. If there was one I didn't get to, it had to have been written in Arabic. I also shot my bb gun out my folk's bedroom window when they were gone to buy groceries. I know they must have wondered how all them little round holes magically appeared in their window screen. They never asked me though, so I didn't feel bound to make nothin' up. If you're even halfway good at bein' a kid, you don't have to plan all that much for stories to cover your tracks. You coulda asked me out of the blue anytime about them holes in the screen and I'd have had numerous plausible stories instantly ready to offer up. "I think it was them horseflies, Mama. I seen 'em get a running start and plow right on through it one day when you was fryin' chicken." or "I don't know for sure mama, but do you think when Daddy sneezes that he might be damagin' the screens?" See what I mean? Believable explanations was a dime a dozen for me. I guess I was destined to become a sensitive songwriter.

Anyway, back to New England. I waited out most of the stormy Wilma weather at some friends' house in Bedford, New Hampshire. I was there to perform a private concert for fifty or so folks from all over the country and ended up staying five nights with my hosts. Usually I stay in a hotel when I'm hired for a private concert but Randy and Jennifer roped off a bedroom for me, talked their dog, Dallas, into not chewing my leg off and well, they just made it all so welcoming for me that I couldn't pry myself away.

I arrived the evening before my concert to a house full of their family and friends. Some of them I knew from some shows I'd played in Maine the year before and I felt right at home in the group. The next day we spent a chilly Saturday outside, shivering and sipping cold beers, while watching Randy's brother John, fry Buffalo Wings in the driveway for the evening's festivities. I am pretty sure I was the only person in the whole house that has never had a Buffalo Wing 'tween my teeth and never will. Since half the people there were from Buffalo, I was lucky I wasn't tarred and feathered.

This was the only concert I've ever performed where I was required by local ordinance to carve a punkin before I could go onstage. In fact, every person in attendance was required to carve one. Man, you've never seen a family more prepared for the creation of jack-o-lanterns than Jenni and Randy Fritz were. Out in the backyard next to the woods were dozens of pumkins to choose from and every person who walked in the front door was immediately led to the back door and told to go choose a big orange doozey for themselves. In the basement were tables and chairs set up, good lighting and tools aplenty. Randy was even walking around with a power jigsaw cutting the tops out of everybody's pumkin so they could get right down to the bidnis of spillin' pumkin guts and carving noses.

In the past when I've been asked at parties to carve a pumkin, I've usually been handed a giant butcher knife and a scrawny little deformed gourd to work with. Thus, I've always stabbed at the thing about a dozen times, cut the traditional triangle eyes and jagged mouth and called it good. Man, you couldn't get away with that at this party. This was jack-o-lantern carving as High Art. And since I was going to go onstage in an hour or two in front of all these serious artists I did not want to be the only person there considered a creative failure. So for the first time in my completely unartistic life I got serious as broken toe and dove in with the garden tools to render a fairly realistic sculpture in pumkin. Had I not accidentally left a little spinach in his teeth, I think my boy might have won the grand prize. (a bowl of punkin soup) Here is my humble self portrait; a rendition of myself in all kinds of bliss after recently meeting the woman of my dreams. What woman could refuse an honest, sincere grin like that? Even if the eyes do give away a somewhat simple mind.

I returned to Seattle thinking that autumn would be all over. Usually in the fall we have a handful of wildly windy days that take off all the last of the leaves around the end of October. To my delight, this year autumn has gone on and on. I've been going running on the streets and on trails through the ravine near my house and this late autumn has been spectacular. There are about as many leaves on the ground as in the trees and as I'm running down streets and sidewalks the world seems transformed. Shades of deep red and rust, patches of yellow and orange blanketing the ground and sky along my path.

And now here we are only just over a week from Thanksgiving. I love this time of year. I love the meaning of that Holiday and the sharing of food and humor and conversation with friends and family. Years back, in the late 80s, just after I'd released my Still Believe album, I remember a Thanksgiving where my girlfriend Teresa and I had parted and everyone I knew was going out of town or hanging out with a girlfriend's or boyfriend's family. I didn't really have any place to go for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm sure I could have invited myself to somebody's house but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Still, I was determined not to sit around feeling lonesome all day, so I packed a lunch and drove out to the Skykomish River. There's a beautiful stretch of river near Mt. Index where friends and I have gone for years. I'd never gone by myself though and it seemed a bit strange to be doing so.

It was raining that day and probably not the best time for a picnic, but I had come prepared. After I found a place to park along the road, I grabbed my lunch and a big blue tarp and I climbed down the embankment and began to scramble along the rocks and boulders that were different every time I came to the river. After times of flooding you could go to the same spot you'd been to a hundred times and nothing would look the same. I've seen boulders the size of small houses simply disappear. I had no idea where they'd gone, but the idea that a wall of water could rearrange such a landscape kept the place feeling magical and powerful to me.

I balanced on some rocks in the water and made my way to a place where the current was pretty fast and smooth. There was kind of a table rock leaning out over the water and I found a hollow beneath it and weighted my tarp with some rocks and made a sort of cave for myself. There in my little cavern I spent all of Thanksgiving afternoon. Eating my tuna sandwich and moon pie, sipping a cold beer I'd placed in the river. It was excellent real estate, a phenomenal location; I sat beneath the tapering rock and tarp no more than two feet from raging water, the current strong and pure and solid as it rolled over smooth rocks a foot below the surface there. I could hear nothing but river. Someone could have stood fifty yards away, hollering all kinds of insults at me and if I'd have seen them I'd have waved real friendly and grinned like a fool. I just couldn't hear a thing but water and rocks.

That Thanksgiving day was good for me. Having just parted from my girlfriend, it was naturally a sad time and a lonely time. And holidays usually make loneliness even more painful. But something about that water, the steady flow of it over granite, the rough noise of it but also the deep gurgles it made too; the soft, swooshing music water creates as it slowly hollows stone and has it's way with rock that has no clue it's slowly being smoothed down to grains of sand.

That same peaceful, patient force worked it's way on me as well. I wasn't planning on hanging around long enough to get all worn smooth, but the thing is, the water worked it's will on me just the same as it did on granite. I read somewhere recently that water seeks to rejoin itself. Ever notice the way a drop of water will be sucked into a larger pool if it get's close enough? Well, that's what that water did to me. Knowing by it's nature that I happen to be some 90% or more made of water myself, it seeked to bring me back into the watery family. And so it compelled me by way of music and mist. Singing it's low, rumbling song, the shifting of underwater rocks joining in on loose percussion, it lulled me into forgetting that I was alone and sad. It never had a doubt that this would happen. The water didn't think "I sure hope we can perk up Michael and get him to thinking thankful thoughts after a while."

No, it didn't say no shit like that. It just smiled and hummed and rolled and washed and flowed and bestowed upon all things within it's influence a calming presence. And by the time I saw the day's light growing faint and the darkness wicking through the woods from the East, I gathered the remains of my dinner, folded my wet tarp and climbed back over rocks and stones and boulders to my car and drove back home a peaceful man.

This story probably sounds like it has very little to do with you and your Thanksgiving, but to that I say "Now, hold on a minute, podna." Here is what it has to do with your Thanksgiving: whether you are on your own this year or with a partner or sweetheart or family or a group of strangers, you might want to remember that everybody in the room, in the house, in the bar even, is made up mostly of water. Just think about it. No wonder you need to pee all the dang time.  You're each essentially a big wet drop of the stuff and whether you know it or not, you're trying like crazy to rejoin the ocean. So, if you're with people, sidle up to somebody now and then throughout the day and put your arm around their shoulder. You'd be surprised how seldom that happens when we most need it. Put your arm around a shoulder and find some way, silent or verbal, to convey the idea that "Brother, I'm with you, whatever you got goin' in this lifetime. And I'm thankful that you exist."

That seems like kind of an awkward thing to say to somebody, doesn't it? "Hey! You, yes you, the feller driving the Honda. Just wanted you to know that I'm thankful you exist. Well, that's it. That's all I wanted to say. Thanks for pulling over."

See how easy it is?

And if you're on your own and don't see any handy human beans to tell this to, well, tell it to a tree, my friend. I'll guarantee there is a tree near you that has not been thanked for a very long time. Pick a scrawny one and you'll know for sure that's the case.

See, what I'm getting at is this. Give thanks for everything and to everything. Thank the dang rock that you stubbed your toe on, for without it's intervention you were surely going to go out dancing and since you can't dance now, you completely missed out on the 99-car pile-up in the fog. See? That rock ain't no doofus. It deserves to be thanked.

And so do you. I for one, will thank you right now from the bottom of my heart. Chances are you weren't just surfing the internet looking for folkslingers and just happened to visit me. My guess is that you like at least one of my songs, or you have heard that I'm a crazed stream-o-consciousness writer of hilarious repute and you thought you might like to check out my site for a chuckle. Either way, I thank you for stopping by. In case you're one who has listened to my music over the years or shared it with friends, I thank you for that too. But even if you are indeed just a straggler who got lost online and accidentally ended up reading this unusual rambling, well my friend, I thank you for being you. I think you do the best job of it of anybody I've met. In fact, there are some poor imitations out there and I'm just grateful the real you showed up.

Well, I must go now because my dawg says to. She says what goes. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Yer ol' fren in Seattle,
 
   ~Michael

Go to Past Ramblings XVIII

   

   

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